John R Childress: Imparting Perseverance through Visionary Approaches

John R Childress

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Successful entrepreneurship is not just marked by grand accomplishments. The ultimate success of the entrepreneur is to propel their company through good times and bad in order to thrive in the business landscape. However, the leadership skills to successfully face challenging times are often come with experience, and an important factor—perseverance. It is perseverance which differentiates successful entrepreneurs from others.

With groundbreaking leadership skills and extensive experience, John R Childress (Chairman and Co-Founder of PYXIS Culture Technologies) stands as an embodiment of perseverant entrepreneurship. John is steering the company towards the forefront of cyber security risk identificaton through his visionary approaches and determination.

In 2019, John co-founded PYXIS with Christiane Wuillamie OBE (CEO and Co-Founder), a technology management expert. While John brought his expertise in the culture mapping arena, Christiane brought years of experience in technology management and as CIO and CISO for several global banks. They harnessed their combined skills and knowledge to develop a visual systems mapping software platform to identify the hidden risks in business. Their mission is to identify the hidden risks inside organizational cultures and give leaders the tools to improve business performance.

 A Prolific Journey

John embarked on his journey of entrepreneurship in 1978 when he co-founded the first management consulting firm focusing on corporate culture. At that time the concept of corporate culture was not well known among senior executives. Therefore, John had to educate his potential CEO clients on how culture impacts business results before selling his services. The consulting firm grew from a self-funded start-up to an international consulting group over the next three decades and was acquired by a major global consulting firm.

Fast forward to 2021 and the concept of corporate culture has become one of the most talked about issues in business. Moreover, there is now a multitude of large and small consulting firms offering culture change services. Plus, due to the rise of digital technology, a culture analytics and the employee engagement assessment industry has emerged. As an entrepreneur in today’s globally connected business world, John believes the most important task is to make your product solve important business and social problems to improve people’s lives and livelihoods. According to him, the best business development approach is—“to create highly satisfied customers who willingly introduce your firm to their peers. Word of mouth is far more believable than Twitter or LinkedIn.”

Making a Difference

John decided to make a major life change from academics to sales while he was pursuing his Ph.D. Degree in Marine Biology in the mid-1970s and enrolled in a sales seminar which focused on personal development. He realized that what he really wanted to do was make a difference by improving the lives of people and the performance of organizations. This motivated John to co-found the Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group in Los Angeles and grow it into an international consulting firm.

In 1980, he was contacted by the CEO of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant following the infamous accident, to help build a safety culture. This provided an opportunity for John’s new firm to put its theories and methodologies into practice during a crisis situation. Asserting its success, John states, “I am proud to say that the safety culture we helped build made the TMI nuclear plant one of the safest and most productive in the world for the next 38 years before being decommissioned.

Identifying Risk – Mapping Culture – Improving Performance

PYXIS identifies business risks, culture challenges, and performance issues through organizational ecosystem modeling. With its unique strategy alignment and execution methodology, the company helps its clients deliver significant top-line and bottom-line performance. While most culture consultants focus on employee engagement and values assessments, PYXIS is unique in its ability to visually map the causal factors responsible for creating and sustaining company cultures. Identifying the causal factors gives business leaders specific levers to improve culture and performance. 

The company is unique in linking corporate culture to business outcomes, such as cybersecurity, safety, conduct risk, innovation, and customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. Currently, PYXIS is focused on adding new clients and additional client data to its culture mapping software platform and building the company’s benchmarking capability across multiple industries.

Steering Growth at the Core

Being at the helm of the company, John inculcates several important roles and responsibilities. He undertakes product enhancements and developing thought leadership articles for the company’s marketing team.

The company helps Boards and Senior leadership teams to visually map their culture to identify hidden risks. Since there are several business challenges such as cybersecurity, safety, and conduct risk, John states that the company must research and develop solutions for such underlying problems.

Seeking Opportunities in Challenges

Being at an early business stage, the global pandemic posed the biggest challenge for PYXIS. It affected the communication processes of the company’s unique business risk solutions, which were carried out using video meeting tools instead of in-person meetings. According to John, in-person meetings go a long way to develop trust and open dialogue, and this feature is lacking through Zoom and other video meeting tools.

John believes that the global COVID-19 pandemic helped PYXIS understand just how interconnected we all are in the business world and as people. He adds, “To solve not only the pandemic, but the environmental crisis, companies must collaborate more with each other against common challenges. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it will take all of us working together to build a sustainable future.” John has written four business books on leadership and culture, all of which can be found on Amazon. He recently published a new book—Fly Fishing for Leadership—where he has reflected on a lifetime of fly fishing and the leadership lessons he learned as a result. He swears by his favorite life lesson quote by John F. Kennedy—“Leadership and learning are indispensable from one another”.

John R Childress

Read full issue: The Top 10 Perseverant Entrepreneurs, 2021

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