Ryan Hasbrook identifies the importance of a strong company culture
Tim Leman: Have you ever felt like you're on the edge of something great? You've put in the work, you've done the hard stuff most people aren't willing to do, and now you can just sense a magical run lies ahead. On this podcast, we talk about what separates those special teams, the kind, if we're lucky, we get to be a part of maybe three or four times in our life, from the more ordinary experiences. I'm your host, Tim Leman, and let's discuss leading on the edge. Welcome to The Edge Podcast. I'm your host, Tim Leman. On this episode, we have Ryan Hasbrook. Ryan is the co- founder and CEO of Eight Eleven Group. Ryan, I've had the opportunity to get to know you through YPO over the last several years, and super excited to have you as our guest.
Ryan Hasbrook: I'm excited to be here.
Tim Leman: Maybe just tell us a little bit about Eight Eleven Group, Ryan. What does Eight Eleven Group do, and just a high level overview about the different segments you're in.
Ryan Hasbrook: Okay. Well, Eight... is primarily a staffing company. We have three different divisions. One is Brooksource, information technology staffing. One is Medasource, which is health information technology staffing. And one division is Calculated Hire, which is non- IT business staffing. So, we're all in an office typically, building a business, doing project work for corporations from, I'd say Fortune 2000. We've got about 100 or so Fortune 500 clients nationally, and we're in 31 cities and each of those cities have brick and mortar offices. So, we have a lot of different teams and a lot of different working parts across the country. So, yeah, that's in a nutshell, our business.
Tim Leman: Ryan, I know you've had a lot of growth in the Medasource piece. Can you talk to us a little bit about that? What's driven that?
Ryan Hasbrook: Well, with the pandemic obviously, and a lot of the Feds pumping money into these individual states, and the responses just filled all the health systems up with tons of money and preparation. So, we just kind of were in the right place at the right time, middle of the year, early March, April of last year. I didn't know if we were going to have a business by the end of the year. Then by May, June, it was like Y2K for the health care business. It was a wild rollercoaster, for sure. So, that division, Medasource, it was pretty much 100% of my top line growth last year and continues to perhaps even double again this year with all kinds of new and different opportunities that have been presented.
Tim Leman: Well, Ryan, I appreciate you saying, " Right place, right time," in some of that. But dig into that a little bit. What allows you guys at Eight Eleven Group in its entirety to see an opportunity and then create a product and put it in play, get it into the marketplace and go?
Ryan Hasbrook: Staffing is the bottom of the barrel for employment, where the bluest of white collar jobs that are out there. So, it got interesting. I'll tell you a quick story. We got an interesting call from the State of Kentucky in late March, early April and asked us if we staffed epidemiologists. We said, " Sure." But we had no idea really what an epidemiologist was. So, ended up an epidemiologist was a contact tracer before anybody knew what a contact tracer was. So, they asked for 100 of them to track this. So, we were like, " Well, if Kentucky needs it, every state needs it." So, we called every Department of Health in every state in the country, of which we don't do much public sector business. We got seven calls back from states. And today we have like 2,000 or 3, 000 contact tracers working for us nationally, of which we had zero in 2019. So, we kind of swerved. You know, you put yourself in the position to get lucky, really. And in this case, luck kind of took care of us.
Tim Leman: Yeah. That author Jim Collins talks about that his concept is return on luck, and that when they dug in and looked at a bunch of successful companies that had had the 10X growth, there really wasn't any more good luck or bad luck on same companies in the same industry type of thing. The difference was, the bad luck didn't hit the ones that were prepared for it as bad, and the good luck they amplified it on that. And yeah, I'm going to push you on this. You may not want to draw attention to what you guys do or the good work you've done, but it's not just as easy as that, and just get a call from the State Health Department. We say, " Sure, that's a great starting point." What about your culture has the person that's making that phone call know that we're going to say, " Yes, we do that and we're going to find a way." I mean, that doesn't just happen by accident.
Ryan Hasbrook: Yeah. The delivery piece has been interesting. We've had to certainly staff up to find this whole new sector of contract employee for us. But we put a lot of pressure on each other and it's the team aspect. You know, we have these small, these offices. We consider them micro- cultures, and because we have those micro- cultures, these guys work for each other, not really for... People work harder for the person sitting next to them and not the company bottom line, is how it ultimately goes. That's just human nature. You don't want to disappoint the person sitting next to you. So, we sell them and then everybody kind of bands together. And when we get a hot streak in a market or with a project or with anything, these guys really work together well, to make sure that everybody delivers on it. They all certainly are rewarded with... We're a commission- based company too, so that they certainly make plenty of money through commissions on all those projects.
Tim Leman: So, there's some of those incentives there, but there's got to also be some other component of not being afraid to fail, trying something like this. If they thought that they were going to get in big trouble for saying, " Yes, we can do this and we've got to figure out a way," I can't imagine they'd be doing it. So, is that a part of what you guys, espouse and try to be out there?
Ryan Hasbrook: We try and give as much autonomy to the individual market managers and offices as we can, to sell and craft their own projects. So, yes. We're a fairly young company. We hire out of the colleges, primarily. So, our average age is for 750 employees is still in our 20s. So, they're... I don't know if it's blind ambition or just fearlessness, but they know that they have the support of our headquarters, or at least some financial backing to take some chances.
Tim Leman: That's interesting. Ryan, while we're on that, in thinking about these micro- cultures, I can look out my window and see the Golden Dome, and you have God, Country, and Notre Dame. Sometimes when I've seen situations like that, does it ever become one of those though with the micro- cultures, where it's Notre Dame, God, Country for you guys, like the small offices, that's more meaningful than the mothership? How do you handle that?
Ryan Hasbrook: Yeah. No question, some are weaker than others. I mean, if you have 31 markets, there's a certain amount of dysfunction at some market, somewhere in the country at any given time. After about 10 offices for us, we figured out that one office was going to be breaking while the other nine were kicking butt. So, amplify it times three times, we usually have about two or three markets that are usually hurting and the rest are... So, yeah. So, there's a lot of pride in our top markets. They sometimes share it and they sometimes don't. We push the successful ones to teach everyone their ways, and they do more often than not, but there's certainly a pride factor. I think that comes with building a great team, frankly, and great leaders. Great leaders have a very occult- like culture, and I don't mind that in our individual markets.
Tim Leman: That's cool. Well, thinking about teams and so on, you come from an athletic family, and you yourself, your kids and so on. So, you've been around a lot of teams over the years. If you were to think back from maybe it's what you're doing today, all the way back to your junior high football team, CYO football team, whatever, what's the greatest team memory you have? What was the best team you've ever been on?
Ryan Hasbrook: Oh, man. I always hate to go athletics. I was on the state runner- up football team, my senior at Cathedral in Indianapolis, and that was a pretty special team. It was a heck of a game that we ended up losing on a last second to fumble touchdown. But you know, my proudest team that we started from scratch, so I started in my basement. I think my best, most efficient dynamic team was the first six employees we hired in my first office at 811 Broad Ripple Avenue, primarily because there was nothing. We had just a hope and a prayer. And we were much in survival mode, and we took... besides my partner and I, we had four other people that hopped on and believed that we could build something. It's great seeing those folks today, thriving and being part of this company that's the size that it is. I think I take the most pride out of that team, primarily because these guys just blindly hopped on and never really looked back. It was really a glorious group back in 2000.
Tim Leman: That's an awesome story. I think there's something about that, when you know your back's against the wall, you have kind of nothing to lose, and risk doesn't even matter hardly. There's nothing... In some ways you are really free. You're not necessarily even risking a whole lot, relative to what it's like now. I'm sure the stakes are higher on every big decision.
Ryan Hasbrook: Yeah. We have in- house counsel now. I've got three lawyers working for us full- time. So, yeah. And a risk manager. So, yeah. Times have changed.
Tim Leman: You know, you described the other thing though, too. You're kind of alluding to you all being on the same page and being just a 100% alignment, and playing for each other, and so on. What was that like and how is it different today?
Ryan Hasbrook: Well, we had no real processes. We were building our processes at that point. We were on paper, and in the day we were just internet. We had dial- up, we didn't have T1 lines, and we had paper. Now everything's automated. We have Salesforce as a CRM. We were managing Outlook basically in the old days. So, these days we have a ton of process, and really we can just add and plug and play different people, and if they do, if they follow our process as well, they're usually generally pretty successful. Back then, it was kind of hope and a prayer, and close one eye and smile and dial. That was how we sold and how we recruited and delivered. So, the scale is a lot different. I personally, I would get swallowed up in our business today. I'm not a great guy with process, at least the way we do it today. So, to each their own. We have some people that are absolutely just killing it as far as success in a short amount of time here, just with what we have and what we've built.
Tim Leman: Ryan, clearly these marketplace leaders and the team leaders and so on are, it sounds like, a huge cog in the wheel for you. How do you find the right ones, or is there a secret sauce you look for that you know works in your system? What are some of those characteristics or traits that you guys look for on the front end?
Ryan Hasbrook: Well, my opinion is different from some of our other folks. Some of our guys really believe in the DISC profiling. I don't know if you guys do that at Gibson or not, but we have all of our employees do that on their first day in the company. People really believe in some of that. I don't necessarily. I'm much more of a, at least as far as involvement goes... When I used to hire, I loved to see involvement on campuses, presidents, or involvements in organizations, service type projects, things that people really got 100% involved in. And the second part is obviously energy level. We look intensely at energy level, pace, people that are into the office early and affecting the impact of the morale of the markets, and people that are ambitious. We like to reward those folks accordingly.
Tim Leman: That's great. I got a call from my son this morning, actually. He's pledging a fraternity and got elected president of his pledge class. So, we were talking about some of those things and what that means, and it does start early there.
Ryan Hasbrook: Does that mean he's most hazed?
Tim Leman: I was going to tell him the other side of that.
Ryan Hasbrook: Yeah, exactly. It's a blessing and a curse.
Tim Leman: I said to him, " Most of the people I remember that were pledge class presidents didn't choose to be president of the fraternity at a later date. They had already had enough." Well, you can't teach the energy piece either. What are little tells, and you're sitting across from somebody, that you know you got somebody that's going to hit that energy piece for you guys? What little things do you look for?
Ryan Hasbrook: Just eye contact, handshake, quick to introduce themselves, quick to introduce others, quick to connect people in the markets to each other, the way they dress, frankly. I know I'm certainly not the most dapper guy, but people that care for their appearance in the marketplace. Those are all little things that stick out in my mind.
Tim Leman: What about in some of the more senior roles? Do you guys end up... I know you hire a lot right out of college and we just talked about that, but do you hire on the outside for some of your senior roles nowadays?
Ryan Hasbrook: No, we don't. Everyone, all three of my presidents, they've all started in the recruiting chair. We start everybody out as a recruiter out of college. I can say that 100% of our business is organically built. So, everybody in any kind of prominent leadership position in our business has started just like the people that are starting here in three weeks for us as recruiters. So, they understand the business implicitly that way, and they don't bring a lot of different... It helps us build our culture as we want to build our culture, our way. It's been an effective tool for us to direct our culture in a intentional way.
Tim Leman: Yeah. What do you worry about most when it comes to your culture as you guys continue to grow?
Ryan Hasbrook: That we run out of opportunities. We're in 31 or 32 markets. We think there's probably going to be 40 markets total nationally before we start to really run out of opportunities to run things. We try and stay as thin as possible from a hierarchy. Everybody starts with a promise that they can run something one day, and we've so far been able to do that. But I always worry like heck that we're not going to be able to have... so, we're going to have somebody awesome ready to go and not a place to put them. But things have just worked out. We started new divisions that we had no intention of starting a division or two, and those presented themselves. Now we're starting to get some international now. We're going to most likely expand into Canada here by the end of the year, which is going to open a whole nother opportunity for a bunch of people, and Federal Government, which we've never worked with, has presented itself. So, we're kind of blindly just ambitious, and so far so good on things that have come our way for opportunity.
Tim Leman: That's awesome. Looking at your values there, family, opportunity, passion, innovation, grit, and service, at this point and stage in the development of your organization, how much do those six reflect Ryan Hasbrook's personal values in life, and how much have they evolved?
Ryan Hasbrook: Oh, that's a good one. We've never been a big mission statement company. We decided to go the core value route. And we spent a half year going through and listing these six values. Of them, yes, a lot of those are me, almost all of them. Innovation, maybe not that one as much, but everything else I can absolutely say that I had a hand in those. So, we've been able to do some things around those, like we have these conferences and we have a half day for around each one of these different core values. We really work these things hard into the business line. So, yeah. Grit, I always think we're too soft, man. I don't know. Maybe I'm just getting old and I never think that the next generation's as tough, and my dad probably says that about me. But that's how grit made it in. Family, obviously is my favorite one. We asked all of our company to list one word that they think defines our business. We had like a fourth or third, I think it was a third of our... at the time it was about 600 employees, had blindly listed family. So, that was a cool and obvious core value for us.
Tim Leman: That's really interesting to me too, just thinking about how young your workforce is and coming out of college and listing family. Do you think you're helping fill that void in that next stage in life maybe for them? Or what do you think?
Ryan Hasbrook: Well, yeah. In a lot of ways, these guys that are starting with us are going through all their major life dilemmas, right out of the gates with us. New usually new house, usually new spouse, usually babies. So, man, we get to see it all right out of the gates. So, yes, there's a lot of family and a lot of sharing that goes on with a lot of those issues. I think that they get the family vibe from that.
Tim Leman: So, kind of coming at the values on an opposite way, what is something that somebody does, a newer employee or whatever, that's the quickest way to find themselves back out the door at Eight Eleven Group?
Ryan Hasbrook: It's a lot of performance. We do pretty well on character. We interview, we hire on character more than anything else. I know I said energy and such, but character is all that really matters in the workforce. We can usually teach people what they need to know to be successful. So, we don't miss on character very much. If we do, we're quick to act on that. However, really performance is the number one for us, unfortunately. And some people have it and some people don't. Staffing's a fairly tough business. I know you're in insurance, so I'm not going to play the violin for you. But staffing is either just above or just below insurance on the spectrum of cool factor.
Tim Leman: I'll take it.
Ryan Hasbrook: Yeah. But the ones that have it, bring it, and if they don't, then they usually fade on their own. We don't have to do much with managing separations that way.
Tim Leman: I think that's when you know your culture is more than just words, when people kind of self- select or move on, they know they're not a right fit, it means they're real and in place.
Ryan Hasbrook: Yeah. No, we do exit interviews a lot too. I don't know if you guys do those much at Gibson, but we learn a heck of a lot from exit interviews. We send them out, we get about 75% response rate on our exits. So, we share those amongst all of our leadership and it's been pretty impactful for learning and getting better.
Tim Leman: Can you share maybe one or two things that has come out of an exit interview that's changed how you guys operate or what you do?
Ryan Hasbrook: Well, in the old days it was, this culture drinks too much. Too much celebration, I can't keep up. I don't want to be... So, we've definitely cooled that off. We do celebrate a lot. We think celebration is a huge part of culture- building as well, celebrating successes, and we continue to do it. That was a huge rub early on, in the early days. But we've matured a bit from there. Got one yesterday that was complaining about our KPIs and quantity. You know, we look for quantity over quality of our interviews and our candidates, and she might be right. So, we've been discussing that over the last 24 hours, in fact. So, we try and address each and every one of those that come in.
Tim Leman: Okay, so, switch gears to your role, and maybe there's going to be a humorous response, or maybe it's the real one ever. But what is your role today? And maybe tell me in two different ways. You can tell me what you think it is, but then also what would your team say that Ryan's role is today?
Ryan Hasbrook: Official role is co- founder and chief executive officer. I would say that my personal role, they view it as a mascot. They just throw me out for big meetings and conferences and certainly some of the executive and leadership meetings, but day- to- day, I'm certainly not anywhere close to what I was doing in the old days. It's definitely a different vibe for me. They think I'm a lot busier than I probably am. That's confusing sometimes to me, but I'm okay with it because the business is running well. So, yeah, I love what I'm doing now. I love to see the success that these guys are having on their own without a lot of heavy- handedness from me. That gives me as much joy as anything does in the business right now.
Tim Leman: Oh, that's cool. What would you say has been, or is your edge in life, or your super power or whatever? What makes you able to do what you do?
Ryan Hasbrook: Maybe two things. It might sound cliche, but my work ethic growing up. I don't know if my parents did it for me or whatever, or it was digging ditches as electrician's helper, or working at Jug's Catering at the track for all the 500 races for years, or whatever it was. But in the early days, that's all it was. It was head down, and just call, meet, do everything that I could. I still have that in me. I don't work like that anymore. I kind of wish I do sometimes. I'm a little nervous that I don't. But that was definitely a difference maker early on. Then the energy, or maybe mania, got it from my mother. She is a higher energy woman, and she runs a mile a minute, and for better or for worse, I've got her blood in me, so I don't need much sleep and I go pretty hard. It's going to kill me early, it just might.
Tim Leman: But you see, you've just applied your work ethic to other things, I think. You still bring it, right? Yeah.
Ryan Hasbrook: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Tim Leman: That's awesome. No, honestly though, you look at that, that's a lethal combination, that work ethic and high energy, because when somebody has that, and focused, and all in, and going, it's pretty unstoppable. So, that's really cool. Now it's time for my favorite part of the podcast, Rapid Fire. Okay, we'll rip through some of these here. So, easy on the front end here. Favorite color?
Ryan Hasbrook: Blue.
Tim Leman: First car?
Ryan Hasbrook: 1990 Pontiac 6000, used.
Tim Leman: Oh, man. I can just see you in that right now.
Ryan Hasbrook: Hubcaps fell off within the first four weeks. A previous owner was a smoker. It was awesome. My dad really went out of his way to make sure I had an average car.
Tim Leman: Love it. Favorite family meal?
Ryan Hasbrook: Got to say my mom's meatloaf, don't I?
Tim Leman: I think so. Mom, where's the meatloaf?
Ryan Hasbrook: That's right.
Tim Leman: Work from home, work from remote, work at the office. What's your preference?
Ryan Hasbrook: We're office, baby, and I am grinding so hard to get everybody back to be together again. Learned so much from that over this pandemic. We've got coastal offices in New York and Boston and Seattle and Minneapolis that have been just decimated by some of their local governments. So, man, we're all over the place, but I am all for office working.
Tim Leman: Yeah. All the cultural things you talked about just happen a lot more organically, that way. Three living people that you would like to have dinner with.
Ryan Hasbrook: Hmm. Three living. I'll just say my parents is one, so that's easy because I know they ground me, and so anytime I can get out with those two together, they give me a lot of value system. And let's say Dan Gable. I was a big wrestler. Dan Gable was a hero of mine, and what he endured losing a kid sister, and just building an unbelievable program at the University of Iowa, and 20 plus national championships. Let's see, I think Mark Cuban, maybe. I don't know why. He's kind of brash and he's kind of a weirdo, but he's an Indiana Hoosier and so am I, and he's an interesting fellow, so let's go with those.
Tim Leman: Those are great. I can't speak to your parents a whole lot, but the other two, and yeah, Cuban's got some neat stuff these days on college and what that looks like. He's like, " Most kids aren't going to be able to experience the 1987 National Championship kind of thing, and hit community college for three years and wrap up your last year at the big school, and save a lot of money and call it a day." Cool stuff there. All right. Actually, people want to know this too. What actor would play Ryan Hasbrook in a movie?
Ryan Hasbrook: Oh, jeez. Zach Galifianakis. No. I keep gaining weight, it will be him. Who would play me? Jeez. God, I don't know, Tim. That's a great one.
Tim Leman: Well, and I don't know, I'd just go with Clooney or Cruz because you get to make the call on this, right?
Ryan Hasbrook: McConaughey, maybe.
Tim Leman: There you go, Matthew McConaughey. That's a good one.
Ryan Hasbrook: There you go.
Tim Leman: What are you streaming right now?
Ryan Hasbrook: I just finished the Yellowstone, big fan of that. That was great.
Tim Leman: Oh, yeah.
Ryan Hasbrook: And obviously, all the Narcos were fantastic. And I'm actually kind of out right now. I've been getting back in the office and getting out of my house, so I've kind of shed my Netflix binge and I'm kind of sick of Netflix at this point of the pandemic. I sure hope all my employees are too by now. I'm ready to get back going.
Tim Leman: Focusing on real life again. I like it. But good shows, though. Yellowstone's awesome. Favorite concert you've ever to, Ryan?
Ryan Hasbrook: I went to see Paul McCartney at Sun Devil Stadium when I was in college and ended up in the sixth row. A long story I won't bore you with, but mountains in the background and McCartney killing it. That, and I've seen Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews at Wrigley. Any of those Wrigley shows, just being in Wrigleyville and then popping into a concert is pretty special.
Tim Leman: So, you're a fan of that outdoor, you got the whole summer thing going on, or great weather and live music?
Ryan Hasbrook: Yeah. No question.
Tim Leman: That's probably the thing I maybe have missed the most with all the pandemic stuff. That's been the most difficult to recreate or still go. You can still find a way to get a vacation or something in, but the live music.
Ryan Hasbrook: I can't wait for the first band to say they're touring. It's coming soon.
Tim Leman: It's going to be great. And then, Ryan, what's your walkup song? I don't know if they were doing that for wrestlers back in the day or not, but what would it be, or what is it?
Ryan Hasbrook: Oh, in the old days, it was Eye of the Tiger by Survivor. That was before wrestling matches, anyway.
Tim Leman: I kind of see you maybe as an AC/ DC Thunderstruck sort of guy.
Ryan Hasbrook: I can do some of that, yeah. Any Poison and any old school. When I started this business, the song that I'd used to jam as my walkup song was Brand New Day by Sting, had just come out. And I swear, I played that every day for the first year of the business, just to kind of disassociate from my previous career and start the new one off with a bang.
Tim Leman: That's really cool. That's your Dwight Schrute moment in your Camaro?
Ryan Hasbrook: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Tim Leman: Awesome, man. Ryan, it was great having you on the show today. Your work ethic and high level of energy is by far your edge. Developing a culture of grinding, determined and fun individuals has bode well for your team. Keep up the success. Thank you for tuning in today. I'm Tim Leman, and remember to own your edge. Subscribe to The Edge Podcast on Apple, Google and Spotify.
Ryan Hasbrook and his team built a company from scratch out of a basement in Broad Ripple Village. This district of Indianapolis is infused with culture and family. These are two values the team at Eight Eleven Group wanted to insure would define them through the years. Ryan talks with Tim about creating luck and how to keep a culture.