How to create a fantastic work culture : “Raise the ceiling” with Brian Conyer and Chaya Weiner
Raise the ceiling. As the leader of the organization, I am responsible for setting the tone and the pace of the company culture. The third aspect that helps me foster a great work culture is that I have the highest expectations for my team members. I am keenly aware of what each member of my team is capable of and I work to push them to greater heights. This can cause friction at times because I’m constantly pushing for my team to work smarter, harder, and more efficiently, but we always look back with pride and often in awe of what we are able to accomplish together.
As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Conyer. Brian is the CEO and Co-founder of GIBLIB, the streaming media platform offering the largest library of on-demand medical lectures and surgical videos in 4K and 360-degree virtual reality. He oversees all aspects of the Company including the creation, production, and curation of high-quality educational videos featuring expert physicians from leading academic medical centers including Cedars-Sinai and Mayo Clinic. Brian also manages company partnerships and leads sales and marketing initiatives. Prior to starting GIBLIB in 2016, Brian founded Connect-A-Kid in 2011, the first national mentorship program for internationally adopted children, with which he remains involved today. For over ten years, he also worked in sales at Intuitive Surgical, 3M’s Healthcare Business Unit, and GlaxoSmithKline. Brian earned his M.B.A. in Finance and Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California, where he served as class president of the program, and has Bachelor’s degree in Business and Marketing from North Carolina State University’s College of Management, where he competed as a D1 wrestler. He is based in Los Angeles, California, and in his spare time enjoys spending time at his parents’ alpaca farm, reading and listening to podcasts, and exploring restaurants.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s my pleasure to speak with you. I’ve always wanted to be part of an innovative startup that does things wildly different than the status quo. Having worked in healthcare for over ten years, I’ve witnessed first-hand how physicians and nurses grapple with staying up-to-date on the endless amount of information they are required to master, yet the way the information is created and communicated has not evolved.
To address this issue, GIBLIB leverages the scalability, flexibility and cost-effective nature of one of the world’s most powerful learning tools: video. With the aim of being the Netflix of medical education, our team creates Hollywood studio-quality content and delivers it on GIBLIB’s on-demand streaming platform to medical professionals worldwide, giving them access to the top experts in medicine anywhere, anytime, and for any specialty.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Early on in the process of getting the company off the ground, our team ran out of money. It was due to the culture we cultivated as a team that we were able to survive and overcome this major setback. Since day one, I’ve always been very open with our employees about our venture-backed business model that relies on investments, and also transparent regarding the company’s burn rate and finances. Our team was aware we were going through the fundraising process and only had a couple of months left before we would need more investments to survive.
When an important investment fell through, we were unable to make payroll, however, this was not a shock to the team because of how I openly communicated with them from the start. Co-founder Jihye Shin and I scheduled an all-hands meeting to discuss the news of the investment. We let everyone know that we would no longer be able to pay them, but planned to remain focused and continue with our mission, despite the lack of funding. Jihye and I explained that they could decide to leave or stay with no pay until we could solve the issue. The majority of our team decided to stay on with no pay. Within six weeks, we received the funding we needed and are now where we are today: well funded with a thriving stream of revenue, partnerships with top-ranked U.S. hospitals, and the first-ever CME-accredited 360-VR course with Cedars-Sinai with many more major milestones to come.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, we’re currently working on multiple exciting projects ranging from a documentary series featuring some of the most brilliant minds in medicine to creating highly sought-after and specialized educational content that few physicians have had access to. Our goal is to close the knowledge sharing gap within the medical field and share the remarkable work of the most talented physicians around the world. To do so, we are partnered with six of the top ten hospitals in the U.S. to create content for our platform. And as a result, our team is enabled to contribute to the medical community by providing the only streaming media platform with the largest library of on-demand medical lectures and surgical videos in 4K and 360-degree virtual reality. We also help some of the largest and most innovative medical device companies in the world create the next wave of educational content for workforce training in virtual reality.
Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
I believe the unhappiness often stems from unclear and uncommunicated goals, misaligned incentives and a lack of recognition for workers’ efforts. Financial incentives are important, but I also think today’s workforce is motivated by the tangible impact of their projects, collaborating with others, and working together towards a common goal. If employees are fairly compensated for their work, supported in their roles, recognized for their achievements, encouraged to continuously learn, and listened to regularly, then I think most people will be happy. Unfortunately, I do not think these basic principles of a positive company culture exist in many workplaces.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
From my experience, an unhappy workforce results in the bare minimum being accomplished. In these unhappy environments, no one is rising to challenge the status quo, surpassing expectations, or thinking creatively to solve critical problems. With unhappy workers in the office, positive contributors can be negatively impacted and this can start to work against building a proactive, productive and fun culture. A loss of company productivity leads to a loss of accountability and ownership, which in turn impacts creative thinking and innovation. This toxic culture will chase away any positive changemakers in addition to impacting company profitability and the individual wellbeing of employees. It is important to curb these issues before they snowball into larger ones.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
The five things that have helped me create a fantastic work culture at GIBLIB are as follows:
1) Monday mornings are for comradery. At the beginning of each week, we conduct “stand-up” updates for each function to share weekly objectives and track progress. During this meeting, we also share personal development goals for the week that we hold each other accountable for, discuss book club updates (everyone on the team has a membership to Audible) and get everyone excited for the week. Sharing the progress on both professional and personal goals first thing Monday morning enforces the fast-paced, supportive, and fun culture that makes our team thrive.
2) Sleep on the floor. The second aspect of creating a fantastic work culture is always being the one that opts to sleep on the floor. To clarify, in the early days of our startup, we often booked an Airbnb or chose the most cost-effective accommodations we could find to save money. A rule I have is that, when needed, I will be the one that sleeps on the floor, so that my team can take the beds and couches. It is my obligation to make sure that they are fresh and well rested no matter what.
3) Raise the ceiling. As the leader of the organization, I am responsible for setting the tone and the pace of the company culture. The third aspect that helps me foster a great work culture is that I have the highest expectations for my team members. I am keenly aware of what each member of my team is capable of and I work to push them to greater heights. This can cause friction at times because I’m constantly pushing for my team to work smarter, harder, and more efficiently, but we always look back with pride and often in awe of what we are able to accomplish together.
4) Cultivate creativity. The fourth aspect is cultivating creativity throughout my entire team no matter each person’s role. At GIBLIB, we have “Creative Fridays” to work on new ideas. This is one of the most productive strategies we have implemented to foster innovation. Some of the most out-of-the-box and influential aspects of our company have come from our weekly days dedicated to thinking creatively.
5) Treat every meeting like a team event. As a former D1 wrestler, I carry many lifelong lessons from the sport. One key takeaway is that, in order to win as a team, each wrestler must win his own match. I do my best to incorporate this sense of individual accountability into our company culture. To ensure everyone fully understands that we are a team,, I end every meeting like a sports team would — with everyone ready to break and work on what needs to get done. We even gather together with hands in the center (even on video calls) and count down from three with a cheer. We also always invite outsiders to participate (investors and partners love it).
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
To make a change to the overall work culture in the U.S., companies need to universally adopt a “People-First” culture. This means significantly investing in workforce training and leadership development. Companies should also provide access and resources to higher education for lower-income employees, and implement diversity and inclusion programs in every function of the business, including the C-Suite.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
My leadership style involves reimagining the typical organization chart and being singularly focused on my team’s success: I lead in order to build and develop them. By managing with this aim in mind, I am best able to inspire and equip my team with everything they need in order to complete projects and surpass company objectives.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My co-founder, Jihye Shin, who also serves as the COO of GIBLIB. Jihye left a high paying career with countless opportunities in an exciting industry to join an unproven business full of risk and an uncertain promise of a future. She regularly challenges me to be a better leader, counters every one of my weaknesses and checks me when I need checking. Not only does Jihye lead the company’s product management team and oversees core company operations, but also volunteers to support the business in any way she can even if that means sacrificing personally for the greater good of the team.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Both my management style and personal upbringing have fostered my strong belief in bringing people together and helping people become their best selves and produce their best work through mentorship. Prior to starting GIBLIB, I founded the non-profit Connect-A-Kid in 2011. The organization is the first national mentorship program for internationally adopted children, and I remain heavily involved with it to this day. Spreading goodness and doing meaningful work should both be priorities, and I strive to remember and encourage this every day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is: “The man or woman who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones” by Confucius. Whenever I have felt overwhelmed by a major challenge or a goal in life, I take a step back to get a perspective on the undertaking. This allows me to focus on each small task at hand that will lead to the final product or goal I am trying to accomplish. This has been especially relevant to my work at GIBLIB. From securing investments to building partnerships in the medical field, I have to take each task day-by-day as if stone-by-stone.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The movement I would want to inspire would be sparked with the single thought that success and happiness can be driven by doing things for others without expecting anything in return.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.