Finding Curiosity - Ron Lovett - Episode # 086

Dan Ryan: [00:00:00] Today's guest is the author of a couple of pretty awesome books, outrageous Empowerment and Scaling Culture.
He builds brands that disrupt and challenge their industries. He's an entrepreneur and leader with a passion for change. He's a fellow podcaster with the Scaling Culture Podcast. He's the founder and chief community Officer at Vita Living. Ladies and gentlemen, Ron. Love it. How are you, bud?
Ron Lovett: Well, thank you, Dan Ryan, and I thought I'd start with my radio voice.
Dan Ryan: I love it. Now, is that really your voice or is it that amazing microphone you have? I think I, it's
Ron Lovett: my amazing microphone. My, my actually voice like this, but I hit a switch and I'm back to this ama it, it's a, uh, it's a technology, Canadian technology. What's that?
Dan Ryan: Olive Boot? . Oh my God. I'm sorry. Hey, you teed me up there.
Um, so just to connect the dots on how Ron and I came to know each other, I think we first met, was it 2015? 2016, somewhere in there, many moons ago. So, uh,
Ron Lovett: because I'm [00:01:00] dyslexic, that's gonna be hard for me to go back in time and I'm very unorganized with my calendar, but I think I'm gonna go with that. Yes.
I think 20. Yeah, no, no. You know what? I got you. Because I sold my company in 2017, and then that's when I showed up to, uh, E M P was when I sold the company. So it had to be 2017. . It
Dan Ryan: was, it was 2017 and we gave up three Memorial Day weekends, 20 17, 18 19, to go to the illustrious university called Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where we did the entrepreneurial Master's program.
Um, so it was you, me, and 65 other people in a conference room. Um,
Ron Lovett: 29 countries. Is that right? Something like that.
Dan Ryan: crazy. It was insane, but it ki that. I think that was like a pivotal moment in my life in many different ways because just getting all those people with just different perspectives in one room, thinking about what's the future?
How [00:02:00] do we change the future, how do we impact the future? And in many ways, I think it, aside from you and me actually speaking in here and in so many different ways, it allowed me to, it kind of filled me up with courage, um, to try other new things. Like a podcast, like who would've freaking thought about this?
Um, aside from what we do on the day-to-day side. Another thing, the company that you sold, which I think is really interesting, it was, it provided security to. All types of venues throughout Canada? Correct. From Halifax to Vancouver
Ron Lovett: and and outside. The Executive protection special events went from cans to Bahamas to Columbia.
Yeah. Wow.
Dan Ryan: Uh, so, and you'd think, oh, wow. Well, what's that about? Hospitality, but really likes making other people feel safe. And if you look at how you've evolved and the books that you've written about impacting others, building community, and now with your multi-family develop, Um, company called Vita Living.
Ron Lovett: Vita. Actually, we just go by Vita now we're Oh, [00:03:00] just Vita. We wanna be Google.
Dan Ryan: Okay. Oh good. So just Vita. But it's really, you know, going from security to, in a, in another way, uh, many of the people on this podcast come from the, you know, luxury hotels. Like, how do we make people feel inspired and comfortable and hospitable, but you're actually helping people at the start of their path to give them a clean, well lighted place where they.
Feel safe and feel that warmth of hearth and kind of take their next steps into what they're doing and what their, what their plans are if they're realizing their plans in life. So why don't you tell us a little bit about that
Ron Lovett: journey. Yeah. And just first I want to go back just to e M P for a sec cuz I, I wrote down what's funny.
Everyone had a different, uh, aha moment or experience there. I had just sold my business and my, you know, I, I didn't have the aha moment of I could do anything. I, I kind of, I've been very lucky to always feel that way. I actually came outta that with focus. Like I need to [00:04:00] focus finally versus I need to gonna do anything.
I had actually the opposite experience of you, even though we were in the same thing. But my aha was, man, I need to, next chapter, I need to focus. And, and, and I think this is helpful, but you know, I think it was Verne Herer or someone who said this comment, which was my aha, aha moment, uh, which. You know, I don't know if you knew Dan, I was actually back this year doing a two hour session for our peers for, for year one, for Steve Kiley's class.
So I was a huge honor and I shared this bit cause I ended with some of the key things that I, I learned and the thing that, uh, my aha moment, the comment was if you wanted to build a unicorn, if you wanted to build a company that just crushed it, you take an industry and you slice off 10% where you think you're gonna win, where you know you're gonna win, and then you own 70.
Of that 10% slice and that was my, oh man, I didn't do that. You know, to your comment on security, we would do security for post-secondary education facilities, uh, hospitals. [00:05:00] I'm on tour with Jay-Z, we're doing Starbucks. Their window broke, like these had, there was no focus. I never found that 10%. And so that was a, that was an aha moment for me.
I was like, I need, and so that's, I've found the 10% now and actually focus within that 10% in my real estate company. So it's been, that was hugely impactful that that
Dan Ryan: 7% really is, is really a powerful and scary, um, focus. Yeah, because you're, you're, you're, you're ch, you're hooking. Your wagon, so to speak, to a very small and defined psychographic or demographic at the expense of not doing business with 93% of the rest of the market out there.
That's right. And, and I think that's actually a great thread to think about when you think about the, what you've done from security to now Vita, only Vita, um, and that idea of hospitality that's gone [00:06:00] throughout it, like how do. How do you give and provide hospitality and comfort and say, and yeah. However you define it Yeah.
To that 7%. So like, what does it mean to you? And then how do you focus it on that super tight psychographic.
Ron Lovett: Yeah. Look, um, so with security guards too. So, so, so let me go back to my aha moment on hospitality. Mm-hmm. , because I. You know, when I had the security business, I was doing everything averagely. You know, I was, I was winning a little bit on all categories.
And then I read Francis FRAs book, uh, uncommon Service. Have you read that, Dan? I have not read that. It's fantastic. So, so, you know, you probably, and then I heard Francis speak, by the way, in Halifax at a Y P O event, excuse me. And the thesis behind the book is quite simple. A lot of companies don't have the courage.
This is similar to the 70 10 rule or what we just talked about. A lot of companies, uh, are in the [00:07:00] category that I was in. They're just, they win. They try to win in all categories, you know, and they're average at everything. Not many companies have the. Courage to go deep and win in areas and be okay to lose in certain areas.
So the examples were Walmart, they win on pricing. They win on always having stock on the shelves. They don't win on ambiance. They're not trying to win on ambiance. They're not trying to be, um, anthropology and they're not trying to compete with an, they're okay with that. They don't win on customer service.
They know that. They went on pricing and they have goods always available. They're not, you don't ever go to Walmart and they say, we're outta that thing. You know, where, like, you look at, uh, what was Target entered Canada never had anything on the shelves and they, they left, they were gone. And so, you know, Southwest Airlines best service for the best price.
Not you, you couldn't get, uh, v i p or, or first class seating. Like they just, they didn't pretend to win at. Uh, on all things. And so I went through this journey of going to my customers and asking them what was critic. This is when I had the [00:08:00] security business basically saying, what is important to you?
Let me like, let me stop telling my own story of what's important to you. Let me, let me, here's the, the key things in our, in, in our industry guard the uniform. The guard wears the training they have the customer service they provide you and your customers cuz you might be a shopping center who has a customer who has customers.
A local manager who's in a local office, a vehicle on the road, like all these things. And right away the story was crystal clear. The story was customer service was the key component that they cared about for them and for their customers. And the thing I was working towards, local office vehicle on the road, that was not important.
That actually, if, you know, if, if for those, um, who end up reading my book, outrageous Empowerment, I tell this story and through that process I actually removed all our o of our offices. I got managers back into the field. Got rid of the vehicles on the road and started using technology. So I really doubled down and then when I, you know, [00:09:00] went my aha moment being okay, customer service is important, then what I did is I basically said, okay, so if today, I believe that a mom and pop are competitors in the local market.
Out of a, a scale of one to five, the mom and pop were, were two and a half. The big multinationals were a two, and I thought I was a three and a half. So the point is I wasn't really winning. I was just, I, you know, I was just ahead a little bit. So then we ask the question, who is in a similar sector? When I say similar sector, not in security.
Let's look outside the business. Who, who has frontline, low wage customer facing employees and who wins at customer service? And it was Starbucks, so, so I became laser focused and obsessive with saying our competitors aren't actually in our industry, they're outside. Starbucks is a competition. We have to beat.
So I would go to Starbucks, I'd meet with their management. How did you [00:10:00] get hired? How do you get trained? Tell me about the customer service training. I studied Starbucks. And then, uh, you know, there's a bit of a long story, but I think it, it, it should add value to your listeners. So then two things. One, Uh, when we onboarded people, I, you, you watched the video me saying, this is our competition, Starbucks.
This is who we need to beat from a customer service standpoint. So I would talk about that from an onboarding perspective, but then a step before, which is critically important. And I think how we won the customer service game is, I believe and, and some don't agree with this, by the way. I think John Deju may not agree with me on this.
Um, I think that for great customer service, if you break that down and you think what attribute drives excellent customer service, it's the, it's the ability to, um, care for those, uh, you know, around you to put yourself in someone else's shoes. So the attribute is, And so I don't believe this is where I probably defer with John.
I [00:11:00] don't think you can train empathy. I think it's really in you or. And so what we started to do, Dan, is we started to create a screening process that the number one thing we would screen for was empathy. And if you weren't empathetic, boom, you were knocked out because we decided we can't train you. And we had made the mistake previously to hire people and then force empathy and customer service on them.
And it wasn't their key attribute. It's like trying to train someone to be curious. I just don't think you can do it. You're curious or you're not. And. Ron Ron, if you were
Dan Ryan: to, I, I love that because in, in our hospitality world, um, one of my heroes is this guy Danny Meyer. And he, he, he wrote this book, uh, book called Setting the Table.
He's a restaurateur, but he said that he would hire and create a filter for this, uh, he called it the hospitality quotient. And I think if you look at that hospitality quotient or hq, yeah, I think so much of that has to do with empathy. So if you think. If you think about your screening [00:12:00] process for how you screen for empathy, how, like what are the top three things or questions?
Yeah, like how, how, what are the best questions to ask to help screen that out? Yeah,
Ron Lovett: so, so in my podcast actually, we had a guest called Ashley Goodall. Excellent guy. This, he's wrote books with Marcus Buckingham. Ashley, if you're listening, I love you brother. Um, provides a lot of value and I wrote about their process and when we added our own kind of color to it.
So, so, so look, this is not easy, by the way, but the way that you screen for an a. Is not through a hypothetical question. Hey Dan, what would you do if you saw an old lady crossing the road and they dropped her groceries? You need to go back to someone's history and, and you need to get to the personal, the, the individual, the authentic self.
So there's a couple ways you can do that. One is through the interview questions of asking historically, tell me a time, um, when you were in a situation, a tough situation with a customer and what you did about that. So I'm not leading the witness and I, and I'm just seeing your decision making. [00:13:00] And then I'm saying, tell me another time and tell me another time and tell me another time.
And then, um, so from there I should have a, a, a, a decent assessment of how you've dealt with things in the. Then I might give you some hypotheticals. I might say, what would you do? You know, multiple choice. What do you do? One, two, or three? And why? Uh, and, and, and I would ask you hypothetical questions, but then I need to get, and by the way, I wanna be clear, um, I ask people personal questions.
I don't trust that I can put a lot of stock in someone's past work experience cuz I don't know if they came from a command and control passive aggressive culture. That's not fair. I ask them personally, their, their, their personal situation. So a good example of that would be, . We did an interview yesterday with a young lady and you know, change is one of our core values, right?
Can relentless improvement. I don't ask them what change they drove at work because they might not have been allowed to drive change. Maybe there's no change that they didn't even have to adapt to change. I say, what was the biggest [00:14:00] change you made during the pandemic in your life and what was the change before that and how did that.
tell me the struggles you had to get through that. Like, I really get to someone's personal history cuz that's the authentic self. So we dig for that and then what we do is we get into a situation where we wanna see how they behave. And so, you know, Southwest Airlines does this magnificently What they do, Dan, is they'll invite you, uh, for the interview if, if you're coming for an interview, everybody knows that you're coming for the interview.
And so the person who greets. Knows that you're there for the interview and they talk to you, hi, sir, how's, how's it going? And they'll make you wait a little bit and then they'll bring you to the wrong boardroom and bring you the wrong drink and they'll mess with you. And everybody's involved in the process.
Others will bring you to a restaurant. We, we do that. You know, I wanna see how you interact with that server. I wanna see sometimes, and I've done this, Dan, and, and this is a strategy, uh, you know, if I take it for coffee and then I forget my, um, I forget my wallet. Don't have it. How do you deal? Oh, no problem.
I've got it. [00:15:00] Geez. No worries at all. Or, you know, look, I'll look after this, but you know, can he transfer me right away? I mean, I just, you just, you gauge people's behavior in real life situations. Mm-hmm. So I go with, tell me how you showed up in the past. Let me give you a couple hypotheticals and then let's see how you actually interact.
Those are the, that's kind of our, our, um, Our strategy and we talk about in the book scaling culture, actually we kind of break that down. Um, but that, that's our strategy for how do you find curiosity, change, empathy. And it's not perfect, but I can tell you it's better than what I used to do, which was hire you cuz you smiled, and then hope for the best.
Dan Ryan: Yeah, no, I think, um, at that E M P program too, especially with Jeff Smart, thinking about that scorecard of, Hey, tell me about a time when, dot, dot, dot and a specific, that's it. And then, but also, you know, this idea of empathy, it's not a binary thing. So there's really like this Venn diagram of blended ideas that in [00:16:00] the center of it lives.
Empathy is, or what hospitality is. Mm-hmm. . And it's really like how, how do you ask all of these questions so that you can triangulate what that real. Empathetic moment is, or, or spirit within the person. And I agree. You can't teach empathy. You really have to scr, you really have to screen for it and find the right
Ron Lovett: person.
But, but hospitality, I know we talked about this, but isn't, you know, isn't hospitality just the feeling, the positive feeling that you leave me behind with the story that I get to tell now? That's really what we're talking about, right? It, yes.
Dan Ryan: And it's also how you. From all the conversations that I've had, there's not a binary answer really.
It's, it's, it's, it's very tightly gray, but it's really about how. The service that you're providing, how you're making the other people feel. That's right. And then Al, and also the impact that you could potentially have on them so that it's like planting a seed and then, [00:17:00] right. Those people go away and do incredible things.
Right, right, right. Or they're inspired. They're inspired in some way. Or they, or they take away, this has been coming up a lot recently where they have this kind of aspirational experience like, oh wow, I didn't think about whatever. And then they go away and. They take whatever experience they had and apply it in their work, in their life, in their family, in their home.
Yeah. And, um, I don't know, it's just, it has this multiplying halo effect, if you will. Um, yeah, absolutely. Hey, Ron, when you think about the screening of, of the employees for empathy, um, tell us about what you're doing with Vita Living. Like who that 7% is as far as your tenants, and do you also do screening for.
Right, because you, you want to attract and build a certain community that you're giving this great step
Ron Lovett: in their life for. Great, great, great question. Um, we. So we have [00:18:00] two parts of this. We have our internal core values. That's for our team, the people that we hire. And, you know, that we, we debated that should we be screening our tenants for our core values?
And, and ultimately we decided, no, we're not going to push our tenants to be innovative and continuously change, you know, our customers. I don't think that's, I don't think it's reasonable, but what we do do, Is we kind of screen for, for, um, I'm gonna put income testing aside, we'd screen for four things. So our, our application is quite unique, the industry in workforce housing, which is what we, uh, provide.
And, and by the way, just for those listening, and Dan, I think you did a, a pretty good job of explaining the business, but Vita provides. Affordable, safe, clean places where people are proud to live and we help them get ahead in life. That would be our mission. We've got about 2300, uh, units, uh, across Canada to today.
We acquire existing buildings. We're not a developer even though we have a small development project now. Uh, and we wanna be a global brand. You know, we're looking at entering the US as you know, we're [00:19:00] looking at Nigeria right now in Abuja to build a few hundred units. Um, so we really wanna build this to be a global brand because we believe that the sense of building community and belonging doesn't, is not a Canadian thing.
You know, this is a, a global thing and so and so is affordability. And so back to the question. Um, we have four pillars in our business. Our pillars are safety, security, cleanliness, community, and opportunity. And so our screening is around those pillars. You know, I, are those things important to you? If not, we're probably not the right place for you.
You know, I is security important? Is cleanliness important? Is is a sense of community and getting to know your neighbors. That's where we kind of, we do bring in compassion and empathy into some questions there, uh, for sure. And then opportunity, are you looking to get ahead? Do you wanna participate in what we do in our community contests and doing work at the asset or work for the company?
And because we wanna lean into people that, you know, we're very aligned [00:20:00] with that and, and it works well for the community. And so the screening is more about that actually, we don't go as deep in empathy as we would for our front liners, which are building ambassadors. That's our version of a, a superintendent or a resident manager.
Um, those people are screened for empathy in the application process. Absolutely. Wow.
Dan Ryan: And then, I guess the, the people who you've screened to be a part of your team, then they're also looking at those four pillars as far as all the incoming p prospective tenants, correct?
Ron Lovett: Yeah. We, we, we actually, so, so the application itself is the same thing I use for security guards.
I mean, we did a scoring, a data-driven scoring process. So if someone scores in Halifax, let's call H R M, you would have to score an 85% for us to look at your applic. Scoring wise, and, and by the way, we review this every six months, we'll kind of say, wow, we have, you know, Dan Ryan is a bad customer. How did he get in here?
Let's go back. Was this a human error or did it, did, did we miss something Cuz Dan and Ron were both bad customers and they both [00:21:00] answered these questions similarly. Let's, maybe we need to adjust that. And so we make very strong data, data-driven decisions on this application.
Dan Ryan: And, and then for, for the pillar of.
Cleanliness. Yeah. Like how do you, how do you wind up measuring that through all of. Through all of your 2300
Ron Lovett: units. Yeah. So, so, um, two things we're, we, we measure, um, and, and I, and I, and I'll bring this back to an interview question cause I love, uh, the interview process, uh, for our customers. Essentially we do two things in the application process.
We'd say, Hey, cleanliness is a key pillar of ours. We would love to see your current home. You'll be top of the application. Give us a tour so they can upload a video tour. Some don't do that, but they, they lose points for it. And so those who are proud of their place, they go to the front of the line for us.
I mean, that's a big point giver. They want to share pictures or video of their current living situation. That's for customers. For our building ambassadors, I'd say. It's even more important because they're in charge of [00:22:00] making sure the building's clean. So we, we look for the, the attribute we're screening for is a sense of pride with them in the application that the scoring metric, but for them, Um, you know, and I talk about this a lot, is when you are, um, when you're screening individuals, you wanna try to build what I call a NACO question.
So in Canada, the US a NACO question in an online application, if you're in hospitality, you might have, uh, a simple knock, two simple NACO questions before anyone gets to the interview. Can you legally work in the United States? That's a NACO question. You're not getting to the interview if it's no. Can are, are, are you 21 years of age?
No knock out. You're knocked out. What's missing? What, what? Those who do really, who deal with high volume of hiring as we do. Is they miss a naco question that has to do with the critical, uh, part of their business and, and, and can be disruptive to their operations. So lemme give you two examples.
Southwest Airlines [00:23:00] in that same, uh, in, in that same process of can you legally work in the United States? You know, you have your green card, whatever it is. Are you open to working overtime? That's a knockout question because planes are sometimes late and you might have to be forced to go in overtime. If you say no, and you're, and this is for, uh, those who, who manage the baggage, you're knocked out.
Tim Horton's, which is like, uh, dunking Donuts. We, we design an application process for them. And one of the questions in that, the na go question in with, can you legally work in Canada? Do you have a vehicle because it's, there's no bus, uh, where this location is? Or do you have access to transportation?
Not go question. Third, are you open to picking up a colleague's shift last minute cuz people call in sick in this business? And the answer is no, you're knock. So in our business, we couldn't figure out the cleanliness, that we couldn't figure out the knockout question. So what we do is it's a visual. If you are applying as a building ambassador, we either have to do it on Zoom, and we want you to, we don't tell [00:24:00] you, but we, we want a tour of your place or we show up to your place, um, that you live.
If it's close by, a manager will show up and we'll see. It's a, it's a visual knockout. If you live in a pig style, you're knocked. If you're pro, we know within seconds if you like to take care of your home. So it's an, it's a knockout visual that we figured out for our building ambassadors. It's, it's a telltale sign.
If you don't look after your home, you can't look after one of our buildings. You, you can't uphold a pillar of cleanliness. Yeah. And you
Dan Ryan: need all of your pillars. And there's only four. You can't have 20 pillars. You gotta be selective about them. Very selective. If you think about of the 2300 units that you currently have, how many tenants.
Like the, of the leaseholders have, kind, have cycled through over the years, since 2017 or 18.
Ron Lovett: Yeah, that's, um, that's a great question. And I guess just, just to, um, put some color into this, one of the challenges that we have that most business owners don't, so, you know, most people in real estate are developers, right?
or the value adders that move customers out and [00:25:00] gut to the studs and raises rents, that's not our game. Hmm. So the challenge for us, Dan, is, you know, we, last July our, our largest acquisition was a 90 million transaction. We bought a thousand units. So we bought a thousand customers. That didn't fill out this application.
Ah, right. And that is a challenge. So then what we are into is let's build some surveys that, let's, let's try to find out who is not aligned with this, because they're not gonna take our application. Like, whatever I already live here, go away. You know? So let's do a customer service survey. And let's try to find who's aligned with Vita's pillars and who's not.
And let's go in and, and do site visits and go behind the doors, uh, on, you know, in our due diligence process and onboarding these buildings, we have to try to figure that out. It's, it's a lot of work and it's not easy. So if we go into your unit, Dan, and it's a disaster. It's not like we say, Hey, you gotta go today.
It's, it's not like that. It's a process. Where we would talk about be to encourage you to clean it up because of, you know, [00:26:00] pests, uh, that could come to the building and affect your community. So we're very deliberate on how we educate people around the business, but it's a, it's a big challenge. Our, our, you know, so, so that data point, there's two different data points.
There's the turnover upon acquisi. Right. So if we buy a building, we know the data, they provide the data on the leases, that would turn, and sometimes that's been from 20 to 40%. Ours is, it would be, uh, sub 11% with our application. And, and by the way, um, most of that turnover is positive turnover. Someone, you know, bought their first home or something.
And so that data breaks down. We're about a 3% delinquency in that. And so, We're moving mountains as far as the success we're having when a customer comes in, what I call through our platform, our ecosystem.
Dan Ryan: So I love the, the, uh, the term you just throughout there called positive turnover. Mm-hmm. . Because throughout knowing you throughout these years, one thing that really strikes me about [00:27:00] you and what drives you is, you know, really thinking about how can.
Through your books, your podcast, your speaking, how can you inspire others to think differently and implement change in their community within themselves? And if you think about the positive turnover or uh, or maybe even the tenants that have come into Vita for the first time, are there any. Stories that you could share of like, of, of having a positive impact on a person or family?
I'm sure there's so many, but is there one that kind of rises to the top that is in, in alignment with those Yeah. Those values within you.
Ron Lovett: Yeah. Look, gr great timing. So we do community contests, right? And those contests are so we can put money back into the communities and a lot of times what we're looking for is stories.
So we literally just, uh, finished a contest. So if you, if you go to our vita. Website, go to LinkedIn, Facebook, I think it's on our Instagram. You'll see we just wrapped up a contest. And the contest was, tell us how Vita helped you get ahead, because it's hard [00:28:00] to capture stories. So we gamify this and then, hey, if we get, we're gonna draw monthly and if we get as many, um, we, we want to do this together.
And so what we'll say is if we hit, um, our goal of, I don't know what this goal was, Dan, I can't remember, of 80 entries, 200 entries, then we'll draw for the grand. 200, uh, $2,500, sorry, was the grand prize. And that's a big deal for someone whose rent is $850. I can tell you that makes a big impact in someone's life.
So, interesting enough, we just did our quarterly planning session two, uh, last week for two days. At the end of the session, we did the final draw. So I call a customer who happens to live in Truro, Nova Scotia. Uh, her name's Sammy. So Sam, if you're listening, um, and I called her and said, You know, we read your story about how Vita impacted your life, you know, and she was very clear of how Vita, the place that she lives impacted her life, helped her get ahead.
She works as a building ambassador today. She, there was a mass shooting in Truro. She was [00:29:00] going through a rough time, found Vita, really felt a sense of belonging, got involved in some different projects, became a building ambassador, had some compensation. Helped her get ahead, met some friends through this.
Build her confidence. I mean, this is, I mean, she was in tears. I mean, of course I told her she won the 2,500. She couldn't even talk. If you look the, the video's online, it's fantastic. You know, and so we'll pull these stories out through contests and we wanna share these stories, and I think that's, that's really important.
The, the other thing, um, that the story I'll share very quickly, um, which some people agree, don't agree, uh, some customers don't agree with this. I've always wanted, um,
The feeling and your experience at Vita to be a little divisive. I know, and maybe I'm using the wrong word by the way. There's probably a better word to explain this. What I mean, Dan, is I wanted to do things where people would say, this is for me, or it's not, you know, we talk about company culture and your company culture [00:30:00] should be attractive or, or, or, or, um, retractor, what, what's the other side of that?
Repulsive rep? Repulsive. Repulsive. Yeah. That sounds aggressive, but Sure. Right. Or, or deterrent.
Dan Ryan: To deter. Well, it could be. Could. Yeah. Repulsive. Sure. Rep. Because if you really think about that 7% and you apply that to Yeah. Not just the target market, but also the target team. Yeah. You want, you want to detract, repulse is a little strong, but you, you we're saying a lot people Yeah.
We're, we're on. We're aligned. So, so we, we'll get out the theus for the Next's
Ron Lovett: right. Next talk. That's right. And I'm horrible. Words at dyslexia. Okay. At dyslexia. Hashtag dyslexia. So anyway. I, I took my kids to a thing called the Discovery Center and, um, picked up this book that was there at the end. It was called Joyful.
I feel those who haven't read it, and in the customer service business, I believe you should, because the book talks about mental health and the impacts of things that we hear and that we see, and that [00:31:00] we feel, and that it, it basically says, If you're, if you have, if you suffer from depression or you're having a bad day and you hold a newborn baby and the baby smiles at you, you can't feel depressed in that moment.
It's impossible. You see a rainbow, you have a moment of happiness. And I really thought this was interesting, and they had a lot of case studies. Um, I'm, I should get her on my podcast actually. Anyway, so what we decided to. If anyone who's listening to this has been in, in a, uh, seventies, eighties, 90 built building, you'll know that the hallways are dark, gloomy, there's no windows.
They're horrible. You know, and if you talk to someone who's lived there, they'll say, you know, years ago I lived in one of these buildings and we felt as human beings that the owner didn't care about us. So then we didn't care about our. and that, that, that really hit home for me. So what we'll do, Dan, what we do now is we chose 12 bright colors and we [00:32:00] paint all the doors.
The exterior hall door, bright red, bright blue. I'm talking Lego. You know, my wife who's an interior designer, we almost had a divorce. She was like, these are not design colors. You know, I let her pilot a building and I cuz like it was not good. She, and I'm like, this is my vision. Stay outta the way. Maybe we should break up over this.
This is huge. Uh, so. We go with these, these 12 bright colors, and then we name them like you do in a cottage. We had a community contest. Give us some f some cool names. So the red robin, it's now labeled the Red robin. It's, you know, unit 12. You still have a a, a unit, uh, number. This is divisive. Some customers that we acquired said, this is so stupid.
I don't want my door paid. I don't want nothing to do with this. Great. Go live somewhere else. No problem. I can tell you that most of our customers that the acquired customers and the new incoming customer, this is attractive to them. They're like, whoa, I've never seen this.
Dan Ryan: That's awesome. Wait, so when someone moves in or their lease turns over after you [00:33:00] acquire, you ask them if they would like to paint, pick from this pallet and personalize your door?
Ron Lovett: No, no, no. We don't actually give the autonomy to pick the color because it would just, we, we just kind of. Here, you know, you're, it's number 12. It's a red robin, so it's either painted. We're either painting these doors now, Dan, we, we decided not give the autonomy of it, it's just too messy for scale and we just thought we would disrupt a customer and piss them off more, more times and keep them happy.
But it's interesting cuz now people are like, oh, Dan, They're not talking about Unit 12. Oh, you're on Red Robin? Uh, yeah. Oh yeah, yeah. I'm, I'm on, I'm on Blue Ocean. The blue, uh, on, on the first floor. Like, oh, that's fine. They're talking about this in colors and names. And I'll tell you, this is a sense of dig, you know, dignified housing, sense of belonging, sense of community.
So these strategies are divisive. Some people don't like this. We're doubling down. I love
Dan Ryan: that. Um, wow. And then if you think about, The dark eighties, nineties corridor. Are you looking [00:34:00] down that corridor and seeing a bunch of pops of color, different pops of
Ron Lovett: colors? Ab Absolutely. Now of course we're lighting up, uh, you know, the, the, um, we have new lighting to do our best to try to pop, make, you know, make them as colorful as possible, but absolutely.
And so from a mental health perspective, you might not see all the colors. Then you walk down to bam. Red pubs outta you that wham yellow pops out, and you're just like, what is going on? You're getting energized as you go down this shitty hallway. It was shitty six months ago, and so look, I'm all good. I, I, I, and I know it's divisive.
I'm not gonna make anyone happy. It reminds me of my restaurant years ago. I had this, the first bring your own bottle of wine, Italian restaurant called Milanos. And you know, I'm, I'm, I'm exaggerating a little bit here, Dan, but essentially I go to the restaurant. A customer would come up and say, Ron, the chicken Parmesan is so good that if you take it off the menu, I'm not coming back.
Two minutes later, Ron, look, I gotta tell you, chicken parr, like, it's so bad. It's not like my grandmother's recipe. If it stays, I don't know if I'm coming back. What do you do? You need to make a decision, right? Yeah. [00:35:00] You better figure out which one is your customer and double. . Totally.
Dan Ryan: Um, hey, looking backwards, so from the, the security business that you built and soul and exited, yeah.
Um, if you were to look back at your day-to-day of that and the safety and security that you would provide for everyone and the team that you built across Canada and globally, um, what do you miss most about that day to day from the, from the old business? Like, I know you're always looking forward, but if you were to look back, what do you.
The most.
Ron Lovett: Yeah. You know this so funny, Dan, you, you, you know, we were talking about this. Uh, so Dan and I are now in a, the same, uh, eo, uh, international Forum and Dan has just joined this forum and missed a retreat, which I hosted. So you had, uh, it looks like you just had, Dan was sunny Bani, right? In Chicago.
Yeah. Which just in Chicago. Yeah. So Sunny, this is interesting what I kind of. Is I, I'm really good man. One of my, I'm gonna call it Zon a genius, uh, is last minute [00:36:00] decision making under. When the, when the stress is on and you need to move lightning fast. And so one of the themes of this, of, of this, uh, retreat was nobody knew what was happening at any stage.
Said, I'm not gonna, you won't know from, from minute to minute what's going on. And so things were falling apart in the background. And I had to, uh, what does Sonny call it? Uh, you know, kind of ad hoc it, and he used a better, uh, verbiage for it. Like he, you know, I had to ad lib and ad hoc and, and change directions on the fly, and son would say, man, so we would debrief it afterwards, and he's like, so, so, so you're telling me that the original plan.
Didn't work out and so we had no idea. But then you upgraded last minute. You the, the, the, the, the new plan was better. And so the security business was like that. I could be on tour with Jay-Z and have to figure out something very last minute or be doing an a G M in Grand Bahama. Something would pop up and I would, I could move very quickly with how I take in information and [00:37:00] make decisions that it will typically be an upgraded decision from where I was anyways.
And so funny. I was telling, you know, the group, this is the first time I've kind of reminds me, I kind of miss this stuff, this crazy, chaotic last minute. I kind of missed that. You know, I, I kind of missed the, oh my God, the driver drove to the ro wrong area. Now we've got Nicole Kidman in the car. We've gotta get her over the fence to get to her movie.
Uh, you know, the, the rabbit hole. I've gotta pick her up and take her over the fence. Like I have to ad hoc this thing. People are going crazy and cheering. Like I would just be confident enough to make decisions and move. And that's always been an ability I've had and I haven't had to do that as much.
And so it reminded me when the group was here, that man, I kind of missed that.
Dan Ryan: Yeah. I wonder, there's gotta be ways as you, uh, look into the future where you can tie in that or kind of design in that. Chaos, if you will, or, or quick decision making. Yeah, just in fun or, or something. Um, you know, Dan,
Ron Lovett: also, I just wanna talk about a couple things, if that's okay.
Cause I, I, I, [00:38:00] I also wanna be clear, uh, and, and look, I'm, I'm, I'll play homage to, to John Deju on this and maybe, I dunno if he's been on your podcast. Um, he has, oh, he's probably talked about this, but, but there's two things that I think are, are important, won't bore everyone, but the customer service Bill of Rights, which I, which.
You know, um, essentially learn from John because the question is, okay, fine, you've hired someone's, em with empathy, but how do you measure success? And so I love John's customer service Bill of Rights, you know, so the Bill of Rights says, you know, here's the things you can't, you know, that, that, that you the 10 things that you can't do, but here's what you can't do.
So, you know, don't point show, don't tell someone they, what they can't do without telling 'em what they can do. So you can measure these things. And I, I love that thesis and I think most companies. If you're gonna put your money where your mouth is, you have to build something like that, that you can measure and ask the customer, did we do these things?
Here's the key pain points from the customer. And, and the second thing that I talk a lot about, Um, and that was, you [00:39:00] know, my first book, outrageous Empowerment. The subtitle was giving employees their Brains Back, and the subtitle wasn't that employees didn't have Brains, but we built a process, which is a decision making process and that allowed people to think for themselves.
We use this today at Vita, so quite simply, and that we train people this on onboarding. So what we tell people, Dan, and this is, this is a. It's a absolute, the best strategy we have in play. So what we essentially do is say, look, Dan, if you need to make a decision, a customer facing decision, and you've not been trained in this situation, you don't know what to do, we want you to simply ask yourself three questions before you make that decision.
Is the decision that you've come to in the moment, is it the right thing for the. Is it the right thing for our business based on our purpose and values? And are you willing to be accountable for your decision if it's yes, yes, yes. [00:40:00] Don't ask anybody move. You don't need, uh, permission and we'll, it, uh, the outcome of this is quite unique because, You'll find that people made in 80% of the time, they'll make better decisions than the C-Suite would make cuz they're closest to it and it becomes a new standard.
You get to stop and celebrate and say, Dan Ryan did this thing and this is how we want you to deal with this type of situation. We create training and stories around it. In some cases, and you celebrate that, in some cases it wasn't as good. And we would then use that to educate people and say, you know what, upon reflection, you know, this situation happened with employee and here's what's the outcome.
We wanna avoid this and let's walk. We'll use it as a case study to to, to upscale everybody on what to avoid. And so the decision making process at Vita has changed. At Vita, our decision making process is, is what you're about to do the right. For the, the community, not the customer. The reason why we pivoted that is because the [00:41:00] community is the building.
That's a language used for the building. Well, the customer might. Play rap music and have a party and do some drugs, that's not the right thing for the community. So it's right thing for the community, right thing for our purpose of revolutionizing affordable communities and be willing to own your decision.
And through that, um, we use it as a pre-coaching tool. Hey, you're stuck. Go through the decision making process. What do you think should do? Or does that decision align with the decision making process or post? Let's talk about it and debrief it, but we'll always have your back. Don't call for approval.
Move That decision making process has always been our secret sauce.
Dan Ryan: So in a way, the part that you missed from the past, you've. Scaled it through your team. Absolutely. Or, or distribute it through your team so that they can actually be on their feet. Cuz one of the, you know, just checking into a hotel or for a flight or something, or a rental car, the thing that drives me bananas is when it's like, oh, it's our policy to blah, blah, blah.
Like, that just [00:42:00] makes my skin crawl. But if, and, and I find that oftentimes those policies are misapplied to specific situations and to empower. Out outrageously. Mm-hmm. Your team, um, to make those decisions and to support them. That's
Ron Lovett: right. And ultimately they have to know that they're safe. That has to be crystal clear on onboarding.
You are safe. You run through that. You ask yourself three questions. It's yes, yes, yes. Move. Don't ask anything and, and we'll have your back. It's all good. You're not gonna be in trouble. You have to create this sense of safety around that because people say, Hey, that just sounds too crazy for me. But think of the confidence that that builds in your front liners.
Think of the learning because you know, the, the old one is someone gets in a jam, they can't make a decision for a customer. They call the mid-level manager who puts it on their to-do list who might have to get approval for something else. Customers annoyed by now. I mean, it's a disaster.
Dan Ryan: Yeah. And so is it right for the customer?
Is it alignment with the values? And will you be accountable
Ron Lovett: for it? I like that. Last question. We say [00:43:00] purpose and values, like so, so it's purpose. Values can be a little mucky sometimes because it might have to someone really, it's the concentration on purpose or mission in some cases for, for your business, depending on what you have there.
So, so right thing for the customer or community, whatever it is, right Thing for our business based on purpose, mission, values, those types of things. and are you willing to be accountable for your decision? You need to drive accountability, right? Yeah. That really
Dan Ryan: resonates with me. Um, because if people don't feel like they can or can't be accountable, it, it basically neuters them for their decision making process.
And then they're in this like, place of fear. Yeah. And if, if they are accountable, whether the outcome is good or bad, but you're also got their back. If they've gone through this process, it should give them the strength to just live by that.
Ron Lovett: Well look, those, you know, there's, I think it was Jack Daley who says this, you know, like, policies are rules and if, and if, and rules are made for children.
If you want your employees to act like a bunch of children, then make [00:44:00] more policies for them. I totally subscribe to that. Uh, I couldn't, I couldn't agree more. And so, you know, the idea is the, the, the other thing is, . When you're small, you get dopamine by answering someone's question, you know? But, and, and I start my masterclass.
I have a teaser video online, and I, and I basically start off and I say, look, we're all experts, we're entrepreneurs, are leaders because we were experts at something. But at some point, You become the bottleneck. And when you're the bottleneck, then you're questioning, oh my God, everyone's an idiot around me.
Well, you've created the behavior to say, come and ask me for permission on these things. You, the that, that small dopamine as you scale. Now you don't have two people asking you, you have 12 and you've stole their learning. You've stole it from them because you have an ego that says, no, come ask me. And now you're in hot water because you, your door, your, your doors are revolving door, and your phone rings twenty four seven.
It's your fault. Sorry for all those out there. They're like, holy shit. That is my fault. .
Dan Ryan: Yeah. Oops. Um, [00:45:00] hey, how old were you when you started your security business?
Ron Lovett: 21. 21, cool.
Dan Ryan: Um, so
Ron Lovett: 43. Now I'm an old man. Yeah.
Dan Ryan: Not as old as me, but as you, so you've been on this crazy journey since you were 21 and on a new path now, um, with the platform of Vita that you've built.
I guess the path for expansion, which seems like pretty limitless and Mm. What's ex as you look to the future, as you look at like where, where you're piloting, where you have your hand on the tiller, where you're going, what's exciting you the most about the future?
Ron Lovett: Yeah. There there's, there's something that we're doing now, which is very exciting.
So in this world of supply chain, Lack of skills and labor and different things. We've, uh, we, we've of course have these, this role, which is typically a repair maintenance role. And not too long ago, Dan, I was kind of losing, losing sleep because we've acquired portfolios that would have a repair maintenance person, and we're not really guiding them.
[00:46:00] And I'm like, oh my God. Like I'm gonna have to tear this thing apart. We've got five or six of these folks now, I had a vision for why wouldn't we, from a decentralized standpoint, and by the. I'm always thinking about centralization, decentralization, and I actually believe in decentralized with checks, balances, systems, processes, support, guidance, but decentralized for all decisions, like a decision-making process is a decentralized strategy and process, and so, I just had a, a strategy session two weeks ago with this group and I said, look, I wanted one change your, your titles too, home creator.
You'll create the, the units where people are gonna live in and skill builder, and this is what I'm excited about. So what we're doing now, excuse me, Dan, is we're now developing the courses to build skills for, you know, immigrant families, younger folks that want to build skills, someone who wants to change their career.
Seniors that wanna get back into the workforce, we will now train you how to paint. So we'll [00:47:00] put on the course to our customers to learn how to do these skills in the business. So our resident would come, they'd sign up for a painting course, our skill builder in that area would train them on how to paint.
They'd go to our, our, our Vita u our, our, our online, um, talent management System learning, uh, our, our L m s Learning Management system, I should say, and take a component about our purpose and values, and use how to treat the customer, customer service. And onboarding at the softer things. And through that, they're then approved as a community contractor.
And so I am so excited about this. We had suppliers putting on kind of, um, you know, education days, but we are now systemizing this, and I am, it's huge. I think it's, this is a way to create a stronger, be organized with our sense of belonging, helping people get ahead. You know, reducing our own costs, cuz we probably pay 65 cents on the dollar of what, uh, a contractor, what we pay a contractor.
So this is brand new hot off the press. Super excited, [00:48:00] excited to build out and systemize this and pilot it. And so I'm re really
Dan Ryan: excited, you know. Well, and that also ties right back to you and your, your desire to impact those around you. And it's really like lifting where you stand, right? You're, that's it.
You're lifting everyone up around from your.
Ron Lovett: and you know, it, it also, you know, it brings me to, to this point on anything you do in a company, and we'll go back to. Making the beds in hospitality. Right. And, and, and I'm assuming that most of systemize this and, and, and I think that in some cases, you know, humans were so, not so well, we are flawed, but our opinions vary.
And I always go back to, look, my wife's version of doing the bed is very different than mine. Right. And, and, and I'm not even close to, to hitting her expectation. So I, we have this thing called the Platinum Triangle. Anything that we think someone has made a mistake on, we look ourselves in the mirror and we say, let's go through the platinum triangle.
So there's three components to this. Let's say it's [00:49:00] making a bed. Let's say it's cleaning a unit at Vita, right? Did we provide a simple checklist system or process? Do we have a system or process? That's simple. Not a big convoluted s o p checklist. Check, check, check. Did we provide the tools that they need to succeed and did we train them on the tools in the system?
If it's not, yes, yes, yes. It's the company's fault. It's time to engage your staff to create that and make sure that you actually, that's how you scale. That's how you franchise this thing. That's how you systemize it. So everything we look in the mirror on that platinum triangle training systems and processes through simple checklist and tools.
If we haven't done that, we've not, we, we've failed individuals in the company. And, and so we're thinking that, that as we do
Dan Ryan: this training, I love that because if you think about, um, the decision making process and then also this checklist. It's almost this, you're, you're creating this positive feedback loop for [00:50:00] continual change.
And as you said, what is it? Radical, continual improvement or something like that, right?
Ron Lovett: Yeah. It relentless improvement. Relentless, continuous, and, and actually we upgraded that to Relentless. Relentless. I love
Dan Ryan: that. Um, so. Going back, like, uh, the Ron I'm speaking to now, the 43 year old Ron, let's just pretend you magically appear in front of your 21 year old self, right?
As you're starting your security company. Mm-hmm. . Um, knowing what you know now, what advice do you have for yourself?
Ron Lovett: Yeah, great question. Um, you know, I was talking about this in front of a group of high school, uh, folks a couple weeks ago, and I was trying to think of this same question, like, what do I wish I knew?
20 years ago, and one of the things, um, that I find that I, sorry, that, that I wish I knew and that I see in young entrepreneurs now is there is this, there is this, um, and it's really an insecurity, an imposter [00:51:00] syndrome, which, which maybe is natural, but there's this tendency to. Interesting versus interested.
And those are very similar words with very different outcomes. And it took me a long time to shut up and become interested. And that is how you listen and how you absorb information. You jump, don't jump to conclusions. And so I, I think I wish I was a lot more interested. Did back then trying to be interesting all the time.
Um, and it doesn't mean you don't have great things to say, but typically young entrepreneurs, they go to talk to someone and the, and, and you're there to learn, but you're just talking and you're trying to, you know, um, convince somebody that, that your decisions are all right. And so I, I, I fell in that category.
Um, you know, the other thing that I, that I talk. I probably didn't have the, I was stuck here a few times. Um, but, but I see more people stuck here and so I'll talk about this one. But, um, 2, 2, 2 other things. One, um, [00:52:00] a non-decision. So when someone's stuck, should I go left or should I go right? I don't know.
I'm overthinking it. What do I do what I do? And they get stuck deer in the headlights. A non-decision is a decision with its own consequences, and we don't think about it like, But it's absolutely true. It has. When you are stuck, you have your own consequences to that non-decision. So grab a decision. The last one I'll.
which I love is in life. You know, we talk ourselves outta things or people around us. And you are already at, no, if you wanna go for something big, you wanna ask someone on a date, you wanna hire someone, you have a business idea you are already at. No, it doesn't get any worse. You know, when I wanna call someone, my, my, my wife calls this nervy, I just say it's, you know, it's, it's grit, um, and drive.
I'm already at, no, if I wanna call you Dan and ask you to invest in my company. Before I call you, I'm at a hard no. Anything else that happens [00:53:00] is a step forward. Maybe you don't do it, but we build a relationship. Maybe you introduce me to someone, maybe you advise me on something, anything. I'm at ground zero.
And so people, they, they get stuck there. And I, I, I don't even understand it anymore. You're already at no move. You know? And so those are things that, um, that I continue to think about, I think,
Dan Ryan: uh, on that non-decision. And already at. Um, it, it resonates with me because like there's a calorie burn to just being in that moment of inertia.
I, I love that. Hundred percent. And then, and then just really being, um, interested in things like, always to be curious that, that something that, like, we're an eo that's really helped me, like going through all the coaching processes and really, and doing this. Just listening, listening, listening. And be curious and tell me more.
Tell me more. So I love it. Um, I know we, we've covered a lot of ground. You've given, I mean, I. This crazy mind map of information here. Hey, I'm going like, I [00:54:00] mean this was just super impactful for me, Ron, and so I thank you. Um, if people wanted to learn more about you or Vita like. How can they, how can they do it?
Yeah. Or or your, and your podcast as well. We'll put it in the show
Ron Lovett: notes. Yeah, sure. So, scaling Culture podcasts, a lot of great guests. We try to dive deep into topics with experts that, that, you know, I have no business talking to, but I'm already at. No. So I get to talk to them. Um, and I learn a lot from that.
It is very selfish learning. What a great way to just have a, build a relationship and have a deep, uh, conversation and, and get to, you know, you know, really. Guide the conversation through curiosity. So, so that's fantastic. Check out the podcast. Um, we have, um, I think there's a, a website called ron and that has access to like podcasts and books and all that stuff.
You can find the books, scaling Culture and Outrageous Empowerment on Amazon. And, um, I'm on LinkedIn. I'm, I'm, I'm fairly active on LinkedIn. Um, so, so, so if anybody ever wanna reach out, [00:55:00] um, and look, I'm, I'm accessible. I, I know, you know, I didn't get into my history here, but I won the lottery. I'm not supposed to be sitting here.
And so I'm very thankful for that. And I'm always paying my dues every day. Yeah.
Dan Ryan: And just if they reach out, they're starting at maybe not at No. Right.
Ron Lovett: You go to hard. Yes. If you reach out, just having the, having the balls to do that. Okay.
Dan Ryan: the coones. Uh, well, hey, we'll put all that in the, in the notes. Ron, I know how busy you are.
I know what a growth path you're on, and I just wanna say thank you for, for your time and the learning and satisfying my curiosity here. So thank you.
Ron Lovett: Thanks, Dan. Been a pleasure. Good to see you.
Dan Ryan: Yeah, and also I, I, I want to thank all of the listeners because again, we keep growing every week. It, it's get, it's getting boring.
Saying that like, but it's really just humbling and amazing. So it's working. People are listening. Hospitality transcends everything. And if this changed the way you think about hospitality, please pass it along and we'll catch you next time.

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Finding Curiosity - Ron Lovett - Episode # 086
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