Will Bachman 00:02
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman and I’m here today with john Jeff Kok, who is the Chief Executive Officer of winmark. And I’m going to let john, tell us about how he explains what Widmark is. JOHN, welcome to the show. Great to be here with you today. Well, so john, why don’t you give a quick overview for our listeners of how you how you describe Widmark?
John Jeffcock 00:32
Okay. We run a portfolio of C suite networks, we run everything from CEOs to CFOs, chro, CEOs, etc, we run at 1416 of them on you operate in about 1416 cities. The speed of that and the way we see as your chief something officer, so the X is your, like, we all sort of technical background, we don’t really do that we expect the lawyers and the law, they the finest writers don’t know how to counsel, that kind of thing. The we might we, we focus more on the CEO. And for us, the C is focusing on running the department or function. And the O is about adding value across the organization. So it says so as we fix on really management and leadership and how that piece works. And we organize ourselves by both functional groups. But we also see because we find most of our, if you take the C suite, most, I think there are about 45 cc roles, you need to take D there’s did there’s digital data, diversity for insects, etc. So they’re about they’re about 45 of them. Only five star forces sit on the exact, exact team. So they’ve got about nine each reporting to them. So easy. Everyone has been achieved. multidiscipline officer really, and so so we, we put, we put them into the road network, but we also plugged them into the C suite. Generally, we have an open platform. So the CFOs can see what the CMOS are doing. And the CH eyes can see what the CIO is doing. So it’s an open platform. People can communicate, share ideas, and I guess our role is to is to challenge and inspire and help people look at things in new ways. That kind of thing. Okay, and to share practical insights. Yeah.
Will Bachman 02:07
So you have you conduct some research, but the primary thing you do is you run these, I don’t know if I call them networking groups or groups where, say, a chief legal officer or chief marketing officer can connect with peers and have discussions. So tell me about you know, for one of those groups, is it mostly going to talks? That’s one too many? Or is it more about creating opportunities for members to connect with one another? What what what are the if I’m a member, what am I experiencing as part of one module? Okay,
John Jeffcock 02:45
so we are really a knowledge and collections business. And so it gives you all the connection inside of the bigger example. So we had a telco recently joining in Europe, and they operate in nine cities. And we, and what’s what we did with them is she, she joined, she had an issue, she had three issues. One was she she was managing the engine office, and she was having problems with that culturally. And so we introduced her to two non execs, who’s sit on the board of Indian companies, as we’re helping her suppose in that process. She responsible for LGBT q plus across the world across organizations. So what’s what we actually wanted to run separate programs in all those cities, but some of them weren’t big enough to justify that. So we introduced her to the heads of diversity at Capital One and HSBC. And she then ring joint programs with every couple of cities. Normally other issues was compsci framework, she was interested in really looking at how her skills based on the function was. And so she said, which was interested in being that we have any members have got examples. So we started she we set an example from Vodafone, which is big footsie 100. Company UK, so it’s when there’s one joins, we try to do as a meeting via like that. And that really, we have this meeting program, and we’re very well we we can’t compete with the IBM’s and the delights and other worlds. So where they go in depth, we go in breadth, which is quite unique. So we look at how you interface with other parts of the company, how you and where you can add value, and how that whole piece of the C suite level shirt should work. And we will not we will not have meetings. So our aim is to get the people to to to actually tell their stories. So it’s very much a case study driven exercise, that most of that the last time I went to it was on tech governance. We had enough we had Volvo financial services who were actually a bank, not a car company. And they’re based in Delaware. And so it’s we had the lead from Delaware, talking there. And then we had we’ve been chaired by a former CEO of Barclays, who’s actually in Kenya. And then he has a satellite company, actually UK company but they are based in France, all sharing on how they did that thing. So it’s become a sort of a global sharing forum of how to dress management issues and I guess if you’re in a good consultancy, you love what we do, because in a way we prepared the buyers to, to approach in a more intelligent way because they’ve got they’ve got the through their heads, what they’re trying to achieve and how they think it’s gonna work. Right?
Will Bachman 05:17
Now pre COVID were you primarily doing in person events? Or have you been doing kind of virtual online events for a long time as well?
John Jeffcock 05:28
good points. Based on memes are 40 plus an age I probably shouldn’t say that, but they are. And and
Will Bachman 05:35
nothing wrong with that age group. I’m not I’m, I’m well, I’m well into that age group. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that.
John Jeffcock 05:43
Likewise, and and I think most of us have experiences zoomin zoom or team before, to be quite honest. So So we, we say so yes, we were initially in London and Manchester. We had a fledgling businesses in Amsterdam, Dublin. But but in way COVID-19 was quite brutal to us in one way, because we definitely lost members through it. The but at the same time, it it enabled us to globalize, what we do very quickly. And so we’ve really gone from, you know, in a year is we’ve changed enormously, and we’ve removed the face facing to a global FCC platform. And it’s quite fun, we can hop around with that kind of thing, you can look at different countries doing good aspects on it. So so it’s worked, it’s worked well. Nothing I didn’t expect, is because we’re not face to face, the people who could make stuff physically and are turning up and seeing when we might have people who do which is 100 mile journey, and because they now can attend and that included, and that had a big impact on the diversity so that the school run was less of an issue that makes sense, I think weird thing to say, but it’s actually improved the diversity of the attendance, as well. And also, we used to do stuff, all our stuff was in very small boardrooms, you know, the back America and all these really posh places. And I think some people just didn’t really feel that that they naturally fit into that space. And I think what was quite shocking is, therefore a new group of people were more open to being involved. And that new group is, is the future. So that’s really important to us.
Will Bachman 07:15
Okay. So the benefits that members received from signing up would be connections with other peers, in a sort of curated environment, as well as you know, being able to access so you get to get curated connections, so they can come to you, or come to your team and get like a sort of a curated introduction, like oh, talk to the head of diversity at Barclays or something. But then they can also make these more serendipitous connections at your events with with sort of peers from other companies and sharing lessons learned.
John Jeffcock 07:55
Precisely, yeah. We have a content program behind that. So so as we generate content with a bit of the answer, we try and map all CCE functions, and then look at how the interface that makes sense. So So, you know, we have our, our tax rate degree complaint about our HR group, because because because they don’t understand the tax implications of our lack of labor mobility, for example. So as we try and move out all those joints as well, it’s it’s quite, it’s quite a fun, I think he, I think a lot of them become friends eventually, eventually. Now, if I had a, had an email this morning from a ex McKinsey guy, who is his member bar. He’s member of a non executive who he works for Jewish charity. And he was looking for a fellow trustee. And he remember he met someone who was an anon as a group five years ago. And then he asked for the name. So there’s all sorts of sort of social sort of semi social things happen as well. But
Will Bachman 08:50
what have you learned during COVID, about how to make a virtual event successful, one of the things that I’ve seen is that it’s fantastic at to your point about making it more accessible to a lot of people because you don’t have to drive for an hour and park and go inside and wait around and start and then drive home. So what would have been a three hour commitment becomes just a 45 minute commitment. But the other hand, I found that it’s very difficult with zoom, or to allow those sort of serendipitous one on one connections and that kind of informal networking, cocktail hour type stuff. And since that’s such a big part of your value proposition, how have you kind of enabled that for your members?
John Jeffcock 09:40
It’s no, it’s very good question. We’ve done a couple of things, actually. One of which is we’ve asked so No, no, normally, we have your presenting case studies and doing the very sort of matter of fact way that science we’re now asking people to be to be to also talk and talk about How’s their emotional journey in that, and so it’s where we’re trying to make the speakers more personal, that that makes sense. And that’s one of the impacts. So that changes the conversation, we’ll also be the chairs to very much, bring the people on the zoom call into the conversation. So So rather than hiding behind that, that sort of chat column, if that makes sense there that has brought into the group. So we so we do that we did we do we do, we put we do put them to small rooms. And that helps a lot. So putting these rooms are sort of four, four or five within Sharla getting get to meet each other. And that works, that works well. And the other thing we do at the end of every meeting, now we have a sort of no cooldown period, but we have a sort of period about 15 minutes where we say the meeting now formally closed, but we’ve now got the coffee rooms open. And so you want to hang around, you’re very welcome to, to chat and ask anybody here any question or answering a question or just share thoughts? So it’s been it’s been nice rain? Really?
Will Bachman 10:54
What are some of the big trends that you’ve seen? Maybe you could pick any of the different C suite groups? I’d be curious to know, what are some of the big topics of discussion? widely. There are so many of them. It’s almost almost a sort of where to start? Well, I have one, maybe I’ll ask maybe I’ll start with one. I’ve seen a lot of interest of companies now trying to figure out the future of work. As you know, it was sort of the work from home was imposed upon companies. But now, you know, when at least the return to work or return to the office is now at least, maybe not immediate. But insight, companies are trying to figure out, do we require everybody to come back to work just like before? Or is it hybrid? Or do they do what they want? Or do we recruit talent from anywhere in the world now, and they can work from home? And so I’m seeing a lot of companies struggle with that discussion. I’m curious what you’ve seen.
John Jeffcock 11:58
It’s a good it’s a it’s a it’s, it’s, it’s not resolved yet, I think we’re starting to get so I was prior to all this, I was quite a sort of come to work personal experience. I never went home my life. So so I’m bad. But but but now I’m in complete convert, because also you get so much done. If not not having that journey to workpiece. It’s much more than what we’re generally picking up is people are sitting in philosophy first and then a policy that makes sense for their time if they’re trying to sit back and saying, right, would it be fun maybe trying to achieve here, and then and then the policies that should fall out of that. They’re they’re also doing trial periods. It depends a lot, a lot of what you do as an organization, it’s very easy to work from home, if you’re a law firm, it’s very hard if you’re pret, for example, or a sandwich shop, so it doesn’t matter hugely impact, obviously, what you do, and there’s also there’s a divide there, you can’t get any of you’ve got a manufacturing organization or something which is consumer facing, you get the office lot can all work from home, but we can’t that’s not for me. So you manage the thing quite carefully. We certainly since a lot data recruited people I’ve ever met, and the CEO face to face. We generally pick up his people are going to do a trial period about three months. And we generally pick up people looking at two three days a week. Martin magazine is actually old enough we we had an executive meeting about this this week, is I don’t want to create science silos in the company, what you can do is if it’s the team’s meeting as teams, then they don’t have that cross bit with the other teams. That makes sense. And so a little bit concerned that that might might more subtly the company that makes it so that could occur. But but generally speaking, we’re looking at most service organizations are looking at two, three days a week in the office. On the flip side, that is very different in different countries. So we know in Hong Kong, most of the offices, a lot of people’s flats. And so in so people want to get to the office, and also has it’s your free space it is in your office, not at your home. So let’s see if cultural and different city impacts. I also think there’s everyone’s identifying is that there’s a huge age thing going on here as well. If you’re showing a flat flat, you’re evil 2425 kind of thing. It’s a very different world to be married with kids and a house somewhere kind of thing. So so the younger groups are changing. Suddenly what we’ve done in the office is we collapse a third of our desking. And we’ve tied it into sort of a we work area, you know, put in a bit when not beanbags, yet sofas, but on that sort of journey. And so it’s more of a hub in place to meet than it is to a formal office sometimes, but I think the whole has changed and I think a quite positive way.
Will Bachman 14:50
Yeah. You have you preside over a group that is really all about building connections. What are some of the tips that you Have two for executives on how to use a group like yours effectively. So how do you make effective connections and get the most out of something like like that?
John Jeffcock 15:14
Yeah, really good point. Um, the way we went with the way we recommend it to, to members is you start to think about what you’re trying to achieve fundamentally. So it says, So, what are you trying to achieve as an individual and as a team or an organization. And when you do that, there are things that fall out of that, that there are things like, I need to know this or I need to be connected to these type these types of people. So it is, it is definitely worth doing. It was quite interesting. We had a very large we actually, it was another telco company, by coincidence who joined and the group Lee thought, this will be great for my team, but they weren’t really happy. I remember the first meeting he came to he met a representative from UAE sovereign wealth fund, you actually said your company for sale. Were a billion plus dollar company. And I’ve never been asked, I’ve never brought a lead into the company before in my role. So I went straight back into CEOs has come with a bias. Mercia went, Wow, how do you how do you get in touch with them? So and then he was invited by the Belgium embassy to another meeting. So it’s, it’s not always what you expect. And I think people join and stay for different reasons. Anyway, they joined for, for quite the reason that sometimes they what they get out of it is quite unique. And a really good one we had in our care, we had a CEO talking about ob locks in Shanghai, and what you do in the challenges and that kind of stuff. And then we had another guy said, You came at the meeting said, Well, if that guy can me Shanghai, I can do this. It’s really easy. So it does get competent as well, that same system, so it does work. Yeah, sorry.
Will Bachman 16:54
and to what degree do our How do you navigate, I suppose it might be a somewhat sensitive area, is that I would assume that people’s like, employers are typically paying for their membership fees, right, because they’re expecting that the the person is getting value for the company, right? There’s also some possibility that in an organization like this, you might be, you know, using it to find people to bring into your company, you know, so if you’re, if you’re short, a chief marketing officer, you might be looking around that Chief Marketing Officer group to hire someone, or, or, you know, some people might also be kind of looking at it for a new job at the same time. They’re, they’re participating, how do you kind of navigate that whole terrain?
John Jeffcock 17:42
It’s a good one we. So the member, as you might say, is owned by the corporate, not the individual. So the individual move moves on the motion, it remains with corporate acceptance, but we have a look off the package but for inbetweeners, which is a sort of set set separate question. The question is, so any we definitely get members who are so if you go to too big audit firms like KPMG and Deloitte to PVC, their their their partner exit programs about five years, so you get people coming in to to the group who’s starting consider what we’re going to do next. So I’ve got the CEO of a large us financial institution, who he who is who’s who’s been there for sort of 1516 years he’s starting to think about what do I do next? But it’s not an urgent thing it’s about three three years. We do we do if you search inductions people like that, and that kind of thing. But I haven’t so I had a concern exactly like that I thought was a corporate if he had if he had a such company as a partner for it, you know, like a Xander or core very kind of Ohio character. Would they use it to poach people out and that’s not a tool what they use and then companies are quite quite mature about it on the holy time and and say that, you know, if, if, if the guy or gal was gonna leave, they were probably gonna leave anyway. And so it’s you can only encourage someone a certain amount so we don’t so they really feel threatened by by by from that perspective. halfhill picks out a bit Sunny, we had digital guy wants speak and I think for Bill offered him a job after he spoke. We’ve definitely had that God, but and definitely, deductions may but it’s been more exact to non exact roles. That makes sense. And more people saying, Can I have a conversation with you because we need someone like you? And they actually they might be there or someone else that so my guess is, you know, we’ve been around for 25 years as a first of April. So I’m sure we’d had several pages within the group. But if I look back, no one comes to mind. So I’m not sure what would have happened but we don’t constantly see it.
Will Bachman 19:45
Talk to me about your plans and aspirations for growth of winmark It seems you’re mostly focused on UK right now. Are you looking to grow geographically or to maybe grow vertically by adding other roles or How do you think about continuing to, you know, accomplish your mission?
John Jeffcock 20:05
Okay, so we so we run studies, it’s 16 networks. So I guess those will slowly increase over time to ram. So 24 ish, if that makes sense. The moment we operate in 14 cities that includes Atlanta and Las Vegas, bizarrely enough, and then we have meetups Vienna, Madrid, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai, raised about 40,000 titles. So our aim is over the top 200 cities in the world. Most of our members are multinational. So they operate internationally. Anyway. And I remember the chairman of a very large group, Tony writes me once and saying, saying, I love what you do, I think is really interesting. But I’m not interested in talking to you into directly integrating in these three countries. So we are creating that that global footprint. And that, you know, as I was emailing Lagos in Nigeria this morning. So I gave a talk remotely to Warsaw in Poland. So nine o’clock, so is a successor, it is coming truly international. And actually, to be honest, I’ve been waiting 2020 years and often times, like 20 years, you kind of know how to do it with your eyes closed. That makes sense. And actually, it makes my job more fun, I get to meet a lot of really interesting people. All over the world, I die in Atlanta is guy called Nate, who is the who is a professor of Operations Management at Georgia State University. He’s really, really good. He’s written two books on on how to be assisted clo. And he’s anyplace in the world. He’s written two books on ADSL, though, and he cares also Agrippa over there. So he gets some really interesting, and he has that brilliant American way of making everyone feel competence. You know, there’s a knack you guys have which I, which I aspire to be like.
Will Bachman 21:59
Wow, amazing. I didn’t realize that you’re so International. That’s, that’s incredible. What, what’s the what’s kind of the recruiting process? Like how do you go and approach new companies and explain the value proposition?
John Jeffcock 22:12
Yeah, our issue in new cities is we don’t know who’s good and who’s bad. A lot of people, what you’ll find is in cities, a lot of work for each other historically. And you’ve got some very liked people, lots of unlike people, that makes sense. So and what we’re very nervous about is seeking an unlikely person. Next, it will be picking up on that person to be chair somewhere, and you can get in all sorts of trouble. So we, the Foreign Office have a rule that they always have three reference points. So we have a minimum of three, three reference points. So we typically what we do is we if let’s say we’re playing two opening in our CFO group in New York, for example, we will find, say five CFOs. in it. in York, we’ll ask them who they recommend as a search company, if they can search company, so we then externally then go to executive search company, and ask them who they’d recommend or that are the best sis or the best CFOs in the area. What we’re doing that was quite thing is we’re checking which such count which companies are good. And that’s really useful to us as we know who to ally with because our first meetings need to be populated, so we got to get out of the search committee to help us do that. And also, the search terms of view usually been been around for a long time, and and they have a very clear model of who’s gonna who’s bad who and who to watch. The only other dilemma we often have with we hadn’t televi, for example, was do you want to go for a someone ending their career who everybody knows? And everyone knows everybody? Or do you want to go through the fall the leading edge of the next generation. So when we had that interview, we had a older guy and young woman and we decided in that case to go there, too, with the with the young woman is a is captured, he also wants someone who who’s known because because in a way that gives you confidence in the city. And we’re also very, very keen to have a local people. So in Mumbai, it’s an Indian person, not an American in Mumbai, that makes sense. So we’re very keen on that, because we’re going to have that I think it gives it a different element.
Will Bachman 24:14
How do you decide on the topics for all the content and I think I saw somewhere your site, you produce some incredible number of hours of content every year? I think it was like 10,000 hours of content per year, or some very large number. How do you decide, you know, what the content? Is it by just intuition, or do you survey members of what they want to talk about? Or what? Talk to me about the content program?
John Jeffcock 24:40
So it’s, so it’s what we do, what I’ve generally found in life is if you if you have 100 members, you will have a smaller group of say, say five to 10, who really are the sort of thought leader in a group that makes sense, and so we get detail together and tie them into an advisory panel. For for, for the network and me survey the whole network. We ask them what their upcoming issues are and opportunities and challenges and all that kind of stuff. And they tell us and then we put a draft program for the end. And then we take that to that smaller group and say, this one member said, This is what we built, what do you think, and they can turn around and say, you know, and what we’ll do is we’ll go to them with a long list. Since immediately, at the very earliest part of meeting, we will agree what’s definitely in and was definitely out, if that makes sense. So, so tibia says, bottom four on top three or four kind of thing. And then we debate the others. And quite often the angles of those might change, because you might have someone saying, this is an issue for me, we might have a more senior people go, they should know that already. And that’s not of interest that is above. And I love that with Ge Ge talking to members of the CA group, and it was in about 2010. And, and one of our CEOs asked the question, and he said, Yeah, I think we dealt with it at 440 years ago. But you do have that you get some companies like GE who were managerially, very advanced. And actually, we need to have the G’s and the Googles indigenization. Because they will be, they will be they will be measuring much more sophisticated, among other other groups. So we do, we can point me as a group, so it’s really the, the agenda is mostly LED. We do occasionally we have no political agenda, but we will occasionally run themes across the networks. An obvious one we were running prior to Black Lives Matter was obviously around diversity. We’ve done a lot of mental health recently and remote team that clinics also we will run soft cross group, it’s not whether it’s not with a political agenda of any kind.
Will Bachman 26:53
Okay. And I imagine that you are aware of lots of opportunities of what companies are struggling with. There could be a world in which you would help connect your members to the right, accounting firm or consulting firm or legal firm or PR firm or her marketing firm? Do you get into that of making introductions to professional services firms? Or have you decided just to kind of stay clear of that?
John Jeffcock 27:27
Yeah, we have. We have what we call tech technical partners to solve on networks. So if I’m putting in our, you know, HR director group, or chro group, we will have an employment law firm. Because it’s very important when the actual doctors are saying something, they they they might default to the law, say you’re the law is it’s okay to do it this way. So we might we might we call technical partners we work. I think we’ve got 4050 partners we work with, so it’s quite quite a lot of very well established. Big, big and small professional services as well, because what we’re after is we can take we can take what part is because it’s not sponsored, it’s more, what value do you bring to the table? And if you can’t answer the question, or or, or bring value to the room, you’re not really welcome to such so we do work with them. We do. We do refer we members to a lot of referrals. So I was talking to our the chair of our chief availability officer network in Hong Kong yesterday, who works for s Watson. And he was and so if someone was moving to Hong Kong and want to know which audit firm to use, or which law firm to use to help them to help them set up, we would typically refer them to that individual to recommend someone locally. And we find that peer to peer regulation is is quite powerful. We do a lot. The other thing we do is we have a lot of members who who will see get made redundant or change roles restructure or they get acquired that kind of thing. So it’s all members for for latter roles, we maintain exact search list. So if you’re part of our finance and finance folks, we can even come in and we’ll we’ll have a list of the top seller finance partners and search companies will just email you so if you can connect with a breakaway, so we maintain a few lists, retain them. We used to have a consultancy list. But it’s very hard to maintain quality within that group. So we ended up having a long list because our members
John Jeffcock 29:32
the members became consultants. And as you can imagine the video group CFO or HR director, they joined consultancies. Yeah. And then they said, Can we select members as we indicate this list? Then? a really good point, we had a very senior former CEO of a global partnership. Turn man said Well, now this person’s on the desk and everything will be like, I don’t want to be on it anymore. That was a that was a wake up call. Is it? It was almost impossible. We couldn’t say no, come join the list. That makes sense. Because we were, we get run through this. And we also was quite hard to judge quality and group. So we ended up just tagging a catalyst. So we have always having four relationships and they have formed relationships, you know, keep across network is just pointing with us tech company, for example. So so and that’s a formulation where we properly embed them into the group. The Yeah, and we, we also bring people in for for specific things. And that’s, and that’s quite a thing that I think it’s quite, you know, people at this level are quite, quite mature in their careers and as human beings and what we tend to find out when we had a big audit firm partnering our non non executive completely because of the audit opportunity, obviously, and, and we found out that the top parts of the world and doing a certain thing, we’re actually setting KPMG, who were a competitor, and I know, which which is, which is something and so I saw so I saw a member say that we’d like to hear from from from Patrick KPMG, not at the partner by Okay, I run that past them. And so I did and and they were you know what, your members are entirely right, the best person and while doing this is a guy KPMG. And we’re very happy to speak because we’ll learn from him as well. So there is a there is maturity within the group that makes sense. They don’t really see themselves as competing, they’re at the, they’re at the sort of top of their careers in many ways. So, so they’re quite happy to be to be sharing a bit more relaxed that way.
Will Bachman 31:29
Yeah. I love that story of that. That’s what a great story is sort of the sense of collegiality among true professionals that aren’t that aren’t embarrassed to have someone else come in, you know, and talk. That’s great. That’s great. Yeah. So So, john, if people want to learn more about winmark, where would you point them?
John Jeffcock 31:55
Obviously, we have a website, there is an American Chemical court called we mock as well, which is a franchise is franchising business. So we are way more global.com. You can go to that. Or you can find me on LinkedIn. Jeff caulk is quite an unusual name, I get called Jeff every other day. So, so I think I’m very easy to find on LinkedIn and and ping me an email. I’m always happy to chat.
Will Bachman 32:18
Great. Well include include those links in the show notes, john, so thanks so much for coming to the show. This is really interesting hearing about the network that you’ve built. Okay. Thanks a lot.