“Always be Willing to Have Tough Conversations”, 5 Wisdom Nuggets with Shane Green, Culture Hacker
“You have to remain focused on results and how you get those results. Whenever someone jeopardizes the success of the company through consistently failing to deliver or delivering in a way that hurts others you have to take action. I had an Operations Manager who was a great person but, was in over his head. Unfortunately, I allowed him to remain in his position too long. As a result, not only did he not perform but, he negatively impacted the morale and performance of the people under him. I lost a few good employees as a result. These days I am very transparent about performance and quick to make tough decisions when someone obviously does not fit.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Shane Green, President & Founder of SGE International. He is the author of Culture Hacker, published in 2017. He is the host of the Culture Hacker podcast available now and was the host of Travel Channel’s television show, Resort Rescue. SGEi partners with some of the biggest brands in the world to transform their culture to improve customer service and performance.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
· I am from a small town in New Zealand where I lived until I was 20. After college, I came to the U.S. knowing no one and unsure what to do with my life. I was given a work Visa with the expectations that I would return to NZ after a couple of years. The plan was to play rugby, drink beer, and work on the ski fields like many New Zealanders before me have done. Within a day of landing in Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to stay and I needed a new plan. After a year, holding random jobs and walking the beach, I was broke. I still didn’t know anyone and was told to give up. Fortunately I got a job at the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey as the overnight front desk agent. I spent the next 8 years moving up the ranks and became a part of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company’s opening team for hotels throughout Asia. At the same time, I started an import business, representing a variety of small businesses that wanted to introduce their products to the U.S. market. By developing my business skills via importing and developing service and leadership skills within the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, I received an excellent foundation for everything I am today. I eventually left the RCHC and consulted for Starwood Hotels in opening new locations. I then became the VP of Operations for Cipriani, and later ran the famous Hayman Island resort in Australia. Simultaneously, I was involved in various start-up companies, looking for something sustainable. I started SGEi to help small companies improve their customer service skills through training and communications. Over the years, our company has partnered with many hotel companies, as well as the NBA, Cisco, NetJets, BMW, Foot Locker, Westfield, and GGP to help improve the ability of front-line staff and managers to deliver a better customer experience. In 2007, I moved the company from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, married my wonderful wife, have two kids and a dog, and love everything about this crazy town.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that has happened to you since you began leading your company?
· In 2014, I was selected to host a new reality show on the Travel Channel, called Resort Rescue. I traveled across America helping small resorts improve their businesses. It lasted only one season but in the 9 months of shooting I was exposed to some of the funniest, craziest and hardest working people. In reality TV, anything goes: from guests streaking naked through the hotel, employees getting stoned or drunk on the job and owners who were one step from or already having a mental breakdown, I saw it all. The other side of it was being able to help resort owners that were recovering from cancer, had a child who was terminally ill, was disowned by family and others whose staff were stealing money or abusing themselves. One minute you laughed and the next you wanted to cry, but it was an experience and definitely a special opportunity.
So what exactly does your company do?
· Since my earliest days with the RCHC, the idea that employee attitude is the most important detriment of a great customer interaction has remained first and foremost. As we started to reflect on our successes and failures and recognized that companies that invested in their employee’s well-being were most likely to be successful with their customers. So rather than just providing training and internal marketing for organizations, we started to look at all the mechanisms that influenced how an employee felt about coming to work. As we focused on the collective mindset of a group of people, we realized we were focusing on what many organizations were struggling with the most, company culture. SGEi began as a training company but today focuses on culture transformations of which our core abilities of training and communications are very important. However, we also look closely at an organization’s values, selection process, orientation and onboarding, and leadership development. As a result of our work and research, we published Culture Hacker in 2017, a blueprint for how front-line managers and companies of various sizes can reprogram their employee experience and ultimately their culture. This focus has a significant impact on bottom-line results. Culture today may be the most important strategy to improve company performance and profitability, and SGEi is considered one of the leading companies to help with this.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
· I think our work has had a positive impact on a number of different levels.
Within an organization, it is all about creating a better employee experience to improve their mindset and attitude about coming to work. By positively impacting a person’s work experience, there is positive rollover to their home life. That for us is a huge win. Within our own team, we work with a large group of contracted trainers and coaches around the world. These people are often one-person companies. We are able to bring them together a couple of times a year to improve their skills, grow their network, and provide them with the support and confidence to be great at what they do out on the road every day. Within our core team here in Las Vegas, we have been able to contribute back to our community by sponsoring family events through the Shade Tree organization that is a shelter for women, children, and pets that are victims of domestic violence.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
· You better love the business you are in!
o One of my first companies was a technology company developing software for hotels. I am not a tech guy, therefore it was hard to get excited about our product even though I knew it was a good idea and application. As the CEO, you have to be excited about your product!
· Hire slowly, wait for the very best person over a good one.
o Over the years whenever I have hired fast, it has always come back to hurt me. There are lots of good people on the market but, you need to find the very best person for your company. The right fit is everything and that can take time, something as a CEO you never feel you have enough of, but it is worth it.
· Always be willing to have tough conversations and make tough decisions.
o You have to remain focused on results and how you get those results. Whenever someone jeopardizes the success of the company through consistently failing to deliver or delivering in a way that hurts others you have to take action. I had an Operations Manager who was a great person but, was in over his head. Unfortunately, I allowed him to remain in his position too long. As a result, not only did he not perform but, he negatively impacted the morale and performance of the people under him. I lost a few good employees as a result. These days I am very transparent about performance and quick to make tough decisions when someone obviously does not fit.
· You have to let go and let your people succeed or fail on their own.
o As a CEO you have many responsibilities and very little time, therefore you have to realize you cannot control everything. Early in my CEO career, I wanted to control everything and I realized that I was stifling my business and brand. It also meant I was always on, never taking a break for my family and passions away from work. As long as you are hiring the best people and giving them the right resources, you have to be willing to let them do things how they want to do it. As long as they deliver the right results in the right way, you have to realize it does not have to be your way.
· It’s okay to be a little selfish.
o You need to invest in yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually to continually get better and never think you know it all, have it all or are it all. As CEO a lot is asked of you and if you are not a little selfish to take time for yourself, your family, and your passions, you will never have time for those most important things away from the office.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.
· I have a wish list of people across all industries and would like them to join me on my podcast to talk about how to create a great culture within a team or company, including: Steven Spielberg, Gregg Popovich, Sundar Pichai, Nick Saban, and Jeff Bezos.