Dr. Ebbie Parsons, III, Managing Partner, Yardstick Management

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Our guest on the fifth episode of The Storied Future Podcast is Dr. Ebbie Parsons, III.

Ebbie is the Founder and Managing Partner of Yardstick Management, a renowned Black-owned management consulting firm based in Atlanta, Georgia, that helps clients transform their organizations to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. They’ve consulted with some of the top companies in the world, including Netflix, Prudential, EY, Whirlpool, Amazon, Medtronic, and LinkedIn.

Ebbie embodies a relentless pursuit of a future defined by true equity and inclusion that flows from the boardroom to the front lines of a company.

In this conversation, Chris and Ebbie talk about

  • Ebbie’s dream of becoming an astronaut as a five-year old in Detroit, and the belief his parents instilled in him that he could achieve anything he set his mind to
  • His jarring transition from Detroit to what he calls the “real world”, where he saw how the evil of racism wreaked havoc on people’s beliefs about the future and their access to opportunity
  • A meeting at Olive Garden in 2003 where he and his friends cast a vision for the future that led to the creation of Yardstick Management
  • The future he envisions, and how C-suite leaders can move beyond performative DEI initiatives to bring about true and lasting change

And much more!

005 Ebbie Parsons: A Father, His Daughter & the True Path to DEI

Ebbie Parsons 00:01
My exposure to Black excellence was just what we would call Monday. Or Tuesday. And that allowed me to walk with a swag that I will or won’t be what I want to be in life as a result of my own decisions.

Announcer 00:16
Welcome to The Storied Future Podcast, with Chris Hare, a show that provides the knowledge and inspiration C-suite leaders need to shift the future. Hear from experts, innovators, and purpose-driven leaders who have harnessed the power of strategic narrative to create lasting change.

Chris Hare 00:33
Hi, and welcome to The Storied Future Podcast. I’m Chris Hare, and I'm glad you're here. Each episode, I interview C-suite leaders, experts, and innovators who have created narratives that change the future. Today’s guest is Dr. Ebbie Parsons, III. Ebbie is the founder and managing partner of Yardstick Management. They’re a renowned, Black-owned consulting firm in Atlanta, Georgia, that helps clients transform their organizations to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. They count among their clients some of the top companies in the world, including Netflix, Prudential, EY, Whirlpool, Amazon, and LinkedIn. I met Ebbie last year after I came across a post on LinkedIn where he shared a beautiful story about his daughter. The photo he shared got me to stop scrolling, but what really captured my attention was his daughter’s name, Ebbie Noelle. You see, I also have an Ebby Noelle. My daughter, Ebby, is 15 years old, and when I saw that post on LinkedIn, it sparked something in me and I though, you know, I need to reach out, I need to talk to Ebbie and see where this conversation goes. Well, fast forward to today, and here he is on the podcast. Listening to Ebbie, it’s hard not to be moved to change your mind, change your behavior, and do something – anything – to change the future. I’m blown away by his relentless pursuit of a future that’s defined by true equity and inclusion that flows from the boardroom to the front lines of a company. In this conversation, we talk about his dream of becoming an astronaut as a 5-year-old in Detroit, and the belief his parents distilled in him that he could achieve anything he set his mind to. His jarring transition from Detroit to what he calls the ‘real world’, where he saw how the evil of racism wreaked havoc on people’s beliefs about the future and their access to opportunity. A meeting at Olive Garden in 2003, where he and his friends cast a vision for the future that eventually led to the creation of Yardstick Management. And finally, the future he envisions, and how C-suite leaders can move beyond performative DEI initiatives with the courage and guidance to bring about true and lasting change. Before we get started, just a heads up that in this interview, Ebbie recalls an encounter in his early 20s with a significant threat of racialized police violence. This story may be difficult for some people to hear. Let’s get started.

Ebbie, thanks so much for joining The Storied Future Podcast.

Ebbie Parsons 03:00
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Chris Hare 03:03
Let's start off. Last year, I came across this LinkedIn post about your 9-year-old daughter, 9 at the time, Ebbie Noelle. And that photo grabbed me one, just because of how proud she looked and just the beautiful photo. But also the connection of my daughter’s name being Ebby Noelle as well. So can you tell me a little bit about that post and why you think it moved so many people?

Ebbie Parsons 03:27
I think the post moved so many people for a lot of reasons. There was a Black girl who grew up in a country by every example and influence you can see around in this nation that it doesn't believe in her, essentially. And it was a Black girl who sees in her own Black parents what she wants to become. And it's both fields that are often inaccessible. So it was, I'm going to be a venture capitalist like mommy, and I'm going to be an entrepreneur like daddy. And to have two Black parents, one who's my wife is now a general partner at the largest Black women-led VC fund in history now – they're going to have a significant announcement coming out next month. And then Yardstick to be named the nation's leading Black-owned consulting firm. And for her to just have parents in her household that are accomplishing things that aren't supposed to be accomplished and for us to raise her with the expectation that she's going to out-accomplish us, I think is just really new and moving because so few of us have been able to see examples like the ones we're trying to set for our own family.

Chris Hare 04:43
I love that. And I'd love to hear just, you know, like what your formative years looked like kind of going back to when you were a kid in Detroit. What was it that put a smile on your face and what was it that you wanted to be when you grew up?

Ebbie Parsons 04:54
So I think I was like most kids, we had our standard fireman, doctor, lawyer, police officer type thing. I actually wanted to, I was a little odd then, and I wanted to be an astronaut. So when I was like five years old, I was all about, Can I be an astronaut? I was the kind of kid that enjoyed science and experiments and breaking stuff. So I think engineering was very much the right career choice for me in my early years, professionally. But just growing up, I grew up in a city where success and/or failure was determined by your own choices. And I think that was really unique, particularly for Black Americans. I mean, of course I'm not blind, we've known about racism since the beginning of time. We've known about opportunities being limited. But at the same time, when you grow up in a city where I grew up, Detroit was the Blackest city in America – we were over 90% African American. My exposure to Black excellence was just what we would call Monday. Or Tuesday. I knew business owners, I had a Black pediatrician, we had a Black mayor, Black superintendent, Black teachers, principals. Everybody you saw, every successful person, every failure, they all look like me. And so that upbringing allowed me to walk with a swag that I will or won't be what I want to be in life as a result of my own decisions.

Chris Hare 06:22
And what happened later when you left Detroit, and when that kind of collided with the realities of the rest of the country?

Ebbie Parsons 06:29
It was actually pretty eye opening because, again, like, I wasn't blind to it, but I also grew up in a town where there was such a collective influence in power that racism couldn't prevail. When I left Detroit and went on to college, and then the real world, college was almost like a continuance of Detroit. I went to an HBCU, the Florida A&M University, and received a phenomenal education and met even better people and human beings who are still dear friends today. But once I left that microcosm of a Black college and a microcosm of an extremely Black city and hit the real world, I started realizing how racism has really affected people's confidence in their own ability and what was accessible to them. And that truly is what drove me to launch Yardstick Management, and to just pursue a career that was focused solely on leveling the playing field for marginalized people. Because I started realizing as a young adult how few people, frankly, believed in themselves, believed that opportunities were available, believed that they deserve those opportunities. Because they have spent their entire lives – and their parents before them and grandparents before them – being told what they're not allowed to accomplish and achieve.

Chris Hare 07:49
You mentioned the word power. I would love to understand, you know, we'll get into kind of how Yardstick Management came about. But how do you, I guess, help people advance in their careers when they haven't necessarily been in positions of power, and power structures are kind of structured against them, if that makes sense? How do you take that on?

Ebbie Parsons 08:11
So what's interesting is our work is actually with the power structures and not the individuals. So what we try to do is we create systems within the power structures that prevent bias. And so, for instance, in our work, we work with companies to figure out, What does the entirety of your system look like? For instance, how do you hire people? Where are you posting jobs? Who's writing the job description? How inclusive is the language? Where are you recruiting talent from? Who's making the hiring decisions? Do people see themselves in the interview process? There's so much that goes into hiring that often gets overlooked, and there's a lot of exclusionary practices that people don't even think about. So here's something we do with our clients. Anytime a client says, We only want you to hire clients – candidates – we only want to see candidates from a top-tier engineering school. We say, Perfect, only going to target North Carolina A&T and Florida A&M. And very often, they're like, I've never heard of North Carolina A&T and Florida A&M. And we respond, Well, we thought you wanted to go to the best engineering schools. And we do that because one, they're the best engineering schools. But two, we often see how there's so much confirmation bias and processes. You know, there's no definition of top-tier other than people's perceptions. If you look at all of the statistics, for instance, a Black student from an HBCU significantly outperforms Black kids who go to predominantly white institutions. And so if we're talking about a top-tier school, and you're saying you want to find diverse talent, then why wouldn't your primary choice be targeting historically Black colleges, if you know that, historically Black colleges outperform predominantly white colleges for Black students every single day, and twice on Sundays?

Chris Hare 10:03
And when you're having those conversations, like, when you come in to, you know, work with a new client, how much do you, I guess, feel like they are willing participants and partners? And obviously, there's a lot of education I'm sure that you have to bring, right? Versus how much friction are you encountering typically?

Ebbie Parsons 10:21
It's changing again. So the friction that – George Floyd's murder, of course, was the height of the work in diversity, equity, and inclusion for the entire industry. And many companies, for lack of better words, were trying to put lipstick on a pig. And those were the companies where you'd see a lot of friction. It's, Hey, I gotta do this diversity thing, make me diverse, as though there was some kind of solution outside of their own organization to drive to solutions. I'd say we've experienced a lot of friction over the course of that year in 2021, as well. Now in 2022, we're seeing significantly less friction, because companies who are investing in this often are doing it for the right reasons, and they're much more meaningful. But the bad actors were very prevalent, mid-2020 and also throughout 2021.

Chris Hare 11:13
Yeah, I want to click in a little bit on that, you know, comment around lipstick on a pig. There is often, you know, there's a lot of companies that want to be purpose driven, right? Oftentimes, that purpose is very, kind of, disconnected from the business or from the realities of what they do day-to-day, right? And so as a marketer, you know, I recently pulled a range of, a really broad range of ads from enterprise companies that serve small businesses. And you know, on the surface, it's great to see representation of Black-owned businesses. But when you dig deeper, or when you compare them side by side, they all look the same. And when you dig deeper, it all looks, it seems very performative and there's not a lot backing it up. I'm curious if this is something you see in your work. And if so, kind of, how do you help companies with addressing that, and truly, yeah, not just performing right, but actually making commitments?

Ebbie Parsons 12:06
We try to help with both the art and the science. One of the biggest challenges in diversity, equity, and inclusion is many folks who do not come from a marginalized community are often focused on statistics – just show me the data, show me measured performance. The challenge is, does that take into account employee sentiment? Does that take into account employee retention? Does that take into account attitudes and beliefs of employees throughout the organization? And so that's why I said the art and the science. We help you understand how to improve the data so you've got better representation at every rung of the organization, but you have to transform your organization's culture if you want to actually drive change. And so it's a balancing act. We've seen the lipstick on the pig is essentially just data, data, data. Or they'll say, Give me best practices. And some of the interesting things about best practices is like, Well, you tell me. What's the best practice when we've had about 20,000 Fortune 500 CEOs since its inception, and we've had three Black women. Like, which of the three is the best practice? And that's where the lack of understanding comes, in that it is not an easy solution. And it's not something that can just be addressed with a quick program or quick training. It requires significant commitment and continuity in that commitment to actually start seeing change.

Chris Hare 13:32
Yeah, I want to come back to that cultural change piece. But I also want to rewind just a bit now to, you know, August 20, 2003. So you met with a small group for lunch at an Olive Garden. You're early in your career, next to no experience in business. But you had this massive vision, right? And you had $300-500 to put towards that vision. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Ebbie Parsons 13:57
This is the first time I've ever talked about this publicly. It's funny that you mentioned it, because that was, that was while, it was me and a group of buddies who were 23- or 24-years-old at the time. We were all probably making about $45 to $50k a year as young engineers. We all got together to say, look, we can make a difference in our community. Let's pool our resources together and start making investment decisions. So it was a young, it was all about how do we transform our Black community with our collective $3,000 – collected $3,000? But we were committed to this, and this was 20 years ago. And so when I say pioneers, we really cared about, what can we do to make a difference? And how can we drive profitability because we always believed, even 20 years ago in communal wealth, it wasn't just about feel-good. We know that wealth creates the opportunity to get to freedom. And unfortunately, for the last several 100 years we've been here, we've still never actually gotten to real freedom for African Americans in this country. Freedom to me would be very simply put, we need to make up 13% of the nation's wealth. If we make up 13% of the population, we should make up 13% of the wealth. That means we should make up 13% of the top 1%. Right now we make up .001% of the top 1%. So that's, when I say freedom, freedom for me is getting to a place of communal wealth, where our representation and America's wealth system reflects our representation in America's population.

Chris Hare 15:39
Going back to that time, I mean, was there, I'm sure there were a lot of experiences. Is there one experience that comes to mind right away that, you know, really hit home for you, and kind of drove you to this place of starting this vision?

Ebbie Parsons 15:53
Yeah, so a few, maybe a month before that, maybe not even two months before that. So I'll never forget this. I drove a 2001 Dale Earnhardt Signature Series Monte Carlo. I was a young engineer, fancy fast car. Right? It was nice. And I'm a young single guy. I was on a date. It was probably, the park closed at dusk. So say it was, dusk was 8:30 at the time, it might have been nine o'clock. I'm talking about really early evening. Or maybe, I can't remember the time. But what happened was, we were sitting at a park in Minneapolis overlooking the river, kind of like little romantic thing, sitting in the front seat just talking, and got surrounded by about six cop cars. Those six cop cars, public park, just after dusk, I'm talking about you can still like see the haze of the sun, so it's not the middle of the night pitch Black. I'm surrounded by six cop cars, all jump out of the car with guns drawn at us. The only reason I think that I'm even still alive is because I pressed this button in my car, OnStar. I didn't know what the hell to do. I was stuck. I didn't know what to do. So I pressed the OnStar button and told them I think I might be getting shot by police. I need y'all to stay on no matter what. And the police officers are yelling and screaming both sides. The girl, she's afraid, I'm afraid. Roll the window down, they're cussing at me. What are you doing in this park? The park closed and all this and that. I was like, I don't know officer badge number 47352, I don't know officer 50…. And they’re like, Why are you reading our badge numbers? And the OnStar jumps in, saves my life. We have recorded you, Officer Smith, badge number 47352. We have recorded you, Officer Johnson. Mr. Parsons does not want, he no longer controls the car, you cannot turn the car off, we have remote control of the car, we know exactly where the car is parked. We know exactly what officers are on the scene. Do you need any assistance? And that saved my life.

Chris Hare 17:57
What happened in that moment? What did the officers do at that moment?

Ebbie Parsons 18:01
They were pissed. They ended up, Get out of the park, the park is closed. But they let me actually drive and survive. But after that, the reason that the whole, like, we need communal wealth is because we need the communal policing. Like, George Floyd died in the same place that I probably was gonna die 20 years prior. Minneapolis Police, the same police that killed him were the same police to have their guns drawn on me. And I, 20 years ago, thought about, Why can't we create our own wealth system so we can police our own neighborhoods, so we can have more representation, so people who look like us don't get shot by police? I've never told that story.

Chris Hare 18:40
Well, thank you. Yeah, I'm sorry you went through that. In the coming years after that first meeting at the Olive Garden – and we'll post a link in the Show Notes because I think people need to see the minutes from that – but how did that kind of ultimately come to life through Yardstick and then what are you what are you building now at Yardstick?

Ebbie Parsons 19:09
So it ultimately came to life by, I mean, look, we're we turned 10 years old last year. So it took quite a bit of perseverance. There's a million different stories behind it. But essentially, the one story, the one reason we exist, from the very beginning is I knew that people who look like me were amazing. And I was laser-focused, and my wife allowed me to be laser-focused, on figuring out, What can we do to help more people who come from marginalized backgrounds get to the top of these companies? Because that's where all the decisions are made. Like the money, the money that these corporations bring to the table influences governmental policies, it influences where your kids go to school, it influences the food that we get to eat, it influences what the FDA approves, it influences what medical advice we get at the hospital. I mean, it's all driven by the decisions made in the C-suite and on the boards of these corporations because they hold the purse strings. And so if there's nobody who looks like me, or very few people who look like me, holding the purse strings making decisions that affect whether or not my daughter can have a child, it matters. And I don't know if we pay enough attention to, we don't follow the money enough. I think we often think about policy and politics. But we forget, like, the men who built America, that famous documentary, they highlight how a whole president was bought. We have a lot of politicians who are at the beck and call of corporate dollars, and we need to have representation at the top of these corporations.

Chris Hare 20:48
So what's the conversation that you're having, and kind of, the narrative that you're bringing to largely white male boardrooms, and the C-suite, and to kind of help them wake up and see where they need to shift, if that makes sense?

Ebbie Parsons 21:06
So we have an interesting take. There's the ideal state, and then there's America. In the ideal state, we work with companies who are serious about this work, and there's a significant number of them who are. And we help educate through our trainings, through our programming, and through our network. We've got a lot of really interesting things we do. We have brought to these white male leaders, like a lot of the gap has been in exposure. So 75% of white Americans have zero non-white friends. That's not any other race. That's just that's not white. And that's according to a 2014 Harvard Business Case, Harvard Business Review, study. And the remaining 25%, on average, have one Black, one Asian, and one Hispanic friend. The challenge is that 80% of jobs are filled by your personal network. And so we start with the statistics, we just lay it out. These are the data points, we didn't make them up, they exist. We can show you the authors. Once you realize how homogenous your network is, and once you also realize how profitable having a diverse team of leaders is, often people are all about it and they're just trying to find the talent. They just don't have the relationships because they got homogenous networks. We do, however, and often it’s like 80%. But then you have that 20, who will argue, and they will say, Well, what's the business case for diversity? And then you're gonna argue, Well, what's the business case for all white dudes? What's the business case for homogeneity, if you want to know the business case for diversity? But you get that question, we get that question often. We also get questions about, I mean, we've seen some interesting things. People are afraid of change. And they fear the unknown. If you're a kid who's always used to having all, you know, all 100 pennies in $1 bag, and now you got to share two pennies, you feel like you don't have any more pennies. But the challenge is, that's how it's already existed. Now, we're saying no, those aren't your 100 pennies to begin with, it's for the best people. And the best people come from diverse backgrounds. There's no way that the absolute best candidate for every job is a tall white guy. But if we look at the corporate CEO seat, 95% of the time, that's the case.

Chris Hare 23:29
Yeah, I think there is this narrative as a white American that I've heard a lot, which is, from a lot of people is, I got here solely on my own merit, right? I got here because I'm smart, right? And the reality is, you know, years ago, I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s article, I believe in the Atlantic, on reparations, and tracking that story of one family across 150 plus years. You see the impact of policies and communities and racism on that one family, right? And then as I reflect on how I got where I'm at, it's very much, to your point, of jobs being filled through personal networks, it's having access to go to school because of certain things. It's, there's just so many different ways, right? And so I think, I really appreciate you bringing up that, kind of, that myth and the way that you all are tackling that.

Ebbie Parsons 24:30
Yeah, it's a lot of work, though. But a friend of mine, her name is Dr. Tyra Charles, at our institute, just last week, she provided some great feedback, where there was a question that arose around like, you know, getting there on your own merit, etc. And one of the things that she mentioned, and this, this is actually a very good question that was asked and was very well attended as well. But the response was extremely powerful. What she said was, Your whiteness may not have helped you, but it also didn't hurt you, on your way to growth in this country. If you look at other communities in this country – Black, Native American, LatinX, LGBTQ – who they are, and no choice of their own, just who they are, has actually hindered their ability to grow in this country. And I think that was a really powerful way to put it. So it's not that, Oh, you didn't get there on your own merit. But what we're saying is, you were allowed to get there on your own merit. You had the privilege of being allowed to get to wherever you were on your own merit, while your marginalized peers literally are harmed for just being who they are.

Chris Hare 25:50
You know, the work of changing a narrative is really hard work. I'd love to hear, you know, maybe what your lowest point was at Yardstick, and then, kind of, what that felt like and then what kept you going in the middle of that?

Ebbie Parsons 26:04
Well, I mean, we've had a few different low points. One was about eight years ago, in business. I had a contractor who basically lied, and to my client, to me, said that she was able to deliver on something that never was delivered, and was really good at it. So it was one of those kinds of, like, con-artist types of people where it was easy to believe, because there was, like, fake receipts, there was a whole bunch of, there was this whole thing, whole experience. And we got hammered. I mean, the client, rightfully so, extremely upset, nearly closed our doors because I took it upon myself, like, we have to pay them back. Like, we had to because we just had to, not that we could afford to, but it was the right thing to do. And, of course, you know, got rid of the contractor. But she had caused immeasurable damage to the organization. And I was trying to pick up the pieces. Remember, really a 10-year-old company. So I'm two years in the business. And the prior year’s entire revenue was what I had to pretty much go pay back to a client because of a shady contractor. It was a lesson learned. I mean, we've got the best contracts now, we've got all these protections. But, you know, it was all through war wounds and battle scars and bumps and bruises along the way. But that was an extremely low point because there was a question around should we even exist because in professional services, you're only as good as your word. When people are untrustworthy, it makes your entire organization's brand diminish in a heartbeat. That was terrible. And so to be talking about eight years later is actually a surprise. Compared to where my mindset at that specific point in time, it was like, Maybe I need to get a job, because I don't know if we can continue to do this. As far as the highest point, the highest point was actually last week. It was celebrating our 10th anniversary, knowing all of the crap that we've dealt with, knowing all the hard work, the demands, all of the rewarding work that we've done, all the lives we've been able to impact. And being able to do it with - the best moments, highest point…. Last week, my mom, my wife and I were on stage together with my oldest daughter sitting in the front of the audience. And we opened up our retreat with my wife moderating a discussion between my mom and I about the history of Yardstick. And we founded the company when my 10-year-old was four months old. And to have her there, seeing what we built for her, that was wild. That was impressive.

Chris Hare 29:00
That's beautiful.

Ebbie Parsons 29:02
Yeah. I mean, yeah, I'm at a loss of words, that was a big deal.

Chris Hare 29:09
You alluded to it a little bit before, but what's your hope for your daughter, Ebbie?

Ebbie Parsons 29:15
My biggest hope for her… So yesterday, she started tackle football. She's the only girl on the football team. It's probably 300 kids out there practicing and figuring out what team they're gonna join or whatever. Not on the team, the only girl in the whole league. She's the only girl in the entire youth football league. And we didn't push her to go play it. She was like, I'm passionate. I'm wanna play tackle football. And I just love that she can do and be whoever she chooses. And so my biggest hope for my 10-year-old, as well as my three-year-old, is that they can grow up and they tell the world what they want to be versus the other way around.

Chris Hare 29:54
That's awesome. Talk to me a little bit about your partnership with your wife. You're incredibly vocal about the work that you've done together. And then also, you know, how proud you are of her and what she's accomplishing in her career. Can you talk a little bit about that partnership and how you all are working together to change to shift the culture?

Ebbie Parsons 30:13
Yeah, so formerly, she was actually an advisor up until her current role a couple of years ago, like a formal adviser. But she and I, my wife was the reason we were able to even found the company because she was the backbone of our family's financial structure. You know, once I left a high paying career to go and start a business, I didn't have health insurance, I needed health insurance for my wife, we had $0 income. So, you know, we had to pay the bills, we had a newborn at the time, but she just had all of the confidence that she believed that I was doing the right thing. I told her I wanted to start a company because the previous employer weren't doing right by kids who looked like me. And I wanted to do something about it. And she said, That's what God called you to do, I got your back. And from there, we got the ball rolling. But I mean, she's been a confidant, an advisor, the brains behind the whole family operation. I mean, I got a brilliant wife, who's both the beauty and the brains, and I'm just the brawn.

Chris Hare 31:17
Love it. Smart man. You know, you've talked before about how diversity, equity, and inclusion is a journey and not an initiative. I'd love to understand, like, what kind of leader does it take within a company to lead through that journey? And what are some of those markers?

Ebbie Parsons 31:36
It takes a courageous… Diversity, equity, and inclusion, to really be committed to it, it takes a courageous leader. It takes somebody who, who is patient, because they understand the ROI of a journey is different than ROI of an initiative. You get a long-term ROI that is repeatable and replicable. But it also takes a long time to generate that ROI. So you've got to be patient. You've got to be bold. In a country where everything is, you know, a two-week news cycle, how are we going to ensure that this is something that your organization stays committed to for the long-term? And the reason I say being bold, is if you're bold, you can then create performance metrics to hold yourself accountable with specific end dates, like by this date, we will have accomplished X, and then hold yourself accountable to that. Very few leaders have been doing this well. But we know several who are committed and who are actually driving change.

Chris Hare 32:36
I'm not asking you to name names, unless you want to, but is there, kind of, a leader or an engagement that comes to mind where you have seen this boldness, and you have seen this shift in culture starting to happen within the company?

Ebbie Parsons 32:50
Yeah, I've seen it with several. Clients and friends. Bracken Darrell, he's the CEO of Logitech. He's very committed to ESG, holistically. So he's committed, I think they were just named if not the best, one of the best in the world, at reducing their carbon footprint. He's very inclusive, both race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, etc. Like driving this as an organizational priority. It is just a part of their values and how they live their values at Logitech. There are a number of other companies. Netflix is a great example. Netflix is a client of ours. One of our greatest accomplishments is in partnership with Netflix, where, when the PPP loans were first announced back in 2020, you may recall that it was pretty much only large businesses that had access to money that was supposed to be allocated for small businesses. And then the small businesses who did get access to that money were not from marginalized backgrounds. What ended up happening was, we curated a very small intimate room with leadership in Netflix, and the idea sparked that Black-owned banks were the only banks that had it in their charter to drive revenue for Black-owned businesses. And so from that conversation, we were able to help Netflix make the decision to move $100 million to Black-owned banks. At the time, that was the largest investment in the history of American Black-owned banks. What followed was even more impressive than what Netflix led. They didn't only move their own money. As a result, many companies followed suit. And since that $100 million has moved into Black-owned banks, the largest shift of financial resources into Black-led financial institutions in history has occurred. And now you've seen over $2 billion shifted into Black-led financial institutions. And that spark was lit in that small little room that Yardstick curated.

Chris Hare 34:53
That's amazing. Congratulations. That's a huge accomplishment. I've actually used that as an example with some of my clients of a company that is talking about it, but also doing it, right? Which is really cool to see. So if you were to, you know, come in, if I were a Fortune 500 CEO, and I were to engage with you, where does that conversation start? And what are you going to tell me in terms of where you can take me and kind of what does that engagement look like?

Ebbie Parsons 35:22
I’d take you, if you were a Fortune 500 CEO, to our private CEO event we're hosting in November in Nevis, at the Four Seasons, where, it's November 2-5, where we will be actually inviting, it's an invite only C-suite event, focused on this work, four days, three nights, at the Four Seasons in Nevis. Amazing speakers, even better attendees, where we will really create a safe space to convene and have these difficult conversations not only about race, but all the pain points that sit at the forefront for CEO leaders. So we will have conversations with them about ensuring that there's inclusion in your crisis management planning. You know, if you think about war torn countries, for example, just a few months ago, when Ukraine was first invaded, you may have seen on the news that African, Black Africans, were moved off of the train to safety in favor of Ukrainian natives. And so they literally said, your life doesn't matter as much, your Black life does not matter, and you do not deserve to be on this train to safety. So if you're a CEO, and you're trying to get your employees out, how do you ensure Black employees are also safe? How do you ensure that your women employees are safe? How do you ensure the LGBTQ employees are safe when you think about crisis management? But inclusion is not just like in the hiring process, but it's in the treatment processes, and every facet of what you do as an organization. So we'll have conversations about cybersecurity, about the talent gap, about wages about so many poignant topics that are really important for CEOs. So we create a space, you engage with us as an organization, we help you understand. We first understand what issues you think you may have, and then we help you understand what issues you actually do have. But we also help you address them. So we can be a solutions oriented organization that we've helped companies drive to solutions that have resulted in their C-suite being more diverse and performance management systems being developed that are more inclusive and inclusive hiring practices, and just changing the entire nomenclature, just language within the organizations.

Chris Hare 37:34
Yeah, I would love to be a fly on the wall for some of the conversations where it's, you know, here's what we think the areas that we need help, and then kind of the gap with, here's what you all have identified, right? And how do we bridge that gap, right?

Ebbie Parsons 37:48

Chris Hare 37:49
Awesome. Well, Ebbie, are there any closing thoughts as we wrap up of, kind of, your vision for, kind of, the future or what you're excited about in the years to come?

Ebbie Parsons 38:00
I am beyond excited about just where things are headed from an equity lens. I'm excited to see women in the C-suite leading large organizations. I'm excited to see that the conversation is continuing. I'm excited to see that reparations is in discussion. Even if it doesn't happen now, the fact that it's a real discussion, and we waited so many years for it to become a discussion, you know, hopefully, the policies can also shift. But in addition to policies shifting, we've taken it on our own to really go and drive change because we're not going to wait on the government to do it.

Chris Hare 38:34
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Ebbie. I really appreciate your generosity and your time and sharing your story and looking forward to continuing to follow all the great work you're doing.

Ebbie Parsons 38:43
Thank you. Excited! Congrats on all the work you're doing and really honored to be on this podcast. Thank you.

Chris Hare 38:49
Awesome, thanks.

Change is hard, but it’s even harder when the change you’re pushing for flies in the face of harmful power structures, processes, culture, and narratives, spoken and unspoken, that have been engrained in business and society for decades and even centuries. What strikes me about Ebbie is his courage, his persistence, his ability to map the path to the future, and his fierce commitment to never lose sight of his “Why”. Courage, because of his decades-long fight against the evils of racism, and his willingness to do the hard work to bring about true transformation. Persistence in his belief that it is possible to change the future, even when it looks hopeless. Mapping the path to the future for leaders to follow as they guide their companies through the long journey of true DEI transformation. And a fierce commitment to what matters most, demonstrated in the way that he always brings it back to his kids, his “Why”. And then giving everything that he has to build a world where his kids can grow up and tell the world what they want to be. And that’s it. Until next time, thank you for joining The Storied Future Podcast. Please subscribe and be sure to visit TSFpod.com for Show Notes, for links to Ebbie Parsons and Yardstick Management, and to check out other episodes.

The Storied Future Podcast is a production of The Storied Future, LLC, produced and edited by Ray Sylvester, audio engineering by Ali Özbay, logo design by Evan MacDonald, theme music by The Brewz. Your host is me, Chris Hare. Learn more about our work helping leaders create great B2B narratives for a change at www.thestoriedfold.wpengine.com.

Content warning: In this episode, Ebbie recounts his experience with a threat of racialized police violence.


Ebbie’s LinkedIn

Dr. Ebbie Parsons, III is the Founder and Managing Partner of Yardstick Management, where he leads the organization’s vision and growth. Yardstick Learning is a leading global strategic management consulting firm that provides strategy and change management services to mission-driven organizations.

He is a seasoned business executive with a passion for intentional impact who has been applauded for his strategic thinking, engaging leadership, and results-oriented mindset throughout his successful career.

Leveraging his wealth of experience and expertise in business and education, he launched Yardstick Management with a vision to become a leader in transforming and impacting the global landscape of the management consulting industry. Less than a decade later, Yardstick has become a world thought leader and powerhouse in providing specialized management, diversity, equity and inclusion, and executive search consulting services to renowned mission-driven brands and organizations worldwide. Yardstick is committed to building its clients’ internal capacity to enhance their ability to deliver extraordinary results to their constituents.

Dr. Parsons holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the Florida A&M University/Florida State University College of Engineering, an MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, and a Doctorate in Educational and Organizational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.