Though many simply think of them as a jam band, the Grateful Dead are one of America’s longest-enduring, most unique, and best-performing businesses. Over the course of a career that has lasted over five decades, they have created a culture, a highly profitable business, and a mindset out of organized chaos. Furthermore, they have survived as a leaderless organization and cemented their legacy in the decades following the death of founding guitarist and effective bandleader Jerry Garcia in 1995.
If you want to look to numbers for proof, consider the fact that the band made over $50 million almost exclusively from touring and merchandise sales in 1994, and that Dead & Co., the band’s current incarnation led by Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzman, John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti grossed over $40 million from ticket sales alone, not including merchandise, in 2019.
Joining me on today’s podcast is fellow Deadhead Brian Mohr. He’s the founder of Mohr Impact Group, a consulting firm focused on organizations who want to unlock the potential of their people by honing in on the importance and power of human connection in the workplace, and we’re digging deep into the business lessons that anyone can learn from the Grateful Dead.
So, even if you’ve never connected with their music, throw your preconceived notions out the door as we dive into a conversation about how to develop prestigious brands, create customers for life, and build small businesses thinking seriously about conscious capitalism into massive, life-changing organizations.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
Hi. This is your host, Andrew Rafal, the founder and CEO of Bayntree Wealth Advisors. And I want to welcome you to the Your Wealth & Beyond Podcast, a show that was created to help you simplify the financial world and to ensure that you’re living your best life now and in retirement. Each show we’re going to be bringing on experts that are going to help you build wealth, and most importantly, find purpose in what matters most.
[00:00:32] Andrew Rafal: And welcome back to another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. Welcome to 2020. This is our first show and I am super excited to make it live and to have on a wonderful guest to getting to know this morning. Brian Mohr, welcome to the Your Wealth & Beyond Podcast.
[00:00:49] Brian Mohr: Thank you very much. And I just have to say that you said wonderful guest. You don’t know that to be true. This can be an utter disaster.
[00:00:58] Andrew Rafal: You know what, I’m thinking high level here that we’re going to hit this a home run but you’re right. But I digress. So, Brian is the founder of the Mohr Impact Group, a consulting firm focused on what?
[00:01:14] Brian Mohr: It’s focused on organizations that want to unlock the potential of their people by really honing in on the importance of human connection in the workplace.
[00:01:23] Andrew Rafal: And I think in today’s world where we’re so connected technologically, but I feel like we’re so disconnected with our relationships.
[00:01:31] Brian Mohr: It’s so true. The amount of time that we spend tethered to some sort of an electronic device.
[00:01:38] Andrew Rafal: Hold on, let me check a text.
[00:01:40] Brian Mohr: For good reason, right? I mean, I think technology has brought so many advancements, so much efficiency, so much productivity, and it’s great. It does a lot of great things but what are the consequences? And are we now bordering? And I would say yes into a world where technology is actually becoming a surrogate for real human connection and we’re social creatures. And so, how do we make sure that as we continue to focus on doing more with less, that we don’t lose the importance and frankly, the need that we have as human beings to feel connected to one another?
[00:02:12] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. And I think that that’s so important in today’s world. So, working with the executives, the business owners and the employees, and having that higher vision together, that they’re on a mission to not just help their clients, not just help bring in revenue, but have that purpose. And especially, the millennials, they really want to have that purpose. It’s not so much about making money.
[00:02:33] Brian Mohr: Yeah. And I think, you know, it’s interesting that the millennials, I think, get a lot of credit and maybe take a lot of flak for bringing this more balanced approach to the business world. But at the end of the day, I do think that all the generations we’re wired quite similarly. The millennials, I think it’s just the first sort of large group that had the courage to lean with their deeply held belief of the way things could be or the way they want things to be. And my hope is and I think it’s starting to bear out is that all of the generations like, “Hey, these younger folks are pretty damn smart. Maybe we should listen to what they’re saying.” I think they are.
[00:03:12] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. Half of the staff at Bayntree Wealth Advisors are millennials and they get in earlier than I do, work to 7:30, 8:00 but they have that work ethic, that passion, because they have a common goal, which is helping clients, but we’ve built a good culture. So, we could spend this whole podcast talking about that, but we’re going to change things up a little bit. And one of the reasons I brought Brian on through a very good friend, Adam Goodman, where they’re both very passionate about the Grateful Dead. And today, we’re actually going to go through some of the lessons that we can learn on the business side as well as marketing, from what the Grateful Dead, what they’ve done over the course of their history, starting in with the mid-60s and some of the things we can learn and take from what they’ve done to create the culture, to create the business mindset, to change things up, to have that organized chaos. So, who better to have on than Brian Mohr? What you’ve been to 50? Was it 52 shows prior to Jerry dying?
[00:04:11] Brian Mohr: Fifty-two prior to Jerry his untimely too soon passing. Yes.
[00:04:17] Andrew Rafal: Wow.
[00:04:18] Brian Mohr: A lot of good times, most of which I remember. Some I don’t.
[00:04:22] Andrew Rafal: Which are some probably the better ones, right?
[00:04:25] Brian Mohr: Story for another time.
[00:04:26] Andrew Rafal: And as you were obviously young at the time, some of the things as you were going through those shows and absorbing it all, you maybe weren’t able to take full advantage of what you were experiencing at that time.
[00:04:37] Brian Mohr: Without question. I mean, it’s the gift of hindsight, the gift that it is, it is fun to look back and reflect and start to put the pieces of that puzzle together.
[00:04:47] Andrew Rafal: So, we think about this business ship that they built and now we look at books that have been written on it. Courses have been taught in college. So, I think when we talk through on some of those main areas, we can look at whether it’s the 60s, the 80s, or here in the 2020s, we can take a lot of what they did, and how they developed their brand, right? How they developed the affinity to their fans. And one of the things I think, if we first start thinking about is content, right? They were one of the first to think of things and say, “You know what, we’re going to give away our content.” So, let’s talk through a little bit of that of how they saw the ability for the fans to start recording the shows.
[00:05:30] Brian Mohr: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s an amazing sort of element of the whole community that they created and the business that they created that they just sort of fell into, and I think a lot of it stemmed from their mindset that they’re artists, and they go out there and they create their art. And one of a very small group of bands out there that changes up what they do every single night, right? As much has been written about how they don’t go out and just do the same show over and over and over, over the course of the tour. Every night is different so there’s that sense of surprise and delight. Mostly good sometimes. They’ll deliver just an absolute crap show but that’s part of the deal and I think the philosophy of, hey, when we go out, we create our art. If somebody wants to record it, great, because when we’re done with that particular piece of canvas, we’re done with it and do what you want with it.
I don’t think they were consciously thinking about, “Hey, if we do this, and we let people record this, that’s somehow going to help us continue to grow and proliferate what we’re trying to do.” I think it was simply just a matter of people wanting to capture the energy and the magic that was happening when it did happen. And then that just became its own sort of underground training system where people were able to relive those memories that they had by listening to what had just happened because there was a group of people that would throw up microphones not unlike these and just capture these shows.
[00:07:03] Andrew Rafal: And they would provide them the space and give them sometimes the front row area there. And as you mentioned, it created that kind of fear of missing out, that FOMO, right? You know, thinking about we’ll talk about some of the Dead & Company shows and if you missed a show, or if you look back to that setlist and you missed that one in ‘93, and you were so close to going, and you missed it, and even though you can hear it, it’s still that experience is what you’re there for.
[00:07:29] Brian Mohr: And it’s just, you know, anybody that’s been following the band for any length of time, whether it’s back in the early days or in the modern reincarnation of what it is, we all have those songs that we’re dying to hear live. And so, these two, three-night stands that the band will do in any one particular city, you just kind of walking in every night with your fingers crossed. I hope I hear, fill-in like song, because it’s just I’ve read zillion times on a tape or CD or mp3 or what have you. I want to hear it live.
[00:08:01] Andrew Rafal: And on that note, and I’ll just kind of use that to I’m going to take off this jacket and I feel like this is a Dead show, podcast, and we’re talking about songs that we want to hear. Let me see if you can get this on there. It’s not an Athletica. It’s Althea. So, that’s definitely in today’s new rendition of Dead & Company. This is a song that I think Mayer starting to play really well.
[00:08:26] Brian Mohr: I think it’s the song that John would say is the song that brought him into this whole Dead community. I just listened to it but I think you heard it as well because Adam shared it with us, John was on that Al Franken podcast and I think if my memory serves, John was talking about listening to Neil Young Spotify channel and the 1980 studio recording of Althea came on from the Go To Heaven album and that somehow was or the song that pulled him in. Up to that point, you get a guy who’s this unbelievable musician, the guitarist John Mayer is, for that song to be the song to have pulled him in. It’s just super interesting. So, well worn, the podcast.
[00:09:11] Andrew Rafal: Perfect timing on that. When we think about…
[00:09:14] Brian Mohr: You might be a little upset but, you know, who knows?
[00:09:17] Andrew Rafal: Hey, there are no attorneys on here. Nobody’s even watching so we’re fine.
[00:09:21] Brian Mohr: That’s the Atari logo, right? I think.
[00:09:23] Andrew Rafal: Yes. Atari and it could be Athletica. Adam actually got this at one of the Shakedown Streets. But let’s talk about business and, obviously, new rendition with the evolution after Jerry died a couple of different ways and how they started going out there and playing. But two things when we think about a leader and Jerry was kind of the glue that kept it all together. Even though as a leader, maybe he wasn’t the most vocal but he led and he was the one they looked up to. So, when we lose a leader and whether it be because they get ousted, they retire, what can a business do to ensure that the culture lives on if that leader, if that founder steps away?
[00:10:08] Brian Mohr: I mean, I think at the most core essence of that is preserving and carrying the flag, the torch of what the purpose was and how that leader manifested that purpose. You know, most businesses, about all businesses start to solve a problem better a human condition, bring a new product or service to the world that’s going to improve the lives of whomever that business is there to serve. And it’s a very noble reason to start something. And so, if indeed a leader, a founder, or a CEO moves on from being the person that’s carrying that torch, I think, whoever then steps in making sure that that individual understands that not only are they being brought into lead from a Xs and Os and execution sampling, but also that they do so with that heart and soul connectivity to what the core essence of the business exists to deliver its why, its purpose.
It goes by lots of names, but that larger reason for being for the business as opposed to, at least I’ve seen it a lot in the executive search space where I spend quite a bit of time is oftentimes businesses will bring a leader in because their resume and their background, their experience is a really good match for what the job calls for. But then they’ll forget about that whole human connection, that heart and soul connection. That becomes the greatest accelerator of performance is when that leader or leadership team not only can get the job done, but gets it done in a way that is perfectly aligned to the essence of the business’s purpose and the people that are being led, the followers if we want to call them that, can feel that connection. It’s not just about the Xs and Os which matter. It’s about the whole. It’s about the Xs and Os and the heart and soul and bringing that all together.
[00:12:03] Andrew Rafal: And so, when I read back in when Jerry passed and then kind of the infighting with Phil, Bobby, it was one where they were just on their own path. And although they try to get back together at the end of the day, there was nobody leading that ship even though they had the people that were wanting them to figure it out. And that happens so much in business when you get the person that’s keeping that maybe the egos at bay, and that common goal, that common mission of getting from point A to point B. You lose that and no matter how, it’s hard to replace it, and then we see over these last five years or so, one area with looking at a business and you bring in whether it be I wouldn’t call him the leader but having somebody like Mayer step in to these shoes which are impossible to actually step into.
And the legion of fans that were like, “No way. This John Mayer who embodies A Wonderland? I can’t have this guy in there,” and then slowly him putting the work in and showing and coming to work every day, and then slowly winning over the fans. Again, it’s not going to be perfect, but you know, guy’s a technician out in the guitar and he’s putting in the time and now there’s that comfort level where they’ve got some pretty good going.
[00:13:18] Brian Mohr: They do and even prior to John coming in, even when Jerry was still alive and the band was going through the years and years of evolution, in many ways, it was a leader list. And even though Jerry is often hoisted up on the pedestal and being the leader of the band, and maybe that’s just the curse of being the lead guitarist in many, many bands, that becomes sort of the go-to person that the person that sings the most often is the lead guitar player. In many regards, that band, the entity is a leaderless entity, not that there wasn’t a leader, but it was an environment that they magically created, where whomever had the most energy whoever was sort of advancing what they were doing musically the fastest or with the most intensity, the band, having spent so much time together was able to fall behind and sort of hear without words, who was the person.
Whether it was the drummer, whether it was the keyboard player, whether it was the bass player, whether it was Jerry, whoever it was, whoever had the most energy was the person that took the lead and the band was able to follow suit and it became this super organism that the leader constantly changed. And I think what’s interesting about Dead & Company, in particular, you hit the nail on the head that so many fans who loved the Grateful Dead with Jerry had a really hard time because John is now stepping in to fill the shoes of somebody who like they couldn’t look more different, right? And here’s the guy John Mayer had this and still does, this amazing career as a more of a pop music even though he comes from the blues. I mean, he’s a blues guy at his core. It’s such sort of the opposite personality of what Jerry Garcia was yet John came to it, to your point, put the work in and recognize, I think right out of the gate, that he’s just a contributor.
[00:15:19] Brian Mohr: He’s not the leader. There’s really no leader and he was able to kind of figure out that this is a group of musicians that don’t designate you’re the leader. It’s whoever is advancing the musical story furthest is the person they fall behind.
[00:15:32] Andrew Rafal: And I think companies can take that and utilize that to help become more successful. So, the best leader is one that lets their people and, in your case, you’re right, you hit it on the head there is that every night there’s a different, you know, in a Dead & Company show somebody, there’s a different person taking the lead, which is fantastic.
[00:15:51] Brian Mohr: Yeah. And I mean that opportunity inside of a team or inside of a department in business. You may have the title of department manager or whatever, the Vice President of X, but as you’re going through the day-to-day, the week-to-week work and working on a variety of projects, initiatives. If there’s someone who really lights up and has a lot of energy, a lot of passion, a lot of enthusiasm around a particular project initiative, just because they don’t have the title of being the leader doesn’t mean that they don’t have the capacity to step into that role and bring people along because they’re the one that is moving the momentum, the progress furthest with the most energy.
[00:16:32] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. And as they grew, you know, think about the counterculture in the 60s, and then they became more, I wouldn’t say mainstream in the 70s, but think about all the people that were helping them behind the scenes, that great documentary that came out last year really showcased a lot of that, looking at the blood, sweat, and tears that that everybody felt. And that’s something that in case of business, if you’ve got that, that can help you excel to the next level. So, we think about social media now in this we’re so connected, but we’re not connected. Thinking back to some of the successes of how we saw this culture being built from the ground up, and then became a little bit more mainstream. And then maybe in the 80s, we could say, it became some of their popular songs then it became more, but that experience, that experience that back then, people were striving to have that experience.
And now in today’s world, you can almost think of them as like that was the Facebook before Facebook in the context of being able to, I mean, think about the shows, as you got older, you’ve been able to go to shows and then all of a sudden, you’re seeing a buddy that you hadn’t seen in a year or since last summer, and then it’s like, boom. And we think about in today’s world, what we remember, like from last year, all the different days, they meld into each other, and you think about experiences and live events. Those experiences live on. I mean, you think about you’re remembering stuff from the 90s, I mean as much as you can remember, some of those shows, right? But those are some of your fondest memories.
[00:18:02] Brian Mohr: They’re great. And it’s interesting, that whole community and I think it’s widely misunderstood or perhaps unfairly packed. People who don’t know what the Grateful Dead is and hear someone speak about it if they have no concept of what it really is, I think oftentimes and maybe this is a story I’m telling myself is they’ll immediately jump to, “Oh, that’s just a dumb band that uses drugs and you just go there to get wasted.”
[00:18:30] Andrew Rafal: Drugs are bad.
[00:18:32] Brian Mohr: Sure, there’s that. There is that part of it, right? There are people who go there to do things to themselves and that’s what they’re there to do. But to your point around that connection and that experience and perhaps that being sort of a more older school Facebook, anytime you run into somebody whether you know them or not at a concert, and particularly at a Dead show and any of the bands and I think sort of have created sort of a similar community, you immediately know something about that person or at least you can jump to a conclusion that there’s a good chance that they’re pretty kind. They’re compassionate. They leave with a sense of love. They certainly believe that love is stronger than hate. They want to be part of this community. There’s that connection piece. And I think that’s, to me, one of the most beautiful things about this band and what they did is they created a community and you meet people before, during, after these shows, and you immediately know something about them. And it’s almost an unspoken brother/sister.
[00:19:38] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. You go to a show, you’ll see Wall Street people back in the day in suits. You’ll have doctors. You’re going to have engineers. Blue-collar, you’re going to have those that are cut off the grid and all getting together and just not judging. And in today’s world, that very rarely happens. So, that’s the type of draw in it. Whether it be the Dead or you look at what spawned from that, things like Phish, who kind of took from everything that Dead did and made it their own but understood the power of the team, the power of the community and treating your fans, treating them right. And you think back to this marketing. It was a marketing machine and they were with the Dead thinking they understood, okay, let’s mailing list. Let’s get our loyal fans. Let’s get their addresses. There’s no email back then and let’s push out good stuff. Let’s push out and keep them connected. Let’s make sure that the top fans are in the front row.
[00:20:41] Brian Mohr: Yeah, totally.
[00:20:42] Andrew Rafal: And bands learn from that Phish. Now you got Widespread. You got String Cheese, all of these different bands that maybe don’t sell a lot of albums, right? I mean, the Dead ’94, I mean, I think they brought in over $50 million, but the majority of that is touring and merchandise, right?
[00:20:58] Brian Mohr: Yeah.
[00:20:58] Andrew Rafal: So, they realize that from the get-go that don’t do it in the studio.
[00:21:02] Brian Mohr: Yeah, they never could. Even though they’ve got a few really good studio albums, it just was never their thing. Interestingly, it just was never their thing. Yeah, I agree.
[00:21:13] Andrew Rafal: And they realized early on, okay, even though it’s like that organized cast, we’re going to look like we’re just kind of doing our thing and we’re flying at the thrills of, “Hey, we’ll make it happen the next day.” But they really created a company, right?
[00:21:29] Brian Mohr: Without question.
[00:21:30] Andrew Rafal: You know, real company, board of directors were them. They didn’t have the record company telling them what to do and then they realized early on, you know, that they could do really well with the merchandise. But then think about what they were able to do with that community is how many entrepreneurs did they create and it’s still to this day, right? I mean, it’s got to be in the tens of thousands, whether somebody’s selling something on Instagram now or you go to Shakedown Street, and they are literally some are just surviving to go to the next show, but that’s what they saw from the get-go.
[00:22:04] Brian Mohr: That’s what they’re choosing to do, right? Nobody’s forcing anybody to do that. But yeah, it’s fascinating and it’s fascinating to study in some sort of human behavior, human psychology of what that whole thing is.
[00:22:20] Andrew Rafal: And you think the branding of what they created it’s in line with Nike. It’s in line with Apple. You’ve got that loyal fan base that will stop at nothing to be part of that. And it’s the same premise with all these companies that have developed and continue to evolve that brand and align themselves for hopefully the right mission. Now, as companies, as everything gets bigger, it gets more convoluted, Google, we are no evil, right? What’s they’re saying? Do no evil, right? Well, now they own us and they really give away the content, and then we became their revenue stream. So, that’s a whole another podcast that we could get into. But you know, it’s about creating the tribe and that’s what good brands do, create the tribe and then focus on them.
[00:23:10] Brian Mohr: Mind your fans and treat them really, really well.
[00:23:13] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. And love them.
[00:23:14] Brian Mohr: What’s interesting too, just in the whole like I think the music business, at least in a live environment, a group of artists, musicians jump on stage and the really good ones understand that it is a symbiotic relationship with the people that are there in the end. That energy transfer, it’s real. When it happens, this was maybe two or three weeks ago, my wife and I had some friends went to the Van Buren music venue in downtown Phoenix area and we saw a show, The Trey Anastasio Band, the lead singer and guitar player from Phish and his – or he has a side band. And there were moments in that show where it’s hard to put it into words but every single person in the room whether you had an instrument on your shoulder or you were in the audience, we were connected which might sound goofy, crazy.
This is not a drug-induced feeling. This is like 100% sober on a Tuesday night and just everybody was on the same wavelength. There were moments where it was just undeniable that we had fallen into the groove into this group. I don’t know what else to call it, where you can look up on stage, you can look at the person on your left, person to your right, and then just everybody is feeling the exact same thing like, “Wow, we are in it.” And in those moments, that’s kind of what you live for, especially in a live music environment.
[00:24:45] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. Well, the Van Buren is a perfect setting for that. But, yeah, you can’t replicate those experiences.
[00:24:54] Brian Mohr: The band doesn’t know that that’s going to happen, right? That’s what happens when everybody is united by a common purpose, band, audience, lighting, sound, venue like everybody that were there. It was just one of those moments.
[00:25:08] Andrew Rafal: Yeah, I saw Gary Clark there about a year ago and that was incredible. Same principle.
[00:25:14] Brian Mohr: It’s a really neat room. That was the first time I’d ever been there. It’s a great, great room.
[00:25:17] Andrew Rafal: I might have missed that Tuesday. It was a rainy cold Tuesday. I had something came up. Now, I got FOMO, missing out on that. So, if you were to plan your perfect show, what five songs would you want to hear?
[00:25:32] Brian Mohr: Oh wow.
[00:25:33] Andrew Rafal: Uh-oh. Oh, no, we’re going there.
[00:25:35] Brian Mohr: If I had my perfect show, you know? Alright, so I am dying to see Mr. Charlie, which is a song that got put on the backburner after Pigpen died back in the early 70s so I never got to see that. They never played it after Pigpen died. He was one of their…
[00:25:55] Andrew Rafal: I mean, he was one of the lead like he was…
[00:25:56] Brian Mohr: He was one of their originals. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. I think he died in ’72 I would say but nonetheless so that was one of their more bluesy songs. I don’t know if John brought it back but John sings it and he’s been doing that tune. They’ve busted it out a few times. I love seeing St. Stephen. There’s something about that song that just to me that is the essence of Grateful Dead. I love seeing that. Morning Dew, love hearing some of these tunes although I still struggle a little bit with some of the songs, more the ballad songs that Jerry’s old man very fragile voice just he commanded a presence over the storytelling of these songs that Bobby’s doing the best he can.
[00:26:42] Andrew Rafal: But third song is hard to hear it without…
[00:26:43] Brian Mohr: It’s just hard. There are some songs like there’s that indelible mark acoustics. Yeah. There’s Stella. What else would I be dying to hear?
[00:26:54] Andrew Rafal: And this could go back to even with Jerry but, yeah, these are all fantastic. You can keep going on and on.
[00:27:01] Brian Mohr: I take what they give.
[00:27:04] Andrew Rafal: If going back to the statistics on Dead songs, what do you think beyond Space and Drums, what’s the number one song they played?
[00:27:13] Brian Mohr: Well, the one that they played the most often is Me And My Uncle. So, that tune kind of an old cowboy Bob Weiner or some tune is the song that they played in repetition the most times throughout their history. I don’t know what the number is but they played it a lot. That’s quick fun, too. Yeah.
[00:27:31] Andrew Rafal: I think playing in the band because sometimes they maybe didn’t even do with the whole song, but it’s always just somewhere hiding in between different songs and so forth. Yeah, I was looking and I think I was surprised like top 15 or so was like Mexicali Blues, which…
[00:27:46] Brian Mohr: I’m sure that’s up there.
[00:27:47] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. The Dead & Company doesn’t play that much but that’s a fun one.
[00:27:50] Brian Mohr: Right. I didn’t hear that much.
[00:27:52] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. So, with your career, it’s been helping to place the right employee with the right employer. And then as you started looking at this and saying, “We want to focus on a purpose-based of finding,” what does that mean to the listener, to the viewer?
[00:28:10] Brian Mohr: So, kind of maybe going back a little bit to what we were talking about earlier, you know, this notion of leadership, leadership in business, I think for a really, really long time, it was the individual who had the most experience in a particular field, that particular discipline. And the human aspect of that individual leader’s connectivity to the larger reason, the larger purpose, the larger why behind the business, why is it in existence as a piece to that. I don’t know that it got nearly as much attention as it deserves. And it’s interesting too because if you rewind the clock back in the mid-1940s, there’s a Harvard professor. His name’s Elton Mayo, who is the guy that is credited with launching what became known as the Human Relations Movement.
It was one of the first individuals, academics to say, “Listen, the work environment how people feel about the work is as important as all the other criteria that we have been studying up to that point.” And yet here we are in 2020 and it’s as if we’re still figuring that out that how people feel about the work that we do, that they do matter. Why that is, I don’t know. But I think a huge part of that is the leaders, right? The old saying the fish stinks from the head so it’s either going to smell good or it’s going to smell bad. And if that lead or leadership team is authentically aligned to why the business exists, in addition to the profit motive of we got to make money. You can’t run a business unless you’re making money. But how you make it and the way you engage the team that is doing the work matters tremendously. So, how do you as a leader really shine a bright light on not just the money-making aspect of it, but the reason why you’re making the money. What is the product? What is the service? How is it helping?
[00:30:10] Brian Mohr: And maybe it’s not externally that great of a product or service. Maybe you look inward and learn that, as a leader, the biggest opportunity you have and perhaps the most noble reason for your existence as a business is to help the people who enroll and come work for you grow and learn in life. And whether they move on or not, they will have loved a better person than when they came and that’s a pretty good reason to be a leader and run a business.
[00:30:37] Andrew Rafal: Wow. I mean, Adam was wrong about you. You’re a lot smarter than he led on to. Wow.
[00:30:43] Brian Mohr: The fact that we both have chosen Adam as a friend that means our judgment should be in question big time. He’s, well…
[00:30:51] Andrew Rafal: That’s a whole another thing. Yeah.
[00:30:52] Brian Mohr: That might be able to…
[00:30:53] Andrew Rafal: And then leading into what you just said into one of your passions is conscious capitalism and that word gets thrown around quite a bit. But what does that mean to those that haven’t maybe dive into it and learned the value of it or just maybe thought about it high level?
[00:31:10] Brian Mohr: Yeah. I mean, I think we could spend a lot of time on this and I’m happy to. Conscious capitalism is simply a way of looking at the capitalistic system that’s far more aligned to where we are in the human journey today. And for whatever reason, the capitalistic model has devolved into a very short-term, shareholder-only mentality and I think a lot of that is driven by the businesses that we put up or that captures our news media and the attention of the news, as well as Wall Street, right? I mean, quarterly, quarterly, quarterly, quarterly, and you’ve got activist investors and you’ve got just this drive to make money. And I’m not an anti-profit, anti-money guy. Make as much as you want, but there’s a way to go about doing it that can benefit all of the stakeholders, not just the shareholders.
So, how do leaders today who are running for-profit businesses, look at the opportunity that they have, not only to deliver a great service a great product and make money but do so in a way that pays attention to all of the stakeholders that their business needs, the ecosystem of suppliers and vendors and the community, the employees, the clients, the investors, right? You’ve got this big ecosystem of participants in the business’ success. The business can’t do it alone. So, how do leaders recognize the impact and the ripple effects of what they do and how they do it, so that they are doing their best to create winning opportunities for everyone, as opposed to looking very short-term and saying, “Well, if we really screw our vendors and try and pay them as little as possible, regardless of the impact on them and their community, we can deliver more money to the shareholder.” That’s an option. And a lot of businesses do that but at some point, that ability to continue to pull levers that screw one group in order to benefit another, it’s just such a zero-sum mentality.
[00:33:10] Brian Mohr: And it’s thinking, well, there’s a scarcity mindset and there’s only so much to go around. I think we are learning that that’s not true. There’s how do we become more creative? How do we think more long-term? How do we really understand the needs of all of the stakeholders and figure out, all right, how can we create wins for everyone? And that may not be possible every time but to not even challenge ourselves as leaders and ask the question and think about it, it’s just a huge missed opportunity.
[00:33:38] Andrew Rafal: You’ve got small businesses struggling to survive, and then you’ve got mature businesses. Can a smaller business as they’re getting up and running, can they look at conscious capitalism as something that’s realistic?
[00:33:54] Brian Mohr: I think so. Absolutely. Will they be able to do super long-term range planning and make sure that their vendors and suppliers are being paid a premium or perhaps have some of the advantages that a more mature business than maybe it’s thrown off a healthy margin on a monthly quarterly annual basis? I mean, an entrepreneur, a startup might have to think way more short-term as they’re getting going but that doesn’t absolve them of the responsibility or, frankly, the opportunity to think about what are going to be the founding DNA elements of the way we are going to operate. And are we going to be ruthless mercenaries in our approach to business or are we going to build something that is more akin to community and a group of stakeholders that we want to really pay attention to and make sure as we build this business, we do it in a way that is very mindful of all of the people that we’re going to be relying on and who were going to expect us to do the right thing?
So, mature businesses, I don’t know that they’re as safe as we think they are either. You got young startups and early entrance into industries and different segments that are shaking things up. So, yeah, I mean, I think everybody can do it.
[00:35:13] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. At Bayntree as we are a small company of 10 but what I’ve put in place every quarter is one of the employees gets to pick something that they’re passionate about and then we do a giveback, whether it’s Feed My Starving Children, or setting up some type of water drive in the summer and involving the clients and letting them feel that we’re all working together. A good friend of ours is one of the leaders at Habitat for Humanity so that’s one area that we’re going to put together in the near future for both the employees as well as clients come on out. We’re going to spend the weekend and we’re going to get our hands dirty. We’re going to build and we’re going to have something that’s going to be sustainable and used for a family for many, many years. So, those are little things that companies can do if they don’t have maybe the type of capital that’s coming in or the type of expertise or employees that can strictly focus on that.
So, it’s empowering your employees and they love it because then they come to the table and they know it’s on them and we know it’s going to be something that they’re passionate about. And then they’re going to spearhead it. They’re going to have – sometimes they invite their friends and their family and it becomes that environment that breeds upon itself.
[00:36:21] Brian Mohr: That’s a great way to build community, right? I mean, businesses all, well, at least most of them unless it’s completely virtual, businesses have homes. They operate inside of communities where we live, work, and play. And so, to make a positive contribution in some way, big or small, I mean, everybody has that opportunity.
[00:36:42] Andrew Rafal: We were chatting before the show, and we talked about technology, you know, the good of it, but then how it’s going back to your disconnection, right? So, what can businesses do when we look at Slack and we look at WhatsApp and we look at all these different things that are there and Trello and Monday now and things of that nature that it makes it where we’re not talking to our employees. Somebody who’s down the hall or really next to you, here they are and I’m going to Slack them. Slack has been so helpful for us but I can also see where that can be a detriment to actually having conversations. So, what can you tell a business owner to do on that, to be careful on using technology for efficiency, but to be careful with what it’s doing to your culture?
[00:37:23] Brian Mohr: I think it’s as simple as, I know maybe simple is the wrong word, but paying attention to opportunities for connection. There’s a number of things that a business can do to make sure that the people who are showing up and spending 8, 9, 10, 12 hours a day with one another are actually building relationships. And it’s interesting to me and I don’t know if I’ve always thought this way or this has just been something that has sort of come on like a freight train for me in the past handful of years, this notion that work and life has always been separate, right? We don’t bring our personal lives into work and we do our best not to bring our work lives to our homes. That’s like that whole construct it’s been shattered. And so, you hear a lot about businesses want their teammates and their employees to show up and be their whole person. I don’t even know that we know what that means yet. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. But if we’re going to sort of lead with that kind of a mentality, then we’re going to need to create time and space for connection opportunities.
Gallup organization has been studying employee engagement since at least since 1996 when they launched their famous Q12 survey, which measures the health of the global as well as the American workforce based on their engagement study. And one of the top three criteria of the 12 questions of the Q12 survey I believe it’s about to statements like do I have a best friend at work? And year in, year out what they have found is whether or not someone has a best friend at work is one of the most important leading indicators as to whether or not they’re going to be engaged with the organization and engaged in the work. So, there’s something there about whether or not we feel a sense of connectivity to the people that we’re working with. Now, I’m not saying you got to have a whole room full of best friends. That’s just unattainable, right? That’s not going to happen.
[00:39:14] Brian Mohr: But year in, year out, if they’re saying that the depth of connection you feel is an important indicator as to how you feel about the work you’re doing, and perhaps the length of time that you’re going to stay, the amount of discretionary effort that you’re going to bring to you and bring with you to the work that you’re going to do, why would leaders not work at fostering an environment where people can connect? Another recent data point that I think is fascinating, this recent, maybe as a bit of a stretch back in 2012, Google launched their project Aristotle initiative where they wanted to find out what are the ingredients that are absolutely necessary that lead to consistent high-performing teams. And after a two-year study, like 180 teams across Google, mostly engineering teams, but I think it was a mix of engineering and sales teams, two-thirds engineering, one-third sales, what they found was that psychological safety, the sense of if you and I are colleagues, how willing are we to take risks in front of one another? How willing are we to be vulnerable with one another?
That essence of psychological safety, if I make a mistake or I raise my hand because I don’t know the answer to a question or I need your help, that I don’t feel like you’re going to take advantage of my temporary ineptness to solve the problem. You’re not going to take advantage to advance your own career based on my inability to do something. Well, in order to even feel vulnerable, in order to take risks, I think, like a necessary ingredient to that is do we even feel connected? Do I feel connected to you? So, what can leaders do to create an environment where human connection can happen? It can be done in a variety. It can be done in a new hire orientation. It can be done in every team meeting where you simply set aside 5 to 10 minutes to create an opportunity to do a check-in, to do some sort of a connection where people can talk about the things that are really important and happening in their lives right now. And that might be taboo for some because we want to leave life after death, not bring it to work. But who are we kidding?
[00:41:14] Brian Mohr: We can’t check part of who we are, and forget that if I’m dealing with a family member who’s sick or a teammate who’s sick, like that’s real, and I can’t just at least I can’t, I can’t modularize that away and pretend like it’s not going on when I come to work.
[00:41:31] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. I mean, a good leader has empathy. I mean, I guess, there’s powerful leaders out there that are psychopaths. They were the true definition where they’re able to run over people and build their company but at the end of the day, you know, that that’s a culture that’s destined for failure in most cases.
[00:41:47] Brian Mohr: Yeah. It’s not a culture that I want to be a part of.
[00:41:50] Andrew Rafal: No.
[00:41:51] Brian Mohr: You know, it’s interesting, though, because some people do. Some people just – and that’s okay.
[00:41:45] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. As long as they know what they’re getting into. As we close up, I mean, who do you think would be a better employee? Ramble On Rose or Stella Blue if you were to hire one of them?
[00:42:08] Brian Mohr: I don’t even know how to judge that. I would say based upon the sort of more upbeat nature of Ramble On Rose, I would go with Ramble On Rose. But there would be a time and a place for the sense of empathy not that Ramble On Rose wouldn’t have but that a Stella Blue would bring.
[00:42:28] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. I feel like Rose would bring a little bit more creativity, some more passion, more energy, but maybe Stella is just your steady third baseman who comes to work every day. She doesn’t cause a lot of problems, except when love comes involved and then it becomes a whole shit show. So, well, that’s good. So, we covered a lot today for the listeners. You know, being a leader or working for a company, where you have the common belief, the culture, and you shouldn’t just work for a paycheck, especially in today’s world. So, the leaders that are out there, things like you had mentioned, huddle up, have quick one-on-ones with your team, and really focus on understanding the pulse of what you’re building, and not just the pulse of the revenue or the client or the customer, bringing that all together. Easier said than done.
[00:43:18] Brian Mohr: Absolutely.
[00:43:18] Andrew Rafal: And sometimes you need professionals that will go in and help you get outside of your box. The one thing I think that’s important is maybe offsites, right? Get out of your…
[00:43:15] Brian Mohr: Absolutely. Off-sites, on sites, all of it, just creating opportunities that might feel foreign to what the normal workflow is but create those opportunities for connection. And I know we’re trying to wrap here but loneliness is a real thing and the amount of connection that we use technology for is really, really good on the productivity and efficiency side. But the question that I am constantly asking myself is technology, is it becoming a surrogate for real human connection? And I’m fearing that it is. And that sort of coincides with, there was a recent Cigna study. I think they did it with UCLA or might have been UC Berkeley, I apologize, but more than 50% of Americans, based upon the research that they did, answered the question, do you have at least one meaningful social interaction each day? And more than 50% of Americans said no. So, the impact that loneliness has on us is pretty profound. And we’re social creatures by nature. Connection is part of what we need to adapt and survive. And if 50% of Americans aren’t getting some kind of connection that we need for adapting and surviving on a daily basis, how many days in a row can you go before that really starts to weigh on you? And you go to work and are you performing at your best? Probably not.
[00:44:55] Andrew Rafal: And then you’re going home and you’re swiping left or swiping right or swiping up and you’re living vicariously through all these other people, and then you’re questioning, what am I doing with my life and you’re not having those friendships? I don’t think you need a whole bunch. You don’t need 30 friends but having those core that provides you that peace of mind, that sanity, those experiences being able to share. And I think that’s what so many are missing. Some have a lot of the circle, but there’s no real true connection. And so, that in itself and a lot of it is that technology where we feel that constant weighing down on us, right? You know, it’s hard trying to just put the phone away for the weekend. That’s why like sometimes going to a place hiking where there’s no technology yet. It feels weird. You start shaking a little bit, but then you start feeling at ease and peace. And that’s what I think a lot of people are lacking and that’s where things like meditation and yoga and things like that, that can get you grounded and get you centered can help you be a better person, better employee, better husband.
[00:45:57] Brian Mohr: Yeah. It is hard to fight the dopamine hit we get by checking into our phones and that instant gratification. Man, it’s real. It is real.
[00:46:06] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. They’re messing with us. It’s true. That’s the new drug. It’s the new opioid issue. Anyway, so we covered a lot. Going back to what the Dead has done, and they continue to do but they created an industry, they created a culture, they created a brand, they took care of their people, they worked in unison, didn’t think they were better than anybody else. And now 50 plus years later, they’re still rocking and rolling and they’re doing their thing.
[00:46:35] Brian Mohr: It’s pretty crazy to think about that, the institution that is the Grateful Dead. I mean, there’s a band whose unspoken leader, as most would say died in 1995. So, what is that? 15 years? No.
[00:46:50] Andrew Rafal: Twenty-four, yeah. Twenty-five, yeah.
[00:46:52] Brian Mohr: Yeah. That’ll be 25.
[00:46:53] Andrew Rafal: Hey, we’re math majors over here, everybody, and I own a financial services company.
[00:46:58] Brian Mohr: Twenty-five years ago and maybe it’s just the bubble we live in. They seem to me to be as relevant as they were.
[00:47:07] Andrew Rafal: But it helps too with having Sirius, the Grateful Dead channel. That keeps continuing on. I know you had the fortune to take your daughters to a show recently, something I haven’t done yet but she hears it enough where it’s not just, “Ugh, daddy, your music.” It starts engraining in her and I’m hoping as time goes on, she’ll really start appreciating that and other music whether it be the Beastie Boys or certain things of that nature, but that was for you, that experience.
[00:47:33] Brian Mohr: It’s awesome. It’s super cool to go. I mean, it’s something I never thought I would ever do but to go because both my girls, they’re teenagers now and my wife and I got to play like we really want to expose them to the shenanigans that can happen and often do happen at a concert in general. But we’ve done a really good job. The risk of sounding overly confident, our parenting skills of teaching them right from wrong, and they really enjoyed themselves. It was a lot of fun and they’ve been listening to it their whole lives because I’ve been listening to it their whole lives and for them to see it live and they both two girls they just seeing John Mayer is obviously drop-dead gorgeous and they just were excited to see him perform live. Yeah, it was really a lot of fun.
[00:48:20] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. He definitely is bringing a new class of fan, definitely. Did you walk them through Shakedown Street?
[00:48:27] Brian Mohr: We did.
[00:48:28] Andrew Rafal: Did they ask you about, “Daddy, why is somebody taking a balloon and sucking down?”
[00:48:33] Brian Mohr: They were very interested in the whole nitrous balloon thing. And, yeah, I mean, we explained that that’s typically what you would get at the dentist if they were doing some sort of an oral procedure to put you under. And they’re like, “Well, isn’t that dangerous?” Like, “Well, yeah, it is very, very dangerous.”
[00:48:49] Andrew Rafal: So, you had them just split one then?
[00:48:51] Brian Mohr: Yeah. We figured splitting it.
[00:48:52] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. If it’s half each, it’s fine. Such a good dad. Wow.
[00:48:56] Brian Mohr: The balloons are so big these days.
[00:48:57] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. So big. We’re just kidding. If there’s anybody out there, this is a joke. But that’s awesome. But to just have them experience with you and them, it’s pretty cool.
[00:49:08] Brian Mohr: Yeah. It was super cool to actually have the conversation that we people that they trust could explain to them. Yeah, because they saw people sitting on a curb who had just taken a decent inhalation of a balloon and that they’re watching them. That’s crazy. What are they doing? Well, explaining exactly what they’re doing and…
[00:49:31] Andrew Rafal: How many brain cells it’s killing?
[00:49:32] Brian Mohr: Yeah. So, I’d rather them hear it from me than one of their friends who’s going to maybe not getting the right information.
[00:49:39] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. That’s true. That’s a whole, you know, parenting is about communicating and we’re not going to get into parenting now but fantastic. So, thanks for coming on. This has been fantastic. In the show notes will be ways in how you can contact Brian if you want to learn on how you can make your workforce more purpose-based and connecting the employees and connecting to that higher power of whatever it is that you’re striving for. So, I think you’re doing fantastic work. Keep it up.
[00:50:07] Brian Mohr: Thanks for having me.
[00:50:08] Andrew Rafal: You’re very welcome. And stay tuned for a new episode later this month of Your Wealth & Beyond. Happy planning, everybody. Thanks so much.
Thank you for joining me for today’s episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. To get access to all the resources mentioned during today’s podcast, please visit Bayntree.com/Podcast, and be sure to tune in later this month for another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond.
Investment advice is offered through Bayntree Wealth Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor. Insurance and annuity products are offered separately through Bayntree Planning Group, LLC. Bayntree is not permitted to offer and no statement made during the show shall constitute legal or tax advice. You should talk to a qualified professional before making any decisions about your personal situation.