Anne B 0:15
Welcome to unexpected journey and this week we have John Reardon. John is the chairman of grow remote he is based out of Cork, Ireland. He’s recently retired as the director of support for Shopify, and has served as the chairman of Shopify International. Now, John has spent a lot of his career in contact centers. And there aren’t too many people in the world that can say that they worked in remote prior to 2001, or prior to 2022. And he, you know, I’m one of those people, he can’t go back as far as I, I have, I was in the 90s. But he’s back as far as 2001. John is one of those rare individuals. And really not surprisingly, John is actually often referred to as the godfather of remote. So it’s kind of funny when that happens, but with a career that has gone to as many countries and industries as John can, and, and he does talk quite candidly, sometimes, and sometimes a little colourful, to be honest, he can get a little spicy. So apologies in advance to anyone who is easily offended. But you’re likely to hear some pretty candid and direct opinions from John, which is one of the reasons many of us love him. So without further ado, Mr. John Reardon, everybody.

John Riordan 1:44
Thanks for having me on. Thanks.

Anne B 1:47
Thanks for being on the show. We, it’s it’s great to have you we’ve known each other a long time. And one of the things that I want to point out is, it’s actually Reardon. Correct? You corrected me on that? Yeah, people say it wrong.

John Riordan 2:03
Yeah, it gets butchered by quite a lot of people. But easiest way to remember it is put ease in the place where all the vowels are so pronounced, or E or D en.

Anne B 2:18
And we’re gonna go someplace else with that, so did it very nicely. So we’ve known each other for a long time, really, mainly through the remote work, industry, the remote work world. And when the pandemic hit, we would do a lot of a lot of things in the ad will really pay for the advertising work from home world, we free tickets, really what I think was really just ridiculous, we used things like bunny slippers to recruit people. I know that at one point, my company was sending out T shirts, to people with bunny slippers, and say, work from the comfort of your own home. It was just kind of what we did well before the pandemic hit, we would never do that now. Ever, like it’s just not heard of. So I’m really interested in your take on, you know, as a global workforce, how we’ve transit transitioned through the pandemic. And really, I know it hasn’t ended. But as we’re emerging on the other side of this, really wanting to go back to face to face,

John Riordan 3:38
what I’m going to break it out into I’m going to call it 320 year periods. The first is an actual 20 year period, which is 2000 to 2020. The next is a two year period where we saw 20 years worth of growth, which is 2020 to 2022. And then the third one is an unknown, the unknown of the future. So if you look back to that first period that I’m talking about, let’s call it the on the turn of the century 2000 To 2000 to 2020. And you look at the evolution of work from home. It used to be called teleworking, which is a terrible, awful description. And it was typically a very niche thing. And it really got very little traction. When I first came across it we’ll come back and talk about that in a while was where it was being used as an opportunity to get folks who were out of the workforce, typically those who were disabled, to get people like that back into the working community in a way where they were. They were they were just able to be added to the workforce. And in the very early days, if you go back if you trace this in terms of the percentage of people who are actually working remote You’re talking about less than 1% of people were were working fully remote at this stage in the late 1990s, early 2000s. And it was really, really that niche. So where I got involved in it was we were looking for we’re looking to expand the workforce. And we came across a company that that had been dealing quite heavily with the with folks in, I’m going to refer to them as marginalized communities, those folks in particularly in the state of Florida who had moved there who still wanted to work, but really didn’t have that opportunity to do so. So that was the very early stages, but how that evolves, kind of from 2020 to 20. From 20, from the year 2000, to the year 2020, was, very quickly, companies that engaged with this workforce saw a couple of quantifiable and serious differences, they saw a difference in performance, as in the performance was as good, if not better than existing contact centers. And one of the reasons for that, in fact, the, amongst the reasons for it, were number one, the caliber of the individual, because you’re typically getting somebody who was more experienced, who had more work experience, and had more life experience, and was able to be calm and composed on the phone, which was a very important thing in the contact center space. Another aspect was the element of retention. Because if you’re bringing work into somebody’s home, the likelihood that there’s an alternative for them elsewhere back in those days was pretty slim. So once you had that person working for you, you almost had a moat around them. And they were essentially tied to you and you to them. But it was mutually beneficial. And the third element of it was job satisfaction. Many of these folks had been on the margins, and we’re now getting work essentially piped to them. And that was bringing a tremendous amount of job satisfaction, but wrap all of that up. And you still had a group of people who were so small, they were not making a dent on the greater workforce. Shortly afterwards, kind of in the kind of 2000 234 timeframe, there were four or five companies in the US that were that were leading the march on this new might some of the names people might remember there was a company called Willow CSN, which became arise virtual solutions, there was a company called Alpine access based in Colorado, it’s company called Live ops based in California. And all of them had different types of business models. And they worked with a variety of of mainstream companies, you know, your Disney’s your Carnival Cruise Line, Virgin Atlantic, at&t Home Depot, I mean, a lot of the major brands were using them. However, the crucial thing was that never got above about a four to four and a half percent penetration of the overall workforce. So really, that first 20 year period, didn’t really make an overall dent. And as late as like early 2020, let’s call it Jan, Feb, Just before the pandemic hit, you still couldn’t post a job on most recruitment websites, without stating without stating the actual office location. So that would indicate to me that this have yet to become mainstream. I’ll give you an example. I had joined Shopify at this stage, and Shopify customer support organization was 100% remote. Now it constituted about 35 to 40% of the overall workforce of the company, but that 35 to 40% were all remote. The rest of the company was all office based. So from my own perspective, I was the first person at Shopify at the director level, who was fully remote, and I was consistently being asked by people, oh, which office do you work at? And I mentioned to them I was remote, none of which are fussy. Are you aligned with this one here, so people weren’t getting it? So that was the first let’s call it the first year I was that 20 year period. And I

Anne B 9:22
remember it being like a huge thing. A few months into the pandemic when LinkedIn added the option to put remote or as an option when the job posting, because it had never been like, and it was kind of an aha moment of why had it never been there before.

John Riordan 9:43
But it took it took a lot of whining and complaining from a lot of people in the remote workspace to get that change to happen. Right now. We would look back and you’d almost laugh at it. But to think that it actually I mean they have to be pushed to do it. It wasn’t it wasn’t an automatic. So that was the first 20 year period, the next 20 year period was was was basically what happened in two years, we had this massive condensed period of ridiculous growth where the percentage of people working remote went from 5% to about 60 odd percent, just overnight. And actually, it was the worst possible scenario. You had a global pandemic, you had, you know, significant health issues all over the world. You had a massive amount of lockdown, you had some industries, who were just just on fire, and some industries that were burned to death. And it was just crazy. It was Helter Skelter, you had mad stories, like we’ve all heard the stories of of outsourcers in multiple third ones, in let’s call them non first world countries, where people were jumping on motorbikes with a monitor under one hand and a hard drive under the other and heading home to somewhere else other than the the, the their BPO. Site. You had situations where where vendors always fees, or BPOS, whatever acronym you want to use, or commandeering every taxi in a town and literally saying, we will take every taxi you have for the next two or three days, because we want to ship, the equipment that we have in the office to people’s homes, you had this massive, crazy, wild change. And let’s be really honest about it. We weren’t ready for it as a society, we weren’t ready for it as an industry, those of us who had been, you know, I suppose, like heretics been shouting about it from the rooftops for many years, we weren’t even ready for the, for the speed of the change that Rhodes was required. So

Anne B 11:49
to be honest, we weren’t ready for the pandemic because the pandemic wasn’t just work from home, it was a pandemic, it was a completely different situation. I talked to you several times over the pandemic, and both of us struggled. And we had worked from home for 20 years. And that was because we couldn’t leave the house. So and I remember you telling me when your son went to school, and you could hardly even get together, but you could get together and stay apart and walk. We as humans are not meant to do this,

John Riordan 12:26
oh, I remember situations where like, on a pretty wide sidewalk. We were out walking in kind of March, April, May 2020. And people would stand to the side by the wall. And you’d leave somebody like with literally, you know, a 10 yard, a 10 yard arc around you for fear, like in the open air that you were going to infect them. That’s how much it it kind of got to all of us. So in a situation like that, you know, you’re not dealing with normality. And the reason why it’s important to say that, I mean, I know people are saying that’s totally obvious. But we are not in normal times. So suddenly. So suddenly, we’re working in a very different way from home with jobs that many people have been doing in offices. Now they’re doing them from home. And while we were able to get it done, and a lot of companies have stayed open, because they were able to make that shift. But please don’t look at what’s happened over the last two years as the proper case study for remote work, because the proper long term sustainable method of working remotely from home is still evolving. Some companies are very good at it. Even the companies that are very good are really evolving at a pretty fast rate. And I would just say be patient, because there’s a lot more change coming. Now the pace of change is going to be different, and it’s going to be a lot more considered. One fascinating thing about this is the amount of technology patents that have been filed since April 2020 that refer to remote work should give all of us a cause to be tremendously optimistic about the future. There are a lot of things coming. And they’re not all from Mark Zuckerberg wearing Oculus glasses, which may well happen. Who knows? Who knows I don’t proceed in my, the rest of my working career. But I am I’m quite happy to be wrong, if it’s a better experience. But there’s a lot of change coming that I can guarantee you so the first 20 years, I’m going to refer to it as 2020 to 2020. The the the 20 up to 2020 the 2020s and that, then the last two years has been 20 years condensed. Now, now where are we? Okay, so what Are we doing right now. And the challenges are communication protocols, we still don’t know how to communicate, we still are working out how to do proper performance management. And we still have companies who think performance management is called is a byword for monitoring. And I would say anybody who’s out there who thinks that they should be monitoring their people, using the cameras and all that sort of stuff, you’re missing the whole point, because the thing that underpins everything that we’re doing is the most important word in business, which was oft forgotten in the live or in the real world. And that’s the word Trust,

Anne B 15:36
I was about to say it’s trust, isn’t it. And I would

John Riordan 15:39
always say to people, and, uh, you and I’ve had this conversation on many occasions, you got to think of the day when you sit when you sat opposite somebody, and you were giving them a job offer. And at that moment, before you handed over the job offer, you’re going, I really trust this individual, I trust them so much that I’m going to hire them. What typically happened in companies was that the mistrust started, the minute the ink was dry on the thing, because it’s like, now I’m going to tell you what you need to do. And I’m going to tell you how to do it. And I’m going to tell you how, how high to jump, we need to get back to the days of trust. And I think the last two years has enabled more enlightened leaders to actually be to be less of a command and control type leader and more of a trusting leader. So it’s that level of acceptance. Now, there’s another aspect to all of this, which is the, you know, the mental health and the burnout. And I get a little bit triggered in this one, I hear people blame remote work as the issue. For God’s sake, we went through a pandemic, you know, for crying out loud, it was, I mean, that impacted all of us. And the social mores that existed during the pandemic, is what challenged a lot of us from a mental health perspective, remote work didn’t help. Okay, but I don’t, I don’t think helps. And it wasn’t the cause. It wasn’t the cause. In fact, in many, in many cases, cases, remote work was part of the solution, because it enabled you to be pretty deeply occupied for you know, anywhere from seven to 10 hours a day. But ultimately, it boils down to trust. And I think the the, the, what comes out of that two year period, is, to me a battle of data versus opinions. And I also refer to that as a battle between vested interests, and neutrals. I’ll give you an example. Office space corporate real estate, if you look at anything that’s out there, now talking about corporate real estate, I’d ask you to have a look at who is either citing the opinion or the research, I go and have a look to see who’s actually sponsoring the information. And if you see it’s coming from somebody who’s got significant interest in the real estate business, or as a real estate broker, or is sitting on a, you know, a variety of leases that have many years to run, and they’re costing them a couple of million bucks. That opinion is to me is somebody who has a lot of skin in the game. And as a as a I’m going to refer to it as a vested interest. What I am far more likely to lean into are people who are more academic in nature and more neutral in nature, and who are willing to prevent present the data rather than presenting an opinion and then trying to look for data, and bits of data to attach to the opinion to make the opinion look good.

Anne B 18:45
I agree with that. What I’m interested in, though, is with regard to all of this commercial space. I don’t know if you saw it, but recently there was an article about a group of people they were they were millennials, they of course, the article spotted that out, I don’t know why being a millennial was important in this specific article. But they found an old school, paid $100,000 for this school, and turn the school into I think 35 apartments and then started renting those apartments out, which was brilliant. It was a huge return on investment. And that is I’m wondering, why aren’t we doing that with some of these commercial real estate properties that are now sitting empty for one to three years? Why aren’t we because there’s a huge homelessness issue. When especially in America,

John Riordan 19:37
there’s a homelessness issue in many parts of Europe as well. And there’s a massive amount of migration in Europe that is both economic migration and shaped by wars. So there’s there’s a huge amount of flux, but I’m going to I’m going to chastise you here and apologies and all of this Okay, in the same way You and I would recoil when we hear real estate folks telling us how to do remote work. Here we are as a bunch of remote where

Anne B 20:07
we’re talking about one thing,

John Riordan 20:12
however, I completely agree with you, in that, you know, there is going to be fallout from the push towards more remote work. And what I would love to see is far more enlightenment as to how we use space, because office space, I mean, look like this has caused a really serious conversation about the four day workweek. Okay, yeah, in many cases, and if you look at some of the some of the key research, and it were really gone down to about a two and a half day work week in a lot of industries, as in two and a half days in the office, and two and a half days at home. So keep in mind, let’s do some mathematics here for a second, 168 hours a week, a typical office building would be open five days a week, and let’s say let’s just be nice and say 1112 hours a day. Okay, so I’m six. So let’s say it’s open 60 hours a week, I’d have 168. Okay, that is, you know, a little bit shy. Every time a 35%, approximately, of the time the office is open, so 65% of time, the opposite is empty, empty. Okay, so nothing is happening in that for that 65%. So you as the CFO are signing a check every month for something that’s empty and not providing any value 65% of the time, oh, now, it’s now even less valuable, because people are only in half of that time of the of the 35%. They’re only 17% of the time. So now you have an asset, where you’re basically wasting it 83% of the time. Now, when you do the simple math on that, at some stage, there’s going to be an enormous wakeup on the use of space, what’s going to happen with all of this, there’s going to be to the exact point you lead into, there’s going to be a significant change in the use of space, we all see it in in our worlds where the most important thing when you have a distributed workforce, or the intentional times that you bring people together now that those intentional times require space. And so in many cases, companies will turn wood, they will take their space, they’ll probably condense it down into a more meaningful size. And then they will use that space to almost be like a permanent offsite space. So really, I mean, one of the things that we regularly talk about is the old school off site has now become an onsite because the the actual office almost no longer exists. So the the old school office has become the off site location. And that’s really interesting.

Anne B 23:02
No, it really is. And I’ve talked to two companies this week one who is having exactly the experience that you just mentioned, their their headquarters, they’ve realized is now too large. So they are looking to downsize. So they’re moving to a much smaller location. They just don’t need that much space. And to another one who’s doing exactly that with regard to on site, they have they are moving to a smaller location, only a few people are coming into the office regularly. However, their future off sites will be on sites and they have hot desks for people that want to come in. And it has like a pool table coffee area, places for people to just come in and relax when they want to. When people come into town things along those lines, very much that code Cohasset it’s not a cohabitation, but a place to co locate and for to hang out together.

John Riordan 24:01
What you’re bringing us into the discussion about the next phase really, which is let’s call the future. So I talked about that first 20 year period. And then I talked about the 20 year period that happened in two years. Now let’s talk about the future. So you had people’s response to all this massive amount of change was terms like quiet quitting and all that kind of stuff? Well, look, that’s always existed, I you know, those with a bit more of a Unionist ik trait would refer to that as a work to rule which is I’m only going to do the minimum amount of work. So what suddenly that was being brought into, let’s call it the, the professional kind of information worker lexicon. So that’s always existed, but now it’s at it’s happening at a different level. Another one is this whole or to return to office and what that actually means. And one thing to be very clear, no amount of ice cream trucks and no I’m bout of bull BS coffee machines is going to cause people to actually get back in their cars and commute 45 minutes a day in gnarly traffic or more just because the man or the woman said so. It’s just no can’t remember

Anne B 25:19
the last time I heard the word gnarly, John. Yep.

John Riordan 25:25
I mean, what are the classic manifestations of rank stupidity?

Anne B 25:31
That’s like heinous, I mean, gnarly and heinous. It’s been like a good 25 years since I’ve heard either of those

John Riordan 25:37
things, your time talking about gnarly and heinous or, and one of the classic manifestations of rank stupidity. Deep was the the the the the bleeding and rubbish that came out of Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, at some stage during all of this, and he, he begged people in the city of London, to, for God’s sake, get back on the tube in London and go back into the office. So that, you know, we want to make sure that the sandwich makers, and those people providing the lunches don’t have to close down. And you sit back and you go hang on a second. Is this clown? In actually expecting me to put my because at the time, there were no vaccinations and there were no mask mandate? Does that guy? Is he actually asking me to risk my life. So that a sandwich making business which let’s talk in terms of the whole commerce thing, that is a small peripheral element of the whole of the business world, okay, that all the businesses go back to protect this, this one or 2% piece of it? No, it doesn’t work like that. It really doesn’t. So we get people doing doing stuff for all the wrong reasons. Now, one of the wonderful things about that is he got pilloried for it as he should have. But that was the type of things that these were the type of things that that people were talking about. So I’ll go back to the real estate market for a second. There have been some very interesting things in the real estate market in the last couple of weeks. You’ve seen companies like Facebook, or refuse to refer to as meta meta, but you know, Facebook, in many, many countries and cities around the world are actually walking away from occupied, they have long term leases, but they’re subletting a lot of the space. What does that say? It’s not up to me, it’s not up to me, to to articulate. To me it mean, to me it is the canary in the coal mine. This is the Canary has fallen over and dropped dead. Nobody’s actually realized that yet. But it’ll take and it’ll take a while for for the knock on impact, to be felt by a lot of other people. But, you know, if I had any spare cash right now, I wouldn’t be putting it into what we will refer to as old school, mainstream, commercial real estate, real estate will change. And the application, as we said a while ago, the application and the type of real estate will change. And all of that grade A and Grade B, real estate will always be beneficial. Because the companies that do want an element of going back and do want that new type of space will actually go for the expensive, nice space, what’s going to happen is the C and D and E rated space, the pretty crappy space is actually going to be the ones where the opportunity is going to be for a lot of as you mentioned, people to go in and actually repurpose that space. Because there’s one massively interesting part about this. And there’s many there’s a lot of data available on this. But the the average expense of having an employee working in an office in a central business district, in in the first world is $20,000. So companies by virtue of actually issuing the need to have employees in an office are saving 20 grand per employee per year. Now, think of how much money companies have been putting out of that 20,000 People have been companies have been investing back into the employees in the last couple of years. And it’s less than so let’s say the last two just just take the last two, two years. Has each person who’s been working full time remote remotely. Have you felt that your company has actually trousered? That 40 grand? That average 40 grand or have you felt that that company has invested in your equipment? Is your lighting? Is the lighting for your video calls? Good? Is your camera good? Is your microphone good? Do you have two monitors? Do you have a standing desk? You take all of the things that I just mentioned there? And you could probably have A fabulous, fabulous homework setup for a drop in the bucket of the overall cost savings. Now I know people will say, Yeah, but you know, people are working in small apartments and whatever. Yeah, you can’t change that immediately. But over time, what’s going to happen, people aren’t going to move to a city to live in a shoebox, where they are not able to work from home, if they have a choice of actually having the same quality job somewhere else. And some of the great research has shown that the, the the people who are gravitating towards work from home faster, are actually city dwellers, and the larger the city, the more likely they are to work from home. So it’s kind of counterintuitive, right? You would expect that in the smaller towns and small and rural communities, people would assume the place of employment and stay at home, but no, it’s in the cities. And the primary reason is, it’s a rejection of the commute. Why would I get involved in that commute? When I don’t have to, if I live in a small town in the Midwest, and I can just jump in my car, and I can be in the office in 15 to 20 minutes, I can get, you know, I can get the equivalent of a kind of an immersive home working experience with a tiny, you know, with a with a an acceptable commute.

Anne B 31:29
And what just, you know, this is a pretty wild and crazy idea. But of that 20 grand per person, what if just a fraction of it was given back to the employees

on their, on their salary. And then the rest, like I mean, that’s just a wild idea,

John Riordan 31:55
okay, and I’m gonna give you an even wilder one, which I’m sure you’ll you’ll come back at me with as if you were doing that job in 2019 for that salary, he and you’re doing the job now and 2022 for the for, you know, roughly the same salary, same type of job, I don’t think you should be getting any extra money. Okay. And I, but I think the company should be investing, some of the savings should actually come back to you in terms of the equipment, so you have everything you need to do the job. Because remember, in a lot of cases, what we’ll get thrown back in bike by companies is hang on a second. If I was paying you San Francisco salary, and you’re now living, you’ve moved to Arizona, I want to downsize you to to an Arizona salary. And see I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree with that at all. Exactly. So I don’t, that’s why I don’t agree with opening the salary. And I really agree with that with bringing the salary down. That’s the point I’m trying to make. The salary is what the salary is. And over time, the market will dictate what the what the correct rate for that job is. I know that’s not a popular opinion. But you didn’t bring me on here for popular opinion.

Anne B 33:08
I didn’t bring you on here for popular opinions. I brought you on here because you’re spicy. That said, I do think that a lot of companies are not giving cost of living increases year over year, and that they should be given.

John Riordan 33:25
Oh, I there I completely agree with you. So Let’s rephrase the question of that approximate 20 grand and it’s different for different for all different companies, assuming that they’re able to the company is able to make the savings from a decrease in expenses. And many of them aren’t because they’re stuck with a lease. But over time they will write well I would look for is what are what is the company doing with that additional money? Are they investing it in my equipment? Are they investing it in the benefits that they’re providing? On my net? Do I now have for example? Are they affording me an allowance where I can go and work in a co working hub? When I need to? Are they providing? Are they requiring me to do a little bit more traveled so we’re doing 345 off sites during the year? Yes, that’s a that’s a big positive. Like in other words, we none of us want to see a situation where Scrooge is greedily shoving 20 grand into their back pocket. That’s not what we’re looking for. I want the ability for my work from home to be enhanced with the right equipment and with the right ability for me to collaborate when needed, and to collect when needed. And when I work for a company that pays me the current you know, a correct salary and isn’t trying to try to take money away from me because I’m now not living in a let’s call it a high cost city and I can see that they’re investing in me. I’m happy

Anne B 34:59
you Yeah, I agree. So John, I want to take a couple minutes and let people get to know John, like the real John. So we play this game called this or that. Have you ever played it before?

John Riordan 35:12
I actually haven’t. So I’m kind of nervous and nervous for two reasons. One, because it’s you asking the question, and two, because I haven’t played it.

Anne B 35:20
You should be nervous. I should. So essentially, I give you two words or two phrases, and you pick the one that resonates with you more, and then you tell me why. So I’ll try and be gentle though, John. So when the first one words, or actions,

John Riordan 35:41
words, why, and I say that as a negative for myself? I will agree with a lot of things. And I find that I probably execute 75% of what I actually say I’m going to execute, because I’m a little bit too agreeable. And I wish that I could actually say a little bit less an act a little bit more, and it’s something I look at every year. Can I be more? Can I can I talk less and act more? And 56 years in, I have not actually got the balance. Right. So to me, I’m saying words, to be honest. But I’m also showing a bit of vulnerability and a bit of negativity, because I don’t actually think that I deliver everything that I say that I think that I say I should do, and that I know I should do.

Anne B 36:37
Okay. All right. How about this is kind of along the same lines, but emails are conversations.

John Riordan 36:45
Oh, conversations? Really? Oh, yeah, absolutely. I I, one of the things I hate it, email was fantastic. And has had its day as a phenomenal tool. Absolutely. It’s had its day, I think that days of email as a primary tool is, is long gone. And a variety of asynchronous communication methodology or products, Slack being an example. I’m just going to genericized it by using the term slack. Okay, hope everybody understands that I’m not trying to offend anybody. But slack and slack like products are just a far better way for global distributed organizations to communicate asynchronously. Email became, in my opinion, became a weapon of it became a weapon in some companies. And what I and I’ve worked in one or two companies, where the classic comment was for something that didn’t get done was, but I see seed you in that email on back in back in September, which was the ultimate, that’s almost like a lawyer telling you that you didn’t read clause, you know, seven parts C and page 73 have a 200 page document. Right? It’s just, that’s not a convivial way to work. So for me, it’s more to do with the conversation, but a conversation. Um, what I’d like to get better at doing is a conversation with a summary afterwards, in writing. And to me, that’s where slack is fantastic. Or a slack like product is to have a conversation, and then summarize at the end. So what are the two or three things we agreed again? Yeah, put it in writing. And then actually, and then deliver it.

Anne B 38:42
So the conversation followed up by the words

John Riordan 38:46
out there you go, look at that.

Anne B 38:50
Actually, I can see that you pick in conversation that shouldn’t really surprise me. You’re very, very good with words and it that doesn’t surprise me at all. Okay, but the third one, the third question. This is the most important question. And this is going to tell everybody a lot about you. Go on. Are you ready? Start Star Wars or Star Trek?

John Riordan 39:18
Oh, you’re gonna hate my answer. You’re gonna hate my answer.

Anne B 39:22

John Riordan 39:23
Absolutely neither. I have. Like I what I mean, absolutely neither. I am one of a very, very small group of people I’d say that exist on this planet. That can actually say that they’ve never seen a Star Wars movie. I don’t think I don’t think I’ve ever sat through a Star Wars movie star to end. I don’t think I did. I definitely didn’t go to see it back in the 70s. And I don’t think it just something that never appealed to me never attracted me tracted I think I might have watched I probably watched plenty of episodes of Star Trek in the background. Be meals Gotti and all that kind of stuff years and years and years and years, but it never, it never resonated with me. And I was outside kicking the ball when everybody else was watching it. So I’m just complete. I’m a Am I actually a nerd or a non nerd? I don’t know.

Anne B 40:16
I don’t know, either. But I have to say it’s interesting. I had never seen a full episode of Star Wars until the last few years when my husband was like, I will watch this, if you will watch this.

John Riordan 40:31
That’s called blackmail. Yes.

Anne B 40:34
It’s also called marriage, John. Yes.

John Riordan 40:37
That’s, that’s, isn’t it? The same thing? Yeah, that’s what I’m going to just just to balance my nerdy pneus. And my weirdness. Do you know what series I’ve never put a series of movies? I’ve also never seen the godfather?

Anne B 40:58
No, that’s weird considering?

John Riordan 41:02
Exactly, exactly. When you said it earlier on. I thought, oh, yeah, I’ve actually and I keep saying, Oh, I’m gonna sit down and watch the godfather. I mean, I’ve seen clips of it and all that kind of stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever watched. In fact, I haven’t. I just know, we need to fix that. I know, I know. Okay, next time we talk, I will try to have remedied one of those two stains on my character.

Anne B 41:27
I think we just need to do like a Netflix show party are that you know, where you can watch it together, even though you’re not together? One of those things, and then we can completely, like badmouth what’s happening on the screen? Because we’re really good at that.

John Riordan 41:46
Yes, you are.

Anne B 41:49
Alright, right back to our questions. So one of the things that you and I are really passionate about is, and I think Ireland has really done a very good job about this recently is impact sourcing. So for our listeners that are not familiar with what impact sourcing is, it’s where you’re actually trying to source from nonprofits, or you’re trying to source from, you know, for marginalized groups, or from underrepresented groups of individuals. And you actually, when we were talking, you call it this community inclusion, and I loved that term. So I really like to hear some of how this is happening in Ireland, and how it could impact employee experience and, and customer experience.

John Riordan 42:35
Sure. So full disclosure, you mentioned it in the bio, I’m chairman of an organization called Grow remote. And the premise of grow remote is that it is a an organization that sets out to use remote work to enable people to, to live and to work wherever they wish. And for an the knock on impact thing for communities to become more sustainable, both socially and economically. But I want to go back a little bit a little bit for a second, you know, a greater focus on community is, is the key thing. And you know, I’m going to use, I’m going to go back and get even more old school and go back to a word that probably derives from a 15th century word is called the Commonwealth. And it’s a traditional English language term for a political community that’s founded for the common good. So the the, the actually the noun, Commonwealth, means public welfare, it means general good or advantage. And like I said, it goes back to, I think, the 15th century. And it comes from the old meaning of wealth, which is well being. And, you know, it has evolved over time to a variety of other different meanings. But really, it’s a case of bringing a level of commonality and a level of of wealth and well being to a community. So grow remote started in 2018. And just a group of people who were trying to work out what’s the best way to get good jobs to more remote places in Ireland. And what started off as just a kind of a WhatsApp group of people spitballing about how to do it became a very, very significant organization quickly. So what we try to do is, we want to be the glue. We want to be the connective tissue, that at the local level, binds people, it binds prospective employees who actually want to work remote, that it binds the employers who actually want to hire remote workers. And critically, it binds the communities who actually want to attract people To live there. Now, it shouldn’t really be viewed as, Hey, everybody, let’s leave the city and move to a small town. But for some people, that actually is what remote work is, like I referenced earlier on some of the great research that’s been done that showed that the the people who are more likely to avail of remote work are actually people who live in cities. The derivation of that resource is probably one of the most important bits of research, or bodies of research that’s done on the whole remote space. And it’s wfh And it’s the amalgamation of a variety of really high end academic pieces of research that are coordinated by a guy called Nick Blum and his team who bring all of the proper research and academic research together on work from home. And what they’ve, they’ve shown that really, that it’s not really that remote work is not working from a remote place, remote work is actually the required the the desire to be flexible in where you choose to work. So the hardest thing about remote work is that it’s kind of genericized as a word, when a lot of people think it’s I’m living in, you know, I’m living with Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber types in the remote, middle of nowhere. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about choosing the flexibility of working from where you want to work. Now, bring that back down to the whole community thing that you talked about. If if you are living in a smaller community, the impact of your job, particularly people in the let’s call in the knowledge space, the impact of your income in a smaller town is magnified, it’s amplified. The ones and the twos make a difference. When those ones and twos become fives and 10s, they make a material difference. And it’s the difference between the main street having buildings boarded up and not boarded up. And that’s the most incredibly important thing here is to make sure that communities have that level of vibrancy, I’ll never forget. And many moons ago, one of the cities I was in in North America that I visited when I was working there. That that stuck with me was was Vancouver, and Vancouver had this weird, there was kind of a weirdness about Vancouver, not not because it’s a weird place. It was a it because it’s a fantastic place. But the place was vibrant in the evening. And it was quiet during the day. When I asked around, you know, people were like, well, yeah, a lot of people tend to live here and work in the suburbs. And it was to me, that’s such, so much more of a beautiful way to live

Anne B 48:02
first, that’s reversed in a lot of areas.

John Riordan 48:05
Exactly. So like you look at Take Manhattan is a great example. I mean, it’s a you have to go through hell on earth with another, you know, eight to 10 million people, it to get in and out of Manhattan every single day. No wonder people are choosing not to do it when they don’t have to do that. I mean, imagine what it’s like in the was it 17 countries in China that are more than 10 million people. Right? It’s just crazy. So there is an aspect. That’s, that’s ready made. Now for us to put community back into community. And what that means is that we’re and what we should all be doing is making remote work much more of an acceptable phrase and expression. We should be talking in schools about not work as being an office and a place where you go to work as being a thing that you do. And it can be in a flexible area, because you want somebody in, you know, in small town, Arkansas, to be able to access the same level of job as somebody who’s living in a suburb of you know, living in in commutable suburb in New Jersey. And because once you do that, what you’re actually doing is you’re providing a democratization of work opportunity. That’s what’s needed. That will help communities grow

Anne B 49:39
a democratization of work opportunity. What a great phrase. I think I might use that somewhere. Please do. John, your name really means something in the call center industry in the outsourcing industry in the remote industry. You just have made your mark work and there are a lot of people that say or, or think, you know, they want to be like you because of what you have accomplished. What is your advice to them? When they’re out there thinking, Gosh, I, I want to take this trajectory I want to do what John has done?

John Riordan 50:17
Well, first of all, I’d say stop smoking, what you’re smoking? If that’s how you think. But anyway, no, I take Thank you very much. It’s a very, it’s a wonderful compliment. And I will accept it in the gracious manner in which it’s meant. Okay, I suppose the best way to answer that is to talk about the things that I do and that I try to do. The first one is, I try to be honest, and not sugarcoat things, which means just be a little bit raw. And, and I’m happy with, I’m happy with being raw. And in my opinions, and I’m happy with, with that. What it Takes Over time, not everybody’s gonna like you. And that’s okay. But there’s a really wonderful, soft, fluffy underbelly to it, which is that those who are really comfortable with it, and you with them, those relationships are massively rewarding. And I suppose it boils down to the quality of those relationships, rather than the quality of the art rather than the quantity of the inane relationships that you have, where you just, you’re just this, Mr. Vanilla. So you know, don’t be vanilla. Don’t be mean chocolate. I’d also say, and this one took me an awful long time to to really get my arms around was recognize people who you vehemently disagree with, and then lean into them. And try to get an understanding as to what their opinion is. Because in that way, you avoid the echo chambers, and apologies for bringing politics into it. But I look at the look to my east and to my west from Ireland, with with what’s happened with Brexit in the UK. And what’s happened in the last couple of years in the US. And what I’ve seen is actually, I’m going to refer to it as sort of a breakdown in democracy to a certain extent. And when you look at it, the way in which the the various media outlets have immediately decided to be red or blue, right or left, and there really isn’t an opportunity for you could actually walk into somebody’s house, I’m gonna use the US as an example, you could walk into somebody’s house. And by virtue of which News Channel, they turn on, you know exactly where you are, okay. And I would actually advocate, if you are read, listen to blue channels, and if you’re blue, listen to read, just so you get an understanding. And you’re leaning in to that point of view. Because it’s really, really crucially important, if you are constantly in the echo chamber, and only listening to people who parrot your own ideas, you are losing an awful lot of learning opportunities.

Anne B 53:33
I think that’s a really good point, not just from, from a political standpoint, but from a business standpoint. Oh, god, yeah. Because there are so many that surround themselves only with like thinkers, and by doing that are not expanded, the lack of diversity of thought, does not help us to improve or grow.

John Riordan 54:02
You know, without without, again, I don’t want to get political on this, because I try to be as apolitical as possible. But there are some really, I mean, some of the best places in the world to live. And this goes, you know, in any UN stats in terms of where people are really happy to live, they throw up the usual, the usual suspects of places where people are really happy tend to be and I’m going to, I’m going to be quite kind of generic in this are the Scandinavian countries and New Zealand always get get up there in those lists. And there are countries that have typically typically have had coalition governments where they’ve had to actually sit down and negotiate in advance, and they have multiple opinions at the table. And what I would say is, what can we learn from that? If happiness is from an understanding of a variety of different opinions and a series of really well structured compromises you If that is a far better outcome than choosing a binary, left, right, blue red type of option. So there’s a huge, I think there’s a huge learning from us and all of that. One other thing I’d say, and in terms of in terms of the amount of time you spend with people, so I make a very big effort to devote time to others, I refer to them as random coffees. And i Pardon the language in this, but I refer to myself quite clearly as an absolute coffee whore. Alright, I will meet anybody, the charge for discussion with me is a flat, white, pure and simple. All right, I mean, anybody for flat wise, virtually or in person, y’all heard it here, you heard. And within reason, I have no problem giving somebody 20 minutes half an hour to have a chat to bounce an idea off. Because guess what, I know that if I’m actually going to use my two years, and use them intelligently over the 20 to 30 minutes, I’m actually going to learn something that I didn’t learn that I didn’t know in the meeting. And I’ve learned some weird and wonderful stuff, from situations where I’d never have expected it from people I would never have interacted with. If I didn’t respond and say, Yeah, I’ll give you 2030 minutes. So that to me is a crucial thing is devote times devote time to others, and particularly other people you haven’t met yet. They’re not your friend yet. But give them a chance. They’re not your business acquaintance yet, but give them a chance. And maybe they have an opinion you haven’t heard yet. So give it a chance. And I’d say you know, the key thing there is don’t worry about possible red herrings, you’ll hear some of the most amazing sh one T that you’ve ever heard your whole lifetime. But guess what, it gives you a better opportunity to actually assess good stuff from bad stuff. Okay, so your BS detector is actually all you’re doing is you’re modifying and polishing your

Anne B 57:03
that detectors what you’re doing, there you

John Riordan 57:05
go. And then the last one is a very obvious one is always be networking, always be networking. But also don’t always network the way everybody else does. I give you one crazy example. And I’m kind of one of the things I love doing. I used to love doing when I went to conferences, was actually spending as much time in the let’s call it the exhibition the exhibitors area, and watching the internet, first of all, looking to see which people were going to which exhibits and the Congress and eavesdropping on conversations because you get a better sense as to the why people are there. Like, for example, I know why I’m there. And it’s almost, it’s more than likely going to be conferences where I would know some of the speakers and I’d have a fair idea of the content of the content, what I’m much more interested in is finding out why other people are there, and who else is selling stuff. So one of the first remote work conferences that I went to, once the pandemic restrictions were lifted, what what blew me away were the number of fractional insurance products that were out there, the number of people who are out there selling off site as a service there, basically you can go essentially buy and you can, you know, go to companies that actually produce off sites for companies, I store tons of companies doing employer of record as a as a product, so that you could actually basically expand the borders. All of these were enabling remote work, and I learned more watching the interactions and basically have almost having my I suppose the the way to describe it, I had my back to the mainstage. And I was watching what was going on in the exhibition space. And it told me a little bit more, or instructed me a little bit more as to what was happening actually happening in an industry or a space that I you know, where I thought I knew quite a bit. So to me, it’s, it’s it’s networking, but in a weird way.

Anne B 59:09
Awesome. Well, John, thank you so much for joining us today. And for uh, you know, I always love spending time with you. And I’m sure that you will be on the show again in the future. Because I have so many more questions to ask you and so many more conversations to have, but we only have so much time. So I look forward to your next visit to unexpected journey. If people wanted to reach out to you, first off, why would they reach out to you? And secondly, how would they reach out to you?

John Riordan 59:43
I really don’t care why somebody thinks something I said set off an idea in their mind and they had a question to ask. That’s good enough for me. The easiest way to reach me is on LinkedIn And I think we’re going to put it in the program notes. But I’m fairly easy to find on on LinkedIn. And that’s the easiest way other than that I not particularly interested in giving out my personal email address or mobile phone number or anything like that. Just don’t worry,

Anne B 1:00:16
I put that in there anyway. Know who I am? Is his favorite time to get oh,

John Riordan 1:00:23
yeah, yeah, please remember the time zones. Please remember that I actually prefer a synchronous communication. for that. I’m going to reverse what I said earlier on for this email actually is a highly

Anne B 1:00:36
There you go. So we will have a link

John Riordan 1:00:41
when I give it to you. Rather than me posting it up on on our website.

Anne B 1:00:46
We will absolutely have a link to John’s LinkedIn as well as he is on several boards. And we’ll have links to all of those organizations and the company boards that he is on, John, thanks again. Appreciate it. And we will see all of you next week on unexpected journey. Thank you

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