Facing uncertainty can be challenging – being a business owner facing uncertainty is tougher.
Red Direction helps you [fast track and] grow your business – authentically, pragmatically, and resiliently.
Starting the conversation:
The most important action or project today may be different than for the week, quarter, or year. To utilize your time best, know the numbers – what products are most profitable, what revenue is necessary for continuous growth, and where to internally reinvest – and look at them. Why? Because what you avoid is what will most likely cause your business to fail. Developing the skills necessary to find and challenge assumptions, to let go of the story you have, and to believe in what you are offers a realistic assessment of what is going on in your business. Jess Dewell talks with David Longhini, CEO at Empodio, about scaling, team building, and learning from past effort.
Reflection must be part of your leadership role as a necessary part of an organizational checkup process. David Longhini, CEO at Empodio, talks about what it takes to go from zero to $1 million in two years … this outcome is by design and constant assessment, as well as learning to prioritize what the next best step is.
Host: Jess Dewell
Guests: David Longhini
What You Will Hear:
There is much you can design in your life and work.
Recognize what you don’t want to do; embrace that’s where the problems and challenges emerge from.
Two stories that influenced the way David Longhini builds teams at Empodio.
Let go of the story – yet take action by design.
Meditation, minimalism, and Buddhist perspectives to find and solve problems.
Welcome. This is the Bold Business Podcast. Your business has many directions it 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. 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. Jess Dewell is your guide. Jess brings you a 20-year track record of business excellence, where strategy and operations overlap. Your Path comes from consistently working from the special place. Your unique True North. Now, here’s Jess.
Jess Dewell 00:51
just like every podcast that we do live or otherwise, you are going to hear insights about what’s happening in the world, how people are facing their challenges, working through and navigating all the grindy bits. The greedy parts that we assume are here should be easy. And you know they never are. And so that’s what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about what works, what doesn’t work. What are the stories that other people have faced and how they’re facing their challenges, and David Longhini is no stranger to challenges, he went to college to escape jumping into manholes, see, first challenge averted, then he came full circle and built a company, pretty amazing. So all the way around into a whole different pattern of living, working thinking. Because as powerful as the work that we do is when we jump into a different venue when we jump into a different path. We’re starting brand new, we have no support and no knowledge because the people around us where we come from, don’t have that knowledge. And that’s okay because it’s going to be the skills and the values and the work ethic that we get to bring forward as we are learning what we need in these new pads. And I’ll tell you what David’s approach to business is centered around mindfully providing value to everyone who comes in contact with his company in Podio. And it comes with a philosophy, a joy to work with every step of the way. Now, here’s the deal. I get to introduce you right now to David and we’re gonna jump right into our conversation. Welcome to the show.
David Longhini 02:34
Thank you. Nice to meet you.
Jess Dewell 02:36
Good. Okay, everybody who’s watching live. I just, I really have to compliment his sweater. Okay, I want to be wearing that sweater today. He’s in a place. It’s cold. And I’m in a place. It’s cold, but he’s dressed for it. All right, David. So talk to me about you hail from two places. You are in Texas sometimes. And you’re in New York other times. And I’ve got to believe that this is by design.
David Longhini 03:05
Yeah, so I grew up in central New York in, just south of Rochester in a tiny little town where that was the manholes as my father still runs a small plumbing business. And I made it up to Buffalo to go to college. But the buffalo winters dragged on me and dragged on me and dragged on me. I briefly made it out to Boulder, Colorado before coming back for a relationship. And that was supposed to be for a year turned into two years turned into COVID. And then we finally escaped down and are actually I’m living in an RV in Austin, Texas, which I didn’t think would be nearly as fun as it is. But I absolutely love Austin. I love being away for the winter. And coming into the Austin’s really hot summers. I’m not really sure in the next two months, but kind of snowboarding. Well, that’s
Jess Dewell 03:57
cool. It allows you to have a little bit of the Nomad peace, it allows you to be grounded, I like to call them anchors, I would like to be located in more than one place yet feel anchored in there versus nomadic. And it’s interesting to think what the things we have to tell ourselves to really get excited. So in your in the fondness of that RV, which is different from the house that you grew up in from the values that you got, I’ve got to ask, what did you learn from your dad and the business that he owned? That’s actually helping you today in a totally different field in a totally different area of work?
David Longhini 04:32
Oh God. So first and foremost, especially with the RV. I wouldn’t have learned anything from the RV from my father. It was more the opposite where my mother was always trying to get rid of the 8000 things that my father collected in an 1800 square foot barn and all of the like half done equipment half done, trucks have done everything that you had to work through. But that I think was the first thing that made me enjoy the minute realism that I like to joke about living in the RV. The bad part is it only takes five minutes to make your entire house in this, but it only takes about five minutes to clean up your entire house. Some of the things that came from that was watching my father who struggled massively. If you’ve ever read the E Myth, he is very much that E Myth of a technician turned into a business owner that suddenly had 10 new jobs that he was trying to accomplish. And even to this day, 32 years later, roughly, he has only just now gotten himself to a point of stability, where things are working smoothly, he’s figured out the financials. And some of the biggest learns were from watching him that you think when you start a business, that it’s going to be like, Oh, I just helped people, I get paid. And then that’s how it works. But there’s 15 to 30 different individual processes and systems and things that need to work in order to run a business and you need to be able to have all of them working smoothly. And no matter how smart you are, no matter how good you are at things, watching him, at least five of those processes was always failing. Because it was only him. There was a usually one or two helpers, but he was trying to figure everything out. And so much of it was about recognizing that no matter how smart you are, no matter how good you are, you can’t do 30 things at once. You have to make it simple. You have to make it processes, you have to outsource, you have to structure together to figure out what are the things that truly matter. Because if you try to be all of those things, then you’re going to fail. Which is why most one-person businesses really struggle because they have 1415 different hats. And it was a lot of fun to watch that happen.
Jess Dewell 06:46
Well, okay, so, you know, I hear what you’re saying. And it’s amazing that you learned that from your dad, and you’re able to synthesize that because it’s true, all of the hats that there are to wear and which one to wear and what time to wear them. And the fact that we think we need them all to your point about minimalism, even in business, what we put into process is as important as making sure that it is actually useful to the process and not creating a drag, not slowing down and taking away from the necessary momentum to get to the next and get to the next. And so I love that your mom is the one who was the minimalist. That’s interesting. So in your household, is there a dynamic too, I just got asked, is there a dynamic of minimalist and Nat?
David Longhini 07:35
Yes, and there’s a lot of things that I have been working on, even as I took up through my relationships from my mother, because my mother always seemed to be the same one, who was constantly trying to say, this is what I’m doing. And if you look, if I took a picture of our living room right now, back in the house, I was just back there visiting. That’s why I’m so cold out of Austin, Texas. And then I took a picture of my father’s garage, or even my mother’s garage versus my father’s garage, you would not believe they’re on the same property. One of them is perfectly organized with all of the pieces placed in one of them looks like two people have just been shoving things in there until things fit and then dragging them out with random patterns and paths. And that’s exactly what happened.
Jess Dewell 08:19
That’s interesting. And it’s kind of cool to be able to go okay, I understand, I understand the role that I am bringing to what I’m doing, personally, professionally, as an organizational leader, as a founder and a vision holder. I think that that’s a really important piece. Because the way we bring people to us and the teams that we build, I think come from exactly what you’re talking about. Is that your experience too?
David Longhini 08:48
Oh, god, yeah. Over the last year, I will actually explain that. All business problems are personal problems to some large extent until you get to a large enough company that you’re actually talking about company problems. And for me, I’ve got two stories. One was figuring out sales. My mother hated sales. And it actually took me really diving down deep to talk with her and say like, I’m really trying to figure this out. I’m trying to run the company, but I’ve got you in the back of my head, saying like, don’t go out there. Don’t go push. And it’s these tiny little things. She finally tells me when she was maybe six years old, she was selling girl scout cookies. And her neighbor was this angry drunk woman who literally came and like she walks next door my very shy becomes a social worker like mother and was like, you want Girl Scout cookies and she just gets a reamed out by this woman. Like you’re trying to get me into buying cookies doing all these things. And she’s like, I guess that’s when I stopped liking sales. And that little story from literally years ago. Whenever I was in the boy scouts, and they’re like, you’re gonna sell popcorn. She’s like, No, we’re just gonna buy $50. We’re not going to do that. And every time we think about sales, it’s each of those pieces start to tie in. And that’s like the lightest one of recognizing people talking about patterns of money, whether you’re going to have enough that one for me was I was trying to figure out sales and it truly came from a deeply embedded like, scary. Scary sales is scary. Yeah, that’s serious trauma.
Jess Dewell 10:22
I mean, holy cow, I sell Girl Scout cookies. And I had my fair share of emphatic notes. But my story is don’t compare to your mom’s there. And so what’s the second story?
David Longhini 10:35
My mother was always trying to figure out the business because he was trying to figure out how to run a business. My mother was always anxious about it, and trying to jump in for it. And they had this dynamic of just kind of getting angry at each other, pushing back and forth my father avoiding my mother pusher most of my life. And I kind of came to terms with it over times because I always saw my mother as the one who was trying to help my just like woefully begotten father. And it’s only in the past four or five years, through everything from therapy to running a business, to personal relationships that I have learned the term codependency, and oh, so attachment styles and anxious-avoidant attachment patterns in which what I was watching was an anxious insecurity and an avoidant insecurity bounced back and forth. But I came to learn that no matter what you just tried to help you try to help you push, you push, you push. And that became a huge part of my life in which I would often seek out people who are having troubles because I thought my responsibility I mean, my mother is a quote, attentive, anxious social worker. So the ingrained like it is your job to try to help people to be in there to be the solution to be the responsible to find these things to give space. But the sport is so deep that I noticed that that was being in my business, my personal life, who we chose as employees who we chose as clients, for better or sometimes, but often for significantly for the worse. And that was probably the biggest revelation and unpacking over the last 18 months was that I was choosing people based on who I could help not necessarily whether they were ready, if they weren’t holding up their end of the bargain, I was saying, I just need to try a little harder, because that’s what I was observing my entire childhood was, maybe I’ll read a new book, maybe I’ll try a new thing. Maybe I’ll try from here, maybe I’ll try from here. And that kind of coming to terms with instead of resulting codependency in those pieces to say, or if they’re capable, gets you a heck of a lot further. But that wound from childhood in that same thing of watching that same pattern just carried out right into my life of who I hired, who we had as clients who I had as friends, so I had his relationships. And those are some of the big ones of changing your entire life is realizing those patterns,
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Jess Dewell 13:30
Okay, that’s fun. For NASA tating. There you go. There’s a word for the day I totally combined the two and it didn’t work very well. I’m thinking about fascinating. And here’s the fascinating part for me is knowing your background and knowing in spite of all of that, you still grew a business from nothing to a million dollars in a short time. So there has to be something to be said for a read the next book. And when did you decide it was too hard to keep reading the next book and to actually look in the mirror.
David Longhini 14:03
I gotta give credit to Amelia and Emelina OSCEs, book burnout, because in the middle of COVID, totally and utterly burning out and to some large extent because I had inish, myself and our co-founder in a short period of time had decided that we were going to choose the least qualified people and grow them when we were just starting the business to just like help people then chose somebody as a employee who really was struggling. But we were giving him a lot of breaks in his personality because we’re like he’s in a tough position. Then we had a client who at the same time, who was not prepared, not willing not going through the steps and not holding up their end of the bargain. But I just kept on diving in and saying like, well, we’re really good. We can figure this out. We can try to do these things, diving down to things that weren’t my responsibility continually and utterly burned me out. And I sat there and it was only in that moment where Ray Dalio talks about it like the pain button when you’re experiencing pain. That’s the opportunity for learning and I was experiencing a lot, a lot of pain. Let me I actually about that timeframe. After I’d kind of what some of those people go client go, I went to a conference in Mexico, and I realized just how unhappy I was and how stressed and I was scared. And each of those, and I came out of this entrepreneur conference saying, I need help. And I literally, nobody can ever accuse me as half measures as the activator, I got a therapist, a business coach, a business program designed to help you with your mental structure, reached out to like three friends that like set up weekly meetings, and each of the pieces, I was like somebody, and for the It’s funny how much you can’t see, but everyone else can see, it took a meeting with all of those people, before they each were like you’re trying to take control of things that are outside of your control, and you’re on responsibility and you feel guilty. Somewhere like not your circus, not your monkeys. And we’re like codependency each had different words for the same exact thing to have that coalesce together.
Jess Dewell 16:03
Okay, so and sometimes we talked about this, and sometimes we don’t, you have a Buddhist background, correct. And so I’m listening to that. And I’m also thinking about an area that I have been studying lately about stoicism. And I think there’s a lot of overlap there.
David Longhini 16:23
You are correct. I believe that just about every major religion, philosophy will tie back into some central concepts. And one of those central concepts is what’s in your control and what’s outside of your control. In stoicism, that’s probably the number one component is like, what do I control my thoughts, my perceptions and my actions. And sometimes they say you don’t even control your actions. In Buddhism, to some large extent, it’s teaching you to let go of the thoughts in your head and separate yourself from the little things going on to just be the observer, and to recognize, and those two concepts together, reading Ryan holidays work. And being part of that, and stoicism, and Buddhism align very, very well to saying let go of the story. only worry about what’s within your control, love the fate that’s in front of you. Think about what may happen, that may be bad because it could happen and to not try to hold on to, I can’t remember who had said this, but I love the not be stuck in a state of desire. Because desire is a contract with yourself to be unhappy until you receive something. But instead to just be present with where you are, what is and what you have in front of you. Both of those two concepts have changed my life.
Jess Dewell 17:40
How do you apply those concepts to the change that can happen so fast? And you know, everybody’s talking about COVID? So I don’t really want to talk about that, because you’re running a company that went from zero to a million dollars very quickly. You’re working on that next phase of doing that next step and getting that next phase of growth. So how are you taking that? Recognizing the story to heart and really being able to use the cues to go, ooh, I’m off track? Oh, maybe there’s a story here. Are you able to do that? And can you like, tell us the secret?
David Longhini 18:15
First and foremost, I think everybody should meditate. And me too. A lot of people miss this. It would almost like saying playing sports is for exercise, rather than understanding what sports is actually for people are like, Oh, meditation, it just releases stress meditation to at least kind of a level three, like Buddhists, level seven is none of us exists. And none of this is here. It’s all a simulation, non-duality. But Buddhists, level three is the principle of the point of meditation is the ability to let go of there is a portion of your brain that’s feeding you thoughts. And you think that that portion of your brain is you rather than the observer that has all of these things happen? So as you’re meditating, you’re trying to create a space in between thought and action. So you can watch yourself, say, like, you sit, and you’re like, I should go do this. Normally, you just go do it. But you say it’s happening. It’s happening. It’s happening. But when you’re meditating, you say, Well, I’m feeling a little bit of tension. What’s going on here, I let that go. And you start to realize that you’re really tense. And then you let that go a little bit. And you start to realize you pretty, fairly, do not sure what you’re doing here, and you’re not sure whether it’s going to work out. And you let that go. And you start to say, well, if this doesn’t work out, what does that mean? And that’s when you start to get to the truly deep stories of the story of if this doesn’t work out, then I’m a failure. If I’m a failure, then nobody’s going to love me. If nobody loves me, then I’m just going to be cast out and be a pariah. And I’m going to have this deeply unhappy, lonely life. You start to find those things simply by sitting in letting it simmer. But the other question you’re asked around the business is actually we’re in the same spa again, wherever my father was, and I was just down in Playa Del Carmen at a conference with that same group of people. And there’s a concept and scaling up called the Valley of Death. And the Valley of Death is a principle in which at certain sizes in a business, you suddenly in order to compete with bigger companies need to put a lot more things in place before you can efficiently use them. So my father has constantly and only has just now built those processes been in that kind of like zero to $150,000 range, in which you need to have all of the same systems working, that my million dollar company does. But he’s doing it for only 150,000. So it’s so much more inefficient to do all of those things, which makes it a struggle. And as soon as you break out of that, you still need the same things happening for a $400,000 company, but you’re much more efficient and a lot more profitable. And you can grow, but at about a million where we’re at, we need to figure out consistent sales cycles, consistent marketing, revenue structures, forecasting, hiring and not just hiring, like put something out on LinkedIn and maybe find a needle in the haystack, like actually figure out a hiring process. What’s our hiring process? Who do we hire? What are the roles? What are their responsibilities? What’s the growth rate? How, where are those people going to do, we need to figure all of those things out that a 25-person company needs, but six people, which means we’re doing it incredibly inefficiently that creates a hit. And kind of the goal is to say, some of this is the letting go of the story. Some of it is just loving where you’re at. And some of it is there’s a concept I can never pronounce correctly in stoicism of premeditate to Malorum, which is to plan for the negative and expect the negative, where if I didn’t know that concept, I would just be beating myself up a lot less than when I started in business thinking that somehow it was going to skyrocket in a million ways. We just knew what we were doing. But I would be a lot more frustrated. And right now, if it wasn’t for the fact that I went out and asked dozens of people and dozens of books to say like, what are we going to do wrong in the next year, if I’m trying to go from here to here, what’s going to happen, and they all kind of aligned on this concept where they’re like, you’re going to be slower than it thinks. Because to go from 200 to a million, you just basically had to get more sales and do the same exact things. But to go from a million to 2 million, and then onward up, you’re gonna have to put all of these things in place. And you’re starting from scratch again, it’s kind of like it took six to nine months to figure out sales, we’re still three months into being like, is our hiring process working? Is our recruiting process working? Where do we recruit? How do we recruit? So we’re in discovery mode again and putting these building blocks in place. And because I know that because I know that’s expected that it happens. And I planned for it. And I didn’t just dive in and just be like cash reserve, I said, like, these are the minimum things that need to happen. This is how it occurs. Even this quarter hasn’t gone as fast as we even thought when we were reasonable with our expectations. But because I plan for it to take up to a year, it can be like six months will be great to have those kinds of components.
Jess Dewell 23:13
We’ve talked about your biggest learnings, we’ve talked about indicators that you’re doing in the day to day, we’ve talked about a path and a roadmap that you use to create a cadence. We talked about how you get unstuck. We’ve talked about things that have been surprising to you. We’ve talked about the things that you’ve taken on because they were demonstrated to you by others. So all of that, it really does come down to the fact that there is a boldness required in this, there is a boldness that is required to put in the time to do what it takes to build a business that can continue to grow. And that thrives along the way. And so I’m curious, why is it bold, to put in that effort and do what it takes to to create a growing and thriving business.
David Longhini 24:05
So there’s a couple of things in that. It’s bold because I define a business as a group of people organizing themselves together to help other people solve the problem. And when you look at it, that simply, you have to have a problem that you believe that you’re able to solve significantly better and not just in terms of like the problem solved. But the way you deliver the problem the way you find the people the way you support them the way you everything. You just have to say, I can do it better than that. And that was where a lot of the arrogance of starting a company was as I looked around, and all the chaos and the companies had worked and me and my co-founder said, I can do it better. And they all tie together. Some of the most surprising things was first and foremost, no matter how awesome All right, I thought I was I couldn’t do it better for everybody. We were two people, I needed to narrow down like we started out as a company that Salesforce sold, job acquired that was field service and jumped out from there. And I was like, or field service, field service covers 20 different industries, I couldn’t be the best at all of those things. And we narrow down and narrow down and narrow down and narrow down and narrow down. Until now we work with like 30 to 200, employee recurring home services and Google-driven services like landscaping, pool service, pest control each back because that’s a small enough niche that I think I can do it better. And even still, each and a, some of the biggest questions that I have to have for a company to exist is from, from a Buddhist perspective, and looking at this, I would not be in business if I didn’t believe that I was providing the best value for a certain group of people. And the things that often hit me will be when I look at somebody else who did a great job, what are their competitive point solutions that I like, and I’m like, that’s really good. And if it ever reaches the point in which I say, those people just truly do it better. And there is no market niche that really needs us that I can provide more. Also, bless them, I need to go find a new problem. Because that Boldness is truly having enough confidence in yourself. Because I don’t consider it boldness, if you’re just arrogant and want money. If you want the fame or want the money of running a business, the boldness is in capitalism, everybody’s out there trying to solve problems, there is literally a competition of saying who can best serve to solve problems with all of its problems and over the other pieces, but you look at that’s the core framework. And for you to say, I can do it better. Either these people are not being served, or they’re not being served well enough. Or I can do it in a new innovative way that is going to solve a problem that they didn’t even know they had, or in a way that they didn’t even think was possible. But as with new technology, that’s the boldness, you’re saying, I’m the one to do that. That’s my responsibility. I’m the one who’s going to be capable of this. And that’s the one thing that I keep reminding myself, rather than having to come back to is to continually ask that question. Do I still believe that my company or focus, and what we’re doing, solves a problem and solves it better than anyone else for a specific group of people. And if ever that chooses not to be the case, and shut the company down and say that somebody else solved the problem, or it’s too unsolvable or too difficult. But that’s, that’s what drives me forward. And that’s a bold piece of any true business venture.
Jess Dewell 27:42
You heard it here. This is the Bold Business Podcast. With David joining me today. Thanks for participating in the live stream. Make sure that you are commenting, sharing, asking your questions along the way. We are both on social media and want to know what you think we also want to know about your stories, those stories, the experiences that you have, how what David is doing actually shows up in your world, how what David is doing could enhance your world helping you solve a problem that you’re challenged with right now. Because it’s that dialogue. It is the dialogue and the conversation that we are having of how we’re doing it, how we faced it, so that you with your unique strengths and weaknesses have the opportunity to learn from us to go explore, digest, chip away at and find the way through the problems that you’re facing to get to the goals that you have set. And actually, sometimes I will put successes in that too. You might be having so much success. It’s creating problems. And that’s a good thing as well. All of this is part of the dialogue and the conversation that we have here at the Bold Business Podcast. Until next time,
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