Many leaders have the epiphany that it’s not culture if you have to micromanage to achieve it. It becomes culture when people perform when no one’s looking.
That begs the question: how do you turn culture from something you have on paper into something weaved into everything your organization does?
In order for an organization to drive forward, we need a strong culture and values, but performance also needs to be part of that deal. That’s where the concept of performance and value-based company comes in.
How do we tie the values of the organization in with everyone’s roles? How can we go from perception to perspective, and why is that such a powerful shift?
In this episode, I’m joined by the Chief Revenue Officer at Big Star Transit, LBJ Biggers.
He shares how his team turned culture into something tangible and trackable.
If you lack the ability to drive performance without having to micromanage, you lack culture. -LBJ Biggers
0:00:00.0 Jen Thornton: Welcome back friends. This is your place for cutting edge tools, exercises, best practices, and modern leadership strategies. Because when the world is changing, it's time to bring our leadership styles along for the ride. Whether you're a company leader, a corporate visionary, an entrepreneur, this show gives you new insights into the neuroscience and the language of leadership. Plus practical steps and tips to lead your teams in a powerful way. It'll also help you keep your people happy and engaged, all while achieving your biggest goals. I'm your host Jen Thornton. I'm a talent strategist, a brain-based executive coach, speaker, and the founder of 304 Coaching. Now Let's Fix Leadership.
0:00:46.6 JT: Today I'm so excited to have a guest with us. We have Larry Biggers Jr, or as we all call him LBJ, and he is the Chief Revenue Officer for Big Star Transit and also the CEO for Global Connects. He joined Big Star in 2018 and has been integral part of his company's growth. Prior to Big Star, LBJ served as the director of business development at a major paratransit service provider, and he received his BA in professional sales from Central Michigan University. Now that I have all of that out of the way, I just wanted to tell all of you, it's been such a pleasure getting to know LBJ over the last few years as a client and as a friend. And so I'm excited to bring this interview to you 'cause I know all of us can learn something from LBJ and his words of wisdom. Hi, LBJ, welcome to the podcast.
0:01:41.8 Larry Biggers Jr: Hey Jen, how are you?
0:01:43.7 JT: I'm good. It's such a pleasure to have you on today.
0:01:47.5 LJ: Yes, it is. I'm really excited about this. I've been working with you for a while now, but able to reach into this space with you is gonna be really exciting. So I've been looking forward to this for a while. Thank you for the invite.
0:02:00.8 JT: Absolutely. It is kind of crazy to think about, it's almost been four years that we worked together and who would've thought we'd be here four years later together and who would've thought we'd be on a podcast just chatting and then I guess other people will listen to our conversation 'cause we could just hang out and talk about business all day. [chuckle]
0:02:20.5 LJ: Exactly. And so for another four years from now, we'll be like that Paul Rudd meme like look at us, who would've thought. [laughter]
0:02:23.6 JT: Look at us now. Yeah. Or you might get even fancier and get on the how we made this podcast and just go up to the big time.
0:02:29.8 LJ: Oh, right, right. You know, how I grew a billion dollar business with...
0:02:34.3 JT: That's right.
0:02:35.1 LJ: Jen Thornton and Larry Biggers Jr.
0:02:38.6 JT: I like that idea. Let's do it.
0:02:38.8 LJ: Off the spot.
0:02:40.6 JT: Yeah. Awesome. Good. Well, let's jump into questions 'cause I know our listeners want to hear from you and there's just, you have such an interesting story and I can't wait to share it with the world. And so Big Star Transit, tell us your position there so people kind of get some context, but also tell us about the mission of Big Star because it is one of the most unique missions I've ever heard of.
0:03:04.1 LJ: Yeah. So, right, so I am the Chief Revenue Officer for Big Star Transit, LLC. And we have a very unique mission. So our overall mission and purpose is to educate and aggregate can-do owner operators. And so we empower the disenfranchised and we connect them to mobilize the disabled within their community. And how we do that is we identify community stakeholders or those that have the entrepreneurial spirit to start their entrepreneurial journey on our platform, providing high level accessible transportation for those within the community that need access to healthcare, access to transportation outside of the public transportation sector. So a lot of times what we've noticed in our careers that... And by our careers, I'm talking about the executive leadership team, coming from the public transit sector, access to transportation hasn't always been so accessible.
0:04:09.8 LJ: It's been one of those situations where either you can't afford or you don't have access to the fixed route service. It's a two mile hike to the nearest bus stop to get into a hospital visit, dialysis, physical therapy. And so what we started 10 years ago is we identified through the TNC model, we've identified that there's a niche transportation service that the community needs in order to have access to transportation. So we started with, you know, Walmart greeters, we started with people that had the earnest desire to be caregivers, but within the transportation sector. So we kind of married that and we turned these greeters and these home healthcare caregivers into owner operators to where they're transporting these people with mental and physical disabilities to their appointments. And they're utilizing technology that we've developed. They're utilizing resources like wheelchair accessible vehicles. And we've done all that on one platform to where now we can walk you through an entire process from educating you on the environment and also giving you the resources in order to grow your small business, delivering this high level transportation service to the communities that you service, thus creating community stakeholders.
0:05:37.0 JT: That's fantastic. And I think that all of the listeners can imagine having a loved one that needs to get to a doctor's appointment or dialysis or any of those things. And some people don't have the ability to have a friend or a loved one take off work. It's expensive to take off work. Someone might just not have that person or, I think it's also important, and I know the ELT talks about this a lot, it's also important for that person who needs to get to an appointment and can't drive themselves to have independence. And...
0:06:21.3 LJ: Exactly.
0:06:21.4 JT: That's such a gift to provide to someone, and you give it obviously to that person going to the appointment. But your entrepreneurial spirit, the whole executive team at Big Stars all about giving opportunities for people to have their own business and be an entrepreneur, and then also helping that person get to their appointment, marrying those two needs, I think is just brilliant and such a way to create an opportunity for so many people. So thanks for sharing all of that and I've learned so much from working with Big Star of the industry and how it all works.
0:06:55.5 LJ: Yeah, it's an interesting really industry, it's really a niche industry and it's not the... I'll use the term sexy, it's not really attractive industry, but it's one of the most vulnerable industries that we have that goes by the wayside all too often. And because it's not something that's attractive, there's not a lot of public resources that are allocated towards it. And so we're trying to take something and we're making it more attractive to more commercial lives community to where they can view this as a resource for them and they can have access to it in real time. And imagine though that your neighbor, you've seen or knowing Ms. Johnson for years, she's either a paraplegic or she goes to dialysis Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and she's wheelchair bound. Well, you drive a regular sedan vehicle and it's hard for you to see her go through that. Her children or her loved one is having a hard time to transport her. So how many wheelchair accessible vehicles are in that community? Probably none. And so that's how we kind of help those communities strategically is we place those stakeholders with those accessible vehicles in those communities, and now they're creating that access to care for Ms. Johnson to and from her appointments based on what her accessibility needs are.
0:08:28.8 JT: I love that. And I really do believe to create great communities, we have to have great education and great healthcare and access to education and great healthcare. So I appreciate your commitment to having access to healthcare and allowing people to get to their most important appointments. So Big Star is very focused on building a strong culture for their employees. And we've talked about this for years and what would you want it to look like? How do we create that? And at the end of the day, Big Star is now a performance-based, value-based organization. So we have values, but there are also performance requirements. So tell us why performance-based culture is important to you with the values, what does that mean to you and just share with us.
0:09:15.3 LJ: Yeah, so first, when you have a growing organization it's important to have culture, and culture is what really drives your organization's growth. And also, believe it or not, it creates stability for that organization. And so when you have culture, you have a certain amount of wherewithal of what I'm supposed to do when no one's looking. And so we have core values that we've instilled in our culture. And those core values are entrepreneurial, spirit, safety, quality, collaboration, and heart. And within all of these core values, we then leverage them as key performance indicators, if you will. In each one of those core values, we measure our team members' performance based on how they're collaborating with their team members whether it is operations with fleet. Are we meeting preventative maintenance inspections?
0:10:17.7 LJ: Well, the reason why collaboration is a key performance indicator or metric for our core values in our performance-based culture is because you as an operations leader, you have to rely on the fleet administrator in order to maintain the assets that we have in an operations infrastructure. So operations has to coordinate and collaborate with the fleet administrator, and we have to get preventative maintenance inspections done in a timely manner because you can't have roadside assistance or breakdown with a patient population that needs to get somewhere timely and safely because these are life sustaining appointments. And so we measure that by how often do our vehicles break down? How often have we missed preventative maintenance inspections? And we're able to not only just use our core values as words that just sit on your desktop or in your cubicle, which we don't have like a cubicle environment, but you get what I'm saying.
0:11:24.8 LJ: We actually use them in our performance-based culture because you're measured by how you are utilizing these core values. And so that's how we've been able to not just instill culture, but also drive performance. Because you know I have these five core values and I'm measuring performance based on these core values. And it's been a process. Jen, you've been very integral piece of that process. And you've helped open our eyes to how we drive the culture and how we scale. I mean, we've been scaling pretty much overnight and we have a plan to grow into the stratosphere over the next 48 months, 24 if we're being very optimistic. But how we're able to do that is through this performance-based culture that we've been able to develop over the last couple of years.
0:12:22.3 JT: Yeah, it's interesting because I get a lot of phone calls from people, like, my employees need to be more accountable. We gotta have some coaching. You gotta teach 'em how to get up and do their job. And I'm always asking questions about, well, what stops them from doing it? And 'cause you have to say, well, have I created an environment in which people can do their best work? And that's a conversation we have all the time. When we're hiring people, the way they like to work, well, do we match that? And we talk about it during the interview process, we say, hey, this is a performance-based environment. Every position has KPIs, every position contributes. Some people love that environment, some people don't. And that's okay, 'cause everyone gets to find a job that they love. And our performers that really love chasing those KPIs, you can definitely see their love of Big Star and how much they love coming to work because they get to smash their goals every single day. And it's fun to watch those high performers feel good about themselves.
0:13:24.7 LJ: And to your point, those goals are so not just attainable, but they're visual goals and they're very tangible goals, right? And so again, you're instilling culture, which is driving performance, and it's really about the integrity of the organization as well. Because again, your core values and your culture is driving the performance. When you're not micromanaging or when you're not looking, you have a business that's running that allows you to grow that business as it's maintaining stability only because you have those core values and that culture embedded in the very fabric of your organization.
0:14:09.9 JT: It's interesting as you talk something hit me. We're always talking about how to handle hybrid or virtual environments, Big Star is a hybrid. We've got some people in a physical location with a lot of people hybrid and we have people that are virtual. And so there's all types of working styles based on the job and the location. And I think that, what I'm guessing is having a performance environment has allowed all of them to do their job because the days of everyone being in the same office is over. I mean, if anyone thinks they're getting back to that 100%, good luck. I mean, let's get honest. And it was really easy to hold people accountable when you were sitting next to them. But you keep saying something that really resonated with me. When you're not looking, when you're not there, is someone able to meet your expectations? Are they able to excel in the job that they wanna do? And I think performance-based environments in our new world is one of the keys.
0:15:10.3 LJ: It absolutely is. And during our time, I mean, everybody went through this very unfortunate pandemic with COVID. And in 2020 a lot of businesses were decimated, a lot of businesses just overnight. And so what we had to do was we weren't going to throw the towel in and we had to overnight go virtual. Everyone was virtual for almost two years. And in that time, I think the first three to five months, Jen and you can attest to this, we had to create a fail safe way of, one, monitoring the performance of our remote team members who had never been remote. They had always had a supervisor down the hallway. They've always been in the same building with their supervisor or their manager to now that they're working from their countertop at home.
0:16:11.4 LJ: And so we realized quickly that performance, while COVID was a thing to where we couldn't have physical contact with people. So naturally transportation took a huge dive as we started to implement more of that telehealth. But as things started to come back that summer into that fall it was hard to get people to start to perform back at optimal proficiency. And so we realized we lacked culture. We lacked the ability to drive performance without having to micromanage, and with strategic guidance and help we were able to identify who we were as an organization and what our overall mission and goals were and how we needed to bring team members on that shared, in that mission and how we could measure that through their performance. And we came up with our core values and they weren't just made up. We went through a several month process to identify who we were. And from there we were able to really dig deep and figure out what it is that we were here to do and how we're going to bring people along with us to accomplish that goal. And it now serves as a universal mission for all team members.
0:17:33.0 JT: Yeah, it does. And I wanna give so much credit to the ELT at Big Star. So for those listening, a fun fact, Big Star signed their contract to work with me one week before we shut down for COVID and non-emergency medical transportation industry, you know, LBJ said decimated. And I said to the ELT, hey, I know this is a project that we didn't know COVID was coming. We didn't know we were gonna send everyone home. We thought we were gonna go home for six weeks and I'll come back and everything was gonna be fine. And I gave Big Star the out. I'm like, if you wanna put this project on hold, I understand. And what the three of you said to me was, if we don't do this work now, when will we ever have the time to do it? And how are we gonna come out stronger? And the fact that the three of you knew, oh, I just got chills. The fact that the three of you knew in your gut that having a strong performance value-based culture was the secret to success and it's always the right time to do it no matter what is going on, I have no doubt impacted where we're going now. I mean, at the beginning of the show we were talking about how far we've come and where you're going. And who knows, I know you guys have huge goals over the next four years, and I have no doubt you'll be hitting them.
0:18:58.0 JT: Do you have an idea or a topic we should discuss here together on Let's Fix Leadership? Send your ideas and your questions directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
0:19:08.0 LJ: We're excited for them. I can't wait to check back in with you this time in the next four years. [chuckle]
0:19:17.4 JT: Oh, we should. Okay. So everyone listening, four years from now, we're going to get back on, mark the date. And we're going to talk about what all we learned. That'll be a long list. Maybe we should do this every six months, we're going to talk about what we all learned. [chuckle]
0:19:32.2 LJ: This might turn into a spinoff podcast to where we're going, Jen and LBJ's mission in growing small businesses and giving the tricks of the trade and talking about successes and failures. And we can turn that into a podcast. That's a show.
0:19:48.7 JT: That's a show. I agree. Then again, like you said, you and I can talk about business and...
0:19:52.5 LJ: All day.
0:19:53.7 JT: Just all day. Our creativity, like, yeah, don't put us in a room with a whiteboard or we're going to have 500 ideas. As I always say here at 304, we have more ideas than time and money. So, when you think about your role as the Chief Revenue Officer, you balance a lot of balls in that air. I mean, you're involved in, obviously the revenue, but also an important part of just leading the organization. You wear so many hats. How do you prioritize it all? I mean, how do you wake up and say, oh my gosh, what am I going to tackle today?
0:20:28.3 LJ: Layered thinking.
0:20:30.3 JT: I like that.
0:20:30.5 LJ: I'm really big at, I like to see where there are synergies in multiple segments of the organization and how I can kill multiple birds with one stone. Actually, if Pete is listening, how I can be efficient with my time. [laughter] So edit that out.
0:20:53.6 LJ: But, so I look at the continuum of the business, and then I look at how can I leverage multiple tasks and get 'em done with with one kind of a solution. And so I prioritize what's high level importance and what I can get to later. It's always about understanding your team's bandwidth, understanding their limitations as well as capabilities, and really showing a high level of discretion and discernment with your team members to not stretch them past what their availabilities are, but also develop them within the organization as well. So you got your team members that have capabilities, you have goals and objectives, and everyone has their SMART goals. So you align people's SMART goals with your SMART goals, and then you create task items for your team members.
0:21:58.8 LJ: And then next thing you know you have a core value collaboration. So then you have multiple team members that are collaborating across the continuum of the business, and then they find out that there's synergies amongst their own SMART goals, and then they start to work in these groups to attain the larger goal. And so I do that, and as we've scaled, team members have started to do that. So my job has started to transform into more people leadership versus people management. It's more so discussing the ideas and the goals of the organization and aligning their goals and their ideas with the organization's goals and ideas. And so you find that across the continuum that a lot of the tasks, whether they're high level or mid-level, they all share in that same continuum.
0:22:55.7 LJ: And it's just all about aligning your team members and aligning yourself in order to juggle multiple hats. Now, you gotta have some mental bandwidth, of course. I just recently got into AI personal assistant, so there's a couple of them that I'm demoing right now. But I've found that that's been extremely helpful and will be helpful to the team as I start to roll that out. But also, when you understand your team members' limitations, you look for resources and solutions to help mitigate their limitations and develop them. So we like to look at opportunities. I don't call, I don't look at issues. I look at opportunities. And so this is an opportunity for growth for this particular team member. And so we look at educational routes. We look at how do we increase the team members' capabilities while mitigating their limitations. And we use resources and tools. And so again, that's more people leadership versus people management. And that's how we're starting to transform the whole idea of what my role is. And I'm walking that path.
0:24:11.9 JT: Yeah, I love that. One of the things you do invest in is you provide executive coaching to your team kind of ad hoc as they need it. And also, you know, consistently all the ELT, we all meet consistently almost every single week to work together. And why has executive coaching been something you have invested in?
0:24:32.3 LJ: So, I think executive coaching, and well actually, I know, we got data to prove this, but executive coaching has been really not just eye-opening for team members, but also the executive leadership team, because there's two different things. There's perception and then there's perspective. While you have a perception of a job role and responsibility, your perception is just that it's you, it's two dimensional. It is sometimes one dimensional. It's you looking at yourself, how you are impacting the environment and impacting the workplace and how you are being more proficient in the job. Perspective is you stepping outside of yourself, looking at the holistic picture of everyone and their roles and responsibilities and how they are impacting and how we are moving forward instead of just you. So it goes from I to we. Executive coaching, and this is from my perspective, executive coaching has enabled us to have more layered thinking, having more perspective from the team members as a whole so that we can drive more productivity, we can drive more of our culture into the organization.
0:25:53.9 LJ: And also when we have these executive coaching sessions, whether they're as a group or whether they're individual, it gives them the ability to talk about the opportunities within the organization. So we do these monthly and quarterly surveys. When we introduced executive coaching, well, I'll start with before executive coaching, we had very little to no feedback in our surveys. We had very surface level questions. They were kind of just run of the mill questions, I think we got 'em off Google. But when we introduced executive coaching, and this is just one thing that we received from executive coaching, we evolved our surveys and we started to get perspective from our team members and the organization. We started to hear exactly what we needed to do in order to evolve the company and go in a direction that we needed to go.
0:26:58.0 LJ: So when we started to involve the individual and group executive coaching, we started to see a lot more honest feedback. We started to see that we were going in a direction that is not sustainable, while it is catering to today's team members, how do we scale our team member population while still maintaining our core values and culture? We have to listen to the whole, not the individual. So we went into those surveys and we evolved them, we monitor and measure them quarterly. We see trend, we use trend analysis. And then as a whole, executive coaching, the ELT, we meet and we discuss what the true direction of the organization needs to be. Are we all still aligned? And then we take these surveys and say, well, is the organization still aligned with what we think the direction of the organization needs to be? And if there's ever a point in time where there's a misalignment, we look for resources in order to get us all realigned. And executive coaching has done just that. It's evolved us from perception to perspective.
0:28:11.6 JT: Oh, I love that. That's fantastic. Yeah. It's been such a journey. And one thing that I appreciate so much about the leadership at Big Star is, I'm able to sit down and say, I know you see it this way, but could you also see it that way? And asking those questions that leave a little vacuum in the room at times [chuckle] where they're like, dang, why did you have to ask that question? And we do those weeklies, but we recently did an offsite and it was really amazing to watch the ELT go through that process of getting out of the day-to-day to-do list and opening your minds to what's possible so that you could be really creative. And it was really fantastic to watch you guys do that.
0:29:06.2 LJ: Yeah. Yeah. It's definitely been a journey to where our relationship has definitely evolved over the years. And the things that I've learned and taken from the mentorship and the guidance, not just as a contractual relationship, but beyond the working relationship, just real life application that I've received from you has been, it is invaluable. So I sit where I am today, I have this perspective that I have today in a really short period of time but for the executive coaching I've received from you over the years. So I want to thank you for that.
0:29:50.3 JT: Oh, you're very welcome. That means the world to me and how much I enjoy working with all of you. We always have so much fun even on those tough days. [laughter]
0:29:56.8 LJ: Yeah. But you have to have those tough days 'cause those tough days, that's driving the perspective. And the perspective sometimes, it's not pretty. It's not going to be something that you wanted to hear, it's something that you needed to hear though.
0:30:12.3 JT: Yeah. And we have to, and you guys even give me feedback, and I think that's important too. And a coaching relationship is you have to, coaching is a two way street. It is not a one way street. And I learn from all of you, you learn from me. We provide each other with feedback, but it really, it takes people out of the day to day, got to get this done and puts you in this little package for a while and bubble around you to think. And as executives, we just don't spend enough time thinking. And putting that time in place really gives people perspective and helps them figure things out just by having the space to think and talk.
0:30:54.8 LJ: Absolutely.
0:30:56.8 JT: Awesome. So if you could give some advice to people who may be listening that want to create a performance and value-based organization, what advice would you give them?
0:31:08.4 LJ: Hire you as their executive coach. [laughter] Immediately, right now.
0:31:13.5 JT: That was not planned. You don't have to do that.
0:31:16.8 LJ: You need to get her involved in your organization today.
0:31:21.9 JT: Oh, that's sweet.
0:31:25.7 LJ: And start early. No matter how big or small you are, I guarantee you the results that you will have will have so much impact on your organization's growth, but also it's the sustainability. So there's a thing to where organizations can rot from the inside, and it's not necessarily about the people, but it's a lot of times about the processes that exist there because when you don't have culture, when you do not have proper alignment, when you have processes and procedures that do not align with the direction of the organization, you have misalignment. And when you have misalignment, you have miscommunication. When you don't have communication, you don't have collaboration. So then you have tribalism that starts to happen. And then you have an organization that becomes pitted against itself.
0:32:20.0 LJ: And you see organizations all the time where they're either publicly traded or privately held, and you have members of that organization split off from each other because there's been misalignment. When you have that level of executive coaching that comes in, understands, identifies that you all have a perception of who you are and what you're here to do, I need to give you perspective. So with my advice that I'd leave here for any performance-based company or leader, anyone that's trying to drive that, you need to seek outside counsel and consultation. Jennifer is awesome for that. But you need to get perspective. Right now you are in a vacuum, and believe it or not, you are in a vacuum and you are operating off your own perception. Getting out of your way and identifying the perspective is going to be the first thing that you need to do, no matter how big or small your organization is. Obtaining that perspective and then getting that outside consultation will show you your path and how to move forward into a performance-based company as a performance-based leader.
0:33:43.9 LJ: Always look for the perspective. Always look for, and if you're dealing with people, you always need to have perspective. You gotta understand who the other person, the other receiver, how they're receiving it. Are they aligned in the mission? Do they even understand the mission? But how do you know if they are aligned or understand the mission? You gotta have the perspective.
0:34:07.4 JT: Yeah. Yes. I think that is so well said. You definitely have to have that perspective and be open to it. And the results come. I have no doubt the fact that the ELT at Big Star is so raw. I almost want to use the term raw, you guys get really raw with each other, and that allows you to be seasoned and to take more in and to really grow as individuals, but really grow as a collective unit. And it's been fantastic and I thank you for allowing me to go along on the ride and who knows where we'll all land, hopefully in a, I don't know, in a jet airplane somewhere. Who knows where [chuckle] we'll be.
0:34:50.1 LJ: And hey, your words to God's ears.
0:34:55.2 JT: That's right. Absolutely. Well, I just want to thank you so much for being on the show today. I think I'm going to take you up on the offer and maybe in a year we'll revisit it and we'll talk about our progress and what you've been able to accomplish because I've no doubt this is going to be an incredible year for the business and for everyone that is a team member at Big Star. So thank you so much for being on the show.
0:35:15.2 LJ: Thank you so much, Jen, for having me.
0:35:19.0 JT: Thanks for listening to Let's Fix Leadership. By hanging out with me today, you're already on your path. If you're looking to learn more and to see if your company is a good fit for our coaching and leadership education, then hey, visit 304coaching.com. If you got value out of this podcast, share it with a friend. And it would mean the world to me if you would leave a thoughtful review and a rating on iTunes. Thanks again for listening, and I appreciate your work in fixing leadership.