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Starting the conversation:
How do you know when it is time to refocus and make actions more coherent with regard to the strategic plan?
Host: Jess Dewell
Guests: Jeff Bermant, Aditya Nagrath, Tallis Salamatian
What You Will Hear:
Strategic business planning is rooted in the foundation of analyzing and evaluating opportunity.
Know what part of business you don’t fully grasp, and make an effort to learn differently about it – get out of your own way and what you think it needs to be.
Recognize the importance of compromise and how it can resolve conflict and add clarity to the way work is done.
There are two sides of every functional business area to be aware of and how you’ll use it in business.
Product-market fit and financial results are easy knowns to ensure you are using in your decisions.
The first question is always: how does this fit into ____(insert your mission here)____?
Be intentional, and seek out the intention, of every communication.
Be consistent in the way you refocus to the mission.
Use metrics, a scorecard, to tie actions to results to the mission (and know the strategy depends on your consistency using them).
Notice patterns and evaluate them to determine when and what to focus on.
Be willing to hear from others, filter to your current business focus, and use what most aligns to current priorities that underpin the success of your business strategy.
It is BOLD to refocus and stay true to the strategic plan.
Notable and Quotable:
Aditya Nagrath: I’ve found that entrepreneurs are more numbers-savvy than they believe they are.
Tallis Salamatian: While you can’t guarantee someone who’s going to pay for something you can guarantee whether you’re going to buy something or expend resources on it. So I would say focus on your cost side rather than the revenue side. We’re pretty planets together.
Jeff Bermant: So, there are a lot of hamburgers being made. If you make your hamburger better than anybody else, then it will be hard to crush you.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome. This is the Bold Business Podcast. We want to thank our listener supporters who keep this podcast ad-free. Find out more at Red Direction dot com forward slash listener supported. Your business has many directions you can travel. The one true direction of your company creates the journey for you to move toward a new, exciting level. We call this the Red Direction. In today’s program, we delve into one idea. This idea is for you to apply to the opportunities and challenges you face. The idea will support you as you work on ever-present situations, including how to stay competitive in a changing market, how to break through the business plateau, and how to anticipate the changing expectations of your stakeholders. This podcast will provoke ideas and will give you insights to be inspired. Jess Dewell is your guide. Jess brings you a 20-year track record of business excellence with strategy and operations overlap. Your path comes from consistently working from the special place, your unique true north. Now, here’s Jess.
Jess Dewell: Focus and refocus. Yeah, you heard it right. Focus and refocus. We’re in a time where it is easy to get distracted, it is easy to have priorities handed to us, it is easy to be pulled in a million different directions. Yet what we need to do is zero in. Zero in and assess if now really is the right time to be focusing on big problems because we want to be focusing on the right problems. Another thing we want to be doing is engaging with how the work is done, evaluating it, analyzing it, and practically making changes that are necessary for the way that work is going to be done going into the future. And the third is the zeroing in. That laser focus that people talk about. Now more than ever when a path is decided, when an objectivist set. Unless there’s a really good reason to change the course. it’s more important to stay true to the objective, and add an additional Information and adjust how you might get to the end result and stay on the pat. Because every time you pivot, you start over and we don’t want that. So focusing and refocusing, small or big, can still be done without starting over. and the momentum we had, the momentum we have, and what we’re trying to build toward that momentum that’s going to carry us into what’s next is what this podcast is all about today. I’m going to be introducing you to three individuals that I interviewed for this program. The first is Jeff Bermant. Jeff is the CEO of Virtual World Computing. He’s closed 700 and 50 million in real estate development transactions. And then he made a pivot to software development. He is focused in digital privacy and security. He continues every day to find new ways to solve complex problems with real-world solutions, and he is going to start us off in this program.
Jeff Bermant: This is a big moment right now. But it’s not your only moment. You need to march on with whatever you’re doing. You need to be resilient and go about your business as best you can. And believe me, it’s not easy. I’ve got people that don’t answer the phones any longer, have taken money from me. They’re just, I don’t know what the deal is, they refuse to talk to you. And you get stuck with someone, you have to figure a way around like, okay, that guy’s not gonna help me. I need to figure a way around to get something done.
Jess Dewell: That’s important every day, now more than ever, especially when what is on our plate No matter how much we plan. No matter how much space we have can change day-to-day. And we know both from the research and the sharing of past Bold Business Podcast, as well as your own experience that there are going to be times when all we can do is control ourselves. And if we wait to respond to other people or we wait to respond to an external situation, we’ve waited too long, we’ve lost the momentum, and we’re back at the starting line. The thing is, that never feels good. And we’re like, oh, we might not ever do that again. But guess what? It’s your moment now, just like Jeff said. And you have another moment after that. And another moment after that, which is where focus becomes more important than ever before. What I put my attention on means other stuff doesn’t get my attention. And is it the right thing that keeps me aligned with what keeps not only the heartful the business going forward, but also navigating what’s you’re facing now and setting the stage for what you will navigate next. Regardless of the type of company you are, regardless of the size of your company, we fall into one of three buckets. And continuing the setup of this program today is something that Tallis shared with me, Tallis Salamatian is an author and entrepreneur. He earned his MBA from Clark’s University Graduate School of Business, and he has participated in more than a dozen ventures. All of that isn’t variance has been poured into his first book, The Savvy Entrepreneurs Business Handbook.
Tallis Salamatian: There are three types of companies. The sheer technological advancement, which is invention of something novel, like a cancer drug, which I am actually involved with. Then there is a market efficiency play that can connect a buyer and a seller of a product or service in more effective manner. Like dating apps. People could date prior to dating apps, but dating apps are more efficient way to do it. Just like Amazon, people could buy things that are on Amazon from other places, but Amazon as an aggregator is much more an efficient platform to do that. And then there’s the build a better mousetrap. Phones were invented well before the iPhone, but the iPhone did better.
Jess Dewell: And so whichever category of business that you’re in, the way that you work, the way that you deliver on your mission, and the way that your team shows up and engages together, defines your culture. It defines your possibility. It defines which possibilities are more apt to succeed than others. It defines which threats are more threatened due to the way things are in the way things could be. It also influences your internal strengths and weaknesses, not only as the individuals within the company but the company as a whole. Now that really comes down to, we know our mission, we know our vision, and we know the values with which we want the work to occur. So how do we measure that output of our culture? It comes down to being very clear, it comes down to whether or not you will have success or great success. The third individual that I interviewed around this topic is Dr. Aditya Nagrath. He’s the founder and CEO of Elephant Learning. He is a visionary leader that is on a mission to change the way the world teaches mathematics. Aditya, Dr. Nagrath, is bringing this concept to its fullest expression, and we are going to start hearing from him with why his mission is what it is, and we’ll build on that to illustrate the point
Aditya Nagrath: What we found is that the statistics for the United States look like we lose our children in middle school, meaning that when you compare it to international scores in middle school, our children stopped keeping up with the rest of the world. But what we found out was when all this early age education research that’s out there, we lost our children much earlier, we lost them actually before kindergarten. And that’s a little bit challenging to believe. And when I first heard about this, I also had a lot of questions about this.
Jess Dewell: And from that question comes the solution.
Aditya Nagrath: But it turns out that kindergarten starts their curriculum at counting to 20. The assumption is that the student would be able to come in knowing how to count to 10. To me, before I started this project, and the average parent out there,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, ten counting to 10, sounds like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, ten, but to kindergarten counting to 10 sounds like give me 10 things and the student slides over 10 things and stops on 10. And there’s a pretty big difference there. In one, it’s fairly clear that the student knows how to count, knows to stop on 10, knows when you ask for 10 things, that’s what it means. And in the other they could just be saying those numbers out loud. What that does is it causes this conceptual gap. And what we mean by that is really that the language of mathematics is what the student does not have, especially at early age at some of those starting grades. The school is willing to let the student pass on. So they might not have a strong grasp of the numbers, but they move on to first grade and they start learning addition. They may not even have the experiences necessary for addition to stick. They start to take towards memorization strategy. And the memorization strategy is effective until you get to algebra.
Jess Dewell: Use this experience and apply it to one of your own weaknesses. Is a weakness you have because there is more possibility within a foundation that’s around you now to support you learning to have a different kind of conversation, to have a different way to show up to the information, to the opportunity, to the analysis that’s necessary to make the right business decisions right now. Because many of us had that. I know after listening to this and reflecting I was like boom, light bulb, boom light bulb, and guess what? No wonder. Here I am in this business doing certain things and I recognize that the way that I coped around learning certain things and of course, Aditya is using math as an example, but it could be anything within business. And it doesn’t have to go back to grade school. But let’s just go with it because this is an incredibly important concept. Somewhere along the way, we have these blinders, somewhere along the way we have this protection mechanism built-in. He is solving it for math, we get to solve it in our own way, in our own companies ourselves, because now we know about it. We can decide to make it a priority and make change. That change is more lasting when we are better able to equip ourselves by learning, absorbing, having conversations, being held accountable to keep moving forward, and to stay on task. Okay, so here comes the rest of the explanation.
Aditya Nagrath: But if you get to algebra, and you didn’t understand the concepts that came before that, well, then it’s sort of game over at that point. You’re no longer able to play because algebra is when we started having conversations in mathematics. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to change the way the world teaches mathematics to be conceptual first.
Jess Dewell: Aditya has a very clear mission for Elephant Learning. He was curious about the breakdown in algebra. What he found helped him zero in on how to find a solution that could help other kids have better experiences in algebra. It starts back in early elementary school. So it doesn’t matter where we are in our spectrum. We can pause. We’re woman enough or man enough to go back and say, Okay, I did what I had to do to get through. What do I need to do to show up differently now to have more success today? And what that means in business, what is our foundation? What is our foundation that we are going to use to make business decisions? Because we must have the right conversations. And we must have the right conversations at the right time. Any of the wrong conversations at the wrong time, just get in the way, slow us down, take us off task. And with things changing so rapidly, and new things is emerging as normal all the time. If we have the wrong foundation, we’re going to see those cracks start falling apart and eroding beneath us. So it is possible to move forward and make progress as well as keep that foundation solid. And if it needs it solidified and repaired along the way. At the same time, what is the problem that you’re facing right now? Well, Aditya shared it with us from his company Elephant Learning. Now, here’s Jeff, and he’s talking about, now that you have a problem. What’s next?
Jeff Bermant: Actually, what I always tried to do was find middle ground with people as much like could and some people there is no middle ground. So you just have to go, I did the best I can. People other viewpoints in which you find which is it’s really worldwide, is people have a hard time compromising and getting to middle ground. Why is this always have to be one side or the other side? And I do this all day long in business, in my opinion to be successful in business, you got to learn how to compromise.
Jess Dewell: When there is no way anybody but the owner and the founder can actually embody those values. So people show up, and they want to show up, and compromise starts there. Values are incredibly important dictates the way people work together, dictates the way you work with your teams. And it can be a start for a conversation to ensure that the true meaning of the values that drive company work, that drive company decisions, that underlie what is acceptable come from a place of common ground. Everyone lens matters. It matters so much. Even recognizing that we have our own blind spots.
Tallis Salamatian: Understand where your blind spots are and helping your business improve by understanding where you should focus on improving. There’s that word again, right focus. Finance is nother thing that is really interesting to discus. When you’re focusing on your finances, there’s obviously two sides of finance, right? There’s the revenue side. And there’s the cost side. One thing that I’ve noticed over my user experience is the revenue side is always going to be wrong. No matter how confident you feel on your revenue numbers, there’s always going to be some deviation from your model. However, on the cost side, you have a lot more leeway to make sure that your costs are exactly where you project them to be. While you can’t guarantee someone is going to pay for something, you can guarantee whether you’re going to buy something or expend resources on it. So I would say focus on your costs, I revenue revenue selling preplan together.
Jess Dewell: Yes, then we know the breakeven point. Yes, then it’s easier to understand where our gross margins are going to come from and what turns that into our net margins. And I would add on top of that, what is the economic engine, the economic engine of your firm. This is a phrase that comes from Jim Collins, right? The author of Good to Great. And he’s talking about that. What is the single ratio that you can base every single decision off of? So for some of you out there, it’s going to be profit per employee. Some of you, it’s going to be profit per transaction. Some of you it’s going to be profit per site visit, profit per hour, the list goes on and on and on. And there’s a great article attached to this that you can use to find out more about dealing out and determining your own economic engine. Now, for that little aside, why that’s important here, specifically related to what Alice is saying is that we’ve got to know what we know. And then we can start dreaming. Because if we ignore what we know, the actual reality, we’re like out on clouds and we’re out on faith. And while there’s an element to that in some parts of business, when we’re making sure we’re a viable business. When we’re making sure that we recognize which threats are the ones that are going to take us out, potentially, and that we want to prevent from causing major stirs within our organization, we’ve got to start with what we know. So the cost, as Tallis was saying is something that we can look to. It’s data we can get. We know how much we spend on this. We know if it’s a need or a want within our business. Is it necessary to make it happen, or does it make our life easier and then how much does it make our life easier? So back to Tallis.
Tallis Salamatian: Once you figure out which way you’re going to approach it, then you can understand what people are gonna be willing to pay for. I think it’s better to go in and get market research right off the bat, talk to as many people as you can. Validate it, but that can only take you so far, because getting people’s opinions is great, but they’re not having to open up the checkbook. People committing verbally so yeah, that sounds great. I’m totally gonna buy that. Like, that’s one level of commitment. But pulling out your credit card and paying for something is completely different level. Get the validation through market research, get something ready for early adopters to purchase and actually pay for, reach those early adopters, get the market validation, expander product offerings to get the later adopters. And that’s kind of the strategy it might be.
Jeff Bermant: It’s a focus, because you’re not going to get to the place you want to get to, unless you do something about it. Just like in all these stuff that you do. There’s a problem. These are little problems, but the little problems add up. So I can’t watch. A little problem adds up because that doesn’t work. So you have to relaunch you got to keep asking the questions. And then you got to figure out what are the solution can I have to solve this problem? The one I thought I was going to have, I no longer have.
Jess Dewell: Okay, there was a lot in that. Tallis is talking about product market fit. Jeff is talking about making sure that we know what the real problem. Underlying both of those, and they both said it in their own way, is what information can we use? What information is available to us that can help us understand our exact place right now, not sugar-coated, not looked at through rose-colored glasses, just the actual reality? And here’s the thing, we don’t have to be positive about it. We also don’t have to be negative about it. An absence of emotion when we are taking stock of exactly where our problem is that we’re looking to find out, is this the problem we want to be working on right now? Taking that emotion out, allows us to be curious in a different way. Because if we are not curious enough, or we choose not to bring curiosity in at all, or because we decide while everybody else is doing it, so we should to, or we feel so much pressure that we feel unable to stop and assess, then we might take action too soon.
Tallis Salamatian: A lot of people and companies pivot before they’ve properly evaluated the opportunity. You have to really let the market tell you whether you need to pivot or not. We pivoted several times without really getting markets real opinion. And then we had to go back to what we pivoted away from because we’re like, oh, well, we thought the market didn’t want it based on our perspective. But after further analysis, the market really actually did want this. We wanted initially to give the most accurate, most robust amount of data that a user could possibly want. And then aftermarket didn’t validate that and we had moved away from a very simplistic approach, which the market ended up wanting. So we ended up going full circle back to the more simplistic approach.
Jess Dewell: I’m all about the journey. And I think that was a fantastic journey. Although every single one of us could learn from Tallis a story and say, Yeah, thanks for taking the journey and being able to tell you. Market data helps us get to where we want to go combined with where we’re actually at, combined with the economic engine in our companies. And now we can take the most straightforward approach, because we’re solving this problem for right now. And the best way to do that is to just come right back to the purpose and the vision.
Aditya Nagrath: The first thing is that if you do have a clear purpose or mission or whatever that that is expressed, right? So we’re here to empower children with mathematics. And now I have people who are playing a game called Empower Children with Mathematics. I can ask them a question such as, this thing that you did. What does that have to do with Empowering Children with mathematics?
Jess Dewell: To say what Aditya said in a different way is that he took his mission. And every question he asks and every idea that comes to the table from his team, he is able to ask the question, how does this fit to our mission? And in fact, you heard him say it in a way he says it to his team. He’s practicing in real life, what he shared with us. So for example, for me at Red Direction, every idea that comes in from the team, every opportunity that comes up, the first assessing question I ask is, how does this help Red Direction strengthen companies so that they can stay in business longer, and they can make a greater community impact? That’s our mission, to help small companies last longer, and stay in business longer, and make a greater impact in their communities. Okay, so now you’ve had two examples, and the formula which to do it shares with us. Here’s a story that came up in my conversation with Dr. Nagrath .
Aditya Nagrath: I have a manager position, someone who kind of undermined me a little bit, I was trying to coach them. And I was trying to say, hey, look your brain on some new people. And what’s important to do when you bring on new people is it’s important to set expectations for them. So let’s talk about the expectations that you want to set for them. At the same time, I was telling her that you want to set expectations that are challenging, you don’t want to set expectations that are not challenging because when they come in, they gotta want to play the game too. And what ended up happening was, she didn’t agree with it. She basically use the estimate, which was a challenge for the people that she was bringing on as an estimate for something for a project she’s doing now, so that it would blow up in a week on the team meeting because the thing wasn’t delivered. Meaning that now by the rules of traction, we have to ask the question, is this done or not done? Oh, it’s not done. Hey, what happened here, by the way? Oh, well, I use your estimate Dr. Nagrath. Okay. Let’s that’s an issue now. So we’re going to talk about that issue. Because I didn’t give you an estimate, I gave you an expectation for on coming employees. What I learned was that she was more interested in being right about this then empowering children with mathematics. So that became something where she couldn’t stay at the company any longer. It became something where I was certainly de motivated to continue coaching her because it’s like, well, if you don’t think my coaching is valuable, then why should I spend the time doing it? Sadly, ultimately, my failure because if she doesn’t do it, then how does she continue as a coach on the team. But from a perspective of focus, it becomes pretty easy to see who’s on focus and who’s not on focus, because if someone’s motivated to cause a team meeting to go sideways, and executive team meeting to go sideways, because they don’t agree, well, then maybe that person shouldn’t be on the team.
ANNOUNCER: You were listening to the ad-free listener-supported Bold Business Podcast. We will return to the show soon. Right now, Jess is going to tell you about why we are ad-free and listener supported.
Jess Dewell: I’d like to take a few minutes and tell you why we do not run ads on the Bold Business Podcast. We’ve chosen to rely solely on you, our listeners, for support. If you’re listening to this, you probably already know what I care about most. I care about the space between you and me, and you and your colleagues. And I care about the work that you do together and the impact that it makes for your business and for your community. The work I do comes from a deep curiosity about what makes businesses work, what makes high functioning teams and what elements truly shapes success. I’ve seen firsthand how information can help people make better decisions and change their results. Curating and presenting this information though is not easy. The vast amounts of information out there, and the overwhelming amount of stuff that demands our attention and time, makes finding useful information, firsthand experience that is actually inspiring, that can help you with the big problems that you’re grappling with, it’s really hard. We do the due diligence for you. I am fortunate to have a great team to help me research and to share this information. And one example is the preparation that it’s done for each program. We choose a question to explore, we look for people with the relevant information and experience. We do research for what the current trends are. And then we put it all together into a well-produced program. And then we repeat, and then we repeat. The production of the show notes and supporting information is also comprehensive. This shows in the positive response that we’ve received. People like to see are notable and quotables. They like to see the links that we have to the transcripts, and they like to have links and research to resources and we bet I bet you do too.
ANNOUNCER: So far we’ve talked about how we put into the production of the Bold Business Podcast. And why Jess feels it is so important to be ad free and listener supported. And now let’s return to the Bold Business Podcast.
Jess Dewell: Yep, yep, yep, yep. Yep. Talk about great things so far in this program. The first, we’ve talked about the basics that we need for a strong foundation. What do we have and how real is it and can we show up without emotion? We’ve also started to begin exploring and diving into the engagement we have with our people. Aditya was sharing with us right before the break an example of that and the importance of removing emotion and recognizing the motivation because the intention behind communication to try and shift up something that doesn’t need to be shifted up or shift up something that if shifted up could cause a really big ripple in the wrong way. must be able to be addressed quickly. And he’s got a system by coming back to that mission every single time and asking people to qualify and quantify and be subjective and bring ideas and brainstorm and have creative ideas about anything that regards, anything that relates to the mission. And it’s bumpy. Let’s say we’re not doing that right now. It’s bumpy, and that’s okay. Because it just takes a little bit of fun and a little more time and overall consistency.
Jeff Bermant: It’s a little bit of an adjustment of problem. A lot of times, I’ll come back to it, like, eh you know, we’ll solve this problem, let’s move on. When they’re a bigger problem, like you can’t watch, or you can’t get money because of it. Now, you got to stop and you got to figure out, okay, you know, I’m on a play, say, I need to get to play speed. I need to resolve this because I’m not going to get the play speed. I have a perfect example right now, of somebody who’s not responding to me. And he’s the key for me to go raise money. And I’m sitting here going, he’s not responding. My next step is, here’s my next step of what I’ve done. I’ve already contact them twice, no response. And of course, there’s nothing more maddening than people who don’t respond to you.
Jess Dewell: Everybody so far has been talking about how to do this in the day today. And the thing is the way we show up to the problems in the day today either create coherence with our strategic plan or create dissonance and disharmony move us away from our strategic plan. And I think that that’s incredibly important to focus on because even though we’re in the day to day, even though we’re in the heat of things, the ability to stop and regularly check in about that, by the way, that’s my little shout out to the president retreat, your CEO time taken every week that’s totally protected, where you can do that. So you can come into the business and be in the details and deal with the little things and show up to the little things and create the little things. So that any disharmony, any dissonance that is happening in the day today to the larger strategic plan can be focused in on quickly and it can be addressed quickly. That just requires us to be consistent. And so there are many many ways to be consistent. Aditya shares one with us.
Aditya Nagrath: So the way I keep my team on focus is I actually built the scorecards out to empower children with mathematics. The first question is, for each role, what does empower children with mathematics mean? So that was the first step is like as I start to bring in team, what is their role on the team? And what does it mean for them to empower children with mathematics? Then could I quantify it because using elf traction or scaling up or whatever business system you have in place underneath it is a scorecard.
Jess Dewell: It allows you to take stock and know exactly how you’re measuring the way work is being done, how you measure the right work is being done, and then being able to align the results that are coming in with the way that work is being done. Comes back to the economic engine. When those two are in alignment, other things start to happen. And consistency in that will be your key. Consistency to something like a scorecard. And if you already have one. are you using it consistently enough? And is it clear enough? Might be worth checking in in your next present retreat time, and seeing if updates would be helpful there.
Aditya Nagrath: The question becomes, do the numbers actually align with that? There was this book called Influencers, is the same authors that wrote Crucial Conversations, and they talked about structural motivation and structural ability. So the rules of the game and the building and everything needs to be set up so that it’s geared towards that goal. So for me became, well, the role needs to match, the numbers need to match, the processes need to match. If I can get everything to match. then they’re going to be aligned with what, And we ask anyone to speak up if they see a hole in it.
Jess Dewell: Yes, the more we have thought about how to do these measurements, how to check in how to see success, how to identify problems early, by the way, all elements of advice dynamic swap. It gives us the ability to have clear, easy conversations. I didn’t … well, how about this? I think easy might have been the wrong word, because it will not get rid of difficult conversations, but it will allow us to show up to them consciously, and have conversations that matter so that the business is running the way that the business must run for profitability and for community impact. And that brings up the higher question, thinking about business strategy. When there’s more than one opportunity to go after, how do you choose just one? Well, Tallis has had that experience and he’s going to share that with us.
Tallis Salamatian: BaziFIT is one of the companies that I was involved with. We had two opportunities to go either medical route or the consumer route. The product was essentially a tool that tracks incremental improvement while working out. This tool could be used in physical therapy setting for medical practice, or it could be used with Fitness Trainers in the fitness market. A ton of conflicting advice on whether we should go to fitness first, or medical first or, or whatnot. Brad Feld said, Oh, you should go the direct to consumer like Fitbit that he made. He even said this was the next step beyond what Fitbit could do. Because capabilities were pretty advanced at the time on the current situation of the technology. Our orthopedic surgeon was like this is a gangbuster for the physical therapy route. As an orthopedic surgeon, he’s like, I love this. This is amazing. This didn’t make my life easier. This is a good way to improve outcomes for patients. But there’s barriers on either side. For the consumer market, it’s the marketing spent right? How much money can you spend on marketing in order to get to enough eyeballs to get people to purchase the product, right? On the medical side, the problem is how you get reimbursement because who’s going to pay for it? In the US system, people are used to just paying their health insurance costs, and then everything being included within that. So if you weren’t going to get that you’d have to make the FDA reimbursable. If FDA approved and CMS reimbursable and get a code for ISPN Numbers and all sorts of things. We started off going to medical based on the advice of our orthopedic surgeon and then we went to consumer, and there was no right approach, right? It’s just executing, picking one and executing.
Jess Dewell: Tallis said it best, there is no one right answer yet the commitment to the answer that is chosen and the resulting problems and obstacles that must be overcome do need to align with the available resources in your company. So to take something like that, that you’re evaluating right now, how do you choose between those two good options? Go back to what your dynamic SWAT has. And in that dynamic SWAT plus the way that you’re working together, that engagement, how you’re going to measure success, how you know that your team is all as committed and on task and on mission as you are, and making sure that you do stay on mission, and don’t get shiny object syndrome. Comes down to your commitment to the idea and your confidence in it, because even our best intentions, whichever path we chose, it’s always going to look like the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but it’s where we’re at, and stuff happens.
Jeff Bermant: You have to think that way. Here’s a perfect example. So we’re late on our development. And my choice was the kick-off the developers their third party and bring new ones on. But that would disturb at this point, the whole getting to that point of getting that app launch. And in fact, it would disturb building the next app. Because these guys now know a lot about building apps, and you bring somebody new on, there or know anything about what you’re trying to do. Do you have to make that kind of decision to say, as much as I’m not happy about what happened in the past? If I make the switch just because I got mad, it could cost you a lot more time and a lot more money.
Jess Dewell: Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep. Been there. Lots more money. Ben there too many egos in the way. So we kept going down a path instead of making small shifts and adjustments, and then it was almost too late to go back. We never want to get to that point. And so like Jeff was saying, when we have the opportunity to recognize stuff is getting behind schedule, stuff is becoming off, things aren’t working quite right. It’s a great time to pause. All focusing and refocusing. Doesn’t have to be big, doesn’t have to be business strategy level. It can be day to day operations, day to day behaviors that are in alignment with that bigger strategy so that every action that we’re taking, modifying and staying focused on ties back up to and supports that overarching business strategy. And to continue Jeff’s story, he’s thinking about what’s next.
Jeff Bermant: Yeah, I have one coming up shortly, where the guy’s not responding. And I’m gonna have to say, Okay, I’m gonna have to write another check-off, come back and see this guy, I’m gonna write another check. Because it’s so important for me to finish this. He’s not going to respond. I’ve got to move the ball some other way. I can’t wait for him to come back to me in a week or two weeks. He’s literally holding up the whole process though.
Jess Dewell: One of my favorite movies is The Labyrinth with David Bowie. And in that line, there is a scene where one of the characters says sometimes the way forward is the way back. And when I was listening to Jeff in our interview, and then I was preparing and getting everything together for this program, it came back to me again and again and again. So it comes back to the journey, what makes sense for us on our journey to keep moving forward? And when does it make sense to circle back, make sure there are no stragglers, make sure that everybody’s moving forward, make sure everything is happening? And when it’s not, when it’s not happening, what can we do about it? And taking that pause, taking that time to really just stop and think about is this on mission? Are we getting more off mission by continuing to go backwards and collect and backwards and make sure nobody’s left behind and backwards to catch everything? Or if we made a change, could we backtrack less? Could we be on this journey differently? Can we catch more stuff as we go forward, so there’s less of that backwards motion? Because in the end, we all want to be moving forward, just like Jeff was saying. And he’s thinking about, here are the things that I’m seeing that are a little loopy, and what do I want to do about them? And when is the right time to take that action? Very important questions as part of deciding whether or not to refocus and making sure that what you’re focusing on is fully coherent with your mission. Now, going back to Aditya, he’s talking about the same thing, and how measuring to and having conversations around the scorecard help his team.
Aditya Nagrath: It tends to be culture. We told them what the rules of the game were, we asked them to play the way we asked them to play. And for some reason, they thought it was a discussion. For no reason at all, there was argument, there was conflict. It wasn’t so much of an argument for me I was just letting them know how it was. They literally told me they said to me, do you really think this is the best way for a team to work? And I said, Well, what do you mean? And they said, Well, what happened today was that some of the team members said that this guy didn’t do good. It makes them a rat, for lack of a better word. And I said, so you’re calling the person a rat. So you’re exhibiting the code of the street right now, meaning that you’re not supposed to rat out on your teammate. And the person says, Yeah, that’s exactly right. And I said, Well, that’s not actually the definition of a team. Because a, I’m on the same team as us. So if I’m finding out what the person did, that’s not called ratting, because I’m on the same team. But second, you have no capability to build anything on top of that, because honoring the agreements and commitments that we’re making to each other is what’s necessary as a team to build anything bigger than any one individual on that team.
Jess Dewell: That goes for us too. We carry the vision, we are responsible for it. We empower those around us to come to us and talk about the problems they’re having and make sure the way that the work is being done is to the standard with which is both measurable and moves the company forward,. The way work happens, or the culture that exists, or the intentional communication that somebody brings does take time to integrate through consistency through modeling of behavior, and through calling it out every time. Not calling a person out, not throwing a person under a bus, but calling out the behaviors that you like, calling out the behaviors that must change. Because where one person has a behavior, there may be some others that seem to be enabling. And enablement takes away from empowerment because in the end, it’s all about the agreements, the written ones, the unwritten ones, the verbal ones and the silent ones.
Aditya Nagrath: If any one of those people don’t honor that agreement, it could be disastrous for that running back. He could get hit by one of the linebackers, by someone. He could get hurt.
Jess Dewell: Yes, and in business, it might not be physically hurt, but that hurt is a shutdown. That hurt is a desire to just bow out or to potentially not only just disengage, but to actually change try and derail. All of those things, especially during times of change, will prevent growth and usually will point the company in an opposite direction. You might be thinking, yeah, one person, whatever we can handle it. However, that one person being allowed to go against the grain and being accepted, that’s true. The behaviors and the actions and the way that they communicate not being addressed gives other people the reality that there are two standards. There’s the standard that is desired and there’s the standard that somebody else gets away wit. And that right there is what will slowly, slowly not only erode company culture, but eventually will erode the monetary results and culture takes time. Good leadership takes time and there are not always instantaneous changes when we are making refocusing decisions and we are moving toward a goal that is in the future. Everything we take, shapes, guides, provides the way from forward, and in the end, it’s worth it.
Jeff Bermant: I think the most important business is your ability to be flexible in your own mind to realize you don’t know everything. And so you got to stop thinking like I know everything. There’s a lot of stuff you don’t know. Jjust endless. And that I can be creative. So creative is also being flexible. You can’t be creative if you’re not flexible. You have to have that ability to go, well I really didn’t work but what if I tried this over here? Oh, wait, that might work or that didn’t work. But you have to have a team that believes in what you believe in. Otherwise, you’re going to be fighting all the way to the end.
Jess Dewell: It’s true. The way to make sure that people believe in what you believe in is to include that in the hiring process. Is to include that in every meeting structure, is to include that in every interaction via email, text, phone, you name it. We’ve been talking about assessing if now is the right time? We’ve also moved into, we are always refocusing even on a micro-level with the world way interactions every day occur. And just like Jeff was saying, people are going to come with you or they’re not. And the people that can help enable that vision are the ones that also are willing and able and open to zeroing in on the actions that will move the company forward. And it can get hard sometimes because we rely on external viewpoints to help us make sure we have good perspective. Well, in that good perspective, that means we have different perspectives and there are times that you get advice and information that could be at odds with each other and then what do you do?
Tallis Salamatian: You brings up a very interesting topic, which is mental whiplash. I’m not sure if you’ve been exposed to that topic or not, but it’s something that everyone’s experienced, whether they’re used to the term or not. Essentially, you could have two very accomplished mentors giving you advice and they give you contrary advice. Now both advice points could be absolutely true. And if you were to execute on either one of those, then you would be successful. The trick is, is to understand the place that that advice is coming from and apply the best advice depending on where they’re coming from first, where you see your business and your culture being.
ANNOUNCER: Earlier, we talked about some of the work that goes into producing the Bold Business Podcast. But why? Why is it so important to Jess and the rest of the team to make these podcasts ad-free and listener supported? Once again, here’s Jess. Jess Dewell So this brings me to the question that’s been contemplated. How do we fund the necessary work to support our effort and continue this work? Well, paid advertising and sponsorship thoughts are common. It doesn’t fit our model here. And here are just a few reasons why. The first, quality programs are important to us. I want you to know to really know that I’m telling you the whole story. When money is exchanged to talk about a product or service, I feel there may be some miscommunication and the quality of our content could be diluted. The second reason is being an advocate is who I am. I’m an advocate for your success, for your team success and for your business’s success. If I’m focused on numbers and listeners and ways to generate more views that generate ad income, my attention is split between you and great content, and tactics to increase our ad revenue. And then I would not be doing my job as an advocate. The third reason is to fuel my own curiosity continuously. My eagerness to do this work is here, it’s ready. Yet, it is dulled when I’m doing something that I don’t like as much or really, that I’m not excited about and that I don’t think is exciting for you to know about. So this led me to choose the path less traveled. Listener supported programming has been proven to work overtime, and it allows me to keep my focus on the content. And it allows me to have a relationship with you that is direct and straightforward. Listener supported is a clear answer to the question we’ve been pondering. How do we fund the necessary work to support our effort and continue providing quality content to you? The simplicity of a listener-supported model ensures clarity for you and for me. I value honesty, and honesty is a two-way street. So if you get something out of what I’m doing, you can become a supporter and contribute at whatever level works best for you. In exchange, you’ll get benefits above and beyond what is available for free right now. It’s my goal to ensure that you get more than you give, no matter what level you support at.
ANNOUNCER: And now, let’s return to the Bold Business Podcast for the rest of the show.
Jess Dewell: So right before the break Tallis was talking about opportunities that both will lead towards success, yet they tend to conflict with each other. And that is so true. And this is where you, what have you decided? Where you going? What have you accepted responsibility for? How do you want to see yourself and the team coming with you move toward that goal, and then sticking to it focusing and refocusing is always about coming back to that, what are you sticking to? And how are you moving forward? Because the values that demonstrate how work is done together in your place of business and the skills that you bring, and the skills that each person on your team brings is what builds your culture and it doesn’t matter if it’s in person, or if it’s dispersed or remote. It matters that that the right connections are in place to build on that. To build up that culture, to understand what’s going on. Because then you can receive advice that you can evaluate. And you can say, Oh, I totally get it. And that’s right. And it doesn’t fit right now. But it’s really good advice, and I can learn from it. And then you can also receive advice and be like, okay, it’s still isn’t necessarily completely aligned to what we’re doing. But I get it and I can see how it applies to where we’re going. And I’m going to be flexible, and move in that direction, useful advice that you have asked for, whether it be from mentors, whether it be from your governing board, whether it be from your mastermind group. Everybody has an intention from with which they are communicating, and it is up to you have to figure out what is their intention for communicating this to me. And how can it actually help me right now? And then process and evaluate it, and make a decision? Do you want to use it or not? And here’s an interesting thing, too. And it doesn’t matter what industry. You’ll always face some sort of industry-related problem where there are opposing viewpoints and opposing initiatives and positions. That you have to navigate through, Jeff is going to share.
Jeff Bermant: In the real estate business, I always had the same issue. I had these pivots that I had to make, because someone was saying no, you can’t build there. After all, you can’t do this. After all, you have to think out of the box. For listeners, the way I look at life is there’s a bunch of possibilities that live in your triangle, you know those possibilities? The question is, there’s a possibility outside that triangle box, you don’t know. And you need to think.
Jeff Bermant: The honesty part, of course, being honest with people and really trying to do the right thing in business. I look at businesses today, and I sometimes I wonder about them, like really. And a lot of them are good people, and they’re trying hard. But sometimes they get too tied up with what the shareholders have to say, versus doing the right thing. It’s a hard pull, because you’re mandated to make money. And yet, you know, that may not be the right thing. It might be something a little bit slightly different from that.
Jess Dewell: Making money does not always have to be primary. It ensures a business exists, and it ensures a business goes forward, and it ensures that the impact that you want to make in your customers lives. because you can employ employees to help those customer. In your communities because wherever your employees live, they are buying and they are part of that community, and they’re involved in that community. Your presence being an employer in that community matters as well as your own. How are you showing up in all of those areas? And can you fully integrate what’s best right now and navigate it? That was not a rhetorical question. The answer is, of course you can. You’re listening to this podcast, you’re building these skills that are necessary to make these things happen. And they take time and you need to hear them more than once. I know I need to hear more than once. I’m not the only one that says that. Listen to this.
Aditya Nagrath: When it comes down to the team, and they really need to hear things over and over and over again.
Jess Dewell: And it’s not because they don’t want to learn. And it’s not because they’re ignoring anything that you’re saying. It’s because every situation demands their attention. And when we ask people to put their focus on something, it means they get to focus less on something else. So while a skill of focusing and refocusing to get to a new goal to navigate a change, to continue to remain viable in a very quickly changing market, that may be the core underpinned with the mission and the values and the way the work is done. And so go for it, repeat all that is necessary to be repeated, and do it in a kind, compassionate way. Do it with care, do it with love, because people that are working and hitching their missions to yours want to succeed as well. Now, we talk a lot about employees here. Our culture does move out past that into the realm of our customers, because our customers have a community, our employees have a community and where our product really serves, and who it’s serving on different levels, has a community too. And so understanding them, and having a relationship with customers, is as necessary as your internal team.
Tallis Salamatian: I think it’s really important to talk to your customers and really have a good relationship with them. I think it’s important to be willing to hear it when it arises, but not be overly looking for it because if you look for something you’re going to find it. And it’s a very good question because it is a balance. You don’t want to be overly reactive to what customers say, because there may they may be at the tailing end of the curve that you’re getting the most feedback from when the fat part of your curve is completely fine. But people who are complaining are the people who are at the end of the spectrum. You don’t want to get too concerned about that. You’re getting some sort of trains, you want to be aware of that and be able to make adjustments based on what you’re hearing.
Aditya Nagrath: We really took this thing seriously, from all aspects, the amount of time and effort we spent on the curriculum on product on almost every single decision, I think people tend to overlook it. Sometimes we have customers coming back to us and saying Why didn’t you do this? or Why didn’t you do that? And but they’re not thinking about the problem from the perspective of empowering them with mathematics and taking it seriously. Meaning that we have psychological research that we use to help us guide us make decisions. EOS traction helped us make decisions, the elephant age is a one-number metric to measure person. Why? Because practice every employee on the team should have a one-number metric that lets them know how they’re doing. So we gave it to the student as well.
Jess Dewell: Something both Tallis and Aditya said revolves around being willing to hear. They also talked about the actual length of time that it took to get to certain decision. And many of us go over them, and that’ll come back and it’ll get us. We’ll have to loop back and loop back and loop back. We’ll lose engagement, will have unwritten agreements and things that get glossed over that have to go back and be addressed, both on a financial side and on a culture side, and on an operation side, and on the process side. In the end, though, when we take the time, as the problem show up, when we do it well, and we have enough foundation and we’re constantly taking time to go back to strategy, to think about what’s happening in your strategy, and how that relates to the focus that you need to have right now to navigate what’s showing up, not only in the business market and internally, but also for your customers. And then going back to that same thing. It’s easy to get mental whiplash from mentors, it’s easy to get mental whiplash from all the points of contact that we want to have to listen well. Good news is you’re not doing it by yourself. The really good news is there’s technology and knowledge databases and other things that can be to help find patterns, because then you know that you’re listening, and you’re listening with intent. You’re listening with care. And you know that patterns will emerge over time. And that those are the patterns that you can assess back to your business plan, back to your business strategy in such a way, you know, if you’re on course or not.
Tallis Salamatian: Yeah, getting the resources required in order to execute. I think that each business has different resources that they need. If you have a team that really jives that can give momentum and energy to the team. If you have people on the team who are energy sucks, it could totally remove any sort of momentum that you have. So I think it’s important to bring in the right team. Something that I tell many young entrepreneurs is if you had to choose between someone who was absolutely perfect for the position that you’re looking to hire for, however, they might not fit the culture versus someone who maybe fits the culture, but you have to coach them in order to give them the tools that they need, in order to properly do the job, I’d always pick the person that you have to coach because you know that that person is going to fit. So for the long term, which is what you should always be looking for is going to be the person who jives with the company because A, they’re going to provide their work product, and B they’re going to stick around for longer, and C you’re going to have a better output from the rest of the team.
Jess Dewell: The clearer you are in your vision, the more clearly you can articulate them. mission, and time metrics, conversations, initiatives to that mission, the more everybody gets to be on the same page. And the more people that are on the same page creates momentum. And that means that there’s momentum to carry everything forward to the next, through the now, and to the next. And that clarity takes time. And the challenge is to take the time. And so I’m going to just shout out the president retreat again, because it’s really what this comes down to. And one of the analogies that I use is, the more clear you are as a leader around your strategic plan, around that focus around what the initiatives are, and using that dynamic SWOT to find information that you need to make the decisions right now, for right now, it comes down to being in a bowling alley. In a bowling alley. Think about the things that well, I wish I could use them all the time, but I’m usually the only one so I get a lot of gutter balls, but the analogy is this. You fill up the gutters with those bumpers, and then, that’s what your vision mission values are. That’s what your strategic plan is. That’s what your priorities come down to. All of that fills up the gutters. So as the ball is let go, and moves forward, it might lose some momentum by bouncing off one side and then the other, but it’s never a gutter ball. It’ll move back into the center lane and keep going down the lane. And the end goal is that the clarity around all of those things comes back to getting to the pins at the end. That’s the way to consider and think about, what is your strategic plan, and how do you ensure it’s communicated at every level, all the time, in the ways that will be the most impactful for the moment, the conversation, the action, the work being done. That’s how you zero in. See the bumpers in the gutters at that bowling alley? Jeff actually has a different analogy.
Jeff Bermant: Just remember people have guardrails. They have emotional blocks. You’re the visionary. So if you dream up something new and your team can’t share either, one. you’re crazy. And you should be listening to your team. Or two, you’ve done enough research to say, Wait, this could work. I’ll give you a perfect example. So when I came up with the idea of monetizing data, I had no idea how to do this. Not a clue. I actually before I said, any team, I actually started calling companies that sold data. Most of them didn’t take my call. One guy said, Hey, I was thinking about that. That’s a really good idea. Now all of a sudden, I could say to my team, hey, not only do I think it’s a good idea, I actually have somebody on the other side, who will sell that data for me, who thinks it’s a really good idea. So now the team goes, Oh, I never thought of that. And all those barriers that they had up that they were never going to do this, because there were all these problems in front of them, that they could not overcome. All of a sudden, they can overcome them because you just said, Oh, I gotta go buy that stuff.
Jess Dewell: Hmm, oh yeah. And that’s the thing, validation, taking the time coming back, working on your business as well as in your business. And here’s the thing. Even businesses that are sustainable. You’re at this place where you know how to make the business go, you’ve got this all this SWOT stuff down, you’ve got all of this structure. Well then what? Then it’s consistency, and it’s staying on top of that communication. Then it’s really taking how you work together and what the mission is and the clarity around the mission, up-level it. And what’s next, right? What’s next? How face the next set of challenges show up to them and see what happens. And in the end, recognize who’s the vision holder? And how clear are they? If it’s you, you got to keep working on clarity, because it’s always a party and everybody understands in your own head between your own ears, it’s once it comes out, how well do people understand? And for those of you who are complimentary to that vision holder, who have said, Yes, I have the same vision, and it is my job to also communicate it out. Well reflect back. I got this and I understand it. And if there are issues Well, you know, there are issues from the core, from the vision, the people that are responsible and accountable to the vision. To that mission to making sure that customers are served, that you’ve got the right customers that want what you have to sell, that you’re able to grow, and that you can remove obstacles with creativity because certain things are now bumpers in a bowling lane. And that can be used to spur creativity, to generate excitement to keep going when things get tough. And to be open and willing as a team. To embrace the need to refocus. I mean, if it’s not now. great. When it is embracing because knowing the time to refocus is as important as refocusing itself. The way you allow work to be done, the way you communicate the mission, the way you measure and ask people to be accountable to it, defines your culture. And it defines the metrics that you use, and it defines the basis for conversations that must happen. And then they might be uncomfortable at first, but they also can be really exciting at first. And so to be with the uncomfortable, and the uncomfortable in that communication. And of course, then we’ve got the zeroing in. You make a decision, you choose a path, and there you go. Other information as welcome, with a lot of discernment, so that you can keep going. And all that comes down to being bold. It is bold to take the time and decide, is now the time to refocus. It’s bold to do that, and here’s why.
Jeff Bermant: Is a part of an entrepreneurship is to recognize when you need to refocus. Make sure you have the ability, the financial ability, or you can know where you’re going to get the money. Make sure you have a team that gets on board with you. Remember, you can’t do this yourself. You need a team of people to help you to be with you. Renumerate them well. Give them shares, do what you need to do, to have happy, happy coworkers. Just because you’re the head of this ship doesn’t mean you don’t need a lot of people to help you and then you know refocus and try it again and do something else.
Aditya Nagrath: You got to focus your attention where you get energy. What I learned was that the company I was in was more of a gig than a company because in the end, you couldn’t even sell it. On top of that. I’m not sure it was even a gig I wanted because when I got to the CEO level, what the job was, was not what I started with, meaning I was no longer as software engineer, I was now the guy who needs to schmooze customers and take them to lunch or dinner or drinks or tea, or whatever. And I realized that this is not going to work for my life. I didn’t even try. But had I even started to try, I wouldn’t have been able to maintain that lifestyle. I probably be dead now. I mean, for me, it was necessary. But maybe it was bold to come to the realization that this isn’t what I want to be doing with my life. I love my clients and I don’t mind taking them to dinner and I don’t mind taking them to lunch or tea or drinks or whatever. It’s not a healthy lifestyle.
Jess Dewell: It’s bold to know you need help. That’s what the Bold Business Podcast is about. Providing help through the podcast, providing help through the masterminds, providing individual consulting both for executives as well as management teams. It’s also about understanding yourself and how you communicate. And if your energy isn’t managed well, it’s going to come across, and to those around you. And in that energy and what you allow to happen, and what you are consistent about. and the way that you’re showing up shapes the culture because the culture is what you agree to, whether it’s written down or not, whether it’s said or not. And that engagement defines the way work is done. And that is where possibility can get really exciting, because using the economic engine that Jim Collins talks about, and his Good to Great book, and all of his research that went into that, combined with all of the reporting systems that you know, and the metrics that you choose to use, Aditya was talking about the book Traction throughout that, throughout the podcast in his interview, and then of course, you know, deciding that it’s time. Deciding that it is important to the health of the company, the success of the company right now, and the future success of the company. That’s what focusing and refocusing is all about.
ANNOUNCER: The Bold Business Podcast is brought to you by Red Direction. Jess Dewell dug into one idea in this program. Her goal is to ignite your creativity and spark different thinking with the presented material. How you apply this to your current priorities is up to you. We want to know what actions you take. Use hashtag #boldbusinesspodcast and add your voice to this important conversation. Jess Dewell can bring the missing voice back into your company. With you, Jess will solidify your company’s true north, your unique Red Direction. Provided you are ready to work with Jess, email her at Radio at Red Direction dot com. Special thanks to the SCOTT Treatment for technical production.