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The Gray Leaf Tech Talk: John and Richard of Gray Leaf

Posted by Richard Stephens on May 29, 2020 2:10:31 PM
Richard Stephens
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The guys at Gray Leaf chat about IT consulting and using their experiences to help others with their information technology needs.

 

 

 

Podcast Transcript:

Richard Stephens:
Well, hello, I'm Richard Stephens with me. I got John Laub. We are greatly, and we want to talk to you a little bit about, a little bit about John, a little bit about the business and how we help clients and organizations in the, in the digital era. So without further ado let me let me introduce John and John let's get started. Tell me a little bit about yourself and a little bit about your personal life.

John Laub:
Thanks, Richard. So, yeah, so I'm a little bit about me. I'm the CEO of, of gray leaf and my personal life. You know, I'm kind of a boring guy, I guess, but sometimes you know, I I like to I like to travel mostly. You know, my, my, especially with my son, we, we went to Alaska last year. We went to the Outback that dropped us off for, for a week in a float plane. And then, you know, we, we had to you know, we, we, we have, we're, we're guided, but we, you know, we basically were out there for a week. So that was a lot of fun. And then that's kind of, you know, that's, that's kind of one thing that I really like is you know, kind of exploring, you know spending time with family and and traveling. So that's kind of things that really kind of excite me.

Richard Stephens:
Oh, nice. Nice, nice adventurous, man. I like that. That's good stuff. So how did you become a, an it consultant, you know, like, like what's your background?

John Laub:
Well, you know, sometimes you're you pick your job and sometimes its job picks you. And I feel like I feel like this you know, it consulting and the things that we do, it really picked me. I mean, I, I feel like you know, I've my, I really started out you know, back in school, I wanted to be an architect and an engineer, and, but I kept coming back to, to this consulting thing that I did for, for various companies I used to work for. I just kind of always, you know, and all of us do this to some extent, right. We, we, if we, if we're leading teams, you know, we want to interact well with our team members. And that's, that's kinda how I, how I really have always been a consultant as I look back, you know, from the earliest times worked for the Ford motor company. I worked for general motors. I was a manager for both of those. And then for Dallas airport, I was a terminal manager, their freight terminal manager, and and worked for the coast guard worked for FEMA and really during all that time, you know, I, I was I just, I just, I guess I'm good at it because it always seemed to gravitate toward, you know, Hey, what is the next best right thing to do?

Richard Stephens:
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, when you and I, we both met in college and you know, actually work together for the first time at the coast guard. And I mean, I can remember, you've always had that, that consultant mindset. That's kind of how I got introduced to that side of things. And yeah, it's been a, been a crazy ride ever since, so, yeah, right on, right on you know, so what have been some of the most challenging aspects of, of starting a business starting grading?

John Laub:
I had a friend of mine once said, starting a business is easy. You know, anybody can do it. And he says, I've done it 10 times. It really, it really is a, it really running a business is really the challenge, you know, building a team, having, you know, the right people, but also where the right processes and how you conduct business and the right. And it really, it all starts with good core values. I think it's you know, I think that you know, having, having a good idea having a good team and then executing well, right. Although that's everything, all of us strive for, you know, we, we wanna, we want to surround ourselves with good people and, and fortunately I've been successful enough to find people like you, Richard, and, and, and others who kind of share those values. And, and that's, that's a large reason why we've been successful.

Richard Stephens:
Absolutely. I mean, we know from our days, you know, from the coast guard and even before, you know, good people are hard to find and, and, you know, finding that synergy and finding that good fit it's, it's, it's definitely hard. So I absolutely you know, what are the things that you value most within your organization?

John Laub:
Well I think, I think what I really appreciate most is, is just the, the openness and transparency that I feel like we have with each other. You know, I really, I always wanted an environment and I've always strived for, for an environment of openness and as a, as a leader and a manager you know, I think you have to have a certain level of, you know I guess, resiliency or honesty with yourself when people come with different ideas, maybe even challenging my ideas as, as a CEO. And I value that. And I, I appreciate that because I think what that, what that gives is this, this open app and, and, and, you know, trusted atmosphere, I think allows people to, to really you know, share their perspectives. And I think that's important because, you know, I call it cognitive diversity, right.

John Laub:
I think, you know, sometimes managers, leaders surround themselves with people that kind of see things the way they do. And I think it's important as a, as a, as a lead to not do that. I think it's important to have diversity have people that will argue with you that aren't afraid to argue with you because as leader, if you can't come up with a compelling argument to counter their thoughts, right. Or their ideas, then, you know, maybe as a leader, you need to change your mind. So I think that that's one thing I really value in our company. You know, I really feel like the folks that we've surrounded ourselves with or are like that, you know, we're not afraid to challenge each other. And I think that that makes for a better company and that honesty makes people feel safe too, because they never have to wonder, you know, what am I thinking?

John Laub:
I never have to wonder what other people are thinking. Right. We're just all open and we just let it out. And I think that, that translates into other things, right. When you're working with clients, I think it shows, I think that they, they see your genuineness. Right. And I think that, you know, people are very astute about reading those types of things. So I think it, it it's one of the things I value the most, those good core values. And then, like I said, open, open and transparency. I'll add one more thing. One of our team members, Robert Fernet who's, who's a great, great project manager and a great guy. He, he coined this phrase, radical honesty. And I love that phrase and it's actually become part of our culture, you know, that, you know, there's one thing, to be honest, there's another thing to be radically honest.

John Laub:
And especially with clients, you know you know, we always want their best interests. We have them at heart. I believe that down to my, you know, down to my core, I believe it's a core value that we have to be honest with clients and be radically honest with them. And doesn't mean, you know, we're, we're tactful, obviously, you know, it doesn't mean we're not tactful, you know, and so on, but it does mean that we give them the truth. And and you know, that same transparency that we try to have with each other transit, you know, you know, goes out and we share that with clients.

Richard Stephens:
Absolutely. I mean, that's one of the things that I value a lot about what we do is the transparency within the team with, you know, within the family and that, that radical honesty that we have with each other, you know, that that's what we have with, with our clients. And I think that's really one of the things that you know, helps us, you know, close when we're, we're, we're chatting with a potential client, it helps us, you know, close that within. They see that, you know, it comes from us, which is a great thing that they, you know, that they see that. And you know, I value that we're able to do that with every client. So you mentioned that the core values, you know integrity, respect, excellence, you know, those, those are the things that I'm glad that we have and that we give, give to others. So, you know, really glad that you mentioned the core values you know, tell me, tell me a guilty pleasure of yours. What's, what's a guilty pleasure,

John Laub:
You know gosh, you know, it's a guilty pleasure, I guess, I guess

Richard Stephens:
Sweets, you know,

John Laub:
Definitely food, definitely food. You know, I've, I find, I'll tell you, that's probably the number one actually, because I find myself working all day long, you know, I skip breakfast, skip lunch, you know, and I get home and I'm ravenous when I get home and my wife makes, makes dinner. And then you know, I, you know, I'll have a, you know, the spaghetti will taste so good and I'll have too much. But yeah, so, so definitely food and, and weird things too. I have, I have, I have kind of weird guilty pleasures. Like yesterday I was at my house, I came home and lived, the grass had grown long and, and you know, I really wanted to go out there and mow the lawn. I don't know what it is. I just love going out and, you know, making a kind of a long lawn look beautiful.

John Laub:
And then you know, I had to adjust my tremor and I mean, just going out and, and kind of doing mechanical things, fixing things. I rebuilt my tremor a couple of weeks ago. I took it apart, took the carburetor apart, had all these parts laying around and cause it wouldn't start put it back together, tuned it. And I get so much satisfaction from it running well. Like I, I kicked it up. I started it yesterday. It started on the first few tries and it ran like a beast that I really love that I just love that feeling of things running well,

Richard Stephens:
Being accomplished and getting things done. Right. I'm the same way, you know, I, I'm not much of a long guy, you know, I, I don't you know, I like to look decent, but I'm not going to be out there every other day, you know, cutting around the edges and making sure everything's in up. But one of the things that I really enjoy are the you know, the lines in the yard, you know, like, you know, going down at zero turn diseases, turn around and just do a nice straight line. I don't know. I always like the lines in the yard, you know, and malts, you know, having like mulch around the plants, that's definitely one of my, but for me the most, probably the biggest guilty pleasure is food. Like really good food, food, sharing, food and company you know, really good meal you know, really, really enjoy that. But I think if I had to pick one, it would be donuts.

John Laub:
Yeah. So I can say that you are the doughnut theme that you are. Yeah.

Richard Stephens:
Because I'm doing it every day in the office. I would, I would have to put a treadmill up in here cause this is where it's at for me, but right. Cool. okay. So, you know, tell us about, you know, what is Gray leaf and, you know, what do we do tell us what we do

John Laub:
Well, that's, that's often something that you know, we, we often struggled to explain to people, you know, I think that you know, so what we do, so let's talk about that. So we're consultants first. So you know, for a consultant, we do development. Obviously we, we, so that we do SharePoint development, we do office three 65. We do backups, we do security, we do security training, phishing simulations. You know, we do things like document management web development, custom application development. So we do all those things, but I always start with consulting because, you know, when I, when I think about what defines is, you know, when you go to a developer and you, you, you have an idea of what you want, right. You go to them and you say, okay, this is what I want built. And the developer will go and do it.

John Laub:
And we're different in that, you know, what we do, we start with understanding and we, we, we take time and you, we ask questions, you know, we want to understand, you know, what is the right approach? What is the right thing to do here? And oftentimes what happens is we find that what, what clients want, isn't what they need that might sound kind of arrogant for us. But what we've, we've had many experiences where you know, we've worked with clients and, and through an understanding and through discussion and colLauboration early on we we've identified, you know, maybe there's a quicker path to get to your objective. We want to understand what the objective is. I have several of them in mind right now that just pop in, right, right. At the top of my head where we've done that. And you know, it's, it's it's this concept of maximizing the amount of work not done, and that might sound counterintuitive, but really that really is fundamentally really the best goal possible. You always want to maximize the amount of work not done, because ultimately if you don't need that work, it's waste. So what's the quickest path to determine what is not necessary. And that's what we do. I think we're really good at it. We have really good consultants. We do it through good questions, building colLauboration, chatting, and then you know, looking at op op you know, possible solutions and alternatives to, to you know, figure out what the best approach might be.

Richard Stephens:
Absolutely. Yeah. We, I mean, when we're working with clients, I mean, there's, there's so many different areas that we can help them in. You mentioned, you know, maximizing work you know, figuring out the next best right thing to do for, for, for a client. And so that can, you know, that consulting, I really like that aspect of what we do is up front we're consultants, you know, before we're developers. So there's a lot of that, you know, pieces of the pie that we can help them with and really, you know, provide a good product, a good service for them. But really that, that consulting piece is, is what I think a lot of clients find than official upfront, you know, sometimes, you know, saying, you know, what the best thing to do is nothing. You don't have to do anything tweak this and that, and you'll be just fine. So I like that we're, we're able to provide that and be honest about what they really truly need.

John Laub:
Yeah. I, I think that, that's, that's a good point because ultimately, you know, one of the things obviously that everyone's concerned about is cost and, you know, projects can, and often do really get expensive. And and they can, you know, I mean, you know, if, if, if there, there has to be some kind of, you know, process or, or method to, to limit, you know, things getting out of control. And I think we do that very well.

Richard Stephens:
No, I wouldn't. I would definitely agree with that. So give me an example of one of your products or services that our, our, our are special.

John Laub:
I feel like one of the, I, I think so I kind of break it down in two different main areas. So it's what we do is, is one thing. And then how we do it as another and the how of it is so important. It's, it's, it's really even more important than what we do. So I talked a little bit about what we do, right? We do, we do development, we do SharePoint development. We do office three 65 security security awareness training. You know, we run a phishing simulations. We have reports that run off of that custom app development, web development, do all those things. But I think that the, you know, if I had to really point to one thing that makes us unique, it's the how of it, you know many are aware of of this thing called agile, right?

John Laub:
And, you know, agile is in my experience, a lot of people, you know, don't really understand agile with, from the, from the standpoint of what really the intent of agile is. We even call it a mindset. It's not a, it's not a tool. You know, it's not a methodology, it's not a process. It's a mindset. So with that, what I mean is that with agile, what we do is we want a process that is empirical. And with that, I mean, it's a learning, there has to be for us to, to figure out what is the next best right thing to do. We have to colLauborate with clients and we have to produce something and get feedback and work in pretty smaller durations. So yes, we have the big goal in mind, right? We know the big honking thing we want to do in the end.

John Laub:
However, what we, what we want to focus on. And ideally that leads to the best results is we work in small increments. And so we do a small increment and without, I mean, one or two weeks, there was some kind of work product that a client will get at the end of it. We don't even start, let me back up. Cause we don't even start it until we've estimated that we've sized it. We have acceptance criteria. We've shared it with the client. The client looks to accept this criteria. They kind of know what this thing is. They agree with it. We've prioritized things with, to business value. So what we're going to be working on will deliver the most Bill's business value early. So we, anyway, in this smaller duration, we do it. We build it at the end. We see how much, you know, was our estimate, right.

John Laub:
Or not. Right. And sometimes it isn't. Sometimes we underestimate, sometimes we overestimate, which is normal, but in the end, you know, over a large scale, his estimates are very close, but what it is, it gives us accountability. So the client now starts to see the process and they start to get something that's potentially releasable at the end of that small sprint. They also start to see the process in action. So, you know, how you know, anybody that's ever done a, you know, development project, you know, there's all kinds of different ways, but a lot of times what happens is, you know, you tell somebody, Hey, this is what I want go off for six months and build it and then come back and then show me what you did. And those projects often don't really result in, you know, they do have some measure of benefit, but they're not optimal.

John Laub:
So the whole idea about working in small iterations, make sure that, you know, we want to make sure really another strange term that might sound as it helps us the fail fast. Right? We don't want to find out we failed six months down the road. We want to find out that we're on the wrong path very early. We want to find that dead end quickly, because again, it's a way to eliminate waste. So if we're working in smaller durations and we're getting feedback from a client and they're looking at kind of an early version of an idea or what they need, then they're going to be able to look at that. Tell us, yeah, these parts. I like, you know, this part over here, I don't like, and we might find other, you know, that's an outcome of that other things that are like hurdles that, you know, what, guess what, we didn't know this issue existed.

John Laub:
All right. Well that shapes the, the, the solution a lot, right. There could be some issue that is uncovered throughout the process for early. So the focus becomes on delivering value. It becomes about maximizing work, not done. And it becomes about really you know, failing early finding that, that, that, that issue early addressing it, and then getting around it quickly so that we're making these course corrections very early to stay on the right path. That's the real value of what we do because clients love that. They they're there, they participate, they see the journey, right? They're there, they're there, they're controlling the journey. They're controlling the burn rate. So there's controlling the costs and they're seeing everything that's involved in this process. And I have a long list of clients who just love that. You know, as long as they can be engaged and want to be part of the process which is a requirement, right. They have to be engaged. It really results in, in a, in a very good, transparent process. So whatever their solution is.

Richard Stephens:
Yeah. You mentioned the transparency. I mean, having that transparency up front, I think is, is, is key for for the client on having them involved with this process. You know, you said, you mentioned the agile thing, you know, the agile process that we use. And the cool thing I like about that is that there's so much that you don't know, and there's going to be so many questions that a client might have throughout the process, not just upfront, but throughout the process and having them involved we'll answer those. And like you mentioned course correction, and once they get those answers, it helps them better steer the ship on the right. You know, the right course. So that's one of the things I love about that. You know, and, and a lot of that in that project management, you know, then, you know, what makes our project management approach so good?

John Laub:
Well, I think it is it, you know, to, to, to do what I said just said, you know, is there, there's this balance of, you know, how do you make it simple, right. Simple enough, but yet give you everything you need to deliver good results. And that's, that's the balance. That's what we do very well. So w w one thing we do is you know, we have a Kanban board, but what people commonly refer to as a Kanban board, we, you know, our different ways, slice it up a little bit differently than, than, than, than some folks for various reasons. But this Kanban board is something we invite the client to. So we use it to communicate. So it's a communication tool. It's a, it's a tool that allows us to keep track of what are the large scale objectives we're mapping. So we map, for example, we have an Epic or a large scale objective we'll map that to individual cards, which are user stories, which I could talk about what a user story is and why that's valuable, but it helps clients to see, okay, well, what this little thing we're doing?

John Laub:
How does that map to our larger objective? And they see the communication, they see the notes on the card. It takes just all of this guesswork and ambiguity out of the work that we're doing. And I use the word transparent, and I don't mean to overuse it, but it really is a way for, for clients to be able to, to participate in the project, allow us to leverage our pretty extensive expertise in doing this, but gives them control. Right. That's, that's the challenge. How do you give, how do you have a client stay in control when they don't know all the things they need to know to run a project? Well, that's what we do. And then, and then, because we do things like retrospectives every week or every sprint, you know, it allows them to, you know, provide feedback. So we're getting feedback constantly. We're constantly, this feedback cycle is taking place. And so and, and that's really, that's, you know, I mean, it's, it's, you know, as I say these things, I'm like, well, of course you want that, right. I mean, everybody would probably listening for him to say walk up. Yeah, of course you want that, but right. A lot of projects, you know, a lot of development projects are missing those important elements. And so I think that's one thing to answer your question. I think that, that's what that's, that's, that's the key right there.

Richard Stephens:
Yeah. I mean, earlier you mentioned that, you know, is the house being the most important? I wholeheartedly agree with that, you know, the, the, how we build and create and manage the, how is, is, you know, monumental in, in, in what we do. And, and, you know, that, that project management, I think is a really key aspect of what really provides, you know, not just, you know, one project, but every project being able to manage it that way, that transparency where there, you know, the client will never have any questions. You know, that, that, that, that they won't be able to easily find the answer to. So I like that transparency in the way that we, you know, we manage projects you know, with, with agile. So it's one of my favorite parts about what we do is, is the how, but I completely agree. All right. So, so as far as target audience, tell me a bit about who you're talking about target audiences and who does greatly freely go after as a client. Yeah. So broadly speaking, broadly speaking we like small and medium sized businesses. We like government.

 

John Laub:
Science. So those are like broadly speaking. Those are the groups. And when I talk about, you know you know, commercial clients, small and medium sized businesses, I'm talking about construction agencies, real estate firms construction companies, I mean, real estate firms. We have you know, yacht sales, we have architects, you know, we have just, so we have just a really broad section, a lot of nonprofits throughout, however more specifically what we really try to zero in on our managed services providers, we love MSPs. And we, we really feel like MSPs are, you know, we've just really had success working with MSPs. And, and, and the reason is because MSPs tend to have their, a lot of their clients that do a lot of different things. And we find that the MSP often, you know, MSPs often need an app dev layer in their, in their offerings.

John Laub:
And so we, that's where we come in, you know, we do that specialized app dev work for them. And typically, you know, we give them a bulk rate and then, you know, they can, they charge the clients, whatever their markup is. So it's turned out that, you know, some of the ones that we've worked with have really, really seen their revenues increase. I mean, significantly year over year, I've got a graph that maybe will, will show, but it, it really is a good example of how you know, working with MSPs is really valuable for us because they do a lot of, you know, they, they really know their clients very well, you know, they, they, they know, okay, wow, this is, this could be, you know, they might need gray leaf to help them with a specific area. So that's, that's really, that's kind of who we try to zero in on, that's kind of where a website kind of points to. But of course we have, like I said, clients from all walks of life and types of businesses that we, that we work for.

Richard Stephens:
Yeah, no, I think you're right about the MSPs. I mean, I enjoy working with MSPs, you know, it gives us a broad range of clients that we can help. And, and you're absolutely right. I mean, MSPs already know their clients. They already have that relationship really just, you know, an introduction you know, to us as a trusted partner. And it allows us, you know, to, to not only do we, we are basically three areas, all the areas that they need, that the con the professional consulting, the it consulting the probably do the project management and then the development, you know, we do all those key aspects and what's great about the relationship and that partnership with an MSP is, you know, there's very little for them to, to, to do, to, to transition us into a project with one of their clients.

Richard Stephens:
And, and you're right, that, you know, it helps their, you know, their revenue generation for them. And it also provides a really unique, awesome service, you know, to their, to their, to their comments. Definitely. All right. So with what, you know, let's, let's transition, what's going on with, what's going on in the world today, you know, you've got, COVID-19, you've got this whole, you know, epidemic happening. You know, how has that impacted talk a little bit about how that's impacted our business in what we have been helping our clients do to adjust to the new, the new way of life as it is now.

John Laub:
Sure. Yeah. We're living in this new world and you know, I believe that it's going to be around for quite a while. You know, I don't know that we're going to be changing anytime soon, as far as, you know you know, corn chaining, you know, wearing personal protective equipment, but to talk about our clients. So, you know, really for us, we, you know, we've been helping our clients be prepared for working in a virtual environment for, for, for years, I've found that our, our clients tend to be very, I mean, for them, it's been very easy, you know I think that, you know, what we do and have always done is set organizations up to, to allow them to be virtual. So even if there were using it or not they were ready to. And so what we found is that most of them were, were very, very prepared.

John Laub:
We've, we've, we've done disaster recovery planning with many of them, and that's where we really get down into the specifics of, you know, what do you need to do to be prepared? And we help them to do that. So as far as our clients, I feel like most of them have weathered this fairly well now, you know, obviously, you know, I think we, we share the same concerns as everybody is, you know, what, you know, what's going to happen, you know, is this, you know, is, are people going to be, you know I'm shrinking back or, you know, will they be, you know, less willing to invest in development and what's going to happen to stock market. All of those are, you know, of course, questions we're all struggling with. However as far as we're concerned, I feel like, you know, we, we share those concerns, but we have not seen as, as of yet really a big impact from, from COVID-19.

Richard Stephens:
Yeah. I think one of the really cool things that we offer you know, that, that, that office three 65 and, you know, development and environment to really allow these, the clients to, to take their, their workforce workforce from boot, you know, to work from anywhere who gets, it, gets them in the cloud you know, and all that, you know, of course all the other offerings that come with, you know, three 65 and additional things that, you know, to your point earlier about MSPs, you know, being able to, to offer that development of office three 65 and getting their, you know, their clients, you know, the ability to work remotely. That's, that's one of, I think the cooler offerings that I think we offer all right. So, you know, what other profession you know, other than this one, would you like to attend

John Laub:
Profession? I, I've never lost my love of architecture. I love architecture. I you know, it's, at this point, you know, it's, it's something that is probably a little bit out of my grasp because it's, it's something that you know, you know, career, it takes a career to, you know, to really, to really get good at that. But I just, I just love, you know, if I, if I had my choice, I'd love to pursue that. I'd love, I'd love to I love buildings. I, I just love, you know, even now, you know, when I walk by a building or if I'm looking at buildings, like I'm admiring it from an architectural perspective. And you know, I subscribe to stuff and, you know, that, that I can participate with and, you know, just to stay, try to stay up with it. But definitely architecture is kind of one of my first things I really love the architect kind of has it, has it has a cool little rings or,

Richard Stephens:
Yeah. So you know, back to gray leaf, you know, what are the you know, w I guess what makes us really stand out from other kids? What do you think makes us stand out from other consulting firms? Like what makes us different?

John Laub:
Yeah. Yeah. You know, that's a good question. I think, you know, there's a lot of good consulting firms out there, obviously, you know, and there's a lot of good consultants out there. And, and I feel like, you know, what, what really, what really allows us to stand out is that we, we really, I think it's, you know, if I had to use one word, I would, I don't even know if this is a word genuineness. You know, I really feel that, that, that is, that is a big part of it. And capability is probably another, another important word for that. We're very good at this. You know, we, I think that the reasons as we've spoken about in the past, or, you know, are kind of some of the stuff we've been talking about, the things that make us stand out, but you know, I really do think that, that, that w that's what makes us unique.

John Laub:
The people obviously the genuineness, the fact that, you know, for example, we don't have revenue targets in our company. You know, we don't set revenue targets because we feel like that's counterproductive to doing what's right on the client's interests. You know, we're not driving to, you know, let's get as much money as we can out of you. We're trying to figure out what is the best thing for you, the client. And I think clients see that, like, we, we, we, we have clients that once, once we start working together, you know, they become longterm relationships and I believe that's why.

Richard Stephens:
Yeah, I absolutely second that I think our team has a, you know, has a great deal to do with that. Like you mentioned before surrounding yourself with good people with the same core values and, and, you know, doing right by the client, what's best for them at that time, you know? So I'm absolutely absolutely pretty bad. What are some of the biggest challenges you face with selling what we do to clients when you're meeting with them?

John Laub:
It can be, that's probably, yeah. That's, that is a challenge because if they don't know us and, you know, they just want some, you know, just build something for me, right. Just, just, just do it, don't ask questions, right. Just, this is the thing I need. And, and, you know, why are you asking me all these questions? Right. And so that often it's a challenge to help clients understand why we want to work this way, why it's in their best interests. We use time and materials contracts, which is a problem in many organizations. You know, a lot of organizations went from fixed price agreements. They, they, they, they come to you and they say, tell me how much it's going to be. And they want a number. And especially the larger, the project, the harder it is to anticipate how much it's really going to cost.

John Laub:
And as you can imagine, right. You know, some people will come to it and say, well, don't you do this all the time? Well, yes, we do. We're good at it. However, you know, there are a 400,000 paths that we could go down to reach your objective ranging anywhere from simple to a highly complex, which one of those 400,000 paths do you, you know, are we going to follow? We don't know that until we start doing it. And we start engaging. It's hard for, for clients to understand that, you know, we, we do have ways to, to, to, to in our agreements that try to give them what they need. And as far as a, you know, an estimate for the larger project, we always try to qualify that though, that, you know, Hey, you know, as we start going on this journey together, right, we might find quicker, easier, better ways to do things. On the other hand, we might incur, you know, uncover obstacles. We didn't know, but the process should really get us to the, to the, to the, you know, to this idea of what is the next best right thing to do and get us on that path, make course corrections to get us to our destination as quickly and easily as possible.

Richard Stephens:
Yeah. I mean, I often find that, you know, a lot of clients are kind of new to the whole software development realm. So, you know, it's hard for them to understand, you know, the process, like you said before, you know, clients just want something built, and this is my requirement. Now building, you know, obviously in the background, there's a lot of, you know, questions and 400, you know, different paths you know, that they could take, take to get there. And, and, and, and back to the whole, you know, the agile mindset, the agile way in how we manage a project and how we interact with the client, you know, that interaction and transparency helps them navigate right to the right point, right. Exactly what they need. But that, that, that interaction is, is needed to get to there, to get to that point, instead of just, you know, you know, here's X amount of money come back to me in three months with my product, you know,

John Laub:
Sometimes I'll joke, you know, I'll say, I'll say, you know, I am an expert at talking out clients out of spending their money with us.

Richard Stephens:
Yeah. That's, that's sometimes that's true sometimes, you know, and then, and that's where RuPaul falls back to our core values and what we, you know, what we value as far as working with the client, you know, we're, you know, sometimes the best thing to do is not the big thing you think you need to do sometimes it's maybe the small thing.

John Laub:
Yeah. And, and getting, getting to the, yeah. Getting to the, to, to where you're, to meet goal, to understand what your goals are and what is the, what is the easiest and quickest, and least expensive path to get there. And often that's going to be, you know, even if it's just an 80% solution, right. You're still 80% further than you were before. And it's really an art to, I think that, that we've developed. And I think that our team embodies is, is getting to that point very, very, you know, as quickly as possible and doing it in a way that, you know, delivers value very early.

Richard Stephens:
Yeah. And then the other thing I think that is, is amazing for us is, is our success success rate is that, you know, when we introduce clients to this new method, you know, something they've never really seen. I mean, they absolutely love it. I mean, I haven't met a client yet that doesn't enjoy that transparency that you know, that budgets transparency where they, you know, they control the burn. And they're, you know, during these sprint cycles, as you mentioned, they're, they're seeing this from sprint to sprint. So you know, our success rate kind of speaks for itself and, and a lot of the new clients, they, they, they love how we're doing things. Do you think that, you know, do you think that, that our clients truly understand the value that we ultimately bring to the table?

John Laub:
I think they do once we're, once we're working together. I think in the beginning, they take a little bit about what, how we work on faith. I think that, you know, we talk about it and you know, it all sounds good. I think that they, they, their confidence gets built up because, you know, they probably see that, you know, they probably read in us that we're good at what we do, but I think they really see the value once we start working together. I think it, you know, I've, I've, we've seen this many times where they kind of take you on faith. They're like, okay, we trust you, you know, take us on this journey. And then after about a month of doing it, they really start to understand, wow, this thing, this is great. I love what they love working this way. You know?

John Laub:
And they, they love the transparency. They love being able to control the burn rate, doing the right things, getting things of value. And also the inevitable point where, you know, we're starting to do something new and we size it and they say, you know what? We understand that, that, that, you know, your cost estimate for this, we're going to hold off right now. You know, it's like giving them that control to be able to say, wow, you know, we love this process. I'm just thinking about an architecture form. We were just working with. Right. One of our clients, great client, and, you know, they wanted, there was a piece of functionality they wanted. And so we sized it and we're like, okay, got you. We're going to hold off. We're going to put down, you know, in a, in an upcoming budget. But I think that that control is really what, what, what allows what they love. And so as far, yeah, challenge, I think that they, they don't see it until they really, you know, it's like that ice cream, you know, it looks good. Right. But you really don't know how good it is. And so you start tasting it.

Richard Stephens:
That's true. That's another case of donut. I've done it. I was going to say, that's probably my guilty pleasure. Second, the ultimate would be both, you know, fresh doughnut right off the road, right off the rack. And then, you know, some ice cream next to them smells good. It looks great, but you really don't know how good it is. That's going to cause you to work out all weekend long and give it back to clients, you know, like what what would make a, a potential client not be a good fit for Greeley?

John Laub:
That's a good question. And, you know, there are some that aren't a good fit. I think that some, some clients are in you know, they, they they're, they're just really, you know, they're, they're, they're for various reasons, either their finance or their organizational kind of way of working is really just from fixed price. Right. They, they they're, they like, you know, they'll say lock, you know, I want to be locked into what it's going to cost. Right? We don't want this journey that you're talking about. You know, we don't want to try to find the best way and collaborate highly. We just, this is what we want. Give us this thing that we've, you know, you know, they'll give us a 200 page document, you know, business requirements, document, and functional requirements document. And they'll say, do this, you know, don't ask us questions, just do this and tell us how much this is going to cost.

John Laub:
Those often are good clients because, you know, and we turn work down because it just really, we know from experience that those types of projects, they tend to go over budget, they tend to under deliver. And you know, it, it's, it's just, you know, we're, we're in the success business and, you know, we don't feel that we can be successful that way. And I'm not saying companies, you know, companies that like that approach, that's fine. Right. you know, they, they can have, you know, I'm sure they have a measure of success using that model, but that's not who we are. That's not how we work.

Richard Stephens:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And then to your point earlier, I mean, once clients actually see how we do things and they see the process and they see that they're getting exactly what they want, that they didn't even know they wanted. I think, I think they love it. It's,

John Laub:
It's, it's probably, you know, you and I, both, probably everybody that has worked with us has had this experience where they'll say, you know, getting back to the architecture firm there. Now, now they're in my head. You know, one of the things that really excited me about them is that, you know, one of their statements and one of our sprint review meetings is, you know, they said you know, we, you were asking them as fact Richard, you're the one that asked the question. You said in one of, two of our questions in our retros, retrospectives are what's going well and what can be improved. And you know, their statement was you know, we, we, we are, you know, we thought their statement was wait. We thought we were doing well with project management. And they said, you know, we had no idea what it could be and we need to up our game. Like, I love that comment. And I just, you know, for, from really these guys are experts too, right. They're experts in their own right. Doing what they do. And to hear that, you know, it's like getting praise from Caesar and, you know, it was, it was nice hearing that statement. Absolutely. That was a good part of my day. I enjoyed hearing that because that, I mean, that just tells us where on a, on a scale from one to 10, how weird are you?

John Laub:
I think, you know, I feel weird. I feel weird. I feel you know I guess it depends, you know, sometimes I feel like I'm completely boring and, and non weird because I tend to be just and I'm just a guy just like everybody else, but I'm trying to think of some weird things that I, that I do or say my wife probably have a long list. It could be, it could be, yeah. She's probably going to list if she listens to this at all, she'll be, she'll be shaking her head right now. It's just going to be like, you should be like, I continue to name 10 things right off the bat. What are you not really good at? You know, I just did a, I did one of those analysis. One of those analysis you know, those personality analysis things.

John Laub:
And I'm a I think it's called IFP Ryan FJ. So one of the rarest ones, I think it's not enough Jay. And as part of that they say that one of the things my biggest weakness is sales and marketing. I'm not good at it. And you know, I'm not good at being the sales guy. And when I'm, when I'm talking to clients that comes out like, you know, and I've had people telling me this, I'm like, you know, they just know I'm not selling anything. I'm not trying to sell you anything. And I don't, I don't try to sell things. All I want is I want what's best. I what's best what's best for you. I want to go to the path that gets, this is a solution, the quickest, so I'm not a salesman. And, you know, I just, I think people read that and that's that's, but anyway, that's the one thing that I'm probably not good at.

John Laub:
That's the worst, you know, my worst. You know, I'm not just not good at it. Are you going to painter? Can you pain? I have, I have dabbled in painting. I have dabbled in painting. I did the I did the you, do you remember Bob Ross, right to the painter. He goes on TV and there was another guy, German guy before him, maybe a contemporary who died long time ago, but he was a German guy and he would paint them mighty trees. And he was a, he was a good German guy. My dad, my grandfather was a painter. We have a painter painting in our, in our, in our living room that he painted. So, you know, maybe it's in the genes too, but no, every time I look at it, I think of my grandfather, that's in commission you to paint me something, sometimes let's see

Richard Stephens:
What it brings on eBay or something. You, I find that you might find a different colleague. If there was a, if there was one thing you could change about our business you know, what would it be?

John Laub:
You know, that's, that's also a good question. You know, I feel like, I mean, I've, I feel like I'm, I'm the luckiest guy in the world in a lot of ways, you know? I mean, we, we have a great business. I love the people I work with. I love what we do. You know, I, I think that probably, I guess if there was one thing I would improve, I guess it would be, you know, just being, I wish, I wish we were really, really better at sales and marketing, you know, the, my, my biggest weakness. And I, I wish as an organization, we were able to communicate how we do what we do better. Richard. I think you're much better at this than I am. But I really, I, that would be the one thing I really feel like if we could do that better, we could, we could reach out to more people. We would be able to help a lot, a lot more people make a difference in their businesses and in their lives and for the better. And I think that would, that would be, that would, that I, I would derive immense satisfaction from that.

Richard Stephens:
What do you like most about what you do? What parts the best?

John Laub:
You know, I like talking to people, you know for an introvert. Like, I mean, that sounds strange, but I do, I do one on one. I love talking to people. I love, I love just chatting and you know, understanding and, you know, I'm just, you know, talking about issues you know, and, and their challenges. And I had a guy come to my house sewing magazines, not too long ago, you know, those kids are kind of walking, they saw magazines and I couldn't help it. I was like, you know, I wanted to, I was like, tell me about what you do, you know, how do you, how does this whole thing work, right? Where are you from? Right. And you know, so he told me his story and you know, it was like, I learned a lot about that, but that's, that's me. I love that. I love chatting. I love just getting, and I like solving problems. You know, I really, I really enjoy doing that. Maybe that's part of my nature of taking cardboard those apart and fixing them and, you know, trimmers running really good, but I love that. I love that. I love the thoughts of, of, of creating a solution, building something that, that makes a difference and you know, helps people,

Richard Stephens:
Well, that's what a, a, that's what we do. That's what gray leaf and, you know, aims to do for everybody they work with and partner with. So you know, that's, that's all we got for today, John. Thanks for for taking the time and answering some questions and for anybody that needs to to access some more information about us, be sure to go to go gray leaf.com and and check it out. We've got a blog. We use the posts about once, once a week and yeah. Check us out.

John Laub:
All right. Thank you, Richard. Appreciate it as always.

Topics: Gray Leaf Technology Consultants, Gray Leaf, Software development, Business solutions, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, OneDrive, O365, Podcast, MSP, Managed Service Provider, gograyleaf




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