More and more over the last few years I’ve been thinking about how I lead The Squad. It’s not something I ever thought about for the first 7-8 years. I can think of a few natural reasons why and other reasons based on my internal wiring.
Naturally, when there are just a few people to lead, then it follows that leadership doesn’t come to mind much. That’s especially true in a partnership where all the partners are involved in the day-to-day operations. That was pretty much us for the first several years. Another thing that squelched some of my leadership opportunity was an illness a few years back. When your mind is on survival it’s not on leadership.
Internally I’m wired to want to drive, produce, and go. If I had any leadership focus it probably came through in the way I tried to lead by action or the way I tried to energize the team around a common mission, vision, or big goal.
In recent years a few things have really propelled the way I think about leadership. Our annual owner’s retreat has been great breeding ground for getting my head up to 30,000 feet and out of the weeds. One output from the annual meeting in 2016 was a set of 8 Core Values.
Another thing that has helped me is watching others lead the way. One particular CEO that comes to mind is Scott Diamond over at Unified Technologies. I’ve watched from nearby as Scott has created Core Values, led through them, and created an amazing team and culture. They have also created amazing growth over the years.
Another leader who I’ve watched is Meg Panella over at Keller Williams Louisville East. Meg has taught me a lot about leverage when it comes to systems, training, and your team. There are several others, both local and some from a distance, that I’d love to mention. Maybe that’s a future blog. There are a few other leaders I’ve had the privilege of getting to know recently, and I’m watching and learning a lot from them along the way. Who are you watching? Better find them. Leadership is a lonely place.
Lastly, the biggest impact has been coaching. I spent some time working through X’s and O’s with the team at ActionCoach Louisville. I learned a lot about leading to our Core Values and Culture. It helped me work people onto and, frankly, off of the team over the past few years. It also gave us the initial tools to start documenting our business processes. More recently in the past 8 months, I’ve been blessed to work with Daniel Montgomery of Leadership Reality. Daniel approached me after launching his business around a year ago. He’s been instrumental in my personal development and helping me to learn my leadership style. I’m in the middle of creating a life plan with his guidance. Then we’ll be shifting to my leadership story: past, present, and future. This coming week, our entire team will be journeying with Daniel and his team through their Leadership Challenge workshop. Stay tuned for updates.
So there you have the history of my leadership of The Marketing Squad. And as I’ve reflected on it, I wanted to leave you with 10 philosophies that have developed over these last 10 years. Heck probably over the last 42 years if we’re being real.
My hope is that they help you form some of your own.
Here are 10 of my Leadership Philosophies in no particular order
- Hire talented people and give them what they need. We’ve built a team of Trusted Allies. I trust our team implicitly to create strategy for our clients, to execute, and to drive towards the wins. We still have a lot of room to improve and our team is driven to do just that.
- Say Yes and figure out how later. In a small business, it just rarely makes sense on paper but you have to make decisions based on future potential. Call it rolling the dice. Call it risk. Call it blind luck sometimes. Whatever the case, it’s Creative Problem Solving at its best.
- Ignore the competition. This sounds crazy when I type it, but it’s pretty much what we do around here. I’m not naive. I know we lose deals to others. I know others are watching us. My business partner Wayne and I have just chosen to do what we do and to work tirelessly on improving it. I do find from time to time that I look up and someone is a few steps behind us at every turn. Sometimes they are out ahead of us. We’ll keep our head down and keep moving forward regardless. We’re in a marathon not a sprint.
- Core Values are essential to your business success. Without them, no one has a foundation to stand upon or a compass to guide the way. Thomas Carlyle said, “A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.” I think this applies equally well to core values. Everything we do here at The Squad either offends or exemplifies one of our 8 core values.
- Focus on revenue and income creation 75-80% of the time and expense management 20-25% of the time. Yes, Ben Franklin said wealth can be created by augmenting our means or diminishing our wants, and the quickest way is to do both. I find that most problems are solved by revenue as long as you’re equipped to service the growth. I’ve heard Grant Cardone once say he only looks at the top 3 inches of his P&L. Track the income.
- You can’t ever take your eye off of your ongoing clients or partners while you’re trying to build the business. The moment you do, they will call you out on it and they should. You can’t advance and grow new customers, clients, patients, partners, donors, or even volunteers while you neglect your existing ones. It’s just not fair. It robs them of the service they deserve and robs you of the chance to get better. If you’re gonna scale I believe you have to balance these two.
- Dance with the one that brung you. Loyalty is very important to me. I try to make sure we’re buying on relationship way before we look at price. Seth Godin says you can’t beat Amazon and Walmart on price. So if you’re pricing everyone out then save us all time and just buy from Amazon or Walmart. I still believe relationships will win over the long term every time. If our website projects are too expensive, then go all the way to the bottom. Grab one at Godaddy, Wix, SquareSpace, or Weebly for $50 to $100. If we didn’t communicate the value difference, then that’s on us.
- Don’t take yourself too serious. Have fun. Self-deprecating humor is a great tool. It keeps me humble, hopefully. I’m sure there are times when I’m guilty of false humility. Hopefully I’m getting better at that. Recently when introducing me at a Christian Business Meetup event, Daniel Montgomery described me as balancing a tenacious business guy with a humble servant. I’d rather let another praise me and not myself… somewhere in Proverbs.
- Don’t get caught up in the tools but focus on the principles. Sure tools help, but Joel Gerdis, a former team member and great ally of our business, used to say “no software does everything you want and also makes you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” I encourage our team and clients to suck the marrow out of the tools they have and to leverage the systems in place before kicking them to the curb. You can get into the tool switching game and that can become a full-time job. Problem is that it doesn’t generate revenue quickly and most certainly doesn’t reduce expenses.
- Create a recognition culture. Recognition doesn’t come naturally to me. Ask my beautiful wife Ashley and my children. It comes hard for me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t realize it’s importance. Words of affirmation are not my love language, but I realize they are for many. When I’m coaching kids in baseball it comes natural. I praise and encourage, and drive and teach. With my team at The Squad I force myself to have monthly check-ins for open dialogue and we have 4-5 different programs at all times with consistent recognition and awards. Whether it’s our Core Values cards, our monthly Squddle winners, or our quarterly team events, we are always looking for ways to reward and recognize the team. These aren’t participation trophies in case you were wondering.
My goal is to begin sharing wins, insights, problems, and pains each week. If you’re a business owner or leader out there, my hope is that these will add value as you reflect on your own journey. I know none of us need more noise.