Who is Michael Hurwitz and the key takeaways in this episode?
When the Millennials troop to Google, Apple, Facebook or other private companies to build their dream career, what will happen to the government agencies that are running dry of fresh talents?
That’s what Michael Hurwitz and the team at Careers in Government are working and specializing on.
In this interview you will learn:
- The story behind Careers in Government and how it all started
- How they are marketing local government careers to the younger generation
- What makes careersingovernment.com more than just a jobs board
- How they are using unique marketing tactics to entice the Millennials
 Why do you believe the government is struggling so hard to hire millennials?
Answer: You know, there are real interesting factors because this is the problem. Like I said earlier, it’s the government more than – especially local government – more than the federal government. The local government is, like I said, going to have a real issue with the boomers of their retiring now. We’re talking about 25 to 35 percent of the workforce that will be retiring over the next 10 to 20 years. That’s pretty significant. I mean, that’s really significant. So, you know, you don’t even have the ability to laterally hire people from, let’s say, the city of Des Moines in to Cedar Rapids. There’s just not enough workforce. So, what they are going to absolutely have to do is to reach out to the private sector and compete against the private sector. And what you said was very true, that the millennials – they don’t want the bureaucracy. However, the angle – and again this is a generalization and we’re gonna make them because I’m – everyone’s a different generation of the generation “X”. I’m kinda the sandwich generation that no one really gives a shit about and so – . But, the generation – currently the millennial generation – the general viewpoint is that they do want to be involved in the community. They do want to give back to the community. They do want to impact – they want to make an impact in society. There is no better way to do that than with local government. The problem is if the perception that the government has which is going to take a long time to overcome, but the value proposition of telling someone in IT that “Yeah, you could go to HP but they’re gonna stick you in a room. I’m sure you’re gonna get your lunches, catered and you’re gonna have a water slide to hang out on weekends, but you’re still gonna be working on this one small project, within this one department, within this larger area.” Whereas in local government, you could tell someone that you can make an immediate difference for your city that you live in and you can be involved in a project that affects the lives of millions of people around you every day. That is a powerful, powerful statement. Yet again, the problem is perception.
 Okay, so what is the most common mistakes you see governments making when they’re trying to build cultures and build teams; and build business units that are gonna carry us the next 25 years?
Answer: Yeah, great question and we actually had an article recently from Befurniture that was phenomenal and that was talking about the culture of innovation within the office environment itself. Now, that’s one of the areas where someone will be like, what is office equipment and does the environment make a difference? There’s a huge impact, a significant impact. One of the biggest problems is if I’m 24 years old and I’m sitting down in the office of a government official or government executive looking for a job and I look around and I see cube farms, and that’s all I see. I see great drab cube farms and someone tells me that “you gotta punch in at nine and you’ll gonna leave at five”. I’m outta there, I’m outta there. So, a lot of local government is looking to – again really within departments – in the HR department you’re never gonna have a sexy, interesting, unique environment, but in IT absolutely you need that. You’re starting to see local government offices that are starting to change the culture from within, from office design, office layout to the other point which is timeplex, specially again within IT and technology, giving staff the opportunity to have flexible hours, to work from home, to work on weekends, to work at night, to work on projects like Google, where Google say, “Hey, look, you can spend five percent of your time working on a passion project.” It doesn’t have anything to do what you’re currently doing at Google. It’s a passion project and government is looking at ways of delivering those kind of things saying to someone, “Hey look, you’re doing maybe some cyber security work for the city of Des Moines, but you know what? You seem to have a passion for art in local parks we’re gonna help you develop some art programs that can be specific for the parks.” Those are things like that, that can make a real impact in hiring that don’t really cost a lot. That’s the bottom line. The problem with government is that it is never gonna pay on the level of the private sector. That’s just a given. Budgets are what budgets are, especially with local government and even with pensions and benefits those are gonna be diminished but where they can make a difference is in the environment and the innovation that they can offer and the opportunity to make a difference.
 Michael, why should people use careers in government?
Answer: Careersingovernment.com is to me, and what we’ve proven across the country, is it’s one of the most unique ways that we can market vacant seats for employers and also market the lifestyle and the benefits of working for city state county special districts. You know, we’ve been doing this for longer than anyone else. We are one of the largest on social media with more than – you know, actually we have just surpassed 65,000 Twitter followers, more than 50,000 LinkedIn connections, more than 14,500 Facebook followers, more than 3,000 Google+ followers, 1,500 Pinterest followers. We are blogged across every major national directory and syndication feed. You know, we make certain that we market the message and that’s what we are at the end of the day. We’re a social and media marketing partner for local government.
Go To Quote for Inspiration
What Michael Hurwitz Wants His Company to BE:
- BE Innovative Now
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:
Where to Find Michael Hurwitz:
Connect with John on
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
John: Michael, welcome to Be Culture Radio, pleasure to have you.
Michael: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I’m glad to be on.
John: So, for my listeners now, Michael and I have had a chance to get to know each other and you are of the Hawkeye nation out of Iowa.
Michael: Damn right. [Laugh]
John: Welcome brother, welcome.
Michael: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
John: We all – We all, as I like to say, those of us in my tribe were all from the Hawkeye nation.
Michael: Black and gold, baby. Black and gold.
John: Hey, Michael, before we jump in to your career and what you’ve built and who you are, can you give us a little background and take us into that Hawkeye nation about where you came from and what made you the person you are today, and what culture surrounded you to drive you to the great success you’ve had?
Michael: Yeah, it’s a great question. You know, lot of the Midwest values – you know, a lot of people look at them and almost kind of, not frown upon the so-called fashion and yeah, it maybe – but it’s really the corner stone of what an entrepreneur must be and that is that you need to stick to values, you need to have ethics; you need to have relationships and you need to focus on your goal and make certain that that, more than anything else, is what you do every morning when you wake up and think about everyday when you go to bed. And you know, it’s a little corny, a little hokey at this point saying “Hey, I’m from the Midwest. I have Midwest values,” but those Midwest values are really the corner stone of being successful and being raised in a family where my father was an entrepreneur for a very successful business in the Des Moines area. And I really lived and breathed there from the age of seven. He put me in his warehouse, made me start working; gave me no extra benefits of being the owner’s son. When later on, after graduating in Iowa, I moved to Los Angeles and starting working in advertising in media. And I always wanted to pursue in my dad’s footsteps. You know, my dad was great in the sense that he didn’t expect that I would follow in his business and I actually did not for the most part, but he did impart upon me how important it was to do your own thing, to have your own passion in business and not just to follow in the footsteps of someone else and help someone else create their own dream. So, in about 1996, I approached my father. He had just sold his business to Heidi Food Stores, which is one of the largest grocery chains in the upper Midwest and I proposed the concept of doing an online food business. Leveraging my dad’s gourmet grocery warehouse and facility and then distributing those gourmet groceries online. This is I think about ’96 – ’97 and a little ahead of its time. Even now you’re starting to see some – you know, local grocers are doing online delivery of foods but it’s still definitely a niche market and so, you know, when I approached my father with that he said, “Look, you know, I can’t sign off on this anymore because my business is now part of Heidi but I’ll connect you with the CEO. That’s all I’m gonna do. I’m not gonna help you any further. You have to take it from there.” And, it’s that mindset that, you know, “I’ll help you out but you have to do the work on your own.” That sense of entitlement that you see sometimes in Los Angeles or from a New Yorker, not even on the coast, just in general with the certain mentality, that I think is a non-existent trait in the Midwest, which I think is so important, you know, that there is no sense of entitlement. You have to earn it. I think with that, you know, that has really been kind of a corner stone of what I believe in, what my wife believes in, in our business, which is that nothing is gonna get handed to us. We’ll take every opportunity we can take. You know, there are some who can give us a lead, some who can give us an edge; some help but at the end of the day, you have no sense of entitlement for success in business. You gotta make it on your own.
John: Michael, I like to say, “All I want is an unfair advantage.”
Michael: Yeah. [Laughs] That’s great. I love that.
John: But you gotta – but again…
John: And I – and I fully subscribed to the fact that I never apologize for my tribe in where I come from.
John: And you know what? I’m proud of the fact that I’m from the – you know, if I go – if you trace us back, we’re from Iowa.
John: Both of my parents are from Iowa. My grandparents are from Iowa. So, when people say, “where do you come from?” I come from the Midwest.
John: And there’s an authenticity to it.
Michael: There is.
John: That you were taught of the value of a hard day’s work.
Michael: Yeah, yeah.
John: And there’s no, there’s no – You can’t dance around that. You can’t present it away. It is the backbone of this country and this is what we built America on, the fact that, “You know what? You may be smarter than me but I’ll just outwork you.”
Michael: That, you know, it’s funny you said that, John. That’s a great comment that my dad used to say all the time and I never really appreciated it till I got older. And he said that when he would walk in the room, he knew that he wasn’t gonna be the smartest guy ’cause there’s always gonna be someone that’s smarter than you. I don’t care how smart you are, there’s always someone. And it may not just be a certain book smarts, or maybe, you know, whatever type of smartness. There’s so many different, unique – unique educational elements that, you know, people throw in to what they know but he always said, “I don’t care how smart I am because I know someone’s smarter, but I know I’m gonna work them or I’m gonna work myself harder than anyone else in the room”, and that’s what drove him to success and actually creates more of a reputation because, you know what? There’s nothing that works less well than someone who’s smug, who thinks they know everything and who’s incredibly lazy. And it’s a very common issue where someone thinks, “Hey, I have a very great business idea. It’s a great concept on doing itself so; I really don’t need to work it.” You know, if you go into an entrepreneurial environment, knowing that, “Hey, I may not be the best – Hey, you know what? I may not be the smartest and you know what? My business model may not even be the best but I’m gonna work it harder than everyone else and therefore I can succeed on my own.” And again, that goes back to the Midwest values – Midwest ethic and I think also it’s a formula for success in the long term.
John: It has to because it resonates with me. You know, one of the beautiful things for me is the love of my life, my business partner and my wife for 25 years, and we’ve been together for 30. She’s from, born and raised from, Manhattan and there’s something about a New Yorker that you cannot get around. And, you know what? They will flatfoot you in your place.
John: In a quick, hot second.
Michael: So true.
John: And you add that to what you bring to the table. We like to say that we have a combination of something you just can’t – you can’t beat us, you know, and we have an expression in our household which is: “Back to back, nobody’s gonna whip us.”
Michael: I love it. That’s a great – I like that.
John: And we’ve been up – we’ve had our ups and downs.
John: We build our business and you know, we’ve raised three extraordinary kids. Our oldest child is a special needs child and we would like to say he’s a special needs child but special rules don’t apply to him. He participates in it all, like everybody else.
Michael: Which is great.
John: And the other thing we told our other children is to never apologize for Alex.
John: He is who he is. This is what God gave us –
John: And I will not apologize if he does something that you find peculiar.
John: That’s really your issue not mine.
John: Or it’s his t-shirt says on the front of it, “I have autism. Keep staring at it and we’ll see if we can picture a problem too.”
John: It’s his favorite t-shirt. He wears it everywhere he goes.
Michael: That’s great.
John: I’m like, “We gotta wash that t-shirt out.”
Michael: [laughs] I know that.
John: Anyway, I wanna talk about you. I wanna talk about Careers in Government. I wanna know. How did you come up with this idea? Why? ‘Cause we always wanna know, Michael, why?
Michael: Sure, sure. You know, great question. So, what Careers in Government is, is we are the nation’s largest job board and career resource center connecting local government to qualified job seekers. So, what a “monster.com” and a “CareerBuilder” – what they do is they’re obviously focused on the private sector. They’re predominantly a jobs board with a few career tools but predominantly a job board. So you know, look it’s a print classified ad online and they’ve been marketing to a thousand different industries and that was really the start of the internet, not just for job boards but even in e-commerce and other areas. It was very mass approach because the internet was new, there was really no lead yet or a niche focused business within any category. Again, job boards, e-commerce – you name it. So, what you saw in the early – actually, in the late 90’s, early 2000, where these giant, homogenous sites that would try to – AOL is a great example, they would try to blanket the nation and give a little of everything to everyone and in the long run, basically serve no one. Then, about, I would say eight, nine years ago, we started to see within MySpace, job boards; they started to fragment. They realized that a Monster or a CareerBuilder doesn’t really serve specific industries in a beneficial way. So, they started to fragment. You started to see job boards for the help industry, job boards for engineering, etcetera. That’s kind of the big pictures situation. During that time, late 90’s, my wife’s father and mother launched Careers in Government. Now, like I said, early on in the job board industry, they were very broad-based and so having Careers in Government just focus on jobs in local government was really kind of a niche job board long before niche job boards existed. But, what her father realized was that at the time, the only way that a government employer can market their jobs is to go as wide as is possible. It’s usually through the local news paper. They might put their flier for that job within the HR department. So, really what would happen was the world in which they could market these vacancies was very small and it was generally within local government. So, they weren’t reaching out to as large an audience as possible to market those vacancies. Long story short, they built the business and about four years ago, when I was dating my wife, they were at retirement age. They were looking to sell the business. So, we acquired it but when we acquired the business we also acquired a website that was built in 1996 and hadn’t been changed or updated. There were no social media presences. It was a very fatigued website. It was painful to look at. It was painful to utilize. I had a horrible user experience. So, what we did was we basically tore the entire website down except for the database. We redesigned the website, rebuilt everything; rehired staff. We immediately were recognized by Forbes magazine as the best government career website two years in a row. We started to develop a partnership with large government associations. One was with the National Association of Counties and other one was the largest organization of HR personnel and local government. We started to work with Deloitte and others. Our biggest goal, I think today, is that a job seeker – well, there are two elements: number one, a government employer needs to market themselves. It’s not just about posting the vacancy and we always say that, you know, “Yes, we’re a job boarder but look at us as an advertising and marketing partner to local government to bring your vacancies and your lifestyle of that city county or state to a potential job seeker,” because now they have a large number of people that are retiring from local government. This is the boomer generation. They’re now retiring in mass. You got the millennials now coming into the marketplace and local government has a real challenge in marketing themselves. Literally marketing themselves like Google or HP does for job seekers to say, “Hey, you know what? Instead of going to Google, I’m gonna work for my local government.” Now, it sounds kinda odd, like, why would you need to market it? Well, you know, you’re in a competition. You’re an employer, like anyone else, and if you’re pitching to a 25-year old, let’s say someone who’s an IT individual, Google just puts on the table a $150,000 base salary and the government employer puts down a $100,000 base because that’s all they can afford. Now, you’re dealing with the $50,000 reduction in salary for that person and the benefits that used to be the hallmark of local government are now being pulled back. So, the benefits are not even that fantastic. So, you really do have to market yourself to a younger generation as “You know what? This is an opportunity to be a part of your community. This is an opportunity to work within your community. This is an opportunity to grow and make a real difference in your community by working for local government.” It’s really what JFK brought into quarter corporate market place when he said, you know, it was his famous speech. I just forgot it too. [Laughs]
John: “Ask not what you can do for your country [crosstalk]” I had that backwards but you know where it’s going.
Michael: Yes, exactly. And you know, it’s a powerful statement though that carried a lot of people in the government. I mean, the boomer generation went en masse in working for government because they really thought they could make a difference. If you talk to anyone nowadays, and the stats are frightening but graduates – probably in IT, it’s IT and technology fields and engineering fields – less than three percent are even interested in working for government. So, there’s a perception issue that they have to overcome, not just in promoting their job. They can obviously promote their vacancy on Careers in Government but that’s where we really come to the marketplace like BeFurniture does and say, “You know what? We’re gonna do it differently. We really wanna disrupt this market. Yes, at the end of the day, we’re gonna market your job and we’re gonna advertise your vacancy but we’re much more than that.” It’s a slow change in realization by local government employers and that’s what they need to do. I bet that’s our goal and it’s a much harder proposition because you’re also pitching a concept to a government employer that’s tends to be about three to five years behind in technology. But, the reality is they do need to market themselves differently and the reality is, for us as a business, we need to market ourselves differently but not just as a job board. If we go into this space and say, “Yeah, we’re a job board, we’re the large – Well, job board has been around 20-25 years now. So, what makes you unique?”, “Well we’re really an advertising and marketing partner.” “Oh, okay. Well, that is different.” You know, you can market on social media. You really know how to understand and promote these government employers to job seekers. So, that’s where we’ve kind of taken the model of an existing business and somewhat turned it on its head. I wouldn’t say it’s disruptive in a significant nature because government won’t jump on something like that but we needed to kinda twist it around and highlight really, more than anything, that we need to educate government employers that there’s a different way to look at marketing your vacancies and we’re the ones that you can work with. So, that’s really been our mission and you know, we’ve had great success in those three years and we need to continue to ride innovation and technology just as BeFurniture does aggressively and quite brilliantly with this podcast, with social media, with unique marketing that you do not see in your industry. We’re trying to do the same as well and then we have to constantly stay ahead of everyone else. And, it’s deep in your toes and with every new technology, seeing if it works and if it doesn’t, pull back, and if something’s working jump into it and go head strong and be a voice for what you believe in and what your company believes in and people will listen. You might not always make a deal here and there but you’re gonna be a success if you believe in your mission statement and you know your change in the market place.
John: Okay, I’m gonna jump in here. Now, just so you guys – this is why I love this guy. He is so passionate. He gets culture. I could just sit here and listen to you, Michael, but my producers will have a canary that I didn’t contribute to your show. So, I wanna jump in for a moment.
John: I’m gonna take you back and we’re gonna go back a little bit because you know, just so my listeners know, this was not his first rodeo. He had a number of years; I believe seven years, as an Executive Director at USA Today.
John: But the [inaudible 00:16:39] organization. So, the lights didn’t just go on; he has built himself a career and understands media better than most. So, make no mistake about my friend, Michael. He gets it and he understands culture. So, I wanna know, Michael, what was the monumental moment? What was the tipping point? When you looked at this business, when did the lights come on for you? ‘Cause with the kind of person you are, the lights come on quickly.
Michael: Well, thanks but, you know, it’s interesting. I would love to say that “Hey, you know what? I knew this was the future vision of careers and government and this is the direction I’m happy to go in. What the reality was, and this was, I think true to a lot of people in going into the entrepreneurial route, was that during the great recession I was looking around and I’m sitting here at USA Today, in the newspaper industry, that is dying rapidly; that has no future vision, no objectives into how to transition from the print world to the digital world and I saw all my friends losing their jobs. It was – I don’t want to say out of desperation but my entrepreneurial spirit also came from the need that while in my current job, in corporate America, I saw that industries quickly die and people lose their jobs and lose their careers and there’s no guarantee, whatsoever, in life. I knew that there’s also no guarantee in being an entrepreneur but at least I want to take the opportunity and, more importantly, I saw what happens in that industry when it doesn’t transition and when it doesn’t innovate.
John: Well, I’ve gotta tell you what I can guarantee my listeners if you love being an entrepreneur. It’s kinda like “Do you like rollercoasters?”
John: ‘Cause if you like rollercoasters, you’re gonna love being an entrepreneur.
Michael: It’s insane. I mean, you know it too. You build a tremendously successful business and it is an up and down rollercoaster. Daily, hourly and you know, you wanna hang on to the highs but you realize that, you know what? The next day you’re gonna have a large number of disappointments and there are times, and you’ve felt them I’m sure, you just – you don’t even wanna wake up the next day. You’re just like “I feel beat,” and then you wake up and you said, “You know what? No one else is gonna do this unless I do it” and you figure out a new route. You figure out a new direction and you move forward. I think a lot of people, especially corporate America, tend to get lazy in that way which is, you know, “well, if I don’t figure out, I’ll either lose my job or someone else will take the ball and get that senior level position in that corner office” and that’s not how you wanna live your life. You wanna live your life in the driver’s seat as much as possible.
John: Not at all. I threw that towel in and you talk about the range of emotion. I fall upon my tribe and I can hear my mother’s voice at 4:30 in the morning saying, “You are not a victim. You can make a choice. You can make a difference and whatever happens you’re gonna control what happens: good, bad or indifferent. Because nothing can be so bad that you can’t get up. Dust yourself off,” and then I hear my father’s voice “The measure of a person is what you do when you get knocked down and nobody’s looking.”
Michael: Yeah and that’s true.
John: So, when you come from those roots and you have type of tribe, how bad could it possibly be?
Michael: So true.
John: It’s a perspective. As I talk to people like yourself across the country and you hear the amazing stories. The one common thread is that we will persevere. We will make it and we will take these things and people talking about, “When did you fail?”, “Hey, Michael, tell me about your failure. Tell me about your greatest failure,” and I always tell people “I’ve never failed”. And like “What do you mean you’ve never failed?” I said, “Well, I just have some experiences that cost me more than others [laughs] because I couldn’t sit where I am today had I failed.”
Michael: So true.
John: It built the experience. It built a culture. It built me to the human being I am today, to be – now, I have made mistakes on a daily basis.
Michael: Absolutely but you don’t focus on those mistakes and that what you just said. It’s not a victim mentality and that’s where success happens, if you look at those mistakes as mistakes. How to turn those around and that’s – they’re not failures. Failures are giving up.
John: I can’t fail. You can’t fail; we don’t fail as a community. We don’t fail as a culture and mistakes as solely there for us to build upon and as my sisters used to say to me, “If you can’t apologize when you’ve made a mistake, you’re not much of a human being so come back or let’s talk to you again.”
John: And I’m like, “I’m gonna get beat up again.”
John: Now Michael, I wanna shift to yours. Can you – and we’re gonna talk about culture a little bit, okay?
John: Now, what is your definition of company culture because you see the government, you see the free enterprise, and how do you bring those things together to define a culture?
Michael: Yeah, it’s a great question. Because I don’t wanna say we’re the merging of the private and public because we’re a full private sector company, but obviously our client base is 100 percent government and it is a dramatically different culture, not only the typical one that everyone has: the perception of government as slow, bureaucratic, full of red tape, cumbersome, et cetera. It takes 12 signatures for every deal to go through. I see that. That’s obviously – you see that the minute you walk into the space and you start calling, you know, our contacts whether they’re from a city manager, an executive position of the city, level down to an HR personnel that, you know, is someone who’s punching clock. There really is a certain mentality of that. That definitely exists but what you start seeing when you peel back the surface of government is you see a lot of people that are very passionate and committed. The problem is they’re passionate and committed but they’re stuck in a bureaucratic environment and knocking down those walls is very difficult in government, and understandably so. You know, government is not about the money. It’s not. It’s a people enterprise. That’s what it is. And people forget that because there’s a lot of people out there that will be like, “The government needs to act more like the private sector.” Yeah, in theory that sounds great but they also forget the most important difference which is the government is not looking out to make a profit. It’s a people enterprise. But that’s even more reason why a culture of innovation is critical in local government and where government lags behind. Now, you’re starting to see some cracks in that, especially in IT departments, where they realize that if local government IT is to survive, and it has to because that’s where it’s all going, they need to hire the best talent. They have to start restructuring what their requirements are gonna be. That includes work space, office environment, time flex. All the factors that are required when someone looks at a job at Google or HP, the government needs to offer that. They are realizing that. They’re moving slower, obviously, that the private sector but that’s where you’re seeing the real change in culture of innovation is in specific departments within government. You’ll see some cities, some counties, even some states that are doing some innovative, unique programs but usually it’s contained within certain departments or what we’re seeing is that’s usually within IT department and it’s a matter of necessity that they’re making those changes.
John: Okay, so I wanna ask you this. You and I both seem – I’m a government – one of my businesses was a government schedule holder and federal contractor and I got to see a lot of these people you’re talking about. I got to participate a lot of the bureaucracy that we are challenged with.
John: And to that end, why do you believe the government’s struggling so hard to get the millennials? I have my opinion because I surround myself with a lot of millennials.
John: And I asked the question, Mike, what were you thinking? And my response to you and what I get from them is “I wouldn’t get near that culture for all the money in the world.”
John: They don’t have – because they, the millennials, have a tremendous distrust for bureaucracy.
Michael: Yeah, they do. You know, there are real interesting factors because this is the problem. Like I said earlier, it’s government more than – especially local government – more than the federal government. Local government is, like I said, is gonna have a real issue with the boomers of their retiring now. We’re talking about 25 to 35 percent of the workforce that will be retiring over the next 10 to 20 years. That’s pretty significant. I mean that’s really significant. So, you know, you don’t even have the ability to laterally hire people from, let’s say, the city of Des Moines in to Cedar Rapids. There’s just not enough workforce. So, what they are gonna absolutely have to do is reach out to the private sector and compete against the private sector. And what you said was very true, that the millennials, they don’t want the bureaucracy. However, the angle – and again this is a generalization and we’re gonna make them because I’m – everyone’s a different generation of the generation “X”. I’m kinda the sandwich generation that no one really gives a shit about and so – .But, the generation is currently the millennial generation. The general view point is that they do wanna be involved in the community. They do wanna give back to the community. They do want to impact – they wanna make an impact in society. There is no better way to do that than with local government. The problem is that if the perception that government has which is gonna take a long time to overcome but the value proposition of telling someone in IT that “Yeah, you could go to HP but they’re gonna stick you in a room. I’m sure you gonna get your lunches catered and you’re gonna have a water slide to hang out on on weekends but you’re still gonna be working on this one small project, within this one department, within this larger area.” Whereas in local government, you could tell someone that you can make an immediate difference for your city that you live in and you can be involved in a project that affects the lives of millions of people around you every day. That is a powerful, powerful statement. Yet again, the problem is perception.
John: Innovative boomers. You know, we look at things for not what they could be but what they are.
John: And the millennials want to look at things for what they could be not what they currently are. So, they’re – aren’t they almost diametrically opposed on their positions?
Michael: They are, and its funny you said that it’s generation “X”. I’m stuck in between where –
John: I was just trying to say who – to which one you kinda belong?
Michael: Yeah. How do I juggle these two and you know, some of these said that because there is and we are starting to see a local government where they are hiring a younger staff and you’ve got in old, especially in government. If their ages – I mean age absolutely occurs. I think depending upon the industry it starts heading after the age of 40. If you’re in Hollywood, it happens after the age of 20. In advertising and media it was – I’m gonna be 49 and when I was about 40 to 42 I started noticing that “Wow, you know what? I’m the oldest guy in advertising and in media.” It does happen but in local government that’s the one area where boomers feel comfortable because you are not being questioned on your age. You’re really being valued for the knowledge base that you have. And that’s where boomers have had a great success and great value to input in the local government in that they have this incredible knowledge base. They really believe in what they are doing and they understand the nuances of government and how governments work, both good and bad. They know where all the works are but they still understand how to make government happen. The millennial want to make a difference but they have no idea how a local government works and how local government will be transformed. Local government will be transformed not just because millennials are coming to the work but because of technology. It’s more that they embrace social media, more that they embrace cloud computing and services and offerings. Government will become much more flexible and much more responsive to the community. Will it be perfect? Far from it. It will never be perfect; nothing is, even in the private sector. But social media and technology and a new workforce coming in to government are rapidly changing the government. Now, when I say rapid, again it’s not like the private sector, this happens over a period of years if not decades, but it is changing and you’re seeing this kind of revolution of a local government. Again, the problem is perception. Government has to have a new perception, just like JFK did to the boomer audience, to say, “You know what? Now, it’s for millennials to come into the local government workforce and really make an impact and a difference in the community.”
John: Okay, so what is the most common mistake you see government agencies making when they’re trying to build cultures and build teams; and build business units that are gonna carry us the next 25 years?
Michael: Yeah, great question and we actually had an article, recently from BeFurniture that was phenomenal and that was talking about the culture of innovation within the office environment itself. Now, that’s one of the areas where someone will be like, what is office equipment and the environment make difference? There’s a huge impact, a significant impact. One of the biggest problems is if I’m 24 years old and I’m sitting down in the office of a government official or government executive looking for a job and I look around and I see cube farms and that’s all I see. I see great drab cube farms and someone tells me that “You gotta punch in at nine and you’re gonna leave at five”. I’m outta there, I’m outta there. So, a lot of local government is looking to, again really within departments, in the HR department you never gonna have a sexy, interesting, unique environment, but in IT absolutely you need that. You’re starting to see local government offices that are starting to change the culture from within, from office design, office layout: the other point is timeplex, specially again within IT and technology, giving staff the opportunity to have flexible hours, to work from home, to work on weekends, to work at night, to work on projects like Google, where Google say, “Hey look, you can spend five percent of your time working on a passion project.” It doesn’t have anything to do what you’re currently doing at Google. It’s a passion project and government is looking at ways of delivering those kind of things saying to someone, “Hey look, you’re doing maybe some cyber security work for the city of Des Moines, but you what? You seemed to have a passion for art in local parks we’re gonna help you develop some art programs that can be specific for the parks.” There are things like that, that they can make a real impact in hiring that don’t really cost a lot. That’s the bottom line. The problem with government is that it’s never gonna pay on the level of the private sector. That’s just a given. Budgets are what budgets are, especially in local government and even with pensions and benefits. Those are gonna be diminished but where can they make a difference is in the environment and the innovation that they can offer and the opportunity to make a difference.
John: You and I talked about this pre-show a little bit and I shared with you one of the challenges that we have, because we deal with a lot of the agencies and we see how people spend their dollars and to your point earlier you can have a cubicle farm or you can have an innovative space: they cost the same amount of money.
John: And i said to people, “Hello, is anybody listening?” If you want to actually take the time and effort to take the same kit of parts, so to speak, and build innovative spaces that people can work at, they can collaborate at, they can produce a difference for the community they’re serving. You can do it for the same dollars but it’s not for the fainted heart; it’s not easy.
Michael: It’s not.
John: Because if it was easy everybody would do it.
John: But it’s easier to push a commodity out there and I would share with our listeners that you’re gonna find that as we move forward. There are a lot of people that are in corporate America that have that same cubicle farm mentality, that same commodity of mentality that people coming in to the work force don’t embrace anymore. You’re not doing them a favor. So, I look at it from our standpoint. So, you know what, we may not resonate with everybody but the ones that we do resonate with, the people who get it, that’s – I wanna be on their team.
John: I wanna service them. I wanna bring them what they’re doing ’cause I think they are gonna win and I wanna be on a winning team.
Michael: So true and you hit it right on the head. The cost is not significant, it’s the education. It’s the same with us when the local government employer needs to promote their vacant seat, and they can go on Monster.com. They can spend even more money to advertise their job or they can come with us and they can get so much more value. The problem is the education and sometimes just the fear of doing something that they don’t understand and that’s where government is challenged in that they may see the bright vision of what you’re proposing but they’re being told day in and day out that “You gotta do X, Y, and Z and then you have to repeat X, Y and Z everyday,” instead of that one person saying “Hey look! You know what? I don’t need to do Z, Y, Z, but I can do something out of that and actually i can save us money.” Like it’s getting out of that rhythm of local government that is so difficult and that local government needs to sometimes get out of its own way or get out of the way of its employees and sometimes allow employees to make those decisions, to have real buy end. You’re talking about how your company has real buy end from everyone and I love that. That’s a real culture of innovations. Everyone has, you know, a horse in the race and that’s a powerful statement, and government is one of the most powerful areas where everyone who’s working for government lives in that community. So, they do have a piece of the pie and they should have a passion for that and they should be given the responsibility to make a difference. You would think of anywhere local government is a one perfect place to say “Hey this is your community. Go and have – you have some skin in this game. Let’s make something happen, you need to think out of the box and bring a new concept to the table.” Sadly they don’t do that, but the more people you have buying into your belief, the more that you’ll have that innovation.
John: I hope that they have that online. I think that the quote i butchered earlier was, “Do not ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Michael: Yes, Thank you!
John: And… I think it is very well said and its very pertinent to what we’re talking about today.
Michael: It is.
John: Because that’s what millennials want. That’s what we as human beings want.
John: We want fulfillment. We want alignment.
John: And fulfillment and alignment are no more than when our core beliefs, our goals and our behaviors all align and give us fulfillment, and anything other than that is unacceptable.
Michael: So true.
John: And i think we’ve come to a place in time where we all realize it that in this day and time anything else is not acceptable; it’s not worth pursuing. It’s – you go down a path and you say “Wait a minute, I’m gonna do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” I think that’s called insanity.
Michael: Yeah and then amazingly the local [chuckle] government does that and a lot of companies do. There’s no doubt about it, government is not alone in that.
John: Oh the government is not alone.
John: They’ve got plenty of company. Just the director of the government and corporation says “There’s that board room and those twelve people are just sitting there and there’s guy, the guy has the biggest pay check, and everybody is agreeing with him. And the government there not agreeing with the top guy in the room they’re just – they’re just sitting there quietly folding their hands and waiting till the meeting is over.
Michael: Yeah, you’re right, you’re right.
John: And that’s my big take when i watch their cultures it’s “Yeah! Yeah! We agree with the highest paid person.” Well that’s just made them the highest paid person; it doesn’t make them any smarter than you. When – when did they become smarter than you? You know. So I challenge the people in my own company “Hey, you know” I tease, I said, “I’m just a silly fellow that owns the place. It doesn’t make me right. It just makes me the guy that owns the place. You’re probably more right than me,” and you know, once you free people to express themselves, to live their dreams, to embrace what’s important to them and have that fulfillment, there’s no greater power than the human spirit.
Michael: So true.
John: I firmly believe that and all the metrics in the world – I just said on the previous show, “All the metrics that you count in the world cannot add up to the human spirit.” You – there isn’t a metric I can give you that will allow us to get on top of the human spirit. It is solely the human beings that will carry us. The metrics will follow if you build it correctly and you have a culture where people believe in it and everybody has skin in the game.
John: And everybody matters and each and every individual can make a difference. I mean imagine a world, Michael where we live, we could live in, where if we could make a difference in one child’s life, imagine the difference the world would be.
Michael: Incredible! It’s so true.
John: How hard it is to make a difference in that single child’s life; not your child, a child.
John: A random act of kindness, and I share that with people. When people say “What’s your goal for Be Radio, BeCulture Radio, what’s your goal for Befurniture?” I say, “To leave the world a better place than I found it, and to make the world a better place one child at a time.”
Michael: And it’s the greatest gift that you can give.
John: People say, “What about profit/loss?” and I said, “That will take care of itself.”
Michael: It does. You’re right.
John: I get a lot of strange looks.
Michael: You know, it’s a powerful statement because once you embolden your staff, your partners, your vendors, your clients, everyone around you with information, education and opportunities succeed. Like you said, the human spirit will work itself out because it’s always gonna be inclined. If you give an individual enough of the right tools again, vendor, client, partner, colleague it doesn’t matter, if you give them the opportunity to succeed, if you give them the tools to succeed, if you don’t just layout your steps “A to Z and you have to follow them or else you’re gonna be put on probation.” That’s one thing but if you say, “Hey, look, you know what? I need to get to step Z”, but I really don’t care how you do it, you can do A to D, back to B, everywhere, I don’t care. Just get Z done, you’ve suddenly given something to someone that they normally would not have and in local government that’s the problem. They need to create problem solvers, they need to create visionaries in government and sometimes those words you think “visionary, government” don’t really work together, but you know what, that’s where it should happen because the community of today was set in place by the people that are now retiring and the millennials have an opportunity to have a community of tomorrow of their own built in their own likeness. But it’s up to the community of millennials to make that difference and to go into government and to question and to push; and to make a difference, and when your boss says i need you to do A to Z to say, “Hey you know what? Let me just get to Z, but we have to follow these steps” You know, it’s not an easy thing and you know, people come in and say “I’m gonna make a difference” and then they get beat down within a week or suddenly you know, their leanings and they’re drones and they’re just following orders, but like you said “The human spirits are powerful things and you gotta keep searching for new ideas, new goals, new objectives. New can make a difference in local government just like you can make a difference being an entrepreneur or making a difference being a janitor and I’m sure your dad has always told you this I had no doubt because i know my dad will always say this, he said, “I would rather be sitting with a janitor that has tremendous passion in the work that he does than with the CEO that’s bored twiddling his thumbs and just following on with what the other CEO did.
John: Amen. Amen.
Michael: And yeah, ain’t that true? And it was like, yeah! You know what? I’d rather listen to someone talk for hours about how they do the most amazing job cleaning the toilets, that he knows how to clean those better than anyone else and he has a real love and passion for it than some CEO that’s sitting there that’s just twiddling his thumbs and killing time. I don’t want to listen to him. He doesn’t offer me anything.
John: That’s crazy. Hey, I wanna to take you to the lightning round cause you’ve been very generous with your time. So, if it’s okay with you, Michael, we’re gonna jump into the lightning run, okay?
Michael: Sounds good.
John: Alright! Is there a book that changed your life?
Michael: Good question, No! [Laugh]
John: Okay! Is there a book you would recommend that my listeners read?
Michael: Yeah, I would. There was a book that I found very interesting called “The Pumpkin Patch” and I think readers should check that out. I think it’s a very unique book and it talks about take – It talks about, like we talked about, taking these business ideas. Finding one that works and then really kinda gardening that one goal or vision, hence the pumpkin patch, and really kinda you know, working and tilling the ground which is you know, tilling the business community for that one vision that you have been growing. So, it’s called “The Pumpkin Patch”. It’s a very unique book and was actually given to us by my father-in-law who when – you know, who sold the business to us, he gave us his book. So, it has a certain, you know, sentimental value to it.
John: I like that. Now, do you have a quote you go to?
Michael: Oh! It’s “The Pumpkin Plan”, sorry, “Pumpkin Plan”.
John: See! There you go. [Laughs] Do you have a quote you go to for inspiration?
Michael: You know, No, I really don’t. It’s just, I look at, I hear my dad as you heard your mom. I hear my dad and just saying that, you know, “work harder than everyone else. Don’t stress it out you’re, not gonna be the smartest, you’re not gonna be the most brilliant. You’re not gonna be able to, you know, schmooze with the best and brightest but if you work harder than everyone else you’re gonna succeed better that anyone else.”
John: I like that. Now, what company do you admire the most as it relates the culture and why?
Michael: You know, I think Google to me is incredibly innovative. You know, you have a search engine, obviously, that’s what they created and now they’re doing so many unique things. I think Elon Musk is also another individual that’s doing some incredible things with SpaceX. There are some real visionaries that are taking the business and saying, “You know what, this is great with the business but I’m taking – I’m taking it to the whole next level”. I’m going – I mean, what better business can you serve in – I’m gonna take space exploration and privatize it. I mean, that’s shoot for the stars, no pun intended. That’s- that’s brilliance.
John: [laugh] Okay. Michael, why should people use Careers for Government?
Michael: Well, you know, careersingovernment.com is, to me and what we’ve proven across the country, it’s one of the most unique ways that we can market vacant seats for employers and also market the lifestyle and the benefits of working for city state county special district. You know, we’ve been doing this for longer than anyone else. We are one of the largest on social media with more than, you know, actually we just surpassed 65,000 Twitter followers, more than 50,000 LinkedIn connections, more than 14,500 Facebook followers, more than 3,000 Google+ followers, 1,500 Pinterest followers. We are blogged across every major national directory and syndication feed. You know, we make certain that we market the message and that’s what we are at the end of the day. We’re a social and media marketing partner for local government.
John: Careers in Government. I think, I think I said careers for government.
Michael: You did and that’s okay.
John: My apologies, Careers in Government, I – I stand corrected, I apologize. I apologize [Crosstalk]
Michael: No problem at all.
John: Now Michael, If we’re going to describe the culture of Careers in Government in three words, what would they be?
Michael: I would say, “Be Innovative Now.” That’s what we need to do every day that we wake up is “How can we be innovative now? And it’s a verb; it’s a present tense to the future tense verb and experience which is, you know, we’re innovating now but we can’t stop. We have to constantly be innovative. We have to do it now and we have to do it in the future.
John: And how can my listeners connect with you because you’re an extraordinary person?
Michael: Thank you.
John: Again, part of the Hawkeye nation, so there’s a special place in our heart here in BeCulture radio for you.
Michael: Well the feeling is mutual; this has been a fantastic time and I’m glad I could share my insights with your audience and this just been a fantastic podcasting. Anyone can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from anyone on any ideas, thoughts and this is just – It’s been a great hour with you; it’s just been fantastic.
John: Any rollouts you wanna share with us before we go?
Michael: Yeah! We’re gonna be launching a partnership with the VA, so one of the largest federal departments of Veterans Affairs. We’re gonna be doing career – we’re gonna be developing career tools to help local government to hire more veterans. We’re also developing a partnership with the number of organizations to help IT departments in local government acquire the best and brightest talent. Because we’re finding right now a local government the biggest issue is hiring and cyber security and technology, cloud data, et cetera. Those are gonna be the big, hot buttons for local government in hiring in the next 10 to 20 years and we want to be at the forefront of that.
John: Now, Michael, I never end the show without sharing with my guest my favorite quote, which is 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 like part of our tribe today; we’ve hope we made you feel welcome and valued.
Michael: Thank you so much. This has been great. Love it and looking forward to staying in contact with you and your audience.
John: Will you come back in six months from now and share some more stories? Because we just love having you. Maybe we can get you and your partner on the line at the same time.
Michael: That would be great.
John: ‘Cause I think that would be a hoot.
Michael: We would be honored.
John: So we’re gonna do that, we’re gonna have both of you on.
John: And we’re gonna hear, as I like to say, we’re gonna hear from the other half.
Michael: The most important half, yes!
John: You know, and that is the correct answer!
Michael: Exactly, [laughs] she’s sitting in the other office. So, yes and I hope she hears that.
John: God Bless her!
John: Michael did say that I’m gonna vouch for him! Hey Thank you so much. If you find some entrepreneurs on your travels and you think this is a great platform for them to tell their story, please send them my way. Would you, Michael?
Michael: Gladly! Will do, absolutely!
John: I wish you the very best and be well, my friend.
Michael: Thank you, take care.
John: Alright, bye-bye!
Michael: Okay, bye-bye![ End ]