EP202: Keeping Teams Future-Focused and Failure-Ready
In the last episode, our Sales sultans, Corey and Chris tackled the folly of chasing too many shiny objects. Now, Chris shares pragmatic insights on building resilient teams for the marathon versus the sprint. Should staff know the messy truths from day one? Chris believes people need full commitment to the mission.
Does solidarity trump balance sheet bravado when attempting bold new initiatives? Chris says, "I think people love to look at stuff because looking at stuff is lower risk than doing stuff. Doing stuff is very high risk. You could fail.”
As Corey noted, presentations often overlook the people who drive innovation. Corey reminds us, “The people elements, traits, personas don't live on the balance sheet.” Here’s a question posed, "When you go to a potluck, do you only eat the food you brought first?" Listen as they tackle tough topics like letting go of personnel clinging to the past versus embracing the unknown future in episode 202 of Market Dominance Guys, “ Keeping Teams Future-Focused and Failure-Ready.’
Full episode transcript below:
Susan Finch (00:05):
Welcome to another session with the Market Dominance Guys, a program exploring all the high stakes speed bumps and off-ramps of driving to the top of your market, with our hosts, Chris Beall from ConnectAndSell and Corey Frank from Branch49.
The last episode, these sales consultants, Corey and Chris, tackled the folly of chasing too many shiny objects. Now, Chris shares pragmatic insights on building resilient [00:00:30] teams for the marathon versus the sprint. Should staff know the messy truths from day one? Chris believes people need a full commitment to the mission. Does solidarity trump balance sheet bravado when attempting bold new initiatives? Chris says, "I think people love to look at stuff, because looking at stuff is lower risk than doing stuff. Doing stuff is very high risk, and you could fail."
As Corey noted, presentations often overlook the people who drive innovation. He reminds us the [00:01:00] people elements, traits, personas, don't live on the balance sheet.
Here's a question posed. When you go to a potluck, do you only eat the food you brought first? Listen as they tackle tough topics, like letting go of personnel clinging to the past versus embracing the unknown future, in episode 202 of Market Dominance Guys, Keeping Teams Future-Focused and Failure-Ready.
Corey Frank (01:30):
[00:01:30] What would you suggest, as far as the level of candor, at an early stage, with your people, all the people, about what's our most profitable product or least profitable product, what's fungible and what's not, how we make money, do you believe and have you evolved and have you seen other scenarios where they want to just keep it to the C-suite, and you're just a team member, and here's your myopic [00:02:00] vision? Or do you believe, and success is contingent on everybody knowing exactly what they signed up for, if they're going to go off the earth on search of these new worlds?
Chris Beall (02:10):
Oh, I believe deeply. For me, it's at the interview process. The first time I ever said this to anybody in an interview, I was probably in my early 30s, and I said, "By the time you get to me, it's assumed that you're competent. They don't send incompetent people to be interviewed by me. [00:02:30] Well, that doesn't happen, so therefore, you're competent. So I'm not going to ask you any questions to assess your competence. What I want to do is make it clear to you what you're getting into, and it's going to be your choice whether you want to get in or not. And I'm good either way. So I know you're good enough to do the job. Now I'm going to tell you about the real job, and the real job is doing really hard things."
"So one, we're likely to fail, so you have to accept that we're likely to fail. Why do I think we're likely to fail? Because [00:03:00] otherwise, we wouldn't be doing this. Somebody else would've already done it who is less skilled, determined, insightful, clever or whatever than us. So we're going to do something hard, and hard things generally fail, so you're signing up for failure. So recognize that. But we're going to persist. We're probably going to have a good time. So two, you're signing up to have a good time. Why? Because otherwise, we can't do something so hard that we're likely to fail. It just doesn't work. It doesn't work [00:03:30] to come in all glum and morose, and everything's got to be great, otherwise, I got a bad day. I don't want to hear about your bad day. There are no bad days in the sense of going after the mission. We're just going to do it. So we're going to be enthusiastically wrong every day. That's going to be our thing, enthusiastically wrong every day. We're going to say, 'If we're not having fun, we're not taking this seriously enough,' So we're going to do that."
"And third is, we're going to make a weird sacrifice. I've made it. You'll have to make it too. [00:04:00] That is, we're going to do uncomfortable things when it's time to do them, and we're going to lay them out, what they are. So some of them are we don't get to sell to the people we want to sell to, and some of them are we don't get to build the stuff we want to build, and some of them are, we don't get to go fast when it's time to go slow. They're like that. There are those sorts of things. And we're signing up to do those things when it's time to do them."
"You might notice they all have an interesting feature. They're all in order to reduce [00:04:30] the risk of failure because this is likely to fail. If we don't reduce the risk of failure, we're going to fail for sure. So your career, during this period, is going to be built entirely on our success, not on the skills you gather, which you will gather skills, it's magic, it happens, or the people you meet, but you will meet people. You'll have networks. None of that stuff is the purpose of what we're doing. If our purpose is to make you better, we would've had to have been [00:05:00] bigger already and on a mission where we can't fail, but that's not this mission. This is a mission where we're likely to fail."
So here's the test, then I tell people this, and people are appalled still to this day. If you come to me at some point, and you say, "Hey, I want to go to a conference in order to increase my skills, meet some people or do whatever," I'll remind you of this conversation. The second time you do it, I'll fire you. They go, "Oh." It's like, but if you want to go on a mission with some folks and try to do a hard thing, [00:05:30] you won't die after all, everybody probably will advance professionally because people respect people who do hard things. They do. And you learn real stuff doing hard things.
But the hardest of the hard things are making the transition from one stage of the company to the other. And there's only one person who's going to declare that that's something that has to happen. That's me. And you're accepting that coming in. I'm the guesser. When we must guess, and this is always a guess, I'm the guesser, [00:06:00] and you have to accept that my guesses are the truth. And it's corrupt. I get it. But mathematically, there's no other way to pull it off. Just can't be done. Somebody's got to be the guesser, and you're talking to him.
Corey Frank (06:16):
It seems that when you look at a business model, a company, in X years, we're going to have the hockey stick. We're going to have the J-curve. We're going to have all this, that. Without those elements, what you just described [00:06:30] of the type of people, without even talking about it, because there's many investment presentations you and I have been part of where it's all about the product. It's all about the market. It's all about the margins. It's all about the executables. But it's rarely about the people besides the little bubbles of the three founders or the person who's in charge of your innovation or the person who's in charge of your delivery. But you don't get into that level of persona, that level of first-born, [00:07:00] second-born, last-born, that dynamic of risk-taker, thar be dragons type of courage. And it seems like there should be in your world, correct?
Susan Finch (07:13):
We'll be back in a moment after a quick break.
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[00:08:00] And we're back with Corey and Chris.
Chris Beall (08:03):
It's kind of the whole game. It's kind of the whole game. I look at our company, the thing I'm really proud of about our company is the average tenure of people who are leading our company or doing important jobs is 11.2 years. My tenure is just over 12 years.
Corey Frank (08:19):
At a SaaS software company.
Chris Beall (08:20):
At a SaaS software.
Corey Frank (08:21):
Yeah, that's amazing.
Chris Beall (08:23):
And the reason is not that we pay them extra. I think we do okay. The reason is they signed up for the mission. They're serious [00:08:30] about the mission. The mission is the mission. We're actually trying to help with this big problem, which is it's really hard to make businesses work, to make the innovation economy work, unless folks trust each other, and they won't trust each other to do that thing that they need to do, which is the risky buy, unless that trust is produced somehow consistently through conversations. That's our mission.
And it's fun to be part of. We don't have a [00:09:00] mission statement. We don't talk about the mission, blah, blah, blah. It's literally in our blood. At this point, it's in the organization's blood. And so somebody who might want to work with us, they might sense that, but what we know is there's a bunch of stuff we don't have to worry about. There's a bunch of stuff we don't have to think about. We can operate at the level of minute details about things like, oh, with fast phone numbers, the score [00:09:30] of 50 officially means that we don't know anything about that number, but it doesn't actually mean that it's just a little below 50.1. It actually has another meaning. Therefore, when we use it with the customers, we should do this instead of that. It frees us to do that kind of work all day long.
And it's that kind of work that allows that business model to be animated with reality. It's not revisiting the numbers. I mean, I think people love to look at stuff [00:10:00] because looking at stuff has lower risk than doing stuff.
Corey Frank (10:05):
Lower risk than doing stuff, yeah.
Chris Beall (10:07):
Doing stuff is very high risk. You could fail. So you have to be very enthusiastic about failure to actually embark on doing things many, many times a day.
I think I've told the story on the podcast. I'll tell it again. My eldest, back many, many, many years ago, came to the office on a bring your kid to the office. And we sat through a long meeting in which there was a lot of numbers, [00:10:30] and we were walking over to Starbucks afterwards, and the snow was falling through the air. And she stopped and said, "Dad, can I ask you a question?" I said, "Sure." She said, "Do they really think that by talking about the numbers, they're going to change the numbers? And I said, "Yes, they do." She thought about it for a second, said, "That's very sad."
There's such a temptation to look and think that [00:11:00] looking at where you are in the progress that was predicted by the business model is going to tell you something about what you need to do. What you need to do sits right in front of you, as long as you're not doing stuff that takes you backwards. But if you allow your salespeople to sell to your previous market, the one from your previous stage, you're going backwards. The relationship with a business model of sales is there's a gate. You go through the gate. We're done with the tech enthusiasts. Now [00:11:30] we're finding a visionary.
By the way, your sales team can't probably help you with that. Maybe they know some people. You're going to have to do that one yourself because what you put on the table is what you put on the table. Nobody's going to be able to do it but you.
Now, we've gone past that. Okay, we have the remaining resources. We now have some money. We didn't have to take two rounds of venture capital. Isn't that cool? That's why your VCs will never let you do this because they want to provide those two rounds of venture capital. But now, you're cool. Hey, here's our hypothesis. This is our market. Let's [00:12:00] go get the first one. Totally new activity. Everything we did before, if we start doing that again in order to "make quota," we're going backwards. As long as we're not going backwards, all we can deal with is the details in front of us, which is problems that are friction in our mission.
So what do we do? Well, we address the friction. How do we do it? We name it. We characterize it. It's all theory of constraints at this point, all the way down. It's just over and over, the same cycle. How do we [00:12:30] get the energy to do it? Because we believe it's a good thing to do, and we signed up to do it with each other. That's why. That's how.
Corey Frank (12:36):
And it's not on the balance sheet. None of those people, things, traits, you, Dan, Seth, Matt Forbes, I mean [inaudible 00:12:44], none of that lives on the balance sheet in any multidimensional form, but yet it makes all the difference.
Chris Beall (12:51):
Exactly. I mean, if you were to put it on the balance sheet, you'd put it in goodwill, but goodwill is supposedly the goodwill of the market toward you. But actual goodwill is [00:13:00] goodwill of you toward the market for people you've never met.
Corey Frank (13:05):
Yeah, for sure.
Chris Beall (13:06):
It's that story you tell, and I was just in Europe, you talk to the three brick layers at the cathedral. I'm laying bricks to feed my family. That's noble. A lot of people work like that. Well, I'm laying bricks to build this beautiful work of art, this edifice, which will last for a thousand years. Okay, that's nice. I'm saving men's souls, right? What [00:13:30] is it that's driving all of you together to do the inconvenient thing of dealing with inconvenient details and broken stuff? Because all there is is broken stuff. I mean, otherwise you wouldn't be fixing it.
Every day going forward, your job as the leader is to make sure that you don't go backwards. You'll naturally go forward then. So what's going to take you backwards? Your sales team will take you backwards because you compensate them to do that. So don't do that, and [00:14:00] then your business model can move forward.
Does it really have to follow exactly the math. Our business is interesting. I've been talking to people about it recently. It's like, well, your retention isn't high enough. Well, what's the purpose of retention? Well, to allow you to grow. Well, look at the growth. Well, you can't be growing because the retention's not high enough. No, we're actually growing. Therefore, for the way we sell, it must be high enough. But folks forget that. They [00:14:30] take the antecedents, and they go, "Oh, this has to be here." No. You can look at how it's actually progressing and ask yourself the question, "Are we acquiring more customers that we're helping in a way that they would say good things about us?" Pretty simple, pretty big.
And how fast is it going? It's probably going about as fast as it's likely to go given the situation and the resources we have. Hence profits, by the way, because profits are the infinite [00:15:00] investment. They're infinite. They go on for all time, as long as you keep being profitable.
Corey Frank (15:06):
And that's hopefully what your business model will continue to show. So that's a clinic, Chris, and I think we need to have a couple more episodes about that is all the things that could be in goodwill that most folks don't think about when they're building a SaaS or software company. And you hit on a lot of them, which is the people element, and certainly given [00:15:30] me much sage advice over the years when we talk about personnel. There's a good friend of this program and a good buddy of mine. His name is Eli Chmouni, comes from Neon. He's a great entrepreneur, multiple time entrepreneur, and he went to a workshop with Todd Davis, the founder of LifeLock. This may be a year or so ago. And this is the antithesis of what you're saying about the retention of folks, because hanging onto some folks past their shelf date could be a challenge [00:16:00] to say the least.
And he goes to this workshop with Todd Davis, and the first thing Todd Davis says, I'm paraphrasing, meets the group, doesn't do an introduction, just comes out and says, "Folks," talking to a group of CEOs, "on Monday, you need to fire that person." Everybody's looking around, and it kind of sunk in a little bit. And he says, "The fact that everybody knew and drew their mind to one person in their mind shows you that you know exactly who I'm talking [00:16:30] about, and you just needed a sign from the universe to tell you you're doing the right thing. You're going to do the right thing by having this person move on to the next stage of their career," because we've all done that, as you've said earlier, Chris, when you bring an organization up from the roots and the ground level, and you have some folks that maybe brought you to another level, but it's probably time where they [inaudible 00:16:56], and it's a very, very difficult thing. I found it in my career, very, very, very difficult [00:17:00] to hang on to folks well past their point, but it does bring the organization to a level where it stifles growth. That's another thing I'd like your comment on here before we wrap it up.
Chris Beall (17:11):
Well, there's a lot of folks who yearn for the past. They yearn for what was. I think all of us do to some degree. One of the, I would call it, the horrible things about business is it doesn't have a lot of tolerance for our feelings about the past because we have these folks out there called competitors [00:17:30] who are trying to actually provide something better than we're providing to customers at a lower price and with greater convenience and so forth.
And we have this odd obligation. It's an odd obligation to make a horrible sacrifice every once in a while, which is that somebody who can't overcome the draw of the past, whatever that happens to be, that pulls them in that direction, needs to stop pulling us all toward the past.
And I don't think there's another [00:18:00] cure for it. It's not like there's anything wrong with them. And sometimes it happens in people's lives. They just get to a point where it's like the past is more attractive than the future. At least it's known. That's better the known than the unknown. And yet, when we're building businesses, pretty much all we're doing is wrestling with the unknown. That's kind of it. And we have to do it together. And if somebody doesn't want to wrestle with the unknown, or can't, it's more like can't anymore, but we have to [00:18:30] arrange for them to go find another known.
Corey Frank (18:34):
Yeah. It's the example of when you show up for a potluck, and you and your spouse bring your dish, and you show up to a potluck, a neighborhood or a company, etc., whose food do you eat? You generally eat your own because you know what's in it. You've made it, and you know what it tastes like. Suppose an organization, after a certain point, is that way is maybe the litmus test is everybody should have a potluck. And if you eat your own food, chances are is you're certainly suspect, whether you're [00:19:00] due to maintain the organization so.
Well, that's great stuff, Chris. Beautiful to have you back on this side of the pond, 200 plus episodes under the belt, all kinds of stuff. We got to finish this book one of these days. Certainly, we're going to have a multiple volumes and topics. I learned so much from this, from being, as I said on a LinkedIn post the other day, the more mentally stifled version of Ed McMahon to you, the king of late nights, the king of mid-morning, the king of late afternoon, wherever it is, where people listen [00:19:30] to this podcast. So Chris, for the Market Dominance Guys, this is Corey Frank. Until next time.
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