For Love of Team™ | Winston Faircloth

078: Evolving an Employee-First AND Client-First Culture | Craig Wood | Premier International

April 19, 2021 Winston Faircloth Season 2 Episode 78
For Love of Team™ | Winston Faircloth
078: Evolving an Employee-First AND Client-First Culture | Craig Wood | Premier International
Chapters
For Love of Team™ | Winston Faircloth
078: Evolving an Employee-First AND Client-First Culture | Craig Wood | Premier International
Apr 19, 2021 Season 2 Episode 78
Winston Faircloth

The 1980s were filled with money-hungry firms who were getting rich at all costs. As my podcast guest, Craig Wood, mentions in our interview, that was reflected in the entertainment of the time. Like fictional Wall Street character, Gordon Gekko, who famously stated, “Greed is good.” 

But Craig’s father-in-law, Jim, wanted to do things differently. 

He and his wife, Dune, started Premier International, a software consulting company rooted in ethics and built on relationships. They hired college graduates, trained them in the Premier way, and trusted that doing the right thing for their employees and their clients would work.

And it did.

For about 34 years. 

Then Jim passed away in 2018 and everyone wondered what would happen next.

Craig was asked to take the helm and continue the Premier legacy.

That’s an honor Craig doesn’t take lightly. And over the past 3 years, he’s seen how the employee-first AND client-first mentality has built a culture that’s been successful and sustainable.

In this episode, you’ll get:

  • The challenge of continuing a business after the founder has passed away
  • How the founders were ahead of their time on their views of team 
  • The impact COVID has had on their business - and how they’ve benefitted from the change 
  • Why you want to hire for culture add and not just culture fit
  • How Premier is using the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) to continuously learn and improve
  • Why having a lens of gratitude changes your entire mindset and can change your entire business 

And you’ll hear Craig mention how love can be a 4-letter word in the business world and he views For Love of Team.

Connect with Craig and Premier International here:


****

When you’re ready to Multiply your Impact, your Income, your Margin and your Freedom in business, join hand-selected business owners just like you in an upcoming...

For Love of Team™ Intensive:

Coming Virtually & In-Person

Our intimate, immersive and interactive 2.5 day experience:

1) Sharpens your focus by doing more of the work you love

2) Simplifies your business processes. 

3) Surrounding yourself with others doing the work that they love

For Love of Team™ Intensive is an invitation-only event.  To connect with Winston to see if this is a fit, book a 35 minute exploratory session using this link.   



Show Notes Transcript

The 1980s were filled with money-hungry firms who were getting rich at all costs. As my podcast guest, Craig Wood, mentions in our interview, that was reflected in the entertainment of the time. Like fictional Wall Street character, Gordon Gekko, who famously stated, “Greed is good.” 

But Craig’s father-in-law, Jim, wanted to do things differently. 

He and his wife, Dune, started Premier International, a software consulting company rooted in ethics and built on relationships. They hired college graduates, trained them in the Premier way, and trusted that doing the right thing for their employees and their clients would work.

And it did.

For about 34 years. 

Then Jim passed away in 2018 and everyone wondered what would happen next.

Craig was asked to take the helm and continue the Premier legacy.

That’s an honor Craig doesn’t take lightly. And over the past 3 years, he’s seen how the employee-first AND client-first mentality has built a culture that’s been successful and sustainable.

In this episode, you’ll get:

  • The challenge of continuing a business after the founder has passed away
  • How the founders were ahead of their time on their views of team 
  • The impact COVID has had on their business - and how they’ve benefitted from the change 
  • Why you want to hire for culture add and not just culture fit
  • How Premier is using the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) to continuously learn and improve
  • Why having a lens of gratitude changes your entire mindset and can change your entire business 

And you’ll hear Craig mention how love can be a 4-letter word in the business world and he views For Love of Team.

Connect with Craig and Premier International here:


****

When you’re ready to Multiply your Impact, your Income, your Margin and your Freedom in business, join hand-selected business owners just like you in an upcoming...

For Love of Team™ Intensive:

Coming Virtually & In-Person

Our intimate, immersive and interactive 2.5 day experience:

1) Sharpens your focus by doing more of the work you love

2) Simplifies your business processes. 

3) Surrounding yourself with others doing the work that they love

For Love of Team™ Intensive is an invitation-only event.  To connect with Winston to see if this is a fit, book a 35 minute exploratory session using this link.   



Winston Faircloth:

all right craig would welcome to the for love of team podcast

Craig Wood:

thank you winston it is always great to be with you my friend it

Winston Faircloth:

is so great to connect again with you and we've had a great history of being connected in our previous careers but why don't you start out by giving a little bit of your background and why we're here today

Craig Wood:

absolutely you and i as you said go back a long ways i have been a marketer and a sales person for a long time started my career running sales groups and marketing groups but really found my niche in the data space and that's where you and i integrated and became connected spent a lot of time working in the nonprofit sector in the united way sector in terms of helping them better understand their customer relationships and over the last really decade and a half have been running professional services firms consulting firms business management firms and now an it consulting firm in chicago

Winston Faircloth:

and and so that's why we're here today to talk about that journey in your most recent career in chicago with the work that you're doing there you've had a really interesting opportunity there in terms of how you got there and the role that you're assuming want to give us some of that backstory but tell us the company and tell us more about the history of the company

Craig Wood:

absolutely the company is premier international based in chicago and the story of premiere starts in 1985 it was founded by a couple named jim and doon implement jim was a consultant at touche ross became deloitte touche became deloitte and had a great history and he was able to build a consulting career around technology and actually started to build a software product during his time there that turned into a another company early on in the career in 1985 jim and dune decided to start premiere as a different type of consulting firm a firm that would be rooted in ethics and rhuddlan doing business the right way if you remember the late 80s you had gordon gekko and greed is good and it was a time of lots of consumption and and jim was a person who wanted to ground his business in an ethical foundation people didn't talk about ethics or values at the time and as jim found that he wanted premier as he would say to be a different kind of consulting firm so jim and dune founded this firm based on these ethics and grew it into a tremendously successful and small consulting firm based in chicago we're an it consulting firm that helps companies do something called data migration which is simply getting data from an old legacy system into a new system and as more and more people go from legacy systems or on premise systems to cloud data migration certainly is a hot topic and hot commodity so as jim built this company over the years he built really as a culture first company in which he would hire people right out of college that was his philosophy we hire them as he would say before they have bad habits i will train them on the premier way train them on our code of ethics treat them well and they'll stay with us for a long time and that's exactly what's happened so for 34 years 33 years jim moran premier without philosophy is is fine good people at the beginning of their career treat them well do good work for clients and it'll all work itself out and it did unfortunately and 2018 jim passed away suddenly may 4 of 2018 and it was at that moment that the company sort of was in crisis what do we what do we do and dune came to me and asked if i would help sort of figure out what to do with the company as a matter of fact jim in his last last week said talk to craig he'll know what to do and there's a connection there that jim was not only the founder and owner premier he also was my father in law and so we had this family connection that led to me helping my mother in law figure out what she had in premiere and it didn't take very long for me to see the incredible company and foundation they had built built on great people built on great people that knew they were going to be taken care of and i looked at doing after about two and a half weeks of consulting with her and said you're sitting on an incredible opportunity here as i described it to her and to others it was a rocket ship sitting on the launching pad sort of rumbling waiting to take off but was missing the right kind of jet fuel and i told her i thought if she could get the right kind of jet fuel there if she could do the things that would help catapult this company that there was an opportunity that was unlike anything with she and gemini Were imagined. And she looked at me and she said, Would you be willing to take that on? Would you help me figure out what that jet fuel was? And as you know, I'm a man of faith and I, I said, Let me pray about it. And I'll think about it and came home and holiday, my wife and I decided that, you know, sometimes life throws you a curveball. And it's your responsibility to figure out what to do when that curveball comes over the plate. And we decided to swing and take a chance. And I told Dune, I would be honored to take over Jim's legacy and become a CEO premiere was in May of 2018. And here I said, three years later, with a story of great, I'll say rebirth and evolution of a company that for 33 years, had already done really well.

Winston Faircloth:

What an incredible set of circumstances that brought you to this place. How did your earlier part of your career prepare you for this moment?

Craig Wood:

Good question. I I believe that, in my sort of spiritual sense of this, everything I've done in my career led up to this moment. I have run consulting firms for the last 15 years, I've been a part of organizations for almost 30 years. And I think one of the things that I've been able to do over that time is understand what I do really well, and understand what I what I don't do so well. And I tend to call that being the best version of yourself. And I think in the in the leadership realm, and even in the employee realm, that's a critical yet misunderstood observation or ability. And that's really, really come to grips and be self aware of what what you're good at and what you're not good at. I believe that the early part of my career helped me home that helped me understand that I am a natural leader. I'm a natural, an actual cheerleader. I'm someone who knows how to inspire and motivate. I'm someone who puts a priority on getting the best out of people. And it was those things that I have been honing over the last couple of years. last couple of decades, I should say, Excuse me, that really brought me to the pinnacle, which is which is running premier. I have I have started to build two other companies. And I say that in the sense that when I saw premier premier was everything I'd hoped my first two companies would be. When I looked at the UN, I looked at the people I looked at the commitment they have we are now as of today 54 people. I think when I took over, we were in the high 20s. So we've doubled in size. But of those 54 people, I believe the number is roughly 42 have never worked anywhere but premier. Wow, the majority of our staff has done exactly what Jim thought they would do. they've stayed with us. When Jim died, we didn't lose a single employee. for almost two years. People were committed to the company, they were committed to Jim's legacy, they were committed to Dune, and they were committed to me. I remember someone said to me, if this is what Jim wanted, this is what we want. And that's why I feel this tremendous amount of responsibility. But I feel like my career has led me to this moment of knowing what I do well, how I lead and what this company needed. And it was this perfect alignment of the stars, if you will, that this was the moment that I've been training for, as an athlete would say, the moment I've been waiting for it to take all of my my skills and put it towards this this tremendous opportunity.

Winston Faircloth:

Yes, beautiful. And you know, one of the things that brought you to the podcast, we'd had a conversation a few weeks ago about the tension between sometimes in a lot of companies the tension between a client first mentality and an employee first mentality or team member mentality first, but you've seen to blend that well at premier the both the heritage and now in your tenure there.

Craig Wood:

I think that's that's a great observation, something that we uncovered together in our initial conversation. There are so many companies out there that claim to be client first. And I will say they are best buy in the 90s coined the term customer centricity. And I think that's a model that so many people have followed in their CRM systems, and there's philosophies and there's nothing unique about being customer first. And candidly, there's nothing unique about being employee first, people who are able to understand and really treat their employees well. One of the great articles written as far as I'm concerned, was written in Harvard Business Review about the service profit chain. And the concept is is that if you take care of your employees, they will be happy, they will stay with you longer, they will make your customers happy, who ultimately will stay with you longer and ultimately will spend more money and create more profit. And it's this virtuous cycle. And the service profit chain brought together for me this idea that you can be employee first and customer first and coexist because The two are the same. You take care of your employees, I'll take care of your customers, you take care of your customers, your employees, I want to do good work for them. And it's just wonderfully, like I said, virtuous cycle that I think is beautiful. And that's what we have here. Premier, we have a I set of values, we call them the premier way, six tenants that describe who we are, and those together in aggregate, you know, become who we are as a company. But individually, they describe sort of how we work. And the first one is client first, always. And that's our mentality, Jim was always about, we're going to serve the client, we're always gonna do what's in the best interest of the client. Client first doesn't mean the clients always right. It does mean the client's needs are put put first. So how do you understand until a client that this is best for them? How do you make a tough decision or have a tough day, that's something I think we do incredibly well as a company. And the other times that we go down there things like a driven by integrity, which speaks to the core of our ethics background, going above and beyond the ability to rise to the opportunity we used to, we always say that we either see a challenge, we see an opportunity. We're confident, yet humble and we're one team united. When you put those six values together, the six tenants together, that's really what an employee first organization is, it's a combination of all of those. And that last one really brings it together one team united, we don't always agree, we celebrate diversity, both in our staff, but also in diversity of thought and challenging questions. But when we leave the room were together, when we leave the room were united, what we're trying to do and how we're trying to get there. And it's that that level of unison, I think that brings us together as a company and really as a family.

Winston Faircloth:

So you know, a lot of people feel like this is a this is a choice, right between a client first and an employee first, or even a product first mentality. You know, one of the things I described is the, especially for startups and early stage companies, the founders journeys, falling in love with their product and service, than falling in love with their client experience. And a lot of people can stay stuck right there clients and client experience, but then that love of team really is the thing that kind of wraps it together and really accelerates it to a place where you can really love your business. But you know, some people just get stuck in one of those earlier stages, and don't harmonize these three together.

Craig Wood:

It's difficult, and I, the reason why I tell the story, the way I do with premiere, and the credit that Jim and Dune get for creating this culture is I I don't take responsibility or take credit for what we've created here. I have ownership of where we're going with it. And I have the great honor to carry on the legacy. But they built this And to me, that's what makes us so unique. It was back in the day, before you really talked about customer focus. And really before even employee value and taking care of employees, it was decades before the service profit chain article came out. They were ahead of their time. And I wish I had a great formula that said it's really easy to do, it's not. And I know there are moments that they struggled with making decisions that were in the best interest of the employees and may not have been client first and vice versa. And you learn from that over 33 years, they learned where that line is. And what we've you'll continue to learn is where those challenges now that we're growing at the pace we're growing, we have a similar situation, you know, used to be a small team and the you know, how do we deal with these clients, and now it's a much bigger team and the internal issues you have are more challenging. And that decisions, you have to make impact a much larger group, you think about COVID. And when we're gonna open the office and what's in the best interest, all of those are, are together in a in a in a mesh in a mosh pit of potential impact, and you just have to kind of weed your way through it. As leaders, what you do is you make the best decision with the data you have, which almost always is incomplete data. And for us that the question becomes a universal sort of at the same in the same breath, what's in the best interest of our clients, and what's in the best interest of our team. And when those two are in conflict is when you start to have the challenges of leadership. You know, what's it look like? And I I can tell you great examples of when we got it right. I can tell you a few examples or I may not share a few examples where where we got it wrong. But that's really the beauty of this. And and the honor we have is is this was this was created over 35 years. This is not something that's done overnight. And I think those companies that you said that aren't getting it right are the companies that are don't have the don't have the history of the mistakes you make life is about you know, learning from your mistakes and They're gonna make them and they're too customer centric or they're too employee centric. And that, that balance is the magic behind what I think a lot of successful companies are realizing during this time,

Winston Faircloth:

I'd love to take you up on the offer to share a couple of the ways that this has played out recently, you know, maybe going, we've been in the challenge since March of 2020. When you know, the whole work work environment has been turned completely upside down in terms of, you know, the safety of working together and in a co working space in an office. So maybe if you want to share a couple of examples that help people understand how this blends together within premiere, I think that'd be great.

Craig Wood:

You bet. Let me let me give a non anon COVID. one to start with, because I think it's a great example of when when they're in conflict. I told you, one of our premier way tenants is above and beyond our team prides itself on its ability, its ability to exceed expectations of our clients. And that usually means delivering something early, or going the extra mile to do something. And most often, when we get feedback from clients, they'll actually use the term above and beyond like you all went above and beyond to help deliver this. The downside of above and beyond is it manifests itself in times in very long hours in in work life balances being out of whack, and boundaries not being set. And as leaders of this organization, there have been moments in the last day, last 12 months, certainly, where we've noticed that where we've noticed our team's hours are out of whack that they don't need to go above and beyond the way they're going above and beyond, or they're being driven by a client who's demanding things that they shouldn't be doing or shouldn't need to deliver. And we've had to do two things, the first thing we've had to do is take care of our team, first and foremost, mental health benefits and those tough discussions and delivering meals to them and all the things that you would do to take care of a family, if you will. But then we had to have a tough conversation with the client and say, Look, this is not going to work for us what what you what you've been demanding of our team, and while they've been delivering is unreasonable. And it's unreasonable, it's not in your best interest. Because guess what the quality of work might go down or you know, we might miss something. And it's just not, it's not reasonable. And so those two things happen at the same time, right? We take care of our team, we try to embrace what they're doing, but also help them cut back or get things back in balance. But we're also working with the client who didn't want to hear that their demands were a little harder than they should be. But they were open to it because they wanted to continue to work with us,

Winston Faircloth:

and was just there, I want to just lift something out that you shared, because I also get the impression as you talk about having that tough conversation with the client is that you were on the same side of the table as the client, you were saying this is an in your interest either. And I think that's a very fascinating dimension of this too.

Craig Wood:

Well, that's a great a great observation. So this idea that client first always, you become a client advocate, and you need to be able to speak to them on their terms, not as a as a vendor, but as a as a true partner. We believe in a philosophy of radical candor, I don't know if you're familiar with Kim Scott's book, a lot of people have read it published in 2017. But the idea of radical candor is something we embrace internally, but also externally. And the overarching concept, of course, is that, the more you care, and the more you do challenges, the more you get into an era of radical candor, if you, if you care about don't challenge, you're not in a good situation. If you challenge and don't care, you come across as a jerk. And this idea that you can have radical candor that says I care about you, maybe in your terms, in your podcast terms, I love you, but I care about you. And and therefore I'm going to give you this direct feedback or challenge you directly or try to make you the best version of yourself. And that goes with how we treat our clients. We care about them deeply. And in doing so that means sometimes we have to challenge them directly as well. That book and that philosophy has really shaped how we interact with each other and how we interact with our partners and clients in a way that I think has had a big impact. You had asked about some COVID examples. And certainly, the idea of radical candor, and being employee first has has been something that's been a high priority for us and quite openly, I believe that you know, in the in the COVID era during COVID, post COVID the pendulum is shifted a little bit you have to be more employee focused than maybe you are whether you're a company like us, it feels like we're pretty balanced. Even we have shifted the pendulum a little bit because employee engagement, employee satisfaction, and employee health is paramount. Right now, we went through like many companies in a year ago and march of 2020. Having no idea what this was going to mean to us, I remember closing the office on March 13, and said, Okay, we'll open sometime in two weeks, probably, we'll just let this pass. And here we are 54 weeks later, and nothing has passed. And we're still giving dates to our team. That in the spirit of radical candor, what we did is we just said, we're going to be completely transparent with you. We're going to show you things you're not used to seeing, we're going to show you financials you're not used to seeing, we're going to talk about the impact this is having on our clients, we're going to tell you, when a client says they may have to put a project on hold, we're going to open up everything to you. Because right now, what we all need is some clarity, and some certainty. And to us, you know, that comes with information. And for the next six months, we met weekly, every week, on a Wednesday on a Wednesday afternoon zoom. And we just opened things up. We had a moment of sharing, we had a moment of sort of giving data. And then we had a moment of questions. We call it a speak freely. What's on your mind, what are you worried about? What are you hearing? Anything was on the table, you could ask any question, and we're going to give you the best answer we could give you at the time. And I know, because the feedback, our team has given us how important that was to them. They didn't care that we didn't have the answers. All they cared about was that they were cared about that we were doing the best we could with the information we had, and that we had their backs. And that manifested itself on our team, you know, coming up with suggestions of things that we hadn't thought about, of really helping each other out of validating decisions we're making and questioning other decisions. And hey, can we think through this, again, that became a collaborative effort, not a leadership team talking to the to the Vantage or to the employees, but rather a you know, a collaborative, almost family meeting. And it's funny to use the word family because a lot of people talk about companies being family run, and in some cases that talks about dysfunction. Because families can be so dysfunctional. In other avenues. I think people say they're like family, and they're not. As I opened up the story, we are a family run company, we are family. And I think the uniqueness of that, and this is why I love what you're doing on your podcast. You do care about things differently when your family, you know, for love of team takes on a whole nother meaning when your family versus employees. You know, I actually don't even care for the term employee, I tend to use the term team member, because employees indicate some transactional relationship team member indicates a role. But for many of us, it's a family member. And I know there's lots of articles written about don't call your business, a family because you can't fire a family and you can't put family on performance reviews. And I get all that. But in this particular case, it works for us in this particular case, I think the team feels like family. I think our staff feels like their family, they know we're going to do what's in the best interest of the family. And that comes with tough conversation. Sometimes it comes with tough love, and certainly comes with radical candor. And I think that's what suits us best, during COVID was just this idea that we are going to bear all LAO, everybody does have their say, and we're going to just we're going to work through this together. And we don't have everything figured out. And we we still don't have everything figured out. But what we do know is that we're going to get through this together.

Winston Faircloth:

You this is you know, thinking ahead as is COVID wraps up but just some of the greater benefits for this candor and openness and, and collaboration that you've seen during COVID. How much of this do you think continues post COVID? When there's more normalcy, quote, unquote, in our world?

Craig Wood:

I don't think I don't think it goes away at all. I don't think it can go away. If it's embedded in who you are, and how you operate as a company. it'll stick, I think it will change a little bit. We're all struggling with what is the new hybrid model look like? We were a office first environment. People love to be at our office, a lot of interaction. We did not have any remote employees. We all were in our downtown Chicago office. And there was a lot of happy hours after work and a lot of team lunches and things like that. COVID hits. And of course, we're now 100% remote. But guess what? It's working. Matter of fact, I think a latest survey of our team, somewhere between 60 and 75% of our employees say that they are more or as productive remotely and then they were, you know working from the office. So we've come to grips with our model is going to change. We're going to have to be more open to remote work. We're going to have to think about people not being in the office all the time and how do we create the same intimacy that we did before. And I think the way you do that Winston is just we're talking about which is the same level of intimacy and conversation, to have those deep conversations to connect with, with staff on a regular basis, I try to reach out to each team member at least once every couple of weeks and do a zoom call and just to try to get some face time with people and, and have that connection that won't ever go away. It's different, it'll be different. But I think that that, that what will happen is as we try to adjust to, you know, whatever that new normal is going to be, we're still going to have an office, we're still going to have happy hours it lunches together. And I, but I expect that there'll be a different kind of environment where people will be working more remotely that will have, gosh, maybe hotel seating, where people just sort of reserve a desk and not have to be in every day. And I think that freedom and flexibility, that trust that our team now feels will also have a big impact on our business as well as they become the best version of themselves, if you will.

Winston Faircloth:

And I think they're the word trust is so key to this whole remote working situation. You know, you know that I had a remote team in my previous career. And that level of trust is so important. You can't legislate trust, it has to be earned and built over time.

Craig Wood:

It's very true. And you know, different people have different perspectives on trust some as I trust until you break it, in some bizarre somewhere, I won't trust you until you prove that you're worthy of trust. I heard someone say the other day that 2020 was the best change management consultant any of us could have hired. And I think that's just a brilliant center. But the thought being is that what 2020 forced us to do was things that we probably should have challenged ourselves to do earlier or a change management consultant would have challenged ourselves. And I think this remote work in premiers case, is a good example. I don't think we ever said we don't trust you to work remotely. But we didn't let our team work remotely or we weren't quite as flexible as we're being right now. And yet, what we've seen is we absolutely can trust our team. Maybe that was never in doubt. But certainly this situation has enabled us to sort of uncover that. And it's opened up all new kinds of avenues not just about where we work, but who we hire. And where we might have remote offices and how we might do team meetings. And it's just, it's been a brand new tabula rasa for us to paint on in terms of what you know, what's, what the potential is. And it really wasn't a trust issue, per se, but it's turned into this can work. And we trust them. And they trust us if you think about the leadership versus the team. And I think that that, to me, is, is is another one of the many blessings that come out of the of the COVID pandemic.

Winston Faircloth:

Well, you've you've been part of a significant cycle of growth, I think, what doubling the staff over doubling the staff, right? And revenue as well? How do I think people imagine that or I can imagine that growing, that number of team members doubling over that time, it could degrade your culture, if you're not careful? How did you all protect the culture and protect the heritage? When you're growing so quickly? How what challenges did you face and during that time,

Craig Wood:

it's a it's a great challenge. And I've studied many different organization, organizational structures, or organisms, including churches and places of worship. And there are thresholds that people hit where inevitably, the culture changes, and those thresholds tend to be a 30 people. happens again, about 100 people, it happens again, about 300 people, then it happens again, about 1000 people. And when I got here, we were just at that 30. So we were just at a threshold of, you know, we're no longer a small mom and pop shop, we're no longer a company that you know, has to worry about whether that be payroll or, you know, laying people off whatever the case may be. So we caught a natural wave, if you will, of that. But secondly, you have to be intentional, about, you know, what's important to you. And to us, what's important to us as the premier way, those six values that I talked about earlier. If you hire to those, those tenants, if you understand what they look like, and if you are able to uncover behaviors that exhibit that you're going to continue to keep your culture, the culture will evolve. And that's happened in COVID. Right, the culture is different. But it's in some cases people think it's better, which I don't think they ever thought it could be better. We were 30 people always be great. Oh, it's just you know, it'll be so different when we're 54 people, guess what, we're 54 people, it's better. You know, people are enjoying the culture even more and I think that that intense analogy about about who we hire and how we hire is important. The other thing I would say is a lot of people talk about looking for people who are cultural fit. And that is evidence and you know, they fit our values, whatever the case is, we look for people who we think would be cultural ads. And what I mean by that is they're going to add to our culture, they're not going to fit in, we're not looking for people who are just like all of us. And this has become even more evident, as you might imagine, in the world of dei and a renewed focus we have, that's an area that we have not made as much progress as we would like. And we're honest about that. And we're doing things that things are within our control to update that. But when you start to think about who's going to add to your culture, versus who's going to fit into your culture, you start to interview differently, you start to look for different candidates. And I think that's what's made our culture better is that we have people who have added new new dimensions to it, new perspectives to it. And that's been something that we will continue as we get from 54 people to 88 people to 120 people, I think if we focus on the premier way, and focus on cultural ads, not just cultural fits, will, will continue to keep the culture in control, I guess I would say evolving in a way that's positive.

Winston Faircloth:

I love that. In fact, I was just having this conversation before our recording today with some folks who were saying, so how do we hire what's the best way to hire and build a culture? And I had not considered the ad, the cultural ad, I love that concept.

Craig Wood:

It is a mind it is a mindset shift. Because I think at times, it's so easy to say they're gonna fit in great or they're just like, you're they remind me of so and so or they're just like someone who was a star here. And while that's good, and while you do want someone who's going to join the company, well, this idea that if you're if you're missing people, or are you missing a section of society, and you know, for us, I'll give you a good example, we've always recruited from the same schools. We are an engineering firm, we you know, we have a lot of engineers, we've always recruit from the same schools. But guess what, because of that, we've always had the same types of new hires, same socioeconomic background, same educational background. But what if we got someone who worked their way through college? What if we got someone who didn't go to a premier school? Or what if we got someone who worked for two years as gap years and things that traditionally had not been considered, we're now considering and guess what it adds, it adds a tremendous amount to our culture. And it's been something that has been, for us a very, very positive thing. But it's been it's been something that's taken some time for us to understand what that looks like, and how it manifests itself in our in our hiring process, and our recruiting process and our onboarding process, and even in our employee celebration process. So how do we how do we recognize and celebrate this uniqueness that we bring as a company as a team to each other?

Winston Faircloth:

Yeah, I just love it. And that's probably the number one question I get from folks who are considering building a team with intentionality as this whole hiring process. And on recruiting, hiring and onboarding, is comes up over and over again.

Craig Wood:

Well, it, it does for us as well, and we have not perfected it, I'll be the first to say that. As I mentioned, we know what we do well, what we don't do well, and we're always trying to improve our our hiring and recruiting process. We are big fans of EOS I'm if you're familiar with EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system, and it certainly has given us tools to help us improve our process. We do a lot of best practicing, we go to a lot of webinars, but we're still we're still trying to figure it out. And I think that's if you're if you're a culture of learning, if you're a culture where you're always trying to be a better version of yourself as a leader, but also as a company, then these are discussions that are sort of ongoing. This last class we hired our most our most diverse class ever. It's six people that start actually tomorrow. Not all around a college like we've always done, not out of the schools we normally recruit from. And we learned a lot in that process. But we also did some things that we'll do differently next time. And I think the idea of I use the word intentionality to be able to sort of understand what worked and what didn't work and improve upon the next time, which is something EOS has taught us certainly has played a big impact in helping us continue to grow in the area of recruiting, hiring and onboarding.

Winston Faircloth:

So in terms of some of the things that are picking up from our conversation, you talked a little bit about the best version of yourself. You want to amplify any more on that. I love that concept.

Craig Wood:

I do I'll quickly just as a as someone who has had a little bit of maturity. I've been around the block a little bit. I have learned over the last couple of years, what it means to be the best version of yourself what it means to be in that position, the confidence it gives you the clarity it gives you. And as, as a CEO of Premier, I believe I have three primary goals first and foremost is to be the best version of myself so that I can lead this company. The second thing is to help my staff become the best version of ourselves. And then ultimately, if we do both those things, premiere will become the best version of itself. And here we are, you know, three years later, revenue has skyrocketed, staff has doubled, where we're a better version of ourselves as Premier, we were a great version before, but we're even better. And I believe that that's the case for me as a leader, and I believe that's the case for my team. So to me, that's the number one thing that I've learned is, is being comfortable and self aware and understanding what it looks like to be the best version of yourself, to get yourself out of positions when you're not. And to put yourself into positions when you can be is a leadership skill I wish I had earlier in my career, but I'm glad to have in my early 50s and leverage it for the rest of my rest of my time.

Winston Faircloth:

And then another principle you and I talked about was in terms of gratitude, how gratitude plays out in building your team and your business.

Craig Wood:

We haven't talked much about this on on on this podcast in particular, but like I said, we've talked offline about it. It's just, it's a mindset that I think is changes how you see the world, the lens by through which you see the world, to the ability to sort of look first for gratitude for what you're grateful for, for what's going well, for what's impacted your life. All those things are things that I try to do personally. But as a business we try to do during COVID. It's celebrating the things that are going well celebrating the things that the positive impact, we'd have this idea of having a posture of gratitude, I think, changes how you approach problems, changes, how you approach conversations, even the idea that, you know, we rise to the opportunity as opposed to rise to the challenge, you know, challenges are nothing but opportunities waiting to be solved. And this idea of aren't we grateful for this opportunity is something so it's it's a mindset change that is very important to me as a leader. It's something I try to instill on my team. And I think it's part of who we become as a as an organization, we, I talked about the premier way, I'll talk about that just quickly, and we have an email set up that has people send an email when someone exemplifies the premier way, when someone's gone above and beyond when someone has been confident yet humble when someone shows one team united attitude. And that that mailbox just blows up because everybody is is taking a moment to thank the team. For one of those that move that posture of gratitude is just contagious. When someone gets thanked, they want to thank somebody else. And it's that kind of mentality. I think that's really, really powerful in the business world today.

Winston Faircloth:

I love that. Boy, I love that mailbox idea that what a great suggestions that pops out to everyone. Everyone sees those.

Craig Wood:

We everyone doesn't see them, it goes to a mailbox, and then we celebrate it on a quarterly basis. That was an employee idea. When we rolled out the premier way, a wonderful employee said to us, why don't we create an opportunity for people to acknowledge when they see it in action, as opposed to waiting for your, you know, annual review or whatever. And we talked about a bulletin board but we decided that email was was the way to memorialize it. And then we at the end of the quarter we celebrate you know, here are all the people that were called out for going above and beyond and we signal out some examples of that or whatever the case might be so great.

Winston Faircloth:

We could talk for hours I love this story I love I love your self awareness and your your validation and your way that you preciously hold that legacy in your hand. And now bringing your gifts and your talent and your experience and this team to new levels. So it's just a wonderful story to watch and observe. So thank you for sharing that.

Craig Wood:

Well, you're welcome. And I'm grateful for you when send this idea for love of team I think love is a word that's not spoken in business very often. And it's it's it's almost a four letter word that you can't love your team. And there's a certain distance between a leader and their team. And I just don't believe that I believe the concept of love needs to permeate the workplace. I think it needs to be the foundation for what leaders think and how they care about their team, and what you're doing to highlight that to celebrate those stories. And to build a business around what it means to lead and to love in a way that's authentic. Is is brilliant, and I'm looking forward to following the continued success of listening to more podcasts and, and being a big fan and advocate and ally for for what you're doing with for love of team.

Winston Faircloth:

Well thank you so much. So what's the best way for folks to get in touch with you and follow your journey.

Craig Wood:

Probably a LinkedIn is probably the best place to connect with me. I am on Twitter as well. At Craig m wood as in Michael Craig m wood on LinkedIn is the same Craig m wood. We do have a website for premiere, which you can find it if you just Google premier International, but for the most part individually, it would be LinkedIn is probably the best way to reach me on Twitter. And we'll include all those links in the show notes for you all to follow along and to get to know Craig and, and also the team just it's gonna be amazing to follow this story going forward. So thank you for being part of our podcast today. My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.