Who is Brad Raney and what are the key takeaways in this episode?
In the wake of the 2009 financial crisis, many entrepreneurs have gone bankrupt, but a few have emerged and turned this downside in the economy into their own advantage. Today’s guest, Brad Raney, author and CEO of Personal Performance Partnerships shares with us his experience with the financial meltdown and how it impacted his career.
Some of the topics we’ve covered in this 49 minute interview include:
- His journey and how he was able to write and publish two books
- The seven habitual characteristics
- The turning point in his life that took him to his coaching career
- What Brad thinks are the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make
- Why conversation is important in the motivation process and in building a strong company culture
- What management is by walking around
- And more..
[5:33] You have got thirty years of experience you have shared with us in live TV, radio and internet. So that being said, what was your tipping point, what was your ‘aha’ moment?
Answer: The ‘aha’ moment in life was what we discussed with my dad in terms of getting really serious. The ‘aha’ moment with the business was at a time when – I guess we all lived through 2009. I knew these guys who worked on completely straight commission and weren’t going to make more money in 2009 than they did in 2008 and I knew I had to distract them so I turned 2009 into a year of learning and wrote down some words that were real important to me and they ended up being what I call the vowels.
[14:08] When you talk about management and dealing with shifts in the leadership in the office, can you tell me a little bit more about that and how that relates to culture in your opinion?
Answer: It’s this cultural phenomenon that occurs where people at the top, sometimes have wandered on and don’t understand. They’re just trying to make the spreadsheet work. Each individual contributes to the culture and if the culture is “I’m just living for the next eight hours,” you got a problem.
[20:13] In your new book, Reaching Your Peak and Becoming the CEO of Your Success, you talked about helping entrepreneurs build a road map to success. What tips can you give them on how to build a great team and how to have the right culture?
Answer: If you are starting a business or you have a business and you want to grow or you are adding a division or you are doing something, it starts with hiring the right people and it can’t just be talent-based. Talent is important. Talent is critical, as you have got to have the right people, those who have the right skills, but there is something to the mix.
Culture According to Brad Raney:
Culture is a variety of things; it really depends on the people that you have in place. It depends on their styles but really in this particular case I have done a lot of work with companies that are going through change.
Go To Quote for Inspiration
- The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
What Brad Wants His Company to BE:
- BE Honest
- BE Creative
- BE Yourself
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:
Where to Find Brad Raney:
Connect with John on
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
John: Hey Brad, welcome.
Brad: Hey John, thanks for having me today.
John: I am so glad you could join us. I know you took time out of your busy day, so let me jump right in and why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about you? Tell us about you before your career started what shaped you and what made you the man you are today.
Brad: Yeah. I don’t think you have got enough time for that, but I will see if I can give you some of the highlights. I grew up in a household where my dad was actually on television, he was a news, weather, sports guy from the mid 50’s up to the early 70’s and so my whole upbringing was walking down the street and people stopping and asking for his autograph or going into a restaurant and them clearing tables.
It was a whole different lifestyle. Because, keep in mind at that time there were three channels, so if you were on one of them you were huge regardless of the size of the TV market that you are in. so I always wanted to be in media, in one form or another.
So I got an honors degree in broadcast management from the University of Tennessee and started my own business right out of college as a producer of all kinds of tapes, meetings, weddings, in-house training tapes, that type of stuff and then I kind of shifted. I thought I was going to do what I wanted to do. I have been on the radio and had a little bit of fun doing stuff like that.
And then my dad had a heart attack at a very young age and died back when I was twenty six, and it really made me get a new perspective. It made me really re-shift my focus into what was important to me and how I wanted to be my own guy do my own thing, but actually I looked around and said “I probably need to have a career of some sort,” so I started to work for a TV station in sales. I got moved up into management very quickly and was in management in one form or another in several TV markets for about twenty five years.
And so you never know where that little turn in life is going to happen, but there was a clear path for me. It’s one of those where I looked at Dad and said “Okay, he has been in television for a long time; it’s my background. I have got a degree so why am I running from it. Let’s embrace it,” and it ended up being something I did for twenty five years.
John: So why do you think you were running from it?
Brad: I just think it was one of those things where I had this entrepreneurial, independent streak in me. He did as well and my mom does as well, my mom actually owned a preschool for fifty years and finally just retired from it about two or three years ago.
My dad, even though he was on the air, had several businesses on the side and there was always this entrepreneurial streak in the household. My very first job was when I was just out of college; you get let out after four years and here’s your opportunity.
I was a news photographer at the ABC station here in Knoxville and it was $200 a week and all the stuff you could shoot and it’d never air.
I mean, it was the toughest job ever. That’s when you had the giant camera on your shoulder and then the deck that you carried was actually a recording device and then you had this light belt that was about ten pounds so you had to carry around sixty to seventy pounds of gear. I felt I was headed overseas with a rifle and everything else.
This thing was huge and it was extremely expensive and extremely hard to use, and I was looking around going “I went to school for this? This is what I have got to do to make money now?” And during the time that I was actually at the TV station one of the other guys who was there was actually a better shooter than I was and said we should try some stuff, that there was some stuff we could do on the side if I wanted to get involved in that.
I was like “Sure, if it’s on the weekends I need to make money.” We made four or five times as much on the weekend as what we were making in the week. It did not take us long to go “Ah, there’s a business idea.” And so I jumped out of my initial very short time in the corporate world and went back to me and it really took that catalyst to go “You know what, this is not a bad thing. Just because you had a bad experience first time out of school does not mean that there can’t be a good thing in there and it just made me refocus, frankly it was just a crystallizing moment in time.
John: Thanks for sharing that with us. Hey Brad, today you are a national speaker and international author, sales and management trainer and CEO and founder of a personal development company called Personal Performance Partnership.
You have got thirty years of experience you have shared with us in live TV, Radio and internet. So that being said, what was your tipping point, what was your ‘aha’ moment?
Brad: The ‘aha’ moment for life was what we discussed with my dad in terms of getting really serious. The, ‘aha’ moment with the business was at a time when, I guess we all lived through 2009 so we can talk about it this way.
In the worst economic year since 1930 I was actually managing a TV station and the team we had there. The guys that went out and did all the selling of the ads are completely commissioned with no base and we were looking at the end of 2008 and 2009 and getting these predictions for the marketthat it was going to be down 20%, 22%, 24%. It was awful; it was going to be about eleven years of market growth gone in one year.
So I knew these guys that were completely straight commission weren’t going to make more money in 2009 than they did in 2008, and I knew I had to distract them so I turned 2009 into a year of learning and wrote down some words that were real important to me and ended up being what I call the vowels.
They are seven habitual characteristics that start with AEIO over U and I turned them into seven sales meetings to start off 2009. And the eighth week was a work shop to get them into our lexicon and how we communicated to our clients and to make sure that we could be conversant with them to make sure people were knowing that they still had to market their business even though we had a terrible economic downturn.
What happened is these guys started to take these vowels and have me do them a bunch of different ways. They were great networkers and they would say “Can you do this at my rotary club and can you do it at my men’s group. Can you do it at my networking group” and I started to take these eight weeks of material and putting it into twenty and thirty minute chunks and then hour chunks. Then I made a workshop out of one and in different ways I got to speak at one of the events. I think it was the rotary club, where someone came and said to me, “This would be perfect for job seeking.” And I said “What are you talking about? These are sales things,” He said, “You don’t understand. Looking for a job is a sales process and what you have aren’t sales skills, they are life skills: upwards, attitude, energy, effort, integrity, intensity, outlook and uniqueness.”
They were the seven words that meant something to me, which personally I thought I could convey to my sales team to keep them confident in a terrible year. But what other people saw was different things and what I found was that the vowels were just a prism. I can basically turn them in a bunch of different directions and they can mean something to virtually anyone.
So I did speak at this guy’s career expo and I had people coming up to me at the end of the hour that I had, and they were like “Can I go to your website? Can I buy your book?” And I said I don’t have any one of those.
But at that point in time in the great state of Florida there was 12.4% unemployment so we knew there was a huge need, so I did start a website. A couple of months later, I did start writing my first book and it was published about six months later and it’s now sold on three continents.
It’s using the vowels in a way to help you find your purpose or job. If you had to ask me five years earlier if I was going to be writing a book on how to find your perfect job I would have told you that you were insane. Because I had no knowledge of that or how to do it but that is one of those things that happens and it’s just that point in time when I knew there was something more to just managing and teaching and coaching, which I had done naturally for years.
Doing it on a broader scale opened up a vision for me that maybe there is a company here. Maybe there is something to it. That was the beginning in 2010. By the end of 2011, my wife looked at me. I had just turned fifty earlier in the fall and she said “I know you worked 361 days this year because I know the four days you were off. You can’t do that anymore. You are fifty, you are not thirty. You have got to pick one. If you are going to do this business, you have got to do the business. If you are going to continue to work for other people then you have got to scale the thing back. You can’t do this. You are going to kill yourself.”
She was right, she is beautiful and talented and smart, that’s why I married her, because she keeps me in line. She basically challenged me and I began the business full time in the beginning of 2012 and at that point had already started working on the second book, which is called Reach Your Peak and it was all about taking the vowels and putting them back in this success base where they came from.
And so that was sort of the catalyst, that was that twist, where you go “Is something here? Yes, I can use these the entrepreneurial skills I kind of put away for twenty five years and do what I have been gifted to do,” and that was one of those revelations that you find during all that.
During that period, I discovered all the spiritual gifts that I had been given: writing, speaking and empowering those around me to be the best that they can be. So really what I am trying to do now, John, is if I can utilize one or all of those on any given day it’s a pretty good day.
If something that I have written has made somebody think, if I have spoken to someone and coached them and watch the light bulb go off or if I have done something where I have really tried to give people the empowerment and the opportunity to expand their idea of what they are and what they can be, that’s what I am here for. And that’s really what the company is founded on, it’s what we try to work with and the associates do a variety of things along with what we do, but the primary goal of this entire business is taking people and pushing them up to the next level whether they realize if they can get there or not.
John: Self-limitations is typically what holds all back. Most entrepreneurs have this desire they want to be fulfilled. You talked about what drove your ‘aha’ moment. Also, it’s pretty interesting for all our listeners to hear.
Everybody has a partner everybody has a tribe and I always talk about to all my listeners, my tribe. I have a tribe; it’s my seven brothers and sisters, my mom and dad, and my wife and my children. That’s my tribe and that’s what builds who I am and it’s the fiber of where I come from. But also when I listen to you, it’s great to hear that from you that you have your tribe, that you can reach out and it’s the fiber of who you are.
I looked at your new book that came out, Reach Your Peak, and that’s a really good book for my listeners. If you get a chance you should get the book; it’s very interesting. Become a CEO of your success and I think that in itself speaks to us, doesn’t it, Brad?
Brad: I will agree and again people have asked me this a couple of times in different formats throughout the years, to tell me about their writing process and how to write a book. I don’t know what I was doing with the first one.
I was basically – I had this vision, my dad had this office and he would go to his office and this was the sixties and he would smoke and there would be smoke rings everywhere he had the windows open and he would have a bottle of scotch. There was just stuff coming out of him and it was just amazing and I was like “Okay, when I write I’m going to go up in the mountains and find a little nice condo next to a stream and I am going to open the window and hear the water flowing and I am going to have a cocktail and relax and just let things happen.”
And really what the first book was me and my laptop at the kitchen table for an hour at night after the kids went to bed, every night, and it was a weird process because I got through with it and my wife who is my editor said, “Not that I did not know this already, but you are really moody. There are about four or five people who wrote this book and we are going to have to find one voice.” So I had to go back and rewrite the book in the voice of one person which was a little interesting and that process was not that long as it was just a few months because I could concentrate and did it hour by hour.
This other book took four years because really it was kind of a metamorphosis of a lot of things. It was some of the speaking, it was some of the training, some of the working with the teams, it was kind of melding all that stuff together and then there would be more of a research piece that would be more than anything else.
But I am extremely proud of it. It was a lot of work and the opportunity to do both of them was tremendous because I saw two different sides of the coin. One totally immersed, let’s finish it. Let’s get it done in two or three months. The other one where I could have put it out two years ago but I did not think it was done.
I thought there was something else I needed to learn I thought another corner, another chapter, another something that happened.
Finally, I was working with the publisher that did the book. They had given me a contract two years ago and they were very kind and let it kind of sit there for a while and finally I guess toward the middle of last year Dr. Tate calls me and goes, “It says on your contract for eighteen months are you ever going to finish this thing?” and “Yes sir, let me wrap it up” because I would have probably still been going and making notes and I would have had to do some kind of volume two and volume three because I have got much more to say about the topic. But at some point you have got to take a snapshot and have got to put it to bed and that’s what happened with this. It was a totally different process.
John: It’s a great book and if my listeners get a chance they should take the time to get it and read it. It has a lot of interesting points that really work to today.
Now, Brad I want to jump to something here in one of your keynotes “The key still works I guess it’s going to be a good day.”
You talked about management and dealing with shifts in the leadership in the office can you tell me a little bit more about that and how that relates to culture in your opinion?
Brad: Sure, culture is a variety of things it really depends on the people that you have in place. It depends on the styles but really in this particular case I have done a lot of work with companies that are going through change.
And as we know ever since 2009, the economic landscape has changed. Companies have right sized or down sized or whatever they want to call it. And they have tried to find a different way to do business more efficiently with fewer people and sometimes with more people. But the challenge of the changes come in a bunch of different forms. Uncertainty creeps up when you are trying to deal with that. New office spaces can cost. If you have been shifted into some place you are not used to – I did some work with the University of Chicago and their positions group. And the positions group had existed for a number of years like 25 years in one building. All of a sudden, they dumped these 125 people from the call center into the same building with them and it’s disrupted the culture completely because these people were used to having their own space, it was quiet; now, all of a sudden, half the building’s talking 24 hours a day, literally. Some people lost offices and had to go to cubes and people lost cubes and had to go to rows. There were really dramatic shifts. There were some shifts in managerial style that occurred during that. Some of their responsibilities got warped, that’s what I term it as. This is where you really need to break it down to the simpler lessons.
Are people working to survive or are they working to succeed? If you’re working to survive, you get a silo mentality where you get to your desk, you go, “Let’s just go through the day. I got eight hours. I want to try to keep my head down, not get fired, not get into trouble, just do what I got to do and get out of here and if that’s pervasive, the productive nature of the business is going to drop, the quality of the work is going to drop, the whole essence of having some kind of culture or movement forward is pretty much non-existent. The morale is going to suffer dramatically and the only people that win in that particular orientation are the people in the corner offices who are going, “Hey, we’re a whole lot more done and we’re spending a lot less money to make it happen.”
It really comes back to can you – from really inside out – see that this culture has radically shifted and what can we do about it? The whole thing about “My key still works” came from a TV session that a group that I was with acquired up in Nashville and there was a complete turnaround. That was an absolute disaster. It was owned by a group that didn’t care. They have several stations around the country and this one was their throwaway. I guess where they were taking their losses so they could tactic really better.
It was in terrible shape and as we came in and started making changes, one of the engineers who had been there for years was standing in the lobby one morning and he opened the door. He used this key card to open the door and walked in and said, “My key still works and it’s going to be a good day.” And I went to the office at that moment, John, and wrote that down because I thought that was so important because that was one guy out of this very small station, one guy out of 35, who thought that way and probably most everybody else in the building thought that way, they just weren’t as effusive as this guy was to be able to walk in and say it and it made an impact on me.
I wrote that down and ended up being this key note that’s all about the shifts on how you deal with it, on what you do and how you recognize it. And it’s this cultural phenomenon that occurs that people at the top, sometimes have wandered on and don’t understand, they’re just trying to make the spreadsheet work. Each individual contributes to the culture and if the culture is “I’m just living for the next eight hours,” you got a problem.
John: Yeah. And now we see this huge shift that’s coming at us and quite often there’s a number of people in the corner offices who have their head in the sand. The sand is shifting amongst our feet. There is a workforce called millennials that are coming in that quite honestly, don’t look at the world the way that you and I do, Brad.
I can talk to my son and his friends and it’s not about money. It’s about environment. They won’t define themselves by where they work. They’re not going to work 80 hours a week; they’re not going to work 70 hours a week. They’re going to have balance in their life.
It’s a whole shifting going on and I really looked and I’ve seen some of the work that you’ve done, you’ve tried to tell people this and now you see organizations and you say, “Hey, you’re alright today, but 7-10 years from now you’re going to be hurt because those people today will be retired and nobody’s coming to work for you and nobody’s want the crap beat out of them every day.” We’ve had that whole environment and we’ve been in interior business for over 30 years, my wife and I. We have a major corporation that we’ve had as an emerging company. I can sit back and say “That one is not going to make it.” And sure enough, seven years later, there’s this huge epiphany for people, that didn’t work out so good.
And you can trace it right back on how they treat people – it’s not how they treat the people; it’s in the environment and culture they created and everybody didn’t have a skin in the game and nobody can tell the emperor that he or she didn’t have clothes on and there wasn’t any honest and forthright communication.
In our company, we have one rule. Treat people the way you want to be treated. That’s not always nice. Sometimes they tell me I’m a jerk. Okay, wait a minute. I didn’t know I was being a jerk. I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to be a jerk.
But you know what? Because we have a platform and we build a linear company, it’s not a hierarchial company. People can talk to one another and feel free to express their opinion. I don’t have to agree with you but your opinion is valid because it’s yours and mine is valid because it’s mine, and the day of having companies where only one opinion matters, those days are gone.
I’ve talked to more emerging companies in cultures, if you run a company that says, “Whatever I say goes, you’re in trouble. It’s big trouble.”
Brad: I agree completely. I don’t think there is anybody could say any better than that.
John: Now you defined first what you thought culture was because you got ahead of me and I appreciate that Brad. I like guessing they’re right out there for me so I don’t have to go to the checklist guy and go through my list of “Okay, we talked about this.”
In your new book, Reaching Your Peak and Becoming the CEO of Your Success, you talk about helping entrepreneurs build a road map to success. What tips can you give them on how to build a great team and how to have the right culture?
Brad: Sure. Let’s go back and let me give you the real way to actually view that. I think we are going to talk around it. I think culture is kind of a fabric of thought, ideas, emotions, goals, dreams of not only the leadership but people that are involved, the team members who are there. It’s a living, breathing thing. You don’t just hatch it and let it sit there. It changes. It evolves. It gets bigger. It gets smaller. It moves and breathes with the people who are actually living it. And believe me, I worked for some tremendous people and I have worked for some complete idiots. Somewhere in there is that they got to the level where they were running a company or they were corporate VPs. They had to have done something right and so what I tried to do was to take some pearls of wisdom from each of them. Even though this guy may be a complete nut job, he has something on the ball or he wouldn’t be the corporate VP of this division. How did he get there? You try to learn from that and I kind of strung those together through the years to be what I believe it actually is and it really comes down to this.
If you are starting a business or you have a business and you want to grow or you are adding a division or you are doing something. It starts with hiring the right people and it can’t just be talent based. Talent is important. Talent is critical; you got to have the right people those have the right skills but there is something to the mix. There is something to finding people. They don’t have to love each other but they generally need to be around each other forty to fifty hours a week and there is got to be some level where there’s a level of kind of connectivity, that fabric that I talked about. You can’t take nice linen and put aluminum foil in it. It doesn’t work. So each of those have a function each of them works well.
They don’t work well together and if you’ve got somebody who has tremendous skills and tremendous ideas but they are going to be a problem within the framework of the team, you can’t do it.
You got to reward success very quickly and acknowledge it. Make sure people know, we’re going along the right path. This is a great idea. You really stepped up. Thank you very much. Rewarding each person. This is really what I’ve done and what worked I’ve done for years John.
Everybody is motivated by something different. Some people are motivated by money. Some people are motivated by the acknowledgement of a job well done. Some people want to be left alone. Some people want a pat on the back and arm around them all the time. They each have their own set of hopes, values, dreams that actually drive them. What I try to just find out what those are and I don’t necessarily change the message but I may change the way it’s said to make sure that it relates directly to them and what motivates them. That is the key. If you just build the structure and let’s say you succeed, you will get the people that were going for that structure. You will see that you may miss an entire set of people who had more to bring to the table and maybe better team members but didn’t necessarily fit into the specific framework. If you have challenges you have to find solutions to them quickly and I try to do that collaboratively. If we as a team have not gotten it done or we as team have not reached certain goals, we will sit together and walk through it.
Mob is my favorite show on TV and has been for the last couple of years. There is actually someone in the show and he talks about three things: products, process and the people. And that’s what it comes down to. You can have the greatest products in the world but if your process is off or you hired the wrong people, it is not getting out the door in the way it needs to. You are not going to run an efficient operation.
You can have great people and you might have a good product but again if the process is off, it doesn’t work. Any of those you can’t have two or three is what I’m saying. All three of those makes you want to.
John: Let me stop you and ask you this question because it is right for what you talked about. We’ve talked about the people side of it but how about the office design, the office layout, the physical side of it. How important is it to match that to the culture of what you’re trying to drive?
Brad: I’m not an interior designer. I could play one on TV but it’s one of those things where I think it’s very critical. I think it speaks and when you walk into a business building you get a feel of it. It’s the paint colors, it’s the tone of whether there is music playing. It is the aromas that are in the air or not. It is the structure, whether it is industrial, whether it is open feeling, or whether it is the traditional closets down the hallway and everybody’s got one side of the other room or it’s cube farm stuff. When we go in to redesign places, we try to make work groups and we try to find people that are going to be dealing with each other on a regular basis whether it is project based or whether it is daily based and NCR.
Let us form spaces that allow them to communicate and have their own private space. They actually need it. I add a conference room. I add a place where they can get off by themselves. The bottom line is those groups have to be there in a way that they can relate to each other on a very normal conversational basis. It’s not, “Hey let us get into the conference room and have a conversation.”
Now you put people in a room where some of them might be defensive and may not be open. I want that conversation to come naturally and so the work space that we have tried to build in the past has something to do with that.
I say I’m not an expert in this field as well. I’m sure there are certain colors and certain lighting and certain things. I leave that to the experts. What I will do is sit down to them and say, “Here is what I want what can you do for me in the space we have and we try to make it work.”
John: Do you think that your work space matches your culture?
Brad: It’s growing; it’s a relatively small space at this point. It’s just me. I’ve got a number of associates to help me do some of the coaching and training. There is not that big a space for it yet and as we grow, we’ll have to have it because again it’s got to be open enough and it has got to be creative enough. I mean I’m a big creative guy so there are a couple of places here in town that I kind of admire. There is an ad agency here in town that has got pool tables and foosball tables and they’ve got a bar in the back and it’s like you are walking into a day in Buster’s but people work there and it’s because of the creative element. They want people’s minds to be alike and open, and not restricted by walls and deadlines and those kind of things. All those still exist.
We still have all those, but if you don’t consciously acknowledge them every day sometimes the mind is freed up to think beyond what is normal kind of a work place. That is what I want mine to look like at some point. I’d love for it be very healthy. I’d love for it to have a like big center with offices around the outside so we can all congregate without it being a big deal, or having a place to be quiet but also be able to interact on a very normal basis. Lots of food, lots of things just like you are at home but that you are actually making a space where people feel comfortable enough to create and try to be the best that they can be.
John: Now, you and I talked a little while ago about the millenials coming into the marketplace and it’s going to be the driving force behind the labor pool and I think the one of the greatest challenges companies have moving forward over the next ten years is engagement of their current staff and attracting new talent. Do you agree or disagree that the environment that one creates would be a driving force in that?
Brad: No doubt and I’ve got a son who is a freshman in high school. If you ask him (he is fourteen and a half) if you ask him what is life looks like at twenty four, he can tell you.
He can crystallize it. He can say this is what I’m going to be doing. Here is what I hope I’m going to be making. Here is where I want to live. I don’t think I could have done that at fourteen. I think it’s just the different culture.
Now, my daughter is in the same generation is almost nineteen, she still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she graduates from college in three years. So they’re wildly different in terms of the way that they see the world and where they come from and they are raised in the same household but the culture of what attracts them is like if you send my son into what looks like a regular office space he is never going to expand in the way he probably could have in a very creative, very unique, very grab-your-laptop or your tablet, walk around anywhere and do your work kind of thing.
That is what he does now. You can come in and see him in the kitchen table. He can be in his room. He can be in our actual office. He can be sitting out by the pool. It’s wherever he feels like his time and whatever he feels good enough to do his homework or he does some design work right now even at 14.
He is doing like this two day drawing stuff and wherever he is he has to feel for it. And that is what I’m assuming a lot of people are going to want. They are going to want that space be open and feel like them the way that they think and the colors are going to have to be vibrant, bright and I just think it’s a big deal. I think it will make a difference on the type of talent that you are going to attract.
John: I couldn’t agree with you more. I mean we had a interiors company. My wife and I had been on the business for over thirty years and we have a fifteen thousand square foot show room in New Jersey and about half of our show room is open collaborative area. And a few people congregate. There are tables in the middle.
We have a board room that no one ever uses. It was for display only and I think no one ever goes in there. But if you go look at the common table then the benching area then the lunch room. Everybody hangs out so for us it’s kind of fun because we have the twenty somethings and the thirty somethings and then there is the me’s. We laugh and we play music all day long inside the space. It’s funny when my generation think “That music runs all day long?” And the young people would say, “Yeah, isn’t that cool?”
So let me ask you something, what is the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs making when they try to build successful culture and build a business? I’m sure you see it over and over.
Brad: Yeah, absolutely and it kinds of go back to how they create a culture.
One of the things I would advise people to do, as well, is to listen and adjust as they grow to be able to kind of shift your message as well as bring in occasionally, quarterly, yearly; get some consulting in.
Get a third voice in the room to analyze it, because you might think everything is fine. It may take somebody who doesn’t have any predisposed knowledge of the business to come in and go, “Do you realize you have two departments that don’t bump each other?” And you can’t see that if you’re there every day. So I would encourage businesses to bring that in. Not that I’m not a consultant, I am, but it’s one of those things I think is necessary and I have seen it. I have seen businesses ignore it and it costs them hundreds and thousands of dollars because the productivity is down.
The number one mistake I have seen entrepreneurs as they grow in the business making is that they don’t listen.
Now a key trait of a CEO is to have vision and plough ahead and not let anything get in your way and not listen to the detractors or the haters. Just continue to move forward, you got that vision. You where you want to go and you are taking the people along with you. However, if you hire the right people and you’ve really gone after great talent, occasionally you’ve got to be quiet and let them tell you what they think. You have to listen because they’re down in the trenches every day. They see what is working and what is not. They’ve got an insight that needs to be cultivated and you got to allow that to happen.
The kind of goes with the not listening. I see people build businesses and they go sit in their office or they go play golf or there’s somebody who has got their number two to run the business and then they kind of pop in to see what is happening. I call that management by walking around.
You’ve got to be there. You’ve got to be involved. You’ve got to listen. You’ve got to have some level of empathy for the people that you are actually working with that are doing the work you asked them to do and connecting with them.
It goes back to what I’m talking about earlier about. I can’t motivate you if I don’t know what makes you tick. I can’t know what makes you tick if I don’t talk to you, if I don’t spend time with you, if I don’t go to a lunch once in a while.
Now, I’m saying this, these are trying, John. These are the ones that make me crazy. Every month we are going to let you guys, we are going to pick three people and you are going to have lunch with the boss. Well nobody is going to say anything at that lunch. Nobody is going to tell them what they really think. You are putting them off right straight.
John: One of the people gets fired next month.
Brad: Yeah, you went out and brought your own lunch in and sit at the boss’ big giant table conference room. “How is everything going?” “Everything is fine.” “Well how about you Bob?” “It’s great!” “How are the wife and kids?” “Wonderful.” It doesn’t do anything. It does nothing. I have watched those happen and it’s simply a waste of time.
What really needs to happen is walking up, grabbing someone and saying “Hey let us walk in the park, let’s have a chat or I’d love to grab a cocktail with you afterwards, let’s catch up more on your department.” That’s what works and once you get that you need to be giving great feedback to people on the job that they are doing.
I have seen people say that they have “to do an employee review or the paper thing that they turn in, so they could either give you a raise or not give you a raise.” That is not feedback; that is them checking a box off and putting a piece of paper in the file.
Feedback is listening and being open enough to say “This product you keep trying to push, nobody wants it. It’s not selling. I don’t know, we can call it you want but it’s not working” and having somebody actually respond to that. That is the key, I think, that even though you’ve got to have that clear vision of what you want, you have to understand that the road there may be squiggly.
It may not be a super highway from where you are to what you want your company to be. It may look like a road up in the mountains and you may have to stop a couple of times and change the tires.
It’s not going to be a smooth path but the people who can help you get there are the people that you are working with right now, if you will take time to listen to them.
John: I live by the same saying, “Don’t tell me what I want to hear and tell me what I need to hear.” That’s a big deal.
Brad: Isn’t that the true essence of culture, John? Isn’t it really where you’re building a framework and say, “I’ve got a vision of where you want to go but we are all going there together. So if you think that we are about to fall off the cliff, I want you to stick your hand up and say it, okay?”
John: Yeah, it’s amazing if you build that kind of culture. People will stick their hand up.
Now, I’ve got to jump to the lightning round with you because we are running out of time and I know you’ve got to go back to work. Here we go. What book changed your life?
Brad: It has to be Rick Warren’s terrific book “The Purpose Driven Life” which is one of those things that, though I read The Bible when I was younger in school and then college, when I got that book it turned The Bible kind of on its head about what things mean and why they are there, and how we are all important and the fact that you are here for a purpose. That really was the catalyst for me. It was one of the most earth-changing moments.
John: What is your go to quote for inspiration?
Brad: This one comes from my Dad and I may say it out loud two or three times a week and I definitely have it my head all the time and this is the way it goes, “Each day always do three things: something for yourself, something for someone else and something that needs doing.” And the way he would always say at the end of it is if you do all three of those in one day that is a pretty good life.
That is something for yourself, something for someone else and something that needs doing, and preferably in that order because you are important, other people are important and things have to get done. If you do them all it is a pretty good day.
John: I like that. What company do you admire the most as relates to their culture other than yours?
Brad: It is – actually I kind of mentioned them earlier – the Space, but not only is their space cool but the management is cool. They’re very creative in who they hire, they have a lot of flex time workers. They have people who work from homes using their laptops or whatever. They’ll do a meeting virtually anywhere.
If you want to get out of the office to hold it outside in the park or go to a Starbucks or go for pancakes or whatever, it is all about the communication. It’s all about the creativity. I would love for my company to have that kind of feel to work.
John: Now, if you are going to describe your culture of your company in three words, you may start with BE like our Be Culture Radio but start it for me. Give me my three words.
Brad: This one is relatively easy to make. This is the mantra; be honest, be creative and be yourself. If you can do all three of those we are probably getting somewhere.
John: Perfect. Hey Brad I can’t thank you enough. How can my listeners connect with you?
Brad: I’ve got a website. It’s the easiest way www.bradreney.com. There is a connect button on there. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Facebook. I’m on Twitter. The connect button for each of those are on the homepage.
There is a cell phone number on the top of the page there as well. It’s my cell phone. I carry it with me 99% of the time. It’s 9-0434-30169 and you can email me. I’m kind of stupid, John. I make things simple: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can’t remember that, then write it down. It is pretty easy to find, or you can use the connect page, the contact page that is on the website.
John: And your new book?
Brad: The new book is called “How to Reach Your Peak: Become the CEO of Your Success” would be available in all major retailers in about two weeks. Right now it’s available on my website. It’s in eBook format as well as regular and there are some other products there. There is my previous book, previous DVD and some other things that are there if you go to the products page of the website.
John: There I never end the show without sharing with my guest my favorite quote by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And we hope we made you feel like part of our tribe.
Brad: I appreciate that John. I do. It’s a great conversation and happy listening. You guys do terrific work.
John: Super. I would love to have you back in a few months. You tell us how things are going. Share more experiences with us. Brad, in your travel, if you come across some of your friends and you think would enjoy being on our show, send them my way would you, please.
Brad: You got it my friend. Happy to do it.
John: Super. Have a great day. Thank you so much to you my friend.
Brad: All right John. Thanks so much.
John: You bet, bye.
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