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Guest: Sheldon Wolitski, Founder, The Select Group
Episode in a Tweet: A broke entrepreneur turns a $12,000 cash advance on his credit card into a $110 million revenue business.
Quick Background: After the tech bubble collapsed in 2000, Sheldon Wolitski’s company went 6 months with zero revenue. Then he got a call from his lender saying they were foreclosing on his house. Suddenly, something clicked. Sheldon started making a few changes, grabbed $12,000 from an unused credit card, and within nine years, grew his professional staffing company from $0 to $10 million in revenue. But wait, there’s more. In the past five years, his business exploded to $110 million in revenue. In today’s podcast, he shares his amazing story and the key business insights that led to this dramatic turnaround.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
1. You can’t build a $110 million revenue company by yourself.
Sheldon was a top athlete who moved from Canada to the U.S. to play hockey. Accustomed to being coached, Sheldon said, “I realized early on that I couldn’t do it all by myself, so I started to surround myself with coaches and advisors, both on the professional and on the personal side. I really embraced it.” When asked about his company’s incredible growth rate, Sheldon was quite humble and said, “I wish I could take credit, but surrounding myself with coaches and advisors that have done what I want to do, that, by far, was the biggest impact.” Who’s advising you?
2. Implementing a phantom stock plan is one way to attract and retain great people while still retaining ownership of your company.
Sheldon has purposely molded a certain culture at The Select Group that rewards high performance while still having fun. He implemented a phantom stock program and now “about 25 to 30% of the employees own the stock and with our rapid growth, that’s real money that people are seeing, that they’re continuing to have in the future for college education, houses, retirement, you name it. It’s been really powerful.” It also helps with recruiting new people to the company. “I just recruited a couple of really amazing top executives to the company. These guys were with billion dollar companies and I was able to recruit them, not only because they saw the growth opportunity, but also because they were able to come in and earn some executive phantom stock.”
3. Focusing on developing employees’ professional skills and fostering personal growth along with health and wellness initiatives are culture differentiators that few companies take advantage of.
The Select Group hosts two national conferences each year and all employees are invited. They bring in “outside speakers like past podcast guest John DiJulius and it’s not all rah rah we need to increase revenues. It’s really about self-improvement professionally and personally,” said Sheldon. The firm takes health and wellness seriously, too. “Last year, we bought Nike Fuelbands for the entire company, and we had office contests, cash awards, and an internal system where everyone was tracking their results.” What is your firm doing to show you really care about your employees?
4. The most successful companies “obsess over their customers.”
To walk his talk, Sheldon said, “I went out and hired a chief experience officer. His whole role is to make sure that customers are having an amazing experience.” As an unexpected benefit, obsessing over customers—which includes staff and consultants—has “actually given all of our employees a little bit more of a purpose in life as well, and a purpose in their job. It shows we’re focusing on impacting lives. It’s the ‘why’ behind why we do what we do, and it’s been a huge transformation.” Who in your company is responsible for customer obsession?
5. Entrepreneurs can never lose their confidence or else they’re done.
At Sheldon’s business low point in 2001, he realized that “even though I pretty much lost everything, I was still okay. I had this fear of going broke but now that I was there, I was still going to be okay.” Today, with a thriving $110 million company, Sheldon said, “I often reflect on those times and know that if something were to happen, that I’m going to be okay.” It boils down to one word—confidence. As an entrepreneur or CEO you can never afford to lose your confidence. Even when things are bleak, maintain your confidence (not arrogance) and keep working to find ways to turn things around. Couple that with “your work ethic, your tenacity, your grit, and your heart,” and you’ve got an unbeatable combination for continued success.
1. Use a phantom stock plan to reward your top performers while still retaining control of your company. Your business will grow much faster if you make some of your top performers rich along the way, too. A phantom stock plan is one way to do it.
2. View your employees as your “customers” and obsess over them just like you do with your paying customers. If your employees don’t feel like they’re treated well and that you care about their well-being, how can you expect them to treat the company’s clients well?
3. Never lose your confidence. As the leader, everybody looks to you. You must keep your confidence high, don’t let it slip into arrogance, and be humble and grateful for your success.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.