Ever wonder why so many big organizations struggle to innovate? Mike and Chris interview Rod Lenniger about “intrepreneurship” and the preconditions necessary for innovation to happen within a larger organization (or, really, any organization). Recorded at MAC6. www.mac6.com. AZ Brandcast is graciously sponsored by Conscious Capitalism Arizona.
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AZ Brandcast is graciously sponsored by Conscious Capitalism Arizona – the global movement inspiring businesses to do good…because it’s just good business. Find out more about Conscious Capitalism and the many companies transforming our world for the better on their website: consciouscapitalismaz.com
And our show is produced by Phoenix Business RadioX and recorded at the enviable MAC6 coworking space in ever-sunny Tempe, Arizona (the 48th – and best state of them all). AZ Brandcast is a project of Resound – an Arizona brand agency.
Annonuncer: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Phoenix, Arizona, it’s coming time for Phoenix Business Radio, spotlighting this city’s best businesses, and the people who lead them.
Mike Jones: Welcome to AZ Brandcast, where we talk to all sorts of awesome people about the power of brand, and how to build great brands in our remarkable state of Arizona. I’m your cohost, Mike Jones. I’m here with Chris Stadler, he’s going to intro our guest today.
Chris Stadler: Guys, our guest today is Rod Lenniger.
Chris Stadler: I first met Rod when he hired me to work at an autonomous vehicle company where he was the interim COO of a division. Rod was a pleasure to work with, and always asked great questions. Before that, Rod sat at the helm of several acquisitions at iCrossings, helped raise a $100 million in venture funding until it eventually sold for $325 million. I think I have that in my couch like, what’s this? What’s so great about that, or whatever? Anyway, he’s completed post-grad work at MIT and Columbia Business School. I’m just kind of wondering how we got … Anyway, let’s not ruin a good thing.
Chris Stadler: As I’m reading this, I’m thinking Rod has better things to do, but we’ll just leave that alone. Rod now serves as adjunct faculty member at GCU teaching a class on entrepreneurship and innovation at the Colangelo College of Business, is a mentor at Galvanize and at Venture Madness for Invest Southwest. But before we talk to Rod, a word from our sponsors.
Mike Jones: Yeah, so I have to mention our fantastic friends at Conscious Capitalism Arizona. They’re our sponsors of this show, and they provide to make this happen every single month. This local association is on a mission to share with the whole world how doing business for good is just good business.
Mike Jones: The local chapter of Conscious Capitalism here in Arizona incorporates and hosts tons of local events. Provides resources for business leaders to instill a higher purpose in their company, and engage all their stakeholders. And I think that’s for us, one of the really cool reasons why we love to partner with them on the show.
Chris Stadler: Amen.
Mike Jones: Be sure to check them out. That is ConsciousCapitalismaz.com. We’ve got lots of events coming up, including the International Conference of Conscious Capitalism is going to be hosted in Phoenix in April. I think that’s going to be a really, really exciting event for any business leaders or people who really want to instill a higher purpose in their business.
Chris Stadler: Did you mark your calendar, Mike?
Mike Jones: I have marked it on my calendar.
Chris Stadler: Righteous.
Mike Jones: I’m waiting for presale tickets.
Chris Stadler: Nice.
Mike Jones: Waiting anxiously.
Chris Stadler: Before we get started with Rod, we have an icebreaker don’t we, Mike?
Mike Jones: Yeah, we do.
Chris Stadler: We’re going to ask Rod because … and I had this in mind that he’s very cosmopolitan, and a world traveler. So I want to know, Rod, from your qualified opinion, what is your favorite food city in the world?
Rod Lenniger: Well, it’s probably either Rome or Florence and Tuscany. Also, a small village called San Gimignano, because Italian food is phenomenal. And you know, to get Italian food in Italy is like a totally different experience than getting it here.
Chris Stadler: How so?
Rod Lenniger: It’s just much more robust. It’s tastier, it’s fresher. The natural products besides the pasta, that some of which they actually make there, but the salad products and the caprese, and all that stuff is right there. It’s all natural. So you walked through the towns, and you see the food for sale, and the little shops that the restaurants are actually using to prepare their meals. It’s a total experience.
Chris Stadler: I feel like if I had an Italian restaurant, I’d want my own cheese guy, like in the back, and he has to be old, and wise with bushy eyebrows, and like with an accent.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah.
Chris Stadler: You know?
Rod Lenniger: Yeah. That could help. Yeah. Might get you a little bit closer to that ideal thing would help.
Chris Stadler: So, follow up then on that. What is your favorite American city that makes Italian food wherever you have the best Italian food in the United States?
Rod Lenniger: That one’s pretty easy to since I’m originally from New York and grew up in New York City. There’s a San Gennaro festival every year in the fall and little Italy downtown Manhattan. If you’re from that area and you have any desire to have great Italian food as best as you can, short of going to Rome, that’s the place. As you look around, most of the people are speaking Italian and have come at some point in time in their history from Rome or Tuscany or some other area there and the food is just phenomenal, and it’s a big festival.
Rod Lenniger: It’s outdoors and they have games and stuff for kids and lots of different tables along the streets that you can pick out what you want, including a large supply of cannolis for the whale.
Mike Jones: Oh man.
Rod Lenniger: Which you could get mugged on the subway if you have a box of cannolis.
Chris Stadler: I mean you had me at New York City, but then you added like the authentic Italian, the people speaking Italian.
Mike Jones: Oh, the cannolis.
Chris Stadler: So, cannoli on the subway. So you’re saying that’s like having cash?
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, pretty much.
Mike Jones: [crosstalk 00:05:12] about being careful. You don’t want to get mugged.
Chris Stadler: No, no idea.
Mike Jones: Cannolied?
Chris Stadler: Mugged for your cannolis. That’d be a story.
Mike Jones: That’s a book title, right?
Chris Stadler: So, if you got mugged you’d be able to recoup all your money when you did the commercial for the cannoli company.
Mike Jones: There you go.
Chris Stadler: It was so good I got mugged! You’d be the jarred.
Mike Jones: Well, uh, why we don’t have sound effects on this show. I just do them all myself.
Chris Stadler: We don’t have sound engineers and practicing my trombone. Right.
Mike Jones: Chris, bring us back to reality.
Chris Stadler: Well, so I’m going to flip questions because I feel like we just talked about Rod’s international experience and bringing it down to Phoenix and Arizona. I’m wondering, so you weren’t just like, oh yeah, I was born somewhere and then came here and lived all my life here. You actually went to MIT, did coursework their post grad and then you have a master’s at your MBA? Is an MBA from Columbia?
Rod Lenniger: Yeah.
Chris Stadler: That’s legit. So, you have experience outside, experience from a bigger city bringing that to Arizona. What’s maybe the one or two things that stand out most about the culture here? About how business is done here?
Rod Lenniger: Well, it’s evolved over the years and when I first came to Arizona was 1991 I guess, and prior to that time I lived in Europe and Australia and different places in the US mostly related to job assignments with them, pretty much big companies. And then when I moved out here, you know, a lot of it was the typical weather. We were living in New York and Connecticut and just could not stand the cold anymore. We said, this is always great, it’s always cold. My wife had a friend who got married in Phoenix and with all the business travel, both of us had done all around the world, we’d never been to Phoenix. It was cold, it was freezing in the winter, and we said, “Well, why don’t we go to the wedding and extend the stay and stay there for like a week, eight days and get a feel for the area?”
Rod Lenniger: So, we stayed at the Pointe at South Mountain, which is what they called it then and had a phenomenal time. We were triathletes at the time, both my wife and I and they had a huge olympic lap pool and people were running on the trails and we said, “Wow, we’ve died and gone to heaven.”
Chris Stadler: That’s awesome.
Rod Lenniger: Because it’s tough to train in New York and New Jersey in the winter, at least anything outdoors. So, when we came here were pretty excited because there were technology companies, which is the discipline that we were both in. They had, not headquarters but regional operations here. At that time there were, besides IBM, there were a lot of mini computer companies that we were familiar with and they were around the valley and we thought it was a good place for business.
Rod Lenniger: So we left and went back and then we said, you know, that’d be something to consider as a place to live because they’re into technology. They have some pretty vibrant and exciting things and it’s clean compared to the east coast. We couldn’t get over everything where people’s cars to the streets, to the sidewalks. It was just so clean and felt fresh and new, which compared to New York and Boston ,it is. So, we wound up selling the house on the east coast in three days. It didn’t give us much of a time to make a choice and we moved out here and I still had a consulting business. My wife was a freelance marketing writer so she found things to do and I eventually connected with what was then known as a Bowl HN because the H was for Honeywell and the N was for NEC. They had a cooperation and then they got out of those and became [inaudible 00:08:54]. The French don’t like you to say bowl. They wanna say bowl. So we got used to doing that.
Rod Lenniger: But I think that to get back to your original question, when we get out here and we’re looking for work and looking for clients, and I was still flying around because I had clients on the west coast, that the change between New York and Phoenix was pretty noticeable and significant. You call somebody in New York and you hardly hang up and they’re calling you back and they’re probably yelling at you. You call somebody in Phoenix and days would go by and we’d say, “What did we do? They’re not getting back to us?” So, it was just a different pace and you had to learn … and it’s not that that’s wrong, it’s just different.
Rod Lenniger: I mean, that’s one of the things from living around the world. Everybody says you’re in another country and you’re surprised at how they live and say, “How do they live like this?” Well, they live very well and they like it. It’s just different. And that’s one of the things that particularly the French find annoying about Americans is they’re so judgmental and getting a chance to live outside of Versailles for awhile, I found the people were really gracious and they loved their lifestyle and quite frankly, they can’t understand why Americans tend to overdo it and be such fast paced hustling and not stopping to smell the coffee, if you will.
Rod Lenniger: That was one of the most noticeable things, the difference in the pace, but by the same token, when we first moved out here, people really welcoming. My wife was setting up phone service or electricity or something, and the agent she was talking to was asking her where we’re from, what we’re doing. She invited us out to their house, in I think Gilbert, for an afternoon of have fun and get acquainted and they brought friends over and we’re like, “Okay, that does not happen in New York and Connecticut.
Chris Stadler: Wow.
Rod Lenniger: So, that made us feel very good and it was pretty much that where wherever we want around the state. So, that was a good feeling. You felt like you were in a good place. There was competition, there was industry, but it was also a slower pace. Companies were successful, people were into what they were doing, but it was not that hustle, hustle, hustle that you got in New York.
Chris Stadler: So, there must be some difference, not just a qualitative difference. Like, oh, we’re slower, so we do less of the same as everywhere else. What is the actual advantage to being a little slower if there is one?
Rod Lenniger: Well, over the 20 years since I’ve been here, there’s not as much difference as there used to be. But I think people … I don’t know if slower is an advantage or even that noticeable now, but people are a little bit more less likely to jump to conclusions and particularly, working in New York, people right away make snap judgment, snap decisions.
Rod Lenniger: There’s a lot of smart people and aggressive people. But, I think you have people who I’ve met in Arizona who are really good at business and an attorney that we worked with, Tom Curzon at Osborne, is probably the best slow guy I’ve ever met. Only from the standpoint of he’s been negotiating term sheets. He’s been on boards of companies I’ve worked with and the board members of the people negotiating term sheets, entrepreneur and investors can actually be close to blows almost. Tom is one of those people who just calmly brings everybody back to the table. Comes up with a really great solution to the thing they were talking about and I think he’s pretty emblematic, although he’s probably above a lot of people, had the ability to do it, but he’s probably emblematic or example of how taking a slow and very thoughtful approach can be pretty successful.
Rod Lenniger: So it just the craziness of the New York and the thoughts of Wall Street and stockbrokers and screaming and yelling, that has to be the way it is and it can be effective. But there’s something about the approach that people take care that’s, it’s formal, but it’s not chaotic and people are not going to get run over here. It’s not like they can’t keep up. I think it’s just a different approach. Maybe more thoughtful, maybe more … a lot of polite people in Arizona. That was kind of shocking because you’re not always ready for that coming from New York and the greater metropolitan area.
Chris Stadler: Or if that’s some of our Midwestern transplant influence.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah. That’s the other thing we found. We went out here, we felt so new and then we found out everybody else was just less new.
Rod Lenniger: They were very, very few native Arizona and so you’d meet one and go, “Oh wow. Can we get a picture with you?” As an outsider initially, you figure those things out, it’s part of the culture.
Chris Stadler: So, a mutual friend … I’m going to steal another question Mike, before I missed my friends. So a guy from a Local Motors, he’s now with Aircard I think in San Francisco. He’s the CEO of Aircard. Aaron Frank?
Rod Lenniger: Oh, I didn’t interact with them that much. I recognize the name.
Chris Stadler: So, he had this theory, right. So his theory was that, in the north it’s too cold to be outside, so people are getting a lot of stuff done. He’s like, down here people are so slow because there’s just so much, you know, you can go outside and do all you know.
Chris Stadler: So I’m like, hmm, there might recreational opportunities. Yeah. Might be. Yeah. And even maybe have a take on that new volunteers to grab. Well that one I can kind of buy it. Well, okay. But counterpoint you think of Minnesota when you think of like high speed, quick decisions, snap judgment. It would have to be in necessary but insufficient like pre requisite for, you know. Yeah. So it’d be like there’s something the city and maybe maybe it’s one of the variables, but I feel like, you know, like, because New York is usually the one that everyone tosses out and says prototypical American culture, get stuff done as fast as humanly possible, make decisions quickly run people over if you have to, if you can make it in New York, you can make it any. Exactly. Did you just come up with that? No, I just came to me.
Chris Stadler: Wow. Trademark if you could make it here. Uh, so yeah, I don’t know, it feels like there’s something else to it than just that. Yeah, maybe that’s part of it. Yeah. You know, it’s just, it’s different things. I mean, you know, in, in New York, um, the, the, the timing is different. The, the time for work is different, you know, you would not be unusual to kind of stroll into the office at nine or even later in New York, but people would stay and work till seven or later and we got out here, everybody’s going to work at seven in the morning because of the heat and everything. They had no problem leaving at four or 4:30, which we found really strange and unusual. And your first tendency is to be critical of that, you know? Oh, they’re not accomplishing as much. Well actually they were, it just was a different time zone, different.
Chris Stadler: A climate which had an impact on it and you know, it works, would work serious isn’t necessarily going to work somewhere else. And is in New York it was normal to stay up and watch the late show or the night show, which you know, way back it was Johnny Carson. Nobody even thought about. I would no more stay up that late out here because I know what time I’m getting up in the morning. Yeah. So it’s just different things. Yeah. You go out there and the basketball games on the west coast or so late, they’re like, how do pee? Oh yeah. Run that. We’re three hours ahead. Yeah. It might be at 7:00 here. It’s like 9:00 or 10:00 depending on the time of year. Yeah. In New York. So you’ve talked a ride, you’ve thought a lot about, um, you know, one of the things we want to tie was partnering with academia businesses partnering with Academia and um, so I’m wondering is, is uh, you have experience with both Asu and Gcu and are those, are those colleges unique?
Chris Stadler: Um, is there, is there a cultural difference that you’ve noticed between those colleges and colleges? You know, other colleges, universities? Yeah, I mean I think it’s probably not a fair comparison Asu to Gcu because Gcu is still very, very new. Um, and, and I’ve worked with a Asu and punch in the engineering school and he’s now, I dunno, chief of innovation of the world or something like that. He keeps getting a good title. I don’t know how Mr. Universe, and then that guy, he is responsible for so much and successfully, so you keep seeing announcements about what the university has done and he’s usually responsible for that. And, and I worked with them years ago as an advisor for the um, uh, the engineering school and um, so just, I, I don’t want to miss the question because I’ll get ahead of myself, but I think Gcu is, uh, at, at the moment I’m certainly not as focused on research and they’re not as focused on technology old.
Chris Stadler: I’m in the business school. I’m not in the engineering school so I really haven’t been exposed to it that much but I haven’t heard of that much. But Asu is so focused on research and the amount of grant money they bring in from, you know, agencies like DARPA and others is just phenomenal. So there, you know, I, I would not put the two schools together. I may think GCO is great for what they’re doing at Asu is a beacon of light from the technology and innovation standpoint and you know, programs for supply chain and different areas within the school. And you know, I’m familiar with the engineering and business part, it’s, it’s bigger than. And then years ago we even tried to work and did to a certain point with the event, the East Valley Technology Institute, which is a little bit more hands on, more focused, less research, but turning out people for technology jobs and that’s why we wanted to coordinate with them.
Chris Stadler: So I don’t know if that gets to the question you were asking, but I have a lot more to say about workforce development. Well, yeah, that’s what I was going to ask about because you had mentioned that there’s this phenomenon where a lot of students, a lot of engineering students come out of Asu but then end up going somewhere else. Yeah. To work. And the statistics that I told you about were um, you know, probably four or five years old and I don’t know if it’s changed, but in working with Ponch and others, they’re, one of their frustrations was not getting great people into the master’s program, although they wish they had more from Arizona. A lot of them were from out of state, out of country. But when they graduated, if they weren’t moving on to a PHD program, there were getting jobs in California and other places not in Arizona.
Chris Stadler: And so I was with the Tech Council at that point. I don’t remember. I was president or chairman, something like that. And we’re trying to coordinate workforce development. He said, you know, there’s like three prongs to that. You have to have government involved with you, like it or not because they an interface. You have to have the companies involved if they’re going to leverage this and you have to be partners with academia, the universities, not just Asu, but you have a in the community colleges and [inaudible] and you would just part of Asu, but there’s a range of job skills that you’re going to need. So the, the idea was to get the companies together and say, hey, some of your programs and not necessarily creating the kind of skills and people that we need an industry. So visit us, let us come and tell you what those specific skills are.
Chris Stadler: And if you can integrate that into your curriculum that they’re coming out with those skills. We have jobs for them and then the, the companies and you know, the state of Arizona had to do a better job of explaining to the universities who these tech companies were years ago, um, what kind of jobs they had, where they were and what they were looking for. And it was just people weren’t talking to each other and everyone would say, how, how could these students be leaving? There’s such great jobs in Arizona and you’re taught to the students and they would say what great jobs in Arizona, you know, nobody came on campus who shame on us and they weren’t getting the information that they needed. So we’re trying to do is get the companies to get out of Workforce Development Committee and visit the schools, meet with the students and then have events at your company, you know, pizza parties or whatever, and get 40 engineers from different programs to come and see your company and get a tour and meet the people and find out if these companies.
Chris Stadler: And then obviously word of mouth when they went back to campus and say, Hey, there’s companies here. They’re not just, you don’t have to go to California and it’s like anything else, you develop a little bit of excitement and somebody gets into it and maybe the company designate someone you can work with to stick with that and somehow it dies off. It was an ongoing challenge and I think the Tech Council, I’m not actively involved anymore, but I am chairman emeritus, which you know, means that somebody who used to be important, but I still, we have a board meeting tomorrow. I still go to their board meetings. I know they have a workforce development group of volunteers from member companies who try and keep this stuff going. And years ago, and I was at Bu, uh, we actually adopted a, a middle school.
Mike Jones: We actually adopted a middle school down the street from where the facility was and we brought those kids in and let them see how printed circuit boards were made and how computer software was developed and got the feel for what a facility looked like. And we would send engineers onsite for technology days at the school and you develop this relationship and you say, “Well, they’re middle school. Well, they have parents, they have brothers, they’re going to grow up and go to college and they’re going to remember the cool company down the street.” And it was a good process for a while until we started to do less and less business in America. But that concept we had taken to the member companies and very few people were willing to adopt it, because it requires a little bit of a commitment.
Mike Jones: So the end goal was great, but it wasn’t short term enough cause and effect for them to really invest in it. If it was easy-
Chris Stadler: Some multiyear investment.
Mike Jones: Yeah, and some employee had a kid in that school down the street, then yeah, you would do it. My point is from at that point all the way out through the colleges, universities, you got to have something going. And the community colleges can’t wait to help. Whenever we got them involved, they’re a little bit more flexible I guess than the big universities and they’re, turning out people with skills in two years that companies need. You don’t necessarily have to have a four year degree. If you can learn Python, hey we got room for you. Teach yourself XML, plus two years of technology at Gateway or one of the Maricopa county colleges. There’s jobs for those people. So I think there’s a disconnect between how sophisticated the college education has to be versus the actual hands-on skills that companies in the valley need.
Chris Stadler: I feel like that’s always been a challenge too with technology is that the skills required change so quickly. 10 years ago nobody was talking about Python. Right now it’s like the hottest language in the world.
Mike Jones: I know.
Chris Stadler: And so a school like ASU who is developing curriculum that’s hopefully going to last longer than five years is really under a lot of pressure. Like that’s a hard thing for them to keep up with.
Mike Jones: Yeah. And I think because it’s so vital and changes so quickly, you have to get people from the school out into the companies to see what they’re doing and vice versa, and go in and present to classes or to program chairs about, “Hey, here’s where we’re going. Here’s what we need.” And guess what, here’s what we need today, but here’s what we think we’re going to need in three years. So design your program so it’s appropriate with the overarching need people who can communicate. Everybody I talked to in industry or on the industry side is just frustrated at the lack of the ability to be interactive and communicate with your peers, with your superiors, even if you bring somebody in to train, and use an internal person to train them.
Mike Jones: So it’s really hard to sit down and teach somebody something on a program and text the information to them, which is the experience you have. You have to be able to actually talk to them and understand how people are going to react to the way you talk to them. I mean the whole interpersonal thing is almost scary for me. I don’t know if it’s as much for other people, but when I see it and even teaching now and I’ve pretty much juniors and seniors in the business school from the business program and some from hospitality and I think one from nursing and maybe one engineering because they run the same class in the engineering school.
Mike Jones: But scheduling sometimes brings them into my class. Very few of them are really good at articulating their position and I understand what it’s like to be a junior or a senior in college. I have to get an electric jolt to have me remember back that far. But you know, so they are a little nervous, they’re in front of peers and others who maybe they’re not comfortable talking. But I do everything possible to make it not threatening and try and bring them out. And even when they come out, it’s just I’m really surprised that the lack of ability to conduct interpersonal communications in a way that’s going to be effective. So that’s a big thing. The point is it’s not just the technical skills.
Chris Stadler: I’d agree with that. I think, I know from our experience, just hiring people, those communication and interpersonal skills. Like if you can communicate with empathy, we can do a lot with that.
Mike Jones: Sure.
Chris Stadler: The rest of the technical skills are important, but there we can train.
Mike Jones: Yeah, absolutely.
Chris Stadler: And getting somebody who can actually relate to people and communicate clearly with them is just gold.
Mike Jones: Oh yeah. And you know, you think the people may be internally or technically are not necessarily going to be interfacing with the customer, but eventually they will, you know, through support or through visits or whatever. And that makes such a big impression on the customers. And you can have a guy who isn’t all that maybe highly qualified in the technical work that he’s doing, but he’s good enough. But if he has those interpersonal skills where he can pretty much charm a customer, that’s gold.
Chris Stadler: Yeah.
Mike Jones: And there’s very few people like that you see coming up.
Chris Stadler: Yeah. And if you want to future proof your career, those are the skills that will last you a lifetime in your career.
Mike Jones: When I was at Iowa, we had a bunch of engineers and they all had varying levels of social skills, but there was one who was just really … He’d get out there and talk with people and he wasn’t maybe the most competent engineer. He’s competent enough, smart. He works for NASA now. He’s a PHD researcher in NASA. It was obvious because he could talk with people and he could convince people of things, and aside just convincing of … So just charming people for any reason. It’s sometimes you need to help someone understand something they don’t want to understand, right?
Chris Stadler: Sure.
Mike Jones: And so part of that, just that social skill of being able to push deeper into that relationship with a client.
Rod Lenniger: Absolutely. We see it all the time and the companies need to create environments where employees feel comfortable to do those kinds of things. I saw a video the other day, Simon Sinek and he was talking about leadership and he said he went to the Four Seasons and he got coffee in the lobby and there was a barrister, young guy there working and he said the guy just blew him away. He was so friendly. He was so nice. He was so pleasant and he made it so enjoyable for Simon that he said, “I gave him 100% tip. It was that good. $5 coffee, $5 tip.” But he said he made a point of asking him. He said, “Do you like your job?” Without hesitation the barrister said, “I love my job.” And so Simon followed up and said, “Well, why do you love your job?” And again, without hesitation he said, “All day long managers from the Four Seasons come by the stand and they always ask me how I’m doing and if I need anything. And it’s not just my manager, it’s all the managers in the company.”
Rod Lenniger: So what does that tell you about the environment that they’ve created for their employees? And then he told Simon, he said, “You know, I also work at another hotel.” I can’t remember which one, so I’ll say it’s a hard rock. It wasn’t, but one like that. He says, “I also work there and it’s different” He says, “The pay is good and everything, but there it’s all about pushing the employees. “Come on, you got to do this. You got to work harder. It’s tough to find good employees.”” He said, “There, I just kind of try and keep my head below the radar because I don’t want to get in trouble.” So look at the differences between those two employee environments and what kind of people do you think you get out of that? It makes a big difference. It was a great story and you know Simon’s just a great storyteller, but I think it’s a really good example of it’s not just the employees where you want interpersonal skills, they need a chance to be able to use that and express themselves and not feel threatened and get rewarded even if it’s, “Hey, you’re doing a good job.”
Mike Jones: Well that’s interesting because another topic you wanted to talk about that I wanted you to talk about was the idea of entrepreneurship within an organization. So at first I was like intrepreneur, he spelled it wrong. Turns out Rod did not spell it wrong.
Rod Lenniger: Right.
Mike Jones: Intrepreneur tell us about that.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah. At GCU they have a program called intrepreneurship with an ‘I’ and innovation because the two sort of go hand in hand. So the thought being that if you’re an innovator or you have an innovative idea, and we’re all designers, everything in this room where we’re conducting this was designed by human beings. It didn’t just pop up. So somebody had the wherewithal and the skill to look around and see what might have been needed and maybe it was a small change, maybe it was a big one, but it was innovative. So a lot of companies now are really claiming to focus on innovation and if you look at annual reports and a company called CB Insights who I follow because of all the work that they do, looking at startups and technology and not just little ones, they track Airbnb and others.
Rod Lenniger: They did a survey less than six months ago of almost 700 companies around the world, not just the US to get their view on what are they doing for innovation? Do they consider it important? How do they address it? And overwhelmingly, the majority said, “Yes, we’re all over innovate. We’re all about it.” And of course there was a follow up question, “Well, can you tell me what you’re actually doing with innovation?” Well, the percentage drops well below 50% of anybody who is actually implementing a real program, but they’re pretty ready to take credit for it. And very often the board is saying to them, what are you guys doing as far as being innovators? So the idea of an intrepreneur is having the ability in a company on either a formal or an informal basis to have a great idea which may be specifically related to what the company is doing or it might be a little bit tangential.
Rod Lenniger: But take that and run with it as if you were an entrepreneur on the outside looking for funding. But now you have sort of a internal parent, who if they believe in your plan and you, they’ll fund your activity just as a VC or a PE firm would. And then you get to choose or recruit employees either from within or outside the company to join this intrepreneurial innovation team. And they follow specific practices. They use human-centered design, they use business canvas models, all the things to evaluate the innovation and other tools to implement the innovation. Those are the companies that take a formal approach to it and obviously they measure it carefully, and they create environments where the employees already in the company who are not in the innovative group or not in the intrepreneur group know what to expect and how to relate to the people who are going to be doing some things differently. Because if you just identify this group and say, “Well, you’re the intrepreneurs”, and they’ve got all this baggage of being in a bureaucratic environment for the last 20 years, they’re not really going to spin anything out there.
Rod Lenniger: They’re going to like the parent’s money, and they probably are not going to be willing to take risk. You know what entrepreneurism is, you’ve got to be ready to fail. It’s probably good if you do a couple of times. Pivot, restart, change the minimally viable product. All of those things that you wouldn’t typically do in a GE. Well, we know GE [crosstalk 00:33:41] We have some experience there where it actually did work in a small group. So that’s what companies are trying to do when they say, “We’re going to be innovative.” And Intel started doing this a while ago and I don’t know enough about them to assess how good the program is. I’m sure it’s like a lot of others where some are good, some are bad, but that it’s not normal for most companies who are at particularly public enemies living quarter to quarter on earnings to say, “It’s okay if you fail, it’s okay if you lose money, we’re behind you.”
Rod Lenniger: Well, that’s until the stock drops, and you got an earnings call coming up and somebody, Mr CFO says, “Yo chief, you know how much we’re spending on those innovative groups?” So it’s a battle. It’s hard to do unless the company really is going to commit to it. But more and more companies are, and they’re turning out some cool new products that they probably wouldn’t have gotten from their traditional R&D function. They’re realizing that employees, people who are close to the product, close to the customers are going to see things that management scurrying around trying to hit numbers is not going to see. And if you can leverage that, you can have some great success. They’re are a lot like the traditional entrepreneurial community, and you got to be an internal VC and say, “Okay, if I fund 20 companies, I’ll be really lucky if three of them have success.” And that’s not easy in corporate America.
Mike Jones: Yeah. You have to be willing to fail. Yeah. And see a lot of it.
Chris Stadler: Yeah. I feel like, and then probably the easy one, but just Google has done a really good job with that over the years. I don’t know if they still continue this program. I think they might have changed it, but they had their 20% program and Gmail was birthed out of that. Some epic failures like Google Wave and-
Mike Jones: Sure.
Chris Stadler: And others.
Mike Jones: Yeah. But you know, that’s … And I think they still do that. They may have reduced the percentage. It may not be totally across the company, but that was a great idea because before that, or even still now, there were a legitimate and illegitimate skunk works where people typically from R&D would get together because they wanted to work on something. They had an idea and the company would sort of look the other way or give them their blessing and say, “Yeah, go for it.”
Mike Jones: But now it’s outside the normal R&D channels. It’s everybody. And if you have a great idea, the companies have a program in place to say, “Here’s how you surface it. Here’s how we’ll evaluate it. If we’re going to pursue it, do you want to be part of it?” Some of the people just come up with the idea and they don’t really feel comfortable that they could own it. They might want to be part of it, but so … That’s the way the companies have to get ready to do that. It’s like, “Yeah, we’re into innovation. We have an innovation department.” No, you don’t have an innovation department. That doesn’t work. And I think it taps into some … Chris and I talk a lot about the internal human spirit of freedom.
Chris Stadler: Yeah. And you’re really just tapping into that across your entire organization when you just, “Oh hey, we’re going to be entrepreneurially minded and obviously have some structure and guidelines around that.” But allowing a greater majority of your workforce to really provide and exercise that muscle, right? They’re going to do it. That’s the thing. And especially in today’s world with the digital tools that we have for creation. I mean you can … people can make stuff, right?
Mike Jones: Well, as long as you’re at the … What was that hotel where the guy was happy working at?
Rod Lenniger: That was The Four Seasons.
Mike Jones: As long as you’re at The Four Seasons, right? Because if you go back to the Hardrock Hotel, then you’re going to keep your head down. You’re not going to [crosstalk 00:37:18] and nothing great will happen. You’re not going to go out on a limb with some crazy idea because you know it’ll make you look stupid in front of everybody.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, I mean, but you’re going to get those people who are in those jobs who do have great ideas and at least some wherewithal to see it happen. They’re going to do it outside the company, right? They’re going to take that idea and they’re just going to run with it. And so as a company, it’s like, “Man, you’ve got these brilliant people working for you. Even in jobs that maybe don’t totally qualify them.” On paper, it’s not a brilliant job, but there’s a brilliant brains sitting there making coffee all day, and why not allow them to tap into some of that?
Mike Jones: Yeah, and a guy like that, you could see how interactive he was with Simon. He’s going to be interacting with everybody, and he has stories and experiences to share with his manager of the company and say, “You know what we could be doing differently? You know what people really like?” Well, listening to your customers usually proved to be pretty effective in my career. So if you are the guy who can actually pull that out of people without saying, “Oh well, what do you like about it? What don’t you …” No, he’s interacting with them. He’s getting real world experiences that he can share and maybe create his own ideas.
Chris Stadler: He’s a Barista and a qualitative researcher.
Rod Lenniger: Pretty much. But there’s many people you can get like that who love their job, love what they’re doing, want to make it better for themselves and for the company that they appreciate. That’s where success comes from.
Chris Stadler: So is the culture, the culture of generosity where you set the stage and you let people share ideas and you reward them and you treat them like they’re brilliant, not because their idea is going to be this huge success, but because they thought of it, because they’re smart, right? So you have this environment. What else does it take? I don’t imagine you can just say, “Okay everybody be innovative, and then will section off part of your time. Be innovative.” There must be some structure and some guidance, some process to that.
Rod Lenniger: I think from what we’ve seen and some of the work that the school’s doing, there’s an emerging innovation architecture of how companies can treat these things. And there isn’t a single template because the companies are all different in different sizes and different activities. But the employees have to understand that there is a process and they’re not only allowed to be innovative, it’s kind of expected that they’ll do some of that. So for the companies that are going to be successful it starts with the onboarding, and an explanation of how this company we innovate. And it’s hard to put your hands around that completely because it could be anything. But here’s how we deal with it. Here’s how we encourage employees to bring it up, and if you have a great idea, here’s the process to follow and here’s what will happen.
Rod Lenniger: As I said before, how would we get evaluated if it’s going to be an idea we can use? How do we go forward? How do we set up a intrepreneur situation in the company? Companies are doing that, but you still have to get down to the lowest level supervisor and engender them with the enthusiasm for this and they’ve got all these other things they need to do and they say, “Oh man, do I have to get into this innovation stuff?” What did that guy say again? So if you know the person, the individual you told it to doesn’t follow up and doesn’t tell them what happened to the idea, your program’s going to die. I mean that sounds obvious, but it happens. So when you say, “What are companies doing?” They were trying to set up formal processes starting with when somebody comes on board, orientation and they follow up with it. Sometimes it’s regularly structured meetings.
Rod Lenniger: They’ll carve out a time at the end of the staff meeting and anybody encountered something they like, anybody have a great idea on anything? They’ll put questions out there like what really annoys you? What annoys you about working here? What annoys you about things on the way to work? Is it too long a line at the coffee shop? To get them thinking. So they understand that it’s not just what’s happening in our company. Innovation can come from anywhere. It could be something you see on the way into work or while you’re actually at work. It’s a mindset. Because you hire somebody and say, “It’s okay to innovate around here. Whenever you’re ready, just let us know.”
Rod Lenniger: Most people have no clue what you’re talking about, but there will be some people who are just filled with ideas and you have to be able to also deal with some ideas that are not so great and just be able to explain to the person that, “Hey, we appreciate it, but let me tell you why that’s probably not going to work.” Or give them time to try and develop it a little bit and explained the process to ideate, empathize, implement, test. People sometimes, even well, students, I guess it’s not surprising. They get surprised at the processes that you would go. They just think, “Well we’ve got an idea, we’ll get it to market.” There’s some steps between your idea and the market that we typically want to just run through, humor us. But once they learned some of the mechanics and the process, they kind of get it.
Rod Lenniger: So hopefully as they go on and develop careers, this will be ingrained in them that’s part of being a successful businessperson, intrepreneur, entrepreneur, you got to be thinking that way. What can we do differently?
Chris Stadler: Well, it seems like the creative process is similar to the process of innovation, right? So in our industry we’re in advertising and so once you get to the conceptual work where you’re like the company has a problem, then you write a creative brief, right? So it’s like, what is it, who’s it for and why does it matter? And the more specific you can get with those answers now you know, you have a message that’s going to be more and more relevant, right? And more and more interesting. What were you and I were, we were in cocreation, right? You were the chief operations officer of a cocreation company. My part of that was to re write the challenges. Part of my job was to write the challenges, which was just kind of like writing a creative brief. And so the advantage we had there was we were just like, “Hey community, solve a problem.” And so we had kind of an abundance of ideas coming our way. Would you say that’s a necessary part of a … What role does that play in providing constraints for innovation?
Mike Jones: Well, I don’t know if it provides constraints. Again, it gets to the size of the company and the nature of the company and big corporations. It’s a little easier for them to apply some of their historical processes and templates. I think what you were talking about when we were working with a software division that sort of leverage the maker community, not just in their company but around the world,
Rod Lenniger: Leverage the maker community, not just in their company, but around the world, to be able to get some of the best minds, to come up with ideas, or to address a challenge. I think that’s a beautiful thing because you only have so many intellects in your company. And they may be great, but when add 10 X times that by allowing it to be outside, and being very open, and being willing to accept other ideas, then that creates a very strong potential for innovation to happen.
Rod Lenniger: Again, it depends on the companies and for a lot of this it’s very new to them, but they seem to be into it, and employees respond pretty well. It’s not everybody. Some people say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t want to get involved in that.” But if you can get them to start thinking that they can be involved, and they may have some ideas that they want to bring to the table, and guess what? There’s a forum to do that.
Rod Lenniger: It’s like a lot of things in business, communicate, let people know what’s going on, and create an architecture or infastructure that makes it work, and people understand how it works because if you’re just … If you’re trying to address these idea every time it’s a new experience, and you go through a new process, it’s really painful, and troubling, and very often not effective. But if something fits into a, again, architecture or process that people understand from the management on down to the employees, you can get to an answer, a go, no go decision, much more quickly and can be effective.
Chris Stadler: Is there an example that you really like of a company innovating? So we talked about principles, but what about like, have you seen a process that really works well?
Rod Lenniger: Oh, I don’t get to see the internal processes of a lot of companies. We kind of kid about GE and their Consumer Products Division that we were helping at one point. I mean, I think they did a pretty good job because here you had giant GE for years, everything is an American corporation, structure, process, probably heavily weighted with too much bureaucracy, but they had their stuff together. So now they come into this co-creation community building thing, when you bring in the maker community in, and again, saying to consumers, “What would you really like in appliances from somebody like GE? What do you like and not like about our washing machines that we very cleverly designed over a four year process?”
Rod Lenniger: And they started to get ideas from people that they didn’t think about, and who was the idea coming from? The users of their product. And they finally realized that, this is great. I mean, they came up with some things that consumers wanted, like the ice maker, or those little ice cubes that consumers apparently wanted.
Chris Stadler: Was it the Sonic ones? Was it Sonic? It was some place people would always go get like ice.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, maybe it was, but people want this in their homes for some reason. Plus, they want their own $1,500 pizza oven.
Chris Stadler: Right. It’s true.
Rod Lenniger: Now, I wasn’t thinking that way until I heard about it. I said, “Wow, I could have pizza like three or four nights a week.” Yeah.
Chris Stadler: It’s obviously New York Style and not Chicago style, right?
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, well. But anyway-
Chris Stadler: No, you have a friend in Mike. He totally is on the hates the Chicago.
Mike Jones: I’m just not a fan.
Chris Stadler: Can I say hate?
Mike Jones: Yeah. It’s edging towards hatred.
Rod Lenniger: I’ve never had enough Chicago pizza to for or against. I’m a little prejudiced being from New York. I think that’s probably the best pizza. So getting back to the GE thing, besides, and you saw some of this, Chris, too from the experience that the employees at GE had. Once they saw what was going on in this innovative new division where they could get hands on experience, everybody wanted to join the division. I mean, they were turning people away in terms of employees. And if you were there, you were pretty cool and everybody was a little bit jealous.
Chris Stadler: You were the cool kid, man.
Rod Lenniger: I know.
Chris Stadler: And that was … it was FirstBuild, right? First build is how they could look that up?
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, absolutely. One of the other things was, I remember we were on a phone call with the woman who sort of headed that division at one point, and they pointedly asked her the question, “So what’s happened to your product lifecycle, or product lifecycle management system?” Where the time from new idea to a product out the door, or even finished design to start manufacture was I think 36 months, or some ridiculous amount. I mean, it was GE.
Chris Stadler: I think it was 36 months.
Mike Jones: It’s three years, that’s typical CPG, development time.
Rod Lenniger: So you get the good, the bad, and the ugly with having a big process. By using this new system, and bringing in makers, and having the community co-create the products, they got the product lifecycle down to 12 months.
Mike Jones: That’s amazing.
Rod Lenniger: And the same time that they had … and the last couple of years, how many products they got out because there’s an overlap. They had like three or four times new products getting out.
Mike Jones: That’s crazy.
Rod Lenniger: For a company like GE who’s already making a lot of money, this is wild. Plus, you’ve got the employees who are tremendously excited to be in there and out from some of the umbrage of the heavy processes, and getting things approved. It still has to get approved, but the cycles got shorter. So you’re in an environment where if you are an innovator, it’s an exciting place to be. It’s going to stimulate you to do more.
Mike Jones: You get to a win faster.
Rod Lenniger: Oh, yeah.
Mike Jones: Right, which everyone loves.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah.
Mike Jones: Or even at least, you shipped it. Even if it was a failure. It’s like, well, we got through it.
Rod Lenniger: I think we’ve all been in that situation.
Mike Jones: And we shipped.
Rod Lenniger: Does that count as revenue for the quarter? Okay, it’s ready to ship, it just fell off the loading dock, but consider that to be shipped.
Chris Stadler: So, if you’re ever in Louisville.
Rod Lenniger: Louisville as Jay would say.
Chris Stadler: Louisville.
Rod Lenniger: He used to call it Louisville, we got off the plane, yeah.
Chris Stadler: Mike, if we’re ever in Louisville.
Mike Jones: Okay.
Chris Stadler: We’ll go to FirstBuild.
Mike Jones: Okay.
Chris Stadler: And they have an amazing showroom, and it has a bunch of their products just out there. You just play with the stuff.
Mike Jones: That’s awesome.
Chris Stadler: And it all works, and refrigerators. I’m trying to remember the features now. And then, after that we’ll go to Doc Crows for some … one of three or four pages of just whiskey.
Mike Jones: You got me. I’m there.
Rod Lenniger: I’d go to that after you see the products.
Chris Stadler: After. And then go back and see how the experience has changed.
Mike Jones: Drunk user testing.
Chris Stadler: Yeah. No, they had a lot of success and a lot of interest with that. The key was … well, I don’t know what the key was. They had a lot of people from all over the world, because they had a recognizable brand name, right? So people were like hey, these people might actually make the thing that we … this idea that I have, right? So we have a lot of ideas, which is one of the measures of the creative process, number of ideas, a lot of research so.
Mike Jones: I want to kind of ask a follow up.
Chris Stadler: Yes.
Mike Jones: I think it might lead into the next one, anyway. So we talked a lot about innovation, so processes and thinking around how companies can instill that within their culture. How do you feel, just from your perspective, Arizona does with that, as a business community? Are we an innovative business community, or is that an area where we’re weak?
Rod Lenniger: Well, I think we are, and you look at the amount of new products, and whether or not they were innovated or got started here. The Nikola truck that’s hydrogen electric that’s like way cool. They announced that they were coming here at Venture Madness, and people were all bouncing off the floor. And we have a lot of autonomous vehicles companies here. And they’re, I think, a lot of companies that are sort of under the radar in terms of the things that they’re doing. Greg Head has his list of software companies that are approaching 400 now. Maybe it’s even over that, and he probably hasn’t identified everybody.
Rod Lenniger: And then, when I’m down at Galvanize, somebody’s always coming up with something pretty cool. There’s like legit startups there, and new ideas, and not every one of them work out, but between the accelerators, and the coworking spaces, Galvanize has been training and providing facilities for entrepreneurs. I just think there’s a lot going on. I think people do start to look at Phoenix now as a reasonably innovative place as opposed to, I started talking about little bit slow, little bit backwater. That’s probably not right.
Mike Jones: We used to be. At one point.
Rod Lenniger: There’s so many tech companies here, and every week you’re reading about somebody who’s moving a facility here, if not their corporate headquarters. So between the talent and what … I don’t know what the number for ASU is, but they’re one of the top two or three innovative universities in the world. I think the word is getting out and people are gravitating here. And if they do want to be innovators, they do want to be entrepreneurs, you don’t have to go to Silicon Valley and live in a cardboard box. You can actually afford an apartment here, and there’s some really good stuff going on.
Rod Lenniger: And you’ll be exposed to other people of a like mind because that’s one of the big things. If you think you go to Silicon Valley, or even now in Los Angeles, Silicon Beach, there’s lot of other people that think like you and are doing cool stuff, or somebody’s trying to do something cooler than you, and that just keeps generating that enthusiasm, and people say, “There’s going to be some good stuff coming out of there. This is a place I want to be.” So I think last 12 to 18 months, there’s even more of that happening in Phoenix, and I think Galvanize is a real plus, just have lots of accelerators. And companies like Infusionsoft that are very supportive of entrepreneurs and things that are going on. We’re getting there.
Mike Jones: Yeah. That’s good to hear.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, I think so.
Mike Jones: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Rod Lenniger: GCU’s got 73 students in my classes that are going to be innovators when they get out.
Mike Jones: That’s awesome.
Chris Stadler: Nice.
Mike Jones: That’s awesome.
Chris Stadler: And then, listening to this podcast is going to be part of their homework, right?
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, I forgot to tell them about that, but I don’t know, they don’t seem to listen or read.
Chris Stadler: And they have to retweet.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah. I should have told them to do that.
Chris Stadler: The episode.
Rod Lenniger: That they can do. I’m convinced of that for sure.
Chris Stadler: Okay.
Rod Lenniger: Or if we could Snapchat this somehow, that would be …
Chris Stadler: Why didn’t you say so, we could have Snapchated it.
Mike Jones: We got time. We’ll do a little post show Snapchat.
Rod Lenniger: I never know. There’s always interesting stuff going on there. But some of the ideas they came up with, part of their class project is to come up with an idea that they can turn into a business that they’ll create, and pretty clever things. And of course, a lot of them about improving the conditions on campus, including improving the learning management system, yes.
Rod Lenniger: And then, creating a mobile version of it, which they have some pretty good ideas where they could download PowerPoints, and podcasts, and have access to all the information that right now, they can only get on their computer, laptop, whatever they have. And things about transportation on campus, and GCU is expanding so fast that you need golf carts to get around. So scheduling classes used to be pretty easy, and now if you’re on one side of the campus and you need to get to the other-
Mike Jones: Yeah, there’s some lag time you got to account for.
Rod Lenniger: So, that big school issue that they didn’t have before.
Mike Jones: It’s a good problem to have.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, but I like that the kids are coming up with ideas to think of things they can do.
Mike Jones: That’s awesome. That’s really cool. Chris, did you have anything else? Chris is mesmerized by his pen?
Chris Stadler: No, I was just thinking like, I was just thinking about how I learned to walk super fast at the University of Oregon trying to get from one corner of campus to the other corner in 10 minutes.
Rod Lenniger: Is that why the football players are so quick?
Chris Stadler: Literally that may have something … We should look at, somebody should run some numbers. Fast football teams, size of campus.
Rod Lenniger: Well, that assumes that the athletes are actually going to class.
Mike Jones: Oh.
Chris Stadler: Yikes.
Rod Lenniger: I’m sorry. I should have said-
Chris Stadler: I will tell you, in our waning seconds. I had one class, it was a big service class, 200 and whatever students, Principles of Advertising, and I had probably half the starting offensive line in the back. And you knew where they were, they brought in drinks for each other and stuff. I knew exactly who they were. There was one guy who plays for the 49ers, won’t say his name. You can probably figure it out, one of two. Saw him once, no twice, in the term. Guess what days those were? Midterm and final.
Mike Jones: I pulled that stunt a couple times.
Chris Stadler: And he just showed up, no eye contact, he’s just kind of sitting there. He’s like doing his thing, and then he just … And he’s huge, super tall, big dude.
Mike Jones: Can’t miss him.
Chris Stadler: That’s the only reason I knew.
Mike Jones: That was my world religion class in ASU.
Chris Stadler: Yeah.
Mike Jones: I felt bad for that professor. I didn’t treat that class very well.
Chris Stadler: Those big service classes, you just can’t get emotionally invested in the students, man. You just got to keep your heart closed, man.
Mike Jones: Well, it would help, there were only 400 of us, so it was okay.
Chris Stadler: That’s even bigger.
Rod Lenniger: I would definitely need a TA.
Chris Stadler: I had two TAs, and I did not do any reading for that class.
Rod Lenniger: That’s my dream. I have none.
Mike Jones: #Teachergoals.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, exactly.
Chris Stadler: Give extra credit to make one of your undergrads a TA.
Rod Lenniger: Well, I did Turnitin, which is a company that the kids can send their papers through, and get them screened, and look for plagiarism, but also get grammar comments back. They just bought a company, I can’t remember the name of it, but this company is going to help professors grading for certain courses. I don’t think too many math courses. But they will actually do the grading for you, and you put in the parameters, but then, it just saves you just a ton of time.
Mike Jones: That’s amazing.
Rod Lenniger: I’m campaigning for GCU to take a look at that.
Chris Stadler: That would save some labor.
Mike Jones: Free that time up for something more innovative.
Rod Lenniger: I know.
Chris Stadler: You’d have to choose-
Rod Lenniger: Lesson plan.
Chris Stadler: You’d have to choose a style guide that would have to be AP or MLA or something, you’d have to stick with it, you know?
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, I know.
Chris Stadler: Then, I’d have the learn the style guide.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, exactly.
Mike Jones: This has been great, Rod. Thank you so much for coming on.
Rod Lenniger: Well, thank you so much for having me. I’ve been here a lot of years, and with the Tech Council trying to make things happen, and we’re still working at it. I think people are more excited in the Valley about the potential now. And that’s great to see, so keep pushing along.
Chris Stadler: I’m more excited after this podcast.
Rod Lenniger: Well, that’s nice.
Mike Jones: Do you have any event, or project, or something coming up that you want to let our listeners know about?
Rod Lenniger: Well, I’m working with a company in Mesa that provides software as a service enterprise resource platform for, what for it, the newly legalized marijuana industry.
Mike Jones: Nice. That’s a fun one.
Rod Lenniger: Medical marijuana. I’ve learned so much about the industry. I mean, that sounds like, oh, yeah, you didn’t know about …
Chris Stadler: Deep, extensive research.
Rod Lenniger: I’ve like laid in several hundred boxes of chocolate chip cookies in my house.
Mike Jones: Oh, no.
Chris Stadler: No, Rod.
Rod Lenniger: It’s an amazing industry, and it’s growing so fast. And the need for technology because of the regulation and what you have, you’re required to do. So this company is sort of second generation technology for these ERP systems, and they’re a startup, but they’re pretty far along. In fact, I’m going to meet with them after this.
Mike Jones: That’s cool.
Rod Lenniger: They’re pretty cool.
Mike Jones: Yeah.
Rod Lenniger: That industry is going to be … There’ll be the usual crazies, and failures of people who don’t do their homework, but there’s a great opportunity, jobs, people, revenue. It’s cool, there’ll be dispensaries popping up all over Canada-
Chris Stadler: The video game industry is just going to explode. People sitting on their couches.
Mike Jones: It already is.
Chris Stadler: Yeah, brownie ingredients, through the roof, buy stock right now.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah.
Mike Jones: That’s cool. That’s really cool. We’ll have to have you back on, do a little follow up.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah, I’d be glad to do that.
Mike Jones: That’d be cool.
Rod Lenniger: Hopefully they’re going to come out of the gate pretty fast. They’re getting some seed money right now to kind of keep them going. In the first quarter, they’ll be looking for, not a huge raise, but they’ll have revenue, and if they get that money, they’d be cashflow break even in the first 18 months, or by 18 months.
Mike Jones: That’s incredible.
Rod Lenniger: Pretty good revenue projections.
Mike Jones: That’s great.
Rod Lenniger: Yeah.
Mike Jones: If people want to get a hold of you, is there somewhere they can go?
Rod Lenniger: Usually, just look on LinkedIn, look me up. That’s the easiest way. We didn’t create a website because we didn’t … I do a lot of stuff on my own. I use contractors sometimes. Most of it is word of mouth, and people I know in the Valley for referrals. On LinkedIn, and also Facebook, I have pages for RAL Advisory Services, so in addition to my personal page, you go to LinkedIn on RAL Advisory Services, you’ll see some of the blogs, and things that I’ve written, and some overview of the services we provide.
Mike Jones: Cool. Well, thank you, Rod for coming on.
Rod Lenniger: Thank you, I appreciate being here. This was fun. I like jogging all these memories.
Chris Stadler: Yeah, it’s always a pleasure. Yeah, it’s always fun and inspiring talking with you about these things, Rod. Appreciate it.
Rod Lenniger: Inspiring, making me nervous. No, I like what’s going on, and I love working at GCU. I don’t love the admin but I love working with these kids because they’re bright minds, and they’re enthusiastic, and now that they’ve kind of gotten a sense of what it takes to get a business going. They all have ideas.
Chris Stadler: Nice. I dig it.
Mike Jones: Well, Chris, it’s been another awesome episode.
Chris Stadler: Yes, it has, Mike.
Mike Jones: Yeah. So people if you’re listening, you can check out Chris and I, and find out more about our episodes, and other guests that we’ve had on at azbrandcast.com. Huge thanks to Conscious Capitalism Arizona for sponsoring our episode.
Chris Stadler: Yup.
Mike Jones: You can check them out at consciouscapitalismaz.com. And of course, our great host, Phoenix Business RadioX.
Chris Stadler: Yup.
Mike Jones: They’re awesome.
Chris Stadler: Thanks guys. I’m looking at you, sound engineer.
Mike Jones: Yeah. Making this happen. Putting it all together. Doing all the stuff on the back end to put it together. And yeah, if you’ve got questions for Chris and I, hit us up, azbrandcast.com. You can find our contact information on there. You can also sign up for our newsletter, and of course you can find our podcast on all the usual places, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, I don’t even know-
Chris Stadler: All the places.
Mike Jones: All the places.
Chris Stadler: Yeah.
Mike Jones: So go find us, azbrandcast.com, just search that and you should be good to go. Thank you guys.
Chris Stadler: Love you.