Values in Action – Data-Driven Decisions with John Girard at Cience

One of the most critical aspects of company growth is a common understanding of the values and alignment to company core values. Many companies miss the alignment part of this, and what they need is values in action. My guest today is John Girard, CEO of Cience. His company was ranked #112 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Cience builds B2B pipelines. John’s view on values drives his company to new levels of growth. Specifically, it is the values in action that govern the day-to-day work, language, and tone of the culture. John and I talk about how “data-driven decisions” are an essential element to their culture. Discover why you must put your values in action and how to do it.

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John Girard: The Transcript

Target Audience: CEO at Cience. John is a seasoned business leader and technology entrepreneur, with more than a decade of experience in running and growing businesses in all economic climates. John spent 10 years building Clickability, the leading web content management software-as-a-service business, raising almost $20 million of investment capital and closing 10s of millions of dollars business. He has since held CEO and other senior executive positions at multiple high growth technology businesses.

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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.

John Girard
I think intuition is the beginning of the exploration not the end. So so people who rely on intuition for major decision making are probably making a cognitive mistake. People who don’t follow their intuition or hunches at all and explore them and create tasks that can then be, you know, validated or invalidated quickly. are, you know, discounting one of the most amazing things is that we have at our disposal, which is this brain that pattern matches whether we want it to or not. And given these crazy ideas, you know, that frankly, need to be tested.

Intro [0:39]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [0:56]
Today we’re gonna talk about growing your company specifically how to use your values? What are the things that you actually must do as a leader? Would you want to embrace the values of the company? Why do I think values are so important? A lot of the interviews right here together about values is because they are important because when you have a core set of guidelines for your team, to understand how to make decisions when you’re not in the room, and they know how to operate, they know how to move forward, what’s expected of them, that they feel the confidence to make those decisions, they know they’re not going to get fired because they know that they’re playing within the boundaries of this because you want them to be empowered to make those decisions. Today, we’re actually gonna be talking about decision making based on data, data-driven decisions. And that’s a value from a company out there called science technologies. I’m here with the founder CEO. His name is John Girard and John and I talk about knowing what is data-driven decisions why you must go include your instincts and include data and what you do inside the one on one conversations or team conversations that allow you to truly see your values in action. Well, today we’re going to talk about that. And we’re going to go really deep into it.

Commercial [2:17]
Thanks for tuning in here to Growth Think Tank. Really excited about sharing this with you. And before you run, I have done so many interviews in the last few weeks, I have such an exciting time to share with you. Those interviews have been organized into the 12 core principles of fast-growth companies. So all you have to get that it’s going to So you can get the 12 principles and I’ve been able to go in there and find which episodes will align with each individual episode. When you subscribe to Growth Think Tank, you will find exactly what you need so that you can move forward and many of them haven’t been published yet depending on when you’re hearing this. But you can tune in to the date that means the most to you. Now here’s the interview with John.

Gene Hammett [3:03]
Hi, John, how are you?

John Girard [3:04]
Great, Gene, how you doing?

Gene Hammett [3:06]
I am fantastic. I love to have you here on the podcast. I love to tune in the audience a little bit about the company. So tell us about Cience analogies?

John Girard [3:15]
Yeah, happy to. So Cience is a company that helps b2b businesses build the top of their sales funnel. So we’re an outbound prospecting as a service business, which means basically, we help figure out who your best clients are. And based on that credit profile that we then go research and we find lots more of those people to start sales conversations with so we’re not actually selling your product for you. What we’re doing is setting up conversations for you so that your sales team can go out and close more business.

Gene Hammett [3:45]
Well, that’s a very needed business model out there and people listening and go, you’re going to just hand us some qualified leads are kind of teed up for us.

John Girard [3:54]
Ya know, it’s interesting because I’ve been involved in a lot of bleeding-edge technology companies. Over the years, where were you trying to sort of triangulate on a market need that might emerge a few years down the road and get the technology to meet right where that point is. And this one is, everybody needs it, and they need it right now. Which is a real, you know, sort of a blessing and the whole thing so, so yes, we, what we do is we set up these conversations that have these appointments for our clients. And it’s actually funny because it is deceptively difficult to do it. Well. There’s actually a lot more that goes into it than just picking up the phone and calling a bunch of people and saying, Hey, would you be interested in me with this company? There’s actually a science behind it. And that’s part of why we have the name we have.

Gene Hammett [4:42]
Well, I appreciate the the perspective there. When we were talking last week about you know what’s really driven the growth of your company and I’m going to rattle off a couple of numbers here, number 112 on the Inc list. Over for 4 million now, I would imagine?

John Girard [4:59]
Yeah, more than double that, actually.

Gene Hammett [5:01]
Okay. And you’ve got hundreds of employees, how many do you know?

John Girard [5:06]
529 as of 10 minutes ago.

Gene Hammett [5:09]
Okay. So you’ve had to pay attention to culture. And this thing called core values you felt like was a really important piece to building a team together. So why are core values important?

John Girard [5:24]
Yeah, it’s a great question. So I happen to know core values are important because I didn’t realize how important they were at an earlier stage of my career and it and it bit me and really, the way I think about it is, when you’re in a rapidly growing business in a complex space, there’s no way to create a playbook for every possible scenario or decision that you or your employees have to have to make. You can’t say okay if a customer says this thing, and it’s a Tuesday, and you know, here are the issues they’re facing, okay, what is the what is exactly the right answer.

John Girard [5:59]
So instead You know, values provide a really incredible framework for helping to drive the decisions that a business makes. And it helps empower every single person the organization to sort of hold up their decision making against the same framework, the same thought process and then go forward from there. I would much rather somebody make a decision quickly and thoughtfully based on the values then get stuck every time they have to make an important decision and run it all the way up the chain and, and leave me with a pile of decisions, you know, a mile high that to try to make every day.

Gene Hammett [6:33]
One of the biggest factors and fast-growth companies and I talked about this on stages all the time is founders and leadership team is there to inspire people to take ownership of the work.

John Girard [6:44]
Hundred percent.

Gene Hammett [6:45]
And the values provide some guardrails around how you will make decisions.

John Girard [6:52]
Absolutely. Well, that’s exactly it. It’s a heuristic, right? It’s a pattern or you know, you can think of is a filter a template that you kind of hold up and say, okay, is this thing I’m about to do? Does it match the criteria that I that I’ve laid out here and frankly, that I’ve already decided I’m committed to, right? I don’t have to figure out that stuff. You know, at this point in the process, because, way a long time ago, a few months ago, or a year ago or two years ago, I already decided that these are the important criteria that I’m going to use and I’m going to apply to every decision.

Gene Hammett [7:24]
I know in our company, one of the core values elevates the experience. When we’re sending out emails, responding to people, it’s very easy to say we’d like to interview your CEO.

John Girard [7:36]

Gene Hammett [7:37]
But we take a step further to go we’d like to interview John, for the podcast. And that’s one way that my team understands and we’re all aligned together. It’s like every little step matters. When you think about the values for your company, what you’ve been talking about is something that a lot of people are familiar with, but operationalizing the values like living by them day in and day out. I have a lot of interviews here. The reason I wanted to have you on John is that one of your values is around data-driven decision making. So where did that come out?

John Girard [8:12]
Well, you know, it’s a little bit buzzy to actually use that term. And we realized that but rather than kind of leaning away from that, we decided to kind of lean in and, and fully embrace it. And where it came from was actually the group that the core group that had formed here at science was extraordinarily analytical and really valued looking at the numbers and understanding the way that everything was working from a sort of a number sent and actually was, was extraordinarily good at setting aside ego and even intuition and just saying, Wow, the numbers say that I’m totally wrong and I’m good with that. And as I think is the case with most exercises in figuring out company values, It was really an act of discovery rather than engineering.

John Girard [9:02]
So we were looking for that the core ideas, the themes, and values that were already there with this core group of people rather than trying to sort of pluck something out of thin air and say, let’s now all be like this is that never works. So it started there started with a kernel of a core group of people who really were dedicated to this kind of analytical mindset and way of thinking. And then we took that a little bit further, and recognize that in our space, in particular, there’s a real lack of data-driven decision making and there’s a real sort of, you know, black magic kind of an aspect to a lot of the firm’s that are doing appointment setting lead gen. You know, starting sales conversations, and we wanted to avoid that completely. What we wanted to say is like, Look, there’s real math behind all this. We can, we can actually paint the picture of a funnel using real numbers and show you exactly what’s happening and show you the ways in which adults invested in a service like this could potentially turn into $3. And not have there be any hand waving or any, you know, black box that you can’t actually look into and see. And so once we kind of realized that, that there was already this analytical mindset, and this was a space where people had sort of shied away from being terribly analytical, it was a perfect opportunity to sort of, you know, make it part of the institution and say, like, this is really who we are.

Gene Hammett [10:28]
Now, I know a lot of people out there have gotten to where they are in their companies by trusting their gut. And how does that play with the data-driven decisions that you expect…

John Girard [10:41]

Gene Hammett [10:41]
Because this is not just you, this is the incorrect tire team, your 500 people moving together making database decisions, but why does it work with instincts?

John Girard [10:51]
Very good question. So I am a huge believer and got an intuition to believe it or not, like that may sound contrary to what I would have spelled out so far. Here’s what I think. I think intuition is the beginning of the exploration, not the end. So so people who rely on intuition for major decision making are probably making a cognitive mistake. People who don’t follow their intuition or hunches at all, and explore them, and create tests that can then be, you know, validated or invalidated quickly, are, you know, discounting one of the most amazing things is that we have at our disposal, which is this brain that pattern matches whether we want it to or not, and gives us these crazy ideas, you know, that that, frankly, need to be tested. So, so we just think of intuition as critical to the process, of eventually executing data-driven decision making. It’s where the exploration starts. And that ends up being really, really important in this space in particular, where what worked for us nine months ago might not actually work today. So we have to constantly be evolving and testing and thinking of new ideas and, you know, exploring intuitions that may seem, you know, sort of contrary to conventional belief and then testing them and seeing if the data says, Yeah, this will work or no one frankly, either one of those is a good answer.

Commercial [12:18]
Hold on for a second. John just talked about the value of intuition inside the decision-making process. And I agree with this. We want to encourage our employees to understand and trust them, they’re thinking, but back it up with data. So once you have the data, they want to be able to back it up. I’ve always said that you want to encourage your employees to create a test if they have an idea about what’s going forward? How could they create a small test that doesn’t out you’re not gonna lose too much money, but we can get some insight about moving forward? Will this work? And many times those tests don’t cost any money, but they get to think about what would the outcome be and how can we measure it so that we really can learn from this opportunity. Now back to the interview with John.

Gene Hammett [13:04]
Now I want to go into maybe my mind is kind of got this question involved where someone walks in, and there’s a decision that needs to be made. And they’re talking about it with you as a leader. And you’re going to ask them a question. And you know, I don’t want to put the words in your mouth or you’re like, what’s the data behind this question? What do you ask over and over and over?

John Girard [13:26]
Well, I always ask, what is the data? What do we know right now? And when I say what do we know? What I’m hinting at is what does the numbers currently show us? Now, one thing I’ll say sort of hasten to add here is that just because we say we’re data-driven, doesn’t mean that we’re immune from sort of the usual constraints of decision making a fast-moving business, which is to say, we never have 100% of the information when we make we make important decisions and that’s just sort of part of the deal. So So we have to be comfortable making decisions with less than 100% information, sometimes a lot less. But when somebody says, Hey, this is the thing that we want to do, I’m very likely to say, well, have we tested it? Right? So and when and when I say that what I mean is, you know, we’ve got, we’ve got more than 200 clients right now. And we run most of our own tests on ourselves. So we have a bunch of house accounts that we’re using for science. And what I really mean is that we tried this out at a very small scale, to see if there is a reason to do it at a larger scale. And just about everybody who’s approached me with anything at this point, and served me say some version of that. So most of the time, they’ve actually done the legwork beforehand, or at least come prepared to say well, no, but here’s the test and we need some help figuring out these aspects of it.

Gene Hammett [14:53]
I’m fascinated by this because I’ll admit I’m a numbers person. You know, I studied engineering in college.

Gene Hammett [15:02]
And I heard someone made the joke the other day. But Georgia Tech gave me an engineering degree if I promise not to use it. Because I never used it. I went into consulting, you know, but this is has become a core of the way everyone works like when someone comes to you and hasn’t done the research or hasn’t done brought you the data. What is your response behind that, John?

John Girard [15:02]

John Girard [15:28]
Well, so my usual way of framing this and I talked to clients this way and I talked to employees to is, look, there are numbers that are discoverable behind all of this, whether you know them or not. They’re operating in the background and doing what they do without really much care about whether you explore them or don’t explore, right, so it’s actually happening, and you can pretend that it’s not and go on with your day and make decisions based on God or Something else. Or you can actually uncover them and and and take a look and see what’s really there. So, so my response is usually, well, let’s unwind this or unweave this a little bit. And you know, it’s a different mindset that requires a different way of thinking. And if you know somebody doesn’t have a math or engineering background, or it’s actually even got some design thinking kind of baked into it. And if you haven’t been exposed to that before, it can be easy to get stuck like, Well, I was able to sort of reduce it to this level, but I couldn’t get it any further down and I can’t figure out how to make it work. And that’s fine. That is an opportunity for us all to learn something and to say, like, well, let’s take this down another level another notch or two, and see if we can discover something, explore something together.

Gene Hammett [16:50]
Now, I have to ask you in the aspects of running a business, do core values and operationalize them the way you have. Have you made many mistakes along this journey?

John Girard [17:02]
Oh, of course, I mean, dozens and dozens and dozens, you know, the biggest, honestly, the biggest mistakes that I made in the beginning, was failing to learn from other people’s mistakes, which is to say, I actually thought, you know, this is sort of the hubris of us, I guess. But like, I sort of thought, look, I’m different. I’m going to figure this out my own way, I’m going to do it my own way. And so I made all the usual mistakes, when I could have actually learned patterns, you know, from other folks who’ve been there before, and especially people who’ve made the same mistakes and, and, you know, been vulnerable enough to write about it or talk about it.

John Girard [17:42]
So I would say that was the single biggest mistake I made was, was thinking of an at a very early stage as an entrepreneur like, gosh, maybe these rules don’t apply to me. And look, I think, I think that was an important phase in my professional development that I had to experience in order to a The ambition to go out and do it and be, you know, get beat up a little bit and realize maybe I should pay attention to others and get some mentorship and some coaching and learn from my board and that kind of thing. So it had to happen. And I’m glad it did. This is a much easier way to live. And I sleep a lot more sound lady says.

Commercial [18:22]
One second here. John just talked about failing to learn from others. I had a question for you. Are you really tuning in to what others around you are doing inside your industry and even outside your industry? Do you have a coach or someone that can give you that outside perspective? One of the things I see and I think is very valuable with my clients is that I’ve talked to so many executives, I’ve talked to so many founders like you. And so I’ve seen a lot of these issues firsthand. A lot of them are have been my clients, some of them that had been interviews, but really, I can help you tune into that very quickly. If you have your own network of people. Are you listening to those people? Back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [19:02]
I want to wrap this up with a big question here. And I don’t know where this will go. But you know, what is one defining moment that you can share with us that changed the way you think about your own leadership?

John Girard [19:13]
Yeah, that’s a very good question. So what I would actually point to is a decision actually, that came out of our core values, we’ve been talking a lot about data-driven decision making, that’s sort of the very kind of analytical side of the brain. One of our other core values is respect. And that’s respect for one another respects to the client. It’s also the client’s respect for us and for our employees. And, and, you know, what we want with that is to sort of balance this idea of being analytical and being thoughtful about the numbers and an extraordinarily direct about what we’re finding from another numbers perspective, but we want to balance that with you.

John Girard [20:00]
The human side of what we’re doing like what one of the things that I say over and over that I know to be true is that I’ve never seen a b2b sale happen without the first two humans having a human conversation. This is not automated away by AI. It’s about these sort of basic human interactions still to this day, and it’s likely to be for a while. And respect is really kind of a cornerstone of that, especially given you know, the fact that we’re global. We operate in four different countries and have folks from all different cultural backgrounds. So how do we establish that and how do we make that work now, and a lot of regards, you know, making sure that we are respectful of clients is common to most businesses that have service elements. And then if somebody goes really off the rails and is very disrespectful towards a client, there’s a hard conversation but an easy decision usually, in terms of parting ways with without employ.

John Girard [21:00]
My, one of the most experiences I’ve had in leadership that really helped me to understand how important it is to live values is when we had a situation about a year ago with a client that was sort of borderline abusive with our team. And it was a really interesting experience because we’re extraordinarily professional, we really do things and you know, like I said, in a data-driven way and and and we try to provide as much information and insight as we possibly can. And we deliver exceptional value which is sort of, we see in the fact that we have a lot of return customers, a lot of people with us are a very long time.

John Girard [21:42]
This client, for whatever reason, you know, was very disrespectful and very abusive. And ultimately, what we decided to do was to, you know, gracefully and and and respectfully and the relationship with the client and I would say It was surprising because when we were thinking about the lost revenue, we were thinking about where else could this go? It got very, very complicated to sort of figure out what to do. And as soon as we backed up, and we said, well, what are our values, and we held the decision up against those values, it was really obvious really quickly, that you know, that the purpose of having that respect value, and there’s that there’s respect all around the table, and if it’s not existing, even with the client approaching our team, that’s not a fit, and it meant that it was time to move on. And so it was a great example for me of values in action. It was also a great example of how important it is to live the values with the team because you know, our team you know, they’re used to battle and they were willing to say, hey, we’ll keep doing this will keep pushing. But when we made that decision, it was certainly appreciate aided by the people involved, and there were ripple effects throughout the company is in making that hard choice. So I would say that’s probably my best, my best example.

Gene Hammett [23:11]
Well, John, thanks for being here on the show. I appreciate it.

John Girard [23:13]
You got it, Gene. Thank you!

Gene Hammett [23:16]
Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

John Girard [23:16]
Yeah, my pleasure.

Gene Hammett [23:17]
Wow, what a fantastic interview really love having these conversations getting into the day to day in the trenches of the decision-makers that understand what moves the business forward. And talking too fast growth leaders like john, I’m really excited to share these strategies with you and share some of the mindset that they’ve had to evolve over time. Now, if you’re not picking up some clues behind this and taking notes and applying them in your business, you’re missing out because I hear back from all the time about people listening to the podcast, what they get from it. So today, you’ve got a really solid understanding of how to put your values in action. And that’s really important if you want to continue to grow your company. As always lead with courage. Well, see you next time.

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.


GTT Featuring John Girard



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