Gallup, Meet Utah. Utah, Meet Gallup.

Gallup has been conducting polls throughout the United States for decades. And Gallup knows Utah well because Utah — or its largest metro areas — is often highly ranked for things like frequent church attendance, daily learning, optimism, charitable donations, well-being and more. Utah also ranks very low for things like the smoking rate and its presidential approval ratings.

Utah is a pretty, great state, if you ask me. Even The Economist is impressed, calling Utah “young, tolerant and surprising.”

But in April of this year, Gallup got to know Utah a little bit better with a personal visit. I led some of my Gallup executive friends — who have worked in Gallup’s Omaha office for many years — on a tour of some of Utah’s most exciting high-tech companies. I won’t be surprised to see Gallup using some “made in Utah” technology in the coming months or years.

Now, Utah is about to get to know Gallup better.

Gallup is holding its first strengths training course for leaders, managers and coaches at Zermatt Resort from June 8-12. More on that follows.

But first, some background.

When I joined Gallup as a senior executive in 2012, all my friends from Utah and Silicon Valley were shocked that I was leaving behind 22 years of entrepreneurship, including seven startups, to join a large company. But interesting to me, they all misunderstood what Gallup does — as I had until a month earlier. When I told my friends and family I was moving to D.C. to work for Gallup, 98% said, “The polling company?” The other 2% (or one person, because my sample was about 50) said, “The survey company?”

Not one of my friends realized that Gallup has been doing management consulting for some of the world’s best-run companies for decades — and had been publishing best-selling books on management, leadership, sales and education for years. Only after I joined Gallup did I realize that the company has been using its unparalleled worldwide polling reach to collect data from more than 160 countries around the world — and from tens of millions of employees and millions of managers — to discover insights that Gallup provides to leaders in education, business and government and in faith communities.

In addition — and this is the most important part of Gallup to me — Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., the father of Gallup CEO and Chairman Jim Clifton, dedicated a lifetime of research to the emerging field of strengths-based psychology. Under his leadership, Gallup built an online talent assessment, the Clifton StrengthsFinder. Every copy of Now, Discover Your Strengths (published in 2001, with nearly 2 million copies sold) had a link to that online assessment. In 2007, the book StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath, Don Clifton’s grandson, was published, and the online assessment was updated and personalized. StrengthsFinder 2.0 has sold nearly 5 million copies since its publication, and it is the No. 1 best-selling book on since 2013.

Gallup decided to further unleash strengths on the world by provide the assessment without a book purchase. We started selling access codes on in 2012. We also began training independent strengths coaches worldwide in 2013. Strengths coaches are professionals who can help individuals and organizations achieve transformational results using the Clifton StrengthsFinder.

Gallup recruited me to help lead the strengths movement. My previous experience with and FamilyLink gave me nearly 15 years of experience with tools and marketing techniques that allow companies to scale to tens of millions of customers.

My role at Gallup is worldwide Strengths Evangelist. Our team has launched the StrengthsFinder iPhone and Android app (a free download), so more of our almost 12 million customers can remember their top five strengths. We’ve launched a product that lets people upgrade to see beyond their top five strengths to see all 34 of their Clifton StrengthsFinder themes. We have translated and our coaching curriculum into nine languages, with more coming every year.

We’re building tools for coaches, managers and leaders. We have a YouTube channel that features interviews with strengths coaches and strengths experts every week. We’ve launched the Gallup Certified Coaches Directory to help individuals, small and large businesses, schools, non-profits and faith groups find a strengths coach to work with executives, managers, teams or companies.

Some Fortune 500 companies have trained hundreds of strengths performance coaches so an entire company can become fully versed in the language of strengths and how to use it. I’ve spoken with CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies — or divisions of companies — who swear by the Clifton StrengthsFinder and say it transformed their company culture. In fact, 94% of the Fortune 500 use StrengthsFinder to some degree. My growth-hacking team in Washington, D.C. — yes, Gallup has growth hackers — is helping us find more and more pockets of strengths users in all these large companies to invite them to use our advanced tools and training to get positive results.

My colleagues in learning and development at Gallup offer strengths-based courses in more than 20 cities around the world, and Gallup offers a path to certification for individuals who want to help organizations take a strengths-based approach.

But the Clifton StrengthsFinder isn’t just for the workplace. It’s for schools, faith groups and families. We’re publishing a book soon called Strengths-Based Parenting. Our partnership with Naviance provides a tool called Strengths Explorer — a simple talent assessment — to kids in many school districts throughout the U.S.

StrengthsFinder has helped my family — and me — understand better ourselves and each other.

My nephew took the Clifton StrengthsFinder in late 2012. He was selling insurance at the time—and miserable every day at work. Within a couple of months, he changed his career path in part because of the confirming insights he got from the assessment. He didn’t want a career in business or sales; he wanted to be a counselor—to help people. And his natural talents — which StrengthsFinder highlighted and many of us who knew him had already observed — will allow him to help many people in his career as a counselor and therapist. He’ll finish an advanced degree in marriage and family counseling later this year.

StrengthsFinder has given me incredible insights about each of my children, and about my wife, Christy, that I couldn’t have gotten in any other way.

StrengthsFinder can also offer hope to the hopeless.

My first trip as a Gallup employee was to Ft. Worth, Texas, where some of the best and most caring people I’ve ever met in my life were using the Clifton StrengthsFinder to help hundreds of ex-offenders rediscover what is right with them. They were also learning how to talk about their natural talents in a job interview and how to apply their talents in a work setting. In this program, strengths coaches work with employers to place ex-offenders in a job that matches their talents. My friends in Texas should be CNN Heroes, because their strengths-based approach has changed a lot of lives. People who had been in prison — or homeless — and had lost all self-belief and feelings of worth have used a research-based, validated, scientific instrument to discover their strengths. Nearly 80% of these individuals have been hired and have kept their job, and the program has had a recidivism rate of less than 5% — well below the national average.

Someday, I hope to run another tech company. I think I have one more left in me. But in the past two and a half years at Gallup, my ability to see the best in people — and to appreciate the great diversity of talents that different people have — has forever changed me.

When I stood in the Salt Palace back in 2000 to receive the Ernst & Young Utah Entrepreneur of the Year award with two of my business partners, I had to give a speech. I thought of several people to thank for helping me along the way. But for some reason I also said, “I want to thank God for whoever invented glasses and contact lenses,” because I have such poor vision that without corrective lenses, I might never have been an entrepreneur at all.

Today, as I travel to dozens of states and countries — including and especially my home state of Utah — I often think to myself and sometimes say publicly, “I want to thank God for Don Clifton for giving me a new lens with which to see every person I ever meet. I’m thankful to see them through the lens of talent and strengths — to look for what is right with them, and not for what is wrong with them.” It has changed my life.

So now, dear friends in Utah, I want to introduce you to Gallup.

Gallup is one of the most important companies in the world. We combine 80 years of polling expertise with decades of studying strengths, talent, selection and the workplace with a mission to provide advice and insights to the world’s leaders in business, government, education and faith.

But most of all — for those of you reading this today — we can introduce you to a philosophy, a system and tools that will enable you and everyone you work with to take a strengths-based approach to leadership, management, employee engagement, education and even parenting.

Such a new approach is badly needed.

Much of what people experience in the workplace is negative and stressful. Yes, workplaces need to be focused on outcomes and on performance. But we’ve found that the best workplaces help people apply their natural talents to perform at the highest level — they don’t use a “crack the whip” approach.

Our studies on workplace engagement show a serious problem in the U.S. workplace. Nearly 70% of U.S. employees — including perhaps your own employees — are not engaged at work. About 20% of them are actively disengaged.

We recently reported as part of a major study of American managers that half of all Americans have left a job because of their manager.

Most managers didn’t plan to become managers. They were promoted because they performed well in previous roles — not because they had the talent to manage.

With everything Gallup knows about talent, selection, managers and employee engagement, here’s one of the most interesting statements we’ve ever made:

“A strengths-based approach to management is the single best means of improving the employee-manager relationship that Gallup has observed over the years of working with organizations to improve employee engagement.” (Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship, pg. 358)

Companies like Facebook have adopted a strengths-based approach to management:

“At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.”

Employee engagement skyrockets when leaders and managers take a strengths-based approach, and in turn, productivity and profitability increase.

It turns out that letting people play to their strengths is good business.

In 1992 Don Clifton wrote in his first book Soar With Your Strengths, “We welcome you to join us on this marvelous journey we know can change the world . . . to a world built on the strengths of each of its inhabitants.”

I love imagining such a world.

A step towards that goal is to build your workplace on the strengths of all your employees.

Imagine if Utah’s already-great government, business and education leaders decided to take a strengths-based approach in every organization — an approach that celebrates the diversity of talents that people contribute and aims to help each person use their strengths every day.

So Utah, meet Gallup.

I’d like to invite you to learn about the Clifton StrengthsFinder and strengths-based coaching for individuals, managers and teams at Zermatt Resort on June 8-12. Two of our finest instructors will share with you our best training — developed over decades of studying human talent. They’ll share tools, exercises and activities that will help you effectively introduce a strengths-based approach in your company.

Dennis Webb, one of the founders of Franklin Institute — the day planner company — has invited Gallup to offer this training course at Zermatt Resort, a property which he and his associates now own and manage. Dennis will participate during the week, as he plans to offer strengths training in many of the seminars and workshops that will be presented at the Zermatt Utah Learning Center.

This Is The Place

Gallup’s June 8-12 training at Zermatt Resort would be the perfect venue for you — or another executive in your organization who has responsibility for creating a great workplace for your people — to learn how to help your people discover and use their strengths every day.

Need a bit more information to decide? Here are a few more links:

I encourage you to take a few minutes to consider learning more about our Utah course and the strengths movement. I hope to see you in June!


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Meetups for Utah entrepreneurs

If you are a founder or co-founder of a startup company in Utah, check out the Entrepreneur Brainstorm Lunches that are being held a couple of times per month. The next one is tomorrow at Mimi’s Cafe in Orem, starting at 11:30 am.

The format is simple. Everyone buys their own lunch. Every founder gets to introduce himself or herself to the group, talk for a minute about their company, and then describe a specific problem or challenge they are facing right now. The rest of the group spends 5-7 minutes brainstorming solutions. I’ve attended a dozen or so of these events, and every time I’ve seen nearly every entrepreneur walk away with really good advice about tools, or software, or websites, or books, or articles, or experts that they didn’t know about before, that may help them deal with their immediate challenge.

The concept was inspired by the book “Never Eat Alone” but the format was inspired by Corporate Alliance. Corporate Alliance is an awesome company founded by Jared Stewart that helps business owners gain great value from networking and peer advice. Their events are more rewarding from a social standpoint than any events I’ve ever attended — and I’ve gone to scores of conferences and trade shows and other events around the country for the past 17 years.

There are just 3 spots left for tomorrow’s lunch. So RSVP now if you are a founder of an actual startup company. Most of our lunch events are open to entrepreneurs at any stage, but tomorrow is restricted to founders of actual startup companies.


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Political meetup in Provo

I updated my Financial Crisis Reading List today with two must read books:

Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig. (

Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweitzer. (

A week or so ago, I had lunch with someone who has read almost everything on my reading list. My first question was, “are you depressed?” We quickly turned the discussion to, “what can be done about the corruption of our representative democracy and our financial system.” We both think the outrage people are feeling towards government has been manifest by the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements, but neither effort seems to have any real power to challenge the status quo of the two major political parties and the massive fund-raising machine that continues to elect the same people to Congress, despite the overall 10-12% approval rating.

We’ve started a small political discussion group in Provo, to see if we can agree on things that can be done to channel our disillusionment in productive ways.

Let me know if you are interested in learning more.

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Never Eat Alone – Brainstorm Lunches for Utah Entrepreneurs

Never Eat Alone – Brainstorm Lunches for Utah Entrepreneurs

A few years ago, inspired by the book Never Eat Alone, I started holding casual, pay-for-your-own-lunch lunches with other entrepreneurs in Utah. We called these “entrepreneur brainstorm lunches.” We usually held them at Magelby’s restaurant, where at the end of the meal for some reason they would always bring out a twinkie for everyone. So Provo’s economic development director started calling the lunches “Twinkie Talks.”

Recently, I met with a local entrepreneur who attended a couple of these brainstorm lunches, and he said we should start them up again. So we are. The Twinkie Talks are back, sans the twinkies.

His current team set up an event on EventBrite so we can take RSVPs.

The first one is tomorrow at Malawi’s in Provo.

Hurry, there are only a few slots left.

But don’t worry. We’re planning to hold brainstorm lunches every week or two.

Here’s the link:



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Rural entrepreneurship

On Saturday, I’ll be speaking in Kanab about technology enabling rural entrepreneurship.

I have spoken at a few rural business conferences in Utah in the past. Usually I talk about how internet marketing (Google AdWords, affiliate marketing) and social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook) can help rural businesses grow. But this time I’m hoping to address the opportunities rural entrepreneurs have to use technology to build companies and create jobs.

Rural Success Stories

I’ve been scouring my personal knowledgebase and a database 4,500 company histories for examples of rural startup companies that made it big. I’m finding a few, such as (Heber City, Utah) and MyYearbook (New Hope, PA). But I’m not finding very many.

I remember when John Bresee, co-founder of told me that his company had grown to about 65 employees and had become one of the largest private employers in Heber City. Later they moved to Park City. Now they have 625 employees and revenues of more than $250 million.

Can you imagine how a single company like this could transform a rural community’s economy?

Wal-Mart may be the best historic example of a rural startup that changed a community. But it may not be all that relevant to today’s modern technology entrepreneur. Still, it’s interesting. Bentonville, AK grew from 19,000 population to 35,000 in the past 10 years. I have heard that many product companies who want to sell through Wal-Mart have opened offices in Bentonville or located employees there. Makes a lot of sense. Facetime with Wal-Mart buyers could make all the difference. (I just found that I’m connected on LinkedIn to 151 Wal-Mart buyers, so maybe we don’t all have to move to Bentonville.)

But I need help finding more examples of rural entrepreneurs building high-tech companies.

Do you know of any? Think about software, app development, manufacturing, alternative energy, or any web-based business. Please let me know if you can think of any good examples.

I’ll be looking through the Internet Retailer Top 500 Directory of e-commerce companies, and I expect to find some rural examples there. But I could use help from anyone out there.

Thanks to a suggestion from Gregg Blanchard, Les Prall from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development just gave me a half dozen rural Utah technology companies to look into, and I was excited to learn about them. (Thanks, Les!)

What rural high-tech startups have you heard of?

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Four Steps to the Epiphany author speaking in Utah

Just spreading the word….


featuring Steve Blank (rising celebrity in the entrepreneurship world)

“Why Accountants Don’t Run Startups”

Thought leader in entrepreneurship, Steve Blank, author of “The Four Steps to the Epiphany,” will share his current thinking about startups, how and why they’re different than large companies, and a few thoughts about entrepreneurial education.

This event will combine networking, community information, and a lecture by Steve Blank, renowned entrepreneur and game-changing educator.

Monday January 24, 2011
Location: Noah’s
322 West 11000 South
South Jordan, UT 84095

Admission includes box lunch

11:30am – Welcome and Networking
11:45am – Special Announcements
12:00noon – Nathan Furr
12:15pm – Keynote: Steve Blank
1:00pm – Door Prize and Networking


Over the last 25 years, Steve has been part of, or co-founded eight Silicon Valley startups. These have run the gamut from semiconductors, video games, personal computers, and supercomputers. (MIPS, Zilog, Rocket Science, SuperMac, Convergent Technologies, Ardent, ESL) Steve’s last company was E.piphany, an enterprise software company. Steve is on the board of Macrovision (NASDAQ: MVSN), as well as two private companies; an on-line marketplace, and IMVU a 3D IM social network. Steve also serves on the California Coastal Commission and is on the board of Audubon National & is Chairman of Aubudon California. Steve currently teaches entrepreneurship at U.C. Berkeley Haas Business School, the joint Berkeley/Columbia MBA program, and at the Stanford University Graduate School of Engineering. Steve teaches a methodology of starting and managing marketing, sales and business development in high technology startups. (See the course text Steve Blank’s Specialties: Marketing, sales and business dev strategies for emerging startups.

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Utah Angel Investor of the Year

On Tuesday, June 23rd at the Hilton Hotel in Salt Lake City, FundingUniverse will be announcing the first ever Utah Angel Investor of the Year award winner.

The top 15 finalists for this award are Alan Hall, Craig Earnshaw, David Carter, Gary Williams, Hal Widlansky, JD Gardner, John Richards, Kent Thomas, Kyle Love, Mark Madsen, Martin Frey, Nobu Mutaguchi, Robert Kunz, Scott Frazier and Warren Osborn.

Having been a big fan of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards for many years, I think it is exciting that FundingUniverse is going upstream a little bit to recognize some of the many angel investors who help those entrepreneurs get businesses off the ground.

I personally appreciate several of these 15 angels because some of them were our early investors at (back in 1998) and more recently in (2007-2009 funding rounds.)

I hope this becomes an annual event, and I hope it spreads nationwide too, because angel investors are the unsung heroes of our free market economy. VCs get a lot of attention because they back high-profile companies. But from what I’ve read, angels generally fund 30-50 times more startup companies per year than VCs, and they fund a ton of small businesses that never become high profile but do create jobs and add value to our economy.

Kudos to Brock Blake and his FundingUniverse team for launching this idea.

Hint to entrepreneurs: if you want some inexpensive networking time with Utah’s very best angel investors, I suggest you buy a ticket (it’s only $25 per seat) and show up Tuesday (with plenty of business cards for all!) 🙂

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First Utah iPhone Developers Meetup

Last year I started a Facebook group for Utah iPhone developers. The group now has 146 members. Recently, Cary Snowden (of CrunchLunch fame) and Brad Hintze jumped in to help run the group, and they have actually started organizing real world (hopefully monthly) meetings for this group.

The first meetup will be at Novell (building A) on Wednesday, May 13th, from 6-8 pm. To RSVP, or for more details, click here.

With 12 teams of BYU students recently launching iPhone applications at the Omniture-sponsored competition there, and with recent BYU and UVU conferences on mobile development, there is a ton of local interest in iPhone development. iPhone 3.0 will absolutely change all the rules of the game, and give Apple an even greater leadership position in mobile computing than they already have.

This is the mobile computing platform that will transform industries. It’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs. Whoever jumps on board early, will have a chance to shape/disrupt whatever industry they are in. You have an opportunity to catch this massive wave, and it’s not too late because iPhone 3.0 is still coming, and it provides more business model opportunities than ever before.

I won’t be able to attend, but I’m hoping that Ryan Hatch and others from who are working on our mobile applications will be there to network.

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Utah entrepreneurs: don’t miss this free lecture series

Josh Coates is one of the most talented and energetic entrepreneurs/engineers I have ever met. I had the pleasure of serving on his advisory board at for a brief period as he was first launching his company. He outgrew my very part time services very quickly and I watched him build a very exciting company and sell it for a very large sum in a very short period of time. Very, very cool.

I blogged about Josh and Mozy back in April 2006 when they were still in beta mode but had already received 4 stars from PC Magazine. 

Now, Josh Coates is provide 6 weeks of free public lectures for entrepreneurs, but you have to register to attend.

Highly recommended!

Here’s the full scoop from Shauna Theobald:


Please register here for the Josh Coates weekly lecture series so we can accommodate all those who will be attending.  Thanks and see you there.  Can’t wait…it’s gonna be great!

Topics and dates are:

— Technology and Fundamental Business Concepts (Feb. 24)
— Raising Capital: The Simple, Well Understood Path (Mar. 3)
— Pro-active Product Development for the Enterprise Market (Mar. 10)
— Hiring the A-Team: Rocks and Clowns (Mar. 17)
— Practical Internet Marketing (Mar. 24)
— Personal Liquidity and Financial Exits (Mar. 31)

This free lecture series is open to the public every Tuesday from 12-1:30 p.m., starting Tuesday, February 24th.  Sponsors include the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum, the Provo Technology Xelerator, the Technology Center at Novell, and SiliconSlopes/Omniture.

About Josh Coates:  Josh began his career doing research in parallel computing at UC Berkeley and went on to found two venture backed startups related to large scale data storage technology.  His extensive experience ranges from high performance computing and data center operations to venture funding, financial modeling, marketing and mergers and acquisitions.   Coates has been honored for his innovation by MIT and Ernst and Young and featured in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.  He currently volunteers as an adjunct instructor in the Computer Science department at BYU.

See you there,


Shauna L. Theobald

Novell Technology Center

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