Damon Pistulka 00:01
Hi, everyone, Welcome again to the Exit Your Way Business Roundtable. With me today, I’ve got a guy that I really appreciate knowing is Kon Apostolopolous Thanks, Kon for stopping by today.
Kon Apostolopolous 00:15
Thank you for having me, Damon, it’s
Damon Pistulka 00:17
it’s great to get you on, you know, we’ve talked a lot outside of this and and your your area of work is always always interesting to me, because I think that there are so many businesses that missed the opportunity to really get their people development engaged fully, to maximize their their satisfaction of the people working in the performance of the business.
Kon Apostolopolous 00:45
That’s so true. I mean, many people, many companies, many leaders talk about their people as being the greatest asset. But I always ask them, so what are you doing with that greatest asset? If they’re your biggest capital in the company? What are you doing with that capital? What are you doing with that human capital? And how are you developing it? How are you utilizing it? Because at the end of the day, everybody can buy the same technology if they have the money you buy as the people that you have?
Damon Pistulka 01:12
Yes, that’s, that’s for sure. That’s for sure. Well, let’s, let’s back up a little bit Kon and kind of talk about, you know, what, what, how did you really, you know, what’s your background? And how did you really find yourself wanting to do what you’re doing today?
Kon Apostolopolous 01:28
That’s a very interesting question. Um, so let me start off with that with one of my favorite quotes. It says, basically, the two most important dates in your life are the day you come into this world, and the day you figure out why. And to me, one of the things that I learned is, I enjoy learning. I enjoy teaching, sharing that knowledge sharing that information. So as I look back on my life, I realized that most of the projects careers that I’ve had have always involved some level of sharing information of teaching of learning that world. So as I progressed through this, I started off early on in performing arts, I did a lot of stage productions, a lot of TV productions at the time. And through that progression, at some point, I made a transition into the business world. And from there naturally, not only did I, you know, have a knack for the operational side of things, but I found myself in a situation where I was taking over a lot of responsibilities of the training and development. Now these companies grew. And they became very large through mergers and acquisitions at the time. And I found myself in an organization that had 100,000 employees spread over 100 countries. So I progressively moved from it’s like a small country. So I found myself in a situation where I was moving away from overseeing the training piece and the training function into more of a consultative role in house. And I became a problem solver. And through that process, my company invested a lot of money in sending me out to get trained to get master certified in different programs and bring those programs back. Now many of them involved leadership development, interpersonal skills, project management, and ultimately into the Six Sigma world, which is very relevant to you. I know from your manufacturing background from a lot of the things that you know, so I kind of developed a very unique perspective. Not only did I find a new stage to perform on, but I found myself in a situation where I was able to straddle both the people side of things, but also the process side of things. Yes. And naturally, I progressed into the realm of human performance technology. And in a situation where as a consultant now, I was able to fix performance problems by looking at the systems and the people and how things were set up. Did we have the right people in the right seat on the bus going the right way. And from there, I had a lot of success with my companies. The interesting thing, Damon, is that, you know, considering where we are today, I look back and I realized that different milestones, different crises have kind of impacted my career along the way, as I’m sure it has for you. And for many of you in the audience. At the time, for example, when 911 happened at the big company that I mentioned earlier, was part of their main business was travel distribution, hotels, car rentals, airline tickets, I mean, a lot of that piece timeshares. Well, they were seriously impacted after nine. Oh, yeah. So shortly after that forced a career change. For me. It was after Katrina, actually, when I, you know, decided to take a career change from there. I went into a lot of the areas with restaurants and operations there. So I work for a major restaurant chains at the time of doing a lot of their leadership development and performance improvement and people Was 2008 now with the crisis, the financial crisis there that impact the restaurant business. So we managed to survive a lot of that. And then at some point in the late 2011, early 2012, I found myself yet again, I mean, through no fault of my own. Yeah, it’s again. Yeah. So all of these different milestones, these crises have kind of shaped the direction that I’ve taken, it presented themselves, different opportunities. Because that’s what I want people to understand the crisis is not just a bad thing. This shake up creates a lot of opportunity. So let me add one more of my favorite quotes, and we’ll be playing from there. Okay. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Yeah, so I found myself, as I look back, I was probably lucky. Why? Because I had a lot of skills that were transferable. And I looked for the opportunities. Now, those opportunities weren’t obvious. I mean, at the time, it was very dark time for me. I was looking around for a job, like a lot of people are today. Yeah. And I got the usual love what you can do Khan, you know, we really think you’ve got a lot of skills and experience. Yeah, you don’t know that we can afford you. You ever heard that one? Yeah, yeah. So I found myself in a situation where nobody would hire me for a job per se. But what they would pay me for is, from my experience, and from my knowledge. So in one way, I became an accidental entrepreneur, I found myself in a situation now where I had a lot of skills that people were willing to pay for, on a contract basis on a project basis. And all it took was one person, one person to say, yes. And from there, I launched my business that’s now known as fresh biz solutions. All I do is take the good ideas, the experiences that I’ve had from very different industries, and taking those solutions that have worked somewhere else and applying them to other areas, or creatively looking for, for those solutions with the people on the ground, or just being able to ask the dumb questions. Yes. Why are you doing it this way? And you’d be surprised how many times people go, Well, that’s how we’ve always done it. Yeah.
Damon Pistulka 07:20
Yeah, it’s a it’s a it’s an aid. That’s an age old problem. And someone that brings that solution can bring a lot of value with common sense more than anything. And that’s, that’s a needed needed aspect in a lot of businesses, that’s for sure.
Kon Apostolopolous 07:33
Yeah. So to the audience, to those people that are that are finding themselves in a situation where they feel lost, they feel uncertain about what’s going on. You know, I would encourage them to keep it up. You know, sometimes when you’re going through hell, you just have to keep going to get through to the other side.
Damon Pistulka 07:51
Yeah, you’re in the middle now.
Kon Apostolopolous 07:55
And I can tell you at that dark moment, in 2012, that summer, I lost my mom. And so I had, a lot of things impacted me, and I could have just, you know, stayed there and stuck there. But I think in many ways that kind of spurred me on and I figured, you know, what, what am I got to lose?
Damon Pistulka 08:12
Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, that’s a great point. And, you know, I, I think that that what, what we can do as, as people that have a bit more gray hair than maybe some others, in my case,
Kon Apostolopolous 08:27
what you’re talking about?
Damon Pistulka 08:28
Yeah. Is really show people that are that are, you know, there are a lot of people out here, you think of the economic conditions for the last 10 years. So 10 years, 10 years ago, somebody was getting out of high school out of college. Now those people are in their late 20s to early 30s. They’re not they’re not young, they’re young, according to us, but but by working terms, they’ve been working a while they’ve been out there a while. And this hits, they the the economic conditions for the last 10 plus years have been up, up up, basically.
Kon Apostolopolous 09:07
Damon Pistulka 09:08
And they’ve never had to see a time like this. And I think that’s where that’s where what you said a little while ago is really relevant and needed for these these younger people or just people that are that are searching to find what they what they should do, or really to get a little bit of motivation, because we’ve seen the ups and downs. And we know that and when you go back and even study the times that, you know, successful people often had times where they were down, they could have went bankrupt and just all kinds of bad things. But out of that their their determination to continue to plodding and trudging forward in the worst times is what truly made them successful and when it did come to be their time.
Kon Apostolopolous 09:57
Yeah. And people need to understand Failure is not the opposite of success. Yeah, there is a step towards that. And that’s the difference you look at. And you say, all I have to do is get up one more time.
Damon Pistulka 10:13
Kon Apostolopolous 10:14
maybe down. But all I have to do is get up one more time.
Damon Pistulka 10:17
Yeah, if you get it one more time than the person across from you, you win.
Kon Apostolopolous 10:21
That’s exactly it. And that’s where again, we find ourselves today, and you look around at the world that we live in right now is very different than the one that we started off the year. I mean, everybody thought it off 2020 with the best intentions, thinking, we’re going into a brand new decade, man, this has been roaring these past few years, the economy’s been booming, you can do no wrong. I mean, if you’re a business owner out there, if you’re a senior leader, thinking about that your concerns were very different back then, than they were now. If you’re an HR person, for example, you were thinking about, okay, how can I get more tuition reimbursement for my employees and things like that, for them to grow and develop and all this stuff? And you were thinking very differently about your benefits? Now, what’s the top of your list for your benefits thing? Probably mental health?
Damon Pistulka 11:09
Yeah. Yeah. And that, that’s affecting as, as we know, and and you and Dr. Elia talking about it, it is it is an epidemic. Now, and and just as, as we’ve talked about, and other things, too, and you you guys point out in your book, the seven keys to navigating a crisis, it is affecting everyone, everyone in some way, shape, or form. And, and you know, there, there really are phases that people need to recognize and understand going through something like this, even if things are going well, because it’s affecting so many of us, on so many of the people around us, even if it’s not affecting us terribly negatively.
And I don’t want to seem like I’m all sunshine and rainbows, I have attitude about things. But because that comes from, like you said, a lot of gray hair, and I’ve been through a lot. Now keeping things in perspective, there’s a difference between, you know, danger and fear. When danger is very real, what we’re facing right now physically, emotionally, financially, and otherwise, that’s real. But what we can’t do is allow fear to cloud our judgment and our reaction to things. We need to steal ourselves for a lot of the things that are happening and prep ourselves appropriately. But what we can’t do is allow fear, to take us in a direction where we’re not making good decisions for ourselves and others. Yes. And, you know, you’re going to react very, very differently. Damon, I mean, you and I have talked about that, whether on sessions like this or beyond that. You know, in our book with Dr. Elia, we describe the four different typical reactions that people have. And when you’re dealing with the multitude of crises that we have right now. I mean, people find themselves sometimes feeling like a victim, all of a sudden, you know, their world has come upside down. Yeah, we’ll typically react in such a way. So why is this happening to me what’s going on? Well, in a rational state, they realize it’s not happening just to them, it’s happening to everybody. And the world is not conspiring to get to them. But why are they reacting that way? Because they’re missing something. Perhaps they feel like they’re out of control, perhaps they don’t have a say in things and they feeling like a victim. Or, you know, they become a critic, they start criticizing everything, no matter what you tell them, you know, hey, Damon, I think you need to wear a mask to protect yourself. Well, that’s stupid. I’m not gonna wear a mask. Well, okay, why don’t you just go out? Forget about it, we’ll all get sick, and then we’ll be fine. Well, you’re trying to kill me. And it’s those kind of things where there’s nothing productive in that. We react like critics again, because something’s missing. Because we don’t believe we don’t see the plan. We don’t understand the logic, the why behind things. Yes. Or, you know, we might even act as bystanders, like the deer in the headlights, were really unsure what we’re going to do we just hide in our corners. And I’m going to say, you know what, hey, I’m just gonna let demon take charge of that one. I’m gonna let him go out and kind of adventure. And if it’s safe, I’ll come out as well. Yeah, that’s not effective either. Now, the way that we’ve approached it with Dr. Alien book is we recommend people move towards a different position. And that’s the mode of a navigator. And we talk about navigating a crisis or two or three or four or five that we have right now, if you add the fires that you guys have out west, yes, you look at all of these different things. And you realize that a navigator isn’t somebody necessarily that has all the answers, or has been here before in this exact spot, but they’re utilizing a lot of attributes and common sense and experience to find ways to move beyond this to get to a better place.
Damon Pistulka 14:48
Yeah, and I think really, like you’re talking about it and it’s not that the people that are that are that are being a navigator, know what they’re doing exactly what the hell are going on. To do or where they’re going, it’s just they’re getting up and saying, I know I have to go. And I think this is the best direction and they’re taking a step. And they’re taking on after it.
Kon Apostolopolous 15:11
Right? I mean, we’re talking about these kinds of transitions right now. I mean, there’s, there’s a beginning and a middle, and then to what we’re dealing with to this crisis and any other one, the problem that people don’t realize is that it starts with an ending. What’s ended is the way that we used to have things. Six months ago is gone. It’s not coming back.
Damon Pistulka 15:31
Yeah. Yeah. That’s for sure.
Kon Apostolopolous 15:34
I mean, how are you? And I feel, I mean, we went through this whole thing, we grieved. we grieve the situation. We felt the denial, we felt the anger, we felt the depression. We felt all of those emotions, then go with grief until we got to acceptance. Yeah. And then we Okay, well, we got to move forward, right?
Damon Pistulka 15:53
Yeah, this is like you’re dealt, so you got to go with it.
Kon Apostolopolous 15:56
Correct. So now we’re in that in between that middle phase? Yes. With the ending, now we’re in the middle. Well, in the middle, what’s happening, you’re kind of all up in the air. I’m, it’s like your free flow falling. And you don’t know you don’t have anything to hold on to that solid, you don’t know what’s going to happen. But this is the time where if we can get by out beyond our initial fear. This might be exactly the time when we can try new things. This is the time where when you were a kid and you were jumping off that rock into the water, you felt like you were flying, you are a superhero for that split. Second, you’re flying. And perhaps that’s what we need to get back to where we need that courage to say, You know what? I’m going to try something new. Perhaps it’s a new twist on my business, perhaps it’s a new career move. Perhaps it’s that job, that project that I always wanted to start? You know what, I don’t miss the two hour commutes? I don’t know many people that do. Yeah. So maybe not everything has changed. But maybe it’s an opportunity to change the things we didn’t like. Mm hmm. And then finally, we get to that third phase, which is the beginning the new beginning, the next normal, because you know what, there’s going to be a next normal after that. And we got to get used to that.
Damon Pistulka 17:17
Yes, that is for sure. You know, and when you look at it, and you go. Really what COVID has done is it accelerated a lot of things that were happening already, but it accelerated years into months. And that’s probably what made it the hardest for a lot of people outside of the fact of joblessness and those kinds of things, the economic conditions, but, you know, because the, in my mind anyway, and I’m not an expert by any means. I think the remote, the remote work is here to stay. I think that it’s you know, there’s there’s too many advantages to it. For four businesses, when you look at what you’re in, in human capital development and management, the fact that I have a fair amount of my positions now that i can i can do virtually from anywhere, and, you know, maybe in the same timezone, but maybe anywhere in the world, it makes a huge difference there. But, you know, and then and then when you look at the fact of the flexibility in your workforce to even even if it’s flexibility, if you talk about the two hour commute, because and worse because there’s some of that going on, obviously, even if you can go a flexible work week, where you have a couple days in the office like normal, if you could get back to that right and, and a couple days working from home or something like that, you the the amount of stress reduction, that that that commute, relieving you from that commute is huge. When you look at them on someone’s life, and you’re exactly right. I’m one that spent over 100 hours on a car every month, that’s just the way it was you were talking to people every single day, every day. And if you didn’t you feel like you needed. And here, you know that it’s only traveling 3040 miles, you can actually travel a bit farther than that, or even get on a plane and go farther than I could go 30 or 40 miles but it’s it’s the it’s the reality. And we can now do these things like we are now and it’d be a lot more productive.
Kon Apostolopolous 19:30
We just change people’s consciousness about what what’s acceptable and what isn’t. I mean, 20 years ago, I was leading a task force that was experimenting or exploring options, doing a pilot program, if you will, for remote workforce. And this was for call centers at the time. Uh huh. The two things, the two things that was holding things back the senior leadership from making the decision to pull the trigger, because the numbers were there, the financials were there, it made sense. We had enough people that were willing to volunteer for the program, that it made sense, the two things that were missing trust with the employees and technology. What’s happened now, you look at the situation now. And all of a sudden, the same people, the same leaders that were saying, Well, I don’t know, Damon, if you can work one day a week from home, yeah. Now saying, Damon, I want you to go home and come back in 2021. Yeah, they didn’t hesitate to send their workforce home and say, Do the best you can. And guess what happened? people not only were productive, leaders have to go back and say, well, we’ll stop, stop, because you can’t stay on the computer 24 hours a day, you’re gonna burn yourself out. So productivity changed, and people started looking at people’s performance based on that productivity, rather than how many hours they were on the computer, or at their station. The second thing is technology. Look at where we are right now, how many meetings have you had with people across the globe gaming, like you were in the same room, I can’t even count anymore, I
Damon Pistulka 21:04
can’t even count.
Kon Apostolopolous 21:05
Now, this is very doable. To me, we have the opportunity, an opportunity to expand our businesses to expand on network to meet people that normally would not have met. But it also creates a very interesting dynamic, I’m going to, I’m going to pull the thread that you started with the acceleration. You know, COVID, indeed, has accelerated everything. I mean, we are already headed, we’re already in the fourth industrial revolution, we’re already in a place now where businesses elite is taking leaps and bounds again. The growth mindset that’s required now from business leaders from business owners, is incredible. But it also requires them to think, in what we call the leadership paradox. They’re required now to really synthesize to take what looks like opposite ideas, and pull them together in the same thread. Yes. And really think of them at the same time. So on one hand, for example, let me give you an example of that. Like I was saying, with people with with leaders that dispersed their workforce, on one hand, they have to empathize with the fact that all of a sudden, people have kids at home, they have pets they had they can’t leave their house, or they have to deal with things a certain way. There needs to be a certain level of empathy. With people circumstances, not everybody has the luxury that you and I have, perhaps to have a home office, they may have to do it at the kitchen table, they may have to share the dining room table with this with their sixth grader. Yeah, the same network very real, very real. These days, right. So we have to be empathetic as leaders as business owners, but on the other hand, we have to show tough love and still maintain certain boundaries, otherwise, people will burn out. Yeah, yeah. So that’s one example. Let me give you another one. I have to really think, what’s the possibilities of my digital enterprise? How many people can I reach through this? More than I normally could if I just went out my front door and started yelling, right, I have to capitalize on that digital aspect of my technology. Yes. But it’s also requiring me to be a lot more human and a lot more real.
Damon Pistulka 23:20
Yes. That’s our excuse me, and you’re up to there.
Kon Apostolopolous 23:26
Yeah. So high tech, but also high touch. Yeah. And it’s one of those things that’s required you now, if you if you had a dispersed workforce, you will have to really connect with them very differently through the digital medium. But you also have to connect with them in real terms, you have to go to shut the proverbial door to your office and say, Hey, Damon, how you really doing? Yeah, we can Okay. Yes. I mean, these are the things that we have to look at. I mean, here’s a third example for you. I mean, just again, if I’m looking at it, saying, Okay, I have to be able to look beyond the borders, where can I expand my business offerings, my network, outside of that internationally, but because I can’t travel there because of the restrictions. I have to source a lot of things locally, my work with the things I have locally. So it’s that contradiction, again, that paradox that now leaders need to do and that’s what I’m consulting a lot of my clients on right now being able to understand that and grow. How do you turn the work that you’re doing the investment from COVID not preparation and how you’re handling things into your competitive advantage? Yes, we sell that.
Damon Pistulka 24:39
Yes, that’s for sure. That’s for sure. And Andrew said something. This is this is so true. It’s so true. That you know, it is a shame that it took a tap pandemic, for us to realize some of these things and see some of the things and the other thing that I really think At that, some places you don’t see this, but I really think in brought the human back into business because it
Kon Apostolopolous 25:09
it, it really has in some respects, because think about it this way. I mean, in the past, a lot of leaders have to manufacture crises in order to get their people moving. Yeah, I mean, left to our own devices. We love being fat, dumb and happy. We love complacency. Yeah, you’re not gonna pick up and change things if we don’t have to. Yeah.
Damon Pistulka 25:31
It’s right is Yeah,
Kon Apostolopolous 25:32
we like our comfort zone. Yeah, a lot to get us out there. But it’s an important part of growing because you’re not going to grow in your comfort zone. Mm hmm. And if we can, if life has dealt us the situation, these lemons, let’s turn them into lemonade. Yes. Let’s make this a situation where now we look at it. And we say, How can we capitalize on this? I mean, I can guarantee you, Uber, Airbnb didn’t exist prior to 2008 the way they are now? Yes. And maybe they go back down because of the pandemic. But what’s going to grow? Maybe it’s zoom and WebEx and whoever else does virtual conferencing? I mean, you look at these different platforms now, wouldn’t you have loved to have stuck in those?
Damon Pistulka 26:15
Oh, yes. Yes. And that’s it, you’re exactly right. It is, is in this uncomfortable time, when things are changing there, there are opportunities that people keep their eyes open. And it’s everything from the simple the restaurants that embraced delivery, or takeout in the beginning, you know, when that when that was allowed, and the restaurants weren’t allowed to be open. I know, that was the lifeline for a lot of them, at least in our area was and, and it was it was beforehand for some, and I think those restaurants were the ones that were the first to feel like a it’s gonna be okay, because they had already made that leap or others that didn’t have that presence didn’t understand how to do it had to go a long ways to get there. And, you know, from our standpoint, we see a lot of businesses now that the businesses that we’ve worked with, or that we know that have that digital, like you said that digital presence in the did and we’re already doing that working down that road, because it’s not an easy road, you can’t just wake up tomorrow and and be digital, but the ones that are and we’re down the roadways. Some have just exploded during this time. Yeah, in the e commerce space, and and some of those things, but the other ones that that that dug in, when COVID hit and said, You know, we’re just gonna wait it out. Those are a lot of the ones that have died or are really having trouble if they haven’t died.
Kon Apostolopolous 27:44
I mean, think about it, even the most basic terms. I mean, Darwin said it, it’s the flexible that was survived. It’s not the strongest, it’s the most flexible and adaptable that survived. And that’s part of what companies need to understand just because I’m a small business or a smaller operation. I can still be flexible. I mean, like you said that that mom and pop restaurant that you know, what’s it, I can’t, I can’t bring customers into my into my establishment. Okay. I’m going to turn my waitstaff into delivery staff, yes. Or no, you know what, I’m going to put a chair outside my establishment and see if I can use the space outside the sidewalk. I’m having moved my kitchen out. So my back of the house staff a little bit more social distance, and I can protect them and my customers from that. Mm hmm. What can you do within your business? And you look at that situation? Yeah. I’m looking at some of the comments out there. And yes, you how many of these businesses are extinct now? The ones that refuse to change?
Damon Pistulka 28:41
Yeah. Sears Yeah, there’s that’s it. That’s the example. I mean, when you look at our age net, there, were there were a staple, or there was a staple. I mean, you go back and I’m not talking about I’m talking before us, and Hill, that’s a long time ago, but they were the ones that Sears catalog. And you know, and people that don’t even know what the hell catalogs are. But But, but, but you know, it’s exactly right. The ones that don’t change it, just, you know, you’ve got a look. And I was written and it’s funny, some of the bigger companies are actually now embracing what’s happening. I was reading an article, I think this morning about Walmart and about how Walmart is changing, you know, they got these behemoth stores but they’re changing them because of COVID they know that people are going to have their list of things and they’re going to go in and want to get it and get out right that not a three hour trip into the store. I mean, because I live in the south for a while and I’m not saying anything about the South different anywhere else. But Walmart was an experience it was you go there for hours sometimes and and they now they’ve they’ve adopted this way. There’s more map. They’ve come out with a new concept with more maps to get to your items faster. They’ve consolidated all like items in an area right? than having them spread out to try to disperse and have people buy them randomly in different spots. And I really think that’s an example of a company that is going to at least trying to make a change based on the next normal,
Kon Apostolopolous 30:16
good. And they realize that the client, the customers priorities have changed. I mean, in the past, they used to design the stores in such a way that you know what, they wanted to get the max by making a go the longest route. So you would look at all of the different things you can even have on your list. Yeah. Now, people are so focused on that list, but they won’t do that anyway. So if they feel they have to spend three hours at Walmart, they’ll just order online.
Damon Pistulka 30:44
Yeah, yeah, I’m laughing because Andrews give me a bad time about my shirt. I put this orange shirt on because a couple a couple months ago or so. Michael O’Connor made fun of my red plaid shirt. When we were doing an event someplace. And I saw this one I thought, well, it’s you know, it’s October. It’s It’s Halloween time. I’m gonna put on the orange one. about that. See, but if I was in Tennessee, people would love this with a volunteer. It’s almost volunteer orange.
in Knoxville. Yep. Everything. Totally papers orange.
Damon Pistulka 31:17
Yes, it is. Yes, it is. I’ve been there. It’s a good time. But yeah, so it’s, you’re exactly right, though these these people are these companies are seeing this. They’re they’re making changes they’re doing the things they do. And even even the companies that are that are digital already are making the changes in the way that they they had to react. I mean, don’t when you look now in the Amazon Prime, which used to be, you know, rock solid delivery the next day or two days is they’ve been overrun. And, you know, they’re they’re getting it back. But it’s still I really wonder as as we look at this thing, and coming into the next normal and beyond how much of the buying patterns, the eating out patterns, and none of those things are changed forever. A significantly?
Kon Apostolopolous 32:07
Oh, yeah. I mean, considering the duration of this, and we’re not even through it yet. Oh, yeah. Well, this is going to be far reaching. And that’s why I think the book seven keys to navigating a crisis is so relevant, not just for today, but for tomorrow and next year and beyond. Because we’re always going to be dealing with crises. But this is the part that people need to realize this is a next normal, we need to we need to look at that very differently. And the best way to predict the future, quite honestly, Damon is to create it. What part of that and start experimenting, start testing new things. Because you know what, all of a sudden, now people are realizing that they have permission to try new things to do things differently. I mean, that’s the big part of that. But at the same time that we look at what’s changing, it’s important for us to look at what’s not changing. And that’s part of where I keeps us grounded a little bit. Because, yeah, we’re we’re in transition right now. But there are some things that are still the same. Companies are still expected to perform, they still need customers, their customers still need their services, in many ways. We might reprioritize. But like you said, we still need to get our groceries from somewhere. Yes. So part of what’s happening right now with my clients, for example, with freshmen solutions, a big part of what we’re doing, is we’re trying to take in what we call our performance framework, the services that we provide to our, to our clients. I love that, Andrew, thank you. So what we provide to our clients and say, Okay, how does this work? How does this apply in a COVID? world? Or in a post COVID? world? Yes, all the areas that we touch on, I mentioned it with the human capital management, the human capital development. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s making sure you have the right people on the right seat on the bus going the right direction. So we start with them, we go back and we revisit, revisit their culture and we say, do your strategic goals still apply? Do you need to change something? And if you do, what’s going to change? And how do we communicate that out to your people? So everybody gets on board? If you have to make tough choices? Are you making them based on what you are as a company, your mission, your vision, your values, your story? Because I can guarantee you there are companies that are making rash moves right now. They’re they’re they’re letting a lot of people go because they’re trying to cut costs without thinking about it. But they’re losing a lot of talent. They’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Yes, letting people go that made that company.
Damon Pistulka 34:35
Yes. And that’s that’s a trap. I think. I think that’s a that’s a horrible trap for some of these companies, because it’s the short sightedness or the Aeron judgment by really looking first at what your company needs to look like now and into the future before you make those moves. is critical because the very people that are the very resources its people as cash Is quipment is whatever facilities, all this stuff shedding all this stuff? You could very well find yourself in a spot that yes, I’m, I’ve cut my costs or whatever I’m trying to do there. But I’ve cut the exact resources that I need.
Kon Apostolopolous 35:15
And that’s another paradox, for example, you want to trim the fat. But if you cut too deep into the muscle, you got a problem now. Yes. So there’s another thing. So we talk about that with our clients and try to help them understand that what’s, what’s the long game here? What are their best suited to do? And what’s going to maintain the reputation in the market the reputation with their customers? And we take a lot of those seven keys that we wrote for individuals, and we apply them to companies as well. Yes, then we look at the aspect of you know, one of the other areas that that’s very big for fresh solutions is providing training solutions is providing the element and competence development. Well, when we look at that, now’s a good time to upscale to retool your staff. I mean, if you’re going to be working on a digital medium now to get to your clients, if you have a sales course, that won’t be able to go and pound the pavement and knock on doors. How are they going to do it this way? Are you training them? Are you getting them ready? So these are the things that we need to look at? Are you training, preparing your workforce for this new environment? Because I can guarantee you the most important skill? The growth mindset that we talked about, is your ability to learn, unlearn, and then relearn. Yeah,
Damon Pistulka 36:30
yes. Changing? Yes. And, you know, it’s, I was writing it down here, because as you’re talking about that, one of the things I think that you hit on that is, is key for so many industries right now, and so many is virtual selling. And this is never gonna I mean, not never, but it is going to take a heck of a while before travel is normal. And, and you’re out doing what they were doing nine months ago, or whatever the heck it is. 10 It’s been a while now. But you know it when you’re out on the road, some of these people were gone five days a week, they were seeing clients, they were doing their sales, and if they haven’t gotten over that hurdle of, Okay, what are the new? How do I sell in the virtual world? But how do I, you know, everything from what is that that appointment look like? What we’re talking about is awesome appointments. Because when you think about what is what’s happening all around us, even if I just said, Okay, I’m gonna do this appointment, virtual, I’m doing the same appointment, you’ll be it’ll be a disaster. Yeah, it is a disaster. Because that because as you said, and we all know, there’s so many other factors that are in people’s lives right now. Because the work and the life are just one big jumble for a lot of people. And it just doesn’t work the same.
Kon Apostolopolous 37:55
But exactly to that point, it brings me to the next thing, the next area engagement. So part of what we help our clients with is understanding how do they engage their people, okay, so they can do the job, the question becomes, will they do the job? Yes. And a big part of this is that empathy, that understanding that leadership has to have with their people. But it’s also it’s no longer work life balance statement. Now it’s work life integration, it doesn’t stop. And I have to work at 10 o’clock at night when I put the kids to bed in order to get my job done in order to keep that going to be an understanding of that. But think about it the different way your people may have answers to, what the heck are we going to do going forward? You know what, as an owner, as a senior leader, you may not have to have all of the answers. Why not engage your workforce? Why not? So you know, what, I want to keep this thing afloat? What are you willing to do? How can you help me? How can you help the business? How can you help yourself in the workforce, ask those questions. We coach executives all the time and emerging leaders on this thing. Part of this is really getting the most out of your people. And you know what? People want to be part of that. If they feel that they’re included. They won’t feel like a victim. They won’t feel like a critic. They won’t feel like a bystander. Yes, like a navigator. that’s helping
Damon Pistulka 39:16
- Yeah, if they’re if Yeah, exactly. It’s they’re helping you find the path and have input in where we’re goingitthey will be there with you and they will, they will put their minds and our hearts into it. And that’s really what anyone wants in a business is when you can get from one’s mind in your heart. You know, that’s all you can
Kon Apostolopolous 39:36
expect. When you look at it, the numbers are staggering. I mean, Gallup poll after Gallup poll year over year, we pre COVID it was it was a fat one out of three, maybe we’re committed to their job engaged. The other two thirds were either disengaged or they were looking for their next job. Now even sabotaging things. Yeah, exactly. Andrews right. They often the people closest to the work typically have the answers. They know what’s going on. Yeah. know who your clients are and what they’re thinking. Yeah. Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. The fourth area that we work on from a human capital management standpoint and how we impact performance is we get your best performers now not just to engage and have the knowledge but the work together. So we bring the teamwork element, and figuring out how do we best function together? How do we play nice in the sandbox? Mm hmm. How can we get all of these different talented people involved and pulling in the same direction? Because most of the time, unless you coordinate them, they could be pulling in opposite ends, it becomes more it becomes a lot of different things. And right now, especially you can’t afford that.
Damon Pistulka 40:49
Kon Apostolopolous 40:50
yes. They need to be aligned and being able to work together.
Damon Pistulka 40:55
Well, and yeah, and as as they want to have in our workforces. Now. It’s going to be diverse, it’s going to be diverse, both from a people standpoint, who they are their experience, all this kind of stuff, but then they’re going to be geographically dispersed. So it creates another level in there and another challenge for you to do it. But it is the same challenge that we’ve been dealing with for a long time, it just presents itself in a different way, because of what we’re dealing with now.
Kon Apostolopolous 41:25
I mean, the other day, I had the privilege of having a conversation like this one, with a friend of mine, who leads an IT team over at Adidas North America. And there were members of his team dispersed all over North America and beyond. And it was fascinating to see the diversity of people have faces of experiences just on this team alone, and how each one of them felt about this. But the fact that we work together to try to bring them on board and hear them and understand them and have that empathy. The feedback that I got afterwards is that it made such a big difference for them. And to me, there’s nothing better. I mean, you and I are in this, first and foremost, to help people to help companies and people that are running those companies, and a part of those companies, we are here to serve. So from that perspective, there is no better feeling than watching a group come together really being able to execute well.
Damon Pistulka 42:24
It is an incredible feeling is incredible feeling. You know, I used to use a simple sentence. When when people say because a lot of times when when you’re a leader in a business, or in a thing, really, people think you have all the answers. And as soon as you show them that you don’t have all the answers. But then you can ask the magic question. “What do you think?” And listen to them.
Kon Apostolopolous 42:49
Damon Pistulka 42:50
And give them good, good feedback, or utilize the idea as it is because it might be the best idea. But when you start to do that, and you cultivate those kind of relationships with with your entire team, what do you think? How do we all we get, we have to use all of it to be the best we can. It’s it’s really, really is special? And it will, it will allow? as Andrew says, a lot of times, you know, small companies can innovate faster than others, I believe it’s because they harness that diversity and ask questions like that. It’s just simply easier in a smaller company to get that kind of connection and do that.
Right, that is the magic. That’s, that’s the character. That’s the culture of the company. Because at the end of the day, culture is nothing more than the way we do things. Yes. That’s essentially what it is. I mean, you and I walk into companies all the time, within what 5 -10-30 minutes, maybe you can tell what the culture is like when he’s gonna start observing.
Damon Pistulka 43:53
Yeah, yeah, you can add them in a minute. You can, it’s from the from the way the person greets you, when you’re walking in, it’s from you look at the landscaping on the outside of the building, you look at the, you know, the just all everything you can walk through and eating off your driving, if you if even if it’s simple as this if you hire a plumbing person that comes to do your plumbing work for you. And that person is meticulous about the way they walk in and the way they do it. And I’m not talking about the work I’m talking about. They come in and they’re they’ve got their uniform on. They put their little booties on. They don’t they’re very polite at the door. They explained you know, the whole nine yards. They do this just perfect, right? That attention to detail is a cultural thing. But what it does to them as a business is phenomenal. It just it just drives in and drives your competitors crazy because that cost very little to do that. But The immense difference it makes in the long run is is incredible.
And that’s a great point. And that brings me to the last area that we focus on with Fresh Biz Solutions. And that area is your people systems. Because you can take good people, if you put a good person in a bad process in a bad system, that system is going to win. Yes. But you’ve got to make sure that everything from how you select those people, because you’re going to pick the people, not just for their technical skills, but for that kind of character, that kind of service attitude, because that you can’t teach easily. You hire for the behaviors and the attitude attitudes that you can’t teach. You want to make sure that not only are you bringing them in, you’re onboarding them, you’re training them, you’re rewarding them, you’re managing them, and you’re promoting them for all those right things, the consistent pieces that are in line with your culture and everything else, which then brings it back full circle. I’ve worked with companies that throw money away, because their systems are not aligned. And they’re getting the getting the results that they’re paying for. But they’re not the results they want. Because they won’t understand the difference. Mm hmm. And that’s when people tell me I don’t have money to spend on training, for example, to me, I can show them five different ways where they’re wasting money. Yeah, get for every dollar they spend, they can get for $10. back for each one of those dollars. Yes, person was hired, because of their attitude and train to the company standards and culture to represent them. They are an ambassador of your company. How do you want to be seen by your clients?
Damon Pistulka 46:36
Yes, yes. And that’s that is, if you hit the nail on the head there, it’s it’s training is not optional anymore. And this is part of the changing workforce to talking about those people that we’re talking about that are 10 years out of out of out of high school or college. Now, they’ve been in economic times, and they and they are also millennials. And they are also the ones that when you when you look at people in businesses that don’t deal with a lot of millennials, they wonder why renewals don’t work out in their business. And a lot of it is the onboarding and the culture piece that when you know, 20 years ago, a lot of people just simply Hey, you got the skills, here’s what you’re going to do. And you’re kind of thrown into it. And you have to figure it out. That that was not the right way to do it, first of all, and we knew it. But now it it’s the difference between being able to hire them in the first place. Because they will ask about what the onboarding is like. And and then to keep anybody and and develop them for the long term.
What were you and I talking about in January, when we when there was such a shortage of talent when the unemployment rate was below 4%? And everybody was screaming? We can’t find good people to work? Yes. Well, guess what the companies that I work with right now. I’m asking them to go against their their initial instinct to fire everybody, or to cut costs. And I say now’s the time to train. Now’s the time to go and grab that talent that your competitor just unleashed on the street, they just dumped them.
Damon Pistulka 48:11
Exactly. If you can do that, that is that is you will win coming out of this. Because if you if you have spent the time to develop the right training, and you can hire people, and they’re good people, you can get better people and not just say that’s not the right way to say it. But you can you can develop a much stronger workforce.
Yeah, I mean, you can upgrade your talent significantly. Right now. Smart companies are doing that right now Damon. Now is the time.
Damon Pistulka 48:36
Yeah. And that in the tech companies, I’ve got a client that we work with, and they’re there. They do development, software development, right. They they go now because of the geographic geographic diversity they can do. They’re hiring people outside of the tech areas, their clients are in San Francisco no longer have to worry about hiring somebody in San Francisco. They’re hiring people in Tulsa. And and you know, Mankato, Minnesota, where they can find a developer that wants to live there, and doesn’t have to worry about paying a you know, an entry level $1.5 million home price.
Friedman wrote a book more than 10 years ago about the world is flat. And he was talking about the globalization of talent right now. Yeah, we’re back to that point where now you can have a dispersed workforce. You’ve got what we call digital nomads, working and living anywhere in the world. Yes,
Damon Pistulka 49:31
yes. Oh, even even look at a company like ours. Look, our company we’ve got three or four people in our company. And we have at any one time, three to seven or 10, even gigi workers going at any different time doing different things in the US and across the world. You just you find the talent where you can get it to do what you need when you need it. It just works. It’s just so much so much that businesses are losing out if they’re not considering that when they do it anymore.
Kon Apostolopolous 50:07
That’s the difference right now between those companies that are adaptable, flexible, willing to pivot, and look at their business model very differently. Yeah, keep as the core of what I still need to deliver, what am I about? But let me be flexible about how I deliver it and even who delivers it. Yes,
Damon Pistulka 50:25
yes. I don’t know. Andrews kind of reaching here. He thinks that maybe Park City and we could get people to work there. I don’t know. Maybe.
Kon Apostolopolous 50:33
I don’t know about the talent pool there. And
Damon Pistulka 50:35
yeah, I don’t know, might be jumping in a thin, shallow, shallow pool, but just getting up. But yeah, it you know, this is this has been an interesting conversation con, because, you know, there are, I think, really, for me, I’ve been ready to do this for a long time. I’ve been so this is the the COVID thing. Yeah, it sucks. just just just get it over. It sucks. Okay. And I moved beyond that a long time ago that it sucks. And there’s there you know, there’s a lot of people out of work, and there’s only so much we can do. But you know, when you when you take that and go, Okay, that’s the situation. And then do what you can go on for like you said, chart the path, take the steps forward. And and as, as you guys wrote in your book, seven keys to navigating a crisis, I mean, get in navigation mode and figure out where the hell you’re gonna go at least the best, you know, the best direction you think today because, in my mind, sitting there worrying about, you know, being the critic being all those four things, does not do you any good. It doesn’t you know, get through it gets be sad over it, but then start moving forward, whether it’s a job or or whether it’s what, how do you need to move your business, it really doesn’t matter what it is. But until you do that, and make that step forward, I mean, you’re really kind of spinning in circles.
And that’s exactly it. And in the seven keys to navigating a crisis book. I mean, we lay out a roadmap, a very practical guide that yeah, it was written originally for the individual, it’s an easy read, it’s an easily consumed piece. But what you can draw from that is the simple messages that you need to carry through in your life beyond, or as a business leader. I mean, the same rules apply when we talk about, for example, self care, for an individual self care means one thing, I mean, really recharge your battery, make sure that you’re not running yourself ragged during this time. To your point, you know what, there’s the physical aspect of COVID. Yeah, maybe it’s good to see Professor Pete Alexander out there. But at the same time, there’s the emotional, the mental, the spiritual, take care of all those things, that for a company self care means do I need to update my benefits offering? Do I need to look at my people very differently? Do I need to check on them? to see what’s going on? Do I need to adapt my workplace so they can feel safe? Because right now, Damon, we have to re onboard all these people. They’re returning back into a workplace. That’s very different from the one they left. Yes.
Damon Pistulka 53:12
Yes. Yeah. If they’re going to return and, and then how do you know, they’re just so much, they’re just so many different, different things that they’re going to be dealing with throughout this and it is a and it’s in, in, in orders at this phase? I mean, it’s gonna change again, and again, you know, before we, before we get into 2021, I’m sure. But it’s it’s just one of those things. I think it’s time. You know, me personally, anyway. And I know we talked about this a lot. It’s, it’s, it’s time for us to figure out where we, you know, the direction we should go.
Kon Apostolopolous 53:47
But I mean, with with your line of work with the exit, exit, you’re waiting. This is a big part of what you do with my team at fresh build solutions. We have answers for people. Yeah, we’re gonna wait till 2022 before you start putting things in gear, it’s gonna be too late. Yeah, let us help you. Now. I mean, this is the big thing. I mean, for you, for me, for the people that are out there that are providing similar services. Ask somebody you trust, get the help you need individually and for your company. And start moving now start planning now. Do the things that you can. So you’re ready. To your point. Again, I’ll say it again, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Be prepared. And when the opportunity comes up, you’ll get really lucky.
Damon Pistulka 54:33
That is for sure. That’s for sure. Well, con, it’s been great talking to you today, man. And as as always just an inspiring conversation. And man, I can see how you’re helping people and it’s just got to be a thrill to be able to do some of the things you do. So if people want to get ahold of you, what’s the best way to do that?
Well, the simplest way if they’re on LinkedIn, they can find me there under Coach Kon That’s my, that’s my moniker there. We can go to my website, www.freshbizsolutions.com. And all of the contact information and all of the details of what we talked about there. If you’re looking for some answers, go get the book seven keys to navigating a crisis.
Damon Pistulka 55:18
Yep. And that’s on Amazon, right? Correct. Yeah, yes, it is. Because I’ve got, I’ve got the Kindle version. I’m not I’m not. I’ve got a couple paper books. But I mean, I actually need to get that one on paper so I can take it with me easier. Well,
Kon Apostolopolous 55:31
Dr. Elia and I may be putting out an audio book if you’d like to do that while you’re running around.
Damon Pistulka 55:35
Oh, that’s good, too. Because I do. I’ve got multiples and some but and and we’ll also for those listening we’ll also have freshmen solutions in the in the comments on our YouTube video and then on again on the page on our website. We’ll get it up there. But again, thanks a lot. Kon Apostolopolous, fresh Business Solutions. author of seven keys co authored with me, Dr. Elia and yourself wrote seven keys to navigating crisis. Thanks for being on the zero way round table today.
Kon Apostolopolous 56:07
Thank you for having me.
Damon Pistulka 56:08
You bet Bye Everyone