Michel Falcon is the author of People First Culture, an entrepreneur, an advisor, and a speaker. He went from working in a 1-800-GOT-JUNK call center to growing a multimillion dollar hospitality company using the strategies that he outlines in this episode.
Michel is the founder of the People First Culture Philosophy, which emphasizes putting employees and customers at the core of decision-making. He’s advised major companies across industries including McDonalds, Lexus, BlueCross BlueShield, and his work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. Time, Forbes, and many others.
In this episode, you’re going to learn how he was able to create such a powerful culture and the success that came from putting customers and employees first.
Michel Falcon: It was at 1-800-GOT-JUNK that I was introduced to the topic of company culture and how important it was to the success of the business and any other business. It was their slogan of the people first culture—“It’s all about the people”—that really resonated with me. It was the foundation of the business to be able to grow, become admired, and have other organizations replicate their strategy.
I was there for five years and ventured off on my own, which I always had the plan to do.
I did some management consulting where I was working with companies on customer experience, employee engagement, and company culture, and it was humble beginnings.
I had worked with companies based in Vancouver that were small, small companies, but the clients started getting much larger—Verizon wireless, BlueCross BlueShield, Electronic Arts.
It was a realization that organizations were starting to “get it.” That investing in systems and processes to enrich the lives of customers and employees was a good thing to do.
Charlie Hoehn: Explain to me what you really mean when you’re talking about people first culture. What does that mean?
Michel Falcon: People first culture is building a company your customers and employees will admire. Now, that’s easier said than done because I think every organization would agree that that is a great thing to have.
But why is it that some companies succeed and others fall short? Within the book, I describe something I call the 3P Strategy, which allows a company to develop and create a people first culture within their business. The 3Ps stand for purpose, process, and profit.
Uncovering Your Purpose
Charlie Hoehn: Got it. So let’s dive into the first P. Purpose. How do you go about discovering your purpose?
Michel Falcon: It has to come to yourself organically. It can’t be forced upon you. I recommend asking yourself one question, which is quite a loaded question: “What do I want to be remembered by, and what type of emotion do I want individuals to invoke and feel after they’ve seen me in person, spoken to me on the phone, or read my name?”
That’s going to help you understand what you want your purpose to be, and you can work backwards.
Charlie Hoehn: What was it for you?
Michel Falcon: For me, it’s to make people feel safe. That isn’t to describe a physical feeling of being safe. I want my employees to feel safe in their workplace, where we know that we’re investing in them as individuals, not as employees.
I want my customers to feel safe when they choose our establishments to entertain themselves and that extends to my personal life as well too. I want my mother or my sister to feel safe when we are in an unfamiliar part of town.
I recommend that your purpose should extend not just in your business life but in your personal life as well.
“You have to be the same person to be successful around your purpose.”
Charlie Hoehn: How did you know safety was so important to you or why do you think safety was so important to you?
Michel Falcon: It took me months to develop. I want people to feel a certain sense of peace of mind when I’m around. I want individuals to have confidence in me and my leadership ability.
Whereas if something is going wrong or if somebody’s invested time or money in something that I’m managing. I want them to have the peace of mind to know that, “This is going to be a great experience because he’s involved.”
Helping Your Team Find Their Purpose
Charlie Hoehn: Excellent. Once you’ve uncovered your own purpose, how do you help your team, your employees find theirs?
Michel Falcon: I ask them the same question, “What do you want to be remembered for and what type of emotion do you want people to invoke when they see you in person or speak to you on the phone?”
For me, and for any leaders that will help their employees find their purpose, don’t make it self-serving.
I want my team to have their own individual purposes as individuals, not as employees. So if their purpose is aligned to leaving the company that I own and manage and operate, so be it. That’s their prerogative, and I’m going to support their purpose.
I find that sometimes leaders will lead because of their own self-interest; they want to grow successful company with these individuals and if their purposes aren’t aligned with the purpose of the company then they should leave. I don’t operate my businesses that way; I want my team members to be successful as individuals before they’re successful as employees. If that’s with my companies, fantastic, let’s do it together. If that’s without my company, they want to become a lawyer or perhaps even open up a competing restaurant, so be it. Let’s do it together.
Charlie Hoehn: I’d imagine once you’ve helped employees find their purpose and they realize they’re in alignment with you, they are even more engaged at work.
Michel Falcon: Absolutely, because they know that I have their best interest at heart and it’s not because of a self-serving purpose and it’s not because I want their purpose to be so closely aligned with mine.
They know that I’m genuine about their success that I’m putting them first before the success of my company.
“The success of my company is closely tied to their success.”
It’s an outcome of our team members’ success as individuals.
Not as employees, not as staff, because ultimately at the end of the day, they have a first and last name that they represent before they represent my company.
Charlie Hoehn: I’m curious—once you know your purpose and you’ve helped your team find their purpose, at that point are you then deciding your business’s purpose or has that already been determined?
Michel Falcon: That’s already been determined before we open any venue or any business. Our purpose as an organization is closely aligned with our mission statement and our mission statement system wide is to deliver seamless experiences. That’s not just seamless experiences to our customers, it’s blank.
It’s just to provide seamless experiences and that’s to everyone that interacts with our brand; our customers, our employees, the media, our suppliers, our vendors.
But the purpose must be there from day one. That will act as your guiding light as an organization and create alignment within the company.
People First Processes
Charlie Hoehn: Could you give me an overview of how to actually implement this people first culture into the processes of a business?
Michel Falcon: The process is where you build the mechanics, the systems that help serve the purpose of the company, of the customers, and of each other as team members.
Within my business, we have over 20 operational processes that are built to enrich the lives of our customers and employees.
For example, we have a program called The Micro Customer Experience program. We have ways to enrich the lives of our employees through our Employee Advisory Board. Every quarter to every three months, we have a rule of thumb that we’re going to deploy three operational improvement plans to better the lives of our customers and employees so that we never become stagnant.
“Our processes are always being built to stay ahead of the expectations of our customers and our employees.”
Charlie Hoehn: You talk about emotional onboarding and making employees cry. What does that mean?
Michel Falcon: I want them to experience gestures within our organization that they’ve never experienced before. I want this to be a workplace where they feel at home, where they may say to themselves, “No one has ever done that for me before.”
In the book, I share an example of where I was able to connect one of our employees who hadn’t seen her mother in years.
I do want to make my employees cry—and these are emotional, happy, joyful tears—because they know that, “This individual is making me feel safe. They’re helping me fulfil my purpose.”
If I’m able to get them to invoke an emotion, then that’s success for me.
People First Companies
Charlie Hoehn: Why do you think that certain companies are gravitating to this and “getting it” so to speak, whereas others are still oblivious.
Michel Falcon: It ultimately comes down to leadership. I think there are few reasons why some companies will get it and others won’t in relation to leadership. First, some individuals haven’t been taught how to lead this way.
If you think of some leaders in present day leadership, they are leveraging techniques that they learned 10 or 20 years ago.
Decades ago, maybe even sooner than that, it was okay to yell at your employees to get the best out of them. I don’t believe that management style is relevant anymore. So the first reason companies will fall short is because leaders don’t know how to lead in this day and age.
The second is DNA. Does the leader have the DNA to care about a stranger? Because ultimately that is what you’re doing when you are building experiences for customers and employees. You are developing relationships with strangers.
Do you have the ability to care about a stranger and hopefully make that stranger a lifelong friend?
And third, the separation between short term and long term thinking. If I was to develop a strategy to strengthen the relationship with my customer or my employee or the community, if the ROI of that gesture is 24 months away, I’m still going to do it.
I’m not going to be asking myself, “What is the ROI of each and every gesture or experience that I deliver to anyone that interacts with my brand?”
Yet, some companies are living quarter over quarter like they report to Wall Street, which they don’t and they have the short term thinking. There is a divide in business that needs to be repaired, and it is the divide between the relationships that we have in our personal lives and ones that we have in our professional lives.
When I am building a relationship with my mother, if I cook her a meal do you think that I am asking myself, “What is the ROI of cooking this roast for my beautiful mother?” That would be psychotic.
Yet, we ask ourselves, “What is the ROI of developing this relationship with my team and my customers?” all the time.
Why can’t we remove that separation and just view anybody that we interact with as an opportunity to build a lifelong relationship with?
“That is how you grow these companies.”
So those are the three reasons why some companies will succeed and others will fall short and has absolutely to do with the leadership of the company.
Charlie Hoehn: You talk more about leadership going wrong and you mentioned that in particular leaders go wrong when it comes to recruiting and hiring. Where do they screw up?
Michel Falcon: They see it as a transactional process, where you send out a job description because you are recruiting for XYZ role, you get interviews and the first person to show up on time or has a pulse is hired. That you must recruit, interview, and onboard employee similar to how you plan a holiday party at your home. You wouldn’t just let any stranger into your home because you happen to be hosting a party, would you? So why are we doing that to our business? There has to be some checks and balances when it comes to interviewing individuals to ensure that they fell within this culture that you are trying to build. Because if not, it is self-sabotage and you are going to erode the core of your business.
People Focused Profit
Charlie Hoehn: I want to get to profit, the third P. Give me an overview of this section of the book?
Michel Falcon: The profit within this book is defined by a multitude of things. It’s not just dollars and cents. Why can we not profit by having high employee retention? That is an outcome, that’s a positive outcome.
Why can we not profit by having high brand admiration where the community sees our employees in their uniforms or our trucks on the road or visit their website and generally feel a sense of admiration for our brand?
Why can we not profit by getting free PR? The media loves talking about companies that are delivering great experiences to their employees, customers, and community.
I want people to shift their focus on how they define profit. It’s not just dollars and cents. If you are going to build a business for decades to come, and I am certain everyone who starts a business isn’t planning to just operate it for 10 months, shift your focus and how you determine what profit is.
Because all of those things contribute to the success of your company, not just for 10 months but for 10 years and beyond that.
Charlie Hoehn: Tell me what has the impact been on the people that you’ve dealt with that you’ve helped and inspired?
Michel Falcon: Some of my team have left to pursue their own purpose and that is the definition of success for me and my organization. That is a measurable outcome that I expect on a year over year basis.
“I want people to leave so that they can be successful on their own.”
Hopefully they look back at our organization and tell themselves, “That organization was the springboard to my success.”
Looking back on the past two years since we went from zero dollars in revenue and zero employees to $50 million and a 150 employees, we have built an organization that is akin to almost a family that wants each other to succeed. We are doing it in a collaborative fashion. We are holding each other accountable to the values of the company, and that is everything that we could have ever asked for.
Do I have the ability to go into my venues and see a group of likeminded individuals who share common values, who are generally happy in their workplace? If I could say yes to that, then that’s success, and I have been fortunate that I have been and continue to be able to say yes in answering that question.
Connect with Michel Falcon
Charlie Hoehn: What is the best way for our listeners to follow you and potentially connect with you with you, if want that?
Michel Falcon: My parents blessed and cursed me with my name, because it is unique. So you can find me by going to Google and typing in Michel Falcon. Go to Instagram, Twitter, any social platform, type in my first and last name and I would love to connect with you there.
Head over to my website, go to Amazon, type in my first and last name to be able to get and view the book. But starting off with just searching my first and last name is a great place to start.
Charlie Hoehn: What is the one thing listeners can do from your book this week that will have a positive impact?
Michel Falcon: This is a starting point: most organizations have values within their company. But having the values is one step. Creating alignment behind the values is the next.
Go into your business and ask three people at random from three different departments, “What are the values in our company?” If they are able to recite them in unison, fantastic. If they’re not, then you have an opportunity to create more alignment.
That is where I always suggest companies start. It’s a light little exercise that you can do that is a barometer of the alignment within the organization. So that is the first step that I recommend doing.
I implore and encourage the listeners to email me, [email protected], and tell me how that exercise went.