Getting Employees to Think for Themselves with Mark Gallagher at GForce Life Sciences

One of the most important jobs for you as a leader is getting employees to think for themselves. You want them to see the challenges of the organization internally and externally. You want them to think for themselves instead of following the playbook. The reason is that the steps in the playbook are likely to change. When they think for themselves, you will see their work proactively and innovatively. Today’s interview is with Mark Gallagher, Founder, and CEO of GForce Solutions. This company was #8 out of 5,000 in the 2018 Inc List. They grew 16,427 percent in the previous three years. We talk about getting employees to think for themselves. Discover the critical steps in this interview when you want your employees to think for themselves.

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Mark Gallagher: The Transcript

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Gene Hammett: [00:02]
Hi Mark, how are you?

Mark Gallagher: [00:04]
I’m good. How are you?

Gene Hammett: [00:05]
I am fantastic. Glad to have you here at the 500 experience. We’re going to kick off this with a question. Tell us a little bit about, what you do at g force and what you guys do. As far as the market is concerned.

Mark Gallagher: [00:20]
We’re very, very, niched organization. And when I say niche, we’re in the, what I call we call on the life sciences space. So we provide consultants to pharmaceutical companies and to medical device companies around the country. When you, and they’re very like the, they’re very, unique individuals. I mean, they’re not just your run of the mill. So I mean, if you, had you can say that this is, you know, we’re a temporary staffing company, but we don’t see ourselves like that. We are very, we’re providing exceptional talent to really specific needs out there and it’s working

Gene Hammett: [01:13]
Well. Obviously, it is. If you’ve had some impressive growth on that, the INC list, when you made that level of growth, are you realize you were going to be, you know, ranking among your peers like that? How did you feel?

Mark Gallagher: [01:29]
Oh, we made a big deal about it. When we were notified that we were going to be on the INC man, they said they were going to interview me. We knew something special was going on because I think they only interviewed the first, the top 10. So then, we were notified that we were number eight and we had a big celebration and we put it on our website and social media and yeah, it was, it looks like I’m just excited and actually watch it.

Gene Hammett: [02:02]
When you tell people that you grew 16000% plus and a three-year period, what kind of looks do you get from them?

Mark Gallagher: [02:13]
You know, we’re not really talking about it. I mean, we, say we say we’re on the INC500 and we’re number eight, but I don’t say to people, Hey, I curse 16000%.

Gene Hammett: [02:24]
Let’s say it comes up. What would you, if someone had said to you that, you know, we grew 16000%, would you think that was even possible for your company three years ago? Absolutely. Matt.

Mark Gallagher: [02:34]
This has been a wild ride and you know, but It’s been very rewarding to start to see the number of customers, you know, expanding every day. And the feedback we get from our consultants is remarkable to tenacity. They, we take, we call consultant care, I mean our onboarding process with them. And we send them, you know, we sent and water bottles and sunglasses and you know, we really make them feel very, very well. So the experience that they have with us turns into referrals. It turns into them wanting to find our business. It turns into our clients being really happy because they’re, the consultants are good and they’re happy and they’re productive. And so, you know, it’s, it’s just kind of, is this never-ending loop, if you will. You take your care of your clients, they could care, you’d call your consultants. And that just leads more and more business because also too, when they’re, when they’re in comp gigs, when their kid is over, right, they want us to place them again or they, you know, and if we don’t place them, then they’ll refer us. Someone that has that skill set. So it just goes on.

Gene Hammett: [04:08]
What do you think about your business, Mark? I know there’s one kind of driving factor that you said has a huge impact on it. I don’t want to steal your thumb under, but, what’s having that big factor with your employees thinking for themselves, really pushing the boundaries, and serving the clients? what is that?

Mark Gallagher: [04:29]
As you and I have talked about it, we call it the figure it out factor, and basically, you know, we don’t babysit anybody and now we get these crazy, we get these crazy orders. I mean, we call him purple squirrels. Yeah. Where, you know, there’ll be looking for some skillset that we’ve never even heard of. Well, we have, we have a rotation of women requirements come in, which recruiter gets them. And as I said to you before, you know, these are young, well they’re all women now, but they’re young women that have just graduated from college. They’re very, technologically savvy unlike me. And, and so, you know, they’ll always be, everyone will be scratching their head going, what is that? And then we just go, figure it out, go figure it out. And then they do, they go figure it out.

Mark Gallagher: [05:27]
They, they do their research, they, and they start to understand the role that the client is looking for. And then once they, once they get that, then they’re just really good at recruiting. They can, they go out on linked in and they do, you know, all this, all the job boards and everything else and they’ll find, nope, we always find people always, and they’re not just, they’re not just like, you’re not just like, oh, they’ve got this on their resume. The these are, these are really, you know, we do all of our research. We do all of our references. So these are qualified, these are really qualified people that we find. And you know, one week ago we didn’t even know the words to be honest with you, but I won’t, we figured it out.

Gene Hammett: [06:17]
Mark, I want to ask you to like, you know, that’s a great explanation of a new business coming in and you guys figuring it out. But I would imagine this is a theme that runs throughout the entire organization, whether it be financials, customer service or the recruiting process, whatever it happens. Would you say figuring out factor is plays a role in everything you do?

Mark Gallagher: [06:39]
Yes, absolutely.

Gene Hammett: [06:42]
When you think about that, like what, was that intentional when you started the business? Or is this something that came kind of in the middle?

Mark Gallagher: [06:54]
It kind of came in the middle because what happened was, you know, when I first hung out my shingle, right, I was taking any business, I could get anything, everything. So, but I was, I found that it was.

Mark Gallagher: [07:11]
We were very schizophrenia and how we were operating. So I, at one point I hired, he’s actually a business, my business partner. And he and I were talking and I, and I told him this, I said, but you know, this is low margin, Tracy Enos, you know, we’re doing bakers, we’re doing it, you know, executive assistants were doing accountants, we’re doing in all lawyers. I mean I’m on a temporary basis. Right? And so that he and I made the decision at that point because I had been, I had worked in the life sciences space 20 years ago and he and I decided that was where we’re going to pivot the company and head down that really very niche place. And so that’s what made all the difference. So we went down the life science path and…

Gene Hammett: [08:09]
How long is that Mark?

Mark Gallagher: [08:11]
About four years ago.

Gene Hammett: [08:13]
Okay. So that needs to approach had a dramatic effect on not only your stress load but also your revenue growth because [inaudible] 16,000 was that.

Mark Gallagher: [08:23]
You know, the funny thing is that I didn’t listen to the wisdom of my elders earlier because they always said to me, you’ve got a niche, got a niche. And they said, well, I was like, well, I’ll take any business I can take. I’ll take anything. Right. Well, we did niche in this space, it changed the ballgame. 100% margins are better, the gangs or longer the, you know, when you’re dealing with highly educated people, the headaches are less. Yeah. Cause they’re just like, you know, they’re self-managed basically. Okay.

Gene Hammett: [09:12]
In self-managed. You know, you’re talking about the, I guess the recruitment or the consultants, but you’re also you value self-management because that’s really what that figure it out factor is.

Mark Gallagher: [09:24]
Oh, so 100%. I mean, and when I, so, you know, we have our, we have our core values, right. And because this was a startup, I’ve been a maniac about making sure that everybody knows our core values. So we interview for those core values, right. And, like passion, respect, enthusiasm, etc. So, everyone knows before they walk in the door that I want them to take initiative, I want them to take an issue and I don’t care if they fail. At least they failed. Try. And that’s the most important thing is, you know, fail fast is our old logo is around here. I think I borrowed it from somebody but you know, take initiative. If you fail, you fail. So what Alicia, we went down swinging.

Gene Hammett: [10:26]
A lot of leaders will say that, but they don’t really live it. They don’t really run the business and let their employees fail. They’re afraid that they’re going to make it a very visible failure. So how do you put boundaries around that? So, so that you can have a low-stress life.

Mark Gallagher: [10:45]
We very early on, we realized that where we needed to have the last structure around our training. Right. So we have, we should do, like, this is how you do this, this is how you do this. So we put a lot of, so before someone gets on the phone, I’m like, you know, blows up a client or something like that. They’ve been trained, they’ve been treated in the force way. So they know, they know exactly like, okay, Yup, this is how you onboard someone and we call it onboarding is when, okay, so I have offered you, I’ve offered you the job. Right? But there’s a lot of paperwork that has to be done before, you know, we sign on the dotted line, right? So I got to make sure that I’ve, I’ve got your references, I to make sure that I had you, you passed your drug tests, you know, the fact that you have actually the skills that you have. So we, put a lot of, we put a lot of time and energy into, you know, training to be asked. And there, it’s, so they don’t mess up very often, to be honest with it happens.

Gene Hammett: [11:57]
You got the right training, you’re leading by values. So that means you’re reinforcing these every way.

Mark Gallagher: [12:02]
Every Monday, every Monday, every Monday we have a Monday morning meeting. And the first thing we do is review our goal, you know, our values and a mission and our vision. How long is that meeting? Just curious. Say for exactly one hour.

Gene Hammett: [12:20]
Okay. I like that exactly. One hour. It’s planned out. Cause you guys, I guess that, so, why do you feel like that needs to be reinforced each week? Mission, values and, and all the other things you put inside that meeting.

Mark Gallagher: [12:37]
Because they, you know, these are young, usually young people and you know, you don’t know what you don’t know, you know, that I’m 35 years into this soul. What I realized was that, so I came from a big family business, right? And I had a, I had an uncle who used to say culture is everything. I didn’t even understand what that meant. I really didn’t. But, now it’s like is like just, it’s so true. And so part of the culture is making sure that your employees know what are the values of this company. Do you know? So it’s, so we reinforced that every single Monday

Gene Hammett: [13:25]
To reinforce it. Like, to get them more engaged with it.

Mark Gallagher: [13:31]
Just for them to start drinking the Koolaid. It’s like they got to understand that this company stands for something, right. And these kids these days, I mean, they want to be involved with an organization that has values and especially like is like socially, like responsible as well. So we take a percentage of our profits every year and we have three charities that we’ve picked. They, the employees got to pick one, I got to pick one. My partner gets big. So they see, they see us living these values every day. You know, it’s not just the sense, just a slogan, it’s real. And that’s why, that’s why we’ve just become, for two years in a row, we’re one of the top places in Illinois to work for. We’ve got the honor, whatever it’s called.

Gene Hammett: [14:29]
I really understand how the power of that and a lot of people think it’s just a nice award to put on your shelves, but it really is something that attracts talent. Right. And allows you to retain talent and allows you to, reinforce the culture as you grow. Because it is getting more challenging as you’re growing at the pace you’re growing.

Mark Gallagher: [14:55]
Right, Yeah, totally. Absolutely. And you know, the funny thing about that is that that’s a blind survey. So the employees, I don’t see their answers, you know, they do it, but there are, they look,

Mark Gallagher: [15:11]
This is when I knew we culture it really kind of like clicked these people so that we’ve got all buff, I’m on 15 people here. They, they eat lunch together every day. And that’s not because they’re forced. It’s not like we got a cafeteria, you know, they eat lunch together, they are friends. I mean are hardworking and they get the job done and, but it’s, it’s, it’s really fun to see them in our little kitchen. You’ve got this long table right. And see them eating lunch together every, every day. I mean, it speaks to us, they like each other. So if someone, if someone showed up here when we’ve had a few bad eggs, someone showed up here, they don’t, they don’t, they don’t last very long. You know, that’s pretty obvious that they’re, that they’re not fitting into the culture.

Gene Hammett: [16:03]
Mark, I want to make sure that we put the right spotlight on this figured out factor is, you said it came in the middle, was it, was there something that triggered that you could share with us?

Mark Gallagher: [16:13]
Well, it’s just the, so basically, our clients ask us to go recruit for a specific type of skill. Okay. They’ll say, I need this type of person and don’t publish this. But, sometimes we don’t even know what that is. So we’ve got to go find out. We got to let go find out what exactly they’re talking about and go figure it out. So, but once we figured it out, and it’s funny cause it’s…

Mark Gallagher: [16:53]
The learning curve is never-ending, however, but you know, after four or five years, you start to hear the same types of requirements, you know, you start to hear, oh I know, I know what that is. You know, so everyone kind of, they just, they get better and better and better as the days go by because of you. If you’re asked to find some, somebody there’s got on college and you know, like, I don’t know, stem research and stuff like that and you know, with extra things that they always ask us for, it’s like, okay, well got to go figure this out. Who are we looking for? And then we go find him.

Gene Hammett: [17:40]
Sorry about that. Have you made any mistakes in the journey of this bigger it out factor, like giving someone too much rope to quote-unquote hang themselves?

Mark Gallagher: [17:51]
No, I think, you know, as I look back, I’m like this little journey. I think, you know, this is my third startup. I made so many mistakes in the past. I couldn’t even get to our interview would be for three hours. Yeah. Cause that’s the, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But this time I think, I made fewer mistakes in the past and no, I haven’t had anybody. I have never had a problem, never had a real, a real major issue with the figure it out. Like where I’ve given someone too much leniency or them, you know, they’ve gone run a mock or anything like that. No, we’re not that big of a shop either so.

Gene Hammett: [18:42]
Well, I can appreciate that. But I asked that because it’s a fear that a lot of people have when they give someone or empower them with too much or they’re too transparent with what’s going on here. I really appreciate the fact that you shared this with me today. I do have a question that kind of always a place in my mind. I just came back from a big event with other Inc5000 level leaders and there was this, this word that’s thrown out on a lot. I use it a lot, but I don’t know how you use it inside your company, but it’s really about ownership, getting people to feel like they’re a part of the business in a different way. I mean maybe you do give them some slice of ownership, but his ownership a part of the kind of things that you’re trying to create there, that feeling with your employees.

Mark Gallagher: [19:33]
Absolutely. So one of the things that we do is we have this thing called a 10 pin challenge. Okay. And basically the employees on a Monday morning, they’ll decide, okay, every time we, so we’ll set the goals and every time we hit a goal we put up polling, that sounds stupid, but whatever. We’ll put up a bowling pin and when we have temple pulling pins, we go and do something fun, really fun. So like, you know, we’ve gone bowling, we’ve, we’ve thrown darts, we’ve gone up, gone up against players on the cub’s games. The Guy, Mike and I, we’ve done a million things, but they like, they like it and they feel, they feel like it’s fun to watch these bowling pins go up and, and they’re, they’re into it. They, they enjoy it. And it’s, so as far as ownership is concerned, now that there’s no, there’s no equity, but, but they feel, they feel like they’ve accomplished something. And then my partner and I, John, we give them like instant gratification, right? So as soon as 10 pin goes up, so for example, today we’re going to happy hour because we hit our 10 pinches of a challenge at four o’clock this afternoon. So we all go onto a rooftop and going to have a drink in and have fun. So, that happens. That happens. So as soon as the 10 pins are done, which put him away, and then we start putting it back up again. So

Gene Hammett: [21:18]
Then when these happen?

Mark Gallagher: [21:20]
Oh God, once every two months at the least.

Gene Hammett: [21:26]
So that means just to get the big goals. They’re not just little small things. Yeah. And because you’re growing fast, you’re going you to have something to guide them along and support them through that. So I really appreciate [inaudible]

Mark Gallagher: [21:37]
Exactly. So, and then, you know, we’ll try to have like a big, because those are recruiting and sales and so also try to put a goal out there that involves the operations team as well. So everybody’s contributing, you know, and It’s just fun. I mean, we really do have fun here to be answered.

Gene Hammett: [22:00]
It’s like, I hear that a lot with organizations that are growing fast. I mean, I think the stigma is you must be a dry hard-driving are driving slave kind of popping up every time when someone gets out of line. But I hear a lot about how important it is to have fun working hard but have fun.

Mark Gallagher: [22:20]
And the thing is, I mean, I feel very fortunate, on the young people that we’ve hired because they, you know, they come in here with a good work ethic and they work hard. So I’m not here very often, you know, I’m not here a lot. So, but like they’re just head down doing their job and they know what their job is. They have their, we call them the working mom, so they have their mentor with them. Right. Your operations team is, is just rock solid. I mean we have no receivables over 30 days. I mean, so we’ve got, and we’ve got really, we got really, really good technology. So everything is tracked. We put up metrics every month and say, okay, this is what everybody’s done. So I mean, you know, I see as a kind of as a, I think we’re a small business. We were small, but we’ve got, we’ve got systems and scalability. We won’t be small for very long. You know, we’re gonna, we’ve got systems in place that are tight.

Gene Hammett: [23:31]
Well, I want to wrap this up because I think one of the systems that, I think you have, and I know you really know how important it is, but this figured out factor is really about how people think. And, how they look at their work and how, you know, they have to take responsibility and ownership of, you know, finding the solution, making the client happy, getting the rec done. And I think that’s one reason why you’re probably able to spend as much time as you do out of the office and still grow at the pace you’re growing. So mark, I want to say thank you for being here. If an audience is listening in, where would you want to send them to? For just your website?

Mark Gallagher: [24:10]

Gene Hammett: [24:16]
Thanks for being here on the 500 experience.

Mark Gallagher: [24:18]
I appreciate it, Gene. Thank you.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


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