Business travel will always be needed. Giving a presentation is much more complex than reading slides on a PowerPoint. The most effective way is face-to-face when it comes to large business decisions. Entrepreneurs on Shark Tank wouldn’t show the same level of passion and effectiveness in a Zoom call. It’s the same for investors.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Aaron Gaeir, Founder of GDX Studios and Connoisseur of Company Culture.

“Corporations just want every dollar they can, down to the paperclip. My philosophy is, ‘why don’t we invest in our number one asset, people’.”

GDX Studios is a full-service experiential marketing studio that takes a holistic approach to its services and engages consumers in bold and dynamic ways — creating buzz and driving customers to share their experiences.

The San Diego-based experiential marketing company’s notable clients/projects include NBC, WarnerMedia, Universal Studios, Adult Swim, HBO, Freeform, Disney and Carnival. GDX Studios is most popularly known for its work at San Diego Comic-Con successfully executing “The Experience” at Comic-Con, Warner Brothers’ It-themed school bus and VR installation, Adult Swim On The Green, TBS’s Wrecked Island tied up in the Embarcadero Marina, 30 Charlize Theron look-alikes to promote Universal’s Atomic Blonde and numerous additional over-the-top campaigns during the renowned pop-culture event.

Aaron Gaeir is CEO and owner of GDX Studios. He thrives in a creative, dynamic and supportive environment and has had success throughout his career in creating profitable ventures in Media, Healthcare, and Biotech. Aaron has a passion for all forms of media and is skilled at creating previously untapped revenue streams that enhance the objectives of his clients.

Before rebranding to GDX Studios, Grandesign was listed as the largest media agency by San Diego Business Journal in 2018 with over $47 million in revenue and Gaeir was recognized as one of the top CEOs in San Diego. In early 2019, Grandesign was the third largest independently owned OOH Media company in the country and was sold to a private equity firm out of London.

Gaeir is again using those entrepreneurial environment philosophies in building his next company, GDX Studios. As a leader, he encourages all employees (or PLUs) to explore their entrepreneurial ideas and he offers advice and paves dynamic roadways to help millennials thrive in the workplace.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

It was 10 years ago when one of my board members said I should give ownership to the board. My quick knee jerk reaction was ‘you’re crazy.’ That is far too much for me to give up. And then he said to me ‘wrong answer’. After some time, I told him I’d give 99-percent of the company to the board if they create the value to justify it. And he said, ‘bingo’. I’ve always used that as a great story for how I look at employees and people. The other moment came in my 20s when I was working at a billboard company. I was one of many salespeople in a weekly meeting, and the boss praised the top performers. There were two people I felt needed to be recognized and I did that. Not as their boss, but as their colleague. After that meeting the sales team looked at me in a different way. They looked at me as a leader even though I was not their boss. Big or small, we all have wins everyday and recognizing them by colleagues is appreciated and valued. That’s where leadership is uncovered.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

I think that corporations’ profit margins will go down, but I think that their work environment, culture and retention will go up in 10–15 years. Companies like Apple or Caterpillar are always chasing their tail to hit those next earnings. Someday they’re going to have to give a larger percentage of their profits to the employees. However, they’re not going to lose anybody. They’ll be able to build bigger, more robust, more diversified companies. My philosophy is why don’t we invest in our number one asset, people. Their margins may go down but their profits will go up.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Transparency and employee ownership. Their compensation needs to be value-based. Create value incentives that enable people to create their own environment. It can be percentage based for any position within the company. There is a template for everybody by which you can measure value.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

There’s one word that creates a gap between these two parties and it is greed. If you were my partner and I told you that we were going to give 20 percent of our profits to the employees, you’d say that’s crazy. You know why? Because of greed. For example, If the business makes $1 million or $800,000 a year in profit, you’d probably be happy. Would you be happier if it made a million? Sure. But you’re okay with making $800,000 (I would hope). Investing that $200k more into your people will produce an even better profit down the road. Remember less margin, but more profit comes with a bigger company. Both parties win.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

Anyone that says they have the answer is full of it. We’re all experimenting and it’s too early to decide if it works or doesn’t work. I strongly believe that you cannot build a company without face to face camaraderie with employees together. How much time is needed to work in person? I don’t know but my belief is people will go back to the office again. The value of working in an office is far greater than just production is how we grow as humans and interact with one another in life.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

All of my companies use the same template in creating the best work environment that is attractive to all employee types. I call them “Buckets”… professional, personal and financial. If we can create an environment that helps people fill each of these buckets then we will be attractive to all employee types. If you work for a company that respects and enhances the work/life balance, a company that promotes professional growth and knowledge as well as builds a financial model that rewards value like a true entrepreneur, then you will have a happy employee. However, it is important to note that it must be equitable. That employee needs to understand that if we as business leaders help them fill those buckets then they too are responsible for filling the companies buckets in the same way. Employees that desire to work in these types of entrepreneurial environments will embrace this whereas others are scared. If you are confident, you will thrive, but if you are skeptical, you will be unsolved quickly in this type of work environment.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

Young people today are so smart. I think they’ve figured out how they can do the least and get the most. It goes back to value. In the old days, it was about how many hours you work. In the past, if you worked 70 hours a week it was almost like a badge of honor. If you can build a company that’s based on value, then hours are arbitrary. My optimism is that people are getting the voice and the courage to say ‘no’ and building their own environments. I think that is going to continue to force us to think smarter, not harder.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

We’ve realized that human interaction is important to our mental stability. The science of that is so complex. I think helping people tell their story is key. All people have amazing stories, but they just don’t know how to tell them. For example, my wife and I were blessed to have a special needs child whose life has been, and will always be, filled with surgeries, mental challenges and healthcare support. The day we found out our life would forever be changed, we cried a lot, but not for the reason most of you think. Our new blessing is not only our child, but the story that our family will forever have. A story of hard work, stress and heartache. We called it our “Mount Everest”. We get to have the opportunity to brag about our family’s journey in climbing and winning. Ask yourself if you were confronted with the same news would your story be “poor me” or “lucky me”? Coaching our employees on how to look at their life stories will help them far more than a paycheck.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

It’s silly to think we can make everyone happy all the time, but what if the work environment enabled the employee to dictate their happiness? If my boss gave me all the flexibility and autonomy in creating my own environment best suited for me, the employee, and yet I still failed…Would it be the bosses fault or would it be the employees fault? It’s most important that employers realize that right now we are at a crossroads in the world of work and we need to change. In my opinion, the best way to do that is listen to your employees and give them power.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

№1: People will go back to the office. The concept of working five days a week for eight hours will be gone, but we will start to see a return to the office. Culture, comradery, knowledge, leadership, mentorship, friendship, respect, conflict, creativity, empathy and other things are things you don’t get over a Zoom call in your kitchen. If you work 100-percent from home, then you are a commodity to that company.

№2: Business travel will always be needed. Giving a presentation is much more complex than reading slides on a PowerPoint. The most effective way is face-to-face when it comes to large business decisions. Entrepreneurs on Shark Tank wouldn’t show the same level of passion and effectiveness in a Zoom call. It’s the same for investors.

№3: Transparency and employee ownership will increase. 50 percent of the workforce are going to identify as independents. To properly own a business you will need to be attractive to self-motivated people.

№4: Employees will take precedence over subcontractors. All of my business decisions are based on what increases our enterprise value. Subcontracts are guns for hire and no doubt have a place. However, they do not increase enterprise value. This is where greed misleads people yet again. I most recently consulted with a business owner that was excited to share that he found a subcontractor at half the cost of an employee. Yes, he increased his profit for the year, but his enterprise value was lowered by doing this. What has more value? An entrepreneur with a black book of subcontractors or a business with employees? I can buy, build or create a black book, but training, mentoring and retaining employees that are vested in the company’s success is far more valuable.

№5: Vacation time and flexibility will increase. A few years ago I was approached by a CEO of a multi billion dollar company who asked me how I could justify two employees that did the same job, but had far different compensation plans as well as time off. When I asked him why he had such a question he replied, “We pay employees full time and expect them to commit full time in days and hours”. There’s the difference, I pay for value, the CEO pays for hours spent. In fact, these employees should know exactly what the other makes (transparency). One gets to make more money, and one gets to be the PTA president for their children. Our work environment gave them the flexibility to do ether…value over hours!

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

I have two quotes on my desk.

“Whenever I hear, ‘It can’t be done,’ I know I’m close to success.”

Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance

“There is nothing more satisfying than enjoying moments with the people that believed in you. However, it will always be a close second when telling your toughest critics, ‘I told you so’.”

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

Mark Cuban. I had a brief dialog with him and I was blown away by the questions and insights he shared with me. He asked me such complex questions in a short amount of time and it took me years to uncover and contemplate those questions. Things like…How do you scale a creative business? How do you increase enterprise value with no IP or patent?

Another would be my life mentor and college wrestling coach. With a full ride scholarship, he was one of 135 cadets that was expelled in the early 80’s for disciplinary action. Upon hearing the devastating news, he ventured to California to start a new life and purpose as a teacher and coach. He also chose to build a stronger partnership with God and the fellowship for Christian athletes. Today he is the Pastor for the US Wrestling world team and has been inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and recently was invited to give a keynote speech at the college that expelled him.

My worst trait is seeing value in everyone and everything. My best trait is the same. My list of meeting like minded people would be far too long and boring. However, I would be humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to meet any influential readers. I promise two things if given the opportunity: I will not waste your time and you will leave with value, as I surely will as well.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

[email protected]

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.