We have Johnny Hanna, a serial entrepreneur who got his start while in college from a Real Estate Software competition. In 2003. He co-founded and Entrata, turning a $50,000 investment into over 100 million dollars in revenue and 1500 employees. Today he is the co-founder of homie, a tech company that streamlines the home buying process. We’re going to dive in with Johnny, who’s passionate about mental health. He’s passionate about his employees and taking care of his employees and helping them succeed. And so you’re going to hear a new take on how you can use your company values to and tie those back to mental health principles. Fantastic interview, I sure learned a lot, and I’m excited to jump into this with you. Let’s go in. 

Holly Shannon  

Hello, Johnny. Hannah. Welcome to The Culture Factor.

Johnny Hanna  

Well, thanks for having me.

Paul Jones  

Johnny, thanks for joining us today. I’m excited about this episode in particular. I follow you on LinkedIn, and I’ve seen a lot of your posts, and you focus on mental fitness, which is something that I think is so important in today’s workplace, mostly post COVID. Many of your posts talk about how important it is for your employees to be mentally fit and how important it is for you to be mentally fit. And I just wanted to dive right into that and find out what is it that has you so passionate about mental fitness and why do you think it’s so important?

Johnny Hanna  

I just have had such a focus on this with my wife over the last several years that I am shocked I didn’t learn these principles when I was a young kid, it would have changed my life and at work, you know, mental fitness represents all the drama that we have at work. I think every place of work has drama. That’s what we all deal with, you know, with each other. It’s all about human connections and relationships. And so, you know, each one of us has struggles and challenges that we’re going through personal things at home, that we just kind of brushed aside and ignore as if that is helpful. And so having a focus of mental health and mental fitness, to me, has become core to who we are. It’s the foundation of our culture. And it’s guided my life in all aspects over the last couple of years.

Holly Shannon  

So when we spoke earlier, you know, sort of about how your company has shaped, you had revamped your company designed to focus on culture first, with that I on mental health. Could you expand for the listeners so that they understand the backstory level? A little bit sorry, what your company culture was before, and what values you put in place that sort of speak to your new culture? 

Johnny Hanna  

“The values that we came out with were put together before we had a mental fitness focus. And now that we do I, I feel that they tie perfectly, I think mental fitness ties back to any core value.”

Yeah, I think the values that we came out with were put together before we had a mental fitness focus. And now that we do I, I feel that they tie perfectly, so I don’t know how that happened, but I think mental fitness mental health ties to any core value now that I’m, you know, just speaking about this and thinking about it out loud here with you guys. But yeah, one of our core values is humility. Nobody wants to work with a jerk, right? And nobody likes that type of environment. And so, you know, my last company that was a focus for us, too. We tried to interview people based on our values and find cultural fits, and that’s not easy to do during an interview process. But if you think about the mental fitness aspect of humility, like people, people that may be insecure about the role they’re coming into to fill, or they might be overconfident. Both of those scenarios come from a place of fear. In that fear lives in our head. And so as you’re talking to these individuals, and if they, if they’re overconfident or if they’re insecure, you know, that they have something that they’re struggling with mentally. And, you know, typically, I think we look at the insecurity as humility. But that’s not the truth. You know, humility is actually having confidence and being secure with yourself. Just that one value alone, you know, you can pick that apart and help dive into that and understand like, Hey, you know, why? Why are you so insecure? You see, you have outstanding accomplishments. There are some fantastic things I can tell you that. There are some things you can help us do and achieve as a company. You know, and almost coach somebody was turning an interview process. Where on the flip side of that, if somebody comes in overconfident, that’s a little bit more difficult. Overconfidence still comes from a place of fear itself, covering up that fear with that overconfidence, and that’s a little harder to coach. I don’t recommend necessarily doing that during an interview, but just a quick example of one of our values and how mental fitness ties to it.

Paul Jones  

I love that example. Based on what you’ve said, so far, Johnny has like you had your company values before you went on this journey. And now you’re looking at your company values differently, where you’re able to take humility, for example, look at humility and tie that back to fear and help your people be more mentally fit by saying, humility is something that helps you have this mental fitness it helps you have this correct perspective that’s going to help you be better at your job. And that’s why we focus on humility. I think that’s fascinating. How did that work? How did that play out for you as you looked at modesty, and then you work backward from there to understand that it comes from if you don’t have it, it comes from a place of fear? What was that journey like? How did your perspective? 

Johnny Hanna  

It’s absolutely been a process over time. And it’s still something I’m learning. I’ve tried to look at all aspects of life, and again, business is all about relationships internally, if your employees are taking care of, your clients naturally will be taken care of which your clients are happier investors are going to be happy, right? Analyzing our values, like mental fitness, it’s the how-to live your values. And so as a company, you know, we can address little topics during our company meetings or our town halls and have conversations around humility, like we want to build an atmosphere of safety and trust. So people can feel confident. They can feel sure to make mistakes, that they’re not going to get fired. If they make a mistake. They don’t have to live in around that. And so, you know, we encourage people to disrupt not just our industry, but disrupt the way we’re doing things internally. And so disruption is another core value. And it’s asking why, like, why are we doing things this way? And then from a, you know, more of a mental fitness standpoint, like why? Why am I behaving this way? You can recognize behavior in yourself that shows up consistently, and you can start to analyze that and want to disrupt your regularly scheduled distortion. 

Holly Shannon  

So let me ask you this question. If you’re helping your employees unpack their pain, how do you make it so that they don’t feel a fear of losing their job? How do you make it so that it’s not personal and that you’re guiding them and helping them solve the company’s problems to be disruptive to solve whatever problem they have internally? How do you help them unpack that? Without the ego stepping in or fear of Oh my God, I’m going to lose my job now?

Johnny Hanna  

Yeah, I can’t make anybody feel that way. So it has to be built over time. So I’m trying to develop an atmosphere of safety and trust, and trust is earned. And so you know, you used the word guide a few different times. And to me, the best way to do that is to lead by example. And so I share very personal experiences in front of the company to show that I make mistakes. Here’s a big issue. You know, here’s something I just messed up. You know, and here’s the fear I had around it. Here’s the fear that I had going into my board meeting. And, you know, I, this is where I was, and let’s unpack my fear. Why did I have fear? Was I not prepared? You know, what am I scared of? And so as I lead with these examples, more and more people are opening up and recognizing it’s okay to be human, and to recognize we’re all the same and that there’s no hierarchy of individuals where I’m a perfect CEO and super-wealthy and worship me and I make no mistakes, you know, that that type of environment is a lie. And that’s a fear-based type of atmosphere. So it is just the more vulnerable I can be even during my one on ones with my executive team. The first few minutes, I check in on them how they’re doing as a human. I set aside from just getting right to their deadlines and timelines or whatever projects they’re working on. Doing this makes it to be such a much more enjoyable environment. And in a place where we can just communicate so much more effectively instead of being so controlled on what we’re saying so that we don’t get fired or other fear might be in our head.

Holly Shannon  

You know, Johnny, I have a question. It’s kind of the brass tax side of it. Have you seen a return on investment productivity? Have you seen any changes? Maybe, along that lines from shifting how you run your company?

Johnny Hanna  

As we’ve had these conversations, that same individual has come back just saying, ” Oh my goodness, my life has changed, and I’m no longer blaming my clients and my co-workers for my lack of self-love and self-care, and I feel more healthy.” 

Absolutely. Without question, I mean, I don’t know how many examples you want, but one of them came to mind. When you naturally talk about mental health, you go there, and you’re like, Oh, no, I don’t have a mental illness, I’m not suicidal. But there’s so much to it. That being said, I have had employees that are really on the brink that have approached me in tears, and have been appreciative that I have been so vulnerable, as they shared their story, and now I know where they are, and I can reach out and check in on them and make sure they’re getting the help they need. I don’t see how that employee can be productive with what’s going on in their head. So having somebody to confide in relieves some of that burden and allows you to then focus on your job. That’s a more extreme example, but I do believe those examples exist within every single company. And on the less extreme example, it’s more common that when our value is Balance, and it’s so hard to achieve work-life balance, we all talk about it. But going through this and learning these principles, we’re learning what self-care is and what self-love is and how to set boundaries, and some people have just worked themselves to where they’re burned out, and burnout in any company is terrible. I had an individual who’s a manager that came to me and just said you know, Johnny, everybody’s asking me to do this, this and this and I can’t go home, and I can’t see my family so we had a conversation around it. And I was pretty bold, and I just said, you know, this is actually you’re doing, you know, and that was a little hard to hear, but the truth is, you are in charge of you. And I said you can go home and be home for dinner at six o’clock. You can tell your clients, Look, I’m not going to get to this until tomorrow morning. You can tell your coworkers I am done at this time and you can hold those boundaries and the world if you allow it to control your life and your schedule it will totally take it over. As we’ve had these conversations, that same individual has come back just saying, ” Oh my goodness, my life has changed, and I’m no longer blaming my clients and my co-workers for my lack of self-love and self-care, and I feel more healthy. And I am standing up for myself. And if you know and I and I let her know look, if you’re actually truly unable to get to your work and then works, falling through the cracks, clients are not satisfied. We’re getting bad reviews. That’s going to reflect that we need to get you help and hire more people. But that’s it’s not on you to make everything perfect. We have to be open about communicating and saying I am going to drop this we are going to see bad reviews unless we hire and do And if you don’t believe me, Well, you know, time will tell, because I am not going to work all night as I have historically. So those are examples that I hear more frequently, then, you know, of course, somebody that’s struggling with their mental health.

Paul Jones  

It seems like you’re uncovering so many principles behind your values. It’s one thing to say, we live a balanced life, it’s a whole other thing to say that balance requires boundaries, and here are boundaries that you need to set to in your own life. And it seems to me, Johnny, that vulnerability has been the key to unlock these conversations. And if you’re going to have vulnerability, you know, you’ve led by being vulnerable yourself, but to have employees be vulnerable, you have to create that safe environment that you’re talking about. From an executive perspective, being vulnerable is really hard to do because you’re supposed to be the one with all the answers, you have to have all of your ducks in a row. Otherwise, there’s this inclination for people to lose faith in what you’re doing. What was that like for you for all our listeners saying, “Alright, I’m going to try to be a little bit more vulnerable.” Could you take us down that path? 

Johnny Hanna  

Yeah, I have a specific experience that I can share. And you know, honestly, I’ve been working on myself for the last two years. So there’s just so much time I’ve spent trying to make self-improvements and be a better husband a better father. And so I remember telling my wife that I really want to roll out a mental fitness program for my company and have, this therapist that we’ve been working with come in and address all of these issues with our people, and so she did, I was connecting the dots with our values. And I believe I can connect those same dots with any company’s values again; how do you live an integrity filled life, if integrity is your core value, and everybody has very similar values, but I remember going to my company meeting, and one of the things I was working on was being authentic. And I had fear around what people thought of me, I wanted to be liked, I wanted to be the smart CEO, I wanted to get up in front of my employees and have them admire me, and it’s so painful to be so controlled. And so I started a company meeting, and I just said, Hey, guys, we’re going to be rolling out a mental health training program for the company. And I’m going just to let you guys know, that I’ve been so I’ve been living in pain, every company meeting that comes up I have this sick feeling like, ah, I got to prepare every word I say. And I said it was so controlled. And I just hate that and I don’t want to be that person, I don’t want to feel that way I want to eliminate that pain. So as we’ve learned inevitable pain versus optional pain, that was optional. I was choosing to be in that pain and choosing to be so controlled. So I explained this to them. And I just said, “I’m done” I’m going to be me, I’m not going to care what everybody thinks I’m just going to share company updates, and how our company is going and that’s it and I just stopped there. It wasn’t very eloquent, similar to how I’m sharing this story with you guys. And they just started to applaud. And the first thought that came into my distorted mind was, oh, they’re just applauding for me because I’m the CEO. So go ahead and keep talking. Just go on to the next part of that. Company meeting, you know, introduce the next person. But then this being self-aware of my thoughts, I heard myself tell, you know, speak those negative thoughts. And I looked at the eyes of some of the clapping individuals and I could tell they were genuine. And so that that shift of, oh, they’re just doing this because you’re the CEO shifted to just this feeling of gratitude and connection between me and my employees. And so I just sat quiet, and I actually choked up a little bit. And, and it was so raw and real. I then expressed everything I just told you guys, I said, here’s where I just went in my mind. And now I’m in a place of appreciation and thank you, thank you for applauding instead of trying to dismiss that and say, no need to applaud, you know, like trying to minimize. Minimizing is one of these, you know, denial strategies of avoiding pain or discomfort. And so I just soaked it in. And it was awesome. And I wrote about it on LinkedIn, you know, post it and got like, 200,000, views on that post, and I just recognized like, every business needs this, I went home and told my wife, I’m like, you know, can you believe this? And she was tearing up, she’s like, this is so needed in every workplace. And I just said, Yep, we’re going forward, we’re doing this. And so from there, I, you know, people then came up to me afterwards, and some of those examples of people that were really struggling, came and put their arms around me and just said, you know, thank you for being so real. And here’s what I’m going through, you know, and then we cried together, and I’m like, I can’t believe you of all people, you know, somebody that I thought was, you know, a superwoman. And another guy that was I thought it was a Superman, you know, and, and they are, and they’re human, you know, so it’s, it’s just been amazing.

Holly Shannon  

You know, Johnny, you had said, earlier how that guy who would work for you was stressed out, he was working really late. Everybody had expectations of him. And how, when you sat down with him, you realize that he was enabling it like he was sort of bringing bring it on by always being available and giving people the information they needed at eight o’clock at night versus shutting off going home having dinner and having said to those people, oh, I’ll get back to in the morning kind of thing. I think the flip side of that is kind of what you were saying where you opened up to everybody. We there’s a certain amount of enabling in the old stories that we carry, right, like we were, we’re sort of like tying our own hands behind our back like people expect us to be a certain way. You know, we build these stories in our head. They expect me to behave a certain way they wish me to say something in particular, whatever. And, and we sort of make it hard on ourselves to transition and be vulnerable. Because, you know, that’s just that’s scary, right? So it’s easier to stay in that place of just enabling yourself to be the model of what everybody thinks you’re supposed to be as a CEO.

Johnny Hanna  

My cowboy upbringing in the Western society view of Manning up and cabling up, but yeah, all of this what you just shared. It’s a bunch of bullcrap. And it’s self-inflicted. And yeah, that individual it was it was one of my female managers in you know, she, you know, I had to help her see, the drama triangle. You see, we studied this and I just said, Look, you are not a victim. You’re not a victim to your employees or the people you manage. You’re not a victim to your clients; it’s in your head. You’re enabling this behavior by not setting boundaries. And, you know, it’s the truth and it’s hard to hear. But as we recognize that we actually have choice in the matter, our agency allows us to pull ourselves out of these ridiculous thoughts entirely false. It helps us to heal, and we can choose a balanced life if we want it. That into me, that’s the most empowering thing. I’m not a victim to life. I, you know, it doesn’t control me and you know, I don’t in this is where we’ve gone through some really serious conversations like, okay, so is being stressed, or overwhelmed, in distortion. And it’s like, you know what it is you have a choice, you have choice for what you take on and put on your plate in this life. You can choose to get out of it. And that’s where I’m like holy cow; this is so empowering that I have skills now to find peace instead of just hoping for a change in circumstance.

Paul Jones  

I think that is such a key point, you mentioned skills. And mental fitness is all about skills. And one of the first skills that I think needs to happen when you’re going down that road is you have to become a self observer. You have to be able to take yourself out of a situation and observe your emotions and observe your thoughts. And you’ve kind of alluded to that throughout the podcast. You’re making me want to work at Homie now because there’s a framework called Joharis Window. And Johari’s Window is you have your personal view of yourself. And then you have the image that you think other people see inside of you, that’s your facade. But then you also have a perspective where there are things that people see about you that you don’t see about yourself. And I think these principles of mental fitness and your example of talking to your manager about balance is an example of sitting from your perspective and you’re seeing an employee who might not see that they’re struggling with balance. And you’re able to have a conversation with them, sit them down, and say, Hey, from my perspective, I see this in your blind spot. And to be able to have that vulnerable conversation between two people. That’s just improving life, I would be very excited to work for an organization where I felt like I could go into that community and get honest, raw feedback from people on how I can improve as a person, even though I might not be seeing that. Those are my blind spots. And I feel like that’s what you’ve created. 

Johnny Hanna  

Yeah. And I appreciate that. I think it’s what I’m trying to create. You know it, looking in the mirror is not easy to do. Talking about these things I have many cowboys a lot of there’s a lot of cowboy mentality, a lot of cowgirl mentality to where it’s like this is this is talking about your feelings. So there’s, you know, there’s a few that are like, Oh, yeah, this has helped Johnny a lot. I can tell that he’s passionate about it. But you know, it’s not for me. And so, in some of these people, I’m like, oh, man, you have no idea you need this so badly.

Holly Shannon  

Enlightenment is a journey.

Johnny Hanna  

You can’t force it. And, you know, another thought that came to me is how many companies have communication is a value. You see, we want to you know, communicate, but if you cannot step back and do that, that principle hurries principals out when you said, Paul

Paul Jones  

Jahoris Window. It’s just a framework.

Johnny Hanna  

yeah, suppose you can do that, and recognize that every person has a different perspective and can talk openly and vulnerably about how you see things. In that case, you know, there’s natural conflict and companies come to a standstill, you know, people get fired over a miss, you know, misinterpretations, you know, and so if it requires humility, it requires self reflection. And and that that window of understanding the way you see the world is not how others see the world and you have to be open and vulnerable about that. So that’s from like, I just think of every other company with communication as a value, they could utilize mental fitness as a tool actually to live that value.

Paul Jones  

Wow, so cool. So game changing. I love this topic so much. I love what you’re doing. What are some of the organizational things you’ve implemented to help your employees become more mentally fit?

Johnny Hanna  

“I recently listed out all of our values and then wrote down how mental fitness ties to each of our values and how they help us.” 

Yeah, it’s, again, it’s an ongoing process. But I recently listed out all of our values and then wrote down how mental fitness ties to each of our values and how they help us. So putting that on paper as a message from our CEO to all new hires can give them a strong introduction to what we’re doing. We did a six-week training with our executive team, a six-week training with our mid-managers and then a six-week training with the whole company on mental fitness, and we had this therapist who has taught me all these principles. She came and doing these trainings and we recorded each one of them. So every new hire has these six-week trainings on YouTube that they can go to that are specifically for our company. We have, you know, professionals that they can call that they can get help from at any time with with any situation insider Outside of work, we try to survey our clients frequently to find out where they are in terms of their mental health, their battery life as a company, as an individual. And then every Wednesday from noon to one, I have an ongoing, open discussion. It’s our mental fitness, Wednesday, our break. Anybody who wants to join, I typically bring in things that I’m working on at home or a situation that happened at work where I went into distortion instead of staying in truth and how I’ve worked through that. And we have just amazing discussions for that hour and random people throughout the organization join. So again, it’s one thing that can’t be mandated or forced, although, you know, inside I’m like, I just want everybody to go through this, but it’s, it’s still relatively a small group that joins every Wednesday. But those that do I know walk away With some little nuggets in it as to why, like, all of us come away. I think feeling, you know edified from those conversations. You know,

Holly Shannon  

Johnny, I think it’s really great that you’re offering something like that. I mean, first of all, let me just say that this podcast is really great because there’s so many actionable ideas that you’ve offered. And, and I hope the audience will engage with us all on LinkedIn because maybe you can share some of these training ideas that other companies might be able to absorb and deploy. But I’m just really thrilled to hear that you offer something that’s completely optional on Wednesdays and I understand that it’s a small group, but it’s really hard to be vulnerable. And I think over time, more, the more that your group gains from it, I think it’s also going to gain momentum. Like, I think it’s going to become that safe place that more people gravitate to, because it’s that little place of community and being able to put stuff on the table for an hour on Wednesday. And we all need that relief. I think you’ll get there. I think it’ll get bigger.

Johnny Hanna  

Yeah, I hope so. And I appreciate you sharing that Holly.

Paul Jones  

Johnny, I am. Yeah, absolutely. I feel so energized that after talking to you the first time and today, I’m like, let’s go. Let’s do this. I love it. It’s so freeing. So thanks for coming on the show.

Johnny Hanna  

Yeah, thanks for having me. Yeah, clearly, I’m passionate about it. And it’s a man it really has been life-changing. Just, you know, all of these principles, like all my insecurity through high school, like, gosh, I wish I could have relived that and not had all that pain, you know, or, you know, in sports being worried about every move, or I don’t know, like, there’s just so much that could benefit life. 

Paul Jones  

We spend most of our time At work, so my whole thought on this has always been, if you spend most of your time at work, then work should be the place where you’re improving the most. And the only way to do that is to be getting great feedback, having real authentic conversations. And so I just keep it up. I can’t wait to hear more about and read more of your posts on LinkedIn. I think it’s so important. 

Holly Shannon

Yeah, we really appreciate having you and I have to agree with Paul. Just really great feedback on here. And we really appreciate you putting yourself out there for everybody,

Johnny Hanna  

Of course it was so great getting to know both of you guys over the last few weeks. So yeah, thanks again for having me on.