Communication, Autonomy and Entrepreneurial Thinking with Dr. Johnny Garcia at SimIS

This may sound scary to you, but you should encourage entrepreneurial thinking at all your company levels. When you have entrepreneurial thinking, you have a culture of ownership. Today’s guest is Dr. Johnny Garcia, founder of SimIS. His company was ranked #3401 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. We look at the power of entrepreneurial thinking. This is something I have noticed in my research with other fast-growth companies. Join us today to look at entrepreneurial thinking as a way to improve autonomy and innovation.

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Target Audience: Dr. Johnny Garcia MBA, Ph.D. is the CEO at SimIS. A Values-driven, firm specializing in: Modeling, Simulation and Training, Courseware and Game-based Training, Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) Simulation, Autonomous Vehicles, Test and Evaluation, Information Assurance, Cyber Security, Border Security Systems development, Enterprise, and Technical Architectures, Software/Hardware Engineering and Systems Services.

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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.

Dr. Johnny Garcia
Leaders always think they’re right. And unfortunately, a good amount of the time we’re not. And we have to learn how to deal with it work with that. Because I mean, as you, as you probably will know, these young men and women that are coming into the workforce now, they’re so smart. They know so much more than we did when we were their age, and being able to communicate with them and understand them. It’s so important in any successful business

Intro [0:33]
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 help leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [0:50]
Would you say that you encourage your employees to stay like entrepreneurs? Would you say you encourage them to own the projects that are in front of them? Would you say that you give them complete autonomy, and the work that they’re doing? Well, some of those things are all related. In fact, I think they’re very closely related to entrepreneurs thinking, this feeling of ownership and autonomy. You’ve heard me talk about a lot of them on the show today. But we wanted to go specifically to someone who’s had some experience with this at a leadership level, and really working with a fast-growth company growing their business and their team really fast. So who is that? Well, it is Dr. Johnny Garcia. He is the founder of SimIS. They are a simulation company. They do a lot with data. He is actually the founder of other companies as well. We talked about the importance of team and the importance of communication and entrepreneur thinking, autonomy, and a lot of other elements and details about how he sees the team as they grow together as they provide services, not only to their customers but also to their community. It’s very philanthropic. Dr. Johnny Garcia really is someone I admire as a leader. So hopefully you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed recording it for you. Now, I want to pause here again because I keep mentioning this and I know that many people are able to pull over their car and actually go get these principles. But I want to encourage you to take a mental note right now if you want to grow fast, you want to understand the 12 principles that leaders know a fast-growth companies and see where you stand those 12 principles. I’ve organized into three small pages, you can digest this content and the amount of time it takes you to drink a cup of coffee, and three pages, you’ll get those 12 principles just go to And you can download the 12 principles of fast-growth companies. Again, that URL is Now back to the interview with Dr. Garcia.

Gene Hammett [2:54]
Dr. Garcia, How are you?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [2:56]
Good morning. Thank you very much. I’m doing well. How about yourself?

Gene Hammett [2:59]
I am fantastic. excited to have you here on the show to talk about the leadership and culture that’s made the company grow. So tell us just a little bit about SimIS.

Dr. Johnny Garcia [3:09]
SimIS is a modeling and simulation cybersecurity company established about 13 years ago into two innovative approaches to doing business and modeling and simulation. And cybersecurity.

Gene Hammett [3:28]
When you think about your company, I know it’s grown, you know really fast. And the market you’re in is a very interesting market with security. What Tom? What are you most proud of as it relates to the company?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [3:42]
I’m most proud of the people that work for SimIS. And what we’ve done in the community here in Hampton Roads, the 757 that’s what I’m most proud of

Gene Hammett [3:53]
The people that you have there. You know, you can’t do this alone. So what is it about the people that you feel like has really made the biggest impact for growth of the company?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [4:06]
Well, I mean, that’s a great question. I mean, I think it ends with me, it starts with the key leaders, I have an important partner to the business. Our CFO amber Horton has been with me since the beginning since we started the business. She’s been very instrumental in helping me run the business. But then I have a number of directors in the right positions that are making sure customers are happy, but also can’t forget the employees that are doing the work to keeping the customers happy. And that’s so important to a successful business. growing business is the people that are leaders in the business and I give them all the credit for all of our success.

Gene Hammett [4:55]
When you think about you know, create taking people who are intelligent and talent To and really getting the most out of them so that you build high performing teams. What are the key factors that you see most important?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [5:09]
Well, I mean, there’s a number of factors, obviously, but probably the most important are communication skills. You can have a number of folks that are extremely intelligent, extremely smart and have high degrees and did really well in school. But if they have low communication skills, or no communication skills, it’s going to be very hard for them to lead a team of individuals, especially highly educated individuals, and the majority of our employees at CMS are all highly educated. So communication skills are so important.

Gene Hammett [5:45]
I know that when I talked to most people, they think they have pretty good communication skills, most people would probably rate themselves pretty high. But the reality as we all can’t be, above average, what do you think, gets in the way of someone’s communication skills when they think they’re better than they actually are?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [6:05]
Well, I mean, I think you hit it right on the right on the head of the nail is, leaders always think they’re right. And unfortunately, a good amount of the time we’re not. And we have to learn how to deal with it work with that. Because I mean, as you probably well know, these young men and women that are coming into the workforce, now they’re so smart, they know so much more than we did when we were their age, and being able to communicate with them and understand them is so important in any success of the business. Millennials are very different than, my generation. Their approach to to work is very different. And their approach to being motivated is very different. And it’s very, it’s it’s very much tied to how we communicate with them, to get the best out of them. Majority of my workforce are millennials. And they’re there. Like I mentioned, they’re a little bit different than the way I was raised in business. But what I found over the years is getting to understand you know, what their buttons are, and motivating them is extremely important. I’ve learned that a number of leaders in the business and my business have learned that. And that’s what made us so very successful over the years.

Commercial [7:32]
Hold on for a second. Did you just catch that leaders think they are right? Well, we all think for right to a degree, we all know that we have some understanding of what we’re trying to do as employees and as leaders. And so for us to think we’re right is common. But how do you as a leader, engage others that think they’re right to see a new perspective. But one of the ways is, you slow things down a little bit, you begin to ask questions about, you know, what they really believe? Where did that come from? What backs that up? How are they grounding their, their idea of that truth? And when you begin to have these conversations, I would urge you to, you’ll play with a little bit, actually ask them questions like, you know, what would it take for you to see this a completely opposite way? And maybe laugh about it a little bit? Because that in itself the question, to look at it the opposite way, we’ll get some some energies flowing around that conversation. And hopefully you’ll find different ways to see things, different perspectives. And your job as a leader sometime is to get them to see other perspectives, and not necessarily tell them what they’re expected to see. Let them figure it out for themselves. This is hard and challenging. It’s part of the job as a leader. Back in interview with Dr. Garcia.

Gene Hammett [8:54]
I love this focus on communication. Is it something that you do through the values of the core corporation or is it just an overarching factor to how you operate as a team?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [9:08]
Yeah, well, so I was in the Navy. So my first real job was in the Navy, and everything in the Navy was about communication chain of command, communication. Now, something different in business is there’s no dictatorship in business. Not that the Navy is a dictatorship, but you know, the chain of command is the chain of command. And typically, in the military, you don’t respond back to your superiors. I mean, you can a certain way, but typically, it is what it is, well, in business, you can’t do that. You have to be able to communicate, collaborate, and that leads to innovation. And we’ve talked about in innovation, these young men and women that are coming into the technology field Like I mentioned, they’re super, super smart. And you want to leverage that intelligence to build your business.

Dr. Johnny Garcia [10:09]
And I think what we’re doing in in autonomy and autonomous systems is so key to the success of it in leveraging these young men and women’s talents to build something that’s never been built before, and it’s super exciting. Obviously, we have a number of PhDs. And if you’ve ever worked with PhDs, you know that they know everything. And typically they don’t. But it’s really hard to get them to say, Well, that was wrong. But as these young men and women are coming into the fold, in autonomy, these PhDs have been doing it for 2030 years are realizing Wow, they do know what they’re talking about. And then we’re going to build a better system because of that. And so that’s so important to how we innovate and deliver technology today with the millennials. And not only that, the, I guess it’s the gen wires, or the I don’t remember what their name is the ones that are coming right out of college. Now, these kids are so smart. I mean, they’ve had a mobile device, they’ve had a computer in their hands since they were born. And everything that they do is tied to technology. And that’s exciting to me, in the technology business.

Gene Hammett [11:35]
When you think about autonomy, a lot of companies, you know, will say that autonomy is a very important piece to it. And what I really speak about is, is really letting someone think for themselves solve these problems for themselves and have full ownership of their areas. Is that an agreement with kind of the way you see autonomy?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [11:55]
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, obviously, there’s a misnomer about autonomy. And this is just Johnny’s opinion, is typically, you will let someone not drown, but you know, get close to drowning, and then you’ll help them. And obviously, for us in autonomy, and in business. Time is money. And I don’t want to, you know, have this conversation about money. But any successful businesses says, It’s not about the money is incorrect, because then they’re not in business there they go out of business. So when you talk about the importance of autonomy, in an engineering environment, like we’re doing, we have to ensure that what we’re doing with our employees is safe, first and foremost. But not only that, that it’s good for the ROI of the business.

Dr. Johnny Garcia [12:51]
Because we’re investing in that person to ensure what they’re building is going to be what the customer wants delivered. And what we’re building is very, very serious business, especially in our autonomous vehicles, and our systems, because they’re their life and death decisions that are being used and made with these systems. So we want to give our young engineers have enough rope. But enough rope to where we can save them in case, they get too far. You know, underwater, or whatever we want to call it. But it’s strongly important that we do that. But what we’re learning that these young men and women are very adaptive. And they run into problems always good to fail. And the reason why it’s always good to fail is because you’re going to learn from those failures. And for me, I’ve learned more from my failures. And I have from my successes. And I think that’s extremely important, especially in autonomy in an engineering world.

Commercial [13:56]
Hold on for a second, Johnny, to hear him talking about the importance of autonomy. Well, another way to look at that is empowerment, how do you truly empower your team members to have their own opinions? How do you empower them to make decisions to fail, and then figure out how to pick themselves up and keep going and get the data from it the learning elements of that failure. empowerment and autonomy go hand in hand. And your job as a leader is to truly empower them to make those decisions. Because over time, you’re not there to hold their hand, you’re not there to review their work, you’re not there to make sure it gets done, hold them accountable. You want to make sure that they understand that they’re completely empowered, they own their work. And that is the critical part of the leadership that is often missing. Too often do we swoop in to fix things and sometimes you have to let them own it and be completely autonomous to what’s wrong. going on, self-sufficient, if you will. Back to the interview with Dr. Garcia.

Gene Hammett [15:05]
I love the fact that you say it’s good to fail. So my next question is, Dr. Garcia, what is a mistake that you made or failure that you made that really caused you to question your own leadership and cause you to play at a higher level?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [15:18]
Yeah, so, great question. I don’t know how long this interview is. But man, I read a number of self-help books. And one of the ones that I love is Steve Farber’s radical leap. And he’s, he’s written a number of them. But the first one, obviously, leaps as an acronym in his book that talks about the love for what you do, and the energy and what you do everything that you do, and the love for the people that you do it for. And audaciousness is extremely, extremely important.

Dr. Johnny Garcia [15:54]
Guess why? Because everybody else is trying to do what it is that you’re doing. And if you’re not different, if you’re not, you know, pushing the envelope, then you’re just gonna be like the other person. But T is by far the most important. And that’s the proof. The proof in what you’re doing every single day, it’s not about what you do. It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. And that’s where true leaders come in with that leap. But when you talk about failure, and and I’m sure this is a rated g show, but it’s the OSM and what what happens every single day that you learn so much from and those are those oshit moments, where you’re like, whoa, wait a minute, and you’ve made tremendous amounts of mistakes. But in order to be able to be successful, you have to take those OSS apply those OSM to what you do every single day. Now, I’ve had a number of OSM in my life, and so has everyone else. But the key to those OSM is how do you go about it the next time, that environment or that question, or that type of situation evolves itself, you reply to it. And in business, it’s very simple.

Dr. Johnny Garcia [17:17]
Don’t do it again, especially if you failed the first time. And you know, there is a number of reasons, a person fails. And it isn’t about education, a number of different special business, there are so many environments, being successful in business, you can’t prepare for all of them. But in your response to each of the situations is how you succeed. And I think that’s important in just about everything that you do. As far as you know, failure, success, preparedness, and a number of different attributes that relate to those, you know, possibilities in business, I love what I do, I love the people that I do what I do for so when I make important decisions, I think about how it’s gonna affect everybody, as it relates to that decision. And moving forward.

Gene Hammett [18:19]
You know, I one question that’s kind of on my mind here, when back to your time, autonomy, I find it that leaders that have a need for employees to have the autonomy, and employees actually want this and desire it. They really have embraced this entrepreneur-thinking across the organization, would you say that you want to encourage your every individual employee to think like entrepreneurs?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [18:42]
I do. And you know, it’s the approach that anyone can do it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone wants to do it. And it’s not easy. And just so so everybody knows that just because, you know, Johnny was successful, and being an entrepreneur. And I mean, I own a number of different businesses other than seminars and all risks that I’ve taken on. But not only that, the approach to what we do in every single day to day life, can’t all be an entrepreneur, because what is entrepreneur, I is the willingness to assume risk with a number of attributes, and so I’m willing to give my employees my leader, or my directors, the ability to do to be entrepreneurial in their approach, but they got to understand the risk associated with that. For me starting a business, I’m a risk Originally, it wasn’t much of calculated risk for me because I knew this is what I loved. And this is what I wanted to do. But the other flip side to that I have fun, I had a phenomenal job at a really large company called General Dynamics where I was moving up the ranks.

Dr. Johnny Garcia [20:09]
And I had a great salary, great benefits. And I had someone who was, who thought highly of me that said, well, Johnny, why are you here? You should be doing this on your own, you should be you. You are a risk-taker, entrepreneurial, you could be doing this on your own. And here I was just completed a Ph.D. just had twin daughters. And the economy was in a recession. And I said, Wow, what a great time let me start a business network. And man, what a risk that was. But like that, like the question you asked, those are the types of risks I don’t want for my employees. From an Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pay my mortgage this month. Kind of a deal. I think what I’ve created in some of us in our other companies is the ability to take calculated risks in our business without the ramifications of starting a business if you know what I mean.

Commercial [21:10]
If you have been watching this interview on YouTube, we appreciate you make sure that you give us a thumbs up subscribe to make sure you don’t miss another episode. And I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email gene and [email protected]. I’d love to hear what else you need help with and the challenges you’re facing as a leader back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [21:30]
Certainly know that the full aspects of being an entrepreneur is not for everyone else, we’d all have our own individual businesses, and it’d be full-on kind of anarchy. But I really appreciate you sharing with us about what you see, as leadership and culture in your fast growth. Is there anything that I might have left out in the questions that you feel like really move the needle for growing a company fast?

Dr. Johnny Garcia [21:56]
Yeah, I think the important aspect of anything that you do in a successful business is what you do in the community that you’re in. Because guess what, everybody says it takes too much? Well, it does. And in the future, you have to be involved in your community, you have to be involved in your local schools, your local universities. But not only that, you have to be able to support a number of different nonprofit, and community service organizations. And I believe in our business, that’s where we’ve been successful in working with our community leaders. But not only that, in our local schools, in our local programs, we do tons of internships, we reach out to the local high schools, we reach out to the robotics clubs, to the underserved areas in use in the area. And that’s extremely important, not only for the business in the community but also for our employees, for them to understand. Sure, we’re a successful business. But we also want to share our wealth, we want to share our health. And we also want to communicate, I mean, educate and communicate our region and our communities.

Gene Hammett [23:11]
So glad you added that Johnny, I felt with some of the work that our company has done. Being able to give back to the community and to nonprofits has been a really great kind of boost for the team and for me personally as a leader is just being able to give is someplace that I look to be for a long time. So thank you for being here on grow think tank to share your wisdom about leadership and culture that drives fast-growth companies. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Johnny Garcia [23:40]
All right, thank you.

Gene Hammett [23:42]
Great interview, you’re there to talk about, you know, the importance of communication inside your team. And as a leader, it’s really critical for you to go beyond everyone’s kind of feeling that they’re pretty good at communication and really get specific about how you improve as an organization. With my teams, we’re working on how do they improve listening, as leaders? How do we improve truly being present inside of a conversation instead of being distracted? Even the slightest little bit? And those are some of the things that I deal with my client’s teams? So where are you with those elements and communication? Do you wish your team had a higher level of communication?

Gene Hammett [24:20]
Well, if you want to have more information about that, make sure you go to, that training will take you directly into something I’ve put together to help you understand the three biggest mistakes that you as leaders making and that you can actually fix when you do your company has a chance to soar. grow fast, just like all of the interviews I’ve done today. Just go to All right. That being said, Thank you for tuning in here to today’s episode. As always, lead with courage. I’ll talk to 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 Dr. Johnny Garcia



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