167: How an Operational Excellence Culture Catalyzes Scale featuring Gary Nickol


This Episode is Sponsored By:


As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of PSS Gary Nickol aptly describes his role as, “…the glue between staff, customers, and the community.” PSS is a visual aid and communication tools company for educators. Their growth was once stagnated by a top-down leadership model.

That is until new owners came on board.

Gary championed a bottom-up model, one that empowers employees to own their work and the results. This recommendation was rooted in his former experiences leading his own company as well as managing people and overseeing customer support at Best Buy.

In this episode, Gary shares how, in just 16 months, PSS nearly doubled its employee size despite the pandemic. He also describes his guideposts for operational excellence and the role it plays in enabling them to keep up with fast growth without sacrificing quality. Discover how you can apply these concepts to grow and scale your business too!

Special Guest: Gary Nickol, COO – PSS

Location: Mooresville, NC  USA

Air Date: Sept. 19, 2021



  • PSS: the official website of PSS, a company offering a variety of visual aid and communications tools that complement learning objectives set by K-12 educators.
  • Magic Cutter: a PSS product that enables high-quality, on-demand printing of various shapes. Bring the custom-designed pieces you need for origami projects, puzzles, bulletin boards, games, and more to life.
  • Poster Maker: a PSS product that offers high-quality, on-demand printing of large, colorful posters.
  • Cool Lam: a PSS product offering a unique, low-tech solution for laminating different sized visual aids, no electricity or heat required!
  • Salesforce’s 1% Pledge: Salesforce’s 1-1-1 philanthropic model that “…invites all entrepreneurs and their companies to commit important resources (product, time, and resources) to support integrating philanthropy into their business from an early stage.” The idea is to inspire early-stage corporate philanthropy by committing to pledging one or more of the following: 1% of equity, 1% of time, 1% of product, and 1% of profit to support nonprofits in local communities.


Professional Organizations:

  • COO Forum: an international organization dedicated to Chief Operating Offers. The COO Forum is “a private and confidential member network featuring: member profiles and contributions, extensive library of business information, calendar chapter meetings, industry forums, chat feature, and private chapter networks.”

Related Video: How to Conduct a Remote Brainstorming Session with Thinksmart Whiteboard App featuring Joseph Powell


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  • Writer, Producer & Host: Alicia Butler Pierre
  • Podcast Editor: Olanrewaju Adeyemo
  • Video Editor: Gladys Jimenez
  • Transcription: Outsource Global
  • Sponsors: HubSpot, ThinkSmart Whiteboard


More About Guest, Gary Nickol:
Gary Nickol is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for PSS in the Charlotte, NC Area. PSS serves the K12 Education Market by creating meaningful and effective learning experiences for students through our physical solutions including educational content. Gary’s been with PSS for approximately five years. He started out leading PSS’ sales and marketing departments and transitioned to his latest role as COO role two years ago.

Over the past year, PSS has scaled from a 14-person organization to currently 25 and there’s an aggressive growth plan to grow 40% a year for the next five years. Together, Gary and other PSS leaders have put a lot of energy toward creating a culture of employee empowerment, replacing the previous centralized, top-down culture with one that promotes leading with context and decentralization. Outside of utilizing technology to improve operational processes, decentralizing and individual ownership/empowerment is a key to creating PSS as a scalable company.



More About Host, Alicia Butler Pierre:
Alicia Butler Pierre is the Founder & CEO of Equilibria, Inc. Her career in operations began over 20 years ago while working as an engineer in various chemical plants and oil refineries. She invented the Kasennu™ framework for business infrastructure and authored, Behind the Façade: How to Structure Company Operations for Sustainable Success.  It is the world’s first published book on business infrastructure for small businesses. Alicia hosts the weekly Business Infrastructure podcast with a global audience across 53 countries.



More About Sponsor, HubSpot:
HubSpot offers a full platform of marketing, sales, customer service, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software — plus the methodology, resources, and support — to help businesses. Their CRM platform is powered by the same database, so everyone in your organization — Marketing, Sales, Service & Operations — is working off the same system of record. This allows for a smoother handoff between teams and results in a more delightful experience for your customers.



More About Sponsor, ThinkSmart Whiteboard:
Thinksmart Whiteboard is a Windows App that turns your Tablet PC into a shared whiteboard. It allows you to create a whiteboard on your computer screen, then allows other people to write onto your whiteboard, even if they are in another location! Learn more.

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