#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

How to Create an Award-Winning Culture by Putting People First with JeVon McCormick

Build a tribe that align people, process, and profit.

JeVon McCormick is the President and CEO of Scribe Media, a publishing company that helps individuals from a variety of backgrounds write, publish and market their books.  In today’s show, JeVon shares his personal journey as a mixed-raced child from a broken family to creating an award-winning organization that puts people first. JeVon also discusses why he doesn’t do words like “wish, hope, or luck.”

Jevon McCormick portrait

“I had every reason to succeed because I learned lessons in life that most people will never encounter.”

—JeVon McCormick

Scribe Media

49. How to Create an Award-Winning Culture by Putting People First with JeVon McCormick

Key Takeaways

  • As a leader, your role is to serve and support the people you work with.
  • A tribe is a community of people, where we all depend on one another.
  • Learn, grow, and don’t repeat your mistakes.

Social Links


JeVon McCormick is the President and CEO of Scribe Media, a publishing company that helps individuals from a variety of backgrounds write, publish, and market their books. Scribe Media has worked with 1900+ authors, including members of The Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Nassim Taleb and David Goggins, whose blockbuster book Can’t Hurt Me has sold over 2 million copies.

JeVon was born the son of a black pimp father and a white orphan mother. Today, he’s the CEO of a multi-million dollar publishing company that was recently ranked the #1 Top Company Culture in America by Entrepreneur Magazine. He’s made millions in the stock market (even though he didn’t go to college), he was the President of a software company (even though he can’t code) and he’s currently the CEO of a publishing company (even though he can’t spell).

The consummate Modern Leader, JeVon shares the lessons from his incredible journey to shed light on the intersection between people, business, and American society.

“If you hire great people, you can build great process. You can make great profits. And with those great profits, you can do great things for the communities that you live in and that you serve.”

—JeVon McCormick

Scribe Media

Podcast Transcription

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group, an award-winning national facility management company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions.

Welcome to the BeBetter podcast! Each week, I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learned as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees, and their community. Are you ready to Be Better?

Michael Kurland (00:02):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Be Better podcast. I’m your host, Michael. Kurland. Joining me today. JeVon McCormick, CEO of Scribe and author of the book “I Got There.” JeVon, welcome to the show.

JeVon McCormick (00:19):

My man Michael, what’s going on, sir?

Michael Kurland (00:22):

Not much. I am very excited for you to be here and I am also excited for the audience to meet you and get to know your story.

JeVon McCormick (00:30):


Michael Kurland (00:31):

So, you know, we talked on pre-show yesterday and you are one of the more, I would say difficult in terms of how we’re setting up through the roadmap for the show, people that I’ve ever had come on the show and you were basically like, I’ve done a million podcasts. We turn down more than we accept. So that actually made me feel good because I’m like, oh cool. You accepted my podcast. And then you said, dude, be authentic and ask me the question that no one on any other podcasts has ever asked. And I was like that is a lot of pressure. And you told me to listen to your podcast with James Altucher.

Michael Kurland (01:11):

I honestly had thank you for doing that. Cause that was like, that was key for me to set up, hopefully what will be a great interview for the audience. So in your podcast with him, you talked about your story and I would like you to get into your story first, but you know, we talked about this and I want to lead off with this question. So in, in your podcast with James, you talked about how your father was a pimp and he would drive around with you in the car and collect money from prostitutes. And while you were doing this at, I believe you were eight years old sitting in the front seat while the girls would slide the money through the window to you, you started thinking of how can I make a business plan to scale up prostitution, where maybe if I treat the girls nicer, they’ll actually want to work more hours for me and make me more money. I asked you this because your company Scribe just was named the number one culture company in America by Entrepreneur Magazine. So that’s where I’m going with it. So I’d love for you to like dig in on that, to start.

JeVon McCormick (02:18):

Wow, man. So, you know, it’s interesting. Yes. So, kind of give you some details there. I was nine years old and my dad had me one weekend with him. And like you said, my dad was a pimp and a drug dealer. He put women on the street corner. They sold their bodies and my dad took every dollar and he also had 23 children along the way. So I’m one of 23. And so, but one weekend, one rare weekend my dad had me. I was nine years old, we’re driving around and we go to the first prostitute and she hands in this big stack of money and ask if she could come in. And I remember it was cold outside. So I know it was winter. I don’t know if it was February, January, whatever, but I remember it was cold outside and she asked if she could come in, she goes, Hey, I made my account.

JeVon McCormick (03:08):

Can I come in now? And my dad in the most loving and encouraging manner said, no, no girl, get back out there. You’re on a roll. Keep it going. You know what? I promise you when I come back around, I’ll pick you up, we’ll go to dinner. You know, it just so encouraging and loving. And so, she walks back out there, we drive off and then we go to the next prostitute and the next prostitute her money was not a stack of money. It was more like a few bills and my dad lost his. And just any foul word you can think of, any derogatory word. My dad said it to her. I need just get your back out there. Get my money in. I remember looking at her. I was in the front seat and I remember looking up at her cause she was on the passenger side and just watching her.

JeVon McCormick (04:00):

She started crying and we drove off and near hit her as we drove off. And it was in that moment that I would say I first was introduced to entrepreneurship and also putting people first. And a lot of people criticized me for my example, but this is how I grew up. So this is where my lessons came from. So if people are critical of it, so be it. But I remember driving off and I thought to myself, huh? I wonder if I was nicer to the prostitutes and I allowed them to keep part of the money. Could I have more prostitutes and make more money in volume than the way my dad does this. So I was already thinking, how could I scale this to make it better, make more money? But also more importantly, what’s key in there is I was also looking at how could I treat them better?

JeVon McCormick (04:55):

Could I treat them better? Could I talk to them nicer, let them keep part of the money. That became my first introduction if you will to entrepreneurship, my attempt at putting people first, treating people respectfully, and then I went next level with it and I thought, whoa, I’m going to have a lot of competition because a lot of pimps are going to be mad at me cause I’m going to take their women because they’re women, they’re going to want to work with me because I’m nicer and I let them keep part of the money. So at nine years old, man that was my first introduction to the business world. You know, some kids might go with their parents to take your kid to work day. That was my take your kid to work day.

Michael Kurland (05:38):

Oh yes. I remember my dad was am operations man for a Kentucky Fried chicken. So take your kid to work day for me was getting to work behind the line and serve some chicken up there. Totally, totally different. Those were the days. I was listening to your book last night and I really like you to get in and just give like a brief overview of your story for the people that haven’t heard it before in the audience. But what really struck me is your dad was a pimp and drug dealer and you know, most people would say that’s not a great, a great role model. And my dad was an alcoholic and was a workaholic. You would say you couldn’t wait for him to come home and you’d stand in the window, looking out, waiting for him to come pick you up for the times that you would, that you would get to spend with them.

Michael Kurland (06:35):

And even if you were collecting money from you know, prostitutes or watching them deal drugs, you still appreciated that. Cause it was your time that you get to spend with your father. And I really related to that because it was the same, I mean, obviously different, but similar. My father would come home and he would be angry. He wouldn’t come home for two weeks because he’d be on the road. You come home, you just want to get drunk and watch shows. His famous saying was children should be seen, not heard. If we wanted to talk to him during one of his shows. He used to watch AMC and if we wanted to say anything, while he was watching like Casablanca, he would turn around and just wail on us, like yelling.

Michael Kurland (07:17):

He never hit us, but wail on us yelling. So that we were so scared that we didn’t want to say anything, but all we wanted to do was get his attention, even though he could have cared less. So anyway, I really related to that. And I just wanted to say, thank you for putting that in your book. That was super vulnerable and appreciated. So if you could tell the audience a little bit of your backstory of where you came from, and then I really like to get into how you got to where you are now, and then the culture that you drive,.

JeVon McCormick (07:46):

You heard me say it. My dad was black. My mom’s white, so I was a mixed race man. It’s unbelievable to me. I’ve doubled my life expectancy. I never expected to live past 25 and I turn 50 years old next month. I appreciate that, man. And it’s interesting, man, when I was 26, 27 years old, 50 seemed like it was oh man, that’s old. Now I’m here. I’m like, hey, hey, it’s not that bad.

Michael Kurland (08:17):

I’m staring down the barrel too in like eight years. Oh my God, I’m going to turn, my next big one’s 50.

JeVon McCormick (08:24):

Did they get this man? I will turn 50 and I’ve got a seven year old, a six year old, a four year old and a two year old.

Michael Kurland (08:31):

I’m on a train too. I got none right now, but we were going to start working soon. So I’ll be there when I got seven-year-old. I’ll be calling you for advice.

JeVon McCormick (08:42):

Now the beauty of this is unlike my dad, all my children by the same woman, same wife. I grew up in the seventies like I said, I’ll be 50. So I was born in 1971. My dad’s black, my mom’s white. So a mixed race. It’s interesting in society right now, we’ve got all the race conversations and tension and things of that nature. And I tell people all the time, I’m like, man, you want to have a race conversation? Let me tell you what it’s like when black people don’t like you because you’re half white and white people don’t like you because you’re half black and you’ve got nowhere to fit in. And I tell people, let me put this in perspective for you. I’ve had black people call me white boy.

JeVon McCormick (09:24):

I’ve never had a white person call me a white boy. And so it’s just at many times had an identity crisis. You didn’t know where you fit in and you were never black enough. You were never white enough. I was called Zebra, Oreo cookie, half-breed, chocolate, vanilla swirl, insert racial joke. And that’s what I was called. But what was interesting man, is it wasn’t really what bothered me, the verbal abuse that I would take for being a mixed race. It was watching what my mom went through. Watching people spit in my mother’s face and call her lover watching all of our belongings be thrown on a curb and us evicted from public housing because my mom had a mixed race son and people would say to her, no lovers could live in this housing projects. That hurt more than anything.

JeVon McCormick (10:18):

Man was watching what my mom went through, having a mixed race child. So there was the racial piece of it. My mom and I grew up a welfare, extremely poor. We used to make the joke, man, that we were so poor. We couldn’t afford the O and the R we would just PO, and but I loved it to a certain extent because now I’ll give you a great example over all my shelf at my desk. I still have a written receipt from 1974. Our rent was $145 and my mom couldn’t afford to pay the whole thing. She had made a $10 payment on the rent, and I keep that rent receipt to remind me where I came from. I’m constantly grateful. And I keep in perspective how I was raised, where I came from,  days that I pulled a cheeseburger out of the trash can because there was nothing to eat, days where on a Friday afternoon, when I ate my free government lunch, I didn’t eat again until Monday afternoon when I got my free government lunch.

JeVon McCormick (11:29):

Because back in the seventies, there was no, it’s a little nicer now where sometimes they send the kids home with food and extra That didn’t happen back in the seventies.  I went hungry and knew what it was like to put bread bags on my feet, because I had holes in my shoes to keep my feet dry. So, I grew up harsh, man. It was in and out of juvenile three different times. And I tell people it’s juvenile prison. People will say juvie, juvenile detention. They tried to soften what it is. This is juvenile prison. It’s prison for kids. I remember when I got put in solitary confinement as a kid, you don’t know if anyone’s coming back to get you. It’s dark. You just get thrown in this room, they shut the door and you don’t know what happens next. We’ll be back in two days, we’ll be back in an hour. No one says anything. So you’re just here. And then they come and they bring you some food, but then they slide the food through and then they leave again. So I tell people as a kid, just think of the mental stress that’s involved with that. So it’s juvenile prison and people need to stop trying to soften it and call it juvie. There’s nothing nice about it.

Michael Kurland (12:46):

So let me pause you for one second because I’ve been listening to the book as I said, and I literally can’t stop. I just ran out of time before the podcast, but I want to tell you that in your book, in the preface, I think you quoted Tupac talking to you about your mother and just your love for your mother comes through in everything that you say. So, even though you grew up in this harsh, terrible environment the fact that your mother did love you so much, it’s very obvious, at least for me as a listener to pick up on that. So I thought that was really cool. And I just wanted to tell you that you did a good job of making that come through.

JeVon McCormick (13:27):

Well, man, I appreciate that because my mom was raised in an orphanage and I tell people a 1950s institutional orphanage in when they were routinely beat, neglected, abused. When she turned 17 years old, they gave her a small suitcase, 20 bucks and they said, there you go, good luck. She had never seen the outside world. She had no clue how to navigate the world. And unfortunately for my mom, one of the first people she met was my quite a bit older, well dressed, fast talking father. And so my mom did the best she could. And in fact, we talk about this. We didn’t live, man. We survived. We didn’t know what it was like to live. There were things that I was learning as a kid the same time my mom was learning them because she had no one had ever taught her.

JeVon McCormick (14:16):

So, but she did her best. She did the best she could. She did her best to provide. Fact of the matter is, and I’m not embarrassed to say it. My mom should have never had me. The only reason my mother ever gave birth to me is because the first time she got pregnant, she had an illegal abortion. Cause in 1970 it was illegal. She had an illegal abortion and it was so bad that the next time she got pregnant, she said, I choose to have the kid. So she chose to raise a kid for 18 years versus having another abortion. But like I said, I’m okay with that, but she should have never have had a child. So, but I appreciate it. Because my mom, she did her best and I appreciate everything that she ever did for me.

JeVon McCormick (15:08):

I got separated from my mom from the ages of like nine to 15, I was with my dad and just all hell broke loose. I was molested by one of my dad’s prostitutes. She used to force me to perform oral sex on her. I was 6, 7, 8 years old. I got left with three of my half brothers and sisters in a house for three weeks in the winter, we just got left. They left, they’d just left us. And we were there for three weeks. I had to walk and steal food for us to eat.

Michael Kurland (15:43):

You’re the oldest.

JeVon McCormick (15:46):

I was the oldest.  I was 12. My half-brothers and sisters were four, three and two and we just got left. And then man, when I finally got reunited with my mom at 15 I remember she enrolled me in school and they quickly realized, oh man, this kid’s not too bright. And my mom took me to get tested and I was testing on a fifth and sixth grade level at the age of 15 years old. So obviously graduation rolled around. I didn’t have enough credits to graduate, so I never graduated high school. I had to go to summer school to get my GED. I don’t have a college degree. And here we are, man.

Michael Kurland (16:23):

Thank you for sharing all that. Again, the book is amazing audience. If you have a chance, just go pick up a copy of I Got There and just sit down and prepare to like buckle up because you’re probably not going to put it down for a while. But I want to also say, and we talked about this yesterday about being vulnerable, but thank you for telling your story. And I know you said it was something you wanted to leave as your legacy for your children and it just became this book now that everyone, like I said, can’t put down. Thank you for being vulnerable. You’re talking about molestation and prostitution and pimping and violence at such a young age. It’s what you grew up watching. You had every reason to follow in that lifestyle.

Michael Kurland (17:16):

And no one would have blamed you if you had gone down the bad road and gone down, made multiple poor decisions. So I just want to say like thank you for being better and taking that leap of going forward and, and changing your life for the better. So I really would, would like to know what was like the catalyst, the point that made you decide, I don’t want to go down this bad road, but I also want to say one other thing, which is by sharing your story, you take the power away from all the things that people negatively think about, all the stuff that you said that happened to you. And by talking about it out loud, for me, when I was able to say my dad’s an alcoholic, it took all the power away from it. It made that word just so easy and now I can do it. It just rolls off my tongue. I’m not ashamed. And I don’t feel like I’m alone on an island. So I’m sure that that had the same power for you. I want you to dive into that a little bit too, of like what actually made you just start being able to tell your story out loud.

JeVon McCormick (18:23):

We talked about this a little bit yesterday. The biggest driver was I did the book. I never did the book to go public. I had zero intent for that book to go public. I did that book. I wanted five copies for my children. And so my great, great grandchildren would know where this whole thing originated. I have no legacy. I don’t know where my last name comes from. My mom got this last name in the orphanage. So I’ve got this last name, McCormick. She has no clue where, why, how we got it. I gave you the side from my dad, so I have no legacy. It was important for me, for my children to know where I came from, how I got here, how this whole thing came to be.

JeVon McCormick (19:12):

But equally is important was, which was a bit scary when we agreed to make the book public was I never wanted anyone to know my dad was a pimp and I had 23 siblings and my mom was an orphan. And all the things that I went through there, I know there are people who read that book and were like, wait a minute. I thought he was Puerto Rican. Wait a minute. I thought he was a Mexican. I thought he wait a minute. I thought he had a degree. I thought he had an MBA. I mean, I was whatever I needed to be to get to wherever I needed to go. So I knew when that book went public, there were going to be a lot of people that would read the book and say and think to themselves, oh my God, I never even knew that. In fact, here’s a funny thing. Here at the office somebody pointed out to me, there was a review left on my book and it says, this book is a work of fiction.

JeVon McCormick (20:05):

I think it said. It said, why antidotes may be true, most of it is not. And someone asked me, did that upset me? And I said, five years ago, maybe it would’ve. I said, why doesn’t now is because I know for a fact, whoever wrote that review, they knew the version of me that I wanted them to know. They never knew that the actor. So the review itself is actually probably true for them, but they never knew my background and all the details, because I didn’t want anybody to know. I never wanted anyone to know that. I mean, think about this. Who would want to date or hire the guy whose dad was a pimp, 23 kids. He doesn’t know where his last name comes from and has a GED. Who’s going to want to date or hire that guy?

JeVon McCormick (20:56):

And so again, I was whatever I needed to be to get to wherever I needed to go. What helped me to your other part of your question, what helped me get in and make those choices, if you will, because we all get to make choices. I was incredibly blessed and my dad, I still to this day, I don’t know that he knew what he was doing. Maybe he did. My dad drove me through at 10 years old Houston, Texas. There’s, there’s a neighborhood called River Oaks. When one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the country. 10, 15, 20 $5 million homes. Well, I had never seen anything like that, where I saw, heroin addict, dealers, pimps, prostitution. I saw public housing, murder, drug addicts. That’s what I grew up around. So here I was looking at 15, $20 million homes that one family lived in. These houses were bigger than the projects I lived in, but what it did was it opened my eyes to possibility.

JeVon McCormick (22:04):

And I remember sitting there at 10 years old, dry driving with my dad in the car. I remember, oh, I want one of those. And it opened my eyes to possibility. And that was a very, very important thing. Because until that moment, I didn’t know what was possible because I only possibilities I saw was rapper, athlete, or drug dealer. And so that was very critical. The second thing that was equally as critical when I left juvenile for the third time, there was a corrections officer. Oh man. I so would like to know this gentleman’s name. I’m getting ready to leave. He gets down on one knee and he looks me right in my eye. And this guy was huge. He looks me in my eye. He goes, Hey, you come back here again. You’re going to man prison.

JeVon McCormick (22:58):

Michael. I’ll be 50 years old. I don’t know what it is about the sound of man prison. I don’t want anything to do with that. I’m like, there’s something. I had been in juvenile three times. I’m like, there’s something worse than this? And I’m like, Nope, not going to man prison. So that I single-handedly, I credit that corrections officer for keeping me out of juvenile and keeping me out of “man prison.” So little things like that along the way were very influential. And then I’d say the last piece is this. You started on a thread. You didn’t go there the whole way. But so many people have said this too. So many people say, oh my God, you had every reason not to succeed. You had it. Every reason to, to fail, to end up in prison to it, you know? And it would have been totally understandable. And I’ve always pushed back on and I say to people, no, I actually had every reason to succeed. And they’re in there like how so? I said, because if you can make it through all that, the rest of this is pretty easy. And so I look at my life is I had every reason to succeed because I learned lessons in life that most people will never encounter.

Michael Kurland (24:18):

Wow. Well, I apologize for going down that thread, right? I did not know.

JeVon McCormick (24:19):

You cut it off. You were good.

Michael Kurland (24:19):

All right. Good. Well, that makes me feel a little bit better, but yeah, I wasn’t implying anything. I’m just trying to paint the picture of you are here now, the CEO of Scribe and the number one culture in America and how do you get from there to there. Right. And so you just answered the question. You learned all these lessons along the way. So let’s talk a little bit about that now. Let’s talk about the culture at Scribe. What is it that made Scribe the number one culture company in America? What do you bring every day? You said a bunch of stuff and I want to ask the questions, but I want to hear what it is from your mouth first.

JeVon McCormick (24:57):

You know, number one. You hear a lot of companies say this, a lot of companies lead with it. They’ll say it. They don’t even halfway do it. Truly put people first, man, it’s very simple. People, process, profits. If you hire great people, you can build great process. You can make great profits. And with those great profits, you can do great things for the communities that you live in and that you, you serve. But it all starts with people. For our culture, we truly put people first. And a lot of that comes down to the words we use. I grew up again, mixed race. So words hurt when I was a kid. It hurt to be called zebra. And so I learned what’s that phrase that dumb statement sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt.

JeVon McCormick (25:49):

Words hurt. So words matter here with us. So I’ll give you an example of this. I’m no one’s boss, no one works for me. People work with me. So we all work with one another and you no one works for me. Another piece of this, most companies you’ll hear people say they’re oh, my direct reports, no, we don’t have direct reports. If you are in leadership, your role is to serve and support the people you work with. That’s the role of leadership. So we have direct supports, not direct reports and all of those little things really matter in how you conduct yourself in a culture. Here’s another big one. And this is huge for about two months. And this happened, I don’t know, two, three years ago, I kept hearing our tribe members. I kept hearing people say, oh, that’s a low level task.

JeVon McCormick (26:50):

That’s a low level task. We need to hire somebody for that. That’s a low level task. And I couldn’t understand like what the hell is a low-level task? So every Friday we do a find a way food Fridays here, where the company buys lunch for the entire office. And we’re all circling around the table where you eat lunch. And I paused everyone and I said, Hey, I keep hearing this phrase, low level tasks. I said, let’s go over this for a second. I said, many of you in here have seen me take out the trash. Right. And some people raise their hand. I said, some of you have seen me clean the storage closet. It said, yes. I said, and those who have traveled with me to conferences have seen me in a suit on my hands and knees ironing the booth cloth.

JeVon McCormick (27:34):

Right. And they’re like, yeah. I said, okay. So then tell me what the hell is a low-level task? Because I’m willing to do anything. So what’s low level? And so then I took it two steps further. I said, more importantly, I said, let that trashcan overflow for two weeks and let’s see how low level it is then.  But above all, how would you ever expect someone to perform in their role at the highest level, if you refer to their role and their duties as low level? I said, just think of the insanity of that statement. Hey, we want you to perform at the highest level, but we think your task and duties are low level. And it’s just ridiculous. So all of those little things really come into play on how we conduct ourselves in the culture, in our tribe and how we interact with one another.

Michael Kurland (28:35):

So you said a couple of things I want to touch on. First is that you don’t have direct reports, you have direct supports and I think that’s great and key. I have a saying at Branded Group, which is, unfortunately we do use leadership and direct reports. And I may have to change that after this podcast. But I do tell the leadership team, I say, you need to train your direct report to take your job. And they all look at me sideways. Like, that is not what I want to do. I don’t want them to take my job. And I’m like who’s going to replace you when you get elevated to the next spot. Right. And that’s probably your goal. You’re not here to just sit here and collect the check. You want to move up, right? So the person below you should be trying to take your spot. And then they get it. And it goes on. The light goes on, but I want to touch on tribe. Why do you call it a tribe? Because that’s very interesting to me.

JeVon McCormick (29:29):

I’m not a fan of, even this, we get asked about this one too. We call our culture doc. We follow the culture bible. And so people ask us about that as well. One, our goal is to be different, not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of this is a unique culture that we’ve created and built here. So we call ourselves a tribe because it’s a community of people. It’s a group of people where we all depend on one another. If you think back, or even now, I’m sure there’s tribes in countries where here’s the order of operation. If you are a tribe member, you have to contribute to the tribe to stay in the tribe and be it you gotta go hunt, okay? Maybe you did the hunting, someone else, maybe they come back, they do the skinning, they do the cooking, they do the gathering the building of the shelter, whatever the case may be.

JeVon McCormick (30:24):

Everyone’s a contributor. And so here, it’s the same thing. You have to contribute to be in the tribe. We don’t micromanage. If you are performing in your role, driving results in upholding the values, boom, that’s how you, that’s how you’re successful. I don’t micromanage. I don’t care if you come in at eight and you leave at 8:01 great! Do you. The goal is, are you performing in your role? Are you driving results? Are you upholding the values? If you’re doing those three things, beautiful, welcome to the tribe. So that’s why we call ourselves a tribe. And also as you know, to go on that as well, for me corporate America has somewhat destroyed the word employees. You can read every other day XYZ company just laid off a thousand employees. XYZ company just laid off 5,500 employees. They’ve made the words where employees are expendable. Okay, great. They laid off some more employees. I don’t view people that way. People are truly the most important part of our business. So it’s again, people. Process. profits. Always put people first.

Michael Kurland (31:43):

So I totally align with so much that you said. At our company, our tribe retention rate is it was 95% pre pandemic. We’re probably back up to about 85% right now. And it’s very similar to the plan you had before. It was the company we came from just before we started Branded Group, they did not treat their employees well. They did not take care of them. They did not pay them more. They worked long hours. And I thought the same thing. I said, maybe if we’re nicer to our employees and we treat them better, they will want to stay with us. And then if they stay with us, they will then get to know our customers who will know our employees and know that we’re not turning employees over at a high rate. And then they’ll want to do more work with us. And therefore we’ll have more profits. Guess what? I did that. And I was right. It works.

JeVon McCormick (32:37):

Here’s something, man. I don’t say this is a critique. Just follow me here. Because you said two words and I told you I’m big on language. So earlier you said we train our leaders. So here we don’t train people. If you want to train, go to the gym, train a dog, train your horse, train your body. We teach, coach, and mentor. We want people to know we care. You can train someone to do something that repetitious, over and over again. I want to teach coach and mentor. So we even teach people and coach people. How do you go about asking for salary increase? Alot of households don’t talk about money. No one ever teaches you how to have a salary conversation. Even this, we don’t do salary negotiations.

JeVon McCormick (33:25):

We have a discussion. We have a salary conversation. If someone has earned a salary increase, boom, they should receive that salary increase. No one should have to negotiate for something that they have earned. So you said train.  Here’s a big one. This is huge. You also said retention. Go look up the definition of retain. So you hear companies say this all the time. We want to recruit and retain the best people. If you look at the definition of retain, it says, keep possession of, I’m not looking to keep possession of anybody. Oh man, we want to attract and provide. We want to attract great people and we want to provide a work that’s fulfilling. We want to provide a phenomenal culture in a great place where you enjoy what you do. So we want to attract and provide. We don’t want to recruit and retain.

Michael Kurland (34:23):

You are making me rethink all of our vernacular.  It’s probably about time. You know? I think I used the words because they were the words I knew. Right.

JeVon McCormick (34:37):

That’s just it, man. So, go back to the beginning of this conversation you ask, okay, well, what are you all doing over there with your culture? This is what we’re doing. There’s a better way to go about doing this. So many people have just adopted what they’ve heard other people say. That’s what that company did or that’s what I read that you’re supposed to do. I always ask, well, how can we do it better? How can we do it different? How can we be more supportive here? Here’s a big one and not every company is financially able to do this. I get it. But here’s something that, that we do. I read an article and it said 45% of Americans don’t have a spare $400 cash for an emergency.

JeVon McCormick (35:28):

45% of Americans don’t have a spare $400 in cash for an emergency. And I knew firsthand what that was like. Cause my mom never had a spare, anything for an emergency. And that really bothered me. And I thought to myself, wow, I don’t want any of our tribe members driving around, walking around wondering, oh my God, if there was an emergency, what am I going to do? So what we did, we implemented a $1,500 emergency fund. So if someone has an emergency, no questions asked and they say, Hey, I need to tap the emergency fund. We provide $1,500 cash for people and interest free and they don’t start paying it back for 60 days. And we get paid twice a month and they just take it out of their checks until it’s paid back. But it’s interest free. No questions asked.

JeVon McCormick (36:19):

And the whole reason why we do that again, no one should have to live with the fear of, oh my God. If my tire goes flat, I can’t get it fixed. Oh my gosh. If my child has an emergency, I don’t have the money to do anything. So it’s, it’s that peace of mind also in looking that what can we do to assist people? Not only when they’re at work, but outside of work as well. The whole thing like this one here and I’ll shut up. I promise

Michael Kurland (36:53):

These are great stories. Keep going.

JeVon McCormick (37:01):

Work-Life balance, man. You just hear people spout off at the mouth all the time. And here’s the thing. I’m not saying that one should work all the time. That’s not what I’m saying. Here’s my problem with it. There’s just life. We have to work. We have bills. We have things we want to do vacations, gifts, birthdays, anniversary, whatever. We all have things that we want to spend money on. My bigger problem with it though is when you say work-life balance to near 99% of people. If I say, Hey, Julie, tell me what the first thing is that comes to your mind, when I say work-life balance, most people will do this. Don’t work 60, 70 hours a week, the four day workweek. Don’t check your emails first thing in the morning, don’t look at your emails at night. So if you notice it’s work, work, work, no one talks about the life balance.

JeVon McCormick (37:58):

No one says, Hey, how about you not go to the bar Thursday through Sunday. And then Sunday night you’re pissed off because you don’t like where you are in life. How about you don’t binge watch Game of Thrones Friday at 6:00 PM through Sunday at 6:00 PM. And then be off on Monday because you don’t like you your career choice, but you’ve done nothing about it. Here’s one of my favorites. Everybody wants to lose 30 pounds. Nobody wants to go to the gym, but we’re so quick to, when we say work life balance, we’ll just decimate work, work, work. But no one checks themselves when it comes to the life portion. So for me, the way work-life balance, some people say work-life integration. Okay. It’s cool. I call it five pillars. What are the things that I will not let get in the way of anything else?

JeVon McCormick (38:54):

So for me, it’s God, health, family, business, and investing. I love football, but unfortunately Tom Brady didn’t send me any of his $20 million contract. So I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. And so what priorities will I put first? I have four children. I love golf. Golf takes about four and a half hours to play a round. I’d much rather spend that time with my family. So what are your life priorities? What are your pillars? And that’s where, to me it’s just life. We all have to work. We all need money, benefits, healthcare, got to go to the dentist. Like I said, vacation. So what are your three to five pillars?

Michael Kurland (39:37):

I think this is all great, great information. Thank you for sharing your pillars. I also did appreciate that you said you have a lot of birthdays at your house and you don’t allow them to blow out the candles to make a wish. They got to make a goal. And I think that when we do go down the road of having children here at my household, they will do birthday goals as well. So I was I was happy to hear that.

JeVon McCormick (40:00):

I don’t do hope, wish or luck. Again, words, man. Words are very important. I don’t do hope, wish or luck. Those are just three nasty words.

Michael Kurland (40:13):

Totally. I can appreciate all of what you were saying about all this and again, the vernacular we’re going to have to do a little audit on the Branded Group vernacular and see what we can change. So I want to just circle back on the on the tribe. Have you ever read Tribe by Sebastian Junger?

JeVon McCormick (40:34):

I have not.

Michael Kurland (40:35):

Okay. Well you should read that book. It’s basically what you’re saying. He wrote it probably like 10 years ago. It’s talking about how as humans we’re meant to live in tribes of 125 people or less, and how basically exactly what you said. So you kind of nailed the premise of the book with what you’re talking about, but it’s a great book and I’ve referenced it quite a few times on the show I wanted to I wanted to just talk about that.\

Michael Kurland (41:00):

Before I let you go, I got to tell you one other story. So you’ve talked about Tucker Max and how he owns Scribe. I gotta tell you, I owe my literacy, my adult literacy to Tucker Max, because I did not read a book probably from the time I graduated college until he released, “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell.” I randomly picked that book up at, I don’t even know why it would be in the Barnes and Noble at the time or whatever other bookstore, 10 years ago. That book was everywhere. And I’m like this is the greatest title ever. I’m like let me read this book. And I think I read that book in like 24 hours. It was probably, I mean, audience, if you do read it or you have read it, don’t judge me. I was like in my twenties, but it was just such a great book, such as such a great book. So I just wanted to tell you that and tell him, thank you if you see him.

JeVon McCormick (41:56):

That’s my man. Obviously he and Zack are the two co-founders of Scribe. Here’s an interesting fact. So I am now the largest equity holder of Scribes. So there’s me Tucker and Zack. Here, I’ll give you a funny story. So you mentioned Tucker. You mentioned, “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.”  So when I’m out at a conference I’m speaking or whatever, even on podcasts, a question that I used to receive all the time, you were like, oh my God. So what’s it like working with Tucker? What’s it like working with Tucker Max? And what people want to hear is I come into the office and Tucker’s passed out, butt-naked in the conference room with five women and beer cans and liquor and alcohol everywhere. That’s what they want to hear.

JeVon McCormick (42:47):

And then I say to them, well, Tucker lives in a gated community. He’s got three kids, one’s a daughter, two dogs. He has a minivan and he’s generally in bed by 9:30. And people look at me like, what? And I like that’s Tucker Max. Tucker did his thing back in his twenties and early thirties as with a lot of people. And what I find interesting. This isn’t a defense one way or the other. But what I do find is interesting, what is very interesting, especially in this society that we live in right now of cancel culture. Everybody is trying to cancel someone, but no one’s looking in the mirror. We’ve all done that we shouldn’t have done. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all done something foul. It’s not up to one person to be the judge of, oh, well, your mistake was bigger than my mistake, or you did this, but I didn’t do that. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all done things that we’re not proud of, that that we would like to take back that we regret we have remorse for. So I just find it interesting the society that we live in right now, where everyone’s quick to cancel someone else without looking in the mirror and realize, okay, well, but what have you done? And no one wants to talk about that. We want to blast everybody else on social media.

Michael Kurland (44:17):

So you bring me to two good things. You said you only have LinkedIn. And I agree with you, man., I’m on Twitter and Twitter has turned into what used to be like a fun way to get your news and updates is now just like who can roast the other person fastest. And I don’t know if you ever have seen the Denzel quote where he basically they asked him about something in journalism that one of the red carpet shows, and he just said, journalism used to be you reported the facts. And now journalism is who can break the story first, damn the facts we’ll rescind it later. And nobody cares about the rescinding. It’s all about who can be first. And he’s like, it’s ridiculous how our culture has flipped and it’s been allowed to flip. And so it’s who can be first and who can roast each other the worst instead of reporting the facts and that I kind of wish we could go back to when it was just reporting the facts.

JeVon McCormick (45:19):

What’s interesting too. Now, don’t get me wrong. Here’s the other thing. Now this is coming from a guy who was raised by a single mom, and now I have two daughters and I will say this there’s a lot of good that has come out of some of this, the me too movement, the Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby. All of those are great things that have come of it. But you know, when we’re trying to blast the hell out of some someone’s for something they said 10 years ago or something they did or way they lived, or whatever the case may be, Hey, everyone grows up. Everyone changes. Like I said, I’ll give it for me, man. I don’t have a lot of regrets in life, but the thing that I’m most remorseful for was the way I conducted myself in relationships.

JeVon McCormick (46:08):

I did not know how to treat a woman between watching how my dad treated women and watching how men treated my mom. I did not know what it was like to have a healthy relationship. I was a monster in relationships. I was a beast. My biggest remorse in life is how I treated women when I was in relationships. I did not know how to conduct myself and I’ll own it. And I think that’s all people can do is own what did you do wrong? What did you learn from? And the key is to, we all make mistakes, learn, grow, don’t repeat those mistakes.

Michael Kurland (46:47):

What did you do? What did you do to get out of that cycle? Like how did you change? And then obviously you’re married with three kids now

JeVon McCormick (46:55):

Four kids. I got four, I got four kids now.

Michael Kurland (46:56):

So how did you go from not knowing how to treat women to having a healthy, happy marriage?

JeVon McCormick (47:01):

Oh man. It took me freaking 40 years. I didn’t get married until I was 40 years old. And truth be told just like this I’ll own it. This is the first healthy relationship I’ve ever had with my wife. And in a lot of it had to do with the fact that when I started dating my wife, I made it a point to, okay, I gotta be up front with my wife. I gotta tell her where I come from, my background, who I am, what I don’t know what I do know. And so that helped a lot. The other piece even before I met my wife though, was the first time I lost all my money and I was broke. I remember standing in the mirror and talking out loud and I had to admit, I was a lot like my dad, I was a lot like the person I didn’t want to be like, I didn’t know how to treat women.

JeVon McCormick (47:49):

Ma, I was horrible. I was disrespectful. I was just a bad person in relationships. And I had to own that. You got to say it out loud. Hey, you suck in relationships. So then, just like I taught myself how to invest in the stock market, it became, okay, if you can teach yourself business, if you can teach yourself how to make money, then you gotta teach yourself, okay, how do I have a healthy relationship? What does that look like? How do I model that? Pay attention, find it. And so I spent two years trying to see, okay, what does that look like? How do you consider others’ feelings? But yeah, man, I was a beast in relationships, but the first thing is I had to admit that.

Michael Kurland (48:39):

I can relate. I just recently got married a couple months ago and I had been divorced previously years ago and I took some time to be a single guy in the time in between. And I had poor role models. My parents were divorced and I had some fun, made some choices that probably I shouldn’t have made. And then when I met my wife, I realized I had to correct. My bullshit wasn’t going to fly. And I knew that she was someone that I wanted to be with. And so I did the same exact thing you did. I looked myself in the mirror and like, what do I need to cut out of my life right now, if I want to have a relationship that is going to be sustainable. And I did, I made a lot of choices to be a better person.

JeVon McCormick (49:29):

Yeah. I mean, it’s all we can do. We all make mistakes. The key is learn, grow. Don’t repeat those mistakes. But yeah, the way we just condemn people now for past offenses, past things that we’ve done wrong, it’s actually kind of sad because like I said, it’s look in the mirror, are you free of mistakes? Because if you are, great, beautiful, even funny. Even like I said, I put God first in my life. So I’ll say this out loud. It’s funny to me how sometimes the church even condemns people and I’m like, wait a minute, last time I checked.  What a lot of priests are doing that ain’t. settle down again, man. We’re human. We all make mistakes. Learn, grow. Don’t repeat those mistakes.

Michael Kurland (50:24):

I love that. I love that mantra. That’s great. Well, JeVon, this has been amazing talking to you. Appreciate you taking some time to come on the show and choosing to be on the show. If the audience wants to get ahold of you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

JeVon McCormick (50:41):

LinkedIn truth be told they’re actually starting up my social media. Again, we got a new book coming out that I did called “Modern Leader” coming out in January. And so it’s got a lot, it’s some of the things we talked about here, what does modern leadership look like and going forward because the old model doesn’t work. It’s why we’ve ended up the way we are in many cases in America, in corporate America and in business. So the best place to find me, engage with is LinkedIn, if you want to email me, or I actually answered my emails, it’s JeVon@scribemedia.com, but LinkedIn is easiest place to find me.

Michael Kurland (51:24):

Great. And the new book is called “Modern leadership” and it comes out in January.

JeVon McCormick (51:29):

Yep. “Modern Leader.“ Comes out in January. Yes, sir.

Michael Kurland (51:38):

“Modern Leader” comes out in January. Audience, pick that up and go get a copy of “I Got There” as well. And JeVon, thank you so much for coming on the show.

JeVon McCormick (51:42):

My man, Michael, I appreciate it, sir.

Michael Kurland (51:43):

Audience until next time.

Thank you for tuning in! I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose-driven leader in your career or your community. There is no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform.

To learn more Branded Group’s “Be Better” experience and how we provide industry-leading national facility maintenance, construction management, and special project implementation, visit us at www.branded-group.com. Be sure to follow us on social media and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.

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