Are you interested in environmental consulting? Tune into hear from Mike Gialketsis the vice president and co-founder of Rincon Consultants. Rincon has grown to a company of over 250 employees and 13 offices throughout California. They provide environmental consultations and assistance on projects including the California High-Speed Rail project and the Broad Beach Restoration project. Hear about how he harnessed his leadership skills and discovered his career.
this episode is brought to you with the help from Powertech Fitness, a global leader and premier strength equipment celebrating over 20 years of being committed to stronger lives. Please visit them on Facebook, Instagram or the website at www dot powertech dot com. Good morning, everyone. This Brandon mouth off in Los Angeles. Welcome to the Stella Oak Mavens podcast, where we feature different mavens in different fields. A maven is an expert of an expert there, the go to person who you would want to ask all the questions to before making a decision. The purpose of our podcast is to help the consumer be Maur knowledgeable. Today, I am very excited to spend some time with Mike Gal Kitsis. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara. From there, he worked as an environmental scientists for four years, becoming the VP of frug arrest, provider of geo intelligence used in large scale construction. After 11 years as the vice president, Mike and three others founded Rincon consultants. Under Mike's leadership, Rincon has grown to a company of over 250 employees and 13 offices throughout California. They provide environmental consultations and assistance on projects. I'm excited to learn about some of them, including the California high speed rail project in the Broad Beach Restoration Project. Welcome, Mike.
Thank you, Brad. And nice to be here
today. So what first drew you to consulting?
Yeah, I think what got caught my interest in environmental consulting was just a love about doors taking again, enjoying nature, but also the curiosity with
science and actually
seeing you. Nothing's changed to teach,
bro. Growing is were
traffic. I just locked myself. Gosh, what would be an interesting profession? Thio Effectuate an influence the future and change.
So it sounds almost like you had a passion for the outdoors or or doing something, and then it kind of correlated into the career. Did you grow up in? Did you grow up feeling like this was gonna happen? Was this a calling for you? That it was there a career switch in mind that you thought you might have to take in?
Uh, no. No, not really. I threw up, uh, from a single long in the l A area group at the beach, and, um, you know, it was, you know, work from being very young and candidly, I really didn't know what I wanted to do when I grew up. And it just started, um, be getting involved in things. I was interested in the end again. Just I was a sort of fell into it. But, um, you know, while you shouldn't be, I think I was working at that. There was a lot of activism, a lot of interest in the environment and some really great courses that I was able thio school. Thanks for.
So if you could go back and bring us back toe Mike's, you know, UCSB days If you kind of remember your 1920 years old, you know, what did you do on campus? Thio advance it, Give you an opportunity to be in the space. You said you were getting involved, but what does that mean?
Yeah, well, I was I started out in school thinking, Yeah, right in the pre med track. So this curiosity and interest in science was always something that I had and there was a problem that was I was not really good with you getting blood or being in hospital
Oh, about two and 1/2 years in. I did some soul searching woman. Well, you know, Gosh, I don't think I'm gonna be a doctor. Um, what What else might be out there and I happen to have some crossover er, biology and environmental science classes. And they just seem to pique my interest much more than that. The really in depth chemistry and visits and calculus and biochemistry is over the really boring technical scientists. So, um, I got involved in just some environmental policy. You were and, um, started following global environmental issues and and understanding the process of local government grips, which related facts, You know, the communities closest toh where you live, and they really affect you really much more than once a national environmental policies is the local big box that gets approved. You know, young two blocks away from your house, that really affects the traffic and the parking, et cetera. So I became interested on how that all works, and you know how you know I might be old of influence. Um, you know, having better development, smarter development, more compatible development with but within the communities that, uh, I know
you mentioned your mom. Did you have another mentor in at UCSB? That kind of helped you guide through this path or did you really navigate it on your own?
E? It's a great question. It it's interesting. I have a lot of great instructors at UCSB. I would say, You know, in my life I always reflect back and I didn't go three things that really influence my success a lot And one was you might buy soul surprising. But one was working in restaurants when I was young. That really toppy customer service and organization. And, you know, I don't know that everybody realizes how difficult it is to, you know, wait on tables and tend bar. And I intend to alone people. He's all at once. So one of you, no one of that. The experience like that help my success, I think, was waiting on tables working in restaurants. Um, I also played on a high school soccer team under that I was a great athlete, but I played for the John Wooden, if you will, of high school soccer, and then I was a equally I would I give credit my education. So really, those three areas in particular you doing customer service in the restaurant industry, working on at Children playing on the championship team and then, you know, having a broad education, I think goes all three equally. Told me a different stages in my life. Uh, ultimately, I added 1/4 as I've gotten older and have his parenting, Um, and I think we're getting some questions I might share some later.
I could definitely use some advice. I've got two little girls, so, you know, we can can jump in this some of that. But, um, you know, I was curious also about your mom. Did your mom help kind of keep you in line or keep you focused at all? Was that was that a big part of development for you when you were trying to get into this field?
I don't think related to the field so much. But again, 11 was a teacher. And I have an enormous respect for teachers and what they do. But it is interesting teachers, as parents, I think fairly uses that. They're very organized or very schedule driven. And they're just encouraging. Trying to, um, you know, I'm is a beer Mastin and pursue your dreams. And, uh, for me, candidly, I You know, I worked a lot, so growing up, and I think that, um, I think that really helped me a lot. You know, I didn't know a lot of ski trips with my buddies air or do a lot. I said no to A lot of things were actually, you know, was working. But
I think that
really helps build perspective and broadens your perspective on in. So he comes up. You use really throughout your
life. It definitely is hard to say no. Sometimes I think we all feel like we take on too many projects at the same time. But, you know, obviously that's been a gift that you've had that's probably helped you stay, focus in in the one area that you really know. And that's running plans for these organizations to do these climate action plan. So I let's let's shift focus, maybe to the business side a little bit. Can you tell us maybe some of the things that Rincon does to make these changes tangible?
Yeah, that's always, uh, that's always a challenge, You know, again, I say environmental consulting, you know, as a as a business practice, because we're we're really hired. Two. You don't help our clients, including local government, local communities, Um, developed long range planning documents, bring ideas to communities. But a lot of times you go into communities and they have their own ideas. They have their own politics, some ideas work and half again one community. And they're not something that another community is really are ready are really going to engage in the area. That's really fascinating right now is in that in the greenhouse gas planet. Action planning this really one of the more prominent topics. And California, uh, it's actually, you know what's going on in in California is really a transformation of how we look att communities and re examining. You have some of the things that we've done, um, historically. And I'm gonna go mostly the transportation. Um, you know, historically, California's built out as, um, you know, three ways and, you know, a lot of automobile related, um, transportation. Northern California have the benefit of having things like Bart and communities built around, Uh, yeah, well developed and highly functional transit systems. But for the most part, Southern California has has missed that. And so how do we have a population grows in California as the alternatives, like building new airports, roads, et cetera, are more and more expensive. This dissolution of, um, building communities where there's fewer vehicle miles traveled of shorter trips, you know, and so things like mixed use development, you know, building around transit centers to where you can jump on ah Metro or of us. It's not something that everybody is doing these days, but I think that this state grows and therefore population in the trans transportation give the structural gets stronger, Um, and use your use anything. That's that's what we're gonna see. We're gonna see California operating a lot like San Francisco operates with Barnes and, um, just fewer. Uh, why
do you think Southern California's taken so long for a while? I mean, people love their cars out here, but what is it? Why is it taking so long? They catch up with everybody else.
You know, that's a really great question. And I I I'm not a historian, uh, to really reflect back on all the history of whom, What land? But what I've seen is is the, um it's really been a housing and affordability issue and where, uh, i'll go back a little bit where you know, the farther you lived away from the employment centers, usually that you for that the housing costs and so people would make the sacrifices of living in a nicer house, but then commuting a little bit farther. So I think it's what I've seen is is really been an affordability play. And, uh, where the affordable housing was built on the more remote land with left hand. And then people were given the the opportunity to persist, sir. Rent a nicer house. But the really had thio. Hey, the price, if you will, so more on the commute. As the roads have become more and more flowing with traffic on, those communities have become more and more painful, and they absorb more and more people's lives. So I think that was part of was, you know, pretty soon you're everything happened.
So as you're advising these companies and and I'm imagining a scenario where you're taking a leadership role in your kind of explaining from from your side what you think they should be doing, there must have been some ah ha moment early in the career that you were explaining something to someone, and it kind of clicked for them, and they're like, Oh, that's a good idea. We should go with Mike's suggestion Was it? Can you think back to a time where, like, you were almost pleasantly surprised that they took some advice from your either from you or from your company?
I I, um I want to hear the question. I don't have that question. Living is entering within mar metal regulations and advising people on, you know, have it imply with environmental regulations, generally speaking, you know, you, you the people that have to combine like the developers and, you know, industry, they're not really in general. They're not excited about spending the extra money to prepare the reports and to change their process ease. And it is really not historically is taken away from the bottom line. And so anything inherently your at least early in my career, there was a lot of resistance against, you know, how can I find the environmental regulations? How can I say no having to do everything, um to, um, me having conversations with the same You may look on, it's not. Relations are going away on. These people are looking, you know, the regulators
there. They're charged with the responsibility
of raising the laws and implementing the laws
and playing them uniformly to everybody. And so, you know, trying todo trying to resist the environmental laws, trying to actually comply with them, living that paradigm. Really,
will bring you more. They give you a higher probability for success. Your project's gonna be suitor on the end. You know, if you're looking for solutions instead of resisting what was would be the inevitable, I think those were really thought about it that way. You think there's a way we can kind of get what we want and still make the project better? And indeed, the environmental regulations and my feeling is, was always together. Always. There's always a way to make a project better and achieve a win win, win win for the community, win for the regulatory authorities politically and then a win for the investors. Like getting a good project, more marketable project, perhaps, and, um, getting processed is through the regulations.
I like wind winds. Typically, it's hard to argue against them, but on the on the flip side, I always think about things that you know didn't work out and one of the things I would say that listeners always appreciate and write reviews on and they always loved the hearing hear about from from the mavens or the experts that were interviewing is, you know, maybe some of the mistakes or regrets that you've had in your other career business that can you think back to a time where either you're really faced by a challenge and couldn't overcome it or a regret that you may have had from earlier in the day. It could have been a that person that you let go that you didn't probably think you should, or a deal that you didn't work on correctly and did. But you learned something from it. So can you Can you share a time in the past where you didn't have that win win where, uh, you can look back and say I missed this one?
Yeah, I think, um, I think for me, I think people are wired differently. I wired for the last being half full, and so I, uh I don't really I try to approach life, but I don't really have any regrets. I just have a lot of gratitude. And so you're absolutely right that there are plenty of situations that going wrong or right, I'm not conducted myself as my best self, Which has to be one of my goals on because you can have my best album at all times that challenge and shake at times. But, um but really, I I approached every, you know, kind of challenge azan opportunity. And usually bigger the challenge, the more you're gonna learn, the more, um, more important, the lesson you're gonna learn in time where you're gonna be able to use it, the rest your life. So I think the colleagues I worked with, uh, when they're struggling through a challenge, uh, you know that I have to laugh a little that they, um I really enjoy them struggling and really, the more they struggle, I want him to succeed. But I struggle that that you have to go through in order to come out, you know, as if you will a more enlightened professional argument person. So I don't have regrets. I have a lot of gratitude for, uh, my back that bosses I've had in my career's have taught me probably as much about being a leader. Then my best bosses and the bad bosses have taught the things I don't want to do to other people.
So I wantto come back to that part because I think that's a good thing to share. Just what did you learn from the bad bosses? But I'm gonna ask you the question, almost in a different way now and then we'll go back to that question. So what advice would you give yourself? Um, if you could go back and talk to 25 year old Mike. What? What advice would you give yourself?
I, uh I'm a bit of I I'm using nerd and music stains. And I had to give, you know, growing up with a lot of great musicians and something I don't fall to several to saints. And one is John Lennon. There are no problems, only solutions. And, uh, the other one, I want to be with this. But, you know, Bob Marley, everything is gonna be all right. And so, you know, with those two very simple raisins, um, you know, my advice is is really everything is is an opportunity. And there are no problems, only solutions. And, um, no matter how much you struggle. Everything is gonna be all right. Yeah, it did. You struggle
most are probably gonna be you're gonna reflect back on those being the past growth opportunities. So my advice is really of the nation and under recognized that a career is really more of a marathon, that his friend. And so if you're struggling and things were believed, take a deep breath and tell yourself everything is gonna be all right and everything, and this is an opportunity if you just don't see it quite yet.
I love it. And I love your outlook on it. Probably makes it easier to make decisions when your mind's not clouded on the negativity and you're just kind of open. And you realize even if you make the wrong decision, that's okay, because you're probably gonna learn something from it. Just don't make the the same mistake more than once. So tell me about the bad bosses scenario. I'm itching to find out what happened with the bad bosses. You did learn something from
Well, it's interesting in, um, leadership, You know, What I found is you know, you you have to have these ideas. You have these things that you want to get down, You have these aspirations, if you will, and you really can't do those you can't believe complicated so much under up. Really? The most effective leaders are the ones that are going to, um you leverage the interest and enthusiasm of others. And actually, and sometimes Maurin do the other than you have to accomplish various goals into me. It really comes out to something pretty simple is how do you make other people feel? And so there were times when my bad bosses, if you will didn't make me feel very motivated. Didn't make me love my job. Didn't Maybe you love the company. They made me feel, you know, pretty, um, Mariam satisfied and very disillusioned. And so, as I have evolved to being a leader and being a boss, um, those lessons are pretty free queer, and I never want to be that boss who is not making somebody feel empowered, feel good about themselves, even if they haven't really performed in the level. You who have performed at making somebody feel terrible about the performance doesn't really help them to perform better. So they're really doing the keyword. I think there is my past bosses have made me feel, um I watched my enthusiasm at times when there was really no need to do that.
I never want to do that.
That totally makes sense. So how do you encourage a struggling producer or, ah, struggling, Uh, team member employee like however you define the role you're you're talking about, how do you motivate somebody who's maybe underperforming?
Yes, the challenge of imagine people and insulting Um um, you really are. Our whole business is built around people on billing for time, like an accountant or an attorney. And so I think the real challenges that different people are motivated in different ways And so there they're really doesn't one way Thio Thio, you know, motivate their way over there watching patent it and and you're off to the races. And, you know, I'd be retired already.
uh, please, I think the key thing is trying to connect with everybody as to really what motivates down, trying to understand what what motivates down, Um, what their interests are in candidly, sometimes their motivations or not suited for the business that they've chosen and they don't really know yet they really? And so you hear, are people that I worked with that ultimately evolved out of the organization that are very grateful that they were evolved out of the organization because it really wasn't a good match. So I think there is a convoluted answer to you really have to talk to people, understand what motivates them, having clears out of company values and goals and a clear any of what we're trying to accomplish as as an organization for Rincon has always been about creating a professional platform for people to, you know, you provide for their families pursuit of careers. We really haven't. We really tried to keep the word profit of Are your conversations even though problems or what you know, fuel the business or made the platform, you know, emotional way. We really focus on people and then focus on um, um, you know, having a formula of your will er, er process of providing our service is on an excellence, and the robins follow versus leading with a lot of reports and performance guidance. We were pretty light on that, and we're very
awesome. Well, thank you, Mike. And before we wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to share or if someone has, um, some curiosity about Rincon, how they could learn more, keep in touch.
Well, I talked to a lot of people, and I tried to pride myself on being available, and, um, you know, so I would say anybody you know, listening is welcome to reach out. Send me an email. Uh, my friend, fun consultants. Don't Tom again. I do everything I can to get back to everybody. And, um um, you know, I just follow us, and I can feel free to reach out.
Great. Well, thank you, Mike. I really enjoyed the conversation today. I understand that it's all about finding out what motivates the people who you care about most to help you develop what you're working on. And so our listeners will be able to take that and apply it for their own careers and futures that had Ah, this has been a stele. Oak mavens, podcast production. We empower you the listener, to take control of your life.