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Achieving World Class Results With David Jones

FFE 116 | Achieving World Class Results


What does it take to achieve world class results? How does one take the leap from being ordinary to becoming extraordinary? These are the questions that Jared Orton explores with today’s guest, David Jones, an instructor, consultant, and executive coach with McClaskey Excellence Institute. David talks briefly about the prestigious Baldrige Awards and how its criteria can be used as a guide to strive for excellence in business. He also explains how striving for excellence is a matter of understanding customers’ key requirements and getting the right people on board and fine-tuning processes to deliver on those all the time. Tune in to this exciting episode and learn how excellent companies seem to have it easy and yet achieve immense gains at the same time.

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Achieving World Class Results With David Jones

A few months at the beginning of 2020, a few of us from our team went up to East Tennessee to the McClaskey Excellence Institute. It’s a two-day workshop designed around achieving world-class results. I know that seems so hyperbole but truly we were inspired with tactical advice and planning to bring back to our team that we believe we can set out to achieve world-class results. It’s taught by two gentlemen, David Jones and David McClaskey. These guys are world-class presenters, leaders and communicators. They are doing and teaching things that I’ve never heard or seen at any other workshop, class or whatever it might be.

This is not a pitch to go to the class or whatever. We don’t do any of that stuff but I have to give credit where credit is due because these guys presented absolutely remarkable things. David Jones, who I’m talking to is going to share some of those ideas that they share every day with businesses and industries who are trying to achieve this world-class excellence. David has had a wonderful career in manufacturing and engineering. He’s been teaching, consulting, coaching and even got Tennessee’s Highest Excellence Award for 2020. He is remarkable. I have enjoyed knowing him, learning from him and learning from their team there. Here’s my conversation with David Jones.

I am joined by David Jones. David, thank you for having this conversation with me.

Jared, you’re most welcome. It’s a pleasure to be here.

We met a few months ago and I’ve got to admit this, I had no idea who you guys were, what you were doing and any of this stuff. You have done some remarkable things. We shared that beforehand about who you are, who David McClaskey is and the wonderful things that you have done for business and this idea of the pursuit of excellence and pursuit of an extraordinary business. We’ve got to go back. How did an engineer get into all this? Give us that story. Tell people where you came from and your background because that makes even more of an interesting story.

My background is in engineering. I’ve got a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering from Purdue and a Master’s in Industrial Engineering from the University of Tennessee. I worked in Corporate America for 25 years, mostly in engineering, marketing, and quality departments. Along the way, I’ve also cofounded an award-winning educational products company, which we sold. I’ve taught adjunct at two universities here locally and I’ve consulted for many years. Through it all, I found that my center of gravity is around performance excellence. I love helping people and organizations unlock their full potential and become the best that they can be. That journey of helping people along the way is priceless. It’s worth more than gold. I got involved in both the Baldrige Award program at the state level and then at the national level. I’ve been doing that for many years and it all fits. It’s all about performance excellence and helping organizations reach their highest potential.

FFE 116 | Achieving World Class Results
Achieving World Class Results: To deliver an extraordinary experience, one has to understand the customer’s key requirements and meet those every time.


Talk a little bit more about the Baldrige Award if you can. Speak to that a little bit and give people an understanding of the magnitude of what that award is, how you were a part of it and some of the companies that have been bestowed this prestigious federal award.

The Baldrige Award is probably one of the least appreciated tools in the business. It is our nation’s highest recognition for performance excellence. It can be thought of like the Nobel Prize for business and management leadership in the US. It’s a federal law. It went into effect in 1988 and since then, there have only been 121 organizations in the US to win it. That’s 121 out of the millions of companies, municipalities, healthcare organizations, educational institutions that are eligible. Winning it signifies that you are a role model organization from which others could learn the criteria that the award is based on are unquestionably the best in the world. I can’t tell you how many nations have copied that criteria or started an award program based on what they saw what was happening here in the US with the Baldrige Award.

Every state has their version of the award. It’s the same criteria. It’s just administered a little differently. At the state level, it’s more about economic development and helping organizations grow and get better. My involvement goes with the state award here. It goes back to 1994 and with the national award, to 1999. I’ve been an examiner. I’ve trained examiners at the state level. I was a judge for 12 or 13 years. I have a lot of experience there. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, the knowledge there. If you want to understand your business, go to the Baldrige website. It’s under the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Pull up the criteria and use that to assess your business and help you find the areas where you’re strong and the areas where you have an opportunity for improvement.

It’s remarkable to think about it in that way. When we first started talking and sharing, this is for companies that they’re setting out to achieve, as you guys would call it, world-class results. That’s something to aspire to be. What you and David McClaskey are starting to teach is that we can all have these world-class standards. While those people have won these awards, you don’t have to be some Fortune 500 company with millions of dollars to invest in this. These are standards of excellence that everyone can take to heart. Why I was motivated by it was that the little old Savannah Bananas could even start applying some of these principles. Going back to the Baldrige Award, what are some of the big companies who have won this award?

You can go way back and look at organizations like Cadillac, 3M, Xerox, Texas Instruments and organizations like that in the early days. Eastman Chemical here locally in East Tennessee where I’m located. Smaller organizations like Pal’s Sudden Service restaurant chain and Bristol Tennessee Essential Services, which is another one here locally. They have 60 or 70 employees. They’re an electric utility. They provide cable, internet and phone service as well and they are amazing at what they do. It’s not a size thing. It’s not about investing a lot of money to get some trophy to put on the shelf. It’s about running your business better regardless of the size. It’s how can we run our businesses better or our organization, for-profit or nonprofit, and you get benefits all along the way.

It’s not like, “When we get there we’re going to be great. Everything’s going to be wonderful.” It gets better and better all along the way. I’ve talked to several individuals within the Baldrige winning companies. They’ve all told me that the portion of their career where they were using the criteria to drive improvement in their organization, to see results, to take what they’ve learned from the process, feed that back in and get better. They all describe it as the most rewarding years of their careers.

You said when we were having a conversation that some of the people that you spoke with and have done business with and have helped consult on this award, some of them had been considering it for 3, 4 or 5 years. They look back on their time where they didn’t decide to make this transition and they say, “Those were some of the biggest mistakes of our life because we realize that we’re on this path to becoming extraordinary.” You use that word often. Why do you use that word extraordinary? Where is that coming from? David, business is hard. We’re in the thick of it every single day. Why do I need to choose to be extraordinary? Talk me through that a little bit.

First of all, we have great respect for the ordinary. When we talk about extraordinary, that’s the contrast there between ordinary and extraordinary. If you’re ordinary, that means you’re in business and you’re getting it done. That is not easy. That’s hard with all the regulations. In this period when we’re doing this episode, we’re dealing with the Coronavirus and all that has brought. It’s not easy to be in business. If you’re ordinary, you’re doing fine, you’re doing well. We know that on the spectrum of businesses where some are poor, some are ordinary, some are extraordinary, it’s a whole lot more fun and rewarding to be extraordinary at what you do. We focused on helping people get there.

If you’re ordinary, that means you’re in business; you’re getting it done. But it’s more rewarding to be extraordinary at what you do. Click To Tweet

Where do you see the big difference in that decision-making process? What makes someone say, “I’m tired of being ordinary. I want to take this next step. I want to be on this pursuit of becoming extraordinary?”

What we find is that only about 10% of the managers and leaders of organizations in the US and around the globe where we serve people, want to be extraordinary at what they do. They’ll all raise their hand and say, “We would love to be extraordinary,” but to put forth the effort. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. Those are the people that they realize there’s got to be a better way. “I’m working hard but I do not see the results that I envisioned for my organization and my team. I’ve got good people. I’ve got good products. I need to stop settling for ordinary, for anything that’s mediocre. I need to start setting my sights higher.” That’s when they begin to look around and see, “Who can I learn from? Who can I benchmark and hopefully jumpstart this effort?” That’s when they find us.

When you start teaching this idea of extraordinary business and this value of being extraordinary, I know when we went through the McClaskey Excellence class, you use the two drivers, which were people excellence and process excellence. Can you speak to those two pieces a little bit? Where do people excellence come from? Where does process excellence come from? How has that become the driving force to get us to this extraordinary level? 

The people in your processes are the two active ingredients in any organization. Those are the two levers that leadership has to pull to deliver their brand standard product and service. If the leader could do all the jobs within a business and not have to hire anybody, they would. It’d be so much easier.

Dave Ramsey always says, “Business is easy until people get involved.” 

We have to have the right people on board. We have to have our processes finely tuned so that we can deliver on the customer’s needs. We often refer to the brand standard and what your brand standard is. What you define as excellence or the peak of what you deliver, that’s your brand standard. The leader’s job is to bring your people and your processes together in a way that you deliver 100% to your brand standard 100% of the time. When you do that, your customers will come back or your fans in your case.

When you deliver in that way and you always had used the example of Pal’s talking about delighting the customers in a way that creates loyalty. Those are fans. Customers are easy to get. We can advertise and we can get customers, but that becomes expensive and hard. Over time, that becomes a difficult way to keep a business afloat. We believe fans are people who go out and evangelize about this business that they’ve dealt with because of the experience. The 100% thing that you said, “If we settle and say that we’re aiming for 75% excellence this year, you’re giving your people permission to do it wrong 25% of the time.” Who would do that? Speak to that a little bit and that example that you use about why we’re always striving for that 100%. 

We call that our triple 100. You’re going to get the job done 100% right, 100% of the time, under 100% of the conditions that you face. When it comes to dealing with the customer, that’s what they want. The guest, the customer, the fan, whatever you call them, they’re coming to you for that brand standard. They wanted it every time. They want that experience. They want that product or service. It’s our job to give it to them if we want them to come back. The most important measure of customer loyalty is repeat business. If they are loyal, they’ll come back and say nice things about you which is important in this tech social world that we have so you get great referrals.

We guide our clients to do everything they can to generate that repeat business. Without repeat business, sooner or later you’re going to go out of business. There are lots of ways of gathering information about your customers. From them, you can do surveys, you can buy survey data, you can follow your Yelp scores. You can do all that stuff but the most important single measure is repeat business. If you gear everything you do around that, then you’ll get the repeat business. It gives you an opportunity to keep your doors open, maybe grow, maybe pay your employees a little bit more than you did before and everybody wins.

FFE 116 | Achieving World Class Results
Achieving World Class Results: The leadership’s job is to bring your people and processes together in a way that you deliver 100% of your brand standard 100% of the time.


You keep mentioning brand standard. I want you to speak to that a little bit because I’m wondering how did they begin auditing? What even is my brand standard? Whatever service-based business or retail business, how do they start auditing what that brand standard is? Is that something that the customer says it is? Is it something I say it is? Where does that brand standard come from?

It comes from the customer’s key requirements. If you’re going to deliver an extraordinary experience, you have to understand what your customer’s key requirements are and then you meet those every time. At first, it throws a lot of people off. It’s not a difficult concept. We do an exercise in our classes, and you were in there, you participated, where we identify the key customer requirements for a fast food restaurant and a restaurant in the quick-service restaurant industry. Every class gets them within 2 to 3 minutes. It’s straightforward, yet when we turn around and ask them, “What are your key customer requirements?” we get these blank stare and it’s like, “If you did it for a fast-food restaurant, surely you can do it for your organization where you are day in and day out.” We help our customers identify their customer’s key requirements, and then what are the process improvements that we have to put in place to deliver on that brand standard every time? What is the training we have to put in place? What hiring practices? All of these things go into delivering that brand standard every time without exemption.

If I remember correctly, when we were talking about key customer requirements, I found an interesting moment. I circled it a bunch. It’s when you emphasize, “Our key customer requirements are not either this or that. It’s this, plus this and that has to get us to 100%.” You used the example and we can go back to that fast food restaurant. It’s like the fries can’t either be hot or quick. It’s got to be hot and quick. It can’t be cold and quick. You can’t have or in these key customer requirements. Maybe speak to that a little bit more and give those examples. Sometimes we’re so apt to say like for example in the Bananas. It’s like we sold them the ticket and they got to come to the game, but what else? What about this and this? What else do they expect in that brand standard? Maybe speak to the and versus or mentality a little bit.

Excellence lives in the land of ants. At Grayson Stadium, if you had one of your food vendors going, “Hotdogs here. You can have them fast or hot.” Your fans would say, “I want them fast and hot. If we want to delight our customers, we have to hit all of their key requirements. When we say key, we’re not talking about 50 requirements. That wouldn’t be key. We’re talking about those 5, 6 or 7 key requirements and then defining the details underneath each one of them. If the customer says, “I like my hotdogs hot,” then you have to say, “What does hot mean?” You drill down to where you get, “Hot means 165 degrees internal temperature.” Now we have something that our process can aim for, that we can train people, that they can measure and make sure they deliver on that detail that leads to the delight for that key customer requirement. If you do that with all of your key customer requirements, then you’re going to nail it every time.

The business gets together with their people and they say, “We’ve got to start. We’ve got to nail down our key customer requirements.” If they came to the class, it would be, “Let’s do it for a fast food restaurant and let’s do it for my business.” From there, that’s where it turns into, “These are our key customer requirements. We’re going to do this and this. We believe that by doing this, we can do it 100% of the time, with 100% of our people doing it, at 100% volume.” We then say we’ve got to develop the people and the process to ensure that we hit this. Is that their next step? 

That’s it exactly.

Is there ever a time where you believe one comes before the other? Do people ever come before the process or process ever come before people? I wonder if people would ask that like, “Maybe I’ll get all my people on board first, but I won’t figure out the process.” Do you ever see those things come about where it’s like, “We’ve got to get people and process together or this thing might fall apart?”

Get the job done 100% right 100% of the time under 100% of the conditions that you face. Click To Tweet

Yes, you do. That said, what we hear from our clients is they need the most help on the people’s side.

What are you finding? What are people saying?

Up until lately, with the unemployment rate being low, what people are telling us is, “I am having trouble holding my team accountable because I’m afraid I’m going to lose them. If I lose them, it’s going to be hard to replace them in this low unemployment environment. I’m having trouble getting them to follow the steps. I’m having trouble training them.” All of these are on the people’s side. What we found is there are very few problem people. What you have is people who are acting reasonably, rationally and logically within the systems that you’ve created. They’re making their best guess. A lot of times the problem isn’t that you’ve got a bad process or bad policy or anything. You lack one altogether or you have it and you haven’t communicated it. We see a lot of organizations that don’t pay much attention to the idea of having a clear vision and mission so that their employees fill in the blanks. “I think what’s important is this,” and somebody else says, “I think it’s this.”

“I heard someone say it was this one time.”

We’re all aiming at different points and it’s hard for the organization to make progress when you’re doing that because you end up tugging against each other with all good intentions.

I can speak to that a little bit on a smaller scale. We do a pretty good job of sharing our vision, which is to bring Fans First Entertainment to as many people as possible. The way we do that is our fans first mentality of always being caring, different, enthusiastic, fun, growing and hungry. We preach that over and over to people. On a small scale, this is where we needed the most help from you. I wonder how many businesses you run into who say, “David, I’ve got it all in my head. I know how to do it and I can figure it out.”

I remember thinking back to our French fries and thinking of how many different variations of French fries have been created in our kitchen? Somebody likes them crispy. Somebody likes them a little bit softer. Somebody wants this type of salt. Somebody likes special seasoning. How many different fries have our fans gotten over time because we haven’t sat down and said, “What do our customers expect? Who are the people behind it? What is the process behind it? How do we deliver it?” Speak back to that business owner who says, “I’ve got it all up in my head. I just don’t know how to put all this down on paper. I don’t know how to write all this stuff out.” Where do you start with them?

That’s important because if everything is in their head, then they’re being hostage by that business. They can’t go away on vacation. They have nothing to sell when it comes time to exit the business because it’s all in their head. You can’t sell your head. They have to get it down on paper. You don’t have a standard if it’s not written down. Otherwise, it’s just everybody’s opinion. The owner’s or the boss’s opinion, that carries a lot of weight but how is everybody supposed to know that? You have to get it recorded, memorialized, however you want to say that, and make it accessible to the people who need it.

I love what you said, “If you don’t write it down, people fill in the blanks.” I’m laughing internally at that thinking. What the heck could be cooked up by people if you don’t give them that clear direction of, “This is where we’re going, this is how we get there, this is what our customers expect of us and this is how the people are going to do it?” Give us some examples of businesses that you have started to work with, and preferably small if you can, because that helps with the audience that we have. We’re all smaller businesses who are doing impactful things. Give me some examples of businesses that you have seen, worked with or maybe you’ve seen with the Baldrige Award who have made amazing strides from ordinary company to putting these key customer requirements in, putting these people and process excellence in, and starting to achieve some extraordinary results.

FFE 116 | Achieving World Class Results
Achieving World Class Results: You don’t have a brand standard if it’s not written down. Otherwise, it’s just everybody’s opinion.


We work with a lot of organizations that are smaller in size. When we say smaller, that’s not the IRS definition of 500 employees. It’s even much smaller than that, restaurants, a single location, 4 or 5-location restaurant. What we hear from them is when they start down this path, they get better teamwork, more turnover, better social scores, and their profitability starts to go up. These organizations like 131 Main out of Charlotte. It’s a marvelous restaurant. They’ve got 4 or 5 131 restaurants and one in Asheville, North Carolina. In the first year, they’ve saved $600,000 in overhead based on what they learned from us.

K&N Management down in Austin, Texas, they run five Rudy’s BBQ. Rudy’s is a chain. They also have five of their own Mighty Fine burgers, fries and shakes. It’s a better burger concept. When they started working with us, they had four Rudy’s. They’ve grown since then, but they are interesting case studies because they have adopted the Baldrige criteria. It’s the basis for their business model like Pal’s Sudden Service did. They came up and they started learning from us. David McClaskey led them through this process. He’s a masterful consultant. He led them through for a number of years. There, Rudy’s on average have triple the sales, triple the profitability of the other 32 Rudy’s in the chain.

It’s insane and off the chart. That’s what this pursuit of excellence will get you. Not only is it much more profitable but because the operation runs so well, it’s a lot easier to manage. Their lives get better and easier at the same time and that’s what confuses a lot of people. From the outside, they say, “How can it be easier to run a high performing organization? It’s hard to run an ordinary organization.” The problem is you’re dealing with all kinds of hassles and problems that you created or you allowed. They have gone to fix those problems. Not only is it easier to run but customers keep coming back. It’s this virtuous cycle. That’s why it’s rewarding and fun.

What you’re speaking to there is someone who is now able to work on their business and not just always working in the business, dealing with the fires and putting out the headaches and all that nonsense. Someone who has said, “I’m going to define what this experience is for my customers and my people, and what excellence looks like. I’m going to get out of the way and let this thing go and then guide it as it goes along to make sure if we bounce off the rails at any time, we can get back on track and continue on.” To hear a restaurant which is tripling the sales of the rest of the franchise just in their own five stores is nothing short of remarkable. I’d have to imagine and I’m sure you would agree that it wasn’t just a year in doing this and then everything worked out magically. How long is this taking? What’s the process? What’s the patience that has to be involved? It’s probably never-ending. It’s ongoing, I imagine.

That’s Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game. It’s that idea. You’re a Baldrige winner and K&N did go on the Baldrige Award. They were in the improvement process for nine years. They’re still getting better. Pal’s Sudden Service is still getting better. It took Pal’s about 5.5 years to go from good to great. To be clear on K&N, the numbers I quoted you are the average per store. There is five average triple the sales of the other 32 average. They’re amazing in what they do. It’s all based on their love of excellence. In fact, that’s their slogan, the love of excellence.

Someone starts hearing these ideas and reading these ideas and saying, “We need to start developing these key customer requirements. We need to start getting the right people on board. We need to start creating these processes.” Someone presenting that to their leadership team or whoever is with them in that process can be daunting. How do you suggest to people, “When you present this to your team, here’s how to present it?” How do you work people through getting their team on board with some of these ideas? I’m sure a lot of people can go back and someone says, “That isn’t the way we do it around here.”

We hear that a lot. People tell us that they go back to their workplace after a two-day class with us. They start talking about 100% and all this stuff being extraordinary and their peers look at them like, “What was in the Kool-Aid there? What’s going on with these people? Was it altitude sickness here? What’s going on?” The kind of change we’re talking about if you want to be extraordinary as an organization, it has to come from the top down. If you try and bubble it up from the bottom up, sooner or later it’s going to be viewed as a revolt. Revolutions and revolutionaries are usually treated too well. It will meet its end if you don’t have senior leadership on board to it. The best thing you can do to get them onboard to it is to show them the example. Take them to the K&N Management. They teach their own 1 and 2-day classes. They’re good. I highly recommend it. Allyson Young heads that up down there. She’s amazing as is the whole organization.

The most important measure of customer loyalty is repeat business. Without repeat business, you’re out of business. Click To Tweet

Take them to someplace like that and let them see firsthand the value, the ease at which these things are managed and run, the revenues they generate. Look at the customer scores. Most owners and leaders, once they become successful enough in their mind, so they don’t have to worry about their next meal or their mortgage payment or anything like that, they’re fairly comfortable. They begin thinking about bigger things like their legacy, how good can the business be? Things like that. There are few examples out in the world. You have to take them and show them, “Look at what they’re doing here. Look at what they’re doing in Bristol Tennessee Essential Services. Look at what they’re doing at this school district or this municipality and the results they’re getting from it.” Let them decide that that’s what’s right for the organization.

Some of what we shared when we got back with our team here was, “We’re all in the pursuit of doing something great. If you do not want to do great things for our customers, you probably shouldn’t be here.” Anyways, that’s probably a mistake on our end that we let someone in that wasn’t excited about doing great things for our customers. We shared like this is all the stuff that we’ve always wanted to do or always said that we’re supposed to be doing or always said, “That would be great if we did that or if we could do that.” Now we’re committing to it and writing it down and saying, “We’re not going to do anything less than this.” We refuse to do anything less than this for our customers and for our fans. We’ve got to get our people in the right place to do the right things, the right seat on the bus, the right job, right role and then give them the parameters to say, “This is what winning looks like.” We got some good feedback from people because everyone can feel like, the 3 or 4 people, they went to a conference or a class or they read a book and here comes that whirlwind of ideas about to hit us upside our head.

You’re right on the path. You’re right on target. You have to commit to it because it’s like going on a diet, a New Year’s resolution, an exercise plan, quitting smoking or any of those things. There’s always an excuse or a reason why it’s not the day to get started. There’s always something getting in the way, “We’re busy.” You have to commit to it and you have to carve out time in your calendar. You can’t just say, “When I get time, we’ll go work on this.” You have to get a priority. We’re going to go work on this. At first, it’s hard to do because you’ve got all the day-to-day. What we recommend to people is if you can take 10% of your workweek, so if you’re on a 40-hour, 50-hour workweek, we’re talking about 4 or 5 hours only to dedicate to improvement projects, whatever it is that you’re going to work on and make better.

We recommend starting with one. Don’t try and do 100 things, just do one. If you can dedicate 10%, then you’re going to generate enough momentum to keep things going. As you improve, you will be freeing up time because you’ve improved things that don’t require your attention over and over again or firefighting or anything like that. Now the time becomes more available to you to work on these things. It’s less of a calendar crunch. That said, we don’t recommend people to go off and invent a bunch of new things. We’re mostly talking about doing what you already do, just do it at a high level.

It’s committing to that and saying, this is what we’re striving for. We know that 100% might be impossible. It might be an impossible goal, but we’re not going to settle for anything less than that. Going back to the people a little bit, one of the things you mentioned and spoke to and what stood out to me was this idea of value-based hiring. A lot of times we’re looking for a warm body like someone to come in and do the thing that we told them to do and we’ll pay you every two weeks and then move on. Speak to this idea of value-based hiring a little bit.

Hiring is probably the single most impactful decision that organizations make on a regular basis. Who you let on your team is vital to your ability to achieve the successes that you’re looking for. If you think about the bell curve of biology, there is a range of different personality types and different value systems that people have. All we’re saying is find the ones that have the personality type, the value system that is a match for your organization. Those are the people that when their values align with your values, they’re going to thrive in that environment and they’re going to stay with you.

FFE 116 | Achieving World Class Results
Achieving World Class Results: Hiring is an impactful decision that organizations do regularly. Who you let on your team is vital to your ability to achieve success.


Another way of looking at this is there’s a shortcut saying, “Hire for attitude, bank for skills.” It’s like you guys at the Bananas, you need extroverts to work there. That’s your environment. That’s your culture. That’s what your fans are expecting. You’ve got to hire extroverts or introverts who can bring extrovert energy to every game for the whole game, the whole season. You can teach them the skills they need like how to greet fans, how to park cars, how to dance between innings, all of those things. If their personality or their values aren’t in alignment, if they can’t project that extrovert in them, then they’re going to be going through the motions. They’ll never bring their full self to the job. They’ll never put their heart into it. Our coaching point is always to determine what your culture is. If you’re in a restaurant where cleaning is important because that translates into food safety, by all means, hire people who are neat and clean and appreciate working in a neat and clean environment. They are more likely to keep it neat and clean without a lot of management intervention. Find people who are a good fit, train them for the way you want things done and turn them loose.

When we were running this through our brains and you mentioned the extrovert, that’s what we settled on. In the following years, we’re trying to dig deeper and figure out what are some of those true qualities. As we are round tabling the concept, we were like, “If we want people to show up on time, it sounds simple, but we’ve got to hire people who enjoy showing up on time.” It’s that simple mindset of we ask people to dress in wacky costumes. Their innate natural ability, we’ve got to find people that enjoy going outside the box, doing wacky things and doing fun things. 

We’ll teach you how to take tickets. We’ll teach you how to seat people. We’ll teach how to park cars, but we’re looking for someone who wants to be outside the box and be different. For us, that came all the way back to our customer requirements because we believe that people expect that. When they come to a Bananas game, they’re looking for that person who is over the top enthusiastic, greets them with a smile, high fives, and maybe wears a wacky costume, maybe sings a song, maybe juggles. Who knows? They’re looking for that. Do you see that correlation as well that the values of the business hiring for those people, does that then translate to delivering that excellent customer experience that you see?

It does. Having that baseline attitude and then the key is that we want that because the customer experience like hospitality, friendliness and all of that becomes a small part personality, but a big part in behaviors. We can teach behaviors. As you said, we can teach you how to sing that song. We can teach you how to greet fans. You layer in your personality on top of that. Now we’ve got that extraordinary experience that people are coming back for. We have to get organizations past this warm body mentality.

What we’re saying is if you want only extroverts, I don’t know what the stats are but let’s say the world is 50% extrovert and 50% introvert. That means you can only hire from 50% of the population. If that’s the game, we can do that. There are plenty of people out there. We can find somebody that is a good fit. It’s because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It means you’re a bad fit for what we’re trying to accomplish and we’re doing you a disservice if we bring you, an introvert, in and ask you to be something that you’re not. It works better for you and better for us if we don’t even go there.

That’s powerful. I can imagine that. I hope that brings some relief to people as they’re reading this that it’s okay to say no to somebody because you might be doing a disservice to them if you hired them and placed them in your culture. Whereas sometimes we feel like, “If I don’t hire them, they won’t have a job. I’ll be telling them no and they’ll think less of me.” You might be doing a disservice to them if you do hire them, place them into a bad culture and let them be a part of something that they’re not supposed to be on. Tell me a little bit about where do you continue to learn from? You mentioned Simon Sinek. You mentioned Good to Great. You get to be around all these amazing different industries, businesses, and Baldrige Award winners. Where are you getting some of your inspiration from and continuing to learn about customer experience, employee experience, and all those things?

We learned from every client that comes through our doors so that we deal with because everybody has something they’re good at. We’re constantly on the lookout for that. Also, there are many good podcasts out there. This show is a good one, Jared. You’re doing a great job and Jesse does a great job with his as well. There’s almost not enough hours in a day to listen to all the great podcasts that are out there. I pick up on those and I love to exercise. When I’m on the treadmill, I will listen to audiobooks. I don’t when I’m running outdoors, that’s unsafe. Not everybody agrees with me but I like to have all my senses available to me because some cars are not looking for pedestrians.

You have been teaching this thing for a while. You’ve been presenting this and businesses are seeing success and seeing these amazing results. What’s next for you and David? How do you see this message continuing to evolve in helping businesses?

The good news is there’s no shortage of organizations that want to get better. Even if you think there are only about 10% of the leaders wanting to get better, that’s plenty. Sometimes we see consultants that are in a fight over a pie. They’re trying to get more pieces of a pie. We’re of the mindset that we can make the pie bigger. We introduced more and more people to this and find that 10%. That’s where we’re headed. We want to get the message out wider to organizations who have that desire to say, “We’re not going to settle anymore. We’ve got the right people, the right products, the right location, whatever it is. We’re going to strive for excellence and we’re going to have fun along the way doing it.”

When you strive for excellence, everybody wins. The only ones that don’t win are your competitors. Click To Tweet

I love that attitude of fun because I was having a conversation and there was an episode we put out that we’re doing some serious stuff in this business. There are a lot of people at stake and our customers are at stake. We’ve got our legacy here and we’ve got all these products. People depend on us to do this thing right. However, by doing it right and by doing our jobs well, we’re allowed to inject fun. We’re allowed to inject joy into our customer’s lives. That doesn’t mean we run this military-style like if you don’t do this, you’re gone. If you don’t do this, you’re going to be fine. Business can be a very serious thing but when you get to have fun in it and inject this attitude of life that we’re doing this to delight our customers, we’re doing it so that our customers have better lives. We’ve got to make sure that our people and our processes are there so that we can deliver on that big mission or that big vision that we have for our business. That’s what gets us excited here.

When you strive for excellence, when your organizational performance goes up and up, everybody wins. Your suppliers win because they’re selling you more stuff that you use in your processes and your services. Your employees win. Your customers win. Your neighbors and community win. The only people that don’t win are your competition.

We don’t even focus on them.

We feel so bad about that. Everybody else wins when you strive for excellence.

David, I know you’re active on LinkedIn and you have a website and all that stuff, but where can people check in with you and learn more about some of the stuff that you are doing?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share that. I’m on LinkedIn at David Jones with McClaskey Excellence Institute. McClaskey Excellence Institute also has a LinkedIn. You can find us at We have all our service offerings listed out there and our course calendar. We’d love to see anybody that’s interested in having to operate at excellent levels.

I do hope one day we become an example of yours. I hope the Bananas become an example of yours because it was powerful and inspiring to think that we feel like we run a pretty good operation. What if we got to this point? As you mentioned with Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game book, we never win in business. We’re continually going after that next step. We hand it off to the next people and then go. It’s inspiring to think. David, I appreciate you educating us. I appreciate this conversation. I think people will be able to take some things from it.

You’re most welcome, Jared. The best way you can thank us is to become amazingly successful.

I don’t know what stood out to you in that conversation but when he said the idea that if you don’t layout, communicate and write down these standards, these expectations and what your company is going to bring to the customers, then the people will fill in the blanks. I laugh at that because I see it often in our business in the past years that we’ve been running where we haven’t been clear with our people, “Here’s how we’re going to deliver an experience to our customers.” It’s even as simple as I mentioned with the French fries. Some people like them hot. Some people like them extra crispy. Some people like them not so crispy. Maybe there’s salt or maybe there’s a little bit of salt. Maybe there’s different seasoning. How tragic it is if we don’t communicate to our team, “Here is how we serve our customers in an amazing and excellent way so that they are delighted to keep coming back over and over again.”

What we’ve done with our team from going to the class and understanding some of these Baldrige Award criteria, we’ve set out to say, “What do our customers expect when they come to a Bananas game?” We’ve laid out that general key customer requirement. We then went to the people’s side of our process, that people excellence. We said, “What are our written standards for how our people are going to present themselves?” We’re calling it on stage. If the Bananas are always on stage because we believe we’re a performance, we’re an entertainment venue, what does onstage mean for our people? We started writing down how they greet people, what they look like, what their costume is, how they present themselves and all those metrics to say, “This is what it means to be on stage.”

On the process side, we’re starting to figure out, “What are the processes to get our customers what they require?” That’s going through our food processes, our checkout processes, our check-in processes and how we open and close to ensure that everyone is getting that remarkable experience. It’s been powerful for us. If you can start thinking about those few things, what are your key customer requirements? What are your people processes? What are your people standards? What are your process standards? How do you bring those together to deliver a remarkable experience? If you want more information on our Bananas For Business, you can go to

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About David Jones

FFE 116 | Achieving World Class ResultsDavid is an instructor, consultant, and executive coach with McClaskey Excellence Institute. He has over 35 years of experience in the manufacturing, education, and health care sectors. He is passionate about helping individuals and organizations reach their full potential, particularly through the use of the Baldrige Criteria.




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Jared Orton

Jared Orton

Because of a relentless focus on entertainment and ticket sales, the Royals were fortunate to see tremendous growth in attendance and revenue during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Jared is now taking those experiences, along with the experiences of Fans First Entertainment, to develop a value-packed, non-stop, entertainment experience for Savannah fans. Jared currently lives in Savannah with his wife, Kelsey.
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