We just wrapped up our second year of podcasting and we had some phenomenal guests who shared a treasure trove of business insight and stories.
After compiling the numbers, here’s a list of our top podcasts along with some key business insight from each one.
The Top Podcasts
Guest: Sheldon Wolitski, founder of The Select Group
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.
Key Business Insight: 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.”
Strategic planning is a relic from a bygone era. Today, the most successful companies create an “Execution Plan” that identifies then delivers on the company’s key objectives and initiatives for the year. In today’s episode, Sheldon Harris walks us through a specific process that your leadership team can use to implement your own “Execution Plan” and make your next 12 months the most profitable ever.
Key Business Insight: You must be extremely clear on “who is going to do what by when.”
If an Execution Planning Meeting fails, it’s usually because there wasn’t enough clarity on who had to do what to drive the desired outcomes. Don’t leave the meeting unless this is crystal clear.
Guest: Cyrus Sigari, co-founder of jetAviva, “Life is Short. Fly a Jet.”
Cyrus Sigari and his childhood best friend Ben founded jetAviva to help make people’s dreams come true. They just happen to do that by selling executive jets–over a billion dollars worth! As an Iranian Muslim and an Israeli Jew, these two men have put aside geo-political differences to build a hugely successful company and remain best friends. Cyrus has an incredibly positive outlook on life and business that is not naively simple, rather, it’s refreshingly candid. In today’s podcast, Cyrus shares some true wisdom about life as well as some insightful comments about building and running a successful luxury goods company.
Key Business Insight: Be analytical in how you analyze the downside of a major decision, but don’t “stare” at the downside.
Once Cyrus has reviewed the pros and cons of a big decision and made the decision, he starts to, “Focus exclusively on the winning part of it, and the concept of losing or it not working out gets eradicated from my mind. The only thing I’m doing is focusing on winning. I’m not focusing on not losing. I think that’s a subtle but important shift from a psychological perspective. Once you’ve done your homework and made the decision, you’re pregnant. Go. Don’t stare at the downside.”
Don Schiavone, the former COO of fast-growing Grasshopper, “The Entrepreneur’s Phone System,” was instrumental in leading the company as it optimized its 100% digital marketing growth strategy and its eventual sale to a Fortune 500 company. He brings together an in-depth understanding of technology with a data-driven “test-everything” philosophy: You can’t manage what you can’t measure. While coaching entrepreneurs at CEO Coaching, Don’s approach to coaching focuses on three pillars of success: people, process, and systems.
Key Business Insight: The key metric many fast-scaling companies optimize is revenue per employee.
Scaling is about growing your business without having to increase the cost of delivering that service at an equal rate. If you can grow revenue much faster than the cost of growing that revenue, you’ll add fuel to your business by increasing your profits, said Don. The key to achieving that is maximizing your revenue per employee. This is a great metric to measure how efficiently you are growing the company. A good SaaS business should be in the $300,000 to $400,000 revenue per employee range once they get scaled. At its peak, Grasshopper was over $800,000 in revenue per employee, said Don.
Guest: Steve Lockshin, serial FinTech entrepreneur
Steve founded several FinTech companies including a multi-billion dollar registered investment advisory firm, a wealth management reporting solutions company, and his newest company, AdvicePeriod, which is redefining what it means to be a wealth management firm in the age of FinTech. Along the way he was named the #1 independent financial advisor in the United States by Barron’s Magazine in 2011, and he became an investor in several hot startups. In today’s podcast, Steve shares some of the key lessons and insights he learned on the road to becoming a top entrepreneur.
Key Business Insight: Hire people who can execute over people who are highly skilled.
Steve said, “I’d hire an A-person with B-skills over a B-person with A-skills. A lot of it is effort. It’s 1% idea, 99% execution.” He hires a lot of athletes because they tend to be hard-chargers and have the determination to get things done. You can train people to improve their skill but it’s harder to turn someone into a “doer” who isn’t naturally inclined that way. That’s why it makes sense to hire people of action and then train them for the skills they need.
6. How Two High School Friends Built Auction.com Into an E-commerce Platform Selling >$30 Billion in Real Estate
Guest: Rob Friedman, Chairman and co-founder, Auction.com
Rob and his high school friend Jeff started an offline auction company that did reasonably well. But then the internet came along and they decided to put some listings online. Things really took off when, after four years of badgering the owner, they bought the domain Auction.com for $1.7 million and rebranded the company. Today, Auction.com is the country’s (and possibly the world’s) largest e-commerce seller of real estate. And they hold a world record! The Auction.com platform was used to facilitate the largest verified e-commerce transaction in history based on current Guinness World Records information: The $96 million sale of Manhattan Towers, a two-building, 309,734 square-foot office property in Southern California.
Key Business Insight: To make the jump from entrepreneur run company to a fast-growing sustainable business, hire people smarter than you.
Oftentimes, the entrepreneur who starts the company is not the best person to run the company as a professional manager. In Rob’s case, he had enough self-awareness to realize he is an entrepreneur at heart and not a day-to-day manager. So, he hired well-educated, well-trained professionals and gave them the room necessary to manage the company. These managers, “all have equity in the business, they’re all our partners, and we’re all rowing in the same direction,” said Rob.
Guest: Inna Kassatkina, co-founder of Global Language Solutions, “Every Word Matters”
Born and raised in Russia, Inna attended college in the U.S and loved it so much she decided to stay. With a love for linguistics and fluent in several languages, Inna met her co-founder, Olga Smirnova, and the two decided to start their own translation company. After initially starting out translating English and Russian, they expanded and now translate more than 100 languages. In today’s podcast, Inna shares her story and business lessons learned as a woman who leaves her home country, comes to the U.S., and lives the American dream.
Key Business Insight: Stop wasting time trying to micromanage weak sales people–just let them go.
Guest: Jack Daly, Speaker and Sales Trainer
Jack Daly said the key to hiring motivated sales people is to hire already motivated sales people (See Jack Daly on the difference between good and great salespeople). Similarly, Inna said, “It is very easy to spot a poor salesperson in their first month on the job because if they’re not picking up the phone, they’re not sales team material. Stop wasting time as a sales manager devising all sorts of plans and performance indicators and other objectives for these people. If they’re not doing basic things like picking up the phone, no amount of management attention is going to help them.” Is it time to upgrade your sales team with people who already know how to sell and don’t need to be micromanaged?
Guest: Ryan Rieches, founding partner of BrandingBusiness
A Chicago native, Ryan moved to SoCal in the 1980s and founded an advertising design studio. Later, he partnered with Ray Baird and built RiechesBaird into one of the nation’s foremost B2B brand strategy firms. Under Ryan’s leadership, RiechesBaird received international recognition for its brand strategy work and was perennially ranked among the nation’s top B2B firms by BtoB Magazine. An astute thought leader, Ryan is frequently tapped by companies, conference organizers and business schools at top universities to speak about corporate branding and business building. He also co-hosts a podcast interview series with marketers and other B2B experts.
In today’s podcast, Ryan shares a template for enhancing your brand and getting to the essence of your “unique promise of distinction.”
Key Business Insight: When you think of Volvo, what comes to mind? Safety! What comes to mind when people think of your company? You need a positioning statement.
“A positioning statement is typically around two, three, maybe four paragraphs long,” said Ryan. It celebrates what you’re great at and is overlaid with your brand personality traits. “People do business with people not faceless, nameless organizations. Bringing forth your personality traits helps your brand connect emotionally to your target audience,” said Ryan. It’s a bit like owning a piece of the prospect’s mind. You must be able to stand apart from the competition. “If you aren’t standing apart, you’re just a commodity who competes on price.” (See: How to make price irrelevant through radical customer service.)
Guest: Josh McCarter, CEO of Booker
Josh McCarter led the spinout of a small firm and with great leadership and a big vision, re-focused the company into new markets and the company experienced explosive growth. As a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, Booker’s platform empowers firms such as spas, salons, dance studios, and photographers to manage their appointments, their staff, and their customers, and, importantly, be able to transact with those customers. With a recent acquisition, Booker has become an end-to-end platform that a service-based business can use to both run their operations and grow their sales.
Key Business Insight: In a SaaS business, metrics such as customer retention, ARPU and CAC are critical to judging the viability of your business.
Since SaaS models are typically based on subscription revenue, “You have to pay attention to how long people remain a customer,” said Josh. This is often expressed as a churn ratio, or the percentage of clients that leave over the course of a year. How much you are selling to a particular customer, called ARPU, average revenue per user, is a highly relevant number as well, because the amount that they’re paying you times the amount of time that they stayed with you, which is your retention, tells you how much value you’re going to get out of that customer. And CAC, or customer acquisition cost, tells you how much it cost to acquire a customer. By putting these and other numbers together, you can get an excellent picture of your SaaS business and determine exactly how fast you can grow and how much money you’ll need to fund it.
The CEO Coaching Summit
CEOs from around the world gathered in Newport Beach, CA recently for the third annual CEO Coaching International Summit. Guest speakers included bestselling authors, health experts, CEO Coaching’s founding partner Mark Moses as well as several of CEO Coaching’s clients. By the end of the two days of learning, networking, and socializing, attendees headed home to all parts of the world with new ideas and relationships that will accelerate their business growth for years to come.
Key Business Insight: Each year, ask yourself the four Make Big Happen Questions.
CEO Coaching’s founding partner Mark Moses kicked things off with some highlights from his recent Amazon bestselling book, Make Big Happen. He said after years of running his own companies as well as coaching top entrepreneurs, he’s identified four questions that help CEOs accelerate business growth. These four questions are:
1. What do you want?
2. What do you have to do to get what you want?
3. What could get in the way of getting what you want?
4. How do you hold yourself accountable for making it happen?
Answer these questions each year and then follow through and you too can Make Big Happen.
Thank you for making this a fantastic two years for the On Your Mark, Get Set, Grow! podcast.
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