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John Ngo | Customer Experience Automation

232: John Ngo: Finding what customers want today

John Ngo Show Notes Page

John Ngo was a first responder, emergency room supervisor and gun battle survivor that learned how to get a small ounce of respect daily. All of his experiences have led him to better understand the power of relationships in the customer experience and finding the balance with automation.

John Ngo was raised in the small town of Menno, with a population of about 800.  Menno is about an hour from Sioux Falls in the South Eastern part of the state. Along with his family, including one older sister, his parents and maternal grandfather, they all had fled the war-torn country of Vietnam in the late 1970’s. His family sought refuge, in Laos, Cambodia and eventually Thailand, where John was born. During this era, many Vietnamese refugees and their families were being held in reeducation camps and waiting for political refugee status in nations that would accept them. Others were being sponsored by organizations in the United States and other countries, and John’s family was one of those sponsored by a Lutheran Church group in Menno South Dakota.

His parents realized quite quickly that unless agriculture or an associated career was what they or their children wanted to do, that opportunities would lie outside of South Dakota. In 1985, the family relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, and eventually ending up in San Jose, CA.  This was a fortunate circumstance, as San Jose had become a larger melting pot of Vietnamese refugees who had fled the war during that era, and till this day has one of the highest population densities of Vietnamese people. It was also quickly becoming a hub for technology, innovation and growth. It is here that John realized the opportunities were limitless.

John is known for being very direct, and honest, calm and adaptable. His broad background includes, work as a First Responder (EMS), Healthcare Management (UCSF, Stanford), Community Benefit and non-profit work and leading projects in Sports and Technology. John has developed new business lines, turned around underperforming organizations, advocated for improved work cultures, and holding organizations accountable for community benefit.

John currently works in Customer Experience Management at Sun Basket, the leading Healthy Meal Kit company, providing quality, delicious, healthy meals. He also leads a team of professionals who oversee the Mobile App Experience at Levi’s Stadium and works closely with the San Francisco 49er’s Data Analytics and Business Strategy team to ensure the greatest fan experience in all of sports.  He is also Executive Director of a non-profit called Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo, which serves to improve the environments of others who are experiencing difficult life circumstances.

John lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has three amazing kids, 24, 16, and 14 years of age.  All Boys!

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @surferngo to get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“The relationship is what builds customer loyalty and brand loyalty.” Click to Tweet

“You’re consistently having to learn from customer interactions and experience to adapt.” Click to Tweet

“A lot of individuals are setup for failure and don’t even know it.” Click to Tweet

“We always want to hit the apex of performance and productivity.” Click to Tweet

“Your entire evolution is a constant learning process.” Click to Tweet

“Learning and leadership are always inseparable.” Click to Tweet

“The day you stop trying to learn is the day you stop being a good leader.” Click to Tweet

“It’s not what we do today, it’s what we leave for tomorrow.” Click to Tweet

“Never stop learning, never stop believing and never stop working.” Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

John Ngo was a first responder, emergency room supervisor and gun battle survivor that learned how to get a small ounce of respect daily. All of his experiences have led him to better understand the power of relationships in the customer experience and finding the balance with automation.

Advice for others

Speak with people and not to people.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

There’s only 24 hours in an day and I need more.

Best Leadership Advice

Never stop learning, never stop believing and never stop working.

Secret to Success

I have an incredible patience level but I am extremely calm.

Best tools in business or life

The people around me.

Recommended Reading

The Art of Communicating

Contacting John Ngo


email: surferngo [at]

Resources and Show Mentions

Call Center Coach

An Even Better Place to Work

Show Transcript: 

[expand title=”Click to access edited transcript”]

232: John Ngo: Finding what customers want today


Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader podcast where we uncover the leadership life hacks that help you to experience breakout performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach. 


Call Center coach develops and unites the next generation of call center leaders. Through our e-learning and community individuals gain knowledge and skills and the six core competencies that is the blueprint that develops high-performing call center leaders. Successful supervisors do not just happen. So go to to learn more about enrollment and download your copy of the Supervisor Success Path e-book now.


Jim Rembach:    Okay, Fast Leader legion, today I’m excited because I have somebody on the show today who’s going to help us cut through the hype on chatbots and artificial intelligence. John Ngo, was raised in a small town of Menno. It has a population of 800. Menno is about an hour from Sioux Falls in the southern eastern part of the state of South Dakota. Along with his family including one older sister, his parents and maternal grandfather they all had fled the war-torn country of Vietnam in the late 1970’s. His family sought refuge in Laos, Cambodia and eventually Thailand where John was born. During this era many Vietnamese refugees and their families were being held in reduction camps and waiting for political refugee status in nations that would accept them. Others were being sponsored by organizations in the United States and other countries and John’s family was one of those sponsored by a Lutheran church group in Menno, South Dakota. His parents realized quite quickly that unless agriculture or an associated career was what they wanted, they and their children had to leave South Dakota. In 1985, the family relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area and eventually ended up in San Jose and this was a fortunate circumstance because San Jose had become a larger melting pot of Vietnamese refugees who had fled during that war-torn era and to this day it has one of the highest population densities of Vietnamese people it also quickly became a hub for technology innovation and growth it’s here that John realized the opportunities were limitless.


John is known for being very direct and honest, calm and adaptable. His broad background includes work as a first responder as an EMS tech, health care management, community benefit and non-profit work and leading projects in sports and technology. John has developed new business lines, turned around underperforming organizations, advocated for improved work cultures and holding organizations accountable for community benefit. John currently works in customer experience management at Sun Basket, a leading healthy meal kit company providing quality, delicious healthy meals. He also leaves a team of professionals who oversee the mobile app experience at Levi’s Stadium and works closely with the San Francisco 49er’s Data Analytics and Business Strategy team to ensure the greatest fan experience in all of sports. He’s also an executive director of a non-profit called Rooms that Rock for Chemo, which serves to improve the environments of others who are experiencing difficult life

Circumstances. John lives in to the San Francisco Bay Area and has three amazing kids, 24, 16 and 14 years of age and they’re all boys. John Ngo, are you ready to help us get over the hump?


John Ngo:        Absolutely. I’m glad to be here today. 


Jim Rembach:    I’m glad you’re here. I’ve given my Legion a little bit about you but can you share with your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?


John Ngo:         Absolutely. Right now obviously I work in customer experience with Sun Baskin. Sun Baskin is a leading meal care company and healthy delicious food. My true passions are obviously enabling people to get to where they need to be. So for me it’s my staff, the customer service agents, not only getting them to be amazing agents understanding what their responsibilities are here but to actually teach them and train them to be a great employees. My goal is to have amazing agents that understand how to be professionals. I would like to see them not only be professional and excel and be successful in any job they have here but as we move forward what can make them successful what can move them along their career. My responsibilities are obviously to develop them, create opportunities for them, guide them as well as open up opportunities for them to be leaders in their own right create innovation where they may see fit and actually allow them to grow within our organization and if not outside of organization, so that’s one aspect. 


And then I do have a big passion for community benefit. I’ve been working locally recently with a nonprofit that I just take over (4:44 inaudible) quickie meal, and the passion there is to improve general overall spaces, I can go into more detail a bit later, but basically we go in and we work with hospitals, clinics, women’s shelters all different type of environments and we actually improve those environments in terms of physical space, overall appearance, especially when somebody like a young child is going through chemotherapy stare at a white wall for six to eight hours, it could be incredibly scary, cold and just a negative experience and how do we do something about that and so our organization focuses on that. Those are a couple of the passions we have but obviously in the customer experience realm my passion right now is to really create environments that make our agents and our staff successful.


Jim Rembach:    I appreciate you sharing that. You and I had the opportunity to talk before our interview about some really interesting impacts associated with that entire development of staff, with that high performance aspect and what does it take to get that as well as balance some things that we need to balance from a cost and expense perspective. And we had talked about this whole shift and pendulum swing, I refer to it as of efficiency versus effectiveness, and right now you’ve gone through a lot of that technological innovation testing and applying and it’s really impacted your workplace in a lot of different ways. So tell us a little bit about what’s happening or what has happened with you and that balance and shift of efficiency and effectiveness?


John Ngo:    Sure. Being in the Silicon Valley obviously we’re surrounded by a hub of technology and as a small organization, just about four years old when we started, you go through the whole mom and pop you’re doing everything at hawk you figuring it out as you go implementing software and realizing it’s not what you need. As we’ve started to mature we’ve realized we’ve got really good agents we’ve trained them up we’ve gotten them to a point—but the volume is so significant, how do we reduce the unnecessary use of human interaction and the transactional items that you incur every day?  How can we improve that experience for customers? We want to get back to them as soon as possible if it’s a transactional item that doesn’t require that much human interaction. So there was a lot of push for automation. We’ve done automation, we’ve done chat bots, we’ve done—in California one of our laws requires that if you sign up on online you have to be able to cancel online. So we had to put that into our process and work with our CRM process to make it direct, clear and linear so they didn’t have to go through human. Naturally any subscription service, any organization customer service you want some kind of friction to see, hey, how can we improve? How do we not lose customers? Automation has been really good Artificial intelligence has been really good but in that process we also identify that there’s this apex where you put in all this automation but you’re still not having the amazing customer experience that you wanted because there’s this balance the relationship is what builds customer loyalty, brand loyalty and whatnot. And so identifying at which point that we start to lose that brand loyalty, customer loyalty because the experiences are changing. We might get to certain people faster but those individuals who may not be technologically as savvy or those consumers who actually want to talk to a human being because they want to feel like an important individual and not just a number that’s where we’re trying to identify how we can more quickly during the automation process augment it with human interaction to actually benefit both sides. We get through some of the transactional items but then we go to the escalated portions of a conversation or interaction and they want to then communicate with us, how do we get them to somebody in a very fast efficient way without losing that relationship and balancing that relationship? So chat bots have been fantastic—we started off with meeting it we used it and then we realized maybe the reliance on it or the development of it has caused a loss in some of that relationship and then swinging it back and trying to find that perfect balance. And it’s going to be a constant everyday activity to try to identify, hey, where are we shifting?


These type of movements towards one side or another are going to be ongoing. You’re consistently having to learn from all these customer interactions and experiences and just the overall environment to adapt because if we decide we’re comfortable with one set or one direction we’re going to realize that we’re probably out of date within a couple months and we’re going to be chasing something. Our team here especially myself and several other of our staff are constantly looking at the barometer and trying to kind of adjust it accordingly. Making constant daily even adjustments to maximize and get to the point where we feel like we understand what our customers want today, not tomorrow, not yesterday but today. And then kind of predicting what they might do tomorrow. 


Jim Rembach:    Thanks for sharing that. As you were talking I started thinking about the traditional aspect of what we do with data in a contact center and to me what you just essentially explain in regards to how you’re leveraging debt is that typically what we do in the contact center is we look at post-mortem data, these are things that already happen they’re dead there’s nothing we can do about that data anymore. And so, okay, we’re going to try to make some adjustments but then again we go back and look at post-mortem data we made a change and then boom this is what happened. But it sounds to me like you’re getting more on the front end of this from a proactive perspective?
And also you’re depth and analytics is something that—a lot of organizations just would love to have available that they don’t, I mean, you’re talking about the work that you’re doing with the San Francisco

49ers and the customer experience and all this data analytic interpretation and then also decision making in order to be proactive and then some futuristic also engagement opportunity. You are having the benefit of proactive analytic management that others just don’t get. What do you see that is done for you where you are today?


John Ngo:   Wow, that’s a big question. I mean, when you say what has been done for me, do you want to clarify a little bit more kind of like what are you framing, so I can give you a really good idea. I can tell

You—I didn’t really go into the 49ers, I was talking a lot about Sun Basket, what’s unique when we talk about data analytics and where we’re at, if we want to look at proactive decision making the 49ers is very interesting. I oversee a team of mobile app experience specialists their only responsibility is to—like any other mobile app for people who understand why mobile apps are really out there it’s data. It’s identifying user activity and user sentiment and how they go through the process. Whether they’re using it at a stadium, whether they’re using Facebook, it’s really about that user information and the user activity. In our stadium the 49ers have this application that was developed as an in-house business project it’s now its own company by Jed York and the 49ers partially. What they do is—it goes down to the number of spaces in a parking lot, ordering food to your seat, ordering merchandise to your seat, way finding 600 or more Bluetooth beacons within the stadium. It’s really unique, we can seat in a command center up there in a booth with like 20 high-definition screens and tell you how many people have entered any single gate, any single time real-time and being able to adjust and go like, well clearly we have way too much staff and one entrance we don’t have enough staff another entrance—what’s being underutilized, what’s being ordered, moving inventory, creating this real-time adjustment to current activity. You have a general trend that you can follow year over a year, event over event, but as you look at it in real-time you can make real-time adjustments down to minutes and improve safety. You see volume cruncher you can move security, you can move staffing, you can move a ADA support and you can create environments that are a greater experience, provide a safer environment. You can enjoy the actual event more knowing that you’ll be able to get to your event, see your event do your event. And so that’s kind of the analytic side nobody sees that everybody thinks it’s really cool, you can see replays, you can order food but a lot of it has to do with how do we make that happen smoother without you realizing it and that’s kind of the goal behind that. Back to the question, you were originally posing because I clearly went off on a tangent. 


Jim Rembach:    Well I think you did answer it in some ways. For me what I see is that what you just talked about right there and what I hear that you are doing in your contact center is being able to proactively address some systemic problems and close the gap in regards to its solution. Again going back to that typical aspect of a contact center and what we normally do is we look at post-mortem data, we look at the agent and that customer interaction and experience and put way too much responsibility on the agent’s hands. When you look at systems theory, it’s an 80/20 rule and even the 20 is not as much of the agent. What I mean by that is 80% of the problems that exist for a customer are company generated and 20% of the problems are as what remains—and the agent could really only impact about 10% of those because the other 10% is owned by the customer, customers make mistakes. So what I see is that you with the way that you’re approaching data analytics and even BOTS an AI is that you’re proactively managing that systemic issue that causes 80% of the problems and then therefore reducing issues faster.


John Ngo:   Correct. Initially when I came on board one of the things you realize very quickly both here at Stanford and most the organizations that I’ve worked at is you get a quick two weeks to evaluate your staff where they’re at what they’re doing how they’re working and quite often you’ll find that majority of your individuals are pretty decent worker. You always have the high performers, you always have people who kind of toe the line barely survived but a lot of those individuals are set up for failure without even knowing it. My belief is that as a leader if you have the training, the support and the guidance and the technology and everything else is set up and you set that up for them and you let them go through their process and you and evaluate them from a blank slate you can say, hey, we’ve get them given them everything to succeed. Historically, what will happen—Stanford’s a great example that was a call center it was a multi clinic facility you had customers who had really—I mean patients, these are cancer patients who are at the tail end of their life having really terrible customer experiences and these agents who have never had an expectation that’s been set so they don’t understand the customer situation they don’t have the right training to do it. So being a new manager in that facility what I was asked to do was to create a pilot project to create improved access to our facility. How do we do that? We did analytics for two full weeks, everybody and every process in every minute of their day for two weeks. What we identified it was a systemic issue of technology, 20 doctors, 20 coordinators, 20 voicemails, nobody gets back to half of the voicemails, half the people don’t check their voicemails and so getting rid of that entire process leveraging the technology that we have in the area of VD and role of our hand groups taking all of our schedulers putting him in a single room cross-training him across all departments within the GI or the clinical services so that any customer any patient who called could schedule with any physician that was available creating this efficiency process. That was a very non-automated, non-AI but it was a systemic change based on just very simple evaluation. I think that’s where some of the failures we believe we have the experience, we believe we have the leadership but we don’t look at the bigger picture and we actually don’t look at what our agents have had to go through prior to our arrivals. So to go back and to go like, hey, everybody gets retrained and customer service everything down to legal documentation to medical documentation and it’s not because they’re ignorant or they don’t know it’s because we have to assume that everybody should be on this level playing field and to create that level playing field. From that level playing field we can then set a very standard expectation and elevate it and grow it so that we can create an environment where our customers are the ones that actually benefit and our agents become professionals in what they do. There are some that won’t, there are some that won’t like the accountability that being able to whisper in an a phone call being able to see how many abandoned calls they have seeing how many they don’t answer seeing how many times they actually pick up the phone some agents won’t like that those agents probably will not remain with the company and that’s just very common. However, for those individuals who do show up to work who do work hard and who want to learn and grow it’s a great opportunity for them to show how incredibly talented they may be and quite often they do they surprised you quite surprised you quite often and show you the incredible skill set that they carry and a lot of it is learned so how do we get them to that point? 


John Ngo:   You bring up some really important points in a lot of different ways part of that is culture creation. I think as you are talking I started thinking about creating that type of high performance culture. And in a high performance culture you can’t have people who just want to lay out and be lazy it’s just not going to happen. So when you started also talking about the data and the balance and being able to find that perfect point is that—we talked about in a contact center and you even talk about people who are in the contact that you have to report to is that sometimes we just get so myopic on the numbers, the numbers, the numbers and we forget one vital point and that vital point that you’re saying is….


John Ngo: —the relationship. We always want to hit that apex of performance and productivity but in terms of being able to create that relationship no matter where it is whether it’s customer to company, agent to company, agent to customer we really have to focus on—we want to take both artificial chat bot and create the augmented intelligence is kind of where a lot of people are going which is a combination of both. And so to create an environment where we take that data and we actually use it meaningfully and we try to take in a fairly real-time environment and then drive future decision making is, where some baskets headed and I think where a lot of companies are headed, but making a value point that we can never lose sight that that relationship is key still having that contact with that customer in some capacity or that agent or that individual that is what drives that brand loyalty, brand engagement consumer satisfaction.


Jim Rembach:    I think that’s part of that pendulum swing not going too far and you talked about that. Been there, done that, realize that point, marked, noted, however, I need to keep measuring it because it may shift. There’s so many different factors especially even in your industry that you’re in when it’s concerned this whole prepackaged meal, you guys take a very unique and interesting approach to the products and services that you offer and I think it’s important to really kind of point that out you kind of briefly touched on it, but really, what is Sun Baskets value proposition?


John Ngo:   Sun Basket is actually—it’s a meal kit. There’s a large space, there’s a bunch of other companies, Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Plated, million different companies it’s a very hot thing right now. The difference is our organization our company wasn’t built on just food it was actually built on health. Our CEO, Adams Zbar went to a physician many years ago and it was told basically you’re pretty unhealthy you need to make a lifestyle change and in doing so he was already an entrepreneur and he was already in a delivery space and he realized that what if we delivered healthy food to people versus just food? It is unique and I enjoy working with it obviously because I enjoyed being healthy. All of our food is measured and evaluated by not only dietitians, nutritionists, we have physicians that are part of a larger platform that we’re pushing which is really—how can food enhance and improve people’s lives? We are one of the only few, if not the only meal kit company that partners with both the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association. We have meals approved by all three organizations to serve those individuals who suffer from those conditions. I myself I’m on the team that actually looks at food and how it can be treated as a way to improve overall health. I guess in the culture there are now people calls food as medicine, I’m not going to specifically state that’s what it is but we approach it like that. Because the overall effectiveness of healthy eating, clean eating has been shown generally in empirical data. And so, how do we at Sun Basket actually promote that and actually be part of that movement? How do we continually look at different things? We have a large selection of different things that a lot of organizations may not have, pescatarian, vegan, vegetarian we’re sensitive to all the different allergens. It’s a very awesome experience to be part of an organization that’s trying to improve a larger community not just people who enjoy food, people who enjoy health, people who enjoy activity.


Jim Rembach:    In addition to me what you’re saying is that you must have an exceptional customer experience because of the exceptional focus that you have on your product mix it kind of be totally disingenuous and it would be incongruent for you not to be able to provide exceptional service when you have such a high standard on food.


John Ngo:   Well, I think that we have a very high expectation of our customer service. I will say this, like any other company there are always moments where you’re like we could have done better. We have live with that belief every single day. Where are we? And can we do better? And that drives our leadership team that drives our organization to go like let’s be vigilant in what we do. Let’s push the envelope in our technology but let’s continually re-evaluate ourselves every single day so that we can push that customer experience even further. Whether it’s using automated intelligence and artificial intelligence and automation to reduce the friction required for somebody to deal with something. Get a refund get a credit, how can we make those people that are too busy have a good experience? How can we make those people that are not busy or like just love to have conversation with somebody? How can make their experience better? How do can we make someone who doesn’t want a full meal and just wants a quick salad? We’re constantly looking at that looking at customer ease, customer satisfaction, customers in areas we serve basically all 50 states now. We’ve expanded our distribution centers in the last two years to the entire US. One here, one in Valmayer, Illinois and one in New Jersey so we can serve all parts of the US. And so it’s constantly evolving just like the company. And are we going to find that meal? Just like any other social media platform you can probably Google and find some negative experiences I will say those are probably few and far between and even if they are negative experiences we actually focus on reaching out to those individuals every single contact. When they have a negative experience and they share their sentiment on a social platform we just don’t respond to it we respond and say what can we do to have made that experience better. And we try to improve that experience even in retrospect even after the fact. It’s always an opportunity for us to reach out to a former customer whether they’re with us now whether they’ve left us. I think the last experience you want to have with a company is a positive one. And so we try to have that service recovery in every aspect possible.


Jim Rembach:    Well, everything that we’re talking about here as far as focusing on the customer experience focus on food quality all of those things have a whole lot of energy and emotion and excitement around them. One of the things that we look at on the show are quotes to help give us that is that. Is there a quote or two that you like that you can share?


John Ngo:   Yeah, There are two quotes, one of which has to do with leadership from the other one which has to do with life. Obviously, one of the quotes that—not obviously but it will be in a minute, 

JFK had this great quote and it was, leadership and learning is indispensable to each other. I think any good leader will understand that—there are some pretty bad leaders but for those who understand that your entire evolution is a constant learning process. From the first job you ever take to the last job you ever have, you don’t know everything and you’ll never know everything. You take every experience that you’ve had and you try to roll it up into the next one and improve upon your interactions, your delivery, your leadership, your strengths, your qualities and how you groom and lead and drive innovation and intelligence and thoughtfulness in other people and you try to make it better. It doesn’t always work it doesn’t always mesh in different industries but learning and leadership are always inseparable. I think the day you stopped trying to learn is probably the day you stop being a good leader. Because at that point you believe that you are all knowledgeable and it will be not a good outcome in the long run. 


Now the second quote that I have, which for me it’s a personal quote, it’s a quote that I’ve lived with for a long time which is an act of kindness can change the course of a lifetime. And I don’t know who that author is but that’s kind of how I’ve kind of lived my life and both in a leadership role. Sometimes you have to look beyond what you physically see. Let’s say you have agents who are going through something and they’re difficult life experiences, I’ve gone through difficult life experiences I’m sure you have and I’m sure all of our listeners have, what do you do with that? Like how do you get to that point? It doesn’t take something other than, hey, would you like to talk for a minute? Go ahead and get yourself off the floor and have that five-minute conversation. I am lucky that I have had more than one person in my life basically reach out with an act of kindness unexpected. I believe that every single one of those moments changes some of these life time. It changes how you think it, it changes your belief in value in people and it changes how you approach things. Some people don’t recognize it now they may recognize it later but I think it’s a powerful thing and it leads me to obviously do things like—run this non-profit. 


Because for me it’s not what we do today it’s what we leave for tomorrow. Whether I leave a contact center, have I left at better? Can my team operate with self-sufficiency Am I the holder of all the information? I hope not. I hope that I’ve given them my knowledge and my understanding and my decision-making and my justifications and process and in doing so they become owners of that I don’t have to own it. I have to talk to you about it I have to talk to executive leadership about it and own up to numbers whether it’s positive or negative and I have to justify stuff. But I want to believe that within your team as a great leader you should be able to go. I’ve given my team every single ounce available to succeed whether I’m here or not. I could get hit by a car on the way to work. With contact center my team still operate in a pretty good fashion I believe so and I’m confident. That’s what drives me to continuously develop and lead and learn.


Jim Rembach:    When you talk about difficult life experiences and that’s one of the things that we all can learn from, of course us as we go through them, but then when others hear about our stories and we share those on the show and talked about getting over a hump. Is there a time where you’ve gotten over the hump that you can share?


John Ngo:   Yeah, sure.  I was in my early 20s, I just left EMS doing a like running an ambulance, doing rescues—I had a back injury so I broke my back in two places and that’s why I went into the private sector. When I went into the private sector my first job in the private sector was supervisor in an emergency room in San Francisco, at 23 I believe. As a supervisor at 23 when most you’re nurses are 45, 50, 52, they have actually been in the field for more than 23 years so they’ve had more experience than in years I’ve been born. And as a young manager and as a young leader one of the things that you believe is I have all the education, I understand process, I have this idea of what leading is. You walk into the room and you start to talk to them you start to have these conversations and you’re like, okay, so by the way I need this this and this done. We should have all of this done and you should have your training done and I don’t want you to go for forty hours your time cards off and looking at all those things and you’re talking to these individuals but with no life experience to back you up. And so in that process you get what I would call a revolt, nobody listens nobody cares what you said there’s no value and there’s no depth to your leadership. And I learned this quickly. My leader basically pulled me aside and said don’t tell them what to do show them how much they need you as a supervisor, making sure that I was there all three shifts. I would work double shifts one day come back go 8 hours, work double shifts the next day. Cover shifts in which people were ill or absent. Find innovative ways to staff. Make sure that they have what they need, night shift always gets treated terribly. 


So instead of just having that pizza at night during the holiday, what do you do? Go ahead and get things that will show them that you care, that it matters to them. And so what I really did was I sat down with each of them. I also sat down with their union and leadership. I discussed a lot of the information that they had issues with. Whether it’s some language in their union contract. I was present for as much time as humanly possible. I slept in my office at times actually. You work harder than anybody there. You spend more time understanding the situations. You advocate for them with leadership, within reason, and over time what you got was a small ounce of respect daily. They would realize that you were present for them. They would realize that you were going to bat for them and they realize that you understand their circumstances. They’re married with two kids one of which is in school, how can you work around their schedule? How can you be flexible with them? But how can you also drive efficiencies? As time went on and the respect started to grow that’s when you can ask them for things. You can sit there and be like, hey, you know what?


I have a real need for overtime next week we’re very short. And it was absolutely, I’ll be more than willing to do it, because you worked with their schedule you understood their life circumstances. And so that hump was probably the most difficult just because I had nothing to go back on I had to build, I had to show and I had to develop the relationships from that standpoint on. After that obviously with some experience there’s a little bit more inherited like belief that he might know what he’s doing. I still think I was probably a terrible leader. I was probably a really bad supervisor for at least the first six months but I think by the time I left which is three years later that I had a fairly decent level of respect within that organization. Because I did actually just switch to another clinic within the same facility I was asked to open up a melanoma clinic as well as run a multi-site multi facility organization.


Jim Rembach:    I’m glad you actually got those leadership lessons there because you’ve carried it on to several other places. And the Fast Leader legion continues to wish you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor. 


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Alright, here we go Fast Leader legion it’s time for the Hump day Hoedown. The Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward

Faster. John Ngo, are you ready to hoedown? 


John Ngo:   Let’s hoedown. 


Jim Rembach:    Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today? 


John Ngo:   There’s only 24 hours in a day and I need more. 


Jim Rembach:    What is the best leadership advice you have ever received? 


John Ngo:   Never stop learning, never stop believing and never stop working. 


Jim Rembach:    What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success? 


John Ngo:   I believe that I am extremely strong at listening and then identifying and then working within any scenario possible. So I have an incredible patience level but I’m also extremely calm. I’ve been in a gun battle at the clinic that I ran. And literally all I did was walk slowly to the door lock the door and asked everybody to go towards the back and everybody was trying to figure out why I was so calm and I said, it’s glass it’s going to hit me it’s going to hit me and we’re good let’s be safe let’s get to where we need to be and let’s make sure our patients are first priority. That was a very interesting I didn’t get to go into detail about that one but it’s a good story when you ever want to hear. 


Jim Rembach:    What is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life? 


John Ngo:   One of my best tools is the people around me. Leaning on the people I work, leaning on people in your life. Being able to express it to them, express your frustrations and as well as your successes. That’s one of the best things that you can do instead of just harboring and holding it in or just being like does anybody care.


Jim Rembach:    And what is one book that you’d recommend to our legion, it could be from any genre.


John Ngo:   Okay it’s called, The Art of Communicating it’s by Thich Nhat Hanh, he’s Vietnamese monk, he’s a Zen Buddhist monk and it just really goes through the entire process of communication and how we can do it better. 


Jim Rembach:    Okay Fast Leader legion you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to John, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you’ve been given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25. And you can take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take it all, you can only take one thing. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?


John Ngo:   The truth is I probably wouldn’t go back because everything that you experience at 25 would lead you to where you are today, I think that’s one key thing. But if I could, it would be the ability to communicate. I think at 25 I spoke to people and now I think I speak with people. I communicate and listen as well at the same time. I think that’s one of the skill sets that is just developed over time and will continue to develop and has kind of led me to where I am at this moment.


Jim Rembach:    John Ngo, it was an honor to spend time with you today. Can you please share with the Fast Leader Legion how they can connect with you? 


John Ngo:   Yeah, absolutely. You can find me on LinkedIn, I will share all that information. You can always email me, I don’t know if you want me to share it here. You can email me at and I will be more than happy to answer any questions. I am always available. I love to communicate and share experiences. I think we all get better and we all improve the environments we’re in if we work together in our businesses and then our professional life and personal life. 


Jim Rembach:    John Ngo, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom the Fast Leader Legion honors you and thank you for helping us get over the hump. Thank you for joining me on the Fast

Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the so we can help you move onward and upward faster.