Jorge Barba - Innovation Insurgent

Episode 23: How to be a Game Changer and Build an Innovative Company Culture with Jorge Barba

Who is Jorge Barba and the key takeaways in this episode?

Competition is a reality that every company needs to either face it as a challenge or succumb to it and stagnate. These days, it’s either you think of ways to innovate or you’ll end up closing your doors with more resilient and better coping companies taking over your market. That’s what makes company culture very important. The kind of culture you build, is the kind of future you’ll get.

In today’s episode of BE Culture, we’re glad to bring to you, Mr Innovation Insurgent himself – Jorge Barba. In this interview Jorge and I had the pleasure of discussing about:

  • His early years in the business and how he got to where he is now.
  • What are these rules he called coined “Stupid Rules”
  • Why reasons are important
  • The importance of breaking down and minimizing
  • Why he thinks culture is behavioral

The Questions

[4:21] What developed you, what molded you, and what inspired you to have the career that you have today?
Answer: I got to meet Fred Smith, and he offered me a management position. I was 18 years old. Basically, he wanted me—to put me a situation where I would start running that—basically, the West coast operation.

So that gave me an epiphany in the sense that I understood what my capabilities were and how I approached things. At that point, I didn’t know what CO was. I kind of knew what a manager was. I only knew that there’s a boss and that’s it. And usually, you’ve got this idea that bosses are, you know, they’re mean and they’re bossy, and all that stuff. At some point, I became a leader and I had a team. I created a team; I created this “Seal Team” as I called it. We were kind of the specialists. We kept pushing it and were never conforming. That was my epiphany, that was the moment when I said, “I know what I’m here to do,” to a certain degree.

[10:11] Can you tell our listeners what culture of innovation looks like in your perception?
Answer: It’s a place where you have the freedom to be—not free range to do whatever the hell you want, but there’s—culture for me is: what do we praise or what don’t we tolerate? So it’s behavioral. And if you don’t say it at the beginning, you’ll end up with a culture that you don’t really want. It’s very hard to change it later on. So, taking that point of view, when you talk about innovation, well, number one is that innovation happens only when people are supported, when they’re given freedom or when they’re challenged. So it’s very simple, but it’s very hard to execute because it means saying goodbye to convention, like being bossy.

[14:21] How do you think my listeners and our folks could get some information from you on how they can attract and retain those millennials who will carry them over the next 10-15 years with the environment?
Answer: Well, I am very much a millennial; right on the edge of it. But I do have that sense of how the first thing you need is a “Why”. So, to get us to pay attention to anybody, there’s got to be a “why”. So we’re going to be attracted to anything where there’s a larger purpose. It’s not just about making the link and the numbers, and all those things. You know, “Let’s do that.” But there’s got to be a “why”, so we have to be challenged.

Culture According to Jorge Barba:

Culture for me is: what do we prize or what don’t we tolerate? So it’s behavioral. And if you don’t say it at the beginning, you’ll end up with a culture that you don’t really want. It’s very hard to change it later on. So, taking that point of view, when you talk about innovation, well, number one is that innovation happens only when people are supported, when they’re given freedom or when they’re challenged.

Go To Quote for Inspiration

What Jorge Barba Wants His Company to  BE:

  • BE Great
  • BE Humble
  • BE Better

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:

Where to Find Jorge Barba:

Connect with John on

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

John:    Jorge, welcome to BE Culture Radio and thanks for joining us.

Jorge: Hey. Glad to be here. Thank you.

John:    I’m so glad you took the time now for our listeners who are in the Northeast and we’re still suffering through the snow and the cold weather. Jorge, I don’t think you’ve got any snow on the ground where you’re at, do you?

Jorge: No. We’ve got perfect sunshine at this point, right in the middle of California.

John:    God bless you. We’re going to see the ground in about a month, I’m pretty sure. [laughs] Then we can have summer for 2 weeks. It’s always the way it works. Hey, today we’re going to talk about what culture of innovation looks like. But before we do that, perhaps you could share with our listeners your story about you and what developed you, what molded you, and what inspired you to have the career that you have today?

Jorge: So, I had an epiphany when I was 18. I lived in Tijuana but I also spent some time in San Diego, so it’s basically across the border. That was in college, or just starting college, and I remember working at FedEx ground. You’re in college and you’re looking for a job, as a starting student, so I took this job at FedEx as a loader, basically loading the trucks. Pretty soon, it wasn’t 2 days after I was there, I was thinking, “This place is insane. I mean, I can’t believe people put themselves through this.” It’s a physical job, but at the same time it’s not because I was scared of the physical part, I understood that, but at the same time, I said, “You know, there’s inefficiency in this whole thing. There’s got to be a better way to do this.” So I took it upon myself for the next month or so to basically do my research and study the place and understand how things worked and how they could be improved.

So within a month, or a month and a half, I started basically breaking the rules, what I call the “Stupid Rules”, the ones which nobody questions, which to me seemed insane. You know, one by one, I started taking it apart until about 2 months or 3 months later, I had turned a process that was an intense 10 steps, and minimized it to 5 steps, using the least amount of people. Basically, I created this “chaos within the ranks”, especially with the managers because they were thinking, “Well, this guy’s insane, you know, all the things he’s doing, but at the same time, it’s working. And he’s making us look good.”

Pretty soon, I got to meet Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, because, you know, at this point I was—I had been nicknamed “Superman”. So, you know, there was a story that was going through the company that something was happening in San Diego. Unfortunately, my time in FedEx coincided with 9/11. When 9/11 happened, for some reason, people started sending more stuff. We started getting more stuff at the San Diego port, which created this chaotic situation where we were starting to break records. So, my efforts to break down a process were prior to 9/11 but the way I look at it is, you know, 9/11 happened and our processes were broken down to how I did it. If I hadn’t done that, we probably would not have been breaking all those records. It’s unfortunate to have happened, 9/11, but I mean, you know, it’s out of our control. But the point is that we started breaking all these records and, you know, people are starting to compare us with the international hubs like Los Angeles. Pretty soon, the whole company was looking at San Diego like, “What the hell’s going on down there? I mean, these guys are doing the same volume as international hubs and they’re a little hub over there in San Diego.” Pretty soon, I got to meet Fred Smith, and he offered me a management position. I was 18 years old. Basically, he wanted me—to put me a situation where I would start running that—basically, the West coast operation.

So that gave me an epiphany in the sense that I understood what my capabilities were and how I approached things. At that point, I didn’t know what CO was. I kind of knew what a manager was. I only knew that there’s a boss and that’s it. And usually, you’ve got this idea that bosses are, you know, they’re mean and they’re bossy, and all that stuff. At some point, I became a leader and I had a team. I created a team; I created this “Seal Team” as I called it. We were kind of the specialists. We kept pushing it and were never conforming. That was my epiphany, that was the moment when I said, “I know what I’m here to do,” to a certain degree.

John:    Jorge, I’ve got to ask you, I’m listening to your story and it becomes very evident to me that you never asked what you did.

Jorge: No.

John:    You asked them, “Why?” And for our listeners, it’s a common thread from all these excellent entrepreneurs and, really, these people who get culture and how it relates to success. All of you ask, “Why?”, and none of you ask, “What?”

Jorge: Yes.

John:    So, can you expound on that a little bit for me?

Jorge: Yeah, so taking this example, they call you a “loader” but I thought that was very limiting. Obviously they put you through training like every other company but I still didn’t understand what the hell we were doing. What was the reason for me to be loading a damn truck? So I created my own reason. Since they were not going to motivate me, I said, “I need my own reason.” So I created my own reason and that was the reason why I was able to create my team on my own. Nobody even told me to do it. I just did it because I thought it was the right thing to do. And then I gave them a reason.

So when you talk about culture, this is another thing that I understood there and put it in concrete as that. People don’t need to be managed. You can just unleash them. You got to give them a reason, and you got to trust them. I mean, sure, they’ll follow you, and obviously they won’t follow you if they don’t respect you or they don’t have some sort of admiration. But they got to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it and what their role is, and ultimately the bigger picture, “Why are we here?” So that’s something I’ve always tried to do, to understand the bigger picture and not lose sight of it. Everyone, it doesn’t matter who it is, we are all people and we all want to know why we’re here. So it’s very important.

John:    Now, Jorge, we’ve all had careers and we’ve all come to this place and we’re all searching for the answers to help us create a better organization, be a better part of an organization, and create a better culture. For you, was there a tipping point, was there an “Aha!” moment when it crystallized for you? Because for some of my listeners who don’t know, one of the coolest things about Jorge is that when you look on him at LinkedIn, if you look at his title, it’s Innovation Insurgent, which I think is so awesome. But he owns a few companies so you’re very diverse. I’m thinking to myself, “There’s got to be a moment where the lights went on for him and he said, “I got it. I know what it is.””

Jorge: I think, wow, it’s looking back, but you know, I’m not going to repeat myself but I go back to that FedEx example because that kind of set the stage. And since I was little, I think I read an encyclopedia for the first time when I was 7 years old. So I was always interested in different knowledge and learning about things. So, yeah, I’m very diverse and I work in a bunch of different industries and different concepts, that have nothing to do with the previous stuff that I’ve done. And I think that’s just the problem-solving attitude, just the kind of understanding that you want to solve problems, not little problems but very systemic ones. Like I have this other company that I started, called Socratic, and basically, that’s the reason I created it, because to solve really systemic problems, you need diverse points of view.

And in my advisory roles with large corporations, you rarely get to see people from different areas converse about what it is—the better way to approach something. It’s usually one guy, the guy who gets—the highest fit person usually wins out. So, you will try to break down, minimize that and I don’t know if that makes any sense to your question.

John:    No, makes a great deal of sense. And I just wanted to say, being an entrepreneur, you have your hands in a lot of different areas. That’s what—when do you have time to sleep, man?

Jorge: I’ve been asked that many times before. But yeah, I do sleep. I go to sleep around 12-12:30 AM and wake up at around 6-6:30 in the morning. So I mean, just like anybody else I get my good night’s sleep. Obviously, on the weekends, I sleep a little bit more but…

John:     [laughs] Now you have a blog, which I think is really cool. I want to talk about that for a moment if we can.

Jorge: Sure.

John:    Your blog—you mentioned the innovation and culture. Now, can you tell our listeners what culture of innovation looks like in your perception?

Jorge: It’s a place where you have freedom to be—not free range to do whatever the hell you want but there’s—culture for me is: what do we prize or what don’t we tolerate? So it’s behavioral. And if you don’t say it at the beginning, you’ll end up with a culture that you don’t really want. It’s very hard to change it later on. So, taking that point of view, when you talk about innovation, well, number one is that innovation happens only when people are supported, when they’re given freedom or when they’re challenged. So it’s very simple, but it’s very hard to execute because it means saying goodbye to convention, like being bossy. I mean, you can be bossy but you’ve got to be bossy in a way that you want to get the best out of people, not the get the most out of them so that it benefits—because it’s going to be a benefit to everybody. And some people are not so self-motivated, right? So you tell somebody, “Hey, listen. I’m pushing your buttons simply because I know there’s greatness in you. I want to see that greatness come out and that’s the reason I’m pushing you. It’s not because I don’t like you. It’s not because I’m just trying to be an asshole. It’s really because there’s this sense that if you’re great, we’re going to be great.” So that’s the kind of thread with which I think about culture innovation. If I don’t see those things, I’m pretty certain that nothing interesting is going to happen here.

John:    I’ve got to tell you, I can’t agree with you more. Having—being the baby of 8, and having 6 great sisters, one of my older sisters said to me one day, “Listen, if we didn’t care about you, and we didn’t watch out for you, we wouldn’t talk to you.” Because I was going around saying, “Why are they hating on me all the time? Why are they always beating the crap out of me?” And they finally said, “Because we’re trying to make you a better person, so that you understand that there’s a consequence to your behavior.”

Jorge: Yeah. [laughs]

John:    And I just thought that they just liked to beat the crap out of me.

Jorge:  [laughs]

John:    I got to ask you, Jorge. We talked about the human side of innovation and culture, so tell me what your thoughts are as it relates to office design and what role it plays when it comes to innovation and company culture, because you wrote in one of your blogs about the innovation silver bullet.

Jorge: Yeah. So, I had a client called EOS Offices and I also have my office there.  So basically, they are a premium co-working space. Their whole space was designed by the people who designed spaces for Google. Basically it’s very modern, very open. There’s this sense of modernness and openness.

So one of the things that I did, or tried to understand there, was basically, “Will this change people?” Even though they were working at a nice-looking place, will that change people? And no, it doesn’t. And it goes back to setting the culture. I mean, if you look back in history and you look at the Industrial Age where, basically, all these productivity—or this concept of productivity started. People were sat down, like, in silos, almost in silence. “Don’t even speak to me.”

Today, it’s different. Today, you want people to connect and frankly, it doesn’t take a lot of money to make that happen. You don’t need a fancy-looking place to make that happen. You just need people to connect in some ways, so you want to create a space where people at some point would run into each other and have to converse, because they have no other option. But you have to push that. So in my situation, where I was at EOS Offices, that was the thing that I put forth. “I’m going to make sure that people connect here, because you guys are not doing it just because we’re here and they’re sitting down across from each other, it doesn’t mean they’re going to talk.” So you have to create conditions, you have to create mechanisms for people to chat and cross hands and get conversations going, basically. But…

John:    I mean, we’ve done spaces for people in BE Furniture where you create this beautiful, collaborative open space and the culture is very close, and they still sit 2 feet from each other and don’t acknowledge the other one as even breathing.

Jorge: Yeah.

John:    But I want to ask you another question as it relates to this; we’re entering a whole new environment and culture as it relates to the workforce that’s rolling in to us from the millennials. And they’re not going to sit in cubicle farms. They’re not going to sit in silos and so how do you think my listeners and our folks could get some information from you on how they can attract and retain those millennials who will carry them over the next 10-15 years with the environment?

Jorge: Well, I am very much a millennial; right on the edge of it. But I do have that sense of how the first thing you need is a “Why”. So, to get us to pay attention to anybody, there’s got to be a “why”. So we’re going to be attracted to anything where there’s a larger purpose. It’s not just about making the link and the numbers, and all those things. You know, “Let’s do that.” But there’s got to be a “why”, so we have to be challenged.

The other thing is that we’re very independent, to a certain degree. So, we need our space. We don’t have to be in the same location all the time. We can work as long as we understand why we’re doing it. I mean, we’re going to be motivated, and you don’t even have to call us. I mean, it’s kind of extreme, but I found this in other people. But yeah, listen, it’s different, it’s completely different, but it’s happening. It’s happening. It’s been happening for a while right now.

I think it’s just been because there are so many other companies. You hear more in the news, you hear more on chats and what not. It’s becoming more prominent but it’s been going on for a while. Going back to this FedEx example that I put forth a few minutes ago, when I started creating that culture, I said, “You know, what are the things that I don’t want to be doing? Because I think that’s the right way to do it.” Number one, I don’t want to be screaming at people. I don’t want to be bossy. I don’t want to do all these things. There’s got to be a better way.

So, the principle that I came up with was “controlled chaos”, which already existed, but to me, was completely new to my head. “Just how do I implement it?” For me, I was 18, and the people who worked with me were either older or younger than I was at my age. It’s still, for me, even if you take that concept and apply this in this era right now—that was 15 years ago by the way—it’s still going to work. Because at the end of the day, the other guy is still a human and he wants to feel empowered and all these things, and they’re no different from millennials. The only thing that’s different from millennials and other generations is that, you know, there’s a bigger sense of the “why”. That’s it. That’s really it.

John:    Yeah. I think you’re right on target there. You know, I go through this process and being 55 years old and having been surrounded by millennials, I find it allows me to stay relevant. Because they’re going to challenge as long, for us, as we build a linear culture in our company. And you know, as I like to say, “I’m just the one foolish enough to own it.” [laughs] So…

Jorge: Yeah. [laughs]

John:    And they look at me and go, “Yeah, you’re really funny, John.” So anybody in our firm is welcome to challenge any thought, any process, any protocol we have and if it—and there are only two rules, which are “You’ve got to treat people the way you want to be treated”, and “You’ve got to do what you said you were going to do.”

Jorge: Exactly. That’s it.

John:    Other than that, we have no rules here at BE Furniture. We’re client-centric so if someone in account management has an idea for me on how to be better, to drive us forward, I’m all ears.

Jorge: Let’s do it! [laughs]

John:    So I kind of laugh when I watch corporate America go through the process, you know? And I’m like, “How many conference calls do you have to have before you find out you’re clueless?”

Jorge:  [laughs]

John:    I mean, my God! Let’s have 6 people, who you highly compensate, sit in a room. They’re not going to disagree with you; you sign their check. “Of course, you’re right!” So I just marvel at that and I’ve just wondered. Could you share with us any, or several, examples? Because you have them on your blog and if you guys haven’t ever seen his blog, at the end of the show he’s going to tell you how to get to it and see it. I saw it. It’s worth its weight in gold, guys. You’ve got to go and read it. It’s phenomenal. But we’ll get back to that. Can you share with us companies who have successfully developed great cultures and office spaces,  and how it changed their dynamics? And can you perhaps share with us maybe, some of them that missed the mark, and perhaps, do they even know they’ve missed the mark?

Jorge: Yeah. There are a few of them. I rather not mention their names.

John:    Oh. No, you don’t—we don’t mention names.

Jorge: Okay, so there are a few of them. There’s one in particular that, and like what you said, it’s on the blog. So this was this company that 2-3 years ago, that—basically they needed help. They found me through my blog and searched for me and they said, “You know, we want to—help us develop some new products, right?” So the first thing in order was—the first question is, “What have you done in the last year?” That’s interesting, and the obvious answer was nothing. “Okay, so why do you want to do it right now?” “Oh, because we just read about it in Harvard Business Review.” [laughs]

John:    Oh, yeah. [laughs]

Jorge: So you start thinking, “Okay man, these are not the right reasons. But okay, let’s go right through this.” You know, it’s that typical thing you had where you go in to your conference room, you’ve got the power seat over there. You know, everyone’s taking orders from the highest paid person in the room, right? So I remember—I’m a big Disney fanatic, let’s put it that way.

A few days before, I had to have this meeting with this particular company. A friend of mine had gone to Disney so he brought back a stuffed Sorcerer Mickey, right? And I said, “Oh, that’s cool.” So I just put it in my office. Something will pop into my head about how to use it, right? So two days later, this was on the weekend, I said I know exactly how I’m going to use this thing. So, in the next meeting, I arrived with a Mickey Mouse in my arms to the office and to the room. People were already sitting there so they watched me come in with the Mickey Mouse. I did that on purpose. I wanted them to see me. So I came in, and I put the Mickey Mouse right next to the tip where the CEO or the CFO sat, right? So I put him right there. And you know, that was symbolic because the CFO sits right there and then the CEO sits right next to him. So, I put the Mickey Mouse in there. The CEO watches the whole dynamics, he’s asking me, “Who the hell? So what’s going on? Are you trying to play a joke or something?” I said “You know, you could sit down and I’ll let you know what’s up.” So I said, “So from this point forward, this guy right here, Mickey Mouse,” and I said, “You guys all know Mickey Mouse, right?” They were like, “Yeah, yeah.” “Do you guys know what Mickey Mouse stands for?” And they were like—some people said something.

What I wanted to get to the point was, “So this is happiness right here. Happiness is sitting in the room right now. This is what they’re all about. And from this point forward, Mickey Mouse is going to be the customer. So every time we start discussing something, we’ve got to pay attention to what this guy thinks.” [laughs]

John:     [laughs] “Win friends and influence people.” Is that what you’re working at?

Jorge: I don’t know. I used a very, very aggressive tactic to put my point across. But what happened was—and this is the real thing, right? Anybody can do this. Three people in there, who have never—who have always had thoughts of doing things differently—at that point, I basically gave them oxygen to speak. Because now they felt like, “Wow. Somebody’s coming in and he’s speaking his mind, right?” And then you’ve got Mickey Mouse sitting across from us, and it’s like permission to open our mouths. And that’s basically what happened. You know, that  Mickey Mouse is still with them. That Mickey Mouse is still with them.

John:    That’s pretty cool.

Jorge: Yup.

John:    So you kind of made them aware that there was a situation there that wasn’t what they wanted?

Jorge: There was an obstacle there that we had to go through. So, I just made it completely obvious in a more of a fun, visceral way. And you know, we…

John:    I think that’s a great idea.

Jorge: They jumped through it. They just jumped through the hoop.

John:     [laughs] By the way, my 24-year old autistic son—we call it Disney ideas at our house. We’ve been to Disney 15 times in 24 years.

Jorge: Okay.

John:    We’ve got it down to a science. We could be in and out in 48 hours. It’s all he ever wants in the world, just go to Disney. He’s quite concerned that they’ve changed Toon Town. He’s not real happy about it, but I think we’re going to be okay.

Jorge:  [laughs]

John:    Hey, let me ask you something. Beyond the office design, what are the ways in which a company can be innovative with their culture?

Jorge: Well, the first thing in order is actually to want people to take risks. Don’t just say it. So I mean there’s various ways.

John:    Okay. I’ve got to stop you. How do you get people, you and I have both seen it, “In our company, we’re going to take risks, our company’s going to be transparent.”

Jorge: Yeah.

John:    That’s just a load of crap. Because you know what, I go to see companies all the time and I get to see companies, and you know what, I see emerging companies and small businesses, and they’re transparent. They take risks.

Jorge: Yeah.

John:    And then, something happens where, “Hey, no more risks, no more transparency. Why? Because this is how we do it.” What happens there?

Jorge: Well, it’s a lack of leadership. I mean the way—I think the simple formula is where there’s leadership, there’s innovation. You know, to be—to actually pull it off and to walk the talk is to set the roles from the beginning. I had this other company called Blu Maya. I founded it about 6 years ago. I recently sold it.

Basically, what I did one time when we were just starting up, was that I told my co-founders, “We’re going to pull off something very crazy. But this is going to be our calling card because I want people to know what we’re about.” The point of that activity wasn’t that it was going to generate money for me. It was proving a point and making a statement.

Basically, what we did was we took a—so we went to a financial district that we have here in Tijuana, and we sat—you know, we created this little bench where we put “5 awesome ideas for 5 Pesos,” which is like $0.05 at that point in time. It’s 5 American cents, right? So we sat right there in the financial district. We put this nice, little looking ornaments and stuff about different—I remember taking one of my Supermen, because like I said, I like cartoons. So I have little things that I have that I took and put them there on the table.

The point was that people would come to us and they’d start thinking about stuff that they want to do, and we’d just give them ideas for $0.05. I mean it was ridiculous. My co-founder was like, “Okay. I don’t know why we’re doing this but you know, it sounds fun.” And I said, “Exactly. I don’t care if we get a dollar. That’s not the point. The point is that this is going to become a story that we can tell anybody who joins the company later on. This is the type of attitude you would expect. It’s risk-taking. It doesn’t matter. Don’t think about the money first. Think about what message you want to send because that becomes a behavior.” So I mean, that’s really what you want, right? People would come in, and I remember because now, years later—I mean, people would call us to see if they could work with us. I mean, it wasn’t like I was actively recruiting, because I’d have people sending me their stuff because they heard about these stories. They heard about my blog, they’d heard about stuff that I’d done and they wanted to be part of something exciting, right? Where there’s challenge, where there’s open-mindedness, where there are all these types of things where you’re encouraged to do great stuff. That’s as simple as it gets.

John:    Well, I’ve got you. I also think that trust is a tremendous piece of it. And I had a mentor many, many years ago. And he’s been a mentor of mine for over 30 years named John O’Donnell. John is now retired and I still talk to him every week. And so he said to me—and this goes back 30 years ago—he said, “If you want to know if your people trust you” he said “They’ll tell you they trust you but do this, take this, take a $5 in your hand, walk out to someone you work with, and tell him you want to sell it to him for a dollar.”

Jorge:  [laughs]

John:    He said, “If they trust you, they’ll hand you a dollar and they’ll take your $5.”

Jorge: Yeah.

John:    If they don’t trust you, they’ll think it’s a gimmick, there’s something up. So, I laugh because from time to time, I’ll walk up to someone and someone that’s new and they’re on board and they’re with us. I’ll walk out to them and I’ll say, “Here’s $5. I’ll sell it to you for $1.” And they give me the strangest look and I turn around to someone who’s been with us for the last 10 years and I’m like, “Hey Dan. I’ll sell you this $5 for a buck.” “You got it man!” And they look at the guy and be like, “What’s wrong with you?”

Jorge:  [laughs]

John:    And they’re like, “What do you mean?” he said, “Welcome to our world, man. I just made $4 because you didn’t pay attention.” And I’ve used that for years and I would share that with people, that the trust—you’re building a culture that’s not—that’s really built on the shoulders of a solid foundation of understanding and trust and there’s no ulterior agenda. And I think people miss that point, don’t you?

Jorge: Yup. It’s a big one. It’s a big one.

John:    I want to ask you. We’ve talked about a number of things. I want to know what your definition of company culture. If someone said, “Hey Jorge! I need you to sit in this room of 50 people, and we all need to walk out of here with a definition from you of what company culture would be.” What would you say?

Jorge: I think it’s “How do you want to be remembered?”

John:    Great. I like that.

Jorge: What do you stand for? You know, years from now, what would people say about us? Because it’s all about how we behave, you know? I think the other one is: think about what somebody’s going to write in a book about us. What do we want them to write about? Do you want them to write about all the crazy inventions for them in the world? Or do we want them to write about how we are excellent people, that we did right. And that’s what we want to be remembered for. So I think that’s as simple as it gets.

John:    I like that. Now, what tips can you give our listeners and our entrepreneurs who are starting to hire and build incredible companies? They are trying to build a business and a great culture. What would you tell them? “Hey guys, if you’re going to do one thing, do this.”

Jorge: I have that in mind. What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want to stand for? And then look for people who would help to do that. [laughs] Usually, people don’t really hire for values. They hire for capability.

Obviously, you have to hire for capability also, but there’s a value there. The way I look at it is that I always look for people who have—if you would put a, how do you call this thing? Where you could look through this, when you can— A heat sensor. If you use it, you notice some people have more heat than the other guy. So I want to go to the guy who has a lot of heat. [laughs] Because something’s going on. Something’s growing. So there’s an instant motivation. There’s going to be an instant spark. And, you just kind of know if that’s the right spark that you want.

If there’s something in there that you can use it if it’s perfectly aligned with what you’re doing. If it’s not, then it’s not worth it.  It’s a different path. Usually when you can find it, that’s a very good start. Then, it’s just about pushing that spark and “bam!”

John:    I’ve got to tell you this. We look at people and when we bring people into our organization, their capabilities are probably 3 or 4 down on the list. We talk about their integrity and character. And we define character in our company as “What you will do when nobody’s looking”.

Jorge: Yeah. That’s a good one.

John:    So, if you— it’s that integrity and character are 1 and 2. And the other part is, as Kyra and I like to say is, “Would I leave my special needs child with you for an evening, if I have a situation and I needed someone to take care of him? Would I entrust him to you?” Because there isn’t anything more important. This business will come and go and on my tombstone there will not be, “He was the greatest office furniture guy in the world” It’s not going to say that.

Jorge: Yeah. Exactly.

John:    So if I don’t have a feeling about a person, that I would trust them with my child, I certainly wouldn’t bring them into my culture.

Jorge: Yeah. That’s a good one.

John:    And I think people miss that.

Jorge: That’s a good one.

John:    Now, what do you think is the most common mistake they make?

Jorge: Following conventional stuff. I mean, following what the other guy’s doing. So by trying to find the template in this, just the checking off the check marks, I think that’s one. It’s important, that.

John:    That makes me nuts. That makes me nuts. Doing what everyone else does.

Jorge: Yeah. It’s an awareness issue. So that always gives you an impression, when you notice that. So I think that’s number one. The other one is that obviously there’s this sense of competition, so if you’re looking over your shoulder and see that the other guy’s hiring this way and that way, you’ll probably do the same thing. [laughs] Because he’s…

John:    And Jorge, I don’t get that, because in our industry, all the furniture interior distributors have the exact same business model, right? So it’s all the same business model, but they go out and they show up and they say, “We’re different.”

Jorge: Yeah. [laughs]

John:    How in God’s name can you be different if it’s the exact same business model?

Jorge: Yeah.

John:    Oh. You have a blue suit on. You have a brown suit on. I get it. You’re different. Because when we built our company, we built an entirely different business model that was linear and client-centric. And we share with people not the commodity of a chair or a cubicle, but what it is we can do for them. And I kind of look at people and go, “So we are different, right?” And to your point, everybody checks a box and does what everybody else does, and isn’t truly wanting to be an entrepreneur being one of one?

Jorge: Yeah. One example that I use, and it’s also on my blog, is that why culture matters is—imagine if you switched— imagine Jack in the Box and Carl’s Jr. switching places for a month. I mean, would anything change?

John:    The first question they’re going to ask you is, “Is that really good-looking girl going to jump out of the box?”

Jorge: Yeah.

John:    So, I mean, they’re going to have to ask you that question. I’m teasing. Go ahead. [laughs]

Jorge: But what mean is that it’s very simple because they’re basically doing the same thing. I mean, they’re trained in the same way. So, I mean, there are interchangeable parts. But if you really had a culture, that would not go through. If you have—let’s say, Carl’s Jr. has a more original culture then that’s going to change Jack in the Box or Routine. And that’s usually what happens. You know, I’ve recently did a—because down here where I live I’m part of this vehicle system, creating discipline entrepreneurship system—so a few months ago, before the end of the year, I was helping the government come up with a strategic plan, basically. And one of the questions that I asked the group was, “So imagine if we switched roles with Silicon Valley. Would Silicon Valley be better because we’re over there?” And they were just looking in the room like, “What the hell?” I mean, ” How the hell does that question have anything to do with it? We didn’t get it. And I said, “Obviously it’s no. So it’s going to go back because they couldn’t find anything interesting over here.” [laughs] I mean, it’s culture. There’s an identity there.

John:    I want to shift gears and take you into the lightning. You’ve been very generous with your time. So if that’s okay with you, we’re going to jump into the lightning round. Jorge, is there a book that changed your life?

Jorge: I don’t think there’s one particular book but I’m not really swayed by words. I’m more swayed by actions. So one particular book is ‘The Origin of Species’. So I identified with Charles Darwin when I first—when I was a little kid and first heard this thing about evolution and biology and all these things. I was mesmerized by his journey. And when I got older, then I eventually read ‘The Origin of Species” but less in a “Oh this is really new stuff” but more in a like, “Wow. This is a landmark thing.” That’s one.

John:    That makes sense. Do you have a quote that you go to for inspiration?

Jorge: “Embrace the Impossible.”

John:    I like that. What company do you admire the most as it relates to their culture?

Jorge: W. L. Gore.

John:    And why is that?

Jorge: Because it’s completely built from the ground up, understanding the human elements and then really, really taking account that each and every person is unique, and then finding a way to align that where that uniqueness stands on its own and nobody’s—there’s no ego involved. Everybody’s pushing in the same direction. The performance of the company—if you look at their performance, you’ll see that it completely aligns with how they operate. And I think that was really, really fascinating.

John:    Okay. Well here we go for our big finish, our last question, and you’ve got to humor us because you’re on BE Culture Radio, so you’ve got to start your answer with “Be”.

Jorge: Be. [chuckles]

John:    Okay. So if you had to describe your culture of your company in three words, what would they be?

Jorge: Be great, or be super great; that’s three words.

John:    Okay. You can use three. It’s okay. So be great. And what else would you be? Give me two more.

Jorge: Be humble.

John:    Okay. Be great. Be humble.

Jorge: Be better.

John:    I like that. That works. Be great. Be humble. Be better. You know, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time. You’ve been very, as I said earlier, very, very generous with your time. And so, if my listeners would like to connect with you, can you share with them how they can connect with you directly?

Jorge: Sure. I mean, they can find me on Twitter, so @JorgeBarba That’s usually the easiest way. And they can also visit my blog. It’s www.game-changer.net. Those are the easiest ways.

John:    If an entrepreneur or a company is looking for some help, how could they contact you?

Jorge: They can go to my blog and go to the contact form, or they can directly send me an e-mail, which is really the easiest way. So, my e-mail is JorgeA.Barba@gmail.com

John:    We can’t thank—again, thank you so much for your time. I never end an episode without sharing with my guest my favorite quote from 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.” And we hope we’ve made you feel that you’re part of our tribe. And, we hope that you feel that we made you feel like you matter. Because you do matter to us. And I want to thank you, and I hope that in 6 months, you’ll come back and visit us again and share more stories with us. Share with us more of your blog articles.

Jorge: Sure.

John:    Is that possible?

Jorge: Yeah, let’s do it! Awesome.

John:    Perfect. And Jorge, in your travels, if you come across a company, an executive,  you think our listeners would enjoy listening to, would you send them our way?

Jorge: Sure. Well, of course.

John:    Perfect. I thank you so much for your time and I wish you the very best. And I hope that the world gives you everything it has to offer. Be well, my friend.

Jorge: Thank you, John. Thanks so much.

John:    Thank you.

Jorge: Have a good one.

John:    Bye.

Jorge: Bye.

[end of audio]