Do You Have a Lead Generation Problem or a Lead Conversion Problem?

 

leads

15-3. That’s the battle cry of our expansion real estate team, Hergenrother Realty Group. 15 minutes of script practice, followed by 3 hours of lead generation every morning. Well, I say lead generation lightly. We’ve been calling it that for the past 6 years (and as an industry on the whole, we’ve been calling it that for decades!). But our team has been making a mindset shift over the past couple of weeks from lead generation to lead follow-up. Because the reality is, our team doesn’t need more leads. They need to follow-up and convert the leads they have.

Do you have a lead generation problem or a lead conversation problem?

I’ll make it simple for you. 80% of you have a lead conversion, a lead follow-up problem, NOT a lead generation problem. This is not unique to the real estate industry, but any sales profession. Take a look at the number of people in your database. If you have more than 100 names (and I’m sure some of you have more than 1,000 leads between online leads, sphere of influence (SOI), open house leads, etc.), then you don’t need more leads! You need to learn how to master the boredom of extreme follow-up and conversion. Our team isn’t even calling it lead generation any more! It’s lead follow-up. Sure, I would encourage them to lead generate for maybe 30 minutes a day. But the secret to success is in the follow-up. That’s where the money is. 3+ hours a day of follow-up and your career will be made. Don’t commit to 3+ hours a day of follow-up and you’ll continue to ride the sales roller coaster, a few sales one month, and then no sales for several months. That is no way to build a career, a business, or a life.

Let’s break this down:

Lead Generation – The process of procuring new names and contact information for your database. This can be done online, through networking events, sales seminars, product demonstrations, open houses, etc. Yes, you do need to add new names to your database regularly. However, most sales professionals are either on a team or part of a company that generates the majority of the leads for them (through radio ads, online leads, direct mail advertising, etc.).

Lead Follow-Up – The process of calling, texting, emailing, dropping by, Facebook messaging, etc. existing leads between 6 and 12 times in order to connect. And when they tell you no, you put them on a follow-up campaign to reach back out at a later date. It’s never a NO, it’s just a not right now. Be there and be ready for these leads when they do finally raise there hand, because they will.

Lead Conversion – You have made contact! Maybe you’re having several conversations and are starting to develop a relationship (clients for life, am I right?). Time to move them out of the friend zone and into a paying customer. Conversion is all about getting a lead to say yes to whatever you are asking (usually a sale or potential sale). They have committed to working with you and your goals are aligned. This comes with a lot of practice (yes, knowing your sales scripts), but even more importantly understanding your industry and the market backwards and forwards, being a master of practical psychology, and being able to consult with your lead, understand their goals and their challenges, and provide the solution for them. Conversion complete. However, conversion’s not going to happen if you are not relentlessly following-up.

Need even more convincing that lead follow-up is the game you have to play to win? Check out these stats:

  • You must respond to online leads in less than 5 minutes (30 seconds is better). After 10 minutes your qualifying rate drops by 400%.
  • You must attempt contact with a lead 6-12 times before a connection is made.
  • 80% of real estate agents give up after the third contact attempt!
  • Potential buyer/seller leads are entering their contact information on an average of 19 websites. 76% of them will work with the first agent or team that contacts them.
  • Over 30% of leads are never contacted by a sales representative.
  • The best time to call to qualify a lead is between 4pm – 5pm, the second best time is 8am – 9am.
  • Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days of the week to qualify leads.

What does that mean for you? You will have a competitive edge by just calling and following up with at lead! Speed to lead is critical. And never, ever, let a lead go untouched.

Your database of leads is your bank account. There could be tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars, just sitting there waiting for you to make your move. Forget about generating leads. Make it all about the follow-up, before, during, and after you’ve made the sale. That’s right, just because you’ve made a commission, doesn’t mean you get to walk away from that lead. That was one sale. How about their friends, family, colleagues? Did you get a referral? What about 3 years from now when that client moves? Or two weeks from now when their parents are looking to downsize? Will you be the first person they thing of, the first person they call? Probably not, unless you have developed some sort of post-sale follow-up system. This one lead, could generate 5+ more leads! Check-in regularly, invite them to community events, send them handwritten notes every time they have a milestone in their life, email them discounts or articles of interest – provide value and keep your name in front of them (by the way, most of this can and should be automated). Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.

No matter what industry you are in or where you keep your list of contacts, go take a look at your database right now. How many potential clients do you have right in front of you? How many of them have you talked to recently? Following-up is the first step towards conversion. Get after it.

 

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The Culture of Convenience

convenience

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin 

On any given day of the week, I ask Alexa to add vegan protein powder to my Amazon cart or I ask Siri to text my assistant to rearrange my week’s calendar. I have a pulse sensor hooked to my iPhone to monitor my physical and mental stress (and then either rest or push harder depending on the reading). And my wife orders the majority of our groceries online (got to love Thrive Market and Prime Pantry!). In the winter, I remote start my car (which is perfectly programmed to exactly the temperature I like). When traveling, I save two minutes by taking an Uber rather than a taxi. I use EZ Pass (yes, even when I don’t have the EZ Pass for that state because I’d rather pay a $4 fine then slow down!). I shave even more time off airport security by using kiosks and pre-check so I don’t have to wait in line. I live firmly in the culture of convenience and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We literally have almost anything we could want at the tap of a screen on our iPhones. I hate waiting and I hate wasting time. I will continue to automate (and optimize) as many areas of my life as possible to buy time in order to experience more of life!

This isn’t a new phenomenon, just something that is more evident today because of how rapidly we are innovating and automating (and talking and sharing about it on social media). Back in the days of the cave men, once they learned how to make fire – their lives leveled up. Instead of spending hours and days searching for food and nutrients, they learned how to cook and preserve food, so their time spent hunting and gathering evolved into time spent learning, making better weapons, communicating, socializing, strategically finding better hunting grounds, and thinking, which led to more innovating. That is when man’s mind evolved. We are on the cusp of another social [re]evolution.

And this time, it’s all about time. Benjamin Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” I say, a minute saved is a minute invested into the progressive realization of humans as spiritual beings. I know, I know. Let me dial back the “woo-woo” a bit.

This culture of convenience we live in is all about buying time. Some might call this cultural shift towards automation and instant gratification lazy, impatient, entitled, or attach some other negative connotation to it. But that’s not really the point. Sure, I’m impatient and don’t want to spend time fighting the crowds at the grocery store (hence why I will either outsource my grocery shopping to a local service or simply order groceries online). But it’s more than that. It’s not just about NOT doing something I don’t want to do. It’s about spending that hour working on a new business idea, making breakfast for my wife, writing content for my book or blog, or swimming with my kids instead.

Time is the greatest gift. Time to spend on what is most important to you. If you love grocery shopping. Awesome! Automate or outsource another area of your life so you get to spend time doing what you enjoy, something that will make a positive impact on your life, your family, your business, and your community. The culture of convenience is not about stagnation and the status quo, but about leveraging technology to buy time in order for us to grow as individuals and as a society.

Companies like Hello Fresh, Amazon, and Uber have it right. These services allow us to measure our days in minutes and maximize our time for maximum results. As these, and more companies grow, we’ll continue to have more time in our day. Enjoy it and embrace, but choose how you use that gift of time wisely. If done right, you’ll evolve and grow. Done incorrectly and you’re stuck in mediocrity. When you have more time, you will be able to think more, learn more, exercise more, knit more, and simply have more “you” time. After all, isn’t that the point? To stop doing the things that are necessary, but monotonous, and spend more time on experiencing life your way? In order to have more spiritual growth through experiences, then we need more time to have more experiences! It is a beautiful, virtuous cycle if we embrace it.

The world is changing. You can either evolve as a person (in your company, your career, your marriage, your life) or you will be forced out or left behind. It’s natural selection in action. Where will you be on the other side of history?

The Hardest Part of Building a Business is Dealing With People

people

Last week I was at a neighborhood event and ended up chatting with the CEO of a major global company headquartered here in little ‘ole Vermont. Naturally, our conversation quickly shifted from the weather to business (okay, who am I kidding, there was no small-talk). The total people count in my organization (between full-time staff and independent contractors) is just over 300. This CEO’s ultimate span of control crosses oceans and encompasses over 1000 people. Despite the differences in our company’s size, the challenges remain remarkably similar and they all revolve around dealing with people.

People. Can’t run a business without them. Yes, even with onslaught of AI and systems of intelligence, we’re still going to need people. We’re never going to be able to get away with automating every aspect of business. Certain tasks and processes? Sure. But that just means new jobs are going to emerge for people to help implement and manage these automated systems.

So, what does that mean for you? We already know that building a business is hard. Let’s say you are building a business based purely on your own entrepreneurial efforts – you’ve built out a website, integrated an ecommerce platform, positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry of choice, and are cranking out free content daily while developing your sales funnel so that you can eventually convert those raving fans and followers into paying clients. Eventually, you get to a point where your platform is cranking – you are collecting payments for your ebook or webinar series while you sleep. While you’re awake, you continue to streamline your sales cycle, answer every customer, engage on social media and continue to create valuable content. Sales increase. Engagement increases. You begin to get speaking, podcast, and guest blogger requests. Your customers are asking for new products, yet you can no longer innovate because you’re simply responding to current sales. This is the tipping point where you must make the choice to A. Remain self-employed (and likely scale back on your product or service offerings) or B. Dive into building a business (which means hiring people to support your existing business and then eventually scale).

You choose Option B. You thought what you had been doing was difficult before? You thought the hours were long? You were fueled by an internal drive, even fueled by the problems, the challenges, the stress, but thought that hiring a person, or several people, would offer you some relief from the grind? You thought wrong. When you start to add people to your organization and have to succeed through them rather through your own grit and determination, you’ve added a whole other level of “work” to your work. Instead of succeeding through your own sweat and tears, you have to worry about you employees’ sweat and tears (sometimes literally). And not everyone is cut out to deal with those kind of issues or deal with people problems on a daily basis. That’s really the difference between someone who is self-employed or an individual contributor in a business and a business owner or leader within a company, respectively. Can you bring together people to work towards a common goal, influence and inspire action, and cultivate creative problem solving all while creating a strong culture where people want to work? That is a hell of a lot different than creating a website, sales funnel, and developing content.

When you choose Option B, the real work begins. When you decide to build a business through people, it’s easy to just let go of the reigns and allow other people to start doing the work and making decisions on your behalf. Leverage, am I right? That’s why you started this whole thing in the first place. But just know that when your business starts walking, talking, and making decisions without out (i.e. your employees) there are going to be mistakes and problems, sometimes very expensive mistakes. This is where it really gets tough. Will you be able to whether the storm of growing your business through people? At this point it becomes more than just profit. People’s lives are at stake (your family, your employee’s, their families, and ultimately the legacy you are building to leave behind).

Make sure you are really sure about what you are getting yourself into. Often your top sales person, best player, or most highly skilled developers (which could be YOU!) are just not meant to be leaders. Look at professional sports – very few coaches actually ever made it as professional athletes and those top athletes? You got it, not meant to be coaches. So if you find yourself at that crossroads and trying to decide whether or not you really want to take your business to the next level, you have to understand that it will become less about product development and all about people development. And if that is not okay with you, then you are still going to need a person – you’ll just need to hire someone to handle the people side of the business, while you keep doing your thing.

Again, let’s assume you’re all in and are ready to shift from being the player to being the coach. First, you’ll have to wrap your head around a few things:

  1. No one is ever going to want your company to succeed as much as you do.
  2. You must master leverage (i.e. recruiting and hiring).
  3. Your two most important jobs will become personal development and leadership. And you can’t have one without the other.
  4. You will be responsible for every failure and will have to give credit to someone else for each success.
  5. Your business and your “success” will go backwards for a few years and you’ll have to grind even harder than before in order to get back to where you were when you were doing it by yourself. But if you have the grit to stick with it, the pay off will be huge.

Pushing through the grind and coming out on the other side with your head above water will often take 18-36 months. Then it will be another 18-36 months to grow and scale. Yes,  5-7 years total before you hit your geometric growth. During that time you’ll be focused on people, people, and, you guessed it, people. You will add more people to your team, you will be leading those people, solving problems with and through those people, increasing sales through those people. It’s one thing to solve your own challenge with your own knowledge, business acumen, connections, natural sales ability, etc. It’s a whole other thing to solve those challenges through another individual. That’s why you are no longer in the software, content, social media, real estate, fitness, etc. business. You’re in the people business. And with more people comes more problems. Problems that you never thought you were going to face are going to show up – lawsuits, interpersonal drama, people quitting, haters, groupies, and more! For 5-7 years….

Then one day you get the breakthrough you’ve been waiting for and your geometric run has begun. Your income doubles every quarter, momentum is strong, people are knocking down your door to work for you. And then people start to congratulate you for your massive overnight success in the past year. Bullshit. What about the last 7 years? People will forget that you worked your ass off for the better part of a decade, shouldered the challenges of your organization, as well as all the people in your company – daily. It is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things you can do in your life.

Leaders are not born, they are made (over many years of challenges, sacrifices, hard work, and failing forward). If I haven’t scared you off after this blog and this journey of massive challenge, massive growth and massive reward is still for you, then commit right here, right now, in this moment. If it’s not for you (which is totally fine!), then go find someone who is committed to this journey and figure out a way to get into their life. Either way, buckle up, it’s going to be quite the ride!

 

 

Why Are Real Estate Companies with Zero Profit Being Valued at Billions?

wall st

$18.6 Million. $36.4 Million. $10.7 Million. Nope, those aren’t profit numbers, or even revenue. Those are the net losses sustained by Zillow, Redfin, and eXp, respectively, in the first quarter of 2018. And yet, those three companies combined are valued at over $3.3 BILLION dollars. How? Why? Why are these real estate companies receiving massive valuations when they are not even turning a profit?

In this new era of technology, the 4th industrial revolution, Wall Street is buying into the negative losses and placing bets on which real estate company will be able to “Amazon it”. These real estate companies are betting on themselves too, along with private equity firms, that they will be the next Amazon, except that there is only one Amazon. And only one, maybe two of these real estate companies are going to have explosive success, everyone else is going to lose.

On the other hand, Realogy, Remax, and Keller Williams Realty (if it were publicly traded) are valued at $3 Billion (Realogy) and $1.6 Billion (Remax), the difference is they are all highly profitable. But Wall Street continues to bet on eXp, Redfin, Open Door, etc. to be the ONE successful tech disrupter instead of betting on proven companies with positive cash flow. It blows my mind that companies can have such massive loses ($36.4 Million in one quarter!) and yet still be valued at over a billion dollars. And these aren’t just loses for one quarter, these loses are over several years and continue to increase year over year.

How can these companies sustain such loses and keep pushing forward? Why are they okay with such big loses in the first place? Well, venture capitalists and private equity firms are injecting money into those organizations (based on the hope that they will be one of the few successful tech disrupters). With these huge cash infusions, these real estate companies don’t actually have to figure out how to make money, it just shows up. They are not holding their money accountable. Sure, many of these companies are increasing their revenue, but they are also increasing their expenses, and thus their losses. Now, I’m not saying capital contributions aren’t helpful for fast growth. They can be a great way to hire more people and to build a stronger business foundation through systems and technology. But how much risk, how much loss is too much? Is there a smarter and more sustainable way to grow?

I think it should be noted that Warren Buffet got into the real estate game, but bought a profitable business; he didn’t invest into technology. He is looking for a cash on cash return while Wall Street and private equity is looking to make a fortune at each evaluation and round of investing. We’re seeing the largest growth in real estate right now, and venture capitalists are naturally hoping to capitalize on that. I’m not knocking their method; they are playing the game effectively. But what happens when the market shifts? What happens when Wall Street says enough? A shift in the economy could end the game. They will just loose more and more money. At some point it becomes unsustainable.

What we’re doing at Hergenrother Realty Group, and many other Expansion Teams are doing around the country, is quite similar to Redfin, eXp, and Compass. The biggest differences are that we are building these big companies within an existing real estate company that has proven systems and infrastructure, zero debt, and high profitability and we’re doing it at a slightly slower pace (to maintain said profit). We may not have these high valuations and capital injections, but we have profit. Other companies are not holding their money accountable. We are. Think of it from a personal perspective. When  you only have $100 to spend, you look closely at where even penny is going. When you have $100,000 in the bank, spending $20, $50, or $5 here and there doesn’t seem to make a difference… but it adds up. Quick. If you make $100K, but spend $150K, then you are worse off then if you made $50K and only spent $40k. It’s simple math.

If nothing else, it is a definitely an exciting time to be in real estate. The 4th Industrial Revolution is here and we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what that means for real estate and business in general. As challenging as it will be over the next few years, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s those are that are hustling, that are grinding, that are in the arena, who will ultimate succeed when this all shakes out. I, for one, look forward to being part of history.

 

 

 

 

The 3 Key Hires You Need for Any Business

hires

“You don’t build a business.
You build people, and people build the business.”
-Zig Ziglar

Whether you are a sole-proprietor looking to grow your retail store, an investor looking for their next project, a CEO of a multi-million dollar conglomerate, or a small online business owner, you need people to help your business operate, grow, thrive, and survive. If you don’t want to hire and lead people, that’s fine too. But that is not running a business. Read more about that in a blog I wrote last year called 5 Things You Need to Decide Before You Become an Entrepreneur.

So, let’s assume you have your heart set on building a business. Great. It’s time to invest into people. But who do you hire first? I actually don’t think the answer to this is as cut and dry as one might think. It all depends on you – your natural skills and behavior, and your goals. Let’s say you are a master salesman, well, your first hire then shouldn’t be another sales guy. Hire someone who can fill in for your weaknesses (likely an administrative or operations professional). If you get lost in spreadsheets, love to organize and analyze data, and find enjoyment in creating detailed business plans, then it may behoove you to hire that sales guy!

Regardless of where you land, there are three key hires you will need to make in order to build a solid foundation, successfully operate your business, and ultimately grow. Now, one of these people may be you for a period of time. That’s fine, hire the other two first. However, eventually, if done right, with the right people, you will get to a point where you will have to replace yourself too. I was the sales guy for a while. That was the last piece of the puzzle that I hired for, but I hired administrative/operational and finance staff almost immediately once I knew I wanted to build a business.

Here are the three key hires you need for any business:

  1. Administrative/Operations Staff – Whatever sexy title de jour you choose to use – COO, Executive Assistant, Director of Administration & Operations, Chief Chaos Coordinator – this person will be your organizational and operational wizard. This hire is usually a Jack or Jill of all trades – they are essentially handling everything but sales, assuming you hire this person first. They may manage your personal life, creating systems and process, recruit and hire other team members, HR, bookkeeping, training staff, marketing, and more. As you leverage everything to this person, you are able to focus more on sales and eventually will reach a critical tipping point where this role begins to break off into more than one position. Usually financials (if you haven’t already leveraged that piece) will move first, followed quickly by the EA/PA portion of the position, so that your Jack/Jill of all trades becomes a full on Operations expert who will focus on running the business.
  2. Finance Staff – Is this a bookkeeper? Controller? CFO? Depends on the size of your business. Start small and allow the person to grow with your company, or top grade if necessary. Whatever level this person is at, their basic responsibilities remain the same, handling the financials – from budgets, to billing, to cash flow and expense management.  This person will work incredibly close to your Operations staff  member to handle all the day to day functions of the business, as well as help you plan for and manage growth. Having someone’s eyes on the money at all times is critical, especially in a high growth company where you have to play the money matrix game – constantly shifting where money goes so that it has the most impact and ROI. Without accurate and timely financial data, as a business owner, you could be left in the dark. The financials are critical for making smart, well-informed decisions that could either make or break your organization.
  3. Sales Staff – In my case, this was the last piece to be leveraged. Whoever you choose to lead the sales efforts of your organization must be able to do it better than you (and as the leader of the business, those are big shoes to fill). Sales drive the business, we know this. The more sales, the more clients and customers, the bigger profit, enables you to circle back and add additional operations staff and sales people and it becomes this beautiful, virtuous, cycle. I don’t care what business you are in, without sales, you don’t have a business. Which is why this is usually the last position that a leader will leverage. As this sales staff member grows, they will be responsible for sales goals, as well as for recruiting, hiring, and training additional sales people. Again, sales drives the business.

Operations. Money. Sales. The three pillars of any good business. Now, these are not your only three hires, but they are the first key hires of your business. As your company grows you can start to hire those “value add staff” like that Chief Fun Officer or office Massage Therapist. But find those three incredibly talent individuals to run each component first, then get out of their way, and watch your business grow.

Would you add any other critical team member to this list?

 

Why Work-Life Balance is Not a Worthy Goal

balance
For the last few years every water cooler conversation, aspirational Instagram post,  business blog or podcast, and phone call with your mother has centered around the work-life balance debate. And yes, I call it a debate because as great as work-life balance sounds, is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Do the people who are looking for work-life balance really know what it is they are after? What does work-life balance even mean?
As Gary Keller and Jay Papasan explained in their best-selling book, The One Thing, work-life balance is a myth. They wrote, “Seen as something we ultimately attain, balance is actually something we constantly do. A ‘balanced life’ is a myth — a misleading concept most accept as a worthy and attainable goal without ever stopping to truly consider it.”
Well, let’s stop and consider it. Why would you want a balanced life in the first place? If you think about it, a week has 168 hours, and in theory, most Americans are only working 40-50 hours of that, which leaves well over 100 hours a week for “life.” That already sounds pretty balanced to me. And really, if your life was perfectly balanced between work and life, then wouldn’t that just mean you are living in the middle (i.e. living in mediocrity)? Success doesn’t happen in the middle. Success and growth happens at the extremes. That means that some days you may be working for 16 hours and taking a three day weekend. It may also mean that you could be working for 16 hours a day for three months to push a project forward or build your business and then you counter-balance that with a three week vacation with your family. Work and life will require different amounts of time and energy and focus in different phases of you life (and can often change daily). If work and life were truly balanced, it would not only be pretty boring, you would end up ultimately accomplishing very little in any area of your life. Sometimes, you just need to put a disproportionate amount of time or energy in to your physical health, or to your spouse, or a work project. That’s just life.
Now, I think what people really mean by work-life balance is that they want freedom and flexibility. They want the option to work from home, to travel and work remotely, to set their own hours, to run errands in the middle of the day, and to integrate their work into their life. That concept, I can get behind. Work-life balance for some people may mean not working nights and weekends to be there for their kid’s activities. For others, it means only working nights and weekends in order to take care of an aging parent or small children during the day.
One of the reasons I first got into real estate and starting building my own businesses was for that concept of freedom. Not work-life balance. Freedom and flexibility. I probably “work” more now than ever, but I don’t really consider it work. It’s a part of my life, a part of who I am. I wanted a life that worked for me and my family, where I could work when and where I wanted to and take time for hobbies, vacations, family-time, fitness training, conferences, etc. when I wanted to. A recent analysis by Indeed actually found that of the 15 companies with the best work-life balance, three were real estate companies (Keller Williams Realty ranking #1). For that reason, and many more, a lot of people begin careers in real estate. Note how I said, begin? Well… not everyone is cut out for a career in real estate.
Since this blog post is all about dispelling myths, let’s break down another one. Real estate careers may offer freedom and flexibility, but they don’t necessarily offer “balance.” And it certainly isn’t a career where you can just sit back and have that “work-life” balance without a lot of, well, work (Newsflash: Real estate is nothing like it looks on HGTV or Bravo). Especially not in the early stages of your career. And real estate professionals will never achieve the freedom they are ultimately after if they don’t have great systems, efficiencies, consistent lead generations habits, and a whole lot of support behind them. Beginning a career in real estate as an individual agent is harder today, even with all the technological advances. Why? Because individual agents just can’t compete with the models, systems, marketing, and administrative/operational support that they get by being on a team.
Regardless if Realtors opt to join a team or go it on their own, without a steady stream of business and a whole lot of leverage (again, systems, marketing, administrative support, etc.) then they will not achieve freedom and instead will remain at the mercy of their clients. If you are desperate for business and only have two clients to work work, you’re going to miss a lot of those life things that you are working so hard for just to make a deal. On the flip side, once you have cultivated a business with many clients in the pipeline, you are in control. You feel confident saying no and only working with the clients that you want to work with. Now, joining a team doesn’t magically create this freedom for you, but it does fast-track your success as long as you follow the model laid out for you. And who wouldn’t want that life of control, freedom, and “work-life balance” faster? If that sounds like something you want, just shoot us an email and we’ll tell you exactly how to get there. 
Work-life balance, or rather work-life integration with freedom and flexibility isn’t exclusive to entrepreneurs, business owners, or real estate professionals. If you prefer to be an intraprenuer (an employee), great! It will be your responsibility to align yourself with an organization that gets it – that understands the importance of, and encourages, creating a work schedule that allows you to integrate your kid’s activities, date nights, morning training sessions, and long weekends. One of my employees, Ben Avery, has this concept figured out better than almost anyone I know and wrote about it in a blog post for us last Fall.
He says, “…we always seem to be everywhere we want to be, all the time, and from a life experience standpoint, we leave nothing on the table!” He goes on to explain, “Our rule of thumb is called the 50/50, 50 days a year on the ski slopes and 50 nights a year on the boat. Sounds crazy, but we almost always exceed that and our lives are so much richer for it. Vacation for us isn’t yearly, or even monthly… its WEEKLY! That is the goal… We make the time, we execute on the plans and subsequently, we are always where WE want to be!”
This may sound like work-life balance to some, but if that were the case, Ben would only work 50 days a year! He works much more than that, but has figured out a way to incorporate his family and life and work in such a way that he disproportionately focuses on different aspects of his life at different times.
Now that we know that work-life balance is a bunch of BS, take a hard look at what you are really after. Have you been too far out of balance for so long on the work side of the equation that you are burned out and need to swing in the other direction? Maybe you took a break from work and are ready to get back at it. Do you need to make a career change that allows for more flexibility and for you to feel fulfilled? Do you need to volunteer more? Do you need to find a company that aligns with your values? I don’t think what you are really after is balance, it’s these things above.
In a perfect world most people want to create income doing something that fulfills them, while being able to integrate their work and life. Attack life. Make every minute count. Balance be damned.

An Open Letter to Leaders

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Dear Leaders (and Leaders-in-Training):
The days of top down, command and control managerial leaders are a thing of the past. Today’s leaders are vulnerable, collaborative, aspirational, and inspirational. Today’s leaders are globally connected and community focused. Today’s leaders are building empires and leaving legacies. Do you have what it takes to be a top leader in today’s fast-paced, constantly changing world?
So, what does it take to be an amazing leader? I’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not about a title or position. It’s not about tenure or seniority. It’s not about intelligence or degrees. And it sure as hell isn’t about age. Amazing leaders can be found at any level of an organization. Wherever there is a group of people – in schools, non-profits, homes, Fortune 500 companies, governments and churches – leaders show up. Are you one of them? When people are searching for guidance, looking for direction, or asking for decisions to be made, do you step up and lead?
Great players (i.e. star employees, co-workers, etc.) don’t always make great leaders and that’s okay. Take Michael Jordan, for example. Perhaps one of the greatest basketball players of all time with 6 championship wins. As owner of the Charlotte Hornets his record is less impressive. Someone who is a great basketball player needs to become a different person to lead a team. Not everyone is up for the challenge. Are you?
If you have your mind on leadership and leadership on your mind, you’ve got to ask yourself if you are willing to change and grow into the person you need to be (which takes years of purposeful effort). Leadership is not a passive activity. You can’t just sit back and watch events unfold and have pleasant conversations over afternoon tea. You have to get into the arena and have tough, really tough, conversations and make gut-wrenching decisions that effect other people’s lives. Leadership is knowing that not everyone will be happy with your decisions, but you make them anyway, trusting that you are doing the right thing for your company. You have to be okay with being publicly criticized about the decisions you make. You will never be able to make everyone happy. Once you move from the sidelines into the arena, it’s a different game. You will be judged and judged hard. You will either thrive on the pressure or it will break you – there is no gray in the leadership world. You’re either in or you’re not.
Leadership ain’t pretty and yet it’s one of the greatest things you can do. Still want to be a leader? Then you’ve got to ask yourself:
  • Am I willing to go above and beyond what your job requires every day?
  • Am I a team player and consistently putting the good of the company and the good of the team ahead of myself?
  • Am I leading myself first by reading, exercising, journaling, meditating, etc . daily?
  • Am I teaching others how to think differently by asking powerful and purposeful questions ?
  • Am I role modeling the behavior of a leader?
  • Am I adding massive value to others and intent on making someone else’s life better?
  • Are people coming to me regularly for leadership advice and guidance?
Were you able to answer “yes” to all of these questions? Good. You’re on the right track. Did you discover that you still have some work to do? Great. It’s not going to be easy, but awareness is the first step. Now it’s about taking the necessary steps in order to develop influence and build your leadership skills.
It’s really difficult to move from the stands and into the arena. Most people are unable to withstand the stress and end up laying down their sword and climbing back into the stands. But that is the difference between mediocrity and greatness. There is pain in either path – the pain of mediocrity or the pain of growth. You get to decide. Greatness means picking up the sword and going into battle over and over again no matter how many times you get knocked down. True leaders are rare and the world needs more of them. People who are not satisfied with the status quo and who are unafraid of the ridicule they will receive. People who can withstand the pain, pressure, and loneliness of leadership.
If you feel the call to become an amazing leader than it is your duty to answer. You can not assume that others will rise to the challenge, because they won’t. Leadership is the ultimate test of vulnerability and perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give to the people around you. When others are sitting back, resting on their laurels, when others are keeping their heads down and their mouths shut… Be bold. Be brave. Stand up and lead.
Don’t fear the fight. Fight forward,
Adam

Why CEOs Need a Chief of Staff and an Executive Assistant

c suite dream team

I’ve had a Chief of Staff (COS) for several years and the most common question I get is what does she do? Well, you’d have to ask her; I’m not entirely sure. Really. That’s the point right? I couldn’t tell you exactly what my Executive Assistant does either. What I do know is that I am able to focus on my 20% (sharing the vision and mission, leading the team, and making important decisions) because I have my COS and EA behind me. 

The Chief of Staff role, most commonly seen in the military, government, and hospitals, has been making it’s way onto the corporate scene more recently. Entrepreneurs, high growth start-ups, and complex corporations are all starting to see the benefit of having a Chief of Staff, well, on staff. So what exactly does a Chief of Staff do? The Chief of Staff (COS) role is probably one of the most misunderstood positions, right next to that of Executive Assistant. Let’s break these two roles down.

A recent Inc.com article explains it well:

As a company grows and becomes more complex, hiring a chief of staff can be a smart move. In the political arena, the COS is a leader and trusted advisor who takes responsibility and delivers results for the president or governor. In the corporate world, the COS understands the company’s sensitivities, customers, and team members who make it all work.

While the COS concentrates on troubleshooting and paying attention to the daily needs of the company, he makes room for the CEO and COO to spend more time strategizing and focusing on the growth of the company.

Another way to look at it is that the COS focuses inward. They manage the needs of the CEO, Executive office, and company, such as overseeing employee satisfaction, recruiting, brand and reputation management, training, communication flow, and maximizing the CEO’s reach. While a COS may often have a focus area (such as recruiting, technology, or business development), they will more often then not be the “filler” or as I like to call it, the “fixer” position. They will take on any special projects that do not fall specifically to any other person or department in the organization. This might be an internal audit of the company’s operations, setting up a new recruiting platform, or establishing a Foundation in the CEO’s name. The work is varied and strategic. A high powered COS maximizes your reach, attends meetings on your behalf, keeps projects on track and moving forward, ensures communication is flowing between all parties to successfully achieve your priorities and goals.

Where the COS is strategic in nature, the Executive Assistant (EA) is more tactical. While the COS is managing the company, the EA is “managing” the Executive. This can be everything from travel arrangements, meeting prep and follow-up, event planning, extensive calendar management, research, and assisting with personal items. A high powered EA knows the names of everyone in the room, and details on them and their families, they can throw together an event in a week and ensure it is flawless, they anticipate needs, know what you know, and take care of all the details behind the scenes so you, the CEO, can simply show up and lead.

There are, however, a few caveats to consider. A high powered EA may often be serving in the capacity of a Chief of Staff, just as a Chief of Staff may be fulfilling some of the functions of a Executive Assistant. Depending on the structure, size, and complexity of your organization, it might be the same person. And, because the corporate Chief of Staff role is still being developed, one CEO’s Chief of Staff is really an EA (more tactical), while another’s serves as a Vice President (more strategic).

Now, I didn’t hire a COS, my COS started as my EA over seven years ago and grew into the position, taking on more and more projects and leading alongside me as my companies grew and became more complex, as we added new teams, new divisions, and new projects. About a year ago, the workload was such that it necessitated our search for, and eventual hire of an Executive Assistant. 

So what do the COS and EA roles have in common? They are both force multipliers. They take your vision and make sure it is carried out. They both lead and assist a CEO and typically only report to the CEO or another senior C-Suite Executive. Strategy and tactics combined, they are the ultimate C-Suite Dream Team. A great COS and EA will work together to get things done before you even know you needed them. 

With both a COS and EA on staff, a CEO can not only be extremely focused on only the most important issues each day (thanks to the support of their EA), they can also be in two places at once (thanks to their COS). Let me give you a couple of examples of how the CEO/COS/EA relationship works in my organization:

  1. When I am on my one-on-one coaching calls each week (which my EA has scheduled, often rescheduled, and then prepared any documents or notes for me), my Chief of Staff is meeting with potential talent or future business partners for our company. My EA has ensured we are both in our meetings when we need to be and then is asking us for feedback and follow up items so that nothing is forgotten or missed.
  2. This weekend we hosted a full-day seminar, called Quantum Leap, for high school students (and some parents). My Executive Assistant planned and organized the entire event, arrived early to set up, and ensured that the day went smoothly, so all I had to do was show up and be totally present while teaching these high schoolers. My EA also made sure the students had everything they needed and checked in with them during the breaks. Meanwhile, my Chief of Staff was giving tours of the office to current and future business partners and making connections with and for some of the adults who were there (sounds like we may be launching an internship program next!).

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t a CEO want both a COS and EA on staff? If you are a CEO with multiple divisions and complex business systems, an entrepreneur with several companies and business ventures with multiple stakeholders, or a founder in a high growth start-up, you need an Executive Assistant and a Chief of Staff. Your day will run smoother, you will be able to serve your company at a higher level, and you will be able to maximize your vision, reach more people, and ultimately grow and scale your company bigger and faster, all while maintaining your sanity (at home and at the office).

Want to learn more about these two roles and how to implement them successful into your organization? Email my Chief of Staff at Hallie@adamhergenrother.com. You can also check out two webinars we did recently: One that explains the various positions, along with other administrative roles, and one that specifically discusses the difference between the EA and COS positions (email Hallie to purchase that webinar).

Do you have a Chief of Staff? How do you define the position in your organization? How do you see these roles evolving in the future?

 

 

 

Fall in Love With Your Vision. Date Your Model.

love

I mentioned last week that I have been diving deep into my organizations and I’m still asking questions, making changes, challenging our previous way of doing things, and generally breaking shit. I’m relentless. Here’s the thing, though, I would rather be disrupting my own organization, than allowing the competition to do it. I will always be one step ahead because I refused to rest on my laurels. One thing is for sure – as I’ve been getting really granular and digging in deep on every little part of the organization, the big vision has never been more clear.

Sometimes you really do need to go small, in order to go big.

As a business leader (really, a leader of any sort of organization – your church, your family, a committee at the office, your fitness group, etc.) your vision is critical for the overall success of your organization. Without a vision, what is it all for? Leaders must be communicating the vision constantly (every four minutes) and it should be so consistent that anyone in the organization could be asked, “What is the company’s vision,” and they would all be saying the same thing. Is this happening in your company or on your team? Does everyone know why they are coming to the office each day (other than for a paycheck)? If they don’t, that’s on you. Change it now.

Consistency is really critical here. My five organizations have shifted focused, had multiple divisions, closed a couple divisions, changed models and compensation structure, gone through re-branding, etc. But despite all of those changes, the North Star, the vision, hasn’t wavered. I am just as committed today, as I was ten years ago, to build a business where personal growth is the foundation for transforming the lives of my employees, their families, and our clients. I fell in love with my vision and so should you.

So, while you need to stay true to your vision (for the sake of your staff, your overall brand, and the consistency of your leadership), I would definitely encourage you to date… your model. Here’s what I mean. If you’ve got your North Star, your vision, in your sights, then it will be up to the model to get you there as quickly, as efficiently, and as profitably as possible. There are going to be thousands of ways to do that. Think about it – if you want to lose weight (your vision) how many different programs are out there to help you achieve that goal? Pretty much endless! Hell, all you have to do is eat less and move more! You can chose a model, let’s say intermittent fasting, then after 60 days realize you don’t have as much energy as you used to, so you move to a low carb, high fat eating plan with 3-5 HIIT workouts a week. Great. Still on the path towards your vision, the model has just changed.

Your model for any goal and ultimately for your vision should be flexible, nimble, and ever changing. If you get stuck on a model, then you’re often unable to see what might need to be changed, adjusted or completely thrown out. If you get stuck on a certain model being the only way to achieve your vision, then you may never achieve your vision at all. For example, if your vision is to see a sunset, but you’re running East then, no matter how hard or how fast you run, you’re never going to see it! If something isn’t working, make a change. Direct your energy towards the right activities, the right models. That does not mean your vision changes, your vision should be the guiding force in determining when or how to adjust your model. The why (your vision) doesn’t change, your how (the model) can and should. Sometimes the tweaks are minor, like adjusting an intake form and follow-up process. And other times your model may change drastically, like reorganizing an entire team or division, eliminating a product offering, or changing your company name. Regardless of the size of the change or how your model shifts based on these changes, the vision must stay in the forefront of your mind.

In fact, when models are shifting and there are multiple changes in the organization, then it is more critical than ever to be sharing the overall vision of the company. You may need to up your vision sharing from every day, to every hour. You must make sure all of your leadership team members and division leaders are also communicating the vision and how each team member’s individual contribution fits into the overall vision. Change is difficult, especially when people feel like it’s just change for the sake of change. Change often requires extra work, learning a new system or process, or shifting job responsibilities. If the vision is clear and a team is bought into it, then they will not only withstand the model change, but come out on the other side stronger and more committed to the company and vision then ever. Dating is hard. It’s up to you to guide your team through the dating phases of building your vision, while ensuring they never forget their love of and commitment to the vision.

What’s your vision? How many iterations have you gone through on the way to fulfilling your vision?