Recruiting Tips for a Rockstar Team | Darrin Jahnel

"Nothing is more important than hiring. Find the right person, and never give up until you find them." Darrin Jahnel, Episode 103

These days, recruiting can be daunting…

You want to build a team of rockstars, but where are they hiding?

My guest, Darrin Jahnel, knows a thing or two about recruiting and company culture. His company has won multiple best workplace awards including the Inc. 5000.

Darrin is here to share how he scouts top-tier employees…

And how he helps them flourish with an award-winning company culture.

We also cover:

  • The value of investing in young people

  • How to rediscover optimism

  • A morning routine for mindful leaders

  • What sports can teach you about building a team

  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Darrin Jahnel: A good person in my opinion is sometimes, as you know, 50% better, 100% better than someone else. Nothing is more important than than hiring. Find that right person and don’t freaking give up until you find the right person.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and they call me the vibrant coach and today on the show, I have Darrin Jahnel. He is the founder and CEO of the Jahnel Group, a 150 person software consulting company headquartered in Schenectady, New York, otherwise known as Upstate New York. Darrin leads with energy and is maniacally focused on creating an amazing work environment for his team. Darrin earned an undergraduate degree in business administration from the University at Albany, and a master’s degree in Information Systems from NYU’s Stern School of Business. Please welcome to the podcast, Darrin. Hey, Darrin.

Darrin: Awesome. Thanks for having me, Nicole. I’m fired up to be here. And I’m looking to try to add some value for any of your listeners out there. I’m here to bring the goods so hopefully I can deliver.

Nicole: All right. Okay, I believe I believe you can do it. Alright. So right out of the gate, we have this one question. I’m collecting definitions, Darren of leadership. So I know that you’re doing one heck of a job being a leader inside your organization. Tell me what, what’s your definition of leadership?

Darrin: Leadership, to me is all about caring for those for those on your team, right. So if you if you care for them, and you’re putting their needs first, and you’re trying your best, to give them the best opportunities to deliver for them and protect them and serve them. That is my definition of leadership because they will flourish. And that’s the sign of a good leader is when the people under their care are flourishing, whether it’s personally, professionally, whatever.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I’ve had people say, you know, if you’re a leader, and you’re turning around and nobody’s following, you got a big problem, right? So if you have them flourishing, that’s even better. So in my mind, I see flourishing as like growing, developing, taking on more activities, helping you build the bottom line, reduce the expenses, get more clients, all those things.

Darrin: Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes this is kind of sad to say, but it’s true. Sometimes that means leaving you, right. We want to, we want to provide enough opportunities where people want to stay here for 10,20, 30 years, but sometimes, right, if we’re leading properly, you may set somebody up so that they can now go off and start their own company. Maybe they get their dream job at another organization, maybe they’ve always wanted to do something. 

And if you’ve led them well, and you’ve served them, maybe they’ve leveled up, leveled up to the point where it’s time for them to leave you and your organization. I always cry when that happens. But you know, it’s kind of bittersweet, but it also feels good. If you really are truly putting them first, you can celebrate in those moments, too.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. And you know what they do when they go off and they start that new company, you know what they do? They come and they say, I had this boss named Darrin. And he was amazing. And he taught me how to be a leader. And so now there’s going to be a group of 150 other people that know all about Darrin and how amazing he is. And so what you’re really building there is what I would call a legacy.

Darrin: Yeah, I love what you’re saying, Nicole. I’m a big sports guy. And sometimes they talk about this with like, some like legendary coaches, they call it their coaching tree, right? So these three guys used to be his assistants. And then they went off here. And then they have these assistants and all of these, you know, some of the legendary coaches, their coaching tree is like, there’s like 100 different people in it. Right. And so I think as big as I can, can grow my professional tree. Yeah, just hopefully add value in each of these folks’ lives. That’s, that’s really my goal.

Nicole: Yeah. And you know, I think, you know, all of us are entrepreneurial. We’re trying to make a buck and do all that stuff. But at the end of the day, I don’t think there’s anything more fun than developing a human. Like, that’s the big payoff for me.

Darrin: Amen to that. Yeah. I mean, there’s nothing better than celebrating with somebody and seeing them, you know, architect and design the life of their dreams, if they if you can play a role in that and helping them get there. I’m with you all day long on that, Nicole.

Nicole: Yeah. And so a gentleman named Timothy introduced Darrin and I, and he says to me, hey, Nicole, have I mentioned that Darrin hired three full time employees whose only job is to focus on the team’s well being? And when he told me that I was like, well get him in the hot seat ASAP. We want to understand, you know, first of all, I know there’s people out there going, okay, well, how can you afford that? You know, what are you paying these people? And number two is like I’m sitting here thinking how can you not afford to do that. So will you kind of talk to us about that.

Darrin: Sure, sure. So yeah, I mean, we couldn’t do this initially, right? In the early days, you know, two, three people, 5, 10, even at 50 people, we couldn’t really afford to do that. And so a lot of what those folks do fell on the leadership in the early days, right? And what is that? It’s caring for the people, it’s helping them get training, it’s connecting with them, personally, their family, attending a wedding, giving them an amazing gift, again, training them, mentoring them, helping them, like keep coming back to the same phrase, architect the life that they’re trying to build, right. 

And so, but as we scaled Nicole that became unscalable. Right? For us as leaders, right? You can only care for so many folks. And so maybe around 75, is when we hired that first person or actually created that first role. We didn’t hire that person. Because that person was our first employee. We have this girl, Jessie Zweigenthal on our team. Absolute rockstar, straight up legend. First employee.

Nicole: Oh my gosh, I love it.

Darrin: Worked with my brother and I when she was 18 years old, she came to work for us. And now she’s been with us, I think 12 years now. She’s amazing. So she kind of transitioned out of that role out of her other role. She was running projects and design and doing things like that. And then her full time job was caring for our team, making sure people are feeling engaged, buying them the dopest the most amazing gifts you could ever even imagine. I’ve got a million stories about amazing gifts. 

You know, and really getting to know the folks making sure that she’s actually asking the questions. Are you happy? And how can we help you get to where you want to go? Again, even if that means leaving Jahnel Group, right. And then as time went on, and we needed another person to help on just the recruiting and training and what sort of certificates they’re getting, and things of that nature. 

And then we hired a third person, again, we didn’t actually hire each of these roles, we move people around into them from internal, the Director of Project Engagement, kind of doing that same thing that Jessie was doing, but more for like project teams, making sure that teams are healthy, what are they missing? What do they need? Does the leader have what he needs. And so those three kind of make up the triad of folks that their sole purpose is focusing on the employees and making sure they’re getting they’re getting what they need. 

And really, the ROI is there. I mean, you know, it helps with employee retention, projects are going to be happier and more successful. People are gonna get trained up and level up, which allows us to charge higher rates for them. Again, now, maybe after five years of that, they’re like, look, I just got a huge raise somewhere else, and they may leave us. If that’s the case, we did our job. We helped them get to where they need to go. So hopefully that provides some color on how we handle that.

Nicole: Yeah. And so I want to talk about Jessie a minute. I hope she’s listening. So you said she’s an absolute rockstar. And so I think sometimes people don’t know what that looks like. So you hire this young gal, she’s 18 years old. She didn’t know everything that she needed to know when she was 18. I mean, that’s my guess, that’s my assumption. But then you said she just was a rock star. So talk about what makes somebody a rock star because there’s some people sitting there going, am I a rock star? How do you be a rock star? So I bet she has some innate characteristics that make her amazing, and she’s probably even honed them after 12 years of hanging out with all of you IT folks.

Darrin: Absolutely will. So I was her youth leader as a at our church. And so she was a young kid coming up and I we saw her and her sister, they have such personality and just magnetism and then upon graduation, I lied. I said, we hired her at 18. I think she was 19 when we hired her once upon graduation, she did this program with our church where she traveled the world. And she spent I think, like, between a month and two months in five different countries. 

So she spent a month in New Zealand, a month in South Africa a month right. And she’s working with different churches and just, I mean experienced in the world living, growing right. When she came back at 19 years old after a year of that, to me she was way further along than most kids who have a four year degree or even heck, even five years of work experience right. Right off the rip, we hired her. This is before we’re doing our current business. We had an educational software business, we hired her to get on the phones and make cold calls. 

And then she ran a, she ran a call center with four different callers and then she became a designer and she helped with our database and then she helped me do sales with this business. Whatever role we put her in Nicole, she just she didn’t even know anything about it. She just figured it out and learn the skills as fast as she could, and did really well at all of those roles. Right. So that’s what I think a rockstar is, is like, whatever I throw at her, she’s got it on lockdown. And we had so much fun growing the company together. 

And again, she would do a lot of the early sales with me. She’s not even really a software person, but she kind of figured it out. And we became a good team. And then as she evolved into this role, you know, she was born for this role, because she just cares about people so much, and she loves buying them gifts and all of these, you know, doing these amazing things for folks.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. So I’m just gonna tell you what he just said again, but like in the cliffnotes of what he said only because I don’t want you to miss what a rock star is. So a rock star number one is adventurous. So the scowl goes off. She has she takes risks. Okay, I’m sure they were calculated. I’m sure she went with a group, hello. And she tried on something different than what she had known. And I will tell you in this day and age, you tell me if I’m right, Darrin, but I mean, like things are gonna change in software. 

Hello, hello out there. It’s gonna change tomorrow, everything that Darrin thought he was going to do tomorrow, half of it is going to change, okay. And so you have to be a change agent, you have to be able to roll with the change, you have to be change ready. And the number one thing he said, he said it twice about Jessie is that she figured it out. She’s a figure outer.

Darrin: I love that. Nicole. First of all, good job cleaning that up for me. I like.

Nicole: No, I wasn’t cleaning it up. I just wanted to focus it, like you guys don’t miss.

Darrin: Yeah, that’s, that’s awesome. You’re right. She just figures it out. And even to this day, even in her current role. It’s even though that’s her full time role. There’s still all kinds of things that happen around here. Literally, just yesterday, we threw a ping pong tournament here for charity. We had 70 players and another 100 guests. So 170 folks came to our office, we actually have this really dope office. It’s very cool. But that’s not her job. 

She’s not ready for that. She just figured it out. She, we got the ping pong tables in here. And she ordered the food and the beer and the da da da. And all of a sudden, people are like this event is amazing, right? And it wasn’t all Jessie there’s a whole team of people that work with that. But she’s there stirring the pot and, you know, making things happen and figuring things out. And so I I like the way you kind of summarized that for me.

Nicole: Yeah. And you know, one of the things I tell people all the time is they’re like, you know, you know, trying to get it right. I’m like, just be messy. I’m sure she had 12 ideas before ping pong stuck or something. You know what I mean? It’s like, so you just have to be a little bit messy. So anyways, I love Jessie, I vote for her for Employee of the Year. Okay. So let’s look at the next thing here that I want to talk to you about. 

Now don’t miss this, everybody. Darrin made Inc.’s 5000 list five years in a row and has won multiple best workplace awards for their amazing culture. And so you know, this is the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. Okay. So how did you build such a vibrant culture? What would you attribute that to? Obviously, you know, putting these right, you’re hiring Jessie, but there’s only one Jessie. So tell us, the rest of us, how we do it without Jessie.

Darrin: Sure. Sure. Yeah. So culture is everything to us. Right. And so you know, in the blurb you just read, we won these best workplace awards. What does that mean? In our local area, I think a lot of cities do this, where they have these contests where it’s anonymous, all the employees vote, I promise, promise, promise, we don’t, we don’t bribe them.

Nicole: Wait, he’s in software, hold on No, he wouldn’t do that.

Darrin: We hack the system, and then we just give ourselves great scores. No, as so people vote anonymously. And we’ve actually been lucky enough to win. There’s two different newspapers that do it. And we’ve won each of them, I think, five years, six years in a row. And it just, it feels really good. Because on those anonymous surveys, they could rip us right. And, and we, we pay the extra money for, you know, for the actual specific results, too. And we’ve we’ve even made changes. 

Sometimes, like a couple years ago, they, the people were like, yeah, this place is great, but the benefits aren’t as good. We’ve heard that, we responded. Next year in 2023, free health insurance for every single person at Jehnel Group, right? We’re taking, we take that kind of survey culture very seriously. When we send out surveys, we are listening, right? A lot of companies send out this survey and it’s just like, why’d you even ask me? You’re not actually looking for or anything?

Nicole: Don’t get me started.

Darrin: But Nicole, the number one thing that culture comes down to is and this was Captain Obvious, it’s the right people on the team, right? Think of the people in your life. Think of like the most fun, awesome, engaging people. If you guys went on vacation, say there’s four of them and you. So five, five person crew. And you guys go take a vacation, and it’s the worst vacation ever. The car breaks down, the weather sucks. You get stuck in a hotel, ba ba ba ba. You’re going to have a kick ass time, you’re going to be laughing, you’re going to be telling stories about that awful trip for decades. Right? 

On the other hand, think of most draining annoying people in your life. And now you go take the greatest vacation ever the, stay at a five star resort, ba ba ba ba. You’re gonna, they’re gonna be dragging you down and complaining about the food? And can you believe that they don’t give free vodka here or whatever, right? Even though that vacation has got all the best accommodations and everything, it’s not gonna be as fun and you’re not going to be telling stories about that other than maybe complaining about it. 

So I want to surround myself with the right types of people. And so we’re maniacally focused on this when we’re recruiting, right. We’re looking for, we have a strict no a-holes policy here. Strict, right? I just don’t have time for that. You know, I don’t care how talented you are, if you’re awful to be around, I don’t want to be around you, you know, I just don’t want it. I don’t need it in my life. And so you’re gonna, you got to get out of here. 

So I think that’s number one, right is getting the right people on the team. Then after that, it’s creating an environment where they can create actual true connections with each other. Because when you’re really friends with someone, well, that’s when like, life feels awesome, right? That’s why a lot of people don’t feel connected at work, because they don’t have real relationships. They don’t feel like they can be themselves. 

And they can’t wait til nights and weekends when they can go home and quote unquote, be themselves. I want to be myself at work. I want to be myself all the time. And I want to be around other folks like that. So we’re focused so so intently on these two things, adding the right people in the team, and then creating an environment where they can actually connect and make true friendships.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. And drink beer and play ping pong is part of it. I love it. I love it. I want to come over. Okay, so you talked about your recruiting process. And one of the things that I do in my business is I help companies recruit the right people. So I bet you we have a similar philosophy on recruiting. So I would like to kind of dial that in a little bit. So what is your philosophy on recruiting? How do you, see here’s the thing Darrin, people are acting desperate. You cannot go there, you cannot get desperate you have to relentlessly pursue Jessie’s every time. So what is your philosophy? What are some things you guys do to recruit so that you don’t have any a holes on the team?

Darrin: Yeah, I love, I love, we are we are very much in sync, Nicole. So I’ll give you, I’ll give you my first thing. And this one will be this one might be tough to hear for people because it’s not as practical for most businesses. First thing is we’re we have an absurd, absurd recruiting funnel. To me, it’s a numbers game, right? If I want the best people on the team, I got to speak to more people just like sales. You want to do more sales, make more calls, connect with more folks. So this year, we’re gonna do that 150,000 people. 

So that, by vetting, I’m seeing a quick LinkedIn stalking or like maybe a resume search. Of those, we’re gonna interview 1500 to hire about 60 or 70. So if you think about that funnel, right, we have five full time recruiters and then another probably five or six people that help out with recruiting as well. That’s how much we invest in it. When you think about that funnel. First of all, we’re getting really good at telling the difference. Because we spoke I probably interviewed 5000 people in my life. That sounds like a lot.

Nicole: That’s right, and it’s a skill set, you have to get as a leader. How to interview. It’s huge.

Darrin: And the only way to get it is, again, you just got to put the time in, right. 

Nicole: Ten thousand hours. 

Darrin: We’re speaking to a lot of folks. So we’re, I feel like we’re good at our pitch. And we’re also good at kind of vetting out if you know if they’re a good fit or not. And then you know, we have a really nice system that we take them through. So they’re feeling loved on and cared for in the in the process, but and by the time they get to me, which is the last step, I can tell sometimes. When they’re the right fit, they’re like dying to work for us. Right. And so that feels really good. So that’s, that’s the the first and most obvious answer. If people are struggling hiring, I would say and this one’s not this is why I’m saying it’s like not so practical. 

You can’t go vet, not everyone can just go vet 150,000 people. But what I would say is you’re not speaking to enough people. I’ve had people, other business owners go I can’t hire anyone. I’ve tried everything. I’m like, alright, how many people did you interview? And they’re like eight. I said eight? I ought to slap you across the mouth, Nicole. Eight? You got to interview 88, you know what I’m saying?

Nicole: 100%.

Darrin: You know, but let me now let me switch to maybe trying to add some value for the person out there who’s like, alright, I hear you, buddy. But I don’t have 10 full time recruiters or five full time recruiters and I can’t do that. So here are some hacks that we’ve done. I think that have been really valuable for us. So we do, and this one you probably heard of, a lot of people have a referral program. What we’re doing though, instead of saying, hey, if you refer somebody you get a bonus, which they do. We give $3,000 if somebody refers someone in. Instead of that we say who’s the best person you ever worked with? 

So say, Nicole, you’re in the software game, I’d say Nicole. Who’s the best person you ever worked with that doesn’t already work here, and they go, oh, wow, my friend, Mary. But she’s good. I didn’t ask her situation. I said, who’s the best person? And then I get that name, and then we go recruit that person. And most great people already have a great gig. So they’re not looking now. But we take a long term approach. 

So I go and say, you gave me the name Mary. I get some background on Mary from you and then I, of course, I get your permission, if you don’t want to do it, we back off. But if I get your permission, we reach out to Mary. We say Mary, listen, I just want you to know I work with Nicole. And I asked her who the best person she’s ever worked with, ever in her life. And she said, you. You’re a star. And I read off some anecdotes that you told me about her. And now I say to Mary, listen, I get it, you’re in a great job, you’re probably not looking for a job. 

All I want to be is, I want to be on the list, I want to actually be the first person you call. If there’s ever a time when you’re looking for a change. Might be a year from now. Maybe five years from now you’re like, it’s time for a change of season, I want you to put me on the top of that freaking list and give me a call. Give us a shot at a title because I want to recruit you. I want to sell you on what we’re doing here, Mary, because I think it’d be a damn good fit here. Based on everything that Nicole told me and Nicole is a freaking badass. 

I already know that becuase I work with her. She’s saying your’re the best, then let’s go right. And so we’ve taken that long term approach, and you know, some but most of people we’ve never heard from again, or we you know, we stay in touch with them and try to do it. We probably hired 5, 10 people that way, right. So when you get someone over that long term play, I think it’s a really interesting, unique hack, right? I’ll give you, well go ahead. I was gonna do one more.

Nicole: I was just gonna say and if you’re sitting there listening to that, this is not a common practice. Or you would have gotten that phone call. Do you know what I’m saying? Like this is, this is really been giving attention and intention to what he said, because how many of y’all have heard getting the right people on the team. Because that’s what Darrin said about 15 minutes ago. But look. Look y’all, he’s not, it’s just not some kind of random philosophy or something he read in one of John Gordon’s books or whatever, you know. 

He’s actually practicing this with a strategy. So don’t miss that. I mean, and that’s what it takes to set yourself apart. I mean, how many people listening to this right now have had somebody like Darrin call and say, your best friend told me to call you. That’s huge. I am surprised you haven’t gotten even more people on the bus. But he’s got 150, and you said you did 15? That’s 10%. So that’s not a bad statistic.

Darrin: It definitely works, Nicole, and honestly, we’ve planted seeds with another, there’s probably 200 people out there that we’ve planted seeds with. So I think they’ll keep coming in, you know. And honestly, even if it doesn’t, first of all, that’s the way I want to live my life. I want to, I want to be the guy telling someone that. I’m not giving, I’m not saying BS. Nicole really said, Mary, you’re the best person ever. I want to give that compliment. And if she never comes to work for me, wasn’t that a cool day? I made her day, I made Nicole’s day. Everybody’s happy, even if she never comes to work for me, so.

Nicole: And that’s like a little culture thing you’re doing too, right? Like, so it’s like, what I would call like, almost like a three for one. Right? You’re like you’re doing one thing. You’re getting three benefits, you know, so it’s awesome.

Darrin: Yeah. I love that. I love that. Here’s another one too, that I think people have heard of, but I think we do it really uniquely, right? We just keep going younger and younger. Right? So if you, you know, you go alright, well, maybe I’ll hire kids out of college. All right, well, maybe I’ll hire interns that are juniors or sophomores or freshmen. Hell, I’ll go to high school if I got to. Right. What we’ve done here, Nicole, is we put the word out to everyone in our inner circle in our in our area, right? If you know a young we’re looking for engineers real like crazy math nerds. We’re looking for these geniuses, right? 

So I’ve told everyone if you know the kid, I need you to send them to me. And I’m not looking for the kid who’s like ahh, he’s kind of good math. I want the phenom. I want the kid who the teacher says in all my 20 years of teaching, I’ve never seen anyone like this right? And we’ve had a few of these guys come to us over the years. Right? And one of the guys came to us, Nicole, he was in eighth grade. He was doing the networking, the actual networking at his high school as an eighth grader. Instead of hiring it out. 

They had an eighth grader set it up. I met this kid man, you know on the cartoons when they look at you. That’s how I looked at this kid, right? We get him in here. We put him in an internship. He’s unbelievable. He’s doing amazing things. We’re investing in him, right. And then we end up, a kid like that we set free and he goes off to college and does his own thing. Actually, he just came back we might end up doing a project with him. Another kid we’ve got like that was this amazing young man. And he went off to Emory University and now he’s working out McKensey, he’s a he’s an is a consultant at McKinsey traveling the world. But we have a connection with him, right. 

And we’ve invested in him and tried to help him get to the next level. Now he was going to get to the next level anyway. He’s a phenom. But I think we helped him get there a little quicker, right. And so it’s planting seeds. It’s playing the long game, both with these superstars in that first hack I told you, and these young folks, right. Do that with 20 people over 20 years, you don’t think good things are gonna come out of it. If you have 20 geniuses out there that all love and respect what you’ve done for them. That leads to good things, whether it’s recruiting or business development. So there’s a couple of quick hacks I could keep going on if you want me to, but I’m carrying on a bit much.

Nicole: No, no, I love what you’re saying. And you are delivering the goods just to let you know. Okay, so you played some serious basketball? Is this true? Is this a true fact?

Darrin: Yeah, my brother and I were very serious about basketball growing up. We were lucky enough to play on a few special teams. I played basketball University at Albany was a division two school and so yeah, like, hoops was my whole life. I mean, I was obsessed with it. My dream was to play in the NBA, but they wouldn’t let me play. I wasn’t good enough. Aren’t they jerks? Aren’t they jerks, Nicole?

Nicole: Yeah, they didn’t know how smart you were. They were just looking at your dribbling and passing skills., apparently. I don’t know what was going on. But here’s what here’s, here’s what I know, you probably took away some great lessons from that. I know that people who adore sports, they’re often very good in business, right? Because business is competitive, you know. 

And one of the things that surprises me all the time is like, you know, people are talking about where they work. And I’m like, well, you know, the reason they’re doing these things are trying to make money. They’re trying to win the game. They’re trying to be top in the market. So I think it’s very good to be a sports person and be very competitive. So what would you take away from your time in sports? What are the big lessons you learned or a story or something that might illustrate kind of how we need to be in business?

Darrin: Yeah, I love that. Nicole. I, we talk a lot here about special teams, we use that term all the time. And it doesn’t have to be a sports team, right? It could be a band, or a startup company, or a sorority or whatever. But for me, it was sports, right. When a person is a part of a special team, that’s when I think human beings are at their best. It’s when they’re the most excited about life, they’re happy to come in, they want to work hard, they’re, they’re excited for each other, they’re rooting each other on, they’re willing to sacrifice for the team. 

They’re competitive with each other. But it’s the light, positive side of competitiveness. There’s a dark side of that too, right. But to me, the number one telltale sign of a special team is it’s like a magnet, it draws people in. Not just the people on the team, but other folks just want to be around it. Family and friends and the spouse or the son or people just want to be around and when the event is over, practice or the game, or the company just closed the big deal or the holiday party is over. 

When you’re a part of a special team, what you find is people don’t leave, they just keep hanging. Because this, it’s like a magnet, they want to be around it. It makes them feel good. And that’s the way I want to live my life. I want to be a part of a special team, I want to build one here, I want my family to be one, I want my church to be one. I want my I want my kids to experience this. That’s what, I just think humans are better that way. 

And it makes me happier. So that’s probably the biggest thing that we took away from our sports career. We were lucky enough to be on some special teams in our younger years. And then as we went out into the professional world, and we didn’t feel that thing, that connection, I’m like, ahh, something’s missing here. I don’t feel this in my corporate job. So we set out to build it. And I think that was the biggest takeaway, Nicole.

Nicole: I love that. I love that. Okay, so you know, a lot of leaders are out there and they are a little, you know, pushed back by the remnants of COVID, supply chain issues, I could go on of all the things that I hear that we’re suffering under. We can’t find good people, which we just gave you the answer to that. But, you know, there’s a lot of things that leaders like kind of put up and they say, I’m really struggling with these things. 

You seem outrageously optimistic and energetic, and which I love that quite frankly. So tell me how can a leader get their optimism back in gear? How do you get up every day and bring this kind of really, I love it. You said it earlier and you’ve got it in your bio also, but you have this ton of energy and you’re maniacally, like concerned about things right. So it’s like obsessed. So how did you get in that state? How do you stay in that state?

Darrin: Yeah, that’s a great question. We joke a lot about my the roller coaster of emotions of like a business owner, right. But I’m, you know, as a sports guy, I believe in like, the daily disciplines. How do you get good at a sport? Well, you gotta get up. You got to do your drills and you gotta stretch. I can put together a program that works. If I do my daily disciplines, then I will continue to do well. But I need to also remind myself, right? That’s why you need a coach. That’s why you need teammates. That’s why you got to drill. And so I’ve taken that mindset into my own life. And I’ll give you a kind of, like, I wanted to share. 

Nicole: Tell us what you do.

Darrin: Yeah, so I shared this yesterday on my YouTube channel, my morning routine, right? So when I wake up in the morning, I am very intentional about what I allow my brain to start thinking about right. I literally believe in brainwashing myself. So as soon as I wake up, I put on YouTube, the YouTube algorithms got me figured out, Nicole. It knows what I want to hear. It knows I want to hear motivational speeches, you know, podcasts, Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, all of this stuff, right? 

And so I start with that, right in the morning, I’m choosing what I will think about. Because if I’m not intentional, everybody’s done this. I don’t feel good. What did I say yesterday. Oh, my God, I’m anxious. I got a lot on my plate. Or I had bad news yesterday. I say, I’m not gonna think about that. That’s all just noise, anyway. That’s BS. That’s not real. It might actually be real, that we had a bad day. Actually, we had a bad day today, Nicole. We had two pieces of news that weren’t great. But I I’ve been around the game, then that’s that’s just, that’s today. Yeah, that shouldn’t affect me. Right? 

Tomorrow is going to be amazing. And so is the next day. And if they’re not, I’ll just keep plowing through. Right. So I think I think choosing how to start my morning. And what I’m putting into my mind, I think is probably the biggest hack to stay positive. And then cutting out you know, I talked about are no a-holes policy. Cutting out like people that drain you, right? I just don’t want to be around you. There’s lots of people in the world. I think there’s 7 billion people to go find somebody else who’s negative, but don’t be around me.

Nicole: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Yeah. I love what you’re saying. Yeah. So he just threw in a couple of names. And so you know, these names to somebody, you know, I’m 56 years old. So, like we all know about Jim Rohn. And we know about Tony Robbins. Yeah. But if you don’t know those names, will you please type them in your YouTube search thing. So they’ll, they’ll start serving this stuff up to you. 

And if you want to go to the way, way back, there’s two more fellows, I would offer you, which is Brian Tracy. I just was part of a program today, Darrin, and the it’s a leadership development program for the senior leaders. And so the assignment was from the HR director was to give them these books to read. And so one of the books was Eat That Frog. Everybody write that down, Eat That Frog. And so this thing has been put, it’s in 12 different languages. It’s all over the world. 

And it’s Brian Tracy, so everybody write down, Brian Tracy. And then I go to the way, way back Zig Ziglar. And so okay, so I just got a heck yeah from Darrin. Okay. So here, here’s the thing. And this is what I kind of heard you say, Darrin was that like, when you were talking about those kids, and helping the eighth grader and on. One Zig’s favorite things was, do as much as you can for other people, and you’ll get exactly what you want.

Darrin: Yeah, I love that. And I love Zig. I love Zig. He’s got that accent. He’s fantastic. Oh, my goodness. I’ve listened to him so many days. My poor wife, right? I wake up in the morning, and then I start this YouTube BS. And I don’t do it with headphones. I do it on speaker, so she you know she that’s not her thing.

Nicole: No, she loves you. I’m sure she’s like he’s such a great guy.

Darrin: Oh, that’s great.

Nicole: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Okay, well, we got to dial it in here. How many of y’all would like to have Darrin come back? Say that’s me make a comment below. Like, like, like this particular episode, maybe Darrin will come back and talk to us more. But I do have one last question. You know, there’s somebody out there always listening who’s like, oh, my gosh, I love listening to this guy. Download just one more nugget. What’s the nugget you want to leave everybody with? If you’ve got one little nugget, you could leave everybody with what what would be your final nugget?

Darrin: You know, I think, to double down on what I said before. When it comes to building your team, there’s nothing more important that you need to do. People say, well, I have real work to do. I don’t have time to interview and look at all these folks. What I would say is, there’s nothing more important. If you spent three months and you got way behind on your work, but you were able to get that person who’s in the top one or 2%. And they stay with you for three, four years. You’re gonna get amazing production for three or four years. And yes, it set you back three months. 

You’re gonna catch that up in the first three months of that person being there. They can change your life, they can change your organization, right? So think about the compounded interest of money, right? How important is you know, 8% versus 10%? Well think about people. A good person, in my opinion is sometimes as you know, 50% better, 100% better than someone else. Compound that interest and think about how important that is. So I’m tripling down on that, Nicole. That’s my nugget to take away. Nothing is more important than hiring. Find that right person and don’t freaking give up until you find the right person.

Nicole: That’s right. You’re just inviting trouble is what you’re doing. You’re just inviting trouble in the front door. Okay. All right. So listen, everybody, I’m sure you want to find Darrin. And so here’s the truth. He spells his name, D A R R I N last name, J A H N E L. And you can find him on LinkedIn. And then it’s backslash Darrin-Jahnel. You can also find them on Facebook with the Jahnel Group and then also on Twitter. So other than being an amazing CEO and ping pong player and past basketball pro, tell us tell us what else you do. I think you speak at conferences and things. Do you not do that?

Darrin: Yeah, I am. I am a professional speaker as well. So if people need a speaker for a gig, I will bring the energy. I’ll bring the fire. I can go forever about culture. And actually, you know what I’m doing right now, Nicole. So I’m putting myself out there a little bit. I’m literally just launching a YouTube channel. So I’m actually trying to build a brand. I just put my second video out last week. And so, you know, this is something I’m a little bit out of my comfort zone. And so you can find me at Darrin.Jahnel at YouTube, and so feel free to check me out. Subscribe. And hopefully, well, if you like any of the stuff I’m saying, check me out and subscribe. And I realized that my style isn’t for everybody. But hopefully I can build a brand there and start to spread more of this message.

Nicole: Yeah, well, I’m gonna go subscribe. So don’t be silly. Go do that. And go find them on the LinkedIn, LinkedIn with Darrin. And then of course, if you need a speaker, sounds like he would really bring some fantastic work. All right. So everybody, it’s been my pleasure to have Darrin on the Build a Vibrant Culture Podcast. I’m so grateful for you Darrin. Listen, have fun, go have fun with your son. He’s playing tennis. Darrin’s gotta go. He’s got to get playing tennis. He’s got to go support him. Thanks so much. 

Darrin: Thank you, Nicole.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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