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Relentless Podcast

Dan Calista: Business in the Desert, Clear Company Values, and Dropping Zbombs

It’s time for episode five of the Relentless: Real People, Real Results, Real World podcast!

In this episode I welcome in Dan Calista, founder and CEO of Healthcare Management Consulting firm Vynamic (named “Best Place to Work” by Philadelphia Business Journal), Jerry Maguire enthusiast, husband and father, and lifelong entrepreneur.



  • Morning Coffee: Starbucks’ Via coffee with Hazlenut half-and-half.
  • Snap Out of a Funk: Take a nap.
  • His excitement about the rapidly declining cost of game-changing technology and putting it into the hands of the world. “The fun has just begun.”
  • Professionally Helpful Media: Glengarry Glen Ross and Jerry Maguire.
  • Relaxation Oriented Media: Steve Jobs’ Stanford graduation speech.
  • “Who is Dan? I try hard. I have failed countless times…get knocked down, try something else, pivot. I have learned a lot from mistakes.”
  • Receiving an Apple computer as a kid on Christmas morning and having it revolutionize his thinking and writing. So much so that he was accused of cheating. “If I didn’t have that computer, who knows where I would have ended up.”
  • “Things can always be better.” Embracing continuous improvement.
  • Going to Babson College (named #2 return-on-investment school) with a focus on entrepreneurship. “My goal was to start a business right out of college…I wanted all business all the time.”
  • Targeting a double drive-thru coffee place. “I didn’t even drink coffee. I just loved the concept of it. High margins, efficiency – I can compete in that market.”
  • Having the concept fail due to a conservative town, traffic patterns, and the cost associated with regulations, zoning, and upgrading the surrounding environment. “I had to realize that this isn’t going to work out…I had no job. I had no income.”
  • How did he decide to pull the plug? He talked to people he loved and trusted and confronted the problem. “I’d like to think that I’m not afraid to ask for help.”
  • Turning back to a home exterior painting business, his college summer job. “It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, because I didn’t know how to paint. I didn’t know how to hire people. I didn’t know how to buy equipment. I didn’t know how to sell. It was literally a crash course.”
  • Translating the painting principles of production management and operational flow to Vynamic and business today.
  • Performing a utility role in his senior class play – Guys and Dolls – and why you can call him “the Ox”. Gaining behind the scenes experience and seeing how the production pieces came together at showtime.
  • Why you can also call him Desert Dan, after his high school company that purchased a used tent and rented it for parties. He rented it for $400 and after assorted labor costs, cleared $300 each rental. Company tagline: “We cover all your needs.” Later expanding, purchasing, and renting 50 chairs.

DD Crew

  • “I’ve always been a magnet for being around other like-minded, inspirational people.”
  • Seeing a critical mass of people he respected going to one firm, Anderson Consulting, which became Accenture. Working in management consulting and tackling strategic challenges alongside a solid team. “There are a lot of perks to working with tremendous people.”
  • Having his Jerry Maguire moment in 2002. “Suddenly the answer was pretty clear…When is going to be a better time than now?”
  • Growing Vynamic to 90+ employees via steady, healthy growth over time.
  • “The thing that is consistent is from the very beginning is valuing and prioritizing people…What is the value proposition to the people working inside the company? That’s not discussed nearly as much as the value proposition to the customers.”
  • Learning from Tony Hsieh, of Zappos and Delivering Happiness.
  • Basing the name Vynamic on dynamic – dynamic for change and V for values and vitality. “The only thing constant in life is change. Hey, let’s be in the change business! Because the reality is we’re all in the change business and change is happening whether we want to acknowledge it or not.”
  • The consistent theme of growth – make the experience better for the 4th, the 10th, the 20th, the 80th employee.
  • Looking back at the early days – “I had enough money to buy a laptop and a big dream.” – when there was no room to risk take, versus the current time when there is room to experiment and try new things.
  •  On Culture:
    • “What is the definition of culture? I like to think of it as your values and your behaviors. What do you say is important and what do you do?”
    • “Culture is a function of commitment, not size.”
  • “Hire slow, fire fast.” Taking your time in selecting as your business grows and getting many people – often 10+ – involved in the hiring process. “Would you want to work with this person on your next team project?”
  • Targeting experienced employees versus those fresh out of school, for which they lack a protocol. “If we’re not ready for it and the structure isn’t there, it’s not going to be a success yet.”
  • Asking a prospective employee to present a process and requiring them to think on their feet. “You see people in a different light.”
  • Vynamic Colors: Having each new employee choose a unique color with personal meaning. The company’s color? Vibrant green representing a fresh, healthy start. Dan’s color? Sunrise yellow.
  • Post employee orientation never missing a debrief and always asking “How can it be better? What needs to be re-enforced?”
  • Deciding to expand geographically to Boston by asking the team and receiving a positive response.
  • “The story of Vynamic is the story of the V…You have to look for opportunities to express your values. What is the value of values, meaning monetarily? It’s to position you in the right direction when faced with a fork in the road. Values will help guide that. When we’re operating at a high level, those values are clear and we know where to go.”

2014-10-27 at 8.34.11 AM

  • Choosing their industry focus, as well as their original location (Philadelphia) in 2002 by reflecting on values. “The business plan for Vynamic was the letter V. It was the shortest business plan in the history of business plans.”
  • “You take an A team with a B idea any day of the week…Ideas are cheap. It’s how you connect.”
  • Personal Wellness: “It’s holistic.”
  • Energy Management: “Who are the people that you are surrounded by that you get energy from?”
  • Planning ahead of time to include health related activities in an extra busy week.
  • Appearing on NPR and discussing the company concept of Zzzmail – outlawing work email between the hours of 10:00pm and 6:00am – and Zbombs – a frowned upon strategy of bombing a co-worker with a thought provoking, lengthy email at 9:59pm. “I believe the HR of the future will have a Zzzmail policy.”
  • “Work when you want to work, work when you have the inspiration, and manage your energy and flow how you like. Just don’t put that on somebody else.”
  • Having fun with their marketing and “stories worth spreading”. Having a meeting on a double-decker bus and buying a Vynamic ad to cover its exterior.
  • Going through the Relentless Transformation in 2011 (how we met) and carrying on the concepts of anywhere workouts, making strong choices when on the road, and supermarket strategy.
  • Advice to Young Dan: “Stick to your values…ask for help…go all-in and go as aggressive as you can…invest in people.”
  • What’s Your Endgame? “I immediately think of my kids…I want my kids to be able to pursue a healthy life.”
  • Preferred Vice: Sweets. “Any sort of candy, fruit item.”
  • Continuously learn from others and have conversations.

DAN’S Relentless Action: 
Say thank you to someone for anything big or small.


Vynamic Music Video:

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