We had the good fortune of connecting with Nguyen “Tom” Griggs and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nguyen “Tom”, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My parents worked for other people and struggled due to ignorance, bad business practices and general entrepreneurial indifference. When they had the chance to work for themselves, they jumped and never looked back. In my 20’s, I worked in Insurance, Sales, IT and Education. I too face the same types of problems related to inter-team friction, poor leadership and sub par training/onboarding. Well one day it occurred to me that given my background as an educator, lecturer, martial arts instructor and my love of people, why don’t I start a company focusing on teams, leadership and conflict management. It turns out that my decision opened doors into the numerous challenges that so many people face at work and in educational settings. Recently, the focus on social justice access issues related to Education has led me to connect deeper with groups like TRIO and their programs. TRIO is a federally funded program through the Department of Education, that focuses on educational opportunity for economically disadvantaged teens, college students and adult learners alike. I knew that if I could take my skills and knowledge and help young people, doctoral students and adult learners gain valuable skills, they would be better able to compete and attain their educational and career goals. But I also knew that if I take those same skills and help the TRIO professionals and staff members better work together and effectively navigate conflict, then they could experience more rewarding and meaningful long term careers in TRIO. So what my target client groups are now TRIO and educational groups, followed by healthcare and business clients.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
(For clarity, I broke this question down into smaller questions and listed my responses below) Your Work (6 part question) Please tell us more about your business. We’d love to hear: 1) What sets you apart from others My passion, quirky but effective delivery methods and the mixture of martial arts, psychology and business-based approaches to connect with clients and really get them to open up and be open to change. 2) What you are most proud of or excited about? I’m excited most about working the TRIO groups, especially the students and the staff. There is a great deal that can done to help these young people and the college students. Likewise, there is much that needs to be done with the staff. Why not find a way to equip and train both groups for improvement, growth and success? I am truly excited about being sort of an agent of change and growth. 3) How did you get to where you are today business-wise and was it easy? I am still working on several small milestones. I really decided to legally form my company in December 2014. I was making slow and steady progress, but my dad passed in May 2016. This meant I had to focus on my parents’ business and much of what I was working on (along with grieving) made my work secondary. So getting back in the saddle and moving forward was tough but I am doing it now and making strides… despite the pandemic. 4) If not, how did you overcome the challenges? I overcame the challenges by letting nature takes it course in the guise of me grieving and both being there and leaning on my family and close friends. When you experience a loss of someone you love dearly like a parent, and then you have to help support the other parent emotionally and spiritually, it’s hard on you. But I discovered that for me, trying to operate with the same drive and passion for my goals wasn’t there but my loyalty and duty to my family was. Therefore, I let nature takes its course and now I am moving forward. 5) What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. I like 3’s as a way of learning and remembering so here are three (3) lessons that I learned along the way: a) The Lil Dragons Rule: We teach out little kids in martial arts the Lil Dragons rule which in short states You have two ears, two eyes and one mouth because you are supposed to listen and like TWICE as much as you talk. I share this lesson with leaders, teams and young people all of the time and it basically means observation, thought and patience will be more beneficial than impulsive words or actions. b) Multiple Paths Get You There: Short version, you don’t have to take the same path or do the exact same things to attain your success. Far too many people get stuck in the notion that success is found by following the same steps and sequences that others have utilized. But I challenge people to define success for themselves first, and then think about how to get there. c) Always Keep Your Word: My dad taught me quite a few lessons but probably his favorite was always keep your word to others. He said there were 3 answers when asked to do something and those were yes, no and let me check on that. “yes” and “no” are obvious but when you do say “Let me check on that” that means you’ll actually do it and get back to the person in question. But give people an answer and do everything in your power to keep your word to them. 6) What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story? I owe so much of my brand to my designer and now work partner Kelley L. Reece. She started out my helping me develop my brand and collateral and now she’s helping me in the research, strategies and approaches aspect of my work. My story comes from my life and the variety of ups and downs that many of us experience. But things like martial arts, entrepreneurship and growing up in a family business helped to define my brand. The best synopsis of my brand is that I always encourage and teach people to find their inner black belts. Why you ask? Simply put, if you think about what a black belt entails, there should be a basic, rudimentary mastery of the basics with a hunger for improvement and more learning. But of equal importance is the emphasis on character, spirit and presence. Finding your inner black belt should carry the harmonious ideas of having the confidence and competence of someone with a black belt while nurturing the ever love of learning that a white belt or beginner has.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Some of my favorite food spots are all over Houston. I’m not the best planner/organizer so I would have to take them to a variety of places for food. Let’s see – Jenni’s Noodle House, Houston’s on Kirby, Gus’ Fried Chicken, Taqueria La Tapatia on Richmond, This Is It Soul Food, Torchy’s, Simply Pho, and Sushi King is consistently good. That’s the start for food. As for hangouts and cultural places, I would enjoy taking them to our parks. Specifically, I enjoy, Hermann, Levy and Discovery Green as wonderful places to share and enjoy. Being an entrepreneur, I’d also have to take my friend by the shop that my wife Kimberly Phipps-Nichol and me. We opened Houston Hemporium in October 2019 as a way to share our passion for all things hemp and CBD related. Finally, I couldn’t let my friend leave without having them take a class at TnT Jujitsu so that could experience Japanese Jujitsu and meet some truly awesome people.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
1) Thank you to my family which includes my parents, son, 1st and 2nd wife and my brother. All of them have helped me grow, learn, pushed me back and propelled me forward in many ways. Thank you and I love all of you. 2) Many, many thanks to all of the members of my martial arts families over the years. Through literal and figurative fights, my learning as a person about my spirit, my soul and my heart have grown, and I have prospered. I especially want to thank my TnT Jujitsu family here in Houston TX for their years of learning and growth. 3) Finally, I want to thank the educators in my life younger years and the many tireless warriors that I currently get to know. Too many teachers saw my potential and wouldn’t let me slip or just “get by” without again pushing and challenging me. I college, there were several great professors that I fashioned my college teaching style towards because their teaching acumen and instinct for improvement made me better and I wanted to pass that on to my students. And for the many educators in the K-12 and TRIO type programs, thank you for your work and passion. We need to do more to help the teachers on all sides.

Website: www.ntgriggs.com
Instagram: nguyengriggs
Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/nguyengriggs
Twitter: @NguyenGriggs
Facebook: @NguyenTomGriggs

Image Credits
CJ Martin Kelley L Reece

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