Expert Witness, Author, Speaker, Econometrician. John Johnson knows all of this and he really knows data and has grown his company to 80 employees in 7 years but always focused on the culture. Hear all about how he grew his business from this skill set on the Nice Guys today.
- Strickland – “John has the rare ability to explain complex concepts in a simple, straight forward and highly engaging way.”
- John – “In my business, which is called “Edgeworth Economics”, I am an expert witness and I get very interesting data sets…and I learned about all the economics, understand the data, process it, think about it, run statistical models and go testify to judges and juries about what the data tells me.”
- Strickland – “How did you get into this in the first place?”
- John – The types of things that I wanted to do was to build a firm where I could actually teach other experts how to do this kind of work where we can really focus on data and technical rigger but also this teacher quality.
- The work we would do, we would demonstrate that we’re smart not by saying we were smart or by being obnoxious but by actually teaching people things and presenting it in a way that they could understand.
- Really the core of my firm has been about finding the best brightest talent we can of people who fit a mold of being willing to really explain and think critically and focus on how they teach others.
- People don’t teach you in graduate school both how to think about the economics and learn all the technical parts and also then how you answer real world questions in the face of sometimes imperfect information.
- This whole notion of taking smart PhDs and smart MBAs and saying ok, ‘here are ways that you can really develop your career, here are ways that you can learn how to do this from me and from others here’… we really have an incubator for expert witnesses.
- That’s what we focus on, ‘how do we take people and focus on bringing out the best and really build a brand around being and Edgeworth Economist.
- Which means… someone who is able to explain things simply, someone who is incredibly rigorous with their data analysis and their thinking.
Diving into Detail:
- Strickland – “When you’re looking for a candidate, what do you look for?
- John – It’s a combination of things… you are trying to gauge whether or not someday in the future, several years down the road, they’re going to have that ability to have rapport with the jury, a rapport with the judge, whether they can take and translate… hard concepts, breaking questions down in a rigorous way and then explaining it…
- What I am always looking for is a work ethic, first and foremost
- There are lots of smart people but it’s that when you talk to them, do they talk to you like a real person, do they have the social skills to interact and can they distill things down to their essences.
- How do I sort of laser focus in on the things that really matter the most to answer the questions that I am facing in the most effective way?
- What I tell every expert who comes in the door here is, ‘What we have is our credibility and the second you stretch your opinion in some way that doesn’t make sense… you’ve lost your credibility and that can’t be recovered.
- This notion that you have to really guard your reputation and build your reputation… makes the most effective experts.
- A big part of my job is to be the defender of the science.
- A common theme is using the data to be rigorous, to develop my opinion so I can use them strongly and passionately because it tells me what the data really says.
- Strickland – At some point people are going to tune out
- John – It is all about credibility, they [judges] need to know that I took the efforts to do all the different tests, or all the different things, checked every box to make sure my analysis is right… they don’t necessarily need to know what every box was.
- But it is more let me explain what intuitively matters.
- When I am doing my job well… that matches to the data really nicely in a way that there is a very clear story that emerges
- In some respects I am a storyteller but it is a storyteller based on hard facts.
- To do serious data and economics work, you have to be serious about how you approach it. It is hard work to do the work the right way.
- You’ve got to roll your sleeves up and get into the details.
- Strickland – In a court, it is a very adversarial relationship.. You can’t cut corners with that.
- Strickland – Not only do they need to know the facts but they need to make sure that they have them at their fingertips and that they can pull them up without looking like they don’t know what they’re talking about.
- John – Someone on the other side is trying to make you look bad and you need to be thoughtful of it.
- If you tell the truth all the time, you can’t get yourself in trouble.
Strickland – What is your PhD in?
- John – My PhD is in Economics.. I have a dual specialization – one is labor economics and another is in econometrics
- Econometrics is literally the meshing of economic theory with statistics.
Strickland – Do you do a lot of supervising or have you hired other people that you feel are better to do that?
- John – I actually think I am a nice guy so I am excited to be on “The Nice Guys on Business’ podcast
- One of the things that I am proudest of here is that many of the people that started the firm with me… are people that have come from different parts of my life
- We have the classic start up story… the crazy technology, ya know the running to office max at 9:30 pm trying to buy a computer.
- I very quickly realized, ya know, I am an economist, we believe in comparative advantage. You have to sort of start to delegate work in a way that the people who can do the best job should do it.
- Since [company] culture was critical from day one, that became my responsibility.
- Hire the best people you can and let them do their job well.
- At the end of the day, you have to constantly make choices and tradeoffs
- I always say, ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person’.
- You can’t get the best people to perform at their best if you are always over their shoulder, if you are never giving them the responsibility and allowing them to step out
- Why should they be invested in our firm, if I am not letting them actually drive part of the ship
- In our main place, we have a big display case that has my collection of WWE title belts.
- What I say to people is, ‘This is my collection of title belts, yes it’s a little weird but this is who I am and I want you to be who you are’.
- Who the right people are for my firm might not be the right people for another firm.
- Strickland – EVERYDATA™ came out in April of this year, explains, through the eyes of an expert economist and statistician, how to understand all the “little data” you see each day, from newspaper headlines and weather forecasts, to stock reports and election polls.
- We should always be vigilant.
- There are different markets for different sets of people.
See more about John here- http://www.johnhjohnsonphd.com/
Check out his company- http://www.edgewortheconomics.com/
And buy his book here- John Johnson’s Book- Everydata
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