Adam Scholtes :            00:00                This is the Skill Up Build Up podcast powered by the Morales Group where we are leading talent to thrive. The war for talent is real. Skill Up Build Up is a place to connect with businesses and community leaders to surface for thinking solutions for a better skilled workforce to compete in the 21st century.

Adam Scholtes :            00:21                All right, welcome back to the Skill Up Build Up podcast presented by the Morales Group. I am your host, Adam Scholtes.

Kofi Darku:                   00:28                I'm Kofi Darko. Hoody. Hoo.

Adam Scholtes :            00:30                We have an exciting episode today. We have the partner and president of California Closets, Marcus Hall. Marcus, welcome.

Marcus Hall:                 00:38                Thank you so much for having me.

Adam Scholtes :            00:40                Awesome. Awesome. Well, sometimes we have some fun questions but I think we're going to dive right in today.

Kofi Darku:                   00:46                I thought we were going to go with more of the meat of the episode today. Let's start with some of the meat and then have fun as we end. I'm all about delayed gratification. So let's, let's give you the true essence of the episode before we get to the fun. So Marcus, what we typically do, and we thank you for being accommodating of this, is just get a better sense of the background of the guests. So can you tell us about your background and what California Closets is up to nowadays?

Marcus Hall:                 01:11                Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Thanks again for having me on. So I am a husband to Lindsey, a father to Naomi and Kai and I am the partner and president of California Closets. We own and operate a couple of franchises here throughout the Midwest, Indiana, Kentucky, Central Illinois, and Ohio. Prior to that, I made my rounds through the event formerly known as the RCA tennis tournament through Conseco Fieldhouse with the Pacers and The Fever, and then rode the rocket ship at Exact Target through the acquisition of Salesforce. And now I find myself in the custom storage world.

Kofi Darku:                   01:43                Wonderful. You've been on the move, man. We're glad to have you on the show. You have a lot of perspective to offer.

Adam Scholtes :            01:49                Can you give us a little bit of a, um, an, an idea of the size and scope of California Closets for some of the listeners who might not be familiar?

Marcus Hall:                 01:56                Yeah, sure, sure. So we're a franchise and again, we operate in sort of a three to four state radius. We've got about 49 employees currently and each of those employees are stationed throughout the three states that we operate within Indy, Kentucky, and Ohio. The lion share here in Indianapolis where we have a, an office headquarters where we manufacturer or product.

Adam Scholtes :            02:14                Got It. So on the show we like to talk about how, how do our guests help lead talent to thrive? How are you and California Closets doing that right now in 2019 or what are you guys projecting to do when 2019?

Marcus Hall:                 02:28                Yeah, I would say maybe an asterisk with everything that's about to be said because I think we were pursuing how we can lead talent to thrive. I think this is an ongoing challenge and something we are we identify with as an opportunity to not only accelerate our business but to impact the community and help people live fulfilled lives and so that's a pursuit of ours that may not be completely realized ever, but I think we're aiming in the right direction. A couple of things come to mind, I think we think a lot about utilization, so we think about the potential an employee has today and the potential that we could potentially develop them into in the future. So for us, we think that, and we've been told this to some of the anecdotal surveys and information we received from our team that there may be other skills and abilities and interests that an employee might have, so it's up to us to figure out how could we mind those types of things from our existing workforce. I'll give you an example. Currently we're looking at an innovation counsel inside of our organization where we're asking for volunteers to spend a couple hours every quarter and solve a bottleneck in the business and then to present that solution to the leadership team for possible implementation. It's one small way we're trying to give people an opportunity to work outside of their core day to day function, but allow them to flex some new muscle and see who might bubble up as someone that's got some unique critical thinking skills or problem solving abilities that don't resonate everyday in their current job.

Adam Scholtes :            03:48                That's awesome. If we could sit on that for one second. The Innovation Council, that is going to be up and running this year?

Marcus Hall:                 03:56                Yeah, so, so in 2019 it's launched, we took applicants or sort of folks who volunteered to participate in this cross departmental, uh, across our entire organization. So it was important that we had representation from everybody in the company because the bottleneck that they're going to identify as not going to be supported by leadership. They'll identify hate what's not working today and how do we want to tackle it.

Kofi Darku:                   04:17                This is awesome because oftentimes, especially in the war for talent that we see out there, a lot of companies are focused on who's the new people, who, who can we bring in that new? We need new talent. You're focus on utilization is refreshing in that you're realizing there's talent there and I'm sure companies already already acknowledged they have talent internally as well, but as you think about your talent that's there, you're, you're thinking about, okay, immediate talent and that potential today. Um, and then also for the future, what is their talent going forward? And I just think thinking of different ways of bringing them in to try and help see what that potential is and really focusing on those existing employees is really a smart move. So I just wanted to comment on that

Adam Scholtes :            05:02                Yeah, because people get complacent, right? They get into their, their, their nine to five or whatever, whatever role they're in and it's comfortable, it's good to go and they may not even know how much more utilization they have, right? So, um, specifically some of the tests and things you guys are doing to define that. What else are you guys doing to find the underutilization of your associates?

Marcus Hall:                 05:22                Yes, I think there's a couple things. There's a very tactical piece. We do own and operate our company here in Indianapolis. So we have a company in our backdoor that we work with for some surveys and some, some data collection that will glean some of those insights, but tactically speaking, we have a bit of a saying that I think we'll probably talk about this later, but we need to know our people, right? So I need to understand who you are, what makes up your background and experience and how might that be parlayed into a different role, a different opportunity inside this company. So if we truly know our people inside and out that we might be able to self identify some things or help them self identify what that other opportunity might be.

Kofi Darku:                   05:59                When we spoke before, there's also a component of development. Can you touch on that for a little bit?

Marcus Hall:                 06:04                Yeah. So I think there's, there's a lot of things in flight in 2019 this year that, uh, that we're doing. I think one of the most basic things is understanding a clear win loss line for every employee. So we have things that we'll refer to as a success profile. Um, and so we want every employee to know, hey, what are the one or two things that I'm driving towards, what are my key core responsibilities and this idea of a success profile for everyone across our entire company. It's a big effort. It's kind of a, a huge, uh, level of effort to get us get that stood up, but we see the opportunity there for role clarity and then also identify, Hey, what gaps might this individual have with that existing role? And then how do we work with them to address those gaps, coach them through them, develop them. So success profiles is one example of what it might look like for us to just even give a baseline of what your role actually encompasses and how you're being held accountable. But also how do you know if you're winning or losing?

Kofi Darku:                   06:57                This seems like a really holistic approach and I'm sorry Adam beating you to the punch here. It seems like a really holistic approach, but there is also a focus on leadership and developing leaders, isn't there?

Marcus Hall:                 07:08                Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I think, you know, we, we certainly as we grow and we encounter new opportunities and new challenges, there's always an opportunity for us to look outside for new leaders and new influencers. I myself come from outside this business, I didn't grow up in it, so I think there'll always be that because we need to make sure we're always challenging the status quo and challenging the current way of thinking. But we have a lot of talent on our bench that's yet to be realized and I think we acknowledged that. And so getting the most out of those people, right? Like true leaders develop other great leaders and I think that if, if we're focused on investing in our team through certifications, through training, through PR programs that are available to them through our franchise company, through our holding company at threefold, uh, investing in our people as a core, a core focus for us this year.

Adam Scholtes :            07:52                Marcus, you talked about, um, the clear win loss line, having one or two things that your employees, I guess every employee is driving towards a, are those one to two things determined by the employer or are they determined by management?

Marcus Hall:                 08:05                Yes, it's a good question. So we've tried to develop some of this content at the end of the day, we also, as a manager or a leader of this department or this individual, we should be able to very clearly articulate that win loss line or that number one number or we talk about rocks in our business, what's the rock that this person's focused on carrying, some of that will be coauthored, but as a leader and a manager, we may be able to identify what that individual is delivering, uh, within that role.

Adam Scholtes :            08:30                So you can have a situation where an employee a, if I'm your employee, Marcus and I come up from like here are my two things, you're like yeah, those are soft. Adam, like get outta here, right? Like you, you then are like tweaking that a little bit, like you can work on them, but we got to look a little higher.

Marcus Hall:                 08:43                I think. I think what we see too is that to the level of a, of an employee being disengaged, there's misalignment somewhere. So an employee may be crushing it right on these two rocks or these couple of things when in reality the expectation of a manager or leader or the boss, if you will, is two very different things. So when that alignment happens, right, it creates distrust and, and people are unsatisfactory in their role and then they become disengaged employees. And then we talk about utilization. You're certainly not getting maximum utilization utilization here. You're getting the, you know, just a, just a sliver of what's available.

Kofi Darku:                   09:17                There was a third component of what you all are pursuing in this 2019 year and there's many different ways of talking about it, but I love the concept of you're trying to make sure you're caring for your internal staff. Can you speak to that? Yeah.

Marcus Hall:                 09:33                Yeah. That's a. that's one that requires us to be a bit vulnerable when we talk about that topic because it's not one that I read in a lot of articles or Harvard Business reviews or books around how do you lead and care for your employees, but who doesn't want to feel cared for? Right? If if people are safe in their work environment, if it's a trusting environment, if they feel cared for, I think there's an opportunity again for us to get the maximum output and not that that's the total goal, but there's also an element to caring for our team. That's just the right thing to do. It should be a safe place. They should feel cared for. If we truly know who you are, how many kids you have, where you grew up. If we know these things, I think the relational equity that's built over time, this is sort of a accelerates the performance of us collectively as a unit, so care is something I think that will be one of those ongoing pieces. It's. It's always risky to talk about because it's a challenging thing to do sometimes in the workplace, but I think directionally it's something we're pursuing consistently,

Adam Scholtes :            10:31                So I'm going to put you on the spot a little bit here in our pre-show meeting, you had mentioned this caring topic that you had given us a talk of some sort to some kids and you amazed you. I think you said you were amazed at like of everything you said that was the thing they really liked picked up on. Can you quickly tell that story and kind of share your takeaways?

Marcus Hall:                 10:51                Yeah. So I have had the opportunity to go back to where I grew up in Sweetser, Indiana, one stoplight, half a gas station, six people and went to Oak Hill High School and spoke to the students about what I thought was going to be career and the grind and the hustle and all these things. And I wove in the element of, of caring for people, caring for the families that choose to work with us. And a lot of students that even the teacher were blown away that I would spend that much time talking about being nice to people, caring for people, uh, and, and they just couldn't quite get their head wrapped around it. And for me it was a big Aha moment that this is the next generation of our workforce that we're going to get coming to our companies. And there's an opportunity here for us to talk more about what this can look like. Um, and, and I did clarify to them, right, like caring can also show up in ways that you feel pressed or gaps, uh, you are getting some tough coaching. Conflict can exist, all these things can be in a positive way and they are actually showing up in as a way of caring for people as well. So I tried to clarify for some of the students too that it, this kind of super mushy subject as well. Uh, but it was a fun chance to talk about a topic that was very foreign to these, uh, these, these future leaders.

Kofi Darku:                   12:01                I mean, I'm glad you shared that instance because I feel like there is an evolution, especially as the younger generation starts to get more situated into our workforce where more people are thinking about companies that can explicitly say they care, where it's apparent that the company shows that they care. And I think oftentimes we don't think to communicate it or how that's communicated. And so I think for you to distill it and say, we actually care helps to open the door for that communication and hopefully help other companies realize, wow, this is an important thing that we need to be explicitly saying. Uh, I also remember from our pre-show meeting you talked about making sure you're connecting your employees with the companies' why so that they can better connect with why you care. Um, and so I thought that was also very enlightening and something we should talk about here in this episode. You want to, you want to add to that?

Marcus Hall:                 13:01                Yeah, no, absolutely. I think that's something we're pretty passionate about. Um, I'd beat that drum frequently. So our, our why is, is a vision of designing a better life. And when you think about business, we think about caring for our customers, right? We think about delivering an experience that's unparalleled at California closets and that's been something we've shouted from the mountain tops from the day that I got involved in this business and we pursue that consistently. But as we've shifted this idea of care, what about caring for the internal customer as well? Um, and so the opportunity for us to make sure that we're carrying externally but also internally has been a big shift. So designing better lives for you and the custom storage solution we build for you in your home could also look the same way if we apply that internally, how do we design a better life for an employee whose family may be struggling with something, need a little extra time off. We had two instances at the last company meeting where we invite people to share, hey, where, where is the why showing up for you in one was externally a mother and a son got to cocreate a place where he would store his figurines. And I got to do that with a designer, right? He got to play a role in that. This young boy happens to be a show. He shows up on the autism spectrum spectrum. Uh, and he was very engaged in this experience and it was very particular about how his action figurines we're going to get stored and what a cool opportunity for us to design a better life for that mom, that son, that family through that. And then internally we had an employee who's father, he willingly shared the story about his father being ill and he just joined our company and he needed some extended time off and we granted that and asked how else we could support him. And he was pretty taken aback that he had only been employed for a couple of weeks even in no one asked multiple questions, pried, tried to understand what's going on here. We just supported that employee, tried to care for him and his family. Uh, again, all these things are hard to do at scale, but as we continue to try to be a growing business and make an impact, it's important that we set that foundation.

Adam Scholtes :            14:58                And I would argue too now that employee that you granted that time off to who's only been there a couple of weeks, like the amount of development that person's gonna have in your company, the amount of utilization that he, gonna go or she is gonna go above and beyond for you guys, right? Just because you took the second to care. So it's almost like it brings it full circle.

Marcus Hall:                 15:19                Yeah. Yeah. I think we have to check ourselves a bit with that too, right? Because as business people as competitive, you know, drivers that are trying to grow things, I think sometimes we, we check ourselves and make sure the intention is, is correct, right? Make sure the intention of granting that sort of free pass to travel and support your sick father isn't coming from a place of, Ooh man, does he become endear to us? Because I think we do have to realize that, look, we're running a business. The more we grow and we're profitable, it creates more opportunities for our existing people, their families, and the new people. Uh, but it, it certainly, it certainly does come to mind, right? If you treat people well, they're probably going to stick around or double down what they're, what they're willing to do for you.

Kofi Darku:                   15:58                Well, this whole conversation falls under the category of ideal or optimal employee engagement to me and as we're trying to lead talent to thrive and we're trying to help more companies and just the industry be better about the talent that they do have, it becomes really critical to think about what level of employee engagement do you have and what are you willing to put forward to retain that talent that you have. And if, if I may also add, I believe you leveraged a great resource that helped you get a better sense of how you were doing with employee engagement. Um, and I'm referencing Emplify here. You want to speak to what you learned as a result of using that resource and how it's helping you with employee engagement?

Marcus Hall:                 16:44                Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So we've been working with the folks at Emplify a startup here in central Indiana for about a, about a year now, and we've, we've had a chance to execute several surveys that solicit that information from an, from an unbiased anonymous third party. And it's been, it has been an incredibly humbling experience, an eyeopening experience. And it's one that's put us further down this path of care, of, of utilization, of developing our people. There's, we have to be careful because we try to boil the ocean sometimes with all the insights that in all the nuggets that come from these surveys, we try to focus on a few, but there is so much opportunity. And I know I've shared a lot of stories in ways that we are doing things right. I feel like more often than not I'm doing things wrong, but it's our pursuit, our desire to, to move towards that. I think that drives us.

Adam Scholtes :            17:34                What else do you want to add on California Closets? On your guy's mission, I'll tell you what I love, Where's your why showing up for you guys? Let us do that. Every, every team meeting. Every. Is that like, is that like your drum march right there?

Marcus Hall:                 17:47                I love that feedback. But the feedback I've gotten from, from leaders and mentors is that you haven't said something enough until your team is mocking you or making fun of you for saying it that many times. So. So, uh, so they definitely do that because it's our credo. We talk about our why and our core values. It's not a sticker on the wall, it's just a way of operating.

Kofi Darku:                   18:04                Let's switch gears and go into some stuff that's not so workforce development heavy. So I'm going to start off. Adam, if you don't mind. Marcus Marcus, if you were a wrestler or a baseball player, what would be your entrance song when you came out for either your wrestling match or you're at bat?

Marcus Hall:                 18:27                Since I got cut from the baseball team, I'm going to go wrestling, big WWE fan, WWFfan, and on the date myself, but I'm probably going to go a Kris Kross Jump. That's awesome. So yeah, that, that, that, that would be it.

Kofi Darku:                   18:39                Would you feel pressure to have to jump, you know, with some of the mentions of jump as you're coming into the ring?

Marcus Hall:                 18:44                I mean, how can you not? I'm going to get the crowd involved. Yeah, we're, we're gonna. We're going to get it going.

Adam Scholtes :            18:50                What's your wrestling name?

Marcus Hall:                 18:51                Oh Wow.

Kofi Darku:                   18:52                Yeah. See that Skill Up Build Up comes at you quick,

Marcus Hall:                 18:56                Puts me on the spot. It's going to be something about the tornado, I feel like that just comes to me. So just wreaking havoc.

Kofi Darku:                   19:04                We can, we can use some type of alliteration, you know, something that has T and then tornado or breaking habit. It's kind of next level and so it's a little little brainy, but I like that too.

Adam Scholtes :            19:15                All right, so you get your own late night talk show. Who Do you invite as your first guest?

Marcus Hall:                 19:22                Probably breaking the rules, but qualifier, dead or alive?

Adam Scholtes :            19:26                Oh Man. Yeah. That's. Just throw it right back. I will say, let's go alive.

Marcus Hall:                 19:31                I'm going to go. I want, I want a Simon Sinek and Seth Godin and I want them to be in a verbal sparring match.

Kofi Darku:                   19:37                So your late night talk show is more of a debate show and maybe you're bringing this. Yes, exactly. Hot Take for not sports and you bring in those two. I like it, I get it, I get it.

Adam Scholtes :            19:49                So okay. So again, follow up. Dead.

Marcus Hall:                 19:52                Jesus Christ.

Kofi Darku:                   19:54                All right, and for your grand finale, what is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Marcus Hall:                 20:02                This is tough. I mean, I don't know how many asterisks I would put out there for, um, for, for this, when there's, there's far too many people that have been so influential in my life that have given me countless, countless bits of wisdom. One that comes to mind that's been influential is that a give with no expectation of ever receiving and don't keep score.

Kofi Darku:                   20:21                I love that one, that advice. I, I, I always embodied trying to embrace this concept of doing work for no reward and it kind of touches on that. Sometimes you just got to get in and do it. Don't expect anything for it. And I would say that leadership of Morales Group feels the same way. So that's some great advice. Well, Marcus, it's been a pleasure having you on this episode, you and your work at California Closets. It's inspirational. So I'm very grateful that we were able bring people into the room and talk about this with you.

Marcus Hall:                 20:50                Thanks for the time and thanks for allowing me to talk about what we're doing at Cal Closets and keep up the good work here at Morales Group.

Kofi Darku:                   20:55                You're a great way to help us start to talk more about employee engagement in 2019. Wow. That was some great insight from Marcus there. Really appreciate him being on the show. Adam, what'd you think of that?

Adam Scholtes :            21:06                Oh, I loved it. I loved when he talked about where is the why showing up for you? I'm going to challenge every business owner. Even if you're an employee out there listening right now, where's the why showing up for you and challenge your team to think about that because every single person in every company at whatever job or role they have is affecting the customer or is affecting the why of the, of the mission. And I just, I love that they ask their employees that at every company meeting. That's incredible. The other piece was a, he mentioned, you know, you know, in your mission or your, um, your why is really sinking into the team is when they start making fun of you. I thought, I thought that was pretty good. I was like, Huh? I started thinking that. I was like, oh, I wonder if I wonder if anybody's making fun of me, but uh, those were my two big takeaways from Marcus.

Kofi Darku:                   21:53                Man. I'm just going to say that this episode, especially as we start doing work in 2019 is an excellent example and provided excellent examples of promising employee engagement. It is all about that employee engagement. The talent war is real. If you want to stay in tune with this conversation on how we are working to skill up and build up, please continue to access skillupbuildup.com and we'll join you down the road.