We have a fascinating relationship with slips and falls. On the one hand, who doesn’t love to have a good laugh watching fail videos on YouTube? On the other hand, slip and falls account for an incredible percentage of accidental deaths in the US and in the world. This is increasingly becoming a serious and pressing issue as the population ages, with more people being at risk of slip and fall injuries. Doing some good work in this regard is slip and fall expert and prevention advocate, Russell Kendzior, founder of the National Floor Safety Institute and President of Traction Experts, Inc. Russ started out in business developing non-slippery floor cleaners and slip-resistant footwear. When he eventually sold his company, he shifted his focus on advocating for floor safety and slip and fall prevention. Learn about his story and some fascinating slip-free tips as he talks with Dr. Diane Hamilton.
We are so used to the image of the young, white, middle-class applicant who rushes to the job application process straight out of college that we often overlook a lot of potential talent that comes from underrepresented, underserved, and nontraditional backgrounds. Shelton Banks taps into this overlooked potential among Chicago’s underprivileged through re:work training, a non-profit that trains people from overlooked communities to work in sales and technology. In this conversation with Dr. Diane Hamilton, Shelton tells us why the push for more diversity and inclusion in the workplace should include moves to tap talents from communities that have been pushed to the sidelines for too long. Coming from an overlooked community himself, he owes his success to someone who gave him a shot. That’s all every person needs at all – a shot – and he gives back by helping other people get that.
I’m so glad you joined us because we have Russ Kendzior and Shelton Banks here. Russ is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of the National Floor Safety Institute. He’s a slip and fall expert. He gets to testify and write all the stuff about slip and falls. It’s interesting stuff. I’m looking forward to that. Shelton is the CEO at re:work and he goes to underprivileged areas. He helps individuals get prepared for jobs and it’s a not-for-profit. It’s a fascinating discussion we’re going to have with both of these gentlemen.
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Slip And Fall Prevention With Russell Kendzior
I am here with Russell Kendzior who is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of the National Floor Safety Institute. He’s a recognized worldwide leader of safety expert, specializing in slip, trip and fall prevention. As President of Traction Experts, Mr. Kendzior had consulted with numerous Fortune 500 corporations. He has been retained as an expert witness on more than 800 slip, trip and fall lawsuits. That’s fascinating. I’m excited to have you here, Russ. Welcome.
Thanks, Diane. I’m glad to be with you.
It’s nice of Ford Saeks, our mutual friend to introduce us. He’s been a great guest to the show as well. You hear trip and fall lawsuits. That’s got to be interesting to be an expert witness. I want to get a little background on you though to find out how you got into this because that’s a little unique for a guest I usually get to talk to.
I got into it, no pun intended, by accident. My first job right out of college was working as a sales representative for a major floor covering company here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I was a sales rep and that’s installing floors to distributors and retailers, not directly to the public. I came across a concurrent problem and that was people who were complaining about their floors being slippery, especially when they’re wet, experiencing a large number of slip and fall injuries. I went to my management and asked, “What can we do to help our customers mitigate that risk?” Then and now surprisingly, the manufacturer ran away from it. “Have them call our lawyers. We don’t want to talk about slips and falls.” It’s primarily because of liability.
They were concerned that if somebody fell and we gave advice as to what to do to prevent injuries that maybe they would get sued. I thought that was shortsighted. I went out and collected a lot of information about different cleaning products and finishes to give some off the record advice to my customers. I found that all the cleaning products were the same. They’re all made out of soap. What did they teach you when you were young? If you want to make something slippery like remove a ring, what did you put on? You put soap and water on it. I thought that was the problem is people were putting soap on their floors, not rinsing them, when the soap film became wet, it would make it a slip hazard.
At the right age of 30, I quit my job. My wife and a six-month-old daughter and home with a mortgage. I said to my wife, “I’m going to go out and invent the product that can be used to clean floors but make them so they wouldn’t be slippery when wet.” After three years of absolute daily failure, I finally came upon a formula and again, I was doing this myself. I didn’t have a chemistry background. In fact, I didn’t even have a business background. My degree was in mathematics. I was more of a problem solver at heart. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if many people that would do what I did but lo and behold, it worked. I got a product and my first customer was the franchisees here in Dallas from McDonald’s restaurant. That was my first account. That was a big one.
The company grew. I developed a line of slip-resistant footwear to meet the same needs of my customers, including McDonald’s. I partnered with Walmart stores and developed a line of shoes, which you can still purchase from Walmart entitled Tredsafe shoes. It was originally called Traction Plus Tredsafe. Traction Plus was my brand and Tredsafe was Walmart’s. Long story short, after about 10 or 12 years, I built the company to be big and had to decide, “Do I want to go public or do I want to keep it private? Where do I want to go?” I wound up selling off the various divisions. By this time, we had five divisions of the company. One of which was my work as an expert witness where I was getting calls from attorneys who wanted to use somebody like myself who has experience and training in slip and fall prevention as an expert witness in cases.
After twelve years, I sold off the company in pieces and in essence retired. I kept my consulting company, which is now called Traction Experts, Inc. going and here I am, nearly 900 retentions later. I spent a lot of time working on the slip, trip and fall lawsuits representing both plaintiffs and defendants. A lot of people find the subject very fascinating. When they hear a slip and fall, they think fraud. Somebody’s faking it. Surprisingly, that’s rare. Less than 3% of slip and fall claims are considered fraudulent. The flipside of that is many people do in fact, die as a result of a slip and fall or trip and fall, primarily the elderly. Here we are with the Baby Boomers in a full retirement mode.
We’re finding ourselves with an older country that falls a lot and breaks bones and broken hips. It’s very expensive. My job is to help attorneys better understand what their case presents in terms of liability and provide expert opinions in slip, trip and fall matters throughout the country. I’ve been in 45 different states in the US. I haven’t hit all 50. I got most of them. It’s exciting work. It ties into my founding of the National Floor Safety Institute, which I founded back in 1997. NFSI is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. We do a lot of training and testing. We’re an independent testing lab and we author all the national standards for slip, trip-and-fall prevention. If a company, a business owner, and an insurance company wants to know what they need to do to comply with the standard of care as it’s referred to and walkway safety, the NFSI authors all the national standards for slip, trip and fall prevention. That gives me even that much more work to do. I run a lot of different companies.
You write a lot of books. I was looking at some. You’ve written three bestselling books on slip, trip and fall prevention. You’ve got Slip-and-Fall Prevention Made Easy, Falls Aren’t Funny, and Floored!: Real-Life Stories From a Slip and Fall Expert Witness. As you’re talking about the best ways to prevent these slips, other than soap and banana peels, what are the best ways to avoid it?
There are two sides to that coin. There’s what you can do as an individual to prevent being the victim of a fall and then what a business owner can do to help prevent their customers and employees from falling. Things like footwear and wearing the right types of shoes. I’ve got a question for you, Diane. What do you think the most dangerous shoe a person could wear?
There you go.
That’s all I wear.
Many people do. I’m here in Texas. It’s the stage shoe of it but they’re dangerous, especially when you’re walking on wet surfaces or carpeting. They’re like little surfboards under your feet, but yet people wear them all the time, including yourself. They are popular, but they’re dangerous. A lot of people will say high-heeled shoes, women’s high heels. They’re not that dangerous at all. High-heeled shoes have few associated claims to a slip or trip. Most women that become injured as a result of high heels are when they rolled or twist their ankle.
I had the kind that the tie around your ankles come untied and you catch yourself on the ground with your hand. It was a graceful fall.
If you’re going to wear heels or flip-flops, understand there’s an associated risk. That’s not to say that if you go into a major grocery store chain, you’re wearing flip-flops, and you step on a wet area of the floor and fall, that’s somehow your fault because the store needs to keep their floors safe at all times, regardless of the person’s choice of footwear. You have to anticipate that people are going to be walking in with flip-flops. In fact, most retailers, grocers sell flip-flops in their stores. It’s hard for them to criticize the customer for injuring themselves with a type of shoe that they themselves sell. They don’t provide any type of warning on the flip-flop shoe to one of their customers as to any impending, dangerous condition associated with the shoes.
Is it that they get loose between your toes or is it because you’re sliding from the bottom surface of it? Can they fix the bottom surface? I’m curious how they fix that.
There are different types of sandals that have high-traction soles. Remember, this is loosely fitted to your foot. It’s not connected to your foot. It’s flipping and flopping off the bottom of your foot. When it moves, it’s as if you’re standing on an unstable surface, meaning the flip-flop itself. When you step on a wet floor with a flip-flop, it’s a lot like imagining being on a surfboard where everything is moving and down you go. By the way, Diane, it only takes a fraction of a second between somebody losing their balance and landing on the ground. You’re in a way lucky, you injured your wrist. Imagine if you broke your hip or fractured your skull.
Once you break your hip and you’re old, you’re not coming back from that.There wouldn’t be America's Home Video if there weren’t slips and falls, but about 30,000 Americans will die each year from these accidents. Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, that’s true. In fact, falls are the leading cause of accidental death for people over the age of 65. It’s the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States. About eight million people a year will seek emergency room treatment for a fall. About 30,000 Americans will die each year from a fall. It’s serious and important that people protect themselves, especially the elderly because they’re the most prone to falling and the most likely to become seriously injured.
I’ll be honest, when I entered this field, there was nothing. There were no standards, nobody talking about the subject, nobody was producing any type of safety products or preventative products. I’m a guy, as people will say as I was, attempting to build a company of products. I find myself creating an entire industry. There are many companies that are now producing slip and fall prevention products from footwear, cleaning products, floor finishes and even floors. I feel proud to be on the frontend, one of the pioneers of what has now become a big industry worldwide.
It’s an interesting thing to talk about. I noticed you run Good Morning America. I know that when you’re on shows like that, they want you to do something like entertaining or showy. What do you show when you go on a show like that or was it more chatting about it?
A little bit of both. A lot of description of the problem. One of the good things about visual media like television is people falling is graphic, number one. I don’t think there would be America’s Home Video if there wasn’t falls. On the flipside, we all have experience slipping and tripping. You don’t have to convince the viewing public as to the event what it’s like to fall, and the related injuries because we all have experienced it. In fact, we all know somebody, an elderly parent, the grandparent, and a neighbor that was seriously injured as a result of a fall. It’s a common thread not just in America, but throughout the world because how people fall in China is no different than how they fall in Spain, Italy, or the United States. It’s all the same.
What’s become more of a graphic for media is the various devices that are used to measure how slippery floors are. Their fancy term for them is called tribometers. It’s a little robot and you put it on the ground, you’d press the button, it will walk across the surface of the floor by itself, and then print out an EKG paper printout describing whether the floor was high, moderate or low traction. High traction is the least slip-resistant and low traction is the most slippery. Those types of devices are very sexy to watch on TV because it’s like, “Check it out. There’s this little robot that walks across the floor and tells me how dangerous the floor is.” It’s a tool that’s widely used by industry, by manufacturers of flooring, and other industries. It’s very cool to watch how these devices work. It gives you an instantaneous gratification as to whether or not your floor is safe or not.
It’s interesting as you say that. I have travertine in my bathroom. If I get out of the shower and I don’t step on a rug, you would fly in the air. I’m surprised at how much travertine there is in different areas of Arizona. I don’t know about other places, but everybody here seems to have travertine at one point in their homes. By my pool, I have Marbella which doesn’t slip at all. I’m wondering, are people picking this in their house and worrying about this? Is this something we should be focused on? Everybody seems to go a lot more for this fake real-looking wood stuff. What’s the best thing for a home that’s attractive yet you’re not going to slip?
A number of years ago, the National Floor Safety Institute had petitioned the US government through the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require that manufacturers of floors, no matter what type of floor it is whether its stone, vinyl, or wood. That they label the product at the point of purchase to inform the customer what the traction level is. If you could imagine in your mind’s eye a gas gauge that you have in your car that shows empty and full, a little needle, it would point to a green zone for high traction, a yellow zone in the center of the label which would indicate moderate traction, or all the way over to the left which would be the red zone of low traction.
This way the consumer can go to the marketplace, find the types of floors that they generally are selecting based on color, pattern, design, costs. Narrow it down at the end after they perhaps have 3 or 4 different final choices to the one that may provide the higher level of traction or safety for their needs, but now, that doesn’t exist. When you go to the marketplace to buy a floor, it’s done completely in the blind. Sadly, the way many people find out that they’ve selected the wrong floor is when they fall and become injured. Travertine marble is unlike any other polished stone, slippery when wet. You don’t have any issues when you’re walking on that surface dry, but you have a lot of risks when wet. Sadly, the Consumer Product Safety Commission did not approve our petition. It was a close vote of 2 to 3, but they consciously chose not.
That’s another good question. We resubmitted our petition several years later with the exact same result. The only answer to your question is there’s such a huge lobby by the flooring industry in Washington, DC to stop any type of regulations from passing. In fact, 100% of the manufacturers of floors in the United States aggressively opposed our petition. It’s a sad sentiment because we’re not pro-lawsuit, we’re pro-safety. We don’t want people to get hurt. If they don’t get hurt, they’re not going to file a lawsuit, but sadly the Consumer Product Safety Commission felt that it was not that important. The consumers of floors don’t have an inherent right to know how safe the flooring products they’re purchasing prior to buying them which of course translates into a growing number of people becoming injured as a result of a slip and fall event.
You know that your marble floor in your bathroom is slippery and you make the choice to put a floor mat down. Let me caution you that not all floor mats are the same. The NFSI has a test standard and we have certified hundreds of products including floor mats, the bath-type of mats that you’re using, to make sure that the backing of the mat is working sufficiently. A lot of people use a rug and the difference between a rug and a mat is rugs don’t have any backing on them and mats too. If you put a mat and then the backing of the mat is slippery, what happens is you step on the mat and you and the mat go down.
It’s rubber underneath. It’s got some grippy thing.
Some of them are not. A lot of them are made of vinyl or different types of materials. You step on the mat and you and the mat go. NFSI certifies floor mats. All the major manufacturers of commercial floor mats comply with the standard. It benefits the consumer who thinks of a mat, as you would, as an island of safety. When you’re on the mat, you’re safe. When you venture off the mat, the risk element goes up. Let’s keep it all safe everywhere from the floor and the mat. People need to and do look out for their own safety. I would recommend if in your bathroom, if you don’t have a vertical grab bar as you’re getting in and out of the bathtub or shower to put one up. They’re inexpensive and it provides that third point to help you balance yourself as you’re getting out of bathtub or shower. It’s risky. As we get older, the risk elevates. It goes up.
You’re going to love my choice for what I put on my feet when I get out of the shower to not slip.
Don’t say flip-flop.
They are. They’re Under Armour flip-flops.
It’s funny, you should say. One of the first cases I worked on many years ago was a young girl. She was sixteen years old at our local high school and she was a good swimmer. In fact, she was on her way to college on a full scholarship for swimming. She was working as a lifeguard at the indoor pool and was going into her coach’s office wearing flip-flops. By the way, flip-flops are commonly worn by swimmers because they don’t want to get athlete’s foot and any types of diseases that are contracted through the ground that they walk on barefoot. As she went into her coach’s office, she slipped, fell, and shattered her knee. Needless to say, her life changed. There was no college scholarship. She went into a deep depression. It was a horrible experience. This was a young girl whose life was forever changed by a slip and fall wearing flip-flops on a swimming pool deck.
What’s the best thing to put on your feet when you get out of a shower then?
The best thing to put on your feet is nothing. The best thing is to dry your feet. When you come out of the shower, dry your feet. When you take your first step off of the towel or the bath mat, your feet are dry. Some people have different preferences. There are different types of footwear that bathers wear. It’s like a swimmer’s wear. These little covers that go over your feet. They have more of a tread pattern on the bottom of the sole. They’re more like a shoe. It’s almost a mesh type of upper. They are common with swimmers. People that are doing snorkeling wear these types of shoes as they go in and out of the water. It protects your feet but the real question I would ask is what are you trying to protect by putting sandals, shoes, or flip-flops? What’s the intent? Why would you do that?
Wet travertine is what I’m trying to prevent.
You identified the source of the risk is the floor.It only takes a fraction of a second between somebody losing their balance and landing on the ground. Click To Tweet
Yes, it is but it’s also the flip-flop. As you’re saying that because I’m thinking about what they give you at spas. When you go for a spa day, they give you sandals to wear but they’re not flip-flops. They go across your feet. Are those any safer?
The more secure the shoe is, the sole to your foot, the better, the less movement. Number two, you want to pattern on the bottom of that sole which flip-flops generally have no pattern and whatever shallow amount of pattern that a flip-flop has wears off fast. It becomes smooth. Have a patterned sole with as much security to your foot as you can. A lot of people are wearing slides. They call them flip-flops but it’s more secure. Those are better but the risk is still there as long as it’s not tightly fitted to your foot.
Is there one case that stands out as being the most interesting lawsuit that you sat through and listened to that is either awful for them or interesting or whatever?
My book has 55 chapters. Every chapter is the story about people who slip and fall, become injured, or die. They’re short stories because people love to hear stories like, “Tell me one.” Many are remarkable. I had one which was an elderly woman going to her husband’s funeral. It had snowed the night before. There was snow on the grass and they wanted to have a graveside service. She was following pallbearers who were carrying her husband’s coffin to his grave when she stepped on a headstone or what’s called a grave marker, the recess into the ground. She didn’t know there was a stone there because it was covered with snow and she slipped and fell hitting her head on her husband’s coffin and becoming seriously injured.
In fact, they thought she was going to fall into the grave, which you might think is funny, but she became injured and filed a lawsuit against the funeral home and the cemetery. It was a fascinating case because what is the standard for performing a graveside funeral in the winter? That’s a risk, but it always comes down to, what is the standard of care? What should have been done? In that case, they should have either swept an area or shoveled an area of the snow away to create a pathway, put some type of material down like an AstroTurf, the artificial grass and sectioned it off with cones so you would see where you’re walking. They did none of that. That’s an example of the types of cases I work on.
That’s in Floored!: Real-Life Stories From a Slip and Fall Expert Witness. A lot of people will find that fascinating and I could see why your books are all bestsellers. A lot of people are going to want to know more about what you do. Is there some site you’d like to share or how they could follow you?
My company website is TractionExperts.com. You can also go to the National Floor Safety Institute’s website, which is NFSI.org and learn a lot about the subject. There’s a lot of information. Your audience can view a list of all the NFSI-certified products for free. Most everything on the site is free. A lot of educational materials. They can become a member of the NFSI. NFSI is 501(c)(3) charitable organization so its funding is primarily through donations and contributions. Anybody that has an interest in preventing slips and falls or not being the victim of a slip and fall is encouraged to go to the NFSI website. I also have my own podcast and soon to be released radio show here in Dallas.
I saw that at AM 660.
That’ll be debuting here and it’s all about safety. It’s called Safety Matters with Russ Kendzior. I talk about the subject of safety in general. We expect others, oftentimes our government, to take care of us, to look out for our safety. If you do, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. It’s a matter of understanding risk and what you can do to protect yourself and your family. That’s what the show is about. The podcast is called The Slip and Fall Guy. It’s all about slips and falls. It’s available on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts, and I completed the first season of The Slip and Fall Guy. You’ll laugh because everybody does, my wife included, who will say, “Who in the heck would want to listen to you talk about slips and falls for 30 minutes?” Every episode is only 30 minutes. Surprisingly, we’re in 27 countries around the world. There are a lot of people.
You’re an entertaining guy. This is an interesting subject. You present a topic that you might not think would be interesting in an interesting way because it is so important. I could see that it would be. I hope your books continue to do well, you enjoy your new program, and thanks for sharing all that information. I enjoyed having you on the show.
Thank you, Diane. Make sure you’re safe getting out of that shower.
I’m getting new shoes.
Tapping Overlooked Potential With Shelton Banks
I am here with Shelton Banks who is CEO of re:work training, a Chicago-based nonprofit that’s reshaping hiring trends by training and supporting individuals from unrepresented, underserved, and nontraditional backgrounds. He empowers them to start and keep careers in sales and technology. It’s nice to have you here, Shelton.
It’s nice to be here. Thanks for having me.
I am excited to talk to you. I’ve talked to other people on the show about some of the stuff they do. I had Gerald Chertavian from Year Up which is a company that got people ready for their first year of work. It took a year to get them ready to get jobs and get them trained to work. I’m curious about yours and how it works, but before we get into that, I want a background on you. What got you interested in doing this?
What got me interested in helping people? It’s me paying it forward. I come from an overlooked community myself. I was raised in a single-family household. All the negative statistics that we see often when it comes to people from overlooked communities and someone gave me a shot. Somebody took a risk on me until like, “You’re not the brightest crown in the box, but we think you have some potential.” I took it and ran with it. Interestingly enough, unfortunately, once I got to a decent position, when I looked back, people that I knew would say, “Shelton, recommend me for a job. Hook me up to where you’re at.” I would never refer anybody. I would never look back and say, “Let me help you out.” I feel bad. I want to, but it carries this risk if I put my name on this person, I know that they’re scrappy and they need help. If they do a bad job then it’s going to make me look bad. That feeling led me into the philanthropic world of giving back and giving opportunities back and paying it forward.
That’s admirable. You deal more with careers in sales and technology. What made you go in that direction?There is a lot of untapped potential from overlooked communities. All they need is a shot. Click To Tweet
The money. I don’t have a college degree. I didn’t go to college. I dropped out of high school. I’m a hard worker. I think of myself as a hard worker and the idea of being able to work hard and earn your paycheck is appealing to me. You can tell me that I’m charismatic so I said, “Let’s give it a shot.” I made more money in my first few years in sales. I had many other paths that I tried to take until I ran with it.
I’ve been in sales most of my whole life and working a 100% commission job can be super lucrative. I’m curious about what you sold. What were your favorite things to sell?
What got me started are Cutco knives from Vector Marketing. I was a knife salesman, $500 knives. I made a decent living at Cutco knives.
They can engrave those things nicely too. Those are good gifts. I had the guy who wrote Giftology on my show and that’s one of the things he taught me. I’ve never even heard of those knives until he was on the show. He sent me a beautiful set of them. I said, “Thank you.” I’m like, “These are the greatest knives ever.” I started giving them as gifts now. Just so you know, it doesn’t go unappreciated. Being in sales, I have sold a lot of things from pharmaceuticals, real estate, mortgages, computers, and software. When you get into the software and tech world, you don’t see a lot of women in tech. They talk a lot about how we need to have more women in tech. Are you getting a lot of people with your nonprofit who are women who want to go in that direction?
Sixty percent of our candidates are women. It’s a 60/40 split. I liked that you said insurance sales. I have this methodology. I took it from a guy, Daniel Pink who wrote the book To Sell Is Human. Everybody sells no matter what. I try to get people in that mindset of, if you’re a parent and you’re selling for your kids to eat their vegetables, you’re a teacher and you’re selling to your students. You’re always going to be selling and convincing people of something so why not make money from it.
That’s such a good point. Doctors and everybody, they’re all in this business of sales. I don’t think a lot of people get a lot of great sales training is the problem. I happen to start in computer sales and pharmaceuticals. You get great training when you worked for a big pharmaceutical company, some sales jobs I’ve had instead of two years of onboarding training, they’ll go, “There’s your desk, here’s a phone book, have a good day.” What kind of training are you giving people?
Interestingly enough, tech has a diversity issue. You see it everywhere. Everybody knows that tech has a diversity issue. We’re trying to be consistent. We put together a curriculum where we ask hiring managers and people that made decisions like, “What would you want an ideal salesperson to know?” They gave us a list, a bunch of things, and some tangible and intangible. “We want them to have a degree. We want them to have people skills.” Other things, they would say like, “They knew a sales process such as Challenger or Sandler.” If they knew some type of sales methodology or process, that would be great. If they knew how to use a CRM or at least understood the language, that would be great.
If they understood how to do a discovery call, how to ask open-ended questions, that would be great. We took the feedback from these vantages that ultimately made decisions and we turned that into a curriculum. We teach from everything to how to sell yourself at an interview from that infamous tell-me-about-yourself question that most people ask at an interview. We teach how to answer that question successfully. You think about yourself like, “Who taught you how to answer that question?” For the candidates that come into our program, a lot of times, they’ll say something like, “Tell me about yourself.” “I’ve got five brothers and my favorite color is blue. I like socks.” It’s like, “That’s not the greatest answer in the world.” You’ll be surprised by the answers that they come in with questions like that.
I can imagine. My background in what I do is all based on curiosity, developing curiosity in companies. When you’re talking about this in the sales process, I often talk to salespeople about the value of developing curiosity. The discovery call asking open-ended questions, you find out all kinds of pain points in different things. As I’m thinking, as you’re saying this, my research was on the things that keep people from being curious. If you can find these things, you can move forward. The four things were fear, assumptions, technology, and the environment. People don’t want to look stupid. They tell themselves all kinds of things. They will talk them out of things. They over and underutilized technology and then everybody they’ve ever known has influenced them. It’s interesting when you talk about how to answer questions. I’m also interested in how to ask questions and what kind of training you do in that respect.
We’re fans of Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference. We teach the negotiation side of how to ask a question. How to ask how and getting people to tell me more. We do it in a competitive way. I ask that we teach the concepts of the open-ended question. We typically have turned into a competition in which we incentivize our candidates to ask open-ended questions and some type of cash-based contest.
You’re saying like if they’re on an actual call or in the training.
We heavily used volunteers. We take the same volunteers that gave us information from the companies that we work with. We say like, “Come and put our candidates to the test and we’d give them a prompt.” We asked them to judge the candidates based on how they perform on asking open-ended questions. It was a two-fold thing where they get the practice, but also they get to build their brand as a person and network with potential hiring managers. That’s how we built out the asking questions, but the methodology we use. We’re heavy on Chris Voss. Have you heard Never Split The Difference? Huge negotiation tactics, that’s our spiel.
As you were saying this, I’m thinking about what you said before about how to answer the question of, tell me about yourself. Flipping it back the other direction, you’re teaching them how to answer questions, and not only ask them. Is there a script of sorts that you tell them is the best way to answer that? Is it so unique you can’t give a roundabout answer to how to answer that?
We can. I feel like I combined some of the methodologies. We have them watch Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. We introduced that concept and say like, “People don’t believe what you do. They believe why you do it.” We have them talk 15 to 20 seconds about what they’d been doing. Another 15 to 20 seconds about where they want to go. Another 45 to 60 seconds combining what they’re doing, where they want to go, and how they will be a good fit for the company that they’re interviewing with. It requires a little bit of research on the company, but marrying the two together and always remembering like, “People don’t believe what you do. They believe why you do it.” Putting your personality, your background, and your family at the forefront of that answer.
I remember when I interviewed a billionaire Ken Fisher about interviewing. He was saying how challenging it is to pick somebody based on the limited amount of time you are interviewing. People can only show you so much. You don’t know that they will do what they say they’ll do. You can train people what to say, but how do you know that they’re prepared to do what they say they’ll do?
We train for a couple of things. When does the interview officially start? For me, it starts way before you put the application. It almost starts when you are thinking about applying for the job. At that moment where you might go to a website, you start to fiddle around and see if you want to work for that company. The moment you look up somebody on LinkedIn and they notice you view them. That interview process starts right there and there. There are plenty of ways that you can build relationships. It solidifies trust and builds your brand even before the official interview. That’s the first thing. The second thing is the role that we specifically trained for is called the BDR or SDR role.
The average salary is $35,000 to $42,000 in an entry-level role. It doesn’t require rocket science. I mentioned, somebody saw me and said, “You’re not the brightest man in the box if we give you an opportunity.” This role is a trial by fire era. First of all, some people will do well, some people don’t do well but it’s a 50/50 crapshoot either way. I can’t answer that question. It’s almost like, “How do I know you don’t?” To ask the same question of why anybody else you know, how do you know that they’re going to do a good job? It is for us, we’re asking like, “Think outside the box and stop taking the traditional candidates that are white male, fresh out of college that you’re giving a shot without looking at other people from other demographics with a different nontraditional background.
You’re talking about a lot of the underrepresented, underserved, and nontraditional backgrounds, as I mentioned. How do you open up their mind to the mindset of the potential? A lot of them make assumptions that this is what I’ve only seen and I’ve never been above this level. How do you get them to strive for the next level?
There are a couple of things. One, there’s the underserved, underrepresented, and underworked. I’m weaning it off my vocabulary. We try to change that mindset. I’m a huge fan of Carol Dweck’s Mindset book. If you start a person under, they have a mentality. We often refer to our candidates as untapped and overlooked potential. It’s like, “Let’s get this mindset of why you’re not starting from under,” out of the way. The second piece is that we make them realize that they’re qualified. That’s out there that says like, “Women only apply for a job if they thought they are 100% qualified for it versus men who apply for a job if they feel they’re 60% qualified for it.” We go through and we will take an application.
We find someone that has potential and it’s like, “Let’s go through this application that you didn’t think you will qualify for. We’re going to make you qualify.” Oftentimes, the application to say, “We want somebody that’s organized, able to multitask, and work with multiple customers.” They may say that in a fancy way, but when we break it down to our candidates, they’ll say, “Have you done this before? Have you worked with multiple customers at a time?” They’re like, “Yes, I’ve done that.” “Are you organized? When it comes to some taking notes on customers that you work with, have you been able to take notes and organize the notes?” They’ll say, “I’ve done that before.” They’ll say, “Have you built relationships with customers like if you’d gone deeper and gone beyond the call of service and built relationships with the people that you’ve worked with?”People don't believe what you do. They believe why you do it. Click To Tweet
“I’ve done that.” It’s like, “I know you’re only an Uber driver and you’ve only worked at Starbucks all your life, but I think you’re qualified based on the skillset that you have gained from your previous employment. You’re qualified for the role.” At least 70% qualified, which beat someone that has no experience that’s fresh out of college. We shift their mindset to help them appreciate like, “I’m not as far off from landing this job as I potentially thought. Now, I will at least put my name in the hat to get the job.” The last piece is we have these acronyms. We’re huge fans of like, “There isn’t such thing as a dumb question.”
You could spend two minutes googling the answers to your questions. If you were to ask that question, it’s a dumb question that you need to know how to do research and develop yourself. We’ve had to take those three things and made people change. They realized like, “I’m qualified for the job. I have resources at my disposal. I’m able to learn and educate myself.” Their mindsets change and before you know it, they’re going from making $13,000 to $55,000 a year average, which is life-changing all because we shifted their mindset.
As you talk about mindset, in my book, I researched Carol Dweck’s work. It’s amazing. Daniel Pink’s work, Simon Sinek, you named everybody that was tied into developing curiosity. A lot of people will think a dumb question and they don’t want to ask certain things. A lot of people don’t recognize it’s easy to do research. If I’m interviewing somebody, I’d like to know that they’ve looked into this company. What things do you have them research about the company before they go in?
We start trying to predict the culture. The first step is trying to figure out what the company does in layman’s terms. What the company does in terms that they understand and in terms that they convinced their community. I feel like that is the biggest disconnect often that a person doesn’t understand. They understand the technical terms. They were able to describe, “What does Salesforce do? What does a CRM company do?” It’s all technical. The first step is to understand and be able to explain what the company does in terms that they understand. That’s the biggest hump often because a lot of times they understand the technical terms, but don’t know how to relate that to beat in these problems and business solutions. We take it from things that they’re used to. I mentioned Salesforce because that’s something that we often use. We ask them to explain what Salesforce is and how to use it.
The best layman’s term example I could think of that a candidate has said like, “Salesforce can be used by my barbershop. It’s a contact list to keep the context that I organized. Anytime someone comes in and gets a haircut, you’re able to log the data in Salesforce, you can remember what type of haircut they get, when they came in, and you know when you need to call them to get back in the shop.” They sent us a breakdown that they understand business problems. After that, the sky is the limit and then it becomes like, “How can we understand the culture? Who are the competitors of the company? How to be able to sell business value that you can add as a diverse candidate in selling that product?” Speaking to that, I opened up a completely different demographic and audience because of the cultural differences and the background that I come from.
All those things are important to being successful. I was always thinking, the one thing we haven’t touched on is you can learn about the company. You can get knowledge and a lot of people are hired for their knowledge and fired for their behaviors. What helped you give them soft skills?
If you think about how you can get involved, the volunteer and the candidate. They already come with the soft skills for the most part. It’s more or less like a polish where they’re used to working with people and introduce it into a different network and understanding how to transfer those skills. I’ve got a friend, his name is Will McNeil. It speaks our demographic of whom you serve. You’ve mentioned other nonprofit organizations and programs. He says, “If you show me a kid that needs a program, I’ll show you a parent that needs a better job.” Our demographic that we’d go after are the parents who need better jobs that already have the skillset. They already have the soft skills in tech and plenty of potentials and at that point, they need an opportunity to connect with it.
It’s such an interesting area to research emotional intelligence and some of the things that a lot of companies look for. Do you do any kind of testing of people like personality tests or any of that thing?
We use a company called HireVue. They have a sales AI component that measures and assesses a person that seeks competencies, communication, cognitive ability, negotiation and persuasion, problem-solving, personal stability, drive and initiative. It’s a video interview that we use. It gives us a potential gauge. It lets us know where a person is on a spectrum. It’s not the final say as far as who we’re going to accept to the program, but it gives us a decent benchmark to be able to say like, “This person will do better than someone else.” The people that take the assessment don’t do well, we refer them to another nonprofit and we’ll say, “You need a little bit more development than eight weeks.” For us, the folks that do pass, they’re spot on when eight weeks is up. You can go from making minimum wage to a livable wage.
There’s so much that you’re doing to help many people. This is such a hard time though. We’ve got COVID. How is that impacting what you’re doing now?
Between COVID and the social issues that are going on, it’s helping and increased visibility. We live in the SaaS tech company that is going remote and they’re okay with going remote because of the social issues that are going on. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, they realized the importance of diversity and inclusion. They’re willing to move the needle and do things differently in order to fix the problems. Not only are candidates still getting hired but we have more volunteers than ever. We’re scaling. By the end of 2020, we’ll be in a few more cities hopefully, when all goes well. The silver lining for us is that it’s been great to see the impact even in dark times and good, it’s still coming out of this.
That’s nice to hear it that there’s something good coming out of all that. What you’re doing is inspirational and a lot of people who are reading this are interested in following you and your company. Is there a website, social media or anything you’d like to share?
ReworkTraining.org is our website. If you need a job, I would encourage you to apply. We help anybody that can be from an overlooked community, that skin color isn’t determined on where your upbringing is from. We encourage anybody that’s underemployed or unemployed to apply to our program. As far as companies and people that want to volunteer and give back, connect with us on LinkedIn. Myself Shelton Banks at LinkedIn or Ashley Jordan who runs the operations. Feel free to connect with us on LinkedIn. We’d love to get you involved. You don’t have to be a salesperson to get involved. You can know how to interview, you can pay it forward and teach someone how to ace their interview or you could be great at resume writing. We use anybody who wants to give back. We have a place for you. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donation is always helpful to help continue our work. Donations are more than appreciated.
Shelton, thank you for being on the show. I enjoyed our conversation and you’re doing some amazing stuff.
Thanks for having me.
I’d like to thank both Russ and Shelton for being my guests. We get many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com. You can find out everything about the show there. You can also find out about my speaking and different workshops. If you’re interested in the Curiosity Code Index or the Perception Power Index, everything is on the site. I hope you check it out and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- National Floor Safety Institute
- Traction Experts
- Ford Saeks – Previous episode
- Slip-and-Fall Prevention Made Easy
- Falls Aren’t Funny
- Floored!: Real-Life Stories From a Slip and Fall Expert Witness
- Safety Matters with Russ Kendzior
- The Slip and Fall Guy
- Apple Podcasts – The Slip and Fall Guy
- Google Podcasts – The Slip and Fall Guy
- Gerald Chertavian – previous episode
- To Sell Is Human
- Never Split the Difference
- Ken Fisher – past episode
- Shelton Banks – LinkedIn
- Ashley Jordan – LinkedIn
- Curiosity Code Index
- Perception Power Index
About Russell Kendzior
As the Founder and Chairman of the Board of the National Floor Safety Institute, Russell Kendzior is recognized worldwide as one of the leading safety experts specializing in slip, trip-and-fall prevention. As President of Traction Experts, Inc. Mr. Kendzior has consulted with numerous fortune 500 corporations and has been retained as an expert witness on more than 800 slip, trip-and-fall lawsuits.
About Shelton Banks
Shelton Banks is CEO of re:work training, a Chicago-based non-profit that is reshaping hiring trends by training and supporting individuals from underrepresented, underserved, and non-traditional backgrounds; empowering them to start and keep careers in sales & technology.
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