The Big Boy Story with Chris Elias
Speaker 1: Welcome to PurposeCity, stories of humanity in action. Sponsored by Executive Wealth Management. Guests on PurposeCity do not necessarily [00:00:30] reflect an endorsement of Executive Wealth Management.
Ken: All right. Welcome to another PurposeCity. If nothing else, that is awesome theme music. I think we're going to have a fan base of people just rocking out. As soon as they hear my voice, they tune me out. Today, we have a friend and a pretty important person in life. We're going to hear about his life, Chris Elias. Hello, Chris.
Chris: Hi, Ken. How are you, man?
Ken: Good. How are you?
Ken: You're the first one we haven't had [00:01:00] in studio, but you're in your own studio-
Chris: I'm in my own-
Ken: ... because everyone has a podcast studio in their house these days.
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Ken: Who would've ever thought that we just had generally, a large percentage of the population basically has their own radio studio in their home, just it's normal?
Chris: It is normal, and it's amazing how easy it is to get the equipment and what you need to do. Of course, I run a radio show as well, so I had to go to something a little bit better. But hey, it works. It's all good.
Ken: It does work. It is all good. Welcome to this one. I've been on [00:01:30] your radio show.
Chris: You have.
Ken: Welcome. Welcome to this. It's not a radio show, but it's a pretty cool podcast. This one's entitled The Story of Big Boy. Chris Elias is currently the founder and principal of Nexecute, which we'll talk about. When you call yourself a principal, I'd expect CEO or president. Does that mean you have hallway rules or?
Chris: [00:02:00] No. It's just we played around with it and the terms like CEO and president and all that stuff, it just didn't really fit. We didn't want managing partner. I mean, principals are in any kind of firm or people who create the organization, they're like the key members. It opens us up. We can have other principals over time, other people come in. My ego doesn't have to be wrapped around a title like president or CEO or anything like that. We just keep it kind of simple. But quite [00:02:30] frankly, people call me all kinds of things and just whatever is fine.
Ken: Well, the people that call you Chris Elias, you have to tell a story when you have a name like Elias. Right? If people don't know, Chris is attached to the famous Elias Brothers. If I got my stats right from my online homework here, that even though it's been many years that it's been Elias Brothers have been associated with Big Boy Restaurants, it's mainly Midwest, [00:03:00] grew national. I think it's back to mainly a Midwest thing, but still, it's got like 75% brand recognition nationally. That sound right to you?
Chris: Yeah. I think at one time the Big Boy character, I remember in one brand study where they looked at it, they looked at the top 10 most recognizable brand logos and characters, and we were in that top 10 group. That was with Mickey Mouse and there were a bunch of others, Ronald McDonald obviously and [00:03:30] some of the others. But when you looked at it, we were in the top 10. I wouldn't be a bit surprised. I mean, it's been a lot of years and things have changed with Big Boy that it's not quite there like it used to be.
Unfortunately, so we sold the company in 2000, and somewhere along the way I saw an article that said at one point the Big Boy character was in one of those lists of one of the top brands that's due to disappear. I think just after the sale there were some things that [00:04:00] didn't go well for the company that bought it. I won't get into decisions, but there was a mass shrinkage in the size of the organization, the number of restaurants nationally. So I think that those of who've been around for a while recognize the character.
It's amazing how often I'll hear somebody say, "Oh yeah, we used to have one of those in our town and what happened?" Or, "Yeah, I remember that character. Oh. You know, I had my first date there." I mean, I hear stories like that all the time. But younger people, people born since 2000 [00:04:30] may not have the recognition to the Big Boy character, even though there's a little bit of cult following happening now as well. I've noticed some merchandise. There are different things. You can find the Big Boy character out there on eBay and other places where people are buying older stuff. There's this secondary kind of push on it.
Ken: Right. Yeah. My kid's 17, and he knows it mainly because it's still my parents' only place they want to have breakfast.
Ken: So there's that. You are the son of, was it Frank Elias?
Chris: It was Fred Elias.
Ken: [00:05:00] Fred Elias, I'm sorry. So there was Fred, Louis, and...
Chris: John. They were the three brothers. When you heard the term Elias Brothers, it was those three. They also had three sisters, my aunts, Mary, Helen, and Aunt Ann.
Ken: I was interested to read that they were... So it was six kids, right?
Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ken: And their parents brought them over from... Well, they're Lebanese immigrants.
Chris: [00:05:30] My grandparents, their parents, let's say came over on the boat in the late 1800s, early 1900s, in that range. My father, who's the oldest of the kids, was born in Boston. They had come over to Boston. We already had other family in Boston, but my father was born in 1913, so 108 years ago. Yeah, Lebanese immigrants coming over at the time when immigrants were coming to the United States. Came in through Boston and that's where the family originally settled.
Ken: [00:06:00] What's the brief history of how they came over? They were children immigrants with, of course, their parents. Then how does three of them end up being a part of what was one of the largest, really, restaurant franchises known to man at one time? Is that fair to say?
Chris: Well, so highly driven. Again, dad born in 1913 in Boston. My Uncle Louis was born in 1916 [00:06:30] in Boston. My Uncle John was 1919 in Boston. They were each three years apart. They ultimately moved to Detroit a little bit later for work, but as kids, they were in, as often immigrants do, their parents settled in an area of Boston at the time was one of the, let's call it tougher parts of town. Moving into the Great Depression and the Depression era, the family had little to no money. Everybody had to work.
Everything was really special. I [00:07:00] mean, if you just think about this, they used to tell a story once about how precious a nickel was to them. One day their dad gave them a treat and gave them a nickel so three of them could go to a movie. They dropped that nickel in the snow, so somebody stayed right at that spot while somebody went and got some matches so they could melt the snow and get the nickel. Think about this. If you dropped a nickel in the snow today, you wouldn't even think twice about it, probably. Right? But that's how precious things were.
When you grow up in that level of adversity, you do everything you [00:07:30] can do make some money. My dad boxed for a while. He was a boxer in the Golden Gloves, amateur rankings, and made some money that way. But then over time needed to get some work and because there was so little work in Boston, they relocated to the Detroit area, where we had some other family at the time. There was a company called the Eagle Backing Company. This is back then. I don't know if Eagle still exists in some form or has changed, but that was some cousins.
[00:08:00] My dad's first real job as soon as he could drive was driving a delivery truck. He started making money for the family just by driving a delivery truck and utilized funds from that to support the family and actually start paying for my Uncle Louis to go to college. My dad never went to college, but my Uncle Louis was the first in the family to go to college and start getting some level of an advanced education. That went on for a little [00:08:30] while, and ultimately he pooled enough money. And my Uncle Louis came back from school and they decided to open a restaurant.
To give you the era, we're post-Depression. We're mid-1930s. They opened up their first little, it was a hamburger stand. I laugh. It was eight stools. So if you could imagine, I don't know if you've ever been in a really, really old White Castle, or if you're from the Detroit area, if you've ever been to Hunter House or any of those kind of [00:09:00] things. That would give you the idea of what it was. It was even smaller yet. It was basically a counter, eight stools, and they cooked behind the counter. That wasn't an uncommon setup for that era, pre-World War II. They started with just a burger place, and it was called Fred's Chili Bowl. I mean, they had a chili recipe and just hot dogs, hamburgers, a few items on their menu. That's where things launched.
I'll tell you a funny side story. My Uncle Louis used to tell [00:09:30] the story of their first major expansion. They added two seats to the counter.
Chris: They were able to wrap it around. They add two seats to the counter. So they always described that as the beginning of the great expansion of what became Elias Brothers at that time. To go a little further in history, that restaurant, that operation evolved and the next thing that occurred was drive-in restaurants were just starting to come into play, and so they converted [00:10:00] the store to a drive-in. It was on Dixie Highway and so it was called the Dixie Drive-In. They ultimately expanded to five Dixie Drive-In locations, and so that was their first multi-store expansion.
Around about that same time, my Uncle John was friends with a guy named Bob Wian. Bob started in Glendale, California, and he had a place. It was Bob's Pantry, and it was home of the Big Boy. There's probably a whole nother story behind that that's really interesting. [00:10:30] But Bob had created really the Big Boy concept at that moment in time, and they were at a conference. They were having dinner with Bob, and Bob was saying that somebody had taken his concept and stolen it, a guy by the name of Dave Frisch in Ohio. Legally, he couldn't do anything about it because back in those days, unless you were a multi-state operation, you had no franchise protection. Franchise laws didn't even exist. Again, we're about 1938, I think, at this point, '36 or '38, somewhere in that [00:11:00] range.
My dad and uncle said, "Well, why don't we become a franchise of yours in Michigan? You'll get multi-state and then nobody else can do this to you." In the meantime, they got to know Dave Frisch. He came into the fold and they purchased a franchise for the state of Michigan back at that time for one dollar a year in perpetuity to be the Big Boy franchises in Michigan.
Chris: Fast forward another, let's call it, 25 years or so, mid-1960s. Bob had gotten [00:11:30] up there in age and decided that he wanted to retire. He ended up selling the concept to Marriott Corporation. Marriott took it over. They licensed the country. They utilized a regional licensing system as opposed to a franchise system, which is why sometimes if you went into what was a Bob's Big Boy, it would be different than if you want into an Elias Brothers. It would be different than if you went into a Frisch's, TJ's, Mark's, Shoney's, at the time was part of the system. Every operation had its own things. What they were really [00:12:00] doing was licensing the character, the Big Boy sandwich, and a few other items, but then they let each operator operate regionally.
That was maybe fine back in the 1960s, though you didn't have the same national footprint that you would have had you been a homogeneous franchise. But it did allow for some growth. It allowed Marriott some growth. Now, as we got into late 1970s, there started being some infighting between groups. Some were performing better than others. Some wanted to expand [00:12:30] out of their territories and couldn't because of restrictions. The first territory battle occurred between Frisch and Shoney's. Shoney's got so upset that they walked away from their contract and went independent.
They were fighting over who could put restaurants, I think it was in the state of Kentucky. Frisch owned the state. Frisch didn't have much operation there, but they hated Shoney's and they hated each other. So all this infighting started becoming problematic, and Marriott decided to sell the company. Around the mid-'80s when Marriott put it up for sale, [00:13:00] they gave us the option to buy it. They actually gave us and Frisch the option to buy it. Frisch didn't want it. We did.
We took it over. When we bought it, we said to everybody, "Okay. We're going to drop all the names, Elias Brothers, Frisch's, all those names. And we're just going to go with Big Boy, go national." But because of our contracts, they all had the option to stay in or get out. They all decided to get out, except for Frisch, one of the originals. They stayed in. [00:13:30] All of the rest of them got out and I think all the rest of them were out of business within a couple years after losing the name recognition. They weren't good operators. It was probably a good thing for us at the time to change. Just, it was better all the way around and then we started building the Big Boy brand from there. That's the short version of the history of Big Boy itself and how it came into the fold and how it became part of Elias Brothers.
Ken: Yeah, interesting.
Chris: One of the things I thought as a side note [00:14:00] that was interesting as well is in the early days when they decided to come to Detroit, Detroit was known as the Paris of the Midwest.
Ken: Yeah. Probably because Detroit, it was the one French-founded city.
Chris: Right, right.
Ken: And your role there was? What did you do at Big Boy? How long were you there?
Chris: Oh, gosh. Yeah. I want to say my whole life. Right? I handled almost everything at one point or another. [00:14:30] Growing up in a family business, I was still second generation.
Ken: Did you create the little coloring books?
Ken: Ah. That's one of my biggest memories of Big Boys. "Can we go to Big Boys?" Because they had the crayon books.
Chris: Coloring books.
Ken: Coloring books, yeah.
Chris: Yeah. Funny story there. That was actually the guy who was the creator behind it was a guy by the name of Manfred Bernhard. Little side story, Manfred's sister was Ruth Bernhard, which is she was a very, very famous [00:15:00] photographer back in the days when you hailed people like Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz and some of these great photographers. It was certainly a very artistic family. Manfred was a good friend of the family and it was his company that did it.
That dated back a little bit before my time, not much, because the comic book had been there. If you have one of the original Big Boy comics, it's worth a lot of money right now. I will tell you, here's a funny side story. Back in, I would say it was probably the late 1980s, Marvel approached us [00:15:30] to buy the concept and run it.
Ken: Wow. Big boy could've been a superhero, one of the Avengers.
Chris: Big Boy could've been a superhero.
Ken: Part one.
Chris: I mean, we really thought about it, but here's the crazy part is I remember at that point in time and I was really new to working in the company full time, Stan Lee himself was out there. I'll never forget that. But back then, nobody knew who Stan Lee was. Stan Lee became obviously much more popular when the movies really hit in the late 1990s, early 2000s.
Ken: What would Big Boy be as an Avenger? Let's just try to figure that out. He'd have the [00:16:00] same outfit, right, which is the guy right behind you. He's got the overalls.
Chris: Yeah. He'd probably have to have some type of an electric spatula or something like that that he could thwart the enemies with.
Ken: Yeah, yeah. They went wrong with that. Bad decision.
Chris: Yeah. But it's funny because a lot of people because of my hair would say, "Oh, did they get the swoop from you?" No. Side story, here's another funny side story nobody knows. [00:16:30] The original-original Big Boy restaurant, Bob's Pantry that I referred to in Glendale, was right by the Disney Studios. There was a kid working behind the counter one day, and a lot of the Disney artists would come and have lunch. One of them just did a sketch. We've lost the name of the guy, the whole shot. Nobody knows who it was, but one of them did a sketch of the kid working behind the counter and that became the original Big Boy character.
Chris: Yeah. There was a Disney artist out there somewhere, [00:17:00] a cartoonist that created the original Big Boy logo, which actually evolved over the years.
Ken: Yeah. I mean, hopefully, he created something else and loaded his pockets because he missed out on that one, huh?
Chris: Well, you're talking again, when, 1930s era. I mean, things were different back then.
Ken: Yeah. I still can't get out of my head Big Boy as an Avenger. He still has a chance with DC Comics. I bet he'd fit right in with, is it, the Justice League? I think that's what they call it over there.
Chris: Would the cape [00:17:30] be checkered, or is that just a little too much to have overalls and cape checkered? Maybe you need to have... I'm looking over to my right here. I actually have a statue here in my office and there's a turquoise color that trims his... Maybe it would have had to have been a turquoise cape.
Ken: I don't see him as a flyer.
Chris: No, yeah. It'd probably mess up his hair, wouldn't it?
Ken: That's the Big Boy history. At its peak, how many restaurants would you say there were in your heyday? [00:18:00] And then your family hasn't owned it in years, and they're mainly back to a Midwest thing. Right? So they're kind of sporadic.
Chris: Well, yeah. I can't claim to know any of the statistics now. I mean, I'll tell you what I've heard, okay. First of all, in its heyday, I think we were as much as 1,500 restaurants worldwide. There was a real big growth opp. We had a Japanese franchisee who had committed to grow to almost 500 restaurants. They were growing to 500 [00:18:30] when I left the company. It was a real major thing that we had done. They'd done something incredible, but I heard after we left, after we sold the company, that they went away. I don't know really what happened there.
The last I heard, so the investment group that bought it, bought it from us. We had gone through a turnaround in the 1990s. We had made a bad acquisition, so that hurt the company a little bit. But when we sold the company, it was back getting [00:19:00] into stable and growth mode. Then the new owners, they had their problems. I can't claim to what they were, but I had heard at one point that it got down to as low as 35 restaurants. Now since then, another group has bought it. As best as I can tell, they're doing some good stuff with it. They're retooling the brand. They're taking it back to some grassroots, which I think is important.
I certainly don't know what happened with the recipes. We used to manufacture a lot of our own [00:19:30] significant items and all that. That was one of the things that set us apart. But they seem to be doing some good stuff. I think they're growing again, but I couldn't tell you how many there are. I've seen a few pop up recently in the area, so that tells me some good things are happening.
Ken: Sure. Up to present day, you've been involved and are the leader and founder of Nexecute. Did that stem from... Well, I guess everything stems from your past, right? You learn and grow, but is there anything specifically, like your work with companies, finding [00:20:00] their core values, helping the leadership and guiding so your core values become part of your culture and not just a plaque on the wall. Is that anything that stemmed from those days?
Chris: Oh, yeah.
Ken: Is that something you knew when you went into or lessons learned?
Chris: It's funny how often I'll hear a story from somebody I bump into that either worked with us or worked for us back in those days or people that we interacted with. And they'll say all the time, "Oh gosh, those were the good old days. Your company was amazing." The culture was absolutely incredible. Look, nothing's perfect, right? [00:20:30] You always remember the good stuff when you look back, but I remember that we had some tenets that used to get drilled into our head. I mean, there are people today that will laugh when they hear me say this, but my Uncle Louis always said, "Hot food hot and cold food cold." Right? That was his quality thing.
We talked about the importance of family. If you looked at the makeup of our organization, the number of families that worked for us, whether they were franchisees or within the corporate offices, I mean we had lots of husband and wife teams, multiple generation [00:21:00] teams. A great example, Tony Michaels, who became the CEO after I left the organization. His father worked for us for many, many years, and Tony came to work for us right out of college and worked for us. We had a lot of multi-generation so family was super, super important.
Clean environments and all that, they were just really sticklers about that. Back in those days, those would've been our core values. If we had worked those out, those [00:21:30] definitely would have been our core values. Maybe we would've put some names. But the concept of core values in companies and basis of culture didn't come on until after those days. Really, those concepts started creeping up about 10 to 15 years ago. I think one of the early references comes from Jim Collins and Good to Great, which was written in 2001. But companies before that had value systems, and they drove them. And great cultures were the ones that stuck with those values. We just didn't use that terminology, but that was definitely a learning that came forward.
Also, I learned [00:22:00] some interesting stuff. When I was working in our manufacturing group, what I would describe as one of my mentors in life, a guy by the name of Ralph Geromette. I hope I can name names. Ralph's not with us anymore, but Ralph was a phenomenal, phenomenal person. He taught me a lot of stuff. He taught me so much about the importance of engaging other people. He taught me about having the right people in the team. [00:22:30] And people write about this today, right people on the bus, wrong people off the bus. Collins said that and there's a lot of stuff that comes up. But I'm 10, 15 years before that, and I was learning from Ralph that no leader is successful without a great group of people. And it's really best, let the people shine.
You have to be open to continuous improvement, and you have to know what's most important at any given time. Those were the learnings that when I left Big Boy were really stuck in my head. I had the opportunity [00:23:00] to meet a guy named Verne Harnish who'd written a book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. Joined up with a group of guys here that were building a system on that same stuff, and it was like I was literally connecting with people who were reading out of the same book. Right? I mean, it was phenomenal. That was the beginning of my career as an advisor. We use the word advisor, not consultant, because I think consultant has a different connotation. We act with our clients more like advisors than we do consultants.
[00:23:30] The thing I learned more than anything is great culture is essential, and great culture also requires good process. So everything we've built since then is designing around building a great culture and having a great process that ensures execution. The basis of all that is core values. So you mentioned core values a minute ago. That's the basis. Core values alignment is the basis of culture in any organization.
Ken: When you go into a company, they hire you to do consulting [00:24:00] and you're looking for the core values, do you find at times that they actually don't have core values or do everybody have core values, or they're just hoping that they can get a high-end consultant, advisor like you to say, "Here's what- "
Chris: No, if they're hiring consultants, they don't get quite the work we do. But hey, that's... you know.
Ken: Okay. So they hire you. Are they wanting you to basically say, "Come out with a list of this is who we are," and it's [00:24:30] all positive and it just looks good for PR purposes and for their employees? Do you ever find that, that you go in, there really isn't a good culture to work with? And then what do you do? And/or, second question is, what do you typically find are their core values? Are they similar or are companies really different?
Chris: Yeah. In order to answer that question, I got to take a little bit of a step back. First and foremost, every company has a culture. Whether it's good or [00:25:00] bad is left to interpretation, right? One person might look at a company and say, "They've got a great culture." And another person might look at that same company and say, "It's a lousy culture." Perspective is very, very important. What I often say is the difference between a good culture and a bad culture is intention. Meaning when leadership or ownership don't focus on the culture they want, then they get whatever culture arises. [00:25:30] One of my friends always said, "The culture you get is the culture you tolerate."
When I talk about the difference between good and bad, intentional culture is when leadership says, "We know what culture we want in the organization. We're going to do everything we can to support, enhance and ensure that culture exists. We're just not going to let anybody disrupt that, that this is who we're going to be." Because not everybody's a good fit for every culture, right?
Chris: And they're neither good or bad, it's just about fit. [00:26:00] In defining the culture, the first step is to then identify your core values. And believe it or not, core values always exist within an organization. We say, "You don't create them. You really discover them." We have a whole value for how you discover the core values that are living and breathing. But when you haven't gone through that, what can show up are what we call accidental values, which can sometimes be anti-values to the organization. I can share all kinds of stories on that as well.
When we go [00:26:30] in, usually we're being hired. There's lots of reasons why we get hired, but probably most of the time, if I were to distill it down, leadership isn't happy at the level at which their company is executing. Right? Or maybe the culture isn't quite right, or they've been stuck or these kind of things. I would say about half the time we start, the company already has an established set of core values. [00:27:00] About two-thirds to three-quarters of those, the core values aren't right because they didn't necessarily use the right process to get to the core values.
The absolute wrong way to do it, in my opinion, is to just sit around and pick words that you like because those just end up being words on a wall. And unless you're willing to hire people with those values and fire people if they don't have those core values, they become hypocritical. Then nobody takes it seriously. At the [00:27:30] end of the day when you've got the right core values, it means that you want to find people who are aligned to those core values. That alignment has nothing to do, by the way, with any kind of demographic diversity or anything like that. You can have a fully diverse workforce with similar core values. Right? Can we just talk about your company's core values for a minute?
Chris: Is that allowed?
Chris: What are your core values?
Ken: It's trust, compassion, community.
Chris: Okay. Let's go with trust, [00:28:00] compassion and community for a minute. I'll just make the assumption that those are the right core values.
Ken: Are you going to charge me for this?
Chris: Yeah. That'll come a little bit later.
Chris: No. So you'll see how that gets to one of my core values, right? I do this stuff all the time. The point is, is trust, compassion, community, anybody can have those core values, but not everyone will have those core values. Does that make sense?
Chris: When I'm hiring people, I want to find out, do people have [00:28:30] those values as part of their operating system? Because the more I do that, the more likely it'll be that they'll get along with other people within the organization. The reason why this becomes really important is we know from all the research that's been done that successful relationships are based on core value alignment between the people in that relationship. I can show you, I've done so much research and studying on this. I can show you how any failed relationship can be taken back to a core value level and to a misalignment [00:29:00] of core values of the two people in that relationship, personal or professional.
Ken: Can I interrupt you for a second, pause you right there?
Ken: To take it out of a business concept for a second and go to a relational, what kind of core values then would you be talking about? I mean, are you getting down to just... Well, I guess it would be any, right? You're talking about interpersonal, so it could be family, friends, spouses?
Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ken: How could someone take this with a significant other? Not that they would [00:29:30] hire you for this, I guess, but how do they take these basic principles and just figure out if they're aligned right in basic belief systems or living the same culture within a household?
Chris: Yeah. First of all, the children are going to be the product of the upbringing. We all are, right? Most of our core value systems, so we all have core values. Maybe I'll even go one step higher to help explain this answer. Every one of us have several values that drive our decision [00:30:00] making, okay. Maybe Ken, maybe you've got 30, 40, or 50 values that make up Ken McMullen. Right? I've got the same to make up Chris Elias. But there a handful of those values, somewhere around three to five of them, that are really the core drivers of our operating system. Okay?
They don't have to, but they often can fall into categories like how we look at money, how we look at [00:30:30] religion, how we look at treating others, et cetera, okay? But there is this handful of core values that make up 90% of what drives you every single day, and it happens at a very, very deep subconscious level. Almost all of those are established in you at a very, very young age, okay? I often will say probably 90%, 95% by the time you're 10 or 12 years old. You [00:31:00] are who you are from a values system. A little bit of that might get rounded out by the time you graduate from college, but this becomes a major driver.
They don't change in your lifetime. It's funny, I had this friend who was a hard-driving, tough businessman. He had a lot of success and he had a cancer diagnosis. I saw his personality change. And I used to think, well, his values system changed. He got cured and he looked at life [00:31:30] a whole different way. His values changed. But actually, as I got to know him and realize his values never changed. His personality changed. How he approached the world changed, but his actual values system didn't, how he looked at his family, how he looked at how he worked, how he did things. He was still as driven. He just might not have been as "tough" as he used to be, but the drive never changed.
Chris: Those value systems become ingrained and they don't change. When you bring [00:32:00] two people together, whether it's two friends, whether it's two people who date or are going to have some level or two people who work together, the more aligned those values are between the two people, the higher likelihood is for a successful relationship. It's not a guarantee, but if those value systems are not aligned, sooner or later there will be a break that will cause the two people to not want to interact with each other. Right?
[00:32:30] I've known so many people who've been through divorces. When you really cut through it, almost every time now I can see that it was a core values issue that ultimately caused the problem at the end of the day. So maybe they were attracted by non-values-based attraction. The laws of attraction are so many different things, but at the end of the day it's the values that will cause the real break. If the values are stable, it's not a guarantee, but the likelihood of them staying together is high.
We had a couple that we know that got [00:33:00] divorced recently. And it seemed to shock everybody, but it didn't shock me because they had diversely different core value systems even though on the surface, their personalities seemed like a great mix.
Ken: So good marriage counseling is really based on that, isn't it? What's your shared background? What's your shared sense of values in all areas, your sense of ethics, morals, how you view finance. I mean, don't those all go into who you are as a person and see how close those are?
Chris: I think so. I think so. Obviously, I'm not a marriage counselor to be able to say that, but I would think that a good counselor... But I [00:33:30] think you have to also be prepared that if there's a misalignment of core values, is it time to cut and go the other direction? I mean, we look at this from a corporate standpoint. If we've got somebody who truly doesn't have the core values of the company, I don't really want them in my company. They'll be happier somewhere else where they have alignment somewhere else. There's always going to be problems with people who are mismatched. Again, I'm not judging whether they're a good or bad person. I'm judging whether they're a good or bad fit for the organization or for the team.
Ken: Yeah. [00:34:00] In the friend zone, I think in a general sense I have a lot of friends because I'm accepting of anybody. Anybody that wants to give their time to talk to me or be some part of my life is welcome. However, without me feeling like I'm excluding anybody, there ends up being this central core group of people that are closer, but doesn't it naturally happen because your core values line up?
Chris: Yes. I mean what you'll [00:34:30] find is that when you're in an unaware state where you're consciously choosing, the subconscious is doing the work for you. Friend groups are the easiest. The spouses are where people can get maybe in a little more trouble because sometimes marriages occur before they've really known each other long enough to really know who the person is. Right? But okay, set that aside.
Friends are together for long periods of time. And if I think back on my life, and I'll challenge you to think back on yours, there are people who were friends that I may never [00:35:00] talk to again. Again, not that they're bad or anything, but I just don't feel like it. It just doesn't feel right. Well, if I think about it, they just don't have the same values. That's okay. They just don't. My best friend and my best friends, we do have the same values. Now the next question is how do you take it to conscious versus subconscious, right? That's a little bit more work.
Ken: If I texted you one day and said, "Chris, why don't you ever talk to me anymore?" Would you say, " [00:35:30] I just, I don't feel like it"?
Chris: I don't feel like, Ken. I mean, we don't have the same values.
Ken: Right. Well, you're a good example because with work I've had in the past, I've done a lot of speaker invitations, hiring speakers or just asking for... I did it today. I mean, this is asking someone to come on the podcast. I've been doing that a long time, so I can't even tell you the amount of speakers that I've dealt with all over the country coming in to speak at things that I've helped plan or organize. They come and go, [00:36:00] and I don't feel that I disliked any of them. But then some of them I consider friends even if spent no time with... One of them is you.
We had a guest on before, Chuck Gaidica. Who would ever think I'm friends with the Channel 4 weatherman when I was a kid? It would've never crossed my mind, but I'm friends with Chuck Gaidica really because it's similar values and you're just somehow easy to talk to.
Chris: Yeah. It's funny. Yeah. You and I do have very aligned values, so it is why it works. It's why we've continued and [00:36:30] why we've helped each other, I think, over time. It's just that's what you do for people you feel that connection with. Just yesterday I reconnected with a friend of mine just briefly through text, my friend Frank. We have same core values. I haven't talked to Frank in probably 10 years, but it's like the friendship never goes away.
Chris: Sometimes you have these times apart, but the connection still stays.
Ken: Yeah. With relationships or, like you said, with businesses, I think you're most content [00:37:00] when... At some point you just need work. You know I was out of work for a while, and you were trying to do your best to help me. Well, now I'm at a place I'm really content, not just because I'm working. I could've worked before, but I was trying to find a place that I felt good about, that I could relax and not just do the best of what I do, but that you're with people that your core values are aligned with so there's not that day-to-day rub. You spend eight hours a day with these people, sometimes more. And if you're not aligned in how you view the world or life or why you're doing [00:37:30] what you do, it's tough.
Chris: It's funny how often hiring occurs for reasons that are not exactly the right reasons. We pick somebody we like. They got all the skills and we just pick somebody we like, or we feel like this is the person we need to have. In our work, we work very closely with organizations to ensure that they've got a system that minimizes hiring mistakes. We do that by ensuring that they're not just clear and they have the right core values, and so we [00:38:00] have a whole process for getting there, but also ensuring that when they're hiring, they're getting people who have the same core values or very similar and very high level of alignment.
It takes longer to find that person. In a market like this where it's hard to find people anyway, it's tough. It takes longer to find somebody with core values alignment, but we know that the longevity of that employee once hired is considerably longer. I mean, could be five, 10 times longer in some cases. Maybe they become forever employees. Once [00:38:30] that alignment is there, it's very powerful.
Seems true in personal relationships. But as you know from my working with you and I've done this for a lot of friends, when I've got friends who have either left a company because of frustrations or whatever, again, usually they're leaving because of core values. They don't think that way. The other stuff that bugs them is what causes them to leave. Or if they've been terminated, again, there's something that's at play there. I will coach people and help them. I [00:39:00] just do this as I did with you, understand your core values and don't settle for just anywhere. Sometimes we fall into this thing like, we need a job, we need a job. And look, if you got to feed your family, take whatever job you can. Work hard, but get yourself out of that situation.
Ken: A job at Big Boy if you have to.
Chris: Yeah, right. I think about another friend of mine who, fortunately, he had a little bit of a golden parachute. He didn't need anything urgently, but as he went through his interviewing, I just harped on him, "Make sure you're interviewing them for their core values." [00:39:30] When he started doing that, it's amazing, he's like, "Wow. You know, from a job standpoint, this one would've been really great. But they don't have my core values, so I don't think I'm a good fit." Good. The choice, it's important from both sides. We want people to be happy and tied up. It's essential from that standpoint. When he finally found a place with his values, he's happy.
Chris: How are you doing?
Ken: Am I happy?
Ken: Well, let's define happy. I don't know. [00:40:00] Everyone does that, right? What is happy? Happy is fleeting.
Chris: Well, so here's the thing-
Ken: Yeah, no. I am happy.
Chris: ... do you feel like you've landed at a place with similar values to you?
Ken: Yeah, for sure.
Chris: Yeah. And how does it make you feel?
Chris: Doesn't mean every day's a great day, but the point of the matter is-
Ken: I want to go to Big Boy and get a strawberry sundae. I'm so happy.
Chris: No, have fudge cake, man.
Ken: Oh, yeah. Right. So Nexecute, you list your core values and one says, Nexecute is driven by passion for helping others. It drives what we [00:40:30] do and how we do it. I pointed that out. You know your own core values, but it's easy to put stuff on a wall. I read that and it literally could say, Chris Elias is driven by a passion for helping others. It drives what he does and how he does it, because I know you personally and that's totally true. Then I know that it would come out in how you do your work.
I didn't even hardly know you other than having you come speak at something, [00:41:00] and then I had a job situation. But not only were you helpful, I mean you were offering your time and assistance as me as a human being, just whatever I need. And like you said, coaching just on the phone, how am I doing. What is Ken McMullen's thing he does best in the world? What is your place? It sounds a little bit trite and cheesy when I say it this way, but at times you really need that.
Ken: [00:41:30] If companies had that kind of heart per employee with those kinds of values, what a joy to work at. Something I mentioned to you earlier, I'll say it again, is with you the size of, let's say, Nexecute and the other people you have working with you is manageable in that. The place I work started small. It's growing rapidly, and it's growing out of core values and that they're caring about their clients. And they're caring about community [00:42:00] and such.
But do you ever get to a point where the organization is so big that it's not manageable? You need to fill positions and you need to hire and expand. And how do you manage that personal that's so much easier if you have a handful of employees than if you have a few thousand employees?
Chris: Yeah. The perspective, it's actually not. I guess let me go back. You guys are at a great place because you [00:42:30] know who you are from a value standpoint. And if you become obsessed now with hiring people and that becomes part of your culture, then that will be your culture and you'll drive it. As you hire people and they understand that you only want to hire people with similar core values, they will do the same. As you get bigger, if you have systems to measure people's values system to make sure you got the right people.
Because here's the thing, people will hire people with similar value systems. So if you start getting people who [00:43:00] are dissimilar in values, that can become almost like a cancer in an organization. It can grow. We always have to make sure we're mitigating against mistakes. But the key is, is if you stay obsessive about interviewing for core values and hiring and then taking people out if you discover they don't have the core values and just allowing them to be somewhere else, freeing up their futures, we'll often say, as long as you stay obsessive about it, it won't get any more complicated even if you're 100 people, 1,000 people, 100,000 [00:43:30] people. At the end of the day, that's how you work.
I look back at Big Boy and I don't know, I think at one time if you took the whole franchise system, we had a lot people. We had a lot, a lot of people. I mean if you figure on any given store payroll you could have up to 90 people if you include all the part time and this and that and you multiply it by 1,000 stores, 1,500, I mean you start getting to some pretty big numbers. I can tell you the people that didn't have the quality mindset didn't survive. People who didn't have the service mindset, [00:44:00] the family mindset, those things, they didn't survive. Right? That's because the culture drives it.
So the best time to do it is now when you're small. If, on the other hand, you're a big company now, 100, 1,000, 100,000 people, and you're just starting this, then you got a lot of work ahead of you and it will be hard. It will be cumbersome, and it will take a lot of time to shift. But you guys are at a great position. The key is not going to be whether or not it will get difficult to do it. It's how obsessive do you want to be about [00:44:30] it. As long as you stay obsessive about it, you will be fine.
Ken: To bring this together, bring it down to the individual person, so me, if I'm listening to this and I'm thinking, I get a better understanding of core values or I just have more awareness that I have core values or that no wonder there's a rub in a relationship or a bad situation at work, figuring out, identifying the problem is the first answer to [00:45:00] solving it. Personally, what's the first steps or how many? Do I just sit and evaluate myself? What are my core values? You sit down and you make a list of 10 things that are most important to you. Do you prioritize first things that come to mind that are most important in your life and is that your core values?
Chris: Well, first and foremost, it's always good to work with some people that you know. Okay. One of the things that I would do is [00:45:30] I'd pick, let's say, 10 people in your life that know you really, really well, okay, and ask them. If you had to pick two or three values, use whatever words you like. If you had to pick two or three values that you think really describe who I am as a person, what would they be? The reason why I say this, often the people who know you see things in you that you won't see in yourself.
Chris: You're too close to it. Right? [00:46:00] When you think about me, what are the first couple words that come to mind? Oh, he's really compassionate. God, he's the most trustworthy person I've ever known.
Ken: Yeah. Neither of those popped into my head.
Chris: Yeah. But I mean, so that's one of the methodologies. Now, another way of doing this is there's a series of questions and those questions would include things like, describe in depth something that's truly beautiful to you. Now again, these [00:46:30] sound a little corny, but within them are value systems, right? Describe something really beautiful. Describe what a perfect day off... If you had no constraints about money or anything else, what would be a perfect vacation? What would be a perfect day off? The old tombstone question, what do you want your tombstone to read?
You pick a couple of those questions and really self-reflect. Write a couple pages on each one of them and then from your writings, let them sit for a week or two. Go back and start pulling out the individual [00:47:00] values that you find in those. Let's play a little bit for a minute, okay? We'll just do this really brief, but describe for me your perfect day off. What would you do?
Ken: Oh, man. Perfect day off? Sleep. That's probably not a value, but just first thing that comes to my head a little bit. I don't know.
Chris: That could be rejuvenation.
Ken: Time outside, time with people that are close to you, like family relationships.
Chris: There you got two values right there, family and [00:47:30] relationships. Sleep could be about rejuvenation and self-care. Right?
Ken: Yeah, right.
Chris: I mean we joke, but these are values. Not necessarily core values, but these are values. Right? I only use that as a brief example because as you describe this stuff out, you then need to pull out all the values. You might get a list, as I mentioned earlier, of 50, 60 values. Now start looking at that list and start asking yourself, out of the 50 or 60, let's cut them in half and let's cut them in half again. Now you're down to 15. [00:48:00] Then of the 15, of those, what are the ones that are deal breakers for you with your relationships with other people?
If they don't have these values, what are ones? You prioritize them and the top three to five of them, you're probably pretty close to your core values at that point. If you couple that with asking friends, how would you describe me in a couple of words or what do you think are the values that I exhibit? What are the top two or three values you think I exhibit, core values? You're going to find they're pretty similar, and now you're [00:48:30] close. It's a question of now wordsmithing them for your life.
Ken: Yeah. That's scary to do, though, isn't it? I mean it's easier with your friends because they don't know you as close as your family. I think the closer you get in, you're a little nervous what those answers are going to be.
Chris: Yeah. You know what? I would be hesitant. I hate to say this. I mean, I'm hesitant on doing it in family because family are jaded a little bit. Right? I mean family always has... To me, it's the close friendships that you've made out there because they're going to have similar values as well.
Chris: [00:49:00] Right? I think the friends can sometimes, when it comes to core values, give you some really, really solid insight. The family members that you know that will take an honest look, like I wouldn't ask my mom. I mean, she's going to sing my praises and I'm going to get a whole bunch of stuff that's great about me, but trying to distill that down to some values, that's going to be hard. I want people who know me but don't me so well that they're just going to just [00:49:30] blow all the compliments at me. I'm not looking for compliments. I'm trying to understand what people recognize.
Ken: Right. Well, Chris, when we post this conversation, everywhere it's posted we'll have an email address to Nexecute and we will also have where they could listen to your program.
Ken: 30 seconds, where is that, though, and what is it? What do you do on your radio broadcast?
Chris: The radio show is called Transformative Experts. We highlight people who [00:50:00] are creating transformation in the world some way or another. Now, most of them happen to be in the business world. We're aired on a business channel. We are aired through the VoiceAmerica Radio Network. The show runs at 8:00 a.m. Pacific, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, every Monday morning. It's a great show. It also gets posted as a podcast. If you search Transformative Experts, you're going to find us on iHeartRadio now, so we're not on iHeartRadio. And we're on [00:50:30] iTunes or the Apple Podcasts. We're on Spotify, so now we're syndicated to a bunch of other areas now.
Chris: There's lots of places. If you look for Chris Elias and Transformative Experts, you'll find the show. Obviously, from a Nexecute standpoint, anybody who... passion for helping others. It's our first... I talk to people all the time, "Call. Send me an email." Our phone number is listed on the website. Calling me is always the better bet. You'll get to me faster. [00:51:00] Anybody got a question, I'll answer it. Don't worry, you won't get a bill. Ken, you never got a bill, I don't think.
Ken: I haven't, not yet. Nope. Very generous. All right. Thanks, Chris. I know you're a busy man and I appreciate you taking the time out today.
Chris: It was a pleasure, Ken. Any time.
Ken: All right, thank you. This is sponsored by Executive Wealth Management, and we'll close out per usual with a video to show a little more what they do there.
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