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Problem-Solving 101: What To Do When You Hit An Entrepreneurial Wall


Sean: So I’m going to take your, what you said and they feel like they’re stuck in the mud in short. Some entrepreneurs feel like they hit a wall. It’s impossible for them. Entrepreneurs, we’re optimistic. If we weren’t optimistic, we’re not going to be entrepreneurs. Right. Well, what does it take for an entrepreneur to say that’s impossible, I’m stuck in the mud. What do you do, Jeff? During those times, because that takes a lot of wisdom to get them through that wall of impossibility in their heads and an optimistic person saying that it’s almost also impossible for you to get them out of it. What do you say during those times?

Jeff: Oh, it’s the difference really is every company from a business perspective, everybody’s going to constantly be hitting ceilings as they grow on the business side.

And the reality is simply. And a lot of times, it’s just a matter, honestly, I’m pointing this out to say, okay, the, the skill set, the structure of the company at 5 to 10 people for that level of business is completely different than what you need at say, 50 employees kind of a thing there with three or four different markets instead of one market, kind of a thing as you start to grow that, that business.

I think it was actually a Harvard, maybe a Harvard study that was a study a while back kind of a thing saying that “businesses don’t grow in this nice straight, smooth path.” And basically it’s kind of this fits and spurts that you’ll have some sections that are nice and smooth growth, but then you either have other sections that are just this basically real turbulent, almost whitewater kind of phase.

And okay. That’s more of a transformation that the business has to change at that point, whether that’s. Simply growing out and scaling and saying, Hey, we’ve got an actually have now a, a VP of sales, a VP of marketing, a CFO, et cetera. We’ve got to start breaking this up and structuring it rather than me as the entrepreneur or me as the visionary, trying to do everything and wear all the hats.

And that’s a difficult transition for a lot of people because they’re used to having their fingers in everything, they’re used to having that full control. But at the same time, if you can really show them, through having a set of what we look at as a scorecard, or basically a set of metrics to say. Okay, if you can sit back on the beach here and I’ll bring you one piece of paper, that’s got 15 numbers on it that talk about, okay, what’s your accounts receivable balance versus what’s your, your number of leads coming in versus your number of reported defects, whatever it is, the make the right numbers, the right metrics for your business.

You can sit on that beach out there and be completely comfortable that yes, by looking at these 15 numbers and the trends that have been going on, I’m perfectly confident that my business is doing what it needs to be. And I don’t have to go sit in the back pocket of the sales rep to say, have you made your 10 calls today or whatever it’s supposed to be, or, or sit with finance, say, okay, which numbers?

Where’s our council receivable? Where’s the member? You don’t have to be embedded like that into the minutia and the details. And in a lot of ways, once they kind of see that, and once they get comfortable with it, it’s, it’s this huge load kind of lifts off to say, Hey, this, this will work. We can’t actually do this in a bigger picture, a bigger scope.

And I don’t have to worry about all this. I don’t have to have the stress kind of saying of what all the little details kind of a thing, because I do have the right people sitting in the right seats, reporting the numbers. For all I have to do is just see those numbers. I can be confident in that. So it’s, it’s really getting them to kind of realize that yes, while they’re used to doing things in a certain way, that’s their way of doing things.

As long as we get processes and procedures, even your culture, things like that, and documented and figure out such that you’ve got everybody on board with that, then you can step back and trust that, okay, we can grow to the next level. Because we have our systems, we have our foundation in place. And so therefore going from sales person, one, two, now two, three, and four is really not that big a deal.

It actually is a true scale at that point, because we have documented sales processes. We have  documented target market. We have documented differentiators and a guarantee that makes us different than our competitors. And all four of those salespeople are using the same language, the same – everything that we’re talking about in our business and working together.

So what’s the true scale, rather than saying, Hey throw you to the sharks out here and go, come up with your own verbiage. And all of a sudden we’ve got marketing, pushing out one message sale and doing something else and operations kind of throwing their hands up and saying, what the heck did you sell this time?

If we’ve got this all documented and put together, then everything just keeps working as we grow, as we keep scaling there, it really takes a lot of that pressure off of the leadership team as they grow. And it’s a transition and it can definitely can be difficult for some people, but it’s, it’s one that, okay.

Once you kind of start seeing that picture as to one realizing, okay, this is the goal that we’re working towards for our company as a whole, but still the fact that I can see that, okay, we are making progress to that and I’ve gotten visibility. I’ve got clarity into my company, says, Hey, we can make this work.

It doesn’t have to be exactly the same way as it always was that we can – we can break through the ceiling and keep moving forward at that point.

Sean: You mentioned that if you have 15 numbers that would tell you the health or status of your business, while you’re taking a vacation, that’s what, you know, what would those numbers be?

Now I’m wondering with when the pandemic and all, and we are in a pandemic, we are in a crisis. Are there clients who approached you again and told you, Jeff, what adjustments do I need to do? Because it’s the pandemic. I need to shrink some scores in my scorecard. How do I do it?

Jeff: Two questions there, and I’ll kind of answer them separate, but in terms of, okay, what do I need to do the question of, what do I need to do in my business?

That’s the nice part about having that foundation, having those systems in place is I know exactly where the levers are now in my business, that I can go pull to say, Hey, We need more profitability right now. We need to scale this back, whatever the case may be. And that’s, that’s unique per business, really what it is, but still they’ve got the clarity at that point in this system to say, Hey, I know what’s going on in my business.

I can see, like I said, the scorecard metrics, because we look at those over, usually a rolling 15 weeks so I can see trends and patterns as we go along here to say, okay, This number is going off track here. We’re no longer getting the new leads into the system. If we’re tracking sales leads kind of a thing.

So we can have the runway to sit there and evaluate that and say, okay, is this something that we can fix just by different marketing or changing our product pitch or something like that? Or do we need to look at, Hey, we’ve got four salespeople right now. Can we scale this back to two. And still handle basically the on our processes kind of standpoint.

So yes, having that clarity gives you much, much easier way to pivot, much easier way to have that visibility. The other side of the question that I kind of want to address is, is more and we can look at it later, but it’s still it’s. It’s the way I work with the clients here with my customers is really completely different from anything I did before with, with consulting

Because on this side, I’m more of a curly as a coach at this point, not a consultant. So if you look at it from the sporting analogy kind of standpoint, the coaches, the ones sitting there training the team, working through practices, building up those skills, the muscle memory, things like that. But then it’s okay team. You’ve got to go on the field and you got to play the game. I’m not getting on the field and play the game here.

So, with this, I’m working with their leadership team. Working with those leaders in that company to get them to start building this process and building  this cadence here to say, okay, this is how we’re going to report numbers.

This is how we’re going to, how we’re going to run meetings. This is how we’re going to plan on our quarter and work through our four kind of a thing there. And then it’s up to them to go run it. So when you’re asking, do they come to me and ask, what are we changed? No, they really don’t because. They’ve already got the systems.

They’ve got the clarity. They already know what to change. I’m not telling them how to run their business. It’s that? I always tell them, Hey, you’ve got all the expertise you need already in this room. All we’re doing is helping build the foundation and giving you some more tools, some more leverage right there that you can work with.

But you’ve got the ability. You’ve already got the, the expertise here on how to run the business. I’m not the one sitting here telling you how to build widgets or how to sell medical or whatever your business is kind of a thing there. I’m just the one on the outside. Basically bringing the tools and bringing the knowledge, bringing the expertise of the system here, as well as that outside accountability to say, Hey, I’m coming back next month.

I’m going to meet you again next quarter and say, why didn’t we hit these numbers? Why are your scorecards off track? Why are your measurables off track? Because that’s really the differentiation. When you – as many books that as many tools and stuff out there. We all go pick up, pick up a book or watch a webinar or something like that.

It’s a great idea for Monday. And then by Tuesday, it’s completely gone kind of a thing there. And in order to make this work,  it’s really much more of a, I refer to it as a journey. It’s a longer term process that I’m sitting there working with you to sit there and build that muscle memory, build that habits in there.

But from a running the business standpoint, it’s a hundred percent them.

Sean: You, you mentioned also about culture earlier. In your earlier answer. And culture is one of the things that, in my opinion, is super duper important when you’re in a stage where you’re investing in systems, investing in processes just like what you have been mentioning.

And I’m sure you can’t just throw it out the window. I’m sure you also tackle culture when you’re coaching these companies. There are companies who I’m quite sure you have approached and they have a broken culture or they have the wrong culture. How do you fix that? I mean, that’s so messy. I, I imagined myself.

Looking at a company with a broken culture, culture of gossip, culture of politics. I mean, how do you fix that? I’m super curious.

Jeff: Well, it really starts with the leadership team in the first place. There’s the design cause that’s actually part of the vision component is to say, okay, who are we as a company? Basically three different things.

What’s your core focus? What’s your core values there as the company? Who are we going to be? What are we going to do? Where are we going to go? Kind of a thing from your vision standpoint to decide, okay, like you said, vision statements, one piece of it, but we’re going to say, Hey, our core focus is looking at honesty and integrity.

Our core focus is always being there for the customer, whatever it is. It’s always unique for every company, but still defining that out almost in kind of a vacuum to say, okay, this is who we are taking everything else that we’ve got, all the people, all the, all the issues, everything we’ve got out of picture.

Forget all about that ideal world. This is going to be who we are. This is how we’re going to be known, and everything’s going to move towards this culture. And then once we’ve got that defined from a vision standpoint, it actually rolls down into what we refer to as the people component of people’s side, such that it’s not just a matter of when you’re either doing a review of an existing employee or you’re hiring for a new employee, whatever there.

You’ve got, it’s a combination of it’s it’s the having the right seat and the, the org chart there to say, okay, do you have the skills, actually the hard skills to be able to do this job? And, or can you be trained to do this job? but the other side is, do you fit our values? Do you fit our culture right here?

Are you going to subscribe to that kind of a thing there? And we’ll actually, there’s actually several different tools. There’s that we work through that actually put basically almost a measurable scorecard again, to say, Hey, here are our five, six, seven, whatever it is company values here and you’re meeting one, two and three.

You’re below the line here on four and okay. We’ll sit down and have a very concrete conversation manager, the employee to say, okay, here’s where you stand. Here’s where you are on our culture side. Is this something you’re willing to work towards something? You’re willing to address things like that and have that conversation there.

And obviously. If it’s not, then it’s something that honestly, you have to make a decision on. And really my coaching,  my push there is to say, okay, if they’re not, it doesn’t matter if they are your number one salesperson. If they’re not meeting your company values, if they’re not meeting your company culture, they’re sitting there chipping away at your foundation that they may be off making deals that under the table or making promises, that honestly you can’t keep. Because that’s not part of your, your values or your culture there.

So just because they’re your best sales person, just because they’re your best customer service rep or whatever, you got to look at it and say, okay, they’re not that. They may be incredibly capable, but they’re not the right person for us. They’re not making those values so we’ve got to make a change on it, but it’s having those drawn out and having those identified really makes it clear to everybody involved.

Because how many times do you have that conversation with an employee or with a manager? And it’s like, I don’t even know what the measuring stick is that we’re trying to measure up to or measure against here. If you’ve got these core values, this core focus, lay it out in black and white that everybody in the company, or maybe the organization can see, real clear conversation, real clear transparent conversation.

Okay, you’re, you’re making, you’re hitting these, you’re not hitting these or in the case of the new hierarchy, you lay it out on the table. Right. At that point, it’s like, okay, here’s our vision. Here’s what we’re trying to reach from a company standpoint. Here’s who we are.

Here’s our values that we’re going to measure two and Oh yeah. Here’s the actual hard skills and everything we need for this position. But you’ve got to, it’s an entire package here and we’re not hiring just because you’re a great salesperson, just because you’re a great programmer. You it’s, it’s the entire package. You’ve got to  meet these company values and live up to these company values as well as being a part of our culture.

And it’s really just ensuring you’ve got the right people, their right seats, as well as right fit kind of a thing that had both of them together.

Sean: span> Culture and process over individual people. Right. Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah. When we, when we look at it,  it’s a very clear differentiation to say, okay, make sure you got the overall structure of maybe right seats for your company.

 Somebody explain to me what the ideal structure is of your company. And then let’s bring the people back into it and say, okay, does John fit this seat really? Does he we refer to it as GWC get it, want it and have it capacity for it. Does it, does he really get what’s involved with his role?

What’s his, when his seat is, does he really want that? Does he want all those pieces there and then lastly capacity, does he have the skills? Does he have the time, et cetera, to fulfill that seat? But it’s really I – a structure first, people second kind of idea. That  in some ways it almost sounds kind of called the, yeah, we can replace people, but if we put the wrong people into even the right seats at that point, it always is a whole back anchor right there on our company, boneless back there, moving forward, and you’ve got to have both. Basically, you’ve got to have the right structure and the right seats laid out. But you got to have the right people with the right values in those seats.

Sean: I love it. And that is something that I also learned from the book Good to great by Jim Collins, I believe. Right. Super important. Right people in the right seats, sounds so simple, but a lot of companies get it wrong.

Jeff: Oh yeah. Yeah. It’s simple until you try to go do it and then yeah.

Sean: Yup. And that’s because we are in the people business and people, you know, you just don’t know what’s going to happen to your ex-factors in your business processes can be followed and you can be sure about it. Culture can be followed in, quite sure about it. But people are unpredictable.

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