Partnering with God to “take the world somewhere”
Jordan Raynor sits down with Mike Arrieta, Founder of Garden City, to talk about how he became the #1 Cutco salesperson at the age of 17, the 3 things he looks for when investing in businesses, and how excellence and distinction serve as calling cards for Christians.
[0:00:05.3] JR: Hey everybody, welcome to The Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others. Every single week, I’m bringing you a conversation with a Christian, who is pursuing world-class mastery of their craft. We talk about their path to mastery, their daily habits and routines and how their faith influences their work.
Today, I’m thrilled to share this conversation with my friend, Mike Arrieta. He's a young guy with one of the craziest resumes I’ve ever heard of in my life. His first job in high school at the age of 17 was selling Cutco Knives, when he became the number one salesperson in the world out of more than 50,000 Cutco sales reps. Then he was the Chief Of Staff at Dell and DocuSign. He co-founded New Story, the non-profit from Brett Hagler, whom you've heard here on The Call To Mastery. Today, Mike is spending time as an investor, investing in companies like Impossible Foods and Blue Bottle Coffee.
Mike and I sat down recently. We talked about how he became the number one Cutco sales rep at the age of 17. We talked about the three things he looks for when investing in businesses and we talked about how excellence and distinction can serve as calling cards for us as Christians. I loved this conversation with my friend, Mike Arrieta.
[00:01:41] JR: Mike, it's good to talk to you again, man. Thanks for being here.
[00:01:43] MA: Yeah, thank you very much. Excited for it.
[00:01:46] JR: You're here, because your buddy Brett Hagler, which who to this day was one of my favorite guests on this show. Brett’s incredible. On his episode, he said that you were the person he most like to hear next on The Call to Mastery. We got on the phone, you and I found out we actually have a lot in common. Now here we are. Let's start with your story. You grew up in South Florida and started working at a really young age. Can you talk to us about your first job?
[00:02:13] MA: Yeah, sure. My first job, I mean, my very first job was I made sandwiches for a little family-owned sandwich shop. Right around that age, my father got very sick and he was in the ICU for quite some time. His kidneys failed, so he was on dialysis. Then he had a pancreas transplant, kidney transplant, an amputation on his toe, so that prevented him from walking the way that he did prior. There were just a lot of financial difficulties on our family. To step in and help, I started selling Cutco Knives. I say that was my real first job was selling Cutco Knives.
[00:02:55] JR: You were phenomenally successful at this. Trying to toot your own horn here. Why do you think you were so successful in that role? Why did you gravitate towards sales like that?
[00:03:08] MA: Yeah, great question, Jordan. Yeah, I was successful until this day. I’m one of their top sales people in history. I broke up many all-time sales records the company –
[00:03:19] JR: You were 17, right?
[00:03:20] MA: Yeah. I mean, Cutco does not like to talk about that, because you technically have to be 18 to sell now.
[00:03:26] JR: We'll edit that out. Yeah.
[00:03:28] MA: Well, it's totally fine. Yeah, I broke the record of the first year ever employed and I was the number one salesperson out of 50,000. That's what really helped me start supporting my family. What was my secret? It changes. Every time I’m asked this, I think it changes constantly, because there was no magic bullet.
I think one of the premises was that I basically had to be successful, was the way that I told myself. I saw the difficulties that my family was going through and I just did not want to put more burden on them to have to worry about me financially. I just wanted to help them in any way that I can. Knowing that my father was having a very difficult time with his health condition, my mother was taking care of him and the money was not coming in. I was very hungry to try to contribute.
I think that was the bedrock. I think when your back’s against the wall, your true colors show. It also took a lot of discipline and obedience. I would wake up every morning before going to high school and I would make cold calls. I would ask the teachers in the middle of class to go to the restroom and I would take my binder of names and numbers and I would make cold calls inside the stalls.
[00:04:41] JR: I love it.
[00:04:42] MA: I would keep a log of which teacher I asked to go to the bathroom which day, so they didn't catch on to me. I would make cold calls every day during lunch. After school, I would have appointments from 3 p.m. till 8 p.m. at night. It just took a lot of trial and error and obedience and discipline. It took a lot of learning. This was my first year selling when I was 17-years-old. I just learned a lot.
I read every Zig Ziglar book and I read everything out there. I was just trying to learn about what does building rapport mean. How do you actually negotiate, drop down, get recommendations and so forth. No silver bullet. I think it's just a mixture of all of that.
[00:05:23] JR: I do think that quality of you had to make it work is really important. I thought a lot about this in the context of founding teams of adventure. In a perfect scenario, you want co-founders that both want the thing to succeed and need it to succeed at an equal level. Because when there's an imbalance there, I don't know when the why isn't as strong for one founder, it just doesn't really work. I mean, you're investing in founders now. Do you look for that? Do you look for people who just absolutely have to make this thing work?
[00:06:01] MA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, so after talking later about my story, but I try to start a company years ago before DocuSign. I had a safety plan. If it did not work, I was not out that much financially and my life would have continued. My why, basically it did not have to work. I had a safety plan.
Now realizing with Cutco is if it did not work, if it did not work, there was months that my family was not able to pay their mortgage. If it did not work, that meant that I would have graduated four years in college with a ton of debt. If it did not work, the list goes on and on and on.
It was not a master of it would be nice if it worked, or it's okay that I don't make any more cold calls, or it's okay that this customer says that they're not going to buy anything. I was relentless. I think some themes are over my life before being a believer. Without a doubt, the one that was over my life before being a believer was I was just relentless. I was just a driver. I would run through a brick wall and keep running. If someone said no, I forced myself immensely to say, it takes six or seven no's to get to a yes. I would thrive when people said no. I would be getting on –
[00:07:19] JR: Yeah. You know you're one step closer.
[00:07:20] MA: Oh, yeah. I would not leave that house without some success. A success might mean a sale, or an even bigger success is getting recommendations, knowing how critically important future pipeline and recommendations are for the future of Cutco sales appointments. Yeah, so I was really – I hardwired myself to say, I have to succeed. If not, how are my family and I going to make it through this?
[00:07:47] JR: I like the idea for anyone in sales, like viewing no as success, as a win and not leaving until you get a win. That doesn't necessarily mean a sale. Just get a no. Just get a clear answer. Thumbs up, thumbs down, and move on. Tell us the rest of your story and let's stop at Garden City, because I want to come back to that in a minute. You're phenomenally successful at Cutco. You went to Florida State with Brett?
[00:08:14] MA: I did not. No. I wasn't that smart. I went to the University of Alabama.
[00:08:19] JR: I love it. You went to University of Alabama. Tell us the rest of your story. bring it up to present day and what you're doing with Garden City.
[00:08:26] MA: Sure. I started selling Cutco Knives, I’m making six figures since 17 years of age. Actually, I go to the University of Alabama. I still sell Cutco Knives every single summer. I was the number one sales rep in the company. The number one manager was this other gentleman named Michael Cassetta, and he managed the New York city territory. I called him my freshman year and I go, “Hey, I just took on a bunch of debt from my freshman year. I need to pay it all off. I’m the number one sales rep, you're the number one manager, let's partner up.”
He said, “Great. Come to New York.” I moved to New York and I started just cold calling people that I’ve never met. I didn't know anyone up there. That's what I did every year of school. I went to New York city and sold Cutco. Then basically, I realized that if I ever wanted to be in the position of the people that had the financial ability to buy $5,000 worth of kitchen knives, it's not going to be by being an individual sales rep at Cutco. Some people make an amazing career out of it and they feel called to do that and that's amazing.
I just had an itch in my belly that I wanted to do something bigger, do something more entrepreneurial, build something. After I graduated college at the University of Alabama, I followed my now wife, to Silicon Valley. I joined a startup in Silicon Valley called Wise. The CEO gave me an opportunity. I’ll never forget what he said. He was like, “Alexander the Great conquered the world when he was 19. You're a little bit older, so I have high expectations for you.”
[00:09:58] JR: That's terrific.
[00:10:00] MA: I worked for him at Wise and he was like, “We're going to build this company,” and we were a small company. By the grace of God, two years later, we met with Michael Dell and Michael Dell said he wanted to get into the space we were in and he bought the company for over a billion dollars right when he was taking Dell private.
Now I am at Dell. There's a big, big void in my life. I mean, now I call it a God-sized hole in my belly. At this age now, I’m probably 22. I mean, I’ve accomplished what I thought would be the happiest days of my life. I’ve done great in –
[00:10:38] JR: You are the rich young ruler.
[00:10:40] MA: Completely, completely. I bought my parents a house. I bought us – I mean, there's nothing that I really, really want that financially now with the acquisition, I really can't truly get. However, I’m miserable. My relationship with my now wife is miserable, my relationship with myself. I’ve always seen myself in the mirror for really up until that point, as a low-income, overweight Hispanic, not very smart kid that has a stutter problem, because I had a stutter problem my whole life.
I’ve done a couple podcasts with Cutco now and what everyone talks about is, “Mike, we all remember you, because we couldn't believe that you got those sales when you could barely speak on the phone,” because I couldn't even get words out. I always had so many of these insecurities. I thought that hiding behind my success in the business world would make me happier, would make me more fulfilled and it never did.
At this point, my best friend, Brett Hagler, who was on the podcast, he invites me to Haiti on a trip, on a mission trip. I went for the experience. I was like, “Hey, going to Haiti. I mean, I’m sure I could learn something cool there. I think I’m a Christian. I mean, it's on my Facebook, so I have to do it.” I go to Haiti and I see some people singing worship songs. I’m like, “No way. That is weird. That's definitely never going to be me.” I see people praying, I’m like – I mean, I grew up Catholic. I don't pray like that. It just wasn't my scene. I felt so out of place.
Then I don't know. One thing happened after another. On that trip, I started journaling and I mean, that really changed my heart. First time in my life, I probably really truly talked to God. It just reminded me of like, Mike, these are your people. The people that don't really know how they're going to make it through the next month, or even the next day, these are your people, hard working class people, the everyday people that are overlooked. Don't forget where you come from. That just broke me. It really, really broke me.
I came back to Silicon Valley and I basically, Jordan, paused my entire life. I stopped speaking to all my friends for about a year. I came back home, I broke up with my girlfriend, who we were dating at that point for about seven years, who's now my wife. We almost didn't speak for nearly a year. Brett Hagler moved across the country and we lived together in the same place in San Francisco and we just woke up every morning and we started reading scripture and praying and starting to see like, well, what's it like actually following Jesus?
After that, after we started realizing like, “Okay. We are allowed to have a glass of wine. Okay. I am allowed to actually go on dates with girls.” We just didn't know what this true walk looked like. We really started actually understanding how to crawl, walk, run. I got back with my girlfriend, who's now my wife, and I quickly proposed and we've been together now for five years.
I left Dell and I joined DocuSign. DocuSign was about a hundred-ish people. We were only known for realtors. Anytime I’d wear a DocuSign hoodie, or hats, 50% of people wouldn't know what we were. The other 50% were like, “DocuSign? I love DocuSign. I just bought my house and I used DocuSign.” I was there for the last six years, the first three years as chief of staff to our chairman and CEO. The last three years as a global vice president and general manager. I just left February of this year. When I left, we were about almost 6,000 people, about 20 billion market cap. Here four months later, we're now 35 billion market cap, which is crazy.
[00:14:34] JR: It’s crazy. DocuSign is just a nuts story out of the valley, filled with great stories. I want to talk about – we have a lot of founders, or aspiring founders here. You've had an entrepreneurial story. You're now investing in founders. I’m curious, from your perspective, what separates the wheat from the chaff? What's the delta between good and great amongst founders?
[00:15:01] MA: I’ll answer it in a different way that I think will get us to the same exact place is when I invest in founders, or I invest – I mean, investing in founders, I basically look at that from an early stage investing. C, to really A, maybe B. When I look at investments of B-plus, I don't put as much emphasis on the founder or the CEO and I look at it more holistically from a company perspective. I look at it from three different things. One is the team, two is the problem market fit. Then three is do I actually understand it and can I add value?
For the team, if it's a early stage deal, it's basically do I know the founder intimately? If I do, great. Do I trust him? Do I actually believe that he could seal something? Do I believe that when his back’s against the wall, he will prevail? Do I believe that he will not give up? Do I believe that he or she will pivot when needed? Do I believe that he or she will act with integrity and be upfront and transparent when things are not going good?
If I do not know the founder, I am crazy about back channel references. Crazy. I’ll go through LinkedIn and see who do I know that's connected to this person? Where did they work before and I’ll shoot out 20, 30, 40 text messages and e-mails of do you know this person? Do you know this person? Do you know this person?
[00:16:28] JR: It’s your Cutco days. You're cold calling, but for referrals.
[00:16:32] MA: Completely, on this founder. Have you worked with the founder? What was he or she like at this company? Tell me an example. I would say, 80% of the time, the narrative is the same. It's the same language that's being spoken about that person. They typically pass the sniff test, or they don't at that point.
Then if it's a larger deal, instead of really going deep on the founder, I just do the same thing, but across the leadership team. If it's more of a new moonshot technology product, I’ll put more emphasis on the CTO. If it's much more of a product that's already validated, the problem market fit, I’ll put more emphasis on the head of sales and so forth. I’ll just do the same thing on the team.
The second thing I look for is problem market fit. Are you actually solving for a problem? We went through Y Combinator through New Story, DocuSign, we were trying to solving a big, big problem. There's a lot of great, great founders and startups out there that they're building something that's awesome, but it's a nice to have. Are you actually solving a real problem that people just cannot stand?
Then lastly is do I understand it? There's a lot of things out there that again, I told you already, I went to Alabama. I’m not that smart. Now there are some smart people that went there, I’m not one of them. Can I talk to this in bed with my wife and be like, “Sweetheart, I really like this deal. Here's the founder, here's the team, here's the problem we’re solving for,” and does she get it? Do I get it? Can we actually add value? Through our introductions, or through our prior experience?
[00:18:10] JR: I’m curious. In my book Master of One, my second book, I talk about these three keys to mastering really any vocation. This came up through a bunch of academic literature, a bunch of interviews. Basically, they’re apprenticeships, purposeful practice and discipline over time. I’m curious which of those three keys you found to be most critical uh in your own career.
[00:18:32] MA: Yeah. Probably discipline over time.
[00:18:34] JR: Yeah. Just like grit.
[00:18:36] MA: Grit. Yeah. Again, it stems from my young boy insecurities. It totally does of saying like, “I want to make it. I have to make it. I got to support my family. I got to make a name for myself. I can't fail. I got to be number one.” Just can complete now, I hope that I have channeled that now in the past seven to eight years in a healthy manner, of a lot more of a healthy manner. It's definitely been discipline over time.
I’m a big, big, big believer of steady improvements and just the entire thing of really that book, Atomic Habits. Before that book came out, before I read it, that was just my thing. With Cutco, I would just try to make my call scripts better every single time. Every single time I built rapport. I would just try to follow the same building rapport and see what parts I can make better, every time I sold something, or every time I was chief of staff, I put better and better processes in place. As I master things, I’m just very, very focused at discipline over time.
[00:19:46] JR: Let's talk about discipline in the context of your day-to-day, your habits and routines day-to-day. What does a typical day look like for you, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed?
[00:19:57] MA: Typically, set my alarm for 5:45 every morning. I typically hit that snooze button for about 8 minutes. Now we're at 5:52-ish. Then I open my phone. On my phone, I have no apps, so I don't have any social media. I don't have my e-mail. I don't have Safari, Chrome, nothing at all. I open my bible app and I just get into the word for about 15 minutes and I pray in bed as I look at my beautiful wife and I’m just in the word there.
Sometimes if I want to go downstairs, I’m more motivated, I’ll do a little journaling, but I’m typically just in the word for 15-20 minutes. Then get in the car, probably around 6 30-ish, make a tea that I drink in the car. Then in the car, it matters what mood, I’ll either play music and jam out, or I’ll do a bible app called Abide, or I’ll just be in complete silence and pray, or think, or I’ll call someone very early that I know is up. Work out around 7, 7 to 7:45. Take a shower here at the office at 7:45 and start working by 8. My day is pretty much jam, jam, jam packed from that time until I leave here at 5:00 sharp.
Same thing on the way home, either take a call, pray or listen to music. Go home, play with my kiddos and my wife from 5:30 till about 8:30. Then it depends on the night, but from 8:30 on, I’m either just knocking out some work on the laptop, or my wife and I are just watching something on TV. Or we're reading.
[00:21:36] JR: What time are you going to bed?
[00:21:37] MA: It really depends. If there's something on my mind that I just need to jam out, but typically around 10, 10:30.
[00:21:45] JR: We talk a lot on this podcast about the intersection of faith and work. In a minute, I want to get to Garden City and the work you're doing today. First, I want to talk about the spectrum that you've traveled over the last decade of your why. You talk about it, when you're 17, you're just trying to make a name for yourself. You're living for the motivation that I think most people in this world and frankly, a lot of Christians live for. It's almost a form of self-salvation, but they didn’t come to Christ, but you're still wildly ambitious for your work. Talk for a minute about how your ambition and the source of your ambition has evolved over time.
[00:22:24] MA: That's probably the most passionate topic of mine. I mean, from when I was 17, until probably mid-20s when I was just working hard, 60 hours a week, it would just all be for self. It would be for pride. It would be really, just pride. Just for myself, to get the glory for myself, to be recognized, for me to have the attention of others. I mean, that's everything that I worked for. Unfortunately, when you're in a direct sales company like Cutco, or you're in a sales organization, people salute that and people acknowledge and praise that.
[00:23:09] JR: The whole structure is built around fueling people with that why.
[00:23:14] MA: Completely. Completely. It's all about push yourself more. You could do better. I, I, me, me. You could do anything you put your mind to. Just the power of the mind, all this stuff. Now what has changed is I have Jesus's life. I am held safely in his hands. He loves me and he is so in love with me and he's so content with me. I am his son in whom he's well pleased. There is nothing more I can do to earn more of his approval and love.
I could just wake up and eat Skittles all day and not work out and not do anything of work and not be whatever and he will still love me, completely radically. Now granted, I feel that my purpose is to know Jesus and make him known. I feel that he's giving me a passion. He wants to give me meaning to my life. He's giving me a passion and I’m uniquely gifted for and that passion makes me come alive. With everything that I personally do in my life is I’m excited for excellence and for doing things distinctly.
I want to lean into God's bigger plan on my short time here on earth. I believe, excellence is our standard and distinction is our calling card. I want to make excellence a standard in whatever I do, like Paul says in Colossians. In whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it in the name of Christ Jesus, giving thanks to him or through him to God.
What that means now is I still have the same passion. I still have the same hunger. I still have the same grit, but now it's not because I’m trying to get validated. It's not because I’m trying to be known, or recognized, or appreciated, or valued. Now it's hey, I just want to – I know him. I know that he loves me and I want to make him known and I know he's doing something great in this world while my short time is here and I want to lean into that plan.
[00:25:18] JR: It’s almost the train has left the station and we have been invited to hop onboard and be a part of what the Lord is doing in the world, to be a part of his much bigger story for work. It's just, are you going to get on or not?
[00:25:30] MA: Which makes you reckless, which I love. Once you realize that, you become so fearless. I’m really geeking out in the Old Testament lately, because for the last several years, I just love the good news. Really, I just feel called to just put my nose into the Old Testament lately. It's just like, he so deeply just wants us to be fearless and trust him wholeheartedly. The math does not add up when you're following him, period.
[00:25:59] JR: I’ve talked a lot about this in the past, but I think most people exist on this spectrum of what they believe the meaning of work and the meaning of life is. If you can imagine just a straight line on the far left hand side of the spectrum, people believe there's no meaning to work. I think this is a very baby boomer, at the risk of painting with a broad brush, a very baby boomer way of thinking about work.
I go to work to collect a paycheck, to move on to the truly meaningful things in life. Then at the opposite end of the spectrum, you have where you and I in previous lives fell, Mike, is work is the source of ultimate worth. Work is what I use to prove to the world that I am valuable. On the surface, that appears to be the biggest “story” for work. But in reality, even that is incredibly small.
When you're looking to work, to save you, you're lost in this little tiny micro story of you and the bible provides this exponentially greater narrative for work. It's like, “Oh, no, no, no. I’m just a small actor in this giant drama that the Lord is unfolding across all time, moving towards the Garden City, and I’ve called you to be a part of it. Do you want to be a part of this or not?” Getting lost to that bigger story, I think provides the ultimate why, the ultimate why song, to use a musical terminology, for our lives and our work. Have you thought about it in that context?
[00:27:33] MA: Yeah. That's why my next – that's why my current company is called Garden City.
[00:27:38] JR: That's right. Let's talk about Garden City. Perfect segue. First of all, tell us what Garden City does and then let's come back and explain that in.
[00:27:46] MA: Yes, for sure. Garden City is working on building the service companies of tomorrow. We're working on building the most caring and innovative service companies in the world. What we are is we are a purpose-driven, buy and hold holding company. We buy and acquire family-owned service companies across the southeast. We grow them and we hold them forever. We have no intention of ever selling them.
We come alongside management teams that are currently running these great profitable family-owned service companies and we assist with creating a kingdom-like culture. We assist with technology enablement and helping automate and streamline these businesses operations. Lastly, we help with sales and grow sales and fuel growth. Our vision is to create a world where all service workers and working class people could thrive, prosper and flourish, that they could actually truly love their job.
We want to grab heaven and bring it on to earth. We want to participate in God and actively partner with God to take the world somewhere. We believe that it is our responsibility to co-labor with him. That's our vision. That's what we are. Think about it as a next generation service master, hyper, hyper, hyper focused on creating amazing cultures and the next generation technology enablement.
[00:29:17] JR: I love it so much. All right, now put a – hammer home the name here. I think our listeners get it, but bring it home for us. Explain the name of the venture Garden City.
[00:29:29] MA: Yeah, absolutely. Full disclosure, I read a book called Garden City.
[00:29:34] JR: One of my all-time favorites, by John Mark Comer.
[00:29:36] MA: Exactly. I read that book and what the entire book premise is is that it all starts in the beginning. I mean, it starts with God working and it ends with God resting and then beginning God created. For six days, God is super hard at work filling the earth with goodness. On the seventh day, he sits back and he rests. He draws joy from his labor. That sense of fulfillment that you get when you're good at what you do and you love it.
The story of genesis is the original creation story. To your point, is work a burden, or if you read genesis, does it actually bring fulfillment? God works to create a world for humanities and we are his partners. He created us in his image and in his likeness. All of us are made in the image of God. The person that you see cleaning the airplanes when you're taking a red eye and they're wearing an orange vest, they're made in the image of God. The people that are doing your hedges for your landscaping, they're made in the image of God and so forth and so forth.
He made us to actually partner with him. We are kings and queens ruling over the earth. Since the very first day, he made us to partner with him. We are bursting with raw, uncapped potential and we're meant to rule and reign and do good. We're meant to mimic his goodness on earth. We're commanded to create this culture. That's the entire narrative and thesis of Garden City.
My heart from reading that was I want to create service companies, because I’m obsessed with service workers and working class people, that when they're working in our portfolio companies, it is like their job would be in heaven. On earth as it is in heaven. We want to have a portfolio of companies, like ServiceMaster, Berkshire Hathaway, that they have the best cultures and they are the most innovative, because I believe both of those honor God.
[00:31:34] JR: Why service businesses?
[00:31:36] MA: Oh, why not, right? Well, it's funny. I think we're going to do a big marketing campaign and push of say, we buy, grow and hold essential businesses.
[00:31:48] JR: It’s great. That’s really good.
[00:31:49] MA: Service businesses has always been the word. Now there's this new word for it that's come out since COVID, called essential businesses. Why service business? Because they're essential, because our country would not operate without it, that the world would not – I mean, this is the heartbeat of our country. These are the heartbeat of our country. These blue-collar, low-income jobs, if we did not have them, we would cripple and fall.
Why service companies? Because, I believe that service workers are very quickly ignored. I believe that they're quickly – hey, at least they have a job, right? Let's go focus on others. They almost have low dignity, or no dignity. They are very rarely cared for or respected. They're very viewed often as serial numbers, rather than people of heartbeats that have each and individually have their own unique story.
Service companies are typically more profitable, because they don't have as much capital expenditure. Many of them have reoccurring revenues. They're easier to scale. They're easier to franchise out. I’m obsessed with service companies, because it's about serving other people. I mean, financially, they trade at lower times of earnings. There's a lot of reasons why service companies.
[00:33:08] JR: There's a lot of reason. Here's another one. They're not sexy, which from a competitive standpoint is a wonderful thing. What's really hot now is tech, SaaS, software companies. I love service of businesses too. I’ve never run one, but I like them for that reason. There's not a lot of people saying, “Oh, yeah. Let's go grow these types of businesses.”
By the way, I just published a YouVersion devotional plan that I think you'll love. It's called Essential Workers in the Kingdom. It's basically this idea that we're living in this really odd time, in which we're using this word, like essential worker and essential businesses. We've totally flipped on its head what we would have called an essential business a year ago. Have you been thinking about this during this pandemic?
[00:34:03] MA: I haven't thought about it in that depth. First of all, I cannot wait to listen to Essential Workers in the Kingdom, because I feel that they have not gotten enough of the spotlight. I feel like they have not gotten enough of the credit that these service workers and essential workers really – that they work for and deserve. I have not put too much thought into it on that aspect, but I believe that people now more than ever are showing more respect and shining the light on these companies and these workers.
To your point, this is the reason why I left Silicon Valley and left DocuSign and moved to Atlanta, Georgia and now I buy family-owned service companies, because they are unsexy and many people think of them as boring, which what they think is boring, we think it's beautiful.
[00:34:49] JR: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:34:51] MA: For all the more reason, you could actually go into these businesses and help make them beautiful through brand, culture, technology enablement, sales. What we're really doing is what today might look like a normal pest control company that's been run for 20 years, that has a terrible website and not really well-run, their employee retention is not great. They definitely don't use any new technology, you would blink in a year or two and it would be the most beautiful website they would have, an application on the phone that customers can get their invoices, take pictures of what they need done.
They have amazing leadership culture, where you have a clear advancing opportunity. We invest into them with spiritually, socially, economically. We give them leadership opportunities and so forth, so we're reimagining these companies. We're making them go from boring to beautiful.
[00:35:40] JR: I love it. By the way, great book title. Go buy that domain name. Mike, what can we be doing to help people on your teams see the inherent dignity and meaning in their work, even if they don't share a biblical perspective on what the bible has to say about work?
[00:35:58] MA: Yes. I would highly recommend anybody that does not share our same beliefs to go read The Good Jobs Study.
[00:36:06] JR: Such a great book. This is the Harvard professor, correct?
[00:36:11] MA: Correct, correct.
[00:36:12] JR: Yes, terrific.
[00:36:13] MA: Zeynep Ton, I think the way you pronounce your name. It basically says that almost one in four working adults in America have a job that pays less than a livable wage. Normal people and normal companies and conventional wisdom says, hey, that's the way the world works and unfortunately, that's the only way these businesses can survive. Bad jobs have low wages and minimum benefits. The only way the companies could survive is by keep doing that.
However, there's been a lot of studies done by this Good Jobs Strategy to show how when you actually pay a livable wage and you actually create good jobs for people to thrive, or prosper, or flourish, what that actually does to an organization? There's a cleaning company called Managed by Q. Now they've been acquired by WeWork. They have a phenomenal, phenomenal paper that the New York times wrote that shows you what this looks like when they started paying their people way above minimum wage.
Sure, for the first couple years, the numbers didn't add up. The second you got to years three, four, five and on, the hockey stick, the J curve exponentially grew to show the amount of profitability that came to the company compared to their peers, due to employee retention, due to customer satisfaction, due to less onboarding and off-boarding and so forth. I think that even if you don't believe that everyone's made in God's image to thrive, prosper and flourish, just look at the data and look at –
[00:37:48] JR: Yeah. The data speaks for itself. That Managed by Q case study is phenomenal. I’ll make sure we put it in the episode notes. I can't endorse this book strongly enough, The Good Jobs Strategy. I read this four or five years ago. It's terrific and almost nobody's read it. It's very under the radar. It's one of those books that's a secret gold mine, so I’m so, so glad you brought that up.
Mike, isn't there a way in which I don't know, I’ve been thinking about this a little bit more lately, in which sharing the biblical story of work can be a really effective on-ramp for people to crave the kingdom? I don't know.
[00:38:26] MA: A 100%.
[00:38:27] JR: Okay. Explain why.
[00:38:29] MA: I have a couple investors that are not believers. I mean, I’m very – I mean, on our investment deck, we clearly state that – well, I clearly say that I’m a believer, this company is going to honor God, that we're going to create kingdom cultures. I mean, all those are great buzzwords; kingdom, businesses and so forth and so forth. What everybody wants to understand is what does that actually mean?
For a couple of our investors when they actually read through this, right, they were floored. I won't mention what companies that they're with, but they serve on a lot of different boards and some of them are very large boards and they were blown away of that if other companies ran this way, how much better and more enduring and more built to last these companies would be.
We have a slide in our – they're in our investment deck that shows, we enrich the lives of our people and provide good jobs. We show a holistic picture of what this means, economically, socially and spiritually. Economically, we strive to provide a livable wage. We give them in-depth training. One of our advisors, Horst Schulze from the Ritz Carlton –
[00:39:43] JR: Yeah, he's been on the podcast.
[00:39:45] MA: Great. Yes. Horst helped us put together a five-day orientation plan. Could you imagine buying a waste management company, where day one orientation is sign this paperwork and by 12 p.m., you're on the route with someone to do on-the-job training? We had five day training that you're learning about our vision, our mission, our standards, our value, building vulnerabilities, systems, processes, efficiencies. More on economic is we give them clear advancement path, showing today you start at $18 an hour. If you meet these objectives, a year from now, you'll be at $21. If you do this for five years, you'll be at $60,000 a year.
10 years, you could be a general manager and own your own franchise. We think about health and retirement plans. That's only on economic. Then we think social. Then we think spiritually about, okay, what tools and resources? What are the two biggest issues in service companies? Marriage and financial. By the way, not only – people who work in service companies, but just about anyone.
We come alongside to help with counseling like that. Whenever anybody hears this and they know where you're bedrock, where that springs from, where's the foundation that that comes from, it gets them interested. I have some team members that are full time at Garden City that are not believers. I cannot tell you the conversations we've had, that they are just so curious of wanting to learn more, because they know the deep, deep thing that this is coming from is it – really, it's addicting.
[00:41:20] JR: Yeah. Well, here's the deal, here's what's addicting, the bible is the only religious text that said that God worked, that said there is God given dignity to work. Every other religion says that the God’s created human beings to work and serve the Gods. Only Christianity says, no, God rolled up his sleeves and he created and he was productive and he did it to serve us, so that we could turn around and glorify him and serve others. That's radical. That provides a radical lens to look at work and I think I’ll really win someone to look at work.
Mike, three questions I love wrapping up every conversation with. Number one, which books do you find recommending or gifting most frequently to others?
[00:42:03] MA: Out of the gates, the bible. I don't know if everyone says that or not, but it –
[00:42:09] JR: No. Actually, don't. Do you recommend Garden City a lot? You got to.
[00:42:13] MA: I actually don't. I actually don't. Well, it matters who I’m recommending to what. I’m a younger guy, and so a lot of the people I associate myself with in tech, or building new companies are also younger, or they're interested in faith. I constantly recommend Love Does, Bob Goff's book. It just shows God's love for us and it's just this very joyful and whimsical read.
If it's more so somebody that is struggling with being a workaholic and getting their identity work, Sacred Pace by Terry Looper is one of my absolute favorites. Then probably, the last book that I typically recommend to people would probably have to be Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze. I mean, it just so, so, so relates to what I believe.
[00:43:03] JR: Yeah, it's great. You guys can find all those books right now at jordanraynor.com/bookshelf. Mike, who would you most like to hear on this podcast, talking about how their faith influences their work? You were the answer to Brett's question. How about you?
[00:43:18] MA: I have a deep, deep passion right now for learning from George Bush. I would love to hear from George Bush.
[00:43:26] JR: Why is that?
[00:43:27] MA: Oh, man. I’m obsessed. It's a man crush. It's really, really weird.
[00:43:31] JR: Hey, I’ve had a man crush. You know I was in his white house for a brief stint back in 2006.
[00:43:36] MA: I did not.
[00:43:37] JR: Yeah. I’m obsessed with President Bush. Yeah.
[00:43:41] MA: Wow. Wow. Well, this makes two of us. My wife and I had some friends over for dinner and I always ask questions like, “If you could have dinner with anybody in the world, who would it be blah, blah, blah?” My last question a couple months ago was anyone that's alive. Then I don't ever answer my own questions, but someone asked me and I was like, “Wow.” I actually never thought about it. Immediately, I was like, “President Bush.” There's just something about him that's just really intriguing. I watched The Bush Years that CNN did, which I was just fascinated. Now I’m reading his book called The Decision Points.
[00:44:13] JR: Yeah. I have it right here on my bookshelf. Yeah.
[00:44:15] MA: Oh, my goodness. I’m obsessed. I love it. I had no clue that he – he has such a strong faith, such a strong faith that really leads him and prompts him with everything that he does. I just think he's humble. I think that he's a family man. I think that he's under the radar. I think he's wise. I think he knows how to recruit a high-performing team. I think he's fearless. A lot, a lot of reasons. It's very rare that his father was a president, his brother was a governor, he was in the business of oil, he then went into sports. President for eight years. 9/11. Just so many great things.
[00:44:55] JR: He’s the real deal.
[00:44:56] MA: He's the real deal.
[00:44:57] JR: He’s the real freaking deal. I love him so much. By the way, if you haven't already, listen to on Audible, don't read it, the biography he wrote on his dad.
[00:45:09] MA: That's number two on my list. 41, I think it's called?
[00:45:12] JR: Yeah. It's very short. It's a very short biography, but he reads the audiobook. I love it when authors read their own audiobooks. I did this for Master Of One. I’ll do it for all my future books. He was just off the charts great at it. It was very emotional and just very personal. It's exceptionally well done. I can't recommend it highly enough.
[00:45:35] MA: Yeah. Brett Hagler and I office together here in Atlanta. He's been like, “Mike, you have been on a George Bush pit.” Then all of a sudden, last Sunday, he sends me a screenshot that he's actually listening to that autobiography and he is obsessed with it right now.
[00:45:52] JR: Yeah. It's incredible. It's incredible. I love it. I got so many good George W. Bush stories. All right, for the next time you and I hang out. Last question, one piece of advice to leave this audience with people, who you like are trying to do their best work for the glory of God and the good of others?
[00:46:09] MA: Be completely fearless. Be completely fearless. I think fear is holding back our whole country. I think fear is holding back our whole world, probably since the beginning of time. Just the safety of our current jobs, the safety of our current environment, the safety of whatever that might be, the fear of the unknown is we serve a God that holds the stars in the sky. We serve a God that has this world spinning at thousands of miles per hour. There's animals flying above us. There's animals in the ocean below us. I mean, it's bigger than our minds could ever fathom. If we actually, actually, actually believe that he is who he says he is, how are we not the most radical, reckless risk takers in the world?
[00:46:51] JR: Amen. Mike, I want to commend you for the exceptional work you and your team are doing. Thank you for working hard to redeem service work and reminding employers and employees that service is a part of God's good design for the world. Thank you for your humble pursuit of excellence in everything you do.
Hey, if you want to connect with Mike and Garden City, you can find them at joinggardencity.com. Mike, thanks for being here.
[00:47:18] MA: Thank you so much, Jordan.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:47:20] JR: That was a lot of fun. Hopefully, you guys didn't mind us geeking out about our mutual man crush on President George W. Bush. Hey, if you're enjoying The Call To Mastery, make sure you subscribe to the podcast, so you never miss an episode in the future. if you're already subscribed, you know what I’m going to ask you to do, so please do it. Take 30 seconds and go leave a review of the podcast on Apple Podcast, or wherever you listen to your shows.
Thank you guys so much for listening to this episode of The Call To Mastery. I’ll see you next week.