About Ryan Estis
Ryan Estis is the CEO of Ryan Estis and Associates. Ryan has more than 20 years of work experience as a sales professional and a leader. He's amongst the best keynote speakers and also delivers online classes. We're all familiar with his pouring happiness story. Ryan helps participants with his course/ speeches thrive in this very competitive and rapidly changing world.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Ryan Estis today to our interview series. I'm Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team before we begin just a quick introduction of peopleHum, peopleHum is an end to end one view integrated Human Capital Management Automation Platform. The winner of the 2019 Global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the Future Of Work.
We run the peopleHum blog and video channel, which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around two interviews with well-known names globally every month.
We are very happy to have Ryan in our interview series. Welcome Ryan, we're thrilled to have you!
Thank you. Thank you so much. It's great to be here. I'm excited to chat today.
Our pleasure. So, Ryan, What are those life experiences that actually shaped your thinking, your energy, your career. And what is it that you're involved with currently?
A big part of my life experience is that I grew up in a house with two teachers, so I always had the teaching genes in my DNA, my classroom just looks a little different but after I got out of college, I had a seminal moment. I took an entry-level sales job and really didn't know what I wanted to do.
I was struggling, and I got a chance to sit in the audience of the presentation by the legendary Jim Rohn, who many people refer to as the godfather of motivational speaking. Jim Rohn changed my life, he recommended books I bought his books and tapes and I went on this journey of self-study and self-improvement, after which I had a little bit of sales success and was promoted into leadership. I had put my way up the ranks of an advertising communications firm and then 10 years ago I launched my own research and learning organization.
So we study trends and best practices in sales and leadership then finally publish those and then up until recently, I was actually doing about 80 live events presenting these ideas to companies, audiences all over the world.
Obviously, that's on pause right now, but we've quickly transitioned into an online and virtual learning model for engaging customers. So that's a little bit about my background and what we're working on today and now we've got some exciting new things in the works in terms of publishing, I am working on a new book and a new online course. And this moment of pause has given me time to move those projects forward.
That's awesome and thank you so much for sharing your journey with us and I'm sure you’ve kind of put things in perspective now, and you're just pondering over a lot of things and getting your creativity out, right?
Also, you have this amazing talent of speaking, and the way you articulate, was it something innate, or it's just the approach that you practiced to be qualified and be the best?
I like to talk about things that I had some practical experience around. I think part of what helps is that I’ve been a practitioner when I grew up in the sales organization, and have had an opportunity to run the sales teams, then this sales organization. So I think really basing my speaking on my own expertise and experience is what helps me have energy and be articulate.
"I'm just passionate about it, I love helping people. I love the work that I get to do"
I think there's incredible energy around being onstage in front of a live audience and going into these organizations and helping them grow and thrive. So I think that's part of where the energy comes from. But I'm passionate about it, and I think if you see that and feel that during our time together, then that's great. I'm doing my job.
Absolutely. I think it inspires me and so many other people because of your passion, it really, really shows, and not a lot of people are like that.
But tell me something, Ryan was this out of your comfort zone initially because I know when it comes to being the best, you have to kind of step out of your comfort zone?
It was a giant step out of my comfort zone and I want to be very clear about this. Running my own business, starting a company wasn't natural to me at all. I worked for a large organization. I had a very stable job. It was in the middle of the great recession. It was January of 2009 and like a lot of companies, our company was struggling.
It was a big reset in the world, not too dissimilar from a business perspective of what we're navigating now and going to be navigating. We were in a recession, and my company was struggling and made some decisions that I just wasn't aligned with and so very abruptly I resigned and here I was at my kitchen table in January of 2009 when the world was literally collapsing, and I was starting this new business and everybody thought I was crazy.
I'll be transparent about that, for the purpose of this call was very uncomfortable. I had sleepless nights. I had a lot of anxiety. There were times I wake up at three in the morning and think about calling my boss and begging for my old job back. So it was a period of incredible discomfort in adversity but here's the secret. That's where all of the growth happens, that's the goal and I look back upon that moment now and I truly believe this.
"Our darkest moments can become defining moments if we're awake to the learning and have the willingness or the resolve to go through the hard parts."
And I look back on that period of time and tell people today that the great recession was my greatest gift because it forced me to get uncomfortable and confront myself and make decisions about where I wanted to be in the future, and that kind of moment of pause is a gift
Absolutely so you asked yourself questions, and this came from the inside and you got the answers from the inside, right?
I think there's an incredible reserve of wisdom and divine intelligence that exists deep inside of us. But when we're on the treadmill in our routines, in our day to day life and we're busy and moving a million miles a minute, on social media and text messaging, emailing, we watch TV at night, etc. we number ourselves out and we don't access that reservoir of wisdom.
Look, sometimes, if you ask yourself hard questions, you may not like the answers but if you're willing to sit still for a minute and confront that and look inside yourself, I think there's a lot of intelligence available. By the way, I'm doing that right now. If you look at my last blog post and you could link to it in the show notes, one of the questions I'm asking myself was 'who do I want to be on June 1st?' and 'who do I want to be on January 1st?' and ...
"Not necessarily, what do I want to achieve, or how do I want to grow my business, but who do I want to be? And how am I gonna be remembered during this period of time?"
And I think looking at that and reflecting on those things can kind of help shape your decision making and that's a good thing.
Absolutely. That is a wonderful thing. If you can question yourself, the truth you're gonna be. Which is the question that I think most people forget, I would not have thought about who I'm going to be next month? It's very interesting. The way you put it makes you think that, Hey, What can I change about myself to be a much better person the next day or even the next month? And I think that's also always very crucial for leaders in the business, right?
I think this is a time where leadership is paramount. People are starving for leadership. We as a society, we as communities, and certainly in the context of business, our companies need quality leadership right now to navigate all of this uncertainty. And that without question, there's gonna be a long-tail effect of this, you know, economically, psychologically, where strong leadership is gonna be required.
Absolutely and what's your advice to leaders at this point in time. How should they get themselves together and build a team that's high performing or just keep the team together?
I think part of what we're talking about is our great suggestions for leaders too. I believe leadership starts on the inside. So it's an inside out approach, right?
"To be a great leader, you have to confront yourself first"
And I think doing some of that in the work and asking yourself big questions, is crucial and important.
Then I think, it's a lot of the things that we know to do, but always don't intuitively do it. Slow down a minute, take time to connect, be transparent, over-communicate, then over-communicate a little bit more.
I think people can recognize that we're navigating uncertainty and hard decisions are being made. We all know that you watch the news for five minutes and you can see that I think what we're looking for from leaders is honesty, transparency, integrity, communicating the truth, then look, this is also a period of time that requires a little bit of compassion and empathy.
I run a business. I'm the CEO of my company and we're making some hard decisions. We're a small business, right? I worked for a Fortune 500 company. I run a small business. Now, I've seen both sides of this equation during a crisis and hard decisions have to be made on both sides, and I'm making some of those in my business now, for small business, cash flow's a very significant consideration.
But I think it's important even with my team to communicate and have some compassion and empathy. I always say this is always my thesis 'put people first'.
"Ultimately, over time, performance and profitability will follow. But in a crisis situation, you want to make decisions today that you could be proud of as a person in six months."
One of the questions I used to encompass myself through this is, am I making this decision from a place of love or a place of fear? Because it's easy during a period of uncertainty, to get overwhelmed by fear. Things change so quickly, right? Our business shifted so fast we weren't prepared for this now I'm overwhelmed, anxious and the future seems very uncertain.
Our models aren't predictable anymore so it's easy to contract and shrink. And I have that scarcity mindset and I don't want to live from there. I certainly don't want to leave my organization from there. It's kind of getting centered again and, looking out at the landscape, considering the possibilities of making good, healthy, wholehearted decisions. Decisions from my heart space.
Absolutely. Now is the time when you know holistically we have to be safe and sound because it's like a tsunami that's hit you and it’s chaotic. I think innovation can come from this chaos and then you have business performance based on predictability and consistency, right?
So how do you believe organizations can align people's goals to innovation plus business performance?
You have to give yourself a little bit of room to innovate. In some respect it may be taking a step back, to take two or three-four. I will tell you right now. I wouldn't have wished for this, right? Because there's just a lot of adversity and trauma around it. It's been challenging for my team, myself personally, and my business.
But we're already innovating and the way we are doing it is in lockstep with our customers. We have customers whose needs have significantly changed, right? They are being transformed through this. And so if you can get close to your customer, listen, collaborate, co-innovate new solutions, I think you'll see coming on the other side of this, there's gonna be an opportunity to transform your business.
There's no doubt in my mind that 12 months from today, I'm going to have a better business that provides a deeper level of value to our client, partners. We're iterating right now in partnership with our customers. I think there's an opportunity for co-innovation.
Pay attention to the marketplace, pay attention to your customers, get close to them, understand their needs, and then think about how you can iterate together. We've been fortunate to have some customers even during this crisis, reach out to us, and say we need help, and that's really shaped our thinking so that
"Co-innovation is definitely gonna be our model going forward"
That makes a lot of sense and a lot of clients are now also taking a backseat. It's a very good time to build your relationship with your customers and get to know them even better so that you can craft your solution or whatever it is you do, it could be much more personalized to your customer.
Yes, I think that's right - personalization, customization. Ask a lot of good questions, show up, its part of what we're doing for our April strategy. Instead of focusing on how to be successful, look for opportunities to be helpful, right? Check-in, serve, support. How can we be helpful during this time? And I think, if we show up, we will be remembered for that, there's gonna be opportunities down the road.
So you know, our go-to-market strategy right now, really is up and be helpful to serve where we can produce content, to be on a show like this with you. My own blog, my own weekly newsletter, a custom video where we are creating and then really listening and responding to the customers that have proactively reached down, said, ‘Hey, we want to engage we want your help? Let's jump on a call. We need to figure some things out quickly.’
"Just responding to those inquiries real-time. It makes us a good partner, and I think it's gonna help us build a better business for the long term."
Absolutely. And that would be a very wonderful experience, even for the customers, because they would realize your value. They'd have time to realize your value at this point in time, if you do something great to help them, it's kind of obvious. They will definitely remember you for your gratitude, for your good work, right?
You're also a sales professional and right now I think a lot of sales professionals are going through a lot of anxiety because their hands are itchy and, you know, like there's so much uncertainty. So what is your advice to sales professionals? What can they really focus on right now?
I think sales professionals have to focus on a couple of key things. Chill out, okay, this isn't a time to email 10 prospects with a cold pitch on LinkedIn. I can tell you it's so easy during a time like this, where people are sensitive and dealing with a lot of change and anxiety to take a relationship from neutral to negative.
You know, I bet I have 10 messages on LinkedIn where people start a sales pitch with, 'How's your business going?' It's like, REALLY? You don't know me and that's the question you wanna ask me today? Have you lost your mind? Don't do that. Stop, pause, reset.
We run a sales organization, and so part of my recommendation is again, it's to
"Look for opportunities to serve and ask,'How can I be helpful?'"
Check-in and let people know that you're there when they're ready to talk to you and then pay attention, respond to the inquiries that you have.
Salespeople have to understand that their customers and prospective customers' universe also got reset during this time. So the conversations you were having a month ago, the proposals that you sent out the door a month ago. You know they might not be as relevant right now or for the next 12 months, so this is a big reset.
So reset yourself during this process, think intelligently about the whole customization and personalization, you have to think about your customer's business, what they're responding to, how their needs are changing through this time.
If you're fortunate enough to have some conversation and engagement, pay close attention to that because those will be clues about what the marketplace needs from you. I think this is also a time where you can skill up.
"Take this moment of pause but again, don't focus on this month's number because you're not gonna make it. Focus on the bigger picture, right? How can you become better? How can you become better for your customers?"
Take a moment of pause to learn something new, take an online course, listen to this podcast, watch the video, subscribe to the newsletter, get better and you'll be better served for your customers in the long run.
Absolutely so, can professionals just kind of reach out to the customers and do a pulse check and say that ‘ Hey, I hope you're doing fine and I hope you're safe’?
Absolutely, that’s the right move. I hope you and your family are well. Certainly, these are unprecedented times. I know we were supposed to chat this week about the proposal we had sent you two weeks ago, just checking in let me know how you want to proceed. I'm here for you when you need me.
That's how we are doing, we're doing that.
"We're letting people know we care."
We're there we can adjust anything if needed, rescheduling things that we had scheduled right? Live events, meetings, training, although that's being shifted and moved, we're being good resolute partners around that and then we're responding to the inquiries to the clients that are reaching out, that needed a different kind of support from us.
So that customization, personalization, being a good partner, making decisions today that we can be proud of in six months.
Absolutely. This is something that's about the experience, right? How do you kind of create an exceptional employee experience in an organization And how much of it can be personalized? How much of it can be automated according to you?
There are a lot of things that go into creating an exceptional employee experience. At its baseline, right now is when we talked about this, people need leadership. People want confidence in their leadership, and they want confidence in the future of the organization. I will tell you right now, the one thing employees want more than anything else is communication. They're starving for it.
So do I think we can augment some of this virtually? Of course, I do, we're doing it right now. You know, in my business we didn't use a lot of video conferencing before. We had an office space. I traveled all the time but most of my communication was phone calls and that's changed. Honestly, I don't think we'll ever go back to that. So, I'm starting to recognize that, maybe having a physical office space for the kind of business we have isn't really necessary.
And, yes, we need to congregate it in person at some degree of interval. But maybe it's not every day from 8.30 am to 5 pm and maybe that hour of commute time for some employees would be better served to do something more productively and to leverage some of this technology to engage.
I think there are a lot of leaders and companies that are thinking through that, and...
"This is going to be a reset on how we work and organize ourselves to work going forward."
Mark my words. So that's going to happen.
I see. You think that there would be more of remote working and that would be, like less face to face meetings business meetings can be gone on video conferences?
It's a balance. I think we're always going to require the blend. I think you lose something when you do not talk face to face. So I don't ever anticipate my company will be 100% virtual. We need to convene together at regular intervals. We are social creatures, right? I mean, this sheltering at home. I think it's been three weeks since I've touched another human being, that's unnatural.
I miss the exchange, the engagement that comes from being in a room with people, but I think it's balance. I think there's gonna be a balance or blend between what we need in terms of connecting in person, real-time, and what could be augmented with technology. It depends on your situation, your business. I think everyone's gonna figure that out.
You know, we're fortunate, look how fortunate we are to be able to look at each other, to connect through this technology. I think we're very fortunate right now to have these tools in place to help us navigate this uncertainty in a more connected way and, personally too, beyond professionally.
I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's been over 20 years since I've lived in the same city as any of my immediate family members. I have two siblings and my mom. We all live in different cities. Now we're getting together for these family zoom calls and these dinners and happy hours and we are drinking, and I see my nieces and nephews.
I don't know why we never did that before, we did it but now it's a beautiful way to connect and create some shared experiences virtually, so I think we're doing that in my family. I think it's having a real impact, certainly on me. I live alone but on everybody, my mom loves it, too.
He"I think some of those same principles you can bring into the workspace to augment your connection in real life with technology."
Absolutely. I think suddenly it’s a wake-up call that you did not connect with your family. Whereas you easily could have, and it's kind of unfortunate that it takes a crisis to bring out radical change. But I guess humans are humans.
That's human nature, we're creatures of habit. You talked about getting out of your comfort zone. We love our comfort zones. Our brains are wired for the familiar to keep us safe in our routines and rituals. So we get on that treadmill, we get in our lane and we stay in it because that's what we know. Even at times, if it's not serving us well and then it takes this to hit the reset button and look around.
I think one of the questions I'm considering is, things were going pretty well in my business but what routines and rituals or, what known and familiar things do I not want to return to? How is this moment of pause going to enable me to hit that reset button so I can actually say, ‘Yeah, you know what? I'm not going back to living that way. It was comfortable. I was on the treadmill. I was ignoring some things that I needed to address, and I sort of deep down inside knew it. And this is the moment of change. I'm going to address them.'
"So it's a crisis of meaning and it's in crisis where I think we start to ask those bigger questions and get more willing and committed to making a change"
This is that moment of pause. You almost have to step out of that and look inside to call out the change you need to make, there's a lot of pain around this and suffering. I'm not minimizing that at all. It's real.
If you're healthy and you're not dealing with severe economic uncertainty, this moment of pause can be an opportunity if you frame it up the right way and that's certainly how I'm looking at it.
Absolutely. I think for a long time, we just keep ignoring all these things that we are always supposed to change. I’ll do it tomorrow. I'll do it tomorrow. But, you know, then there comes that one day when everything changes for you and you're like, I should have changed that before. You're just really reacting rather than being proactive and that again, this is such an innate human characteristic and that can really harm people.
Well, it is and what's so interesting about this period of time is, it isn't innate human characteristics so we all often don't commit to radical change until we endure a crisis and for some people, it could be the loss of a job, it could be a divorce, it could be a health scare, a health crisis. What's so interesting about this period of time is that we're all going through this crisis together, right?
I sit on some of these Zoom calls and I do some executive coaching, so I'm fortunate to be in a position where I can ask people, 'What normal have you identified that you plan on not returning to, given this reset that we're experiencing?' It's so interesting, the answers you hear to that question.
"This is a bit of a global reset, a global shift, and I think as a society, we are going to consider what things do we not want to go back to"
I think, generally speaking, people are recognizing that simplicity, happiness, connection to people, those things are becoming bigger priorities through this and I think getting back into the rat race and the treadmill on and flying all over the place and even for me doing 90 live events all over the world living in hotels 130 nights a year jumping from city to city. Is that necessary? And is that really how I want to spend the rest of the time on planet Earth?
I think we are figuring some of that is part of what we're being called to do right now and in some ways that kind of a reset is actually good.
Yeah, I think it's Mercury's in retrograde and suddenly you're valuing simple things and you're questioning everything, putting everything in retrospection and it's amazing how we’re all in this together and I think if we come out of this crisis we're gonna be much stronger and you're gonna be much level-headed too, right?
I think returning to simplicity is a good thing. I think the long term implications of this can tend to be very positive. Our values will be more wholehearted and aligned. I think we’ll recognize the effect that we have on each other, right. We're all in this thing on the spinning ball in space together for a short period of time, and I think the return to simplicity and the recognition of what's really important through this, heightening that awareness, that could be a beautiful thing.
To me, it's like, remembering, What makes you happy and the pursuit of happiness. Because
"At the end of the day, success is happiness. So pursue that, which makes you happy."
When I am on the treadmill on Level 12 our definition of success can get a little blurry. But this kind of reorienting toward that, which is simple and meaningful is a good thing. And it's certainly been my experience this far, and I never would have taken this moment of pause had it not been thrust upon me that's certainly true for a lot of my clients.
I think it's true for all of us. Like I'm also very sure that, after years of this pandemic, we're gonna question ourselves and the answer better be good, you're gonna ask yourself, 'What did you do during that crisis?' and you're gonna regret it if you did not improve yourself if you did not, look for the pursuit of happiness at this point in time, right?
I agree. I think this is an opportunity. So often in life, it's not what happens to us, right? But how we react to what happens to us, I think one of the lessons through this is, you know, we're not in control of everything, and I'm kind of a control freak, right?
I like it, it's very uncomfortable for me to not be able to pull the levers and manage everything. That's kind of my personality, but I call it surrendering and accepting the reality. This is our new reality, and I have to accept it, surrender into it, and then look from my opportunity in it.
Also, I think you're absolutely right, we can choose how we move through this, and how we come out of this. This has been a massive disruption to my year, my business and my team and so I can fight that and resist it, or I can accept it, surrender into it, and then look for the silver lining in the opportunity, and it took me a couple of weeks to get there.
I was very frustrated, but I'm like a lot of people are, but I think I'm coming into that place and looking for the opportunity in the challenge.
Absolutely that makes a lot of sense. Talking a little about the economy and how it's going to evolve.
Obviously you're aware of the gig economy and everything that surrounds it. So do you think that this is going to increase after the pandemic is over? because there are just so many millennials out there. Unfortunately, the graduate class of this year, they're going to really have a tough time, and leaders are going to be picky now as to what they're going to choose. Because suddenly there's just so many people out there who they can recruit, right? How is this going to evolve out? Are you a believer that the gig economy it's here to stay?
I think the gig economy will survive this crisis. I think the way we organize ourselves to accomplish work and the way companies organize themselves to accomplish work is fundamentally changing. Let's confront the brutal facts if you're a solo-preneur, a freelancer, or a gig worker, the near term may be very challenging.
I think there are opportunities amid the challenge. I've got a contractor gig worker that I'm gonna be working with today as soon as I'm done with you because this shifted. I have to create content in a different way. So I'm organizing some freelance help around me to do that, and that was beneficial to that particular set of gig workers.
But look, it's challenging I mean, I know friends that are solo preneurs and gig workers and yet this conceivably may have been a good time to have a really stable job with a salary and a 401K and benefits I get that, but I don't think the world is going back. We're too interconnected, hyper-connected, and I think it's gonna be a challenging time, no matter what. No matter what you do, but I think we'll get to the other side of that and there's still plenty of opportunities for freelancers and gig workers to carve out their unique nature path.
"During a challenging time like this, the cream rises"
So if you are uber-talented, whatever your craft is, I think it is going to be an opportunity amid this for you. So this is a reset right now everybody's figuring out. The world economy is shut down, right? We're on pause. You can't go outside. Customers aren't making decisions and part of the challenges, there's uncertainty. We don't know how this is gonna settle or how this is gonna be resolved. And amid uncertainty people aren't likely to commit resources or make decisions.
We're in a period of pause right now, but we'll move through that and get back to work again. I think in the near term, and I think this is gonna be a painful recession, I really do. But I think it's gonna be a short recession, too, and we're gonna come out of this better and stronger on the other side.
Absolutely. I think people who, peg themselves, as average can become really skilled because anyway, they have to really compete with the market that is going to come out of this. They’re really going to have to secure themselves.
Well, I think that's the message if you're a freelancer, a gig economy worker. Even if you're somebody like me that owns a small business, How can you get better? How can you add more value? And that's a question that I'm asking we're asking and we're figuring it out in partnership with our customers, and that's a good thing.
So, you know, I think the goal should be we have to get through this and make hard decisions to get through this. But how can I be a better businessman or a better freelancer or a better gig worker 12 months from today? And that should be a question, we always ask ourselves. If it's not getting better, you're getting worse. The world changes too fast.
Yeah, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
There it is.
I know we're kind of short on time, and there are so many things that I haven't asked you and so just to kind of conclude this.
Is there some advice or some important sound bites that you'd like to leave our viewers with.
I think the most important thing in this and through this is just to recognize what's most important. Look inside yourself. There is going to be another side to this and it's kind of what I said at the onset. This is a dark moment, you know, in our history, nobody was prepared for this, and there's a lot of real pain and suffering around it, but know this, as a society, as communities, as a country, as families, as companies, these dark, hard moments can be our defining moments. You know, if we're resilient and respond accordingly.
Choose your response, be intentional, and look for the silver lining opportunity amid this. I think 12 months from today we can be better than we were coming into this. And so, let this be a moment of pause and a reset for you around. What's important? Get your vision in place about who you're gonna be, on June 1st, on January 1st, and let's together move our way through this, and we will. We will get through this together here and just think of how much more we will appreciate just living a normal life after it's been taken away from us momentarily. There's gonna be beautiful days ahead. So hold on to that.
That's wonderful. I think we'll also value our relationships a lot more.
Life is people and at the end of the day...
"The quality of our life is the quality of the relationships we have with the people that we love"
...and I think it's a good reminder and a great opportunity to focus on making sure those things are where we want them to be right now. So if you love someone, make sure you tell him today and guess what you can tell him on Zoom, which is great.
Absolutely make use of technology, it's free. Thank you so much, Ryan, for that wonderful conversation. I had an amazing time, and I've learned a lot from you. It was really, really a pleasure talking to you. I appreciate your time and your views. Thank you so much.
Thank you. It was a lot of fun.
Thank you and take care of yourself, and I will stay in touch with you.