In this episode, host John Laurito is joined by the President and CEO of 97 Display, Houston Goodwin, as they talk about the power of having the right culture in your organization. Houston also shares the people-first business approach that his business has adapted and what traits matter to him the most in bringing people into their organization.
Affectionately nicknamed a ‘Houston Hurricane,’ this frequent occurrence happens when 97 Display CEO Houston Goodwin enthusiastically brings fresh ideas to the table for how he and his team can help their business owner clients succeed.
The direct result of a passion he can hardly contain, Houston’s hurricane comes from his driving focus to make the world a better place through business. Rooted in his Christian faith, Goodwin leads with humility, believing that every single person has value. It’s what led him to develop a hard-working, people-first business approach that has guided 97 Display to become the top internet marketing and lead-generation company for the martial arts and fitness industries.
Learn more about Houston and 97 Display:
[1:43] What is Houston’s view on an organization’s culture?
[3:24] What is a standup, and how does it work?
[5:36] What is the difference between doing and not doing standups in an organization?
[11:52] How has this changed how they bring people into their organization?
[14:58] What happens after a motivation interview?
[17:37] What traits does Houston admire and look for in people?
[19:04] What leadership style does he think is more effective?
[20:50] An essential thought for tomorrow’s leader?
[21:51] Where you can learn more about Houston
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader.
John Hey, there the leaders of tomorrow. I think you’re going to love my guest today. This is a guy who has a lot of energy and is just crushing had run in a couple of companies 97 displays what we talked about. But he is young guy, 32 years old, learned a ton, and the things that he shared listen closely to the things he talks about, about building the culture. And you can get a really clear vision of what it’s like to be part of his organization, things like the motivation interview that he does, the daily stand-ups, really some unique stuff. I do not see 98% of companies do the stuff that he talks about and it is incredibly valuable. So, listen, take some action on this. I think you’re going to love it. All right. Here’s Houston. Good one.
John All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep into all things leader related to leading yourself and leading others. I am John Laurito. Your host got a great guest for you today. I’ve got Houston Goodwin, who’s the president of 97 Displays. Houston, welcome to the show.
Houston Perfect. Thanks so much. Excited to be on.
John Yeah, me too. I got a chance and was interesting because your website, I think says a lot about what your leadership style is and your beliefs in leadership. But I want to talk a little bit about that. But your website, your homepage talks a lot about kind of what I took from it was a lot about the culture of your organization. Is that something that was deliberate? I mean, tell me a little bit about your view on the culture of an organization.
Houston Yeah. So about two and a half years ago, we adopted the iOS entrepreneur operating system as a model. It’s like a methodology for how to run businesses. And we’ve been doing that’s been really great. And one thing that we work through with that is coming up with obvious values for the company and for focus or mission statement. You know, people call it and I’ve been a part of companies, the former, you know, values are just aspirational, little like quotes that are like, you know, posters on a wall that, you know, is nice to have. But really what we decided was we wanted to make values that were really like what we thought was how we said like, who are we? Like, what is our DNA?
Houston So that way as we’re going through growth and we’re adding people, we don’t lose our identity where, you know, one day you wake up and you have more people that work here after we put the values into place and work here before the values put into place. And so, yeah, we work really hard. We came up with all of our values and we talk about them every single day. We do stand-ups every day in the morning. And in the end, we do like bucket sales for people. Give someone a shout-out on the team, but they have to tie it back to the value and how they showed that value really well. So we’re really big on people sticking to the values and you know, we hire by those values and we fire by those values. So that those are as important as production to use in the company to keep us moving forward.
John I love it. So you just said a ton and I want to dove into some of this. So tell me about The Daily, the stand-up. Is that what you call it? What is that exactly and how does that work?
Houston So it changes some people. You know, some people have different opinions on meeting every day and doing stand-ups. But I’m a big fan of my background in sales. And what is funny, we do a momentum score because I think momentum and direction of a company are so important. So every week we send our leaders of the company out a little survey like what was the momentum this week? And that’s just like a gut feeling. And what we find is every time we have daily meetings, they’re like 15 minutes to start the day we all get around, we just review numbers, and then we do shout-outs. The momentum always seems to be higher. So I kind of joke with people. Anytime we talk about, well, we have a lot of meetings, it’s like, cool. As soon as the momentum stays where it’s at and we don’t have those meetings, we don’t need to meet, we don’t want to have meetings for meeting’s sake, but they serve a purpose and we can measure it.
Houston And so we take turns. So it’s not like me leading or my CEO leading every day. So we had different people. Leader And it just kind of goes to where we’re at. And then we have like weekly goals and we head and we do like prizes. Like I’m actually getting paid in the face with a cream pie tomorrow morning downtown on Main Street because I was one of the prizes if we hit this big goal, I love that. And so so we trying to make it a little fun, but then at the end, we just do bucket fills, which is give someone a shout out on your team or off your team that’s done something really well that you appreciate, whether it was for you or you saw them like unload the dishwasher when no one is looking. And we need to you know, the kitchen was backed up and they spent 20 minutes and cleaned the kitchen, whatever. But we always ask them to tie it to a value. So that way what we’re doing is hopefully everyone in the company, if you went up to them on the street and asked what the values were of the company, they could tell you at least a handful, which I think is a metric most companies wouldn’t do because they know they have values, but they’re aspirational, like sayings, and there’s not anything that is like in the DNA of the actual company.
John Yeah, exactly. Well, first of all, that’s outstanding. And I can already get a feel for your company, the culture of the organization. It’s that’s very different. I mean, that’s very unique. I talk to leaders and business owners all over the OR in every industry and all over the globe. Very few of them do something like that. And I’m a big believer in that in the power of momentum. What is that? You’ve seen the difference between not doing it and doing it. Granted, you know, you may have some people that say, well, I don’t want to meet every day, but I mean, if you help the leaders that are listening, understand a little more what really is the tangible difference that you see and fear feel? And what does that actually translate to for an organization like yours?
Houston Yeah. So I would say one of the reasons why most people fail and it was definitely a roadblock for us was in the transition. It was hard because a lot of especially smaller organizations, you know, we have under 50 employees. So you get organizational whiplash where you’re like, hey, let’s try this trend or this meeting style, and let’s go do this. And so when we invested in doing EOC, we said, this is what we’re sticking with, or I stick with it long term, and this means things that were changes and things off like we do. The performance reviews are all part of it is value-based, right? And we have a plus, a plus-minus, and a minus. And it’s like if you have minuses, you have 30 days to get those.
Houston We have like a standard grading system as like if you’re doing everything well, but you’re not fitting your values and everyone says like you are negative on these two values like you got 30 days to fix it or you’re out and luckily you don’t have any of those issues now. But we went through a really rough transition, right? We actually went through like turnover from employees because it was also like during COVID. And so virtual jobs in the tech space were abundant. And so we had a lot of people say, I’m not really around this, so it’s very hard. But as we stuck with them, we got through a year. Why don’t we find a year or two? I remember last October we did a yearly offsite to do our annual planning and that’s like in our the cadence of meetings through the two days we all drove down to Charlotte, got everyone hotels, you know, we did dinners out and we went to top off and did a bunch of fun things.
Houston But then we got to the meeting room and we’re talking about where we wanted to go. And it was the first time that I’ve ever worked with a company where it’s like every single person here knows where we’re going and is on board to row in the same direction and shares the same values as I do. And so when you have that, it’s like I told them I was like, this is a superpower. Like most companies, it’s hard to get here, but now that we’re here, we’re going to be able to grow and hit goals and give opportunities and do all these fun things that we wouldn’t be able to do without putting in that hard work. But we’re just like it’s like delayed gratification because certainly the first year of implementing it, there wasn’t a lot of gratification.
Houston It was a lot of hardships of, Oh, this person’s not here for it. You know, we’re going to exit with this person because they’re not buying, you know, they’re not buying into the system or that. And so at our offsite last October was like a really cool version of like, man, it’s so much easier for me to do my job. I actually was talking to you earlier, like I’ve been able to take over another company now, and the only reason I’ve been able to do that is that my team here all is rowing in the same direction. We know where we’re going and how we’re getting there. And there’s no like I mean, there’s obviously conflict just like in any workplace, but there’s no, like, serious things where it’s like we’re all about the vision. We’re all going in the same direction, we’re all doing it in the same way, which aligns with our values, which has been really awesome for us.
John That’s great. I’ve got to assume that somebody that’s part of that organization feels there’s just a level of trust and loyalty because. And really kind of a feeling of security, I’m sure.
Houston Yeah, for sure.
John Yeah. So many workplaces where that’s not the case. Somebody is really kind of in the mindset of protecting their job or trying to ensure that, you know, there’s a spotlight on them so that, you know, everybody’s fighting for their own kind of space. In your organization, it sounds like there is none of that or very little of that. And it’s a lot I’m sure a lot more teamwork that goes into that?
Houston Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely a lot of teamwork and then it’s a lot of like a part of it is where we’re at the advantage of being like a high growth, like smaller company. So there are a lot of opportunities that pop up. So like, you know, two years ago we made on a road map that we wanted to create a group that owns three companies. And to do that, a lot of things that we didn’t know how we’re going to happen needed to happen. But also that meant when that happens, like my job’s up for grabs, right? And so now in the last month, we’ve been able to take over one more company, which is helping us form that group. And so over the next year, like my job is up for grabs at 97 as I kind of oversee, you know, all the companies as we grow.
Houston And so part of it is casting the vision and executing on that vision and showing people like, hey, it may be, you know, a year from now or two years from now, but we know this is where you want to go. Oh, and another really helpful tool not to get off on a tangent is every employee we do. It’s called a motivation interview. So I sit them down and go, Let’s pretend five years from now or three years from now we’re getting a beer. And I ask you how the last few years have been. And you go, Man, it’s been the best three years I’ve ever had in my life. So then we go through a similar to our exercise of what would need to happen to make that a true statement and it’s holistically right so we work as finances and then those are the two.
Houston I get them and then I ask them for cues. So that could be like physical health or family or relationships or religion or whatever. So then what we’re doing is we know where they need to go to be the best version of themselves. And we want them. Career to be seen as a vehicle to help get them there. And so then what we do is we take that and we go, we do it before we hire anyone as well to make sure that the job they’re taking aligns with where they want to go so they can be happy long term. But then we just celebrate things like, you know, we have where we’re all in our like, you know, early thirties, late twenties. So it’s like paying off college debt, paying off credit cards, like, you know, being financially secure.
Houston Like it’s a big thing we share and it’s really fun because sometimes people start working with us and they’re not used to talking about that and they’re like, they hear all these people talk about how they paid off their credit card debt or they’re getting debt free and they’re like, I want to do that, and I don’t know how, and I never talk to anyone about that. And it’s like, cool. How much debt do you have? And for some people, you know, that’s like taboo. But with our culture, it’s just like, hey, here’s whereas someone just bought their first rental property, you know, so now they’re going to teach a class on how to buy rental properties and what their experience is for people who are interested in that. So we try to like holistically.
John So you’re bringing in the personal life into the work-life and that’s incredible. I mean, think about how powerful that is for somebody that’s part of that organization. And what you understand is that when you know somebody has goals and what they’re trying to do both personally and professionally, it’s easier for you to help them get there. And one happens, you know, it’s not like it works in a silo where it’s just they’re successful and work and everything’s falling apart personally. Very rarely is that the case. Right. I, first of all, I love that. Absolutely love what you’re talking about. What about how does that change how you bring in or how has this changed how you bring people into the organization?
Houston Yeah, so our hiring process is really long and that’s been really hard and we’ve actually that’s been very challenging specifically over the last year because people get hired so fast now because there’s such a shortage in the tech space. And so and so we’ve held our line pretty well. But you know, like for instance, that that motivation interview we do with every single person before they’re hired where you want to be in five years and what that looks like, you know, that can take an hour and a half, 2 hours depending on, you know, how deep that you go with that. And that’s, you know, one of six interviews that we do. So it’s probably like, you know, 4 to 6 hours of interviews that we do as people before we actually, like, invite them, you know, into the team and bring them on. And then we’re just like super, we’re open and honest company is like our motto.
Houston And so if you’re not doing something well, like we just are super upfront, like, you know, and it’s not like to get you in trouble. It’s just, hey, this is what we expect and this is the level that you agreed to and this is what we’re doing. And that could be production or that could be valued or how you’re showing up. And so, for instance, if someone’s showing up late, we don’t go like we want you to be on time, like, you know, clock and clock out. It’s like, hey, why revise is like do us right now is like what’s stopping you from being at all time? Like, is it because it’s easier for you? Do you have something actually going on in your life or we need to talk about like an augmented schedule for a season, but really it’s that we’re trying to get to the root, not the fruit. And so a lot of people are like, Hey, figure out how to get here 10 minutes earlier because it’s very not being on time is very important to me.
Houston But then people can leave whenever they want. Like, that’s our culture. Like when you’re done with work, you don’t do your thumbs. There’s no clock out. If you’re done at 4:30 one day or 7:00 one day, you just work till you’re done and then leave. And you know, we have a very flexible schedule, but if you’re working that day, I really like you to be on time and I try to let people know why that’s important to the values. And certainly, we’ve given exceptions and seasons, but it’s a lot for some people to be brought in. That’s why a lot of times it’s better it’s easier for us to acclimate younger people straight out of college because they don’t have like a whole predisposition of what work is.
Houston And so they’re more idealistic and hopeful. And so it’s easier for us to be like, Hey, cool, take all those and let’s show you how to plug it in rather than, you know, we have several people that, you know, had careers before and one person is, you know, had a 30-year career and now works here. So they have interesting perspectives. But sometimes you carry baggage from old jobs and it’s hard to like those people. It takes a longer to open up sometimes because it’s like, Hey, I know what you’re saying. But I also had 20 years of experience to say, this isn’t how workplaces behave and just harder for me too, like, jump in for and trust that. Yeah.
John Makes sense. Well, you know, it sounds like you’re very candid, very transparent, very open. There’s a lot of communication. I want to go back for one minute to the motivation to interview and again for leaders that are listening to this saying, wow, that’s just that’s fantastic. And I don’t do that. What happens after you do that motivational interview? I mean, how do you make sure that’s not just a one-and-done conversation and that that actually lives and carries on what?
Houston Yeah. So in an ideal world alone, we’re a smaller team. We did better at this at the yearly review. So we do the motivation interviews on like sticky pads. So then you keep them, you write your name on them. In an ideal world and we’re not 100% at this. Every year you kind of bring that out, go, hey, we’re one year closer. How’s it going? Like to us go through this, as you said, you wanted to, you know, be doing this specifically with Job and you can check in person. As I said, you wanted to work out, you know. You know, do a triathlon or whatever. Like, are you making progress, or is that and you can do check-ins, but we honestly don’t do a great job with that because as you get as we’re getting bigger and hiring more people, I just you know, in an ideal world, I would love to do that with everybody, but now I can’t.
Houston And so part of it is just keeping it in the conversation and letting people know. Like, one of the things I tell my staff now is, Man, I would love to, like, be intentional on a weekly basis and sit down with every single one of you guys to like check-in and see how things are. The reality is, I just I’m going to miss out on that. But there’s never a day or a week that goes by where I’m not available for that. And I would love for you to come to talk to him about it. If you have questions about culture, where we’re headed as a company, or how you fit in, or like I have two meetings this week for people that just want to talk about their past in the company over the next couple of years because it’s been a while since we checked in on that, but they were proactive about reaching out to me. And so so that’s kind of what aspire best solution, but that’s my solution is, you know, I tell people we start at 830, I get in a 730. So like there’s never a day where 730 to 830 isn’t for you if you need it. Hmm.
So you may have to sacrifice getting in a little early. You can leave whatever, you know, early. But even if I have a packed day, 730 to 830, I’m here. And if you want to come in and talk about brainstorming a problem you’re having or talk about an idea you have or talk about where you want to go in the company or just like catch up with me. You always have that, even if I have a packed day and you know, some people take advantage of that better than others. But that’s like my best solution so far like I can’t proactively be doing this on a super regular cadence, maybe like once a quarter. But I just try to be, I remind people in meetings all the time, like using my calendar as you can come to me. I love doing this, you know, for people who find a lot of value in it. And so then I end up disproportionately spending my time with certain staff that takes advantage of that.
John A lot of well, you’re obviously a people developer. You’ve got a great team and you’ve got leaders that you’re developing and ultimately get into your role and maybe even beyond. What traits do you admire the most in leaders? What do you look for?
Houston I mean, the three things that I think the three things for leaders is they got to be coachable. So this is this was very relevant to me when I was like, I’m 32 now, so so, you know, young and a relative scale. But in my early twenties, it was harder. I had to learn a lot of hard lessons to learn. Why be coachable, because you think you know everything when you have success. And so especially for younger people, like when they’re crushing or doing something, being coachable to understand, hey, I don’t know what I don’t know. Right? I’m 23 or 25 and I have my brain is you can’t really develop, right? So I was like, you got to be coachable. You got to work hard and you got to there’s like four different levels of jobs, just like certain competencies required.
Houston So whether that’s like natural abilities or going to learn a skill and being curious, which kind of ties into the coachable thing. But honestly, I think that if you, if you have any blank slate person, whether they’re far in your career and they want to start developing a new skill or become a leader for the first time or someone right out of college, they’re super coachable and they’re willing to work their butt off and they are willing to figure out where they’re not, where their blind spots are in their like knowledge and go do research and learn. And just like that’s their hobby is, you know, developing these skills. Like you can take those people from zero to running a company very, very quickly.
John Excellent. I love it. There’s so much more I want to ask you. I know where we’re almost out of time here. So let me leave you or ask you to leave the audience with a couple of thoughts. One is you’ve seen a lot of different styles of leadership. I’m sure you have a certain style. Many, many people have their own unique style. Is there a style of leadership that you feel is more effective than others are personality, style, or certain type of style? That’s the first question. I got another follow-up after that.
Houston So I would say, like and I’m so on this obviously as well, but like on a journey to leadership, you got to it’s all about working on yourself. Like that’s the answer to everything. So like you said, some people’s jobs are great, but the rest of their life sucks. So that’s why I work out, right? That’s why I try to eat healthily. That’s why I do things because I want to be a holistic person that people want to follow. That’s kind of like your vibe attracts your tribe. So any time that we’re having a problem. So I’ve always had, you know, I’ve had a coach for five years and anytime we have a problem, the first question they ask is like, let’s hold the mirror up.
Houston If people are showing up later, they’re, you know, or they’re not exhibiting this value or something, why are they doing that? And what is it about you and your personality or your leadership style that’s allowing that to happen? So you always like looking at a mirror for yourself. And so the best leadership style for me is authentic. So like, and that’s why I think different people have different ceilings and everyone has the ability to be a leader. But you can’t copy John Maxwell if you’re not John Max or you can’t copy Gary Vee. If you’re not Gary B or you can’t copy you. You’re not you or me if you’re not. So you kind of got to find that style and then work on yourself. And as you work on yourself, you attract higher caliber people. And I think a lot of these guys get that stuff. And I was like, this is what I expect of people and want these awesome people to follow me, but they’re not. We’re following. Yeah. You know, you just work on yourself.
John The last question then and then we’ll wrap up and then you get to go. But the landscape has changed so much over the last couple of years. When you think about the future and where the best leaders are going to come from or what they’re going to look like or sound like or whatnot. What is tomorrow’s leader? What’s most important for leaders now and saying, hey, I really want to be relevant and irreplaceable and indispensable in the future. What does that look like? What’s one thing they should be keeping in mind?
Houston I would say being able to first understand that giving someone a good place to work is one of the best things you can do for them holistically and really understand that. And then be able to get people to buy into the fact that having a good place to work is one of the best things they can do for themselves, especially with the new generation coming up on social media and work from home like jobs are looked at as like a clock and clock out money, you know, way to make money. And that is not a good way to live.
John Love it. Awesome. Houston, this has been a fantastic conversation. I’ve gained a lot out of it and I know the audience has too. If people want to learn more about you or learn more about 97 display. How do they do that? Where do they go?
Houston Sure, you can find me on pretty much all socials a@Houstonlikethecity. That’s my social tag and the 97display.com. If you want to learn more about the company.
John Awesome. We’ll have all that in the show notes as well. Houston, it’s been great talking with you. Congrats on all the success you have and I know you got a lot of success ahead of you, so keep us updated on everything that’s going on.
Houston Perfect. Thanks so much for having me.
John You got it. Thanks, all for joining today, as always. Like share, subscribe, go down below, and give a five-star review. And if you have ideas for future guests or content, make sure you send them my way. Thanks for joining, everybody. Bye. Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!