My guest this week weathered intense setbacks early in his career. But Joshua Long actually looks back almost fondly at those times because he knows it shaped who he is today and allows him to see solutions when his clients can’t. Joshua is a consultant specializing in helping B2B companies overcome revenue plateaus, reduce risk, and experience rapid growth. To achieve those types of breakthroughs he looks at company culture, the mindset of owners and managers, and marketing strategy - specifically how you are positioned differently than your competitors.
Joshua has found that some business owners are actually sabotaging growth… without even knowing it.
Tune in and discover…
The Bottleneck Breakthrough method for boosting growth quickly
Why your support network - in business and at home - is key for entrepreneurs
The mindset you need to overcome hurdles life and business throw your way
How to “reprogram” yourself to get rid of toxic beliefs and create a new reality
Ways to be a more effective manager - without more bureaucracy
Listen to Joshua Long and Steve Gordon now…
Joshua Long | Achieve the Breakthrough Growth Your Business Needs
Our guest is Joshua Long. Joshua is a consultant that focuses on helping B2B companies in the $10 million, a $100 million-range, and helps them breakthrough those revenue plateaus and unlock rapid growth. Through his experience as an entrepreneur and marketing director for BBI, which was the company that was owned by Chet Holmes and Tony Robbins, as a consultant since then, he's developed the Bottleneck Breakthrough method and it's been a proven method for him to unlock rapid growth for his clients while reducing risk and eliminating waste in the process. Josh, excited to have you here.
Thanks. Glad to be here.
I'm excited to hear about what you're doing. Can you give everybody a little bit of context about how you’ve got to this point?
You mentioned about my background with Chet and Tony. Before that, I worked with a guy that you and I know pretty well named Dan Kennedy, got into his world with marketing, and was an independent business adviser there. Prior to that, I was a mortgage broker, cut my teeth as an entrepreneur with that. When half of the rest of California was in the mortgage industry in the early 2000s, I fell in love with direct marketing when I met Dan and came across this stuff and connected with Chet. Chet was a direct marketing and sales guy. From there, I found I had to shut my mortgage brokerage down with the credit crisis. I went to work for Chet after that and enjoyed the variety and the challenge of helping business owners grow their business and small business owners in particular, those that aren't venture-backed, those that aren't a subsidiary of a billion-dollar company. That Dan's philosophy, “You've got to do marketing today that gets a check in by Thursday to clear for the marketing expense on Friday and where cashflow is king.”
An interesting thing about what you're talking about is dealing with the mind and with mindset is that it is programmable and that means it can be reprogrammed. You have the ability to put different things in there to challenge the ideas that are in there, but it requires an examination that very few have practice doing. It's hard to do.
It's very hard to do. It's not light work. To me, I hate to get on a whole esoteric spiritual journey, but to me, this is one of the points in life is continued refinement and development and enlightenment of yourself, so that you become a happier, healthier, more contributing human being to everybody around you.
It is important. I don't want to just gloss over it because that's part of why we're here, to give some insight to people about not only the steps to take, that you can some practical things you can go through to begin to reprogram where you need to or where you feel like you need to, but also why bother doing it. You’ve got to have some point to it. It's critically important. You're seeing more of that come through right now than you ever have before. There was personal development and all of that out there. I've been doing interviews most of the day-to-day. I was interviewing another author named Dorie Clark. She's got a new book and we got talking about this dramatic revolution that's going on in the economy where she said 35% of people in the workforce now were doing some freelance work or they're self-employed. They're in charge of their own economic destiny. Contrast that to 50 years ago when the very top echelon had that not only national on in terms of quality of person or economic strata, but you had a few people at the top of companies and then a whole lot of employees below that to make it work, and all that's being flipped around now. What we're seeing as a result of that is that people are they're having to confront some real demons. That's where a lot of this is coming from. It's more prevalent now, the consciousness of this, than it than it's ever been.
That was only separated and available to the artisans and the craftsman of the past because they were willing to go their own way and buck the traditional system. Now that the digital economy and all of the tools available to the rest of us are able to participate and create our own art. It's definitely putting our feet to the fire on that.
I always like to make these conversations practical so anybody can take an action step away from it. We've talked about having that self-examination. If you were sitting down talking one on one with somebody, what would you advise them to do as a way to maybe get started in a practical way to go and have that examination with themselves?
I'm a big fan of Michael Singer. He's wrote a book called the Untethered Soul. In it, he talks about just observing your thoughts. Disconnecting your identity from your thoughts. A great example is he says, "Then you have negative response or it could be positive, but we all learn better from the negative. Then ask yourself, ‘What part of me is having this response?’" I did it with my kids. We were out front one weekend, it was sunny and when we bought this cheap $3-Styrofoam glider. I was checking in the air, my two oldest, they're two years apart and super competitive with each other. They were probably four and six at the time and they go running after it and I know they're going to step on it fighting over it and it's going to be the end of the day playing with that.
I started getting angry at trying to confront them. I said to myself, "What part of me is upset about this?" It disconnected that emotion fast. I could say, "If they break it, who cares? It's a $3-toy." I responded to both of them. I said, "How about we take turns chasing it down?" I wasn't angry or snippy in my response. We got probably ten minutes of playtime out of it. Sure enough, one of them stepped on it and it broke it and it was the end of the time. That exercise of saying what part of me is upset was so helpful and begins the process of self-awareness because we all have that crazy roommate in our head going 24/7, whether we pay attention to it or not.
You inserted a little bit of separation there.
That's all it is. It's stepping back from those thoughts. Not to go all the way down the rabbit hole of Singer's book, it starts saying, "Who are we really in inside our head and our we our highest self when we're stress-free and excited and happy or are we our hardest self when everything's piling up and everybody's coming at us and gates are about to be bombarded or broken through?" That separation is the first step and it starts taking you down these wonderful rabbit holes of what's in there. It is painful stuff that there's no way around it. It's painful to go through that exercise, but I find it's worth all the gold in the world to get on the backside of it because it's so freeing and the stress just keeps peeling away. The anxiety keeps peeling away. The fruit, to me, keeps showing up more and more as I work on that stuff.
The way I described the result of that and it's an ongoing process, but I describe it as being bulletproof. Because after you start to peel these things away, you realize that there's very little out there that can get you. I remember going back through all that crazy stuff that we all went through in '08 and '09. A good buddy of mine has been a client ever since. He and I we were both dealing with it. It's affecting both of our businesses. At one point, he looked at me and said, "What are you worried about? They can't eat you." You laugh at first, but then you stop and think like, "They can't come and eat you. What bad could happen?" It's not like an alligator or a lion or a bear is going to come in.
We have our evolutionary responses. We've only been living in modern society for about 150 years. With modern amenities and having free time to do stuff. The prior few thousand or a million or wherever you land on that years of fear of survival from the wild, we view all of the threats the same. All the research and neurology have a bill that we think is a saber tooth tiger, claws from the back and eat our kidneys out first and move onto the rest of our body from there.
You have a book and it's all about breaking through the bottlenecks. You've got a great framework for getting businesses through that. I'd love if you'd share a little bit about that and help us understand how we can break through.
The book was the culmination of getting what I'd show up to help clients do out of my head and organized. I'm grateful that it took the couple of years to get written because it helped me be able to translate how to go through the process. So many of us that get good at something, being able to teach it to others is a lot harder said than done. I realized they do have a unique ability in coming into a business and finding what stuck. The framework is what I came up with to march business owners through step-by-step and finding and fixing the one or two bottlenecks in their business where they're at. We start with strategy because without your positioning, without your differentiation, you're just in a sea of sameness and it's going to be lowest price. A bloody ocean that you're going to be competing against.
Starting there and marching through them to marketing, every client comes to me for marketing. They think they have a marketing problem. I don't mind working on marketing. It's what I enjoy doing a lot of. At the end of the day, marketing is only the real bottleneck about half the time, and so that's all the lead generation and qualification and closing and a fulfillment that funnel of the client experience. Then from there, we move into management. Every small business owner hates that word. It might as well be a four-letter word for small business owners because they equate it to bureaucracy. Without effective management, you can't continue the organization. You run into all sorts of limitations without effective management. I've boiled down the hacks that work for my clients. You'll never find any of the management techniques I shared in the book in any Harvard Business Class or a peer-reviewed journal because it's what works. It's the very nitty-gritty of what works in the real world with small business owners.
Then we move into systems because you need reliable checklists and documentation and processes for your staff to complete things and to be able to replace staff, so you're not held hostage by the knowledgeable ones that become pains to deal with or have attitude problems. Then we move into the vision of what's the point of your business? Now you've gone through all these bottlenecks, where are you taking it? There's only three reasons to start a business. It's either to grow it, to sell it, grow it, to become a cashflow, the ultimate four-hour workweek, or grow it and pass it onto your kids. Otherwise, you don't want a job. As Kiyosaki says, “What's the goal?” Then we develop your bottleneck breakthrough plan and go through some frameworks I've developed to use that.
I finished with mindset because it's the most important factor for growing a company. You have to deal with new hurdles and new challenges that every revenue plateau you grow through. That's the framework and it's comprehensive enough for any business owner to pick it up and read through it. Either go to an acute issue that you know is a bleeding neck issue now or march through the book. Prioritize your bottlenecks and which ones to attack and keep going back over and over. I find that just tackling the next bottleneck and fixing it and getting sustainable but having that fixed to be sustained is the way to compound growth.
Everybody comes to you because they want marketing help. We get that. That's what we go in to close with too. When they come to you for that, how often do you find that that's not the real issue?
It's easily 50% of the time, if not more. It depends on the revenue plateau they’re at. I developed what I call the Bottleneck Matrix and it's the clear defined revenue plateaus that I see companies hit over and over. A half a million is a fuzzy one, but it's common in small businesses. A million is the clearest delineated one. Then we hit $2 million, $5 million and then $10 million. Then it's a free fall until $100 million. At each revenue plateau, they're very clear bottlenecks. If you're right at a million dollars, you've got lead gen figured out. You've got what I call a traffic pillar of some kind working. The bottleneck there is operations management because the owner is usually the one out landing business and managing the fulfillment staff. They're straddling both and they don't want to increase revenue or increase deal flow because that means more management on the back end, which they don't enjoy that stuff. Getting somebody in charge of operations fulfillment is the clear solution to that bottleneck in a million dollars, which frees up the owner to go close more and/or bigger deals to get to the $2 million plateau.
As you go through those thresholds and they're fairly consistent across businesses, the solutions are almost always the same at each one. You don't necessarily need to know what business they're in and they typically, at least up to $10 million, they almost always center around the business owner, the leader. Some piece of the business that they don't want to grapple with. You see it in around that half million-dollar mark, you see it with somebody who can go out and network and they can get some clients and they built up a nice little practice, but they stall there because they haven't gotten any more sophisticated marketing than that. You see it at the million certainly within our experience anyway with folks who haven't made that flip to having management systems and delivery systems in the business. Everything's an ad hoc, which is difficult. You talked about going in and getting quick wins and where would they go and begin to look for that quick win where they could begin to get some momentum with this?
You find what I call the frustration fix framework and it's, “Where are you frustrated? Where are you spending an inordinate amount of time or not seeing results?” That's usually the first place to start. By focusing on your frustrations, you're going to uncover something that can be freed up. That's the first and laziest, easiest way to find some quick win. The others that are general, I find the sales qualification process is horrible. Most businesses take in lead deal with them. Anybody that'll fog a mirror or waste time, give a prospect's pricing to go back to their real provider to renegotiate with. Engage prospects that have no way of ever affording what you provide. Just the number of ways to qualify a lead that companies don't do is very long.
By improving your qualification process, you can streamline the close better by qualifying, and you have all this extra time and energy. That's what I like spending time on. I like closing. It's a fun place for me to spend time in it. That is the core of the business is to generate a client. By closing, we're working our way out to other related bottlenecks from that central point. Then the final piece is around management and accountability. 100% of the time, push my clients to do a weekly one-on-one meeting with all of their direct reports. I've got a framework, I've got resources in the book of how to do that, but that streamlines probably 95% of all management and operational headaches by having that weekly accountability of what are they going to get done, what didn't they get done, what do they need help to get done next week. Then where do they need to be trained or whether they need tools to do their job. Because that's the whole point of management is to equip frontline staff to get their job done effectively.
In my first business, when we had lots of employees and needed them, I went through that process. It dramatically simplifies management.
The meetings disappear, that's the key. When you have some place to batch that stuff, it frees up so much time.
I was getting killed schedule-wise with all of these people come unto me well-intentioned. They needed feedback and all of that, but it was so ad hoc that it was impossible for me to get anything done. It tends to foster some laziness and I don't mean laziness or anything like that. When they can come and interrupt you at any given time, then they don't have to go look for answers on their own. They don't have to think on their own.
Given the option, we probably all would default to that by forcing it a set block of time every week. I'll tell you what I found is number one. I started to have a tremendous amount of free time available to go and do other things that we're going to grow with the business. The other thing that was neat to watch is that people started finding their own solutions and that creates growth. It wasn't that I didn't want to be there for them, but it gave them the opportunity to go out and figure things out and I didn't grow. It required that we come up with some guidelines for decision-making and things like that. It worked well and it certainly made my life easier. It's funny when I see clients who are going through that stuff too. We don't spend as much time on the management side as we do on the marketing side with our clients. Every now and then, I'll pull somebody aside and, "You're getting killed here by your staff."
Dan Kennedy said that he hated having an office inside his company because of that same reason. It was always the case with my mortgage brokerage. When I'd go out of town, all my staff became much more competent than when I was around. I realized I was the limiting factor. I was the enabler of that. I liked being Mr. Answerman and helping, but I didn't realize how much time it was consuming and how much of a crutch it had become for my staff. It's a huge problem and a huge opportunity if you can get them set up to do that. You’ve got to be okay with things not always being done the way you do that.
That's just the control freak and business owners and that OCD level. Focusing on the process instead of the outcome and it should be flipped that the best entrepreneurs care about the outcome and generally don't care about the process as long as it's not breaking any laws and in the midst of it.
Josh, thanks for investing some time with me. What's the best way for people to find you and find the book?
The books are on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It's in Kindle and Nook as well. I've got a short link at BBG.LI/Amazon. Bottleneck Breakthrough group link. The website, BottleneckBreakthrough.com, has great resources, some bonuses for the book there. I'm on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I can be reached through those very easily.
I'll go check out the book. It's a fantastic approach to looking at your business and figuring out where to put the effort next and keep pushing forward. Josh, thanks again for being here. Good to talk to you. Take care.