Gregory Gray | Going From Business Owner to CEO

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of your business. But, says Gregory Gray, if you don’t think about the future and work towards it… all your efforts will be for nothing. 

Because real sustainable growth can only happen if you’re clear on what you want and make an actual plan to get there… a plan that guides what you do on a daily basis.

Of course, that’s just part of the equation. To be successful, part of that plan must be for you, as the business owner, to “remove” yourself from the business to a certain extent, otherwise it will never grow beyond you.

We talk about how to do that, as well as…

  • How to shift to a strategic rather than tactical – and why you should
  • The essential leadership skills for small business owners
  • What you can learn from good and bad mentors
  • Why working long, hard hours does more harm than good
  • And more

Listen now…

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Transcript

Steve Gordon: Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon, and we’ve got a fantastic interview for you today! I’m very excited for this one. Today I’m talking with Greg Gray. Greg is the founder of Gray Solutions, and he’s got a business advisory firm. He’s also the host of the Business Owner Freedom podcast, he’s the author of Business Owner Freedom, the book, which is coming out soon, and lives with him, his wife and two daughters on a farm in the Nashville area. And I have spoken a couple of times, I was fortunate enough to be a guest on his podcast. And I can tell you, this is going to be probably one of the better conversations we’ve had because Greg just has some amazing ideas and ways of thinking about your business that will help create more freedom for you. So, Greg, I’m excited that you’re here. And really looking forward to today.

Gregory Gray: Yeah, me too. I’m very excited to have this conversation. So thanks for having me.

Steve: Well, why don’t you give everybody just a little bit of your background, just so they’ve got some context around how you’ve gotten to the stage.

Gregory: Sure. The long story would take a while, so I’ll give you the really quick version. So, if I missed anything, let me know. But started out manufacturing space was over 20 years, ran manufacturing plants and worked in divisions of manufacturers, and so forth, in the corporate space for quite a long time. Then, in 2010 I went out and started a consulting firm along with purchasing another business at the same time for cash flow reasons. But, the main impetus for consulting was to work on leadership and organizational development, which I did. And over time, over those last 10 years, I’ve transferred into the small business space a lot more. I still do a little bit of corporate work, but mostly into the small business sector at this point. I found that the business owners needed what the corporations were able to afford much easier, and so we’re putting our emphasis now on to the small business market.

Steve: Well, I know it’s a huge need out there. And, you know, we run into it often with the types of businesses that we work with, they just, you know, they’re entrepreneurial… they get started and sort of are scrappy at the beginning, and you get further into it and now you need to kind of up the game when it comes to leadership and organizational development. And, that can be a tough transition for folks to make.

So, as you think back over the, you know, the course of your career as you built. And as you built your business, what are some of the things that help you stay unstoppable? What keeps you going?

Staying Unstoppable & Living Intentionally

Gregory: I think there are two strong things. One is the ability to stay vulnerable and introspective on yourself, your business; your ability to impact others or influence is only going to be as great as your willingness to explore yourself, and change yourself, and grow yourself. So if you have a limitation in your business, it’s probably because you as a leader have a limit. And that’s something I’ve learned. I’ve seen it through a lot of my mentors over time, you know… when you have mentors, some are good mentors, some are bad, but you learn something from both. And, that’s something I saw.

So, you have to work on yourself, and I think you have to ask people honestly to critique you and give you impactful conversations to help you shape your life. The second thing kind of dovetails into this, but the second piece is you need to be very intentional on your life: on your life plan, and also on your life habits. So, you know, we always look at this long journey that we want to take and have this grand vision at times, and we need that. But along with that is the daily habits that support that. So, you can have one or both of those, but you have to really tie those together. So your everyday habits end up becoming what you become, in actuality. So, you need honest feedback. And then you got to deal with that honest feedback on a daily habitual way.

Steve: I love that word: intentional. And, I think it’s a powerful word, and once we don’t… I don’t think we use nearly frequently enough. You know, as you approach kind of building those habits, it’s funny, I see business owners all the time, they just sort of get caught up in the raging river of business and it’s flowing past and they just get swept away in the business and all of that, and, and I think a lot of that intentionality is missing. As you’re working with your clients, is that something that you have to kind of, you know, suck them out and pull them out?

Gregory: Oh, it’s an incredible amount of pull in their life, that’s going the wrong direction many times. And, it’s honorable what they’re doing. I mean, some of them are working 70 hours a week… 80 hours a week… doing a lot of work. But, what we find is that efficiency, the effectiveness of that work goes way down, once you get past a certain period of time. I’m not going to give you an exact hour, because you know, it depends on the person. But, I know myself if I work 12 hour days, five days a week, that fifth day I’m probably not doing very well. And, I’m surely not resting and thinking smartly through each day. So, the amount of hours you put in does not equate to success. And yet, a lot of people, because you know, they think that they (especially in the corporate world) that you cannot get applauded for doing the extra stuff.

And so, when we go into a small business, and let me describe what a small business is really quick: it could be anything from a million in revenue up to 50 million. So, some of these are relatively good sized businesses, but you know, in the scheme of things are very small from a corporate standpoint. So, you walk in, they may have 30-40, even 100 employees, and the business owner still working in the business and not on the business. And so, we see this trap over and over again. And it’s exactly what we have to attack when we first of all can, is the business owners mindset that they actually can let go of that. We have all the tools to help them let go that and put systems and processes in place. That’s the easy part. It means, it’s a lot of work, but it’s the easy part. The hard part is getting their mind around the idea that that should happen, and they have the right to do that, as the business owner.

Steve: Why do you think that is such a difficult, you know, a bridge for them to cross? I see it all the time, but you’re working with them… why do they see that as a barrier?

Gregory: Well, from my experiential knowledge, it comes from two or three different areas. Number one is this the way they were trained. We all go through school and we rise or fall on our test scores, and the amount of effort we put in, and those types of things. And don’t get me wrong, my wife’s a teacher and I believe in education, so I’m not putting the school system down. But… I think we need to balance that with the idea of what true success is, and how you can be effective and leverage things. So, we are raised that way. And sometimes, it’s our family, sometimes it’s you know, our dads or moms that push us to work hard and say we know, I got to work hard, do something constructive, you hear these phrases over and over again as you grow up. So that’s the first place it starts.

Then, we get into the business world. Corporate wherever, and then we’re applauded by, you know, we’re the one that comes in on Saturday morning when everybody else stays home… and so all of a sudden we get the promotion. So, we’re incentivized to do those things, and we get the pat on the back, we get to go play golf with the VP above us because we’re the ones staying after six o’clock every night. And then, it becomes an ego problem. Because you tie all that the ego, and the incentive centers that drive your ego, your titles, and money, and all these things. And then you kind of get in this man trap, if you will. And then if you go out and start your own business, you’ve got that mentality, it’s built within you.

Some people go out, start their own business right out of school, but they still fall in that trap, because they had to start at the beginning, doing the multiple hat thing we talked about, you know, they have to do everything. And so as it grows, they can’t let go. Because they’re worth is tied to that, you know, some people truly, honestly want fires in their business, they would never say that, but they want it subconsciously because they can go put the fire out… now they’re the hero. And so, it becomes this almost this double main kick, when we go through these periods of time when we have to solve things or run 100 miles an hour, we think, man, I got a lot of work done today because I’m exhausted. Well, and actually you weren’t very effective, but you did do a lot of work. And we misconstrue those things. And so, when we walk in and talk to him about it, you have to unravel these psychological traps many times.

Steve: Yeah, it’s just so interesting to observe folks from the outside who are trapped in that. And, it’s I think it’s very easy to see from the outside. I think all of us are always at some stage on the spectrum of are we working in the business? Or are we working on the business? And, I don’t even like… I almost don’t like that description anymore because it’s been used so much since you know since The E Myth came out. I see it more as you’re either, you know, working in the business producing or you’re creating the business and the business is the product that you’re working on.

Gregory: Yes, I agree.

Steve: You know, and it just elevates the work you’re doing to just it’s… it’s ultimately you’re producing the same results, but you’re elevated and you’re creating at a different level. But I think it’s it’s just so challenging to figure out and be aware enough to say “I’m at this level. And I’m, you know, on the spectrum, and I’m trying to go a little bit further and a little bit further and a little bit further.” So, you know, as you think about the times you’ve gone in where do you begin to have that conversation and talk to a business owner? Who is maybe neck-deep in the business, and moving them that first little step? What are some of the first places that you generally will look to move them?

Thinking Strategically & Working Tactically

Gregory: Well, I described what you just said, and I’m with you that working on versus in has been overused. And so we say it and it doesn’t have the impact it used to have, but I like to use you are you thinking strategically? Are you working tactically? Because that’s really what we’re talking about here, and I’ll ask the business owner, you know, how much time did you spend the last two weeks? Let’s think about your last two weeks… walk me through what you’ve done for the last two weeks? They’ll start “well… you know…” they’ll start humming-and-hawing as they know what I’m getting at. And that’s okay, how much how many hours out of those 60 you worked last week and 60 you worked the week before… how many of those hours were strategic? And, it’ll maybe be two hours. Maybe. If we’re lucky it’s two hours.

So, everything else is tactical in nature. “Well, I had to go, I had to go talk to this customer, I had to go, you know, run the sales call, I had to go…” you know, they start telling me all this stuff. And then I had one, one business owner, a pretty large company in Nashville that we’re working with, he told me about three weeks ago, he said, “All this stuff is good in theory.” And then right then as soon as he said that I went, “Okay, this is gonna be… we’re gonna have to take the chisel out, start chipping away some of the stone here, because he’s already discounting what I’m telling him,” because he says “theories, but it doesn’t work here.” And I’ve heard that over and over and over… “our business is different.” If I had $100 for every time somebody tell me my business is different, I wouldn’t have to do any more coaching. But I mean, it’s amazing how everybody is unique, but none are. And so, that’s the first place you have to do… is start chipping away, let them see how much time they’re really spending strategically versus tactically.

And the way we do that, sometimes, I’ll walk them through and say “and when you started this business, you’re basically a technician, right?” And then they go “what do you mean?” “Yes, well, you knew how to do the technical work, whether it’s plumbing or HVAC, or construction, or whatever it is, you knew how to do the technical stuff.” They’re like “Well, yeah, that’s how it started.” “Okay, then at some point you rose up and became a business owner because you start hiring people.” “That’s correct.” I said, “well, now we’re trying to take you from being a business owner to being a CEO and hire somebody to do that ownership type work, you know hire a general manager… whoever, whatever we will call it. And let’s listen to steer you into the CEO seat where you can do strategic work and look out in the future and invest in your business and get time away to think, “and they’re like, ‘Oh, so that’s what CEOs do…’” That’s what CEOs do: they’re thinking strategically. They’re trying to go move the dial for the business in the future, they’re not living every day in the present. And that’s the difference.

Steve: It’s a huge distinction. And as you have that, that conversation… I mean, do you get buy-in fairly quickly as you’re talking? Because I can just see that business owner who’s kind of holding on to that idea that this is all good in theory, and not being able to connect the dots between “well, what do I do tomorrow, that’s going to be different, that’s going to move me closer to this picture of freedom that you just described?” Because they probably want the picture of freedom, right? They clear that I’d love to have the time off, love to be able to think, love to be able to act strategically… but I got this dumpster fire in front of me.

Gregory: Right? Yeah, we require… and when I say require, I mean, we won’t work with a client unless they do this, we require them to fill out a vision story, very first thing is the engagement. So, we have these general conversations, you know, before they hire us, about where they want to go. Then we go, okay, now you got to fill out the visual story. And the vision story is not just, I want to make this kind of profit… I mean, that’s in there, but there’s a lot more to it. It’s, okay, I’d really want to take this much time off with my family in the future, versus what I’m doing today, or… I really want to be able to do this or that versus what I’m doing today. This is what our culture of our company looks like versus what it is today. There are several things there that we go through, and we spend a really good amount of detailed time on that and flesh that vision story out. And once they flesh that out… now, the questions a lot simpler. It’s like, so why wouldn’t you want to do that? I’m going to show you how to do that. Versus, you know, it’s just theory and you need to move in the CEO seat now. No, now it’s like, oh, to make this happen. That’s what you gotta do. Do you want to make this happen? And I get they might go… no, I fleshed all that out and now I really don’t want that to happen so I’m not gonna change. They’re basically arguing with themselves at that point saying, I just laid this thing out why wouldn’t I want to do that? Does that make sense?

Steve: Completely, yeah. So, I guess the answer to your, your client that said, “this is all just theory” was: do your vision statement, and then let’s talk.

Gregory: Yeah, we walked right through it, and he’s bought in now. And that situation, that particular situation was actually multiple owners and the other ones were looking at going, ‘Hey, wait a minute. This is where we’re going. We’ve decided this is the where we’re going to hit” and they picked the time frame, which usually three to six years, “This is where we’re going to be in three years. Why would we not do that? We just said what we’re going to do. That’s what we wanted to do. So we can’t look at this as there, we gotta go try it now.” And then once they try and they start going down that path, they realized, Oh, this stuff does work. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of work. But, the mindset starts and then everything goes from there.

Steve: Well, you know, I know one of the things we’re going to talk about is systems and processes, and all of that. We’ve actually been going through a whole slew of documentation inside our own firm. And, it’s a ton of work. I think I’ve worked more to try to get that done along with everything else over the last two or three weeks then, you know, then I probably had in the previous two months, just because it takes it… sometimes it takes that a little bit of extra energy to move things off. Right. But when you’re doing it with a vision in mind, I think it makes it a little bit easier. I mean, do your clients experience that? They see this sort of, you know, they’re out there and they go, “Oh wow.”

Gregory: Yes, I’ve got one right now that I’ve talked to just last week, and they were expressing exactly what you said. They were like, “my goodness, we’re in the process creation phase, and it’s a lot of work, isn’t it?” I said, “Yeah. And it’s not, you know, what we call MMA, it’s not “money-making activity”.” At least, not directly. I mean, you’re not going to go “man, at the end the day look what I created.” But I told them indirectly it is a money-making activity, especially for the business owner because what you’re doing is you’re setting your business up for in a couple of ways. Number one is, you know, you can take an extended vacation and things run without you. Number two, you’re going to be more efficient, because once you get your processes documented, and then you get through a continuous process of reviewing them, you’re going to find ways to make them more efficient, I can guarantee you that. Which is something we preach about to our clients. And then number three is, if you ever want to sell your business, your multiple is going to go up because you can hand them an operating system for your business. If somebody walks in your business tries to buy it, and there’s no operating system, they’re basically just buying the idea of the business because it’s all in your head. And so, your ability to sell the business goes up, and your ability to require more revenue for that business goes up as well. So, there’s kind of a three-factor there, that’s really important. Not to mention all the little, what I call the tier two stuff, which is your employees are more engaged because they know what to do now. Your training goes up because now you have something to train to. Your onboarding process can be a lot cleaner and easier because you handle the processes you are going to be using. It just helps a lot of things in the business.

Steve: Yeah, and I’ll tell you the thing that we found, because we’ve documented some key areas here recently, and then hired people to fill those roles. And, I feel like we’ve been able to attract better people, because we’ve been able to say, very early on in the process, “here’s what you’re going to be doing.” I mean, I’ve actually had people comment like “this is the most well-organized thing I’ve ever seen.”

And I don’t know what it is or it isn’t. But at least we’re appearing as though we’ve thought through this, right. And so it’s I think it’s helping us attract better people, which is critical right now, I mean, with with the way the labor market is.

Gregory: Absolutely, I agree with you one hundred percent. And, you have to do everything in your power to get the best people you can get, no matter what the labor market is, but especially right now. And I mean, A players are going to go where A-players are, and if I players are attracted to, you know, organization and structure, which they are, they’re going to flop to a company, they’re going to start talking about a company that does those things. If they go somewhere that doesn’t seemingly have it together, and they might not say. It becomes very frustrating, because you hear the phrases in you know, around the water cooler of “I don’t know really what they want, I’m not sure exactly what they want for me.” And, you know, they’re thinking in your mind, “I don’t know how to win here. I don’t know what success is here, because one day they say this… the next day, they say that. I’m not sure which one counts, because it’s not written down, it’s not clear.”

But if it’s clear, if it’s in a role responsibility for their job, if it’s in a process that they’re following, it’s very clear.

Steve: If it becomes easy… easier for them, and I think easier for you as the leader. So So we’ve talked a little bit, I mean, we started off with the idea of business owner freedom, which is the name of your podcasts and the name of your upcoming book. And I love that title, because that’s why we all got into business…. right?

Gregory: Absolutely.

Steve: That’s the promise of entrepreneurship if you’re going to take the risk, and at least you ought to get the reward of having freedom. And so, we talked about that concept, we’ve talked about, you know how you go and create the vision with your clients, which is probably the key first step, I think.

Gregory: Oh, it has to be. Without that, you don’t know where you’re going. I mean, if you go back in time and read anything that in history, every good project, every good ending, started with a clear vision. I’m not saying you couldn’t get there without a clear vision, but aside, it’s gonna take you a lot longer, it’s gonna cost you a lot more money, it’s going to take a lot more energy. And you may not even get where you thought you wanted to be. But, with a clear vision, now you have something to speak to and speak into constantly with your team. And, you know, that’s one of the things that I learned through my corporate venture was: you set a vision, and then you preach about it every day. You keep driving everything in the business towards that vision. And you know, and of course, part of that is your mission statement, your core values… those have to support it too. But if everything’s pointing that one direction, you got a good chance of getting there.

Steve: And I think that’s a really good point. You’ve got to just do this over and over and over again, you’ve got to continue to beat that drum. So, we started with the vision, I want to take a quick break, and I want to come back. And then I want to kind of break this down into the next couple of steps that folks need to know so that when they walk away from listening to this, they’ve, in their mind, they can at least formulate a plan forward. So we’re going to be right back with more from Greg Gray.

Welcome back, everyone. This is Steve Gordon, and I’m talking with Greg Gray. And Greg, we left off kind of summarizing the path to freedom, starting with vision… starting with, you know, the moving into the need to communicate that vision over and over and over again. And so, as you know, if you were consulting with the business owner that’s listening to us today. And they, they sat down and they laid out their vision, and they’re beginning to communicate this within their team. Where do you take them from there? What’s the next step?

Gregory: Well, the next step is obvious is… OK, as somebody that’s working for you, what do I do for that vision? So I see your vision: you want to be at x revenue in three years, and you want to have, you know, this kind of culture. So, what does that do for me? So that’s where we help the business owner figure out what their big rocks are. We use the term big rocks, and we thought, okay, let’s pick the next two or three big rocks, you’re going to work on. What are the things you’re going to do to move the dial in this business towards that vision? And so we take those big rocks, and it might be a marketing project that you got to work on… something you’re doing to the market. It may be something in operations, or it could be something in, you know, the sales in the field. Whatever it is, we break those down, and we walk them through a strategic exercise that may take a couple of days to go through a strategy session, and come out with those. Okay, here are the three next big rocks we got to work on. Then we take those and break it down into what roles going to do what by when so we get very actionable.

And at that point, you can assign those responsibilities to your people, you get buy-in from them. You walk through where you’re trying to go, why they’re going to do what they’re going to do (don’t just assign them and walk away) and get them involved, help them get a really deep understanding of where you’re headed, and why what they’re going to do is going to get you there. And you know, get the buy-in. And then you put measurables in place to say okay, how are we going to measure make sure we’re meeting those objectives? So are you meet every week and talk about you know, where you’re at, what the milestones are? Are you going to meet monthly? You know, set all that up to where you can get a really strong cohesive action plan, from the lowest level organization all the way up to the top until vision has been cast.

And we recommend, most of the time we do these in what we call 90-day sprint’s, or a 90-day plan because each quarter is pretty strong. So if you look every three months, you know, you’ve got a chance of really making some good progress. If you stretch it for a whole year. And if you’ve ever read the book, The 12 Week Year, it kind of comes from that premise, it’s the same kind of premise, I learned this when I was doing training for endurance events years ago, is you can’t do everything all at once. But, you can do some things really strong for a period of time, it’s called periodization, and then you change that and shift to something else. So, we help them set it up that way from a strategic plan into an action plan.

Steve: Yeah, I’m listening to you and I’m thinking about the experiences that I’ve had with business owners, and sometimes they have… there’s a difficulty, I think in connecting the dots between the vision and those big rocks of all, and, you know, maybe it’s a challenge of discernment of figuring out which ones to pick. Sometimes, I think there’s just this challenge right there. When you work with a client of yours, how do you help them kind of focus in and choose “Well, these are the few.” And, I think the fact that you’ve limited it to, to just a few is important. I see a lot of folks trying to do too much. Can you talk a little bit about that process?

Gregory: Yeah, absolutely. We have a very specific process we have when we go through strategic planning. And, and I’ll just throw out some of the tools that people may have heard, a lot of these are things that, you know, thrown out the corporate space: but, we do what’s called a SWOT analysis, which is strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats. And we walk through that process. And when you get down with that, you have a pretty good idea of some of the direction you need to go. And then, we’ll go through some other tools where we’ll weight each of the items by, you know, the resources required, the game that’s going to be had because of it, you know… how many people got involved, what the cost is, those kinds of things. Because, sometimes, something you could go after is going to cost too much for the game you’re going to get… compared to another project. So, we help prioritize the “big rocks,” if you will, but which ones are we going to get first? Because, if something takes a low input, which you cannot help, but of course, you can do that one first. That’s a no brainer. If something takes high input but low output, you’re going to do that one last. Unless there’s a strategic reason you got to do one first, and that’s a whole different discussion, and we’ll go through that sometimes.

But, your point is correct. A lot of times, a business owner is sitting in their office, and they don’t feel like they can go just talk to their team about it. Because, now it shows that they’re like, “Okay, I can’t make a decision. I don’t know where we’re going.” And they talk to the team, but the team, you know, they’re going to do what most human nature people gonna do, right? We’re going to go choose what’s best for me, not the business necessarily. So then, you get conflicting information where somebody like myself walks in, unbiased objector, I only care about one thing: are you doing the right three things? This is the best for the business. Not use an individual, not this person over here who is an individual… but for the business. And so, we help them walk through those tools. And once they get done, you can almost see a sigh of relief, and their shoulders are lighter because they’re like, “Okay, now I know exactly what we got to do. ” They leave out of there and I go “next 90 days, this is what we’re doing.” And they know. They have a clear direction. That’s really what a business owner wants, sometimes. I just wish somebody would tell me what I need to do. And if they tell me, I go do it. Well, it’s all in their head, it’s all in their business, we just help them pull that out and make sense of it all.

Steve: Folks, what you heard just there is, I think, probably the best case I’ve ever heard for having somebody that you pay to come in and look at this stuff, kind of look over your shoulder. Call it what you want, you know, having a coach that can look at your backswing, whatever it is, but having somebody come in and really be able to give you that that unbiased opinion. You know, I’ve hired advisors all throughout my career, Greg, and I’ve always told them, “okay, your title is paid pain in the ass.” But if you’re here, your only purpose here, and the only way you earn your money is to tell me the things that nobody else is going to tell me.

Gregory: Exactly.

Steve: And I think it’s critical to have that role. I mean, if you’re going to make any kind of progress, it’s almost like you need that. It’s almost like the resistance if your weight training, you know, it’s so that that little bit of pushback on your ideas to help you really see where the big opportunities are. And having that outside view, I think is essential.

Gregory: It’s critical, but it’s critical in two areas, I think. One is to strategic, what we just talked about… what we outlined. The other is in your leadership. You know, I witness a lot of leaders while going through this process and I find cues where their leadership is off-center somewhat, and I’m very blunt. I don’t do that in front of their team, obviously, we do that one on one. But I mean, it’s the same thing, you have to have somebody that is unbiased willing to tell you, “okay, here’s your blind spots, I’m seeing these as a leader. You’re doing some things that you need to be aware that you may not even know.” And so when you take those two things in combination, you can see a lot of gains and a lot of trust built within an organization very quickly.

Steve: So, you know, we talked a little bit about leadership upfront, you mentioned it again there. As you’re working with a client, I mean, that’s got to be one of the more difficult things that you do— is having to, to kind of pull them aside and say, “you know, here’s a blind spot that you have.” As you do that do you find that there’s resistance to that from your clients?

Gregory: Yeah, I mean, there’s natural resistance. I wouldn’t call it, you know, unfair resistance. I mean, once in a while, you may have one of those. But, it’s just typical… what I call survival instinct because when somebody starts telling enough stuff, that’s pretty hard to hear, I mean, you can only process so much so fast. And so, one of the things I’ve learned to do over my career, and what we try to do when we’re counseling and coaching one of these owners is, is to feather that in in a way that they can accept it and understand it.

One of the processes we do when we go into much like the strategic plan, we actually do what’s called a 360 review for a business. So whether there’s one owner, multiple owners, whatever it might be, we’re going to interview each owner will go interview each person that reports to the owners, all the key positions, whether they’re ownership or not. And we’ll create a report and say, here’s the real culture of the business. You may think it’s x, but we’re finding that it’s really. There are some things where you don’t know. Those are the things that once they’re fleshed out, they can do something with. So, whether they want to hear it or not, they have to hear it because it’s real. I mean, they may have A players leaving, and they don’t know why… They think it’s one thing so they start raising pay, and the pay has nothing to do with it. It’s somebody action in leadership that they need to address. Or, maybe it’s some unfair thing that they’ve done in the past that they haven’t, you know, cleared up. So, when we go through these things, again, that’s where the unbias objector is. I just want them to know the truth. Because once you know the truth, you can do something with it.

Steve: Yeah, I think that’s the key. I mean, I see folks, I guess, some of the business owners we’ve worked within the past, we’ve had to get to a point where we have those frank conversations. I think a lot of times, business owners, particularly if they’re experienced, they’re at a point where they’ve figured out how to tell themselves the truth. But you see this all over? I mean, until you really deal with the issue and get it out. It’s, you know, it’s very difficult to solve it and understand what the true issue is. There are often layers to it.

Gregory: Yes, sir.

The Dreaded Stage: Systems, Processes, and Documentation

Steve: We’ve talked about a number of different stages here. But, the one we’ve only really touched on but haven’t gone in too deep is the one that everybody dreads: that’s the systems, and the processes, and the documentation, and getting all of that done. And, we talked a little bit about it, but this is the one area where I know like this sends business owners running for the door. Can you talk us through a little bit about how you will work with a business to get everything documented? And do it without killing the owner in the process?

Gregory: Absolutely. So one of the… I call it a module, that we go through, that we teach, and we address is a delegation module. And we do that before we do systems and processes because one of the things we want to do is we want to find some extra time, some extra energy in the organization to be able to work on this. Because, if you just throw it on their desk, now they’re like, I’m already working these hours… when am I going to do this? which is probably what your experiences like I gotta get going, I have to work on it on Saturday morning. And we’ll work on processes. And that’s one way to do it. And, sometimes you have to do it that way, but what we try to do is alleviate, you know, 10 or 20% of the leaders time, and maybe some of their key managers times too by delegating some stuff and moving some stuff around and maybe outsourcing, whatever it might be. And, I’m not talking major critical stuff, I’m just talking about things that are busywork. Because there’s a lot of busywork that leaders do that like they really don’t have to do that. And so that’s the first thing we do is go through a delegation process.

And then, when we start digging into processes and systems, we make sure we look at it from a people agnostic standpoint. So, the very first thing we do is we identify what are all the processes in the business? Because if you don’t know, you can’t address these things. And we create all those processes. And then we create roles and responsibilities to all those processes. So is this process going to be done by one role, or can this role do multiple processes? So just assume you get all the processes— not created, but identified— you get all the roles and responsibilities identified. And we start creating those because those are pretty easy to knock out pretty quick. And then, we can create a what we call process roadmap from that and say, “Okay, this process roadmap kind of fits onto a page nicely and can looks like an org chart when we’re done.” So we’re basically doing an org chart, without the people’s names. We’re doing a people agnostic org chart, which is basically a process roadmap. And then what we do is go who’s best to do each one of these processes? Who’s the person that knows this process better than anybody? Because that’s the person that probably should document it, the person who is doing it. And so, we just start there and start dividing and conquering. So who’s going to do what by when? We assign all the processes to be created by a certain time.

Now, for some businesses, they like to go into what we call a document control system, which is, you document all the processes the same, they all have read levels and numbers on it. So you can put them in an intranet or somewhere and anybody can find them at any time, which I highly recommend. And then we have a process where every so often as a process comes up for renewal, say a year later, two years later, it’s it’s renewed again or reviewed again. And you have a checkoff system where it’s not just one person like this process, you have somebody that creates it, and somebody has to check it off and sign it off. So it’s kind of like saying a check twice, right kind of checks and balances if you will. And, and so once those are all assigned, and they’re starting to create the processes, we suggest, just hammer them out as quick as you can. They don’t have to be perfect, get them as close to reality as what’s happening in the process, because we’re going to review them anyway. And it’s the review process where you really tighten them up and find out, okay, we didn’t capture everything here. And one simple way to do that is if you have a process in your business that I don’t use… hand it to me. And can I do it, can I follow it? If I can’t, then it’s not solid enough.

The other thing we recommend, and this is something that a lot of businesses are doing now, is we’ll tell them to create a video, video the process. So if say the process is on a computer, whatever, we recommend, you know, use Loom. And, they’ll take that hyperlink and put it right in that process. And when they pull it up, somebody can pull the video up and watch it. Because some people are visual learners, some are auditory, and some like to read. And so, you kind of cover everybody’s method of learning thereby having a video and a written document. Does that make sense?

Steve: That makes complete sense, and we use a lot of videos as well. One of the things I found with it is, as someone is documenting a process in video, they’re going to say things that if you just put down the bullet point list of steps, you know, they might not capture, but they might comment on some of the nuance of it, which I think is really valuable to have captured somewhere.

Gregory: Yeah, we’ve actually had one client, they just did the videos, and then had them transcribe it for the process, and then just kind of cut it up and cut and paste it for the process. So there’s a lot of ways to get there quick. I mean, one of the simple ways is, is people are doing the work because having the process documented, and then they get the process. So.

Steve: Yeah, so doesn’t have to be on your plate. You know, if you’re listening to this thinking, like, you know, when am I going to have time to do this, it really shouldn’t be on your plate as a CEO, but you need to turn around how it’s going to get done and probably identify what the processes are that need documenting.

Well, that’s fantastic. So. So tell us just a little bit about your book. And, and I would love for you to share where folks can look you up and find out more and tune in to your podcast.

Gregory: Absolutely, well, like say the Business Owner Freedom book, it has a lot of what we just talked about in there, and then some. So, it starts off and goes through your life plan. And then it tells you how to go through your vision story for your business. Then it goes through the middle chapters go through the what I call the three P’s of business, which is the people the process, this isn’t the planning that that’s the three keys right there. I mean, you got to have those three to really have a business, and then… then it goes into leadership and strategic planning and the things we just talked about. So, it really walks you through from start to finish what you have to do to build a business and freedom, and there are few stories in there and so forth, but it is what these clients are following. And what we’re coaching them through literally. It’s actually the plan for it. So, it’s it’ll be a pretty good tool to get people started in the right direction, I believe they can go to BusinessOwnerFreedom.com, and there’s a place there that you can get on the waiting list for the book. And if you sign up for that on the waiting list, there’s actually a couple of bonuses that come along with the waiting list that you won’t be able to get any other way and they’re gonna be pretty good— I haven’t asked what they are yet, but they’re, they’re going to be pretty special. And so, if somebody’s interested right now in learning more about getting their vision story done because we talked about, that’s what you have to start with. You can go to BusinessOwnerFreedom.com/myvision and you’ll get the steps for the visual story that you can start playing with right now.

Steve: That’s fantastic. That’s the first step that everybody listening ought to go take. And go do that now. Give yourself permission to take a little time, go get a cup of coffee somewhere, and just go through that exercise. I guarantee you, you’re going to get tremendous benefit out of just doing that little bit of thinking. So, Greg, that’s really generous. Thank you for sharing that. And I know you’ve got a great podcast, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a guest…where can where can folks listen to your podcast?

Gregory: Well, they can you know, any podcast player pretty much iTunes and Podcoin and I don’t know all those places, but also you can go to BusinessOwnerFreedom.com and each episode is put there into a blog post and they can listen to it there and get a little bit more show notes right there as well.

Steve: Excellent. We’ll link all that up in the show notes for this episode. So if you’re driving, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Greg, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure to connect with you and you shared some great stuff today.

Gregory: Yeah, thank you very much.

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