Episode 91 – How the Founder of an Architecture Design Firm Built a Culture That Produces Zero Employee Turnover  – Member Case with Jing Johnson

Culture can be described as how things get done in your firm. Intentionally focusing on culture is critical to the success of a boutique professional services firm. On this episode, we invited Jing Johnson, Founder & CEO of PRISM Renderings, to share how she built a highly effective culture and the positive impacts it has had on retention and the success of her firm.  

TRANSCRIPT

Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Boutique with Collective 54, a podcast for founders and leaders of boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community dedicated exclusively to helping you grow, scale and exit your pro search firm. My name is Greg Alexander. I’m the founder and I’ll be your host today. And today we’re going to learn from a fantastic entrepreneur and a woman who I feel has achieved outstanding business results due in large part to the unique culture of her firm. And what I hope to accomplish today is to highlight how the culture and the uniqueness of it can translate into outstanding business results and why culture is more important in a processor firm than it is in a corporation. Because a processor firm is really a collection of people and therefore culture is of the utmost importance. We’re very fortunate to have a fantastic role model with us today. Her name is Jing Johnson, and she’s going to share parts of her story, which is a rather unique one. So, Jing, welcome to the show. 

Jing Johnson [00:01:26] Thank you, Greg, for having me. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:28] Would you please provide a introduction of yourself and your firm for the audience? 

Jing Johnson [00:01:34] Of course. My name is Jing Johnson, the founder and CEO of PRISM Rendering Space in Houston, Texas. Greg, we help commercial real estate developers raise capital, get entitlement and pre-leasing their buildings. We accomplish that by creating photo, realistic renderings and videos so our client can preview their visions with their stakeholders before the building get built. There are a couple of unique differentiators about our business and our team. First, unlike most of competitors, we can we can help our clients on early stage projects with new images or sometimes no design information because of all architecture backgrounds. Secondly, we are the only all women team in this male dominated field. I think we are going to talk more about that later. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:40] We are adjourned. You know, I’m going to share some stats for the audience and I’m sharing them because Jing is so modest. She would never share these on her own. So I’m going to I’m going to brag on her behalf. But for the members that are listening to this Jing, Jing’s gross margins are about 50% higher than the membership. She doesn’t do much hourly billings at all. Most of it’s fixed bids. She has 100% employees. No, no. 1099 are kind of freelancers, if you will. Remarkably has 0% turnover. Just let that sit in for a moment. 0% employee turnover. She’s running at about 80% of our revenue is coming from existing accounts. So just put those two things together. 80% of revenue from existing accounts, which would suggest an incredibly high client satisfaction score and no employee turnover, which would suggest an incredibly high employee satisfaction score. And those two numbers, employee satisfaction and client satisfaction and profits are really only two that count to get those two right. Everything else takes care of itself. So your numbers are outstanding. And I want to connect the dots here because as I understand it, you employ moms. Is that true? 

Jing Johnson [00:04:02] Yes. We are a team of all working moms. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:06] So tell us how you landed on that very unique employee strategy. 

Jing Johnson [00:04:13] Well, as come from my original story, I started a business at 25. I was struggling between my career and my family life. Basically, I work in a big architecture firm. It’s very demanding in terms of my schedule, my time and a time I had two boys, five and eight years old, need a lot of time from me as well. So I was just struggling between getting, you know, the balance between both and why I started this business is my goal is to, you know, first to provide a sustainable service provider to our clients. In the meantime, I can have the flexibility to raise my voice. So that’s how everything started. So when I started to hire employees, I realized that, you know, other working moms can benefit from this business model, not just me. So that’s my mission now, is to help even more clients and also help more working moms. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:31] Very good. And I also understand that you’re working. Moms are truly global. They’re all over the world. Is that true? 

Jing Johnson [00:05:38] We actually the our team, U.S. is all here. Some most of us are in Houston and one in Arizona. But we do have production teams overseas. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:53] Okay. So maybe that’s what I was thinking of. So what are the production teams do for you? 

Jing Johnson [00:05:58] Every day they create those images and they basically are our creative team to take the information we get from our clients and create those images and videos for us. Our team in us are, you know, basically our management, you know, members. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:24] Okay. Very good. All right. So how is it that you have 0% turnover? 

Jing Johnson [00:06:32] Well, I think it’s it really comes to our culture. I’m trying to create this culture that I want to be in. Right. That can allow the opportunity for our team members to realize their potentials in in a professional career. But in the meantime, they have that flexibility to take care of their families and their kids. And so we are very intentional in create this environment to feel safe, to feel appreciated and respected. And they they learn every day. It just we we tried to create this, you know, environment. Everybody feel that they are they have this opportunity. They can do whatever they they can to realize their full potential. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:31] Yet these brave working moms are also highly skilled. So share with us the typical background in terms of maybe professional credentials or education levels, etc.. 

Jing Johnson [00:07:46] So our team members range from, you know, M.D., have a master’s degrees to have just have no, you know, university degrees, but highly, highly skilled and and, you know, into like intellectual have an intellectual, you know, skill to and, you know, do their best to serve our clients. So for me is really not about your degrees, your your education, right? Is your excuse is how you can have that people skill. You can, you know, serve the clients and serve your team members the best way you can. 

Greg Alexander [00:08:32] Yeah. Now, Jing, when I was reading about you and and your story, I was I was really surprised at the juxtaposition of some of these numbers. So, for example, you run a pretty high utilization rate north of, let’s say, 80%. But you also have this remarkable 0% turnover. Those think those two things are usually in contrast with one another. You know, normally if somebody were working that much as your employees are, there’s some turnover because there’s burnout. How do you balance this requirement to satisfy employees and kind of log the hours, so to speak, but also not make to also make sure that your employees don’t get burnt out? 

Jing Johnson [00:09:18] Well, I don’t. I mean, I work long hours sometimes, but I don’t require my employees to. For example, I like to spend a few hours a Sunday to Sunday afternoon or evening to plan my next week I would set up. So, for example, if I have a few things I need to each team members to pay attention to, I will schedule those emails, send it out first thing Monday morning. I’m not sending out or doing the weekends. So they feel anxious to, you know, reply to my email, which is not necessary. I’m trying very hard to, you know, not taking their family time away from from, you know, just from work is really when during the weekend or evening time they should focus on their families and not on the work, but doing the work hours. So we are a very productive and efficient. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:20] Yeah. And I’m imagining when we get to the member Q&A on Friday, you’re going to get this question, which is it sounds like you’ve tapped into this hidden labor pool, these these moms, so to speak. How did you find them? Did you know the ball or what did you recruit? Like, how did you locate them all? 

Jing Johnson [00:10:41] Yeah, mostly either, you know, I met those ladies, wonderful ladies from my church or from work, some professional events or you know, they are highly recommended by somebody I trust and respect. So it’s pretty much from our inner circle. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:04] Yeah. Okay. Got it. You know, it’s always the hiring success goes up dramatically when the person that you’re considering joining your team. 

Jing Johnson [00:11:17] Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:18] It comes from a trusted source like you’re mentioning. 

Jing Johnson [00:11:21] That’s right. And also why you create that, you have that reputation of helping working moms and, you know, in the meantime, create some really beautiful, you know, work, you know, works get around and people notice. So it helps us recruiting. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:40] Yeah. Now, during the great resignation, which we’ve been living through the last couple of years, you know, there’s been a lot of poaching going on. Employees are getting lured away with bigger paychecks. And you’ve been able to not let that happen to you. Have you experienced any kind of wage pressure at all? 

Jing Johnson [00:12:04] Not really. We did increase our salary at the beginning of the year. You know, we kind of keep it that we usually have a salary increase every year. But we were able to no, we were not able to do that 20, 20 and last year, just trying to see how things going. But this year we did. And then we have a good. Benefit package used for one case and other benefits. But also, we actually I was just told a couple of weeks ago by a respected advisor that one of my team members was approached three years ago before Covid. It was a wonderful opportunity and it was perfect for her and she turned it down. She said, I just I love work here. I’m not going anywhere. And this advisor told me she’s he was saying that that says a lot about your culture, that, you know, this individual has a great potential. It was a great fit for that company. But she chose to stay with you. And and it says a lot. 

Greg Alexander [00:13:26] Yeah, it does say a lot for sure. You know, the the the point I really want to emphasize here for the member is that I learned from this is to remind ourselves that we have to value propositions. Mhm. We have a value proposition that tells clients why they should hire you. Right then we’ve got a value proposition that tells employees why they should work for you and founders of boutique pro. So firms are really competing in two markets, the competing in the market for clients and they’re competing in the markets for employees. And it’s just as important, maybe even more so they have a very compelling employee value proposition so that when somebody comes knocking, as was the case and one of the things employee three years ago, they don’t take that enticing job. They evaluate working for you in totality, the culture, who they’re working with, the type of work they’re doing. Yes, the compensation, the benefits package. But the whole thing in totality. And you’re just a remarkable example of putting that to work and and having it translate into these remarkable results that I just shared with the members. So it was it was wonderful to have you on the episode today, and you’re an inspiration for the rest of us. And thank you for being part of Collective 54. 

Jing Johnson [00:14:48] Well, thank you. We I just have learned so much from this community, and I appreciate that you include me in this episode. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:58] Okay, great. All right. Well, for those that are in professional services, who want to belong to a community and get a chance to rub shoulders with great people like Jane Johnson, consider applying for membership, which you can do at collective54.com. And if you want to read more about topics like this one, pick up a copy of my book called The Boutique on a Start Scale and sell at Professional Services Firm. Thank you for listening and I look forward to our next episode.