The Matt Sodnicar Podcast

How do you truly create a customer focused experience? How do you demonstrate your values when they are not being tested?

Show Notes

I sit down with Jonathan Banks, President and Co-Founder of NCXT.  He takes me through the design philosophy of working with restaurants, and leveraging the right technology for the owners to help them thrive - and how to create our best world.

We also talk about how the customer determines the value of the offering, the intersection of values, intentions, and decisions, how design thinking allows true focus on the customer and a fascinating discussion on how to display your values when you're not being tested.

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What is The Matt Sodnicar Podcast?

The Matt Sodnicar Podcast. Founded on the belief that one need not be famous to tell a compelling story. Focused on turning points in business and in life, those moments that will inspire others.

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Matt Sodnicar 0:33
Hello, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. This is Matt Sodnicar. Thank you so much for reaching out for your comments, your encouragement, it means a lot, and especially when today's guest came about through LinkedIn. And he shot just a very nice note over on a previous podcast, and I looked at his profile, and we had a previous zoom call, and I thought he would be a phenomenal guest. And that's why we're talking today. And this is Jonathan banks from Minneapolis. He is the president and founding partner of next it's a design and consulting company, focuses on libraries, restaurants, customer experience, tech, dei diversity, inclusion. And Jonathan, it's great to see you again this week. Thanks for being on. Yeah, it's so great to be here. Thanks for having me.

And I was reading through your your note on where next focuses cx to me mean cyclocross.

Jonathan Banks 1:37
We're very, we're very innovative company and different interests. So you never know, we'll find out. But that's a good sales methodology to keep in mind is that when acronyms and terminologies are being tossed around, saying, I know what it means, in my world, what does it actually mean in your world?

And that's the thing you know, if you find an acronym that has lots of different meanings in different places, you're bound to have some really fun discussions after that.

Matt Sodnicar 2:08
One more that we'll get to actually something of substance. Whenever I hear a topic that I hear a term I don't know, one of the first places I go is urban dictionary to see if it's something that I should repeat in polite company or not.

Jonathan Banks 2:21
To see how out of date you are to write like, Oh, yeah, by now, everybody out how many people are saying this and know what this is other than me.

Matt Sodnicar 2:32
So when we talked last week, about next in your focus on restaurants, I'm sure most people with what's been happening in the past year, year and a half have seen impacts on restaurants. And I know just from life experience, that there's always more behind the scenes, everything is a nuance, there's a lot of nuance to what's been happening, and what do you do for restaurants? What have you done to help them? And let's just start the conversation that way with next and you and your involvement?

Jonathan Banks 3:05
Yeah, sure, well, we're next works with any company and restaurants, especially, our whole focus is to get to know the restaurant and get to know their customers, and figure out how that restaurant can best work for the customer and create their best world. And that's our whole saying, and kind of like motive here at next is to work with partners to create our best world. And restaurants are so key in doing that. It's definitely been a rough go at it for the last few years, in the restaurant industry for a lot of restaurants. And we've really been helping restaurants from a technology standpoint, from an operational standpoint, from a customer experience standpoint. And you know, it's sometimes it's just being a trusted advisor and a trusted counselor for restaurants and they're in these very tough times where we have really shut up and it's been very enjoyable work it's been worthwhile and we've been happy to be a part of

Matt Sodnicar 4:06
so I'd like to expand on the the tech in restaurants because a restaurant it maybe its simplest, definition is not necessarily high tech, but it tech could definitely help with the function and the operations and delivery and all that and take me through some of that with maybe something like a success story you've done with a restaurant. And next and then that best world What did that look like?

Unknown Speaker 4:38
Sure. Yeah. That's That's a really great question. And there's such a variety of technology that's involved in restaurants. You can go all the way from, you know, paper tickets, and no tech right? Aside from a telephone maybe, to going into everything in the restaurant is, is automated. Virtually everything in the restaurant is automated, right? And so There's such a variety of technology that's employed in restaurants, where we really got involved in working with restaurants was right when the pandemic hit, when the pandemic hit restaurants, there was a need for someone to come in and fill this kind of like technology integrator consulted gap in the restaurant space. There's a lot of folks who were in the space who were selling the technology and kind of getting the point of sale system or the website set up in in place. But making those quick maneuvers as we had to in 2020, wasn't really, they weren't really set up for that. So we were able to partner with the city of St. Paul here in Minnesota, to provide technical assistance to restaurants within the city. And through that program, it was at no cost to the restaurants. And there was no tech at all, you know, getting a website up where folks can place orders online where they can figure out what the hours of the restaurant was, where the maps were, whether they're open or not, you know, as a pandemic went on whether I need to wear a mask, or I don't need to wear masks. And those types of things we also worked with restaurants is but needed to kind of make a change to keep customers engaged. As they became more and more. The situation became more and more unclear about you know, is the restaurant open or not, Can I order from them or not. And that's where we really provided a lot of advice and consulting around technology that can help folks stay engaged with their customers to keep them up to speed and really try to take that that in person experience that everybody was they can convert that same energy into a virtual experience that can make you feel like you still know each other. So that's where we came into place in working with restaurants, especially during the pandemic. And there's a lot of success stories that came out of this, you know, there's the restaurant in here in St. Paul, who we worked with to set up their whole branding and social media calendar, and got them in that rhythm to be able to continue doing those social media posts and outreach to their customers and on a daily, weekly basis. And so that was a huge success story about being able to kind of go from a low to no tech solution and be able to put some sophisticated technology uses in place to be able to sustain that customer relationship.

Matt Sodnicar 7:37
And I like that what you've described so far is focused on the customer and not just dropping technology in somewhere because he can. And you know, the term I'd always used in IT consulting with shelf where they close the deal. And it's not a fit Heaven, nobody uses it, right? Yeah, because it didn't fit a particular need or the the sales people didn't use it, or marketing or operations or whoever. But it I like the focus at the very end point because none of that, you know, in Instagram account doesn't necessarily make a restaurant successful. But it's the outreach that it has, like you said, to make the customers aware that they're open, or here's the specials, or here's the people and I like that your focus takes the restaurant owner, the restaurant staff with that journey and helps them get closer to the customer. Because ultimately, that's really what it's all about.

Unknown Speaker 8:39
Yeah, yeah, it definitely is. Jamie over at Thai street cafe that you know, the restaurant that I was just talking about. They've been able to post things like, Hey, sorry, we're closed today. Emergency, we had to get the hood repaired before we can open up again, don't worry, we'll be back tomorrow, right? I mean, who who's ever showed up at a restaurant, like I was planning to go here today and you're not open and you get upset with that, right? Because across town or you're just really hungry for some Thai food. But you didn't get the heads up, that there was something going on. And now a restaurant has the capability to be able to mitigate that customer experience in ways that they weren't able to do before. That next we believe that the customer determines the value of the product or service that's offered. So if you look at it that way, we're always trying to measure how the customer is feeling. What's going to make them want to make a decision to come to your restaurant or do business with you or, or or whatever it might be, and how do we work together as partners and stakeholders in delivering that superb customer experience. So, you know, for talking externally, you know, our company will even talk about our partners, right? That's what most people want. As clients and be their clients, we say those are partners, because really we're all in partnership and delivering this excellent customer experience for for the people who ultimately determine what the value of your product or services.

Matt Sodnicar 10:15
I love that. And then because you have to be right, it's almost a different depth of definition of value or capitalism, right? Because I see that with my friends in the bike industry, the supply chain is somewhat screwed up, and the supply is way down, which means demand is way up. And then the pricing is different. And so I love watching these angry bike nerds on some of these Facebook for sale forums, and they're going 3200 bucks for this, this and this is like, he can get it. You don't have to buy it. You know, that's, that's the beauty of this. I'm not sure if you read the terms and conditions on Facebook, just because he posted it, it does not mean that you have to buy it if you disagree with it. And we're not going down the comment rabbit hole. It's not the point of this conversation. But I didn't ask why. Why restaurants, I mean, in all the market, and all the markets, all the industries out there, there are certainly more that have, I would say maybe more potential for upside or less friction or things like that. But why restaurants, it's, it's important to my existence, I love going out. But why did you start there?

Unknown Speaker 11:29
Yeah, we, and I think we it's important to all of our existence, right? I mean, whether it's a way that you feed your family, or a way that you, you know, earn to feed your family, restaurants are just important. And they always have really great to be a part of a truly historic industry. And working with restaurants, you know, we I would say the intentionality around working with restaurants isn't what it was, you know, we were in a position to cancer call and to fill a need. And we're able to do that. And, you know, after we began working with restaurants, we really realized that we do something different than most the industry do, you know, the focus on customer experiences? Well, one way of looking at it, that's pretty different. But I think also a differentiator is our ability to be a trusted partner and choosing the right group, the right technology, and making sure that it doesn't become shelfware, as you said, right, making sure that we have the solutions that are going to best support that restaurant, engaging their customers and making sure that not only folks continue to come back, but they continue to buy from you in different ways. And so you know, fitting in, has really worked well for us. And, you know, we're happy to be in it. You know, one thing that I've learned as a business owner is to, you know, sometimes you're you really want to try to make things happen. But sometimes you want to definitely follow the follow the momentum and kind of follow the winds. My business partner, Jeff and I talked about is, is are we are we are we managing the sail right now? Or are we letting the sail take us where we need to go. And sometimes we let the wind push us. And sometimes we really grab on to that thing and move it in the right in the direction that we want to. And we felt that with restaurants, both things came in the same angle, you know, Jeff's has in my co founder, Jeff, he has a lot of experience, and restaurant consulting himself. And so while it wasn't where we necessarily intended the company to start out with, it did end up falling in place, and we're happy to do our part during the free helping continuing to help restaurants.

Matt Sodnicar 13:57
So let's get I guess, maybe tactical or maybe strategic this point. So you mentioned managing the sale and as partners, business owners, what do you have a procedure that helps guide you through that? And I guess I'm really fascinated by what happens if you are deadlocked on opposite sides of whether it's the sale, you know, who's managing the sale or the sales pushing you? How do you work through that conflict as partners?

Unknown Speaker 14:34
That's that's a great question. We have a few tools we use I mean, just to go through things like we talk a lot. I would say one thing, but we try to also use some tools. So we know we have a decision matrix that we use for deciding. So there's something called the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. I'm not sure if Yeah, folks really use that. It's kind of like a MBA type thing or maybe even not, but like, we We go in and use tools like that just to make things clear to us. We also do a lot of work with cx. So we do a lot of work with like journey maps and figuring out like looking at the actual journeys and then casting them out. And being able to relate, you know, relate situations to each other. And, you know, kind of see what the roadmap would look like one way or the other, what the journey would look like one way or the other and have open conversations about that. The deadlocking doesn't happen with us, which is, maybe the decisions are too easy. We did some more difficult decisions. But we don't too often did lock in on things, I think prioritization is, is something that, you know, the tools we have in place, and the way that we interact allows us to do, I think it's really important to have a decision making framework that you can refer to and that you trust, and that when the results tell you something you don't like, you can trust the results, because that's the framework that you use, and you can go on with it.

Matt Sodnicar 16:02
Well, let's the objectivity. And despite any relationship, there's always going to be some, some passion or some bias or something involved in the decision. And, yeah, I do react a lot with my gut, but I have tried to teach myself to have some metrics, or some cold data, or something that could guide and balance both the logical and the emotional, I think it makes for a much better decision.

Unknown Speaker 16:33
Yeah, and I, my coaching friends, always tie me, you know, to get curious with yourself and to say, you know, if I, if I have that gut feeling, why do I have that? Whereas that's interesting that I feel that way. Why do I feel that way? Why, what's going on here? And I think as a team, we do that pretty well. with each other, you know, being open, ask those why questions. Also, being curious is one of the core behaviors of our company next. And so you know, one of the things that we always do is lean into our own own vulnerabilities lower ourselves to create our best worlds. So you know that I think the way that we approach some of these more difficult decisions that come up, sometimes more frequently than we like to see is, you know, to make sure we were curious about why we feel asked me one way or another, some of these tools help us communicate that to each other.

Matt Sodnicar 17:27
I want to come back to that. And I love interviews like this, because I feel like I'm at day one of a college course, taking furious notes. And this is one where I know I'm gonna get educated and definitely come back to the values decisions of the company. But can you take me back briefly to the origin point of next been around a couple years now? And going out on your own? How did you arrive at that, but I always like, I know, it could be like a patent question. But I always like the origin stories of how something came into being like this.

Unknown Speaker 18:09
Yeah, yeah. Well, this is great. And I tell this story different every time. So I'll give a special version for you here today, Matt, this is cool. Thank you. So Lex has been around since 2018. We incorporated in 2018. I've been it's been a full time pursue it for me since 2019. So we kind of had the concept before we had I met my founding partner, Jeff, in work in the Twin Cities here, volunteering and community to for the benefit of black folks, mostly. And we met through that type of social justice work. And as you know, like Minneapolis is kind of like an epicenter now, and we were kind of involved heavily like two to three years before 2020. What we realized in our work together as we kind of cross paths in the city as one is that we worked really well together. You know, when we're in a meeting or, you know, hosting some type of discovery session. It worked really well. We ended up finding out that, you know, like he was he was big on design thinking and I was big on technology. And I had a little bit of background in design thinking and he had a little bit of background in technology. So it was like really good, really good blend. So that's kind of like how the partnership came together. And that's how it drove this idea of creating our best world because we really met each other by trying to impact people's lives and make them better. And we thought that if we could create a company that was a sustainable company that earned its own money, that had its own customers, so on and so forth, the We could actually create our best world by working with partners all over the world, and help enabling our partners to better impact their customers, through the through us working with them. And so that's kind of like where this whole philosophy came up, which is really the core of the company. You know, like, if you look outside of that, and how the company actually operates, a lot of that comes from both of our experience, again, I'll talk about the side I know most about which is customer experience and technology. And so I started out my career as an entrepreneur straight out of high school doing small business, IT consulting circa, year 2000, y2k, all that sort of stuff. And so I've always kind of had this business technology consultant hat on with all of my work, I ended up working at the federal reserve for about eight years. And there is where I really started looking at this concept of the customer is the person who ultimately determines the value of a product or service. So when you're sitting around with a group of technology providers from several different organizations that are supposed to work together as one, how do you cut through the the hierarchies and the organizational separation, all of those things, to make sure that folks work together with a singular focus? My working philosophy is that if we can all focus on what the customer needs for their better tomorrow, then we can figure out where we fit in, on delivering that better tomorrow. And so started working with that idea in that customer experience practice within the Federal Reserve, and thought, Hey, this is going really great. And I want to take it further, I want to take it out on my own. And so that's, that's how necks got started.

Matt Sodnicar 21:55
How scary was it? Or was it when you decided to leave the Fed and move on?

Unknown Speaker 22:05
I wish to be completely honest with you, I wish I would have done it when I was the most scared. Oh, really, because that was before I did it. You know, like I said, we started the company in 2018. And I didn't go full time until 2019. And so there was a there was time to make the concept and to make sure that the partnership is working on all those things. And so by the time it came around to go full time, it was a pretty natural step for me, because it was already the determined feature that I was going to be on. When I said to do it earlier, it's like I've thought in was the time that I knew that this was going to be my future without acknowledging that this was going to be my future. Yet I'm saying like when did I when did it? When did my? When did my like life know before my mind knew? And I wish it would thank you looking back at some of those signals that you can pay attention to. And sometimes I'll, you know, oftentimes folks will call me and they'll say, Hey, I'm thinking about starting a business, this this match, should I do it? And it's like, yeah, there's some things that you can look for more in your behaviors that you're enacting, then probably what you're thinking about, right? Thinking about where like, your mental energy goes in the problem solving that you do, is is is something that's important to pay attention to when you're thinking about striking out on your own. And I think you know, just kind of being aware like that helps balance the type of pressure and anxiety and just overall, you know, frightening nature of striking out on your own.

Matt Sodnicar 23:47
Where did this level of awareness and self awareness come from for you, there's a lot of topics and a lot of personal insight that you've mentioned that I'm guessing came from? Well, I want to know where it came from, because you're talking about you know, understanding that life might be aware of it you're not but figuring all these things out. Where did this awareness come from for you?

Unknown Speaker 24:14
It's, it's building, I think it's building I think I you know, I started out in my life as in a very religious setting. And so there is kind of all of this always this other knowledge type of you know, mentality built in or, you know, greater power and type of mentality built in. always been a part of me, and I think as like professionally in my life that's really turned into being a sense of humility and in the fact that like, as capable as they may be. I will not know everything that I could even conceive the I shouldn't know, right? Like, there's so many things that my body and my mind are taking in, that I can't even process in the moment. And I just need to be aware that sometimes I will learn later what I was taught earlier, right. And so I just become have that kind of awareness. There's been a lot of books I've read to and a lot of great coaching. I mean, I would just say that like my, my wife, Ashley is amazing. And she works. She has in her line of work, there's a lot of this, like being in touch with yourself type of things happening. My sister, Naomi is a huge leadership coach, type of professional has her own business. And that's, that's very successful, too. And so I've got some great advisors that are very close to me that I've been able to help foster my learning.

Matt Sodnicar 25:56
I think you hit upon, like, the key component of that, or one of the critical components of it, is the humility. And I remember a long time ago, right after college, I knew everything. And I was perfect. Right. And I think the the universe is a great leveler of that like, it certainly took off some rough edges, and it is certainly exposed my imperfections. But yeah, I have probably spent as much time on personal and professional development as I did on any business venture. And it's not always easy. It's not always fun, but it's it's transformed my existence on this planet. And I like running into somebody that has the same that's on the same journey, I'll say,

Unknown Speaker 26:55
yeah, it's good to be in a similar place. And I think what, like your college experience, is I've been there too. I think we've all been there, right? I mean, that's like, what's the thing you're, if you're a bike rider, so you're trying to be like, I'm gonna go off this jump on my bike. And like, when both wheels left the ground, you realized it was probably a bad idea, right? I think that there's this thing, like, it's pretty studied, like the income that the stages of competence, right, the unconscious competence, conscious and competence, conscious competence, right? Like going all the way up to an unconscious competence. Yeah, you know, like thinking that whole thinking through that whole period. I've also seen it where folks are sometimes they're most verbose at unconscious incompetence. You know, I feel like that's what can be their most verbose and you're like, oh shoot now that I have both wheels off of the jump I realized that I don't know exactly how this is gonna end it may not end well. So

Matt Sodnicar 28:03
speaking of that, not ending Well, I was at a bike shop and there was a kid who's going off to this ritzy East Coast school. And he's he had had some success here, amateur bike racing, but I was just struck by his arrogance and his hubris that without really any data of going back east he felt any not felt he knew in his heart, he was going to dominate that race scene. Just like hey, I am all about belief and the uncertainty and the unknown, but he was absolutely convinced, is it Yeah, it's just there's that's gonna be the competition out there. And I was like,

Unknown Speaker 28:51
Okay, what kind of biking is this?

Matt Sodnicar 28:54
I think it was road or travel on or something. But just and I just looked back to a little bit of myself at that age, and just, yeah, I own the world. It owed me and you know, I'm Judo king of at all. Nope.

Unknown Speaker 29:15
Yeah. Well, yeah, that happens really frequently. And it's nice to be in a place now when they're kind of like how you and I are where we can kind of see that and appreciate it right. It's kind of all been on it. And so it's nice to be able to recognize it and may see it and maybe watch or maybe help maybe do what we can if that helps wanted.

Matt Sodnicar 29:42
You know, that's a very key distinction is that had I thought that anything I would have said would have at least been met with awareness, not necessarily acceptance, but awareness. I might have said something but They're I think I'm a fairly decent judge of character. And I just got the sense that this is way outside my paygrade. There's this, there's no point, there's really no point.

Unknown Speaker 30:14
I love that outside the paygrade. It's like, No, no, it's not saying that, you know, there's a really a big issue with you. It's just like, I'm not I don't have the tools in place to be able to help. So go ahead, and like, there's nothing I could say now to have the impact that that needs to happen to actually change. What, what needs to change for you. So that's another good thing to understand. You know, that's another thing. Good, good thing.

Matt Sodnicar 30:42
Yeah. Something that I really wanted to get back to that resonated when you talked about the values, the intentions and decisions with next in you and Jeff, how did you design those because you've got a technical background and engineering background, and he's got the design aspect of it. So take me through that thought process. And you can call it some end results, some specific end results, but I love that you specifically talked about intentions and decisions as a company.

Unknown Speaker 31:20
Yeah, well, we've been we've learned a lot as a company, we've had good experiences and bad experiences, and as all companies should, and we've taken the opportunity to learn from all those and you know, do a debrief and, you know, post mortem, and figure out how, you know, we can, you know, make sure that these experiences make us more resilient, we had a pretty tough encounter and pretty tough encounter with a, you know, pretty bad string of partners that I'll call them clients, because they weren't really partners, that we had to say, like, hey, like, this is gonna happen to us again, in the future, likely, like, there's always gonna be bad actors out. So what can we do as a company that makes sure that bad actors don't impact us? And that we, we protect ourselves and have certain things in place that keep us protected? You know, I think some of that probably goes back to my background in banking to where it's held about, like compliance and risk, like, how do we how do we make sure that we, we create the tools of compliance to mitigate all of our risk, and so we tapped into that, you know, when it came down to actually deciding like, what our core value is going to be, and what our behavior is going to be like? That started out by working through why we were in this together, right, and why this company was was founded. And we did, you know, we looked at what was needed to actually create our best world, like, what does a company have to inherently just do, just by defining the values and core behaviors to set it on the right course to create in our best world. So we worked with a few concepts, and we revise them when they're needed. But you know, for our core values, we decided that we needed to be a human centered company, we need to make sure that the customer experience was always guiding us, and how we work and engage with our partners. And that we came to this work being intent on benefiting people's everyday lives. So we that was part of being creating our best world, global worldview was another, you know, not being to, you know, focus just what's happening locally. But also thinking about the global impacts and how things happen across globe impact those here, real you know, the ideas, there's not any fakeness a lot, you got to be able to bring your real self to work, be brave, communicate bravely, be able to, you know, kind of derive a lot of value from each other by some of those kind of like, more of those authentic situations that happen was that the conversations, we stay future oriented, so we're always looking towards the future, even in solving our work today. So it's always about like, creating our best world again. And operational excellence was that was another one that we put in there, because we know that, you know, people don't have a lot of time to waste, and especially a lot of the folks that we're we're working with, we need to have that type of clarity of our processes and consistency of the way that we work. So we can really have that tight partnership and working together. So we came up with all as a through iteration, but also just like what is what's essential for creating our best world. And so that's, that's that was kind of how our conversation went to come up with those core values.

Matt Sodnicar 34:47
And I would imagine that just based on that description, that there are conversations and interactions that are real, but yet could also be Maybe a bit uncomfortable and perhaps even unnatural to some people. And with that, I'm going to I want to find out about your, your interviewing process and sort of mentoring or coaching so that those conversations get more natural, and it's just people being present and real and having this conversation, what type of people do you look for? And how do you make sure that they qualify, and they're going to be part of your, which I think is a very robustly designed culture.

Unknown Speaker 35:40
Yeah, well, that that's interesting. I wasn't expecting to talk about interviewing, but I was just having an interview earlier today. So it's really fresh. So I appreciate you bringing that in here. Because this is, every time you add a person to an organization, it's the opportunity for the culture to either change for better or for worse, right. And so you want to make sure that the people that you're bringing on, you know, potentially are going to be able to evolve the culture in a better way, then you can think of yourself, right? organizations are like living breathing things. So whatever you feed into it, that that energy that the person brings, the knowledge, the experience, their whole self that they bring into, it is going to taint change that organization into something that that it wasn't before they arrived there. So one of the things is we'd like to make our careers at nex very accessible. So I, I have in the past, and I still do this, if I see somebody, it's kind of like arbitrary requirements on job post, I ask that they be taken off, just because you never know, you know, you you, just because someone has such and such degree or years of experience or whatever, it doesn't mean that they're going to take the company where it needs to go next. And in fact, sometimes it turns a lot of people who could help us out, it turns them off, right. So that's one of the one of the ways that we look at it, we also like to just be really clear and straightforward with what's involved with the job, what's not involved with the job, what it pays, what the benefits are, etc. So like all of those things like at the gate, we try to be super, super clear about as you move into the interview process, the interview process is it's very much a process about culture. I would say before we get into the technical, you know, nature of the positions, we focus a lot on culture, and not just like, they say, like culture fit in air quotes that people have said before. I mean, we ask questions about how you deal with difficult, you know, situations, whether it's about, you know, you're experiencing racism in office, or sexism or anything like that, you know, whatever your experiences, been dealing with that in the past? How would you deal with it here? s forget the definition of what people creating there, but what creating their best world feels like to them, and why are they interested into it. And so we can really delve into some of those questions that are really rooted right at the values of organizations to be more objective, when you're talking about a culture fit. Because the reason why we have these values and core behaviors is to define what the culture is. And so that's how we go through like, kinda like that part of the interview, it's usually early on, then we get into some of the technical aspects of the position, whether you're doing, you know, sales, or data science, or whatever it might be, to make sure that the, you know, the technical rigor is there, but also that the attitude that fits well with the company. So we are aware of all of our personality types in the organization, actually. So we try to be very smart with folks who, who we're interviewing to bring them on to make sure that it's going to be a good fit for what we need now. Now that's one thing I don't do is I don't I don't do like tests for you know, personality tests for people coming into the organization met, typically, I'm not really interested in that and more interested in what our organizations personality is right now and what the team is, and what seemed to be could be the benefit for them most next, and then I think it's you know, you got to be inclusive when you're thinking about who you're hiring. So like I said, I don't like to put up barriers to entry for folks. I like to be more self aware as a organization about who we are.

Matt Sodnicar 39:39
I like that. And I also like that you mentioned behaviors, and it's top of my mind this week, because I'm doing a presentation for some CIOs in introducing the concept. It's how they can better communicate with an organization's its sales concepts, but spun Then understanding behaviors. And you're only the second person I've ever talked to that when they're talking about a company culture that has included behaviors in that description. And so I think it's great because I think culture, like he's used air quotes, like our culture, right? culture is wonderful when things are going very, very well, when the company is doing great. And there's clients rolling in, and when things get difficult to start going sideways, and I don't want to say people's true self, because I don't think that's an accurate description. But I think when people are under pressure or stress, and they react, that's when a behavior guide is going to matter. That's when true personalities and cultures are going to be a parent. And so what are some of the behaviors that are essential to next is that I find that very fascinating. And again, like you're the only the second person that's ever brought that up. So it's, and I'm just fascinated by,

Unknown Speaker 41:13
Well, Matt, either. We are really leading the way, or we're both way off the path. I'm not sure which one,

Matt Sodnicar 41:23
I think is leading the way. I'm a casual observer, and I've been in the training development space a little bit, but it's all about behavior is all about what you do.

Unknown Speaker 41:33
Right? Right. And that that's so important. I mean, I think, getting that going our core behaviors here and next are we lead, that means we act with immediacy, because we always want to set the direction. We're curious, we lean into into vulnerability and seeking new knowledge and equipping ourselves to create a best world. And we are teachers because we answer questions before they're asked because no one has the time to wait for the knowledge and information they need. So those are three behaviors. Are you teaching? Are you being curious? Or are you leading? And really curiosity spurs both of those, right? It's curiosity. Yeah, makes you a teacher, curiosity makes you a leader. And so that's kind of like the fountain of the behaviors is the curiosity. This is this is our values and behaviors are core to performance at max. And so we have a process that we use called constant feedback and recognition. Their meetings that we have, it's, they're there, they come from our OKR framework that we use in max to create our objectives and key results. And so every two weeks, the supervisor will meet and with with a staff member, and they'll have a, you know, a conversation on equal footing, but it's all based around how these values and core behaviors are showing up. And so like, you know, if your TPS reports aren't in no one time, right. That might fall into what you know, what value do you want to use to talk about that? Is that gonna be you know, operational excellence? acity, you know, using that behavior, like, how are you gonna approach that, so everything that's framed, like every conversation in our company is framed around these values and behaviors. And, to your point, the reason why you do everything for these values and behaviors is so when it hits the wall, you know, you still know how things are going to run, right? You still know that these behaviors and values are going to be upheld? And if they're not, then we have a process for that as well. But you know, you'll never wait, these are easy things to do, when you're not paying attention to them. But because things are going well. That might be like the conventional thinking. But then also, you might want to think about that in the opposite way. Like how, if it's a super sunny day, how are you actually displaying your values when they're not being tested? How they're when they're not being tested? How are you showing up that be? How is that behavior of being curious showing up when you feel like you know, everything already, right? Like it's, you know, that's these are these behaviors, they push you forward to keep moving, keep being curious, keep uncovering new things, and they have the responsibility, responsibility to do something with management to gain it.

Matt Sodnicar 44:35
I love that. How do you display your values when they're not being tested? Ie when it's easy.

Unknown Speaker 44:44
Right? Right. Like, I we've never had one of those things like our work culture is great. Like we have happy hours. That's like, it's not a thing for us. We do have some happy hours, periodically, but that's not part of our culture. And I think it's not part of our culture. Because if you have You know, a global worldview, you're going to realize that like happy hour is not customary for everyone, right? And so you don't want to necessarily make that your culture.

Matt Sodnicar 45:11
That's a very good point. And that's, I think that's a great way to segue into dei. And it's just about being aware. And I think understanding, maybe not even agreeing with it so much. But just yet, I think that's such a acceptable and accessible analogy to say that happy hours aren't a thing all around the world. It doesn't mean that. And again, I'm going to go, you know, a little ridiculous in the example here, but it doesn't mean that you have to shut down happy hours. It just means that for us, we're going to call it something different that might make our people feel included. Or at the very least, not excluded.

Unknown Speaker 46:07
Yeah, yeah. It's good to hear not anti happy our man. That's great. He's got a happy hour for like that. But it's like, what are the, you know, what are these traditions that we build as a company that best suit our company, we've worked with some of our partners in the past to really identify what company traditions are, and whether those are inclusive, whether new ones need to be created, that could be inclusive for the company. And it's, it's an important thing. Sometimes we surveyed companies and asked, you know, what are company traditions that you think apply to you? And some people do get it, you'll get some folks to say, we're doing absolutely great on that. And others will say, I don't even know what they are, you know, and so how do you actually create those types of traditions in your company that are inclusive, and that suit the needs of the people you have now, but also like going forward into the future that who your company is going to become and who you're going to hire in the future?

Matt Sodnicar 47:15
very broad question. And I'm asking it from a place of humility and learning. And when he talked about racism in the office, and take me through, let me let me back up that question and take it down a little bit lower. helped me understand how I could interact with you as a co worker, or an employee or your supervisor, that would help you feel comfortable, help me feel comfortable about a somewhat very sensitive, very powerful topic around race. What are things? And let me let me put even some more clarity on that. So as a as a white dude, like, what could I do? What would you expect? What could I do that would build a legitimate conversation around this?

Unknown Speaker 48:15
So it's a super great question. And I think it's interesting to look at it that workplace perspective, right. One of the things that's interesting when you think about diversity, equity inclusion in the workplace, is that it takes a different it takes it's different than interpersonal diversity, equity inclusion, what we do what we do outside of the workplace, right? A company has a responsibility to be compliant, when it comes to not being discriminatory, providing hostile work environments, so on and so forth. Right, that's company must legally do that. When it comes into going into diversity, equity and inclusion, leading companies know that by taking a step forward, and providing a framework for their employees to engage around these topics, makes them a better company, it makes these conversations that you're going to you're talking about happening, happen in a more positive way in a more upbuilding way, you know, tough conversations are going to happen, but what do they lead to. And so I think of being in a position where you're with within an organization, and you have some element of diversity, whether it's racially charged diversity, for diversity happening between peers, I think, number one, I hope that you have some of these values in place in your organization, and some of these core behaviors in place in your organization. Some of these are some of your own, because that really helps the conversate helps people come into the conversation at the same place, you can recognize intentions, you can recognize that this is the case conversation about us and the workplace. But we realize we're bringing very different selves into this conversation. So curiosity is always a good thing. And the person is being curious, curious, is being vulnerable and that curiosity, right? You know, I think asking questions or you know, being inquisitive, being inquisitive, to support what you already think, is backwards, right? You got to be inquisitive, to find the new knowledge that you need. And which is very contrary to how our brains work. Our brains come up with ideas, and then we find the evidence to support ideas. And then you see it all make sense, right? And you can't take that frame of reference to conversations about that we're talking about here about, you know, whether there's racial bias, or even just, you know, a casual conversation about race with a colleague, you have to come with some sincere curiosity seeking to gain new knowledge. And I think that that's a really great place to start. There's more dynamics in that, right, that that come into place, especially depending on the relationship, right is this is this email co worker from another race that you've worked with for four years that you go to each other's soccer games, you know, we watch each other's kids? Or is the tokenized you know, person in your office who's getting peppered with these questions from 10 people who look like you, right? Like there's, you've got to realize where that fits in the situation to, you know, you have an immense amount of, you know, resources available to you about any topic of diversity, including race, and so on. So, any topic about diversity, including, though, I think, also like being curious, on your own before being curious of others can be a very positive thing as well. And I just go back to what I was saying at the beginning, and saying that, as a leader in the organization, provide a framework for employees to get engaged on these things. Right. So one of the things you know, a lot of respondents will say, when we asked them question, how would you deal with an issue that came up about race? Most of the people I talk to you say that they would go and confront their co worker about it, you know, and then they talk about the various means of doing it. And sometimes, I'll have to ask, would you ever talk to your supervisor about it? Oh, yeah, I mean, I talked to them about it. But there's I folks are getting a lot more comfortable with thinking about, Hey, this is something that I think needs to be addressed. And I'm going to, you know, go and talk to my coworker about it directly. And I'm going to try to have a respectful, positive conversation to the matter, you know, and the other thing is that we have as a core value is being real. So don't be fake about it, be courageous in the way that you communicate your intention to that community in that conversation. Because it could be a critical issue, and you just don't want to have any miscommunication about it.

Matt Sodnicar 53:19
I think a lot of the challenges in relationships come down to that perceptions, miscommunication, assumptions, it's it's not a whole lot different inside or outside the workplace. It's just, well, I know you met this well. That's not what I was thinking. So yeah, yeah, as best we can take some of the emotion out of it. And, you know, clarify. Right? And you know, when you mentioned about being curious on your own, those were things as a salesperson, I would at least try to do a little bit of homework on the person and the company, the business segment, to come in. And just, I always thought it was, to me it was a sign of respect of their time. If nothing else, saying, here's this, here's this, here's this. And then to your point, testing it and saying, Look, I'm not inside these walls, I'm not in your meetings from the outside. This is what it looks like, Is this correct? I'm not tied to this, but this is what my initial homework has led me to hypothesize. I like using that word not believe but hypothesize. But yeah, it sounds way too clinical. We're talking about, you know, two co workers or two friends and race relations, but to sort of lay Yeah, just read a book or talk to you or listen to a podcast or something. There's ways that you can do it, I think in a nuanced, respectful way.

Unknown Speaker 55:03
Yeah, and it doesn't I mean, I think that there's short form of ways of getting there for it's more informal conversation. But I think, you know, there's to be in a corporate setting or in a business setting, because then you have that environment in that culture that already kind of carries those ways of communicating about it. And it's not to, like, dampen the conversation or make you say, something that someone else wants you to say, and not what you mean to say. But it means that you can more meet with that colleague on neutral ground, right? Hopefully, it's a neutral ground that you'll be able to create where it's like, hey, let's pop out for coffee, let's go into a conference room, let's go for a walk, whatever it may be, where we can look at each other i and i i, and talk through these topics.

Matt Sodnicar 55:57
Well, as we were talking about before, hit record, that hour just flew by.

Unknown Speaker 56:04
That was so great. Man, I feel like there's like a whole list of topics we haven't gotten to go through yet. So we'll have to do this again. Hopefully,

Matt Sodnicar 56:13
I absolutely would welcome that. And I will make a note and let's hold each other accountable. Because those topics, I just like talking to people that I enjoy. And the topics to me come secondary. And so yeah, I knew after just the first minute or two of our previous zoom call that this would be the start of just an interesting friendship and business relationship. And so that's, that's why I do this. So yeah,

Unknown Speaker 56:43
I I'm in the same place with you and you, you're welcome. And thank you to you as well. I love the conversation that we have today. I love what you're doing with this podcast. And hopefully, the stories that we shared today can fit into where they need to go in this vast, great library that you're building of media where care, so I appreciate it, Matt, thank you.

Matt Sodnicar 57:05
Oh, that means a lot. And I know the the the expertise from what you're saying that. So thank you that that means a lot. I don't want people to ever think that any sort of compliment or listening goes by the wayside. So it matters. So I appreciate you saying that.

Unknown Speaker 57:22
You got it. I'm glad to hear it.

Matt Sodnicar 57:25
So where can where can people track you down? I'll obviously post links to the company and to your LinkedIn profile. But then you do work with restaurants nationally and globally is that's your scope or the or you can find the St. Paul,

Unknown Speaker 57:41
when we're in North America focused for all of our business at this point. Awesome.

Matt Sodnicar 57:45

Unknown Speaker 57:47
Cool, you can find us on Instagram. Is that en cx t do t co next co Facebook and Instagram and then LinkedIn if you search up next, you'll find it there. The web you'll find is that NC x next calm on the web as well. Yeah, feel free to reach out get in contact with us. Give us a shout on social media. I'd love to hear from from anyone out there and set up a conversation with you.

Matt Sodnicar 58:19
Wonderful, Jonathan banks. This has been great. And again, so thankful that you reached out I really appreciate it.

Unknown Speaker 58:25
Thank you man. It was great to be here. Have a wonderful day. Thanks.

Matt Sodnicar 58:35
Episodes of this podcast is produced and written by me Matt Sodnicar. The intro was engineered by good friend Cole Weinman. And our original score theme song retro funk was composed by previous guests and good friend Randy we also have two requests. If you liked this show, please share it with a friend who might like it. And also take the time to show them how to listen to a podcast either on Apple transistor or Spotify. And I know you know somebody out there that would make a fantastic guest. And if you do, please shoot me an email to podcast at the warm front. Calm thanks for listening

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