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What's Better Than Growing BIG?


Guest: Steve Kizy, the president of Midway Dental Supply. Steve’s company has more than 160 employees and hasn’t grown less than an amazing 41% annually in the last five years. Steve is also a client of CEO Coaching International.

Episode in a Tweet: Empower your team and hit your KPI targets to keep growing BIG annually.

What’s Better Than Growing BIG?

Quick Background: So how do you break into an industry as specialized as dental supply?

Easy. Have a dentist tell you, “No!”

“My oldest brother is a dentist,” explains Steve Kizy, “and when I graduated from college it was in 2008 and we were in the recession and I asked my brother if I could work for him and help him grow his dental practice. He looked at me straight in the face and said, ‘No, you cannot work for me. One brother already works for me and I’m not going to take care of another.’”

Steve’s brother did however point him to a niche market with a lot of opportunity and potential for growth. Combine that with an entrepreneurial drive that went back to selling cell phones in his dad’s convenience store as a high school student, and a fast-growth entrepreneur was born.

On today’s show, Steve Kizy discusses how his company is growing so fast in a highly competitive industry and the challenges that go along with that fast growth. We discuss how to foster a culture of teamwork and pitching in that will help any firm in any field get through the rough patches and make BIG happen year after year.

Listen to your team.
The bull in the china shop thinks he looks impressive throwing his weight around, but in the end all he accomplishes is tearing down the shop.

“I listen to everybody,” says Steve. “I might not do everything that they bring up, but I do implement a lot of their ideas because when people have their thumb on the pulse, those are the right people to listen to.”

The team-centric culture you can create as a CEO just by giving your employees a voice can reverberate throughout the life of the business. When Steve Kizy’s company expanded to a new distribution center and two new markets all in the same month, he had to move and organize 11,000 SKUs over a single weekend. Because Steve had been such an open-minded leader, all of his employees felt like they had some skin in the game too. Everyone went above and beyond. Even his sales team put in late hours stocking shelves so that orders could go out Monday morning with no hiccups.

“That was incredible because the people inside who don’t see what the people outside do and the people outside that don’t see what the people that work inside do, all saw each other put it into high gear and have one goal and work hard to get it done,” Steve remembers. “That really built a team and still has not been forgotten.”

Lead by example.
Of course, during that pivotal weekend, Steve’s employees also saw the CEO on the ground floor doing whatever needed to be done right along with them.

“Part of being a good CEO is knowing how to clean the toilets just as much as you know how to read a balance sheet,” Steve says, and he is still a visible example of hard work in action. “I’m always downstairs working with our warehouse,” he says. “I’m always upstairs working with our executive team. I’m always on the road with our sales reps visiting customers and showing them and displaying what a Midway rep should do and how we should act.”

Set your targets at an annual planning session.
Time and time again, we at CEO Coaching see that the companies that achieve BIG growth are following a clear annual plan. Midway Dental Supply is no exception.

“Every year we come out with a vision statement that shows our team where we want to end up,” Steve says, “and every quarter we adjust as necessary. What type of revenues we’re looking for. What type of margins we’re looking for. What type of fill rates we’re looking for.”

The danger for CEOs who haven’t mastered their business as thoroughly as Steve has is setting targets that are too big, too hairy, and too audacious. Midway grows over 40% every year because Steve has identified realistic daily, weekly, and monthly goals that keep his awesome momentum going.

“Pushing the team towards a goal that’s obtainable is what’s easy,” Steve says. “And putting those goals out there in the beginning of the year so they know what their KPIs are keeps everybody in line and focused on what needs to get done.”

Have productive arguments.
The culture Steve has established encourages input from every team member. Steve believes that the inevitable disagreements aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I think conflict is okay as long as it’s respectable,” he says. “I have conflicts with my own team members. We argue all the time, but when we argue we’re not attacking each other, we’re attacking our methods of getting to the same goal. As long as we can see that and if I have two different team members arguing and we make it clear that everything’s going towards the same goal, it’s just how you get there that’s holding us back.”

Steve Kizy: I listen to everybody. I might not do everything that they bring up, but I do implement a lot of their ideas because when people have their thumb on the pulse, those are the right people to listen to.

Ultimately, sorting through those conflicting opinions falls on the CEO’s desk. Once you’ve weighed input from all your top people, be decisive and move forward. If your experience is anything like Steve’s, you’ll find that even employees whose opinions didn’t win out in the end will get on board with your plan because they feel like they were an important part of the process.

Sell simple.
Anyone selling anything these days has to account for the online giants, even in an industry that seems as specialized as Steve’s.

If you’re trying to figure out how to compete with Amazon or Walmart, the answer is: you can’t.

What you can do is give your customers a level of service that isn’t included with their Prime Membership or Sam’s Club card, combined with the simplicity they’re used to from one-click ordering.

“One, our delivery is one day, not two days which a lot of Amazon products are,” says Steve. “Two, our products are very specialized. We keep our employees educated on the product and they can answer questions from doctors about what they’re using. Three, we have a service department that fixes something if it breaks in an office.”

To Steve’s customers, a broken piece of equipment equals days of lost revenue. Instead of waiting for a replacement from a big retailer, Steve’s customers get quick answers, quick repairs, and a quick return to business as usual.

“People buy from Amazon not because it’s the cheapest, because it’s the easiest,” Steve says. “We have tried to simplify our process to make it as easy as possible consistently, so our customers don’t need to look at a source like Amazon.”

Top Takeaways

  1. Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals that will add up to meaningful annual growth.
  2. Listen to everybody on your team and they’ll take ownership of problems, solutions, and your vision for a way forward.
  3. You can’t outsell Amazon, but you can give your customers a specialized, simplified level of service that the big retailers can’t.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.

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