Ep. 25 – Nested Naturals Operations Manager, Michael Byrne

Ep. 25 – Nested Naturals Operations Manager, Michael Byrne

Understanding the brain is essential in unlocking one’s potential and behavior. Nested Naturals COO Michael Byrne, a pro in the mix of psychology and neuroscience, realized that the brain is the “why” behind an individual’s behavior. From being in the clinic for three years, he transitioned to Nested Naturals, a Vancouver-based wellness company that pioneers transparency in the health supplement industry and applied his expertise to the eCommerce business. Guiding us to the core of Nested Naturals and what makes their product competitive in the market, Michael imparts their marketing strategy and organizational culture. On the side, he introduces the system that they use to support the growth and wellness of their employees.

Nested Naturals Operations Manager, Michael Byrne

Michael Byrne is the COO at Nested Naturals, which is a Vancouver based company that pioneers transparency in the health supplement industry. As an expert in eCommerce logistics, Michael is obsessed with logic, efficiency and understanding the why behind human behavior. Michael sees time as our most valuable resource and therefore it leads with efficiency, time management, cost analysis, and productivity or is natural mode of thought. He uses these strategies and more to develop excellent training programs and manage multiple online platforms and manage inventory in a way that anticipates growth and leads to higher profit margins. Michael has found his true calling as the head of operations with Nested Naturals and is here with us to share the keys to his success. He’s also a member of the COO Alliance. Michael, welcome.

Thank you. Welcome right back to you.

Why don’t you give us a bit of your background? Tell us your story as to how you ended up where you are now.

I’ve always been very curious about the why behind the behavior and how we function. That led me into studying psychology. I did psychology with a neuroscience focus. The more psychology I did, the more I realize that the brain is behind a lot of the behavior. I knew I wanted to study that. I took a couple of months working with a health authority and worked with the group that focuses on schizophrenia and that was eye-opening. What that work looks like is definitely a lot more jarring than I was ready for. I ended up hammering through my degree. I finished in about three years. I started working as a neurofeedback technician. I would scan people’s brains, mainly people with concussions or anxiety and depression, and help them re-adjust their brain activity and move things forward that way.

I started running operations for that clinic. Both of my parents have their MBAs as well. My whole life growing up, dinner talk was about efficiency. My mom taught business strategy and my dad was a COO himself. It’s very deeply ingrained into who I am. As soon as I started doing the operations, all of a sudden, I have two people to go to immediately for resources. I loved it. I was able to get much more done and help people weigh more efficiently and quickly. I was improving the business rather than just meeting them face-to-face and running the sessions. That’s when I found Nested Naturals, which is a dream job for me, dedication, everything you can imagine. We’re focused on health and wellness, moving the society as a whole and not just one by one. That’s where I ended up.

Based on that history, you were groomed as a COO. I always felt that I was groomed as an entrepreneur. It sounds like you were almost groomed as a COO.

I like to think so at least. That’s very fortunate.

What was the big lesson that you might have pulled from your dad’s side if your dad was a COO as well? Any lessons that you remember?

I played soccer competitively in my whole life. If you’re leading people, if you’re managing people, it’s not about having control over them. It’s about being responsible to them and always putting the people first rather than using management and climbing in the business or what have you, as a way to improve yourself. It’s more about improving those around you.

It sounds like your dad was a servant leader. How about from your mom? Your mom was a business school teacher or a business professor. What did you learn from her?

My mom taught me a lot about taking your time, being patient and always finding a solution. You don’t need to find the first answer. That first answer is usually not the best answer. Take your time and be patient especially when you’re talking to other people. They may propose something. Break that down, think about it and find a better answer.

I liked that she takes her time and thinks through it all as well. Does that fit your natural style as well?

My natural style is quite against that. I try and find everything and get everything done as quickly as possible. It was helpful for me to keep that in mind.

Have you done your Kolbe profile yet?

I’ve done a handful of other ones. We do four different psychometrics here, but we haven’t done our Kolbe yet.

I know for the COO Alliance will be asking you to do your Kolbe profile and also to have the CEO do his or hers. It would be helpful to know what both of your Kolbe profiles are. It’s interesting how most entrepreneurs are very high quick starts. It’s almost like they execute and then they plan later. Most COOs tend to ask a lot of questions before they start something. They’ll put a system in place before they’ll start. That can often be where either the real strong Yin and Yang comes in or where the real strong arguments come in.

I could definitely see that contrast.

How did you then make the jump from the brain? I know this isn’t a COO topic, but I’m curious about the concept. Do you believe that we can rewire or reset the brain?

I’m not 100% convinced on fully resetting. We did work with people with brain damage all the way down to white matter. It helps their lives to get better. It didn’t flip around as it does with something like a concussion. There’s this one woman, for example, who hit her head on the back of her trunk. She was putting something into her van and hit her head on it. All of a sudden, she could only work three to four hours a day, sleeping twelve to fourteen hours a day and having a depression. After about ten sessions, she was right back to work full time and doing a fantastic job. That’s the way that the system works. If you look at neuroscience, if you look at how a neuron fires its functions, nutrients pumped in and out of the cell when it fires. It’s survival of the fittest in a microscopic scale. I truly believe that our brain is our own world. It’s a reflection of what we see, both by input and output. The brain definitely can change itself. If you can guide it, it’s even better.

You moved from the clinics and go over to the Nested Naturals. Is that the first jump over?

That was the first jump over. I was with the clinic for a few years. I’ve now been with Nested for a few years as well.

I find it interesting to see what systems are able to transfer from one company to another. Was there any system that you developed at the clinic that you still use now at Nested Naturals?

The clinic was quite different. It was a different setup, especially a lot of the marketing there was very old school. This is an eCommerce business mainly through Amazon as well. It’s a completely different function from that standpoint. If there is anything to transfer over, it’s people but that’s always going to transfer.

SIC 25 | Nested Naturals
Nested Naturals: If you’re leading people, it’s not about having control over them. It’s about improving those around you.

 

Tell us about Nested Naturals and the core of what your business does. Walk us through what you do so we can understand the perspective you’ll come out with your ideas.

We got two owners, a CEO and a CMO. They both individually encountered some shady stuff in the supplement industry that they weren’t happy about. They realized they didn’t have many people they could trust. They started selling their own products and developing it. They joined together and started selling their own supplements for a completely transparent build. You can see everything that’s in the capsule on the bottle. They wanted people to be able to ask any question they want. They would find an answer to it. That was the big motivation behind Nested Naturals and why they came to be. We’re trying to push that boundary for supplements.

Are there anything else that you’ve done specifically that has changed the way you’re approaching the industry versus others?

We’re working on the big thing. There’s certificate of analysis. That’s one thing that we’re trying to get out there. The problem is that it’s very scientific. We’re trying to break it down and make it more legible. We’re working a lot on education, which segue ways into that. Teaching people about what everything means. There’s a lot of exaggerated information out there. It’s very difficult to find accurate sources as well. Our in-house nutritionist has her Master’s in Biochemistry. She used to work in pharmaceuticals as well. She knows her stuff. She was very thorough. She loves to teach. She has been a teacher at the nutritionist school here for a while. That’s one thing we’re pushing forward is educating people. It’s not just all about making sales. It’s teaching people about what’s good and what’s not.

I’ve always been curious about your kind of business. I’ve got a couple of former clients that I’ve coached that sell on Amazon. How do you decide what skews to continue, what skews to kill off, what skews to throw your weight behind?

It’s a very different and difficult call. It’s something we’re taking a big focus on revisiting and improving again. It’s very difficult because Amazon has such an exaggerated scale. You’ve seen most things exist on an exponential scale almost across the board. Even if you look at the number of words used in a novel, it functions on an exponential scale if you count the number. Amazon is even more exaggerated. The top three products make significantly more than the next three and so on and so forth. If you’re able to get off that climb, that’s usually what we do. We do some market research. We look at where we are across the market, where we sit and how much is it going to cost us to get up to that four or five-point level where we know we’re going to be able to coast and function independently. If we’re not able to do that within a certain budget, depending on the product, we know we got to kill it.

You will actively kill off products. You won’t keep them in inventory and sell whatever you sell. You will kill some off?

We’ll try and sell what we can. We also don’t want to sell something that’s getting close to expiry or anything along those lines. We monitor everything tight.

What systems do you have in place to control your inventory? I understand that in the retail space and you are retail even though Amazon is your store. Retailers, it’s all about inventory controls and how fast you can turn over your cash and return on cash. What do you do to control your inventory so that you don’t run out and so that you don’t have too much or both?

A lot of it is inventory planning. I’ve got quite a few calculations out there. Making sure we can calculate and anticipate growth. We’re looking at a lot of history. For example, we have one product that would grow 25% quarter over quarter for a long time. We had to order 30% or 35% extra every single time so that way we can always anticipate what was to come and that’s our first step. Our marketing has quite a thorough plan as well to make sure that we don’t hit overstock. That’s the biggest thing. For quite a while our biggest issue is trying to avoid stock-outs and that had to do with terms. We’ve improved it all now. It was at the point where it was like, “We’re not going to be able to afford our growth because we keep having to buy ahead of time because of all this growth.” We’ve got our cash a little tighter, but we adjusted our terms and improved everything.

Is it people that are doing that? Is it systems that are doing that? Is it a combination of both?

It’s a combo. We’ve got a few systems set in place for at least the marketing end. A lot of it has been negotiations and discussions.

I want to talk a little bit about vision or get you to talk about vision. Who’s the CEO of your company and how do you get yourself on the same page so that you’re clear on it? Typically, the vision is controlled by the CEO and the integration is controlled by the COO. How do you get to the vision that was set out in their mind and how do you make sure that you’re on the same page as they are in where you’re going?

The CEO is Jeremy Sherk. We’ve always gotten along very well. We’ve been able to read each other quite well. He redid his vision with the CMO. They wrote it out. They worked on it and presented it to the team. Before they did that, I wrote my own vision as well. I updated it and said, “This is what I think operations are going to go. This is how I think it’s going to work,” and sent it to them. We made sure everything’s aligned. We got it all into place and that’s something we’re trying to encourage the whole team to do is everyone had their own vision and work on it that way.

That’s sub-visions of the overarching results. It’s like you don’t know where you’re going. Any road will take you there. You need to have some vision that the CEO signs off on. When you put your plan in place, they can almost sign off in your plan as well? You signed off on understanding their vision. They sign off on understanding your plan. How many employees do you guys have now and where do you forecast yourself being over the next few years?

Now, we’re at a total of eighteen. Two years ago, there were six of us. When I first started, there was one other hire and the two owners. Within the three years, we’ve gone up over four times.

Do you outsource as well? Do you have freelancers that you use?

We’ve had a handful of freelancers as well, about six or seven.

In tripling or quadrupling the size of your company, if you have the seven into the eighteen or 25, you’ve gone up by four. When you go from six to 24 people in a couple of years, the culture changes. How have you seeing things change and how have you tried to build the company that you are building now?

The culture has changed a little bit. There’s one thing that we were very actively aware of. We hired someone as our director of people and culture as eighth hired. We make sure we didn’t lose that gritty and adaptable mindset of being a small company that can do whatever we need while still growing into a bigger business. It’s something we’ve been actively working on for quite a while. We did hit a few roadblocks along the way. That’s a learning process. A lot of the time it’s in communication areas that have been a big challenge for us.

What kind of learning roadblocks or what kind of struggles have you had? I love learning from these.

We had a fairly thorough hiring process before. The people that direct contacts, I would interview them, then the owners would interview them. We do about four or five people to see if they vibe well with the team and if there is that connection. We started to realize we can’t hire for personality. We do need to involve skill as well. We’re at that stage. We can’t just hire someone that we get along with. That was one error that we made that so to sound quite a bit.

SIC 25 | Nested Naturals
Nested Naturals: If you’re having to train people for a long time, it sets you back.

 

That’s pretty fundamental. In the old days, they used to say, “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” I say that would get you 7% growth. If you want to grow rapidly, it’s more about hiring for attitude and proven skill set. I look for the culture fit first. From a much smaller pool of people that culturally vibe with us, I find out if they have the skills to do the job. Often, we interviewed for the skills first and we ended up with a person that we try to sell ourselves on why they will be okay in the company. We’re starting with people we know will be amazing and get the best skills out of them.

Because we are growing as quickly as we are, you’re almost always behind on training. You’re always having to hire ahead of time. If you’re having to train people for a long time, it sets you back.

You’re in a competitive job market both for talent. When you’re competing against a lot of the technology companies that are in the downtown core of Vancouver and moving into the downtown core. Secondly, the cost of living. Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. I used to say that if you didn’t make $100,000, you’re living on ramen noodle. A bunch of my employees said, “We don’t make a $100,000.” I was like, “You’re right.” In Vancouver, it’s tough. How do you find talent? How are you paying and remunerating your talent? What are you guys doing in those two areas? Against the competition and the cost in that marketplace.

It is definitely very tough. We’re doing everything we can to compensate people financially to what they need. We do offer unlimited vacation. As long as you get your work done, that’s all that matters. That’s one thing that we do offer. We encourage people to take time off, especially if they’re stressed. Mental health wellness days are another big thing that we push for. At this time, I don’t know if we’re going to be giving everyone six-figure salaries. We’d love to get there at some point.

What about in the market that you’re based? Where are you located?

We’re in Seymour & Pender.

You’re right downtown. You’re right in the heart of technology course. You’re going to have to get to the pay level at some point as well. I always talk about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that we have that triangle. At the base is food, shelter, water, and sex. If you’re not getting those things, you got to move to the next level. Our companies, if we’re not paying, the rest of the stuff doesn’t matter like the sick days. I don’t have the time to stay at home for a sick day or I don’t have money to go on a vacation. We need to make sure that we hit those levels. How do you recruit against other talent? What’s your culture like and how do you market yourself against other companies?

One thing that we do try and push forward that separates us, because there are a lot of competitors out there that have things like beer on tap and ping pong tables. They’ve got games systems set up in their place. This is connected to how we operate as a business. One thing we try and push forward is enjoyment versus pleasure. One thing a lot of our competition puts out are pleasured-based rewards.

Tell me about the enjoyment versus pleasure because I know that’s something you’re pretty big on.

Pleasure is the simple things in life. It’s the basic stimulation like watching TV, playing video games, drinking. It’s fundamental. A monkey would enjoy it as well.

That’s where we get the dopamine then.

It’s a very immediate reward. It’s not the same as enjoyment. Enjoyment is more something along the lines of accomplishment. It’s getting something done. It’s about that sense of completion that gives up much more ecstatic feeling. It involves a lot more of your brain. That’s something we try and push forward and hire for people that are seeking enjoyment. They want to find value and they’re passionate. They’re not just looking to make a few bucks and then go watch TV at home.

Did you interview and recruit for people that like to be a part of a group?

I very much so. Teamwork is one of our core values. It’s something we definitely test for it. It’s part of why we have the group interview as well. How do they handle the group?

Do you interview one person by the group or do you interview multiple candidates at the same time?

At that stage, it’s one person by the group. We want to see how they connect with other employees. Will the other employees like spending time with this person? Do they want to be around them and vice versa? How do they connect?

What’s not worked for you in the interview process? Does anything ever backfired or not worked out as well as it would have?

We didn’t spend enough time looking at skill and we almost went exclusively culture fit. When you have so many people focus on and working in their passions and trying to get everything done as well as they can, it’s hard to work with someone that isn’t at that same skill set. That isn’t there to support you to get through and push the whole team forward. That was definitely an error we made in the past.

When you’re bringing employees in and you’ve done the interview process. You’ve taken them through group interviews and culture and skill-based interviews. How do you onboard people into your system and get them up and running quickly?

The first thing is double checking culture and making sure that they understand how we operate. One of the first things we get them in on is meeting rhythms. That’s something we push forward very hard. It’s something that you had an influence on there with the Meetings Suck book. There’s that aspect of it. There’s also, “Don’t call people in the meetings if they don’t need to be there.” Don’t waste people’s time. Set meetings with expectations and intentions so people know what’s going to come of it. That’s one thing that we’ve pushed forward. It’s something that we’ve struggled with in the past where you’ve got to make sure that the meetings are done effectively. That’s a big first step for the onboarding process. After that, we look at building their skills. We set out a very thorough goal plan to make sure that they accomplish as much as they can. Have you heard of the flow state?

I was literally sitting with Steven Kotler who writes about the flow state few days ago.

That’s the fundamental basis of what we do for quarterly goals. We use that to try and build out the hard struggle phase, the recovery, the zone and building out four different stages. Look at the ten different aspects of planning and our goals. Do the full 90 days, six big steps and then breaking those steps down into one thing every single day for you to get done.

SIC 25 | Nested Naturals
Nested Naturals: Don’t call people into meetings if they don’t need to be there.

 

That’s where you have flipped your org chart upside down. You have the CEO supporting you. You’re supporting the team who are supporting the customers. Your job is to grow people. It’s to grow their skills and to grow their confidence. We often miss on the goal setting component, the project planning, breaking down the goals into projects and steps and helping people stay focused. A lot of people would think that’s micromanaging, but it’s not at all. It’s helping people to focus on the critical few things versus the important many.

One thing that people underestimate is most of the goal setting, we work with them to build it. It’s giving them that autonomy to belt it out. We give them guidance on what’s best for the company. They are usually involved in those decisions already. We’re giving them that autonomy and helping them build out the goal structure properly so that they can do what they love as best as they can.

When we’re coaching people, it’s a balance of three things. It’s direction, development and support. It’s direction, making sure they’re working on the right stuff at the right time. It’s the development, which is skill development. If they’re falling short, just through mentoring or coaching or even a third party, helping them. Then the emotional support, both in their work and also in their personal lives. At the end of the day, everyone is struggling with something. I’m curious if you do, but how do you support your employees in their personal lives? People are struggling with stuff like they have got stuff at home or with their parents or a spouse. Their moms are getting frustrated, they’re not coming over for Thanksgiving, their dog died. How do you help your employees get through those things?

Our HR has a huge impact on that. The director of people and culture. She’s very supportive on that. We do everything we can to get them there and make sure they have good health benefits. I’m definitely speaking with bias here. We have a neurofeedback system in-house, like in office here, that we run on some of the stuff. If they want to, they can sign up. We’ve got to set a schedule and so on and so forth.

What’s the neurofeedback system? What do you do? What do you put them through?

It’s a very simple system. It’s one of the systems I use at the clinic I worked for before. There’s an assessment process. We get them going on sessions. I run them through it. It sounds more complicated than it is. It’s just a long word. We have that for the team if they want. If they’re suffering from sleep issues or anxiety. We have all the health supplements that help as well. LUNA is a top seller on Amazon and it’s a sleep aid. The staff can get that if they need it. We have Greens and we get free supplements every quarter for the staff as well.

I used to coach a company called Viva Naturals. They’re based out of Toronto. They sell a lot of supplements and stuff online. I coached their team for about four years. I was talking to their CEO, Husayn. I’ve talked to a couple of other CEOs that sell exclusively on Amazon. It seems like Amazon is changing the rules a little bit right now. They’re changing the rules regarding inventory, regarding pricing, regarding reviews, what you’re allowed to market. Walk me through a couple of changes that came at you. I’d love to know if they came out of thin air or if they were maybe to be expected. How did you get around them? That’s what we have to do. We have to get around the rules, like if the government has a rule in place, you got to work around it. You can’t let the rules destroy your company.

Amazon is very cutthroat. It’s been to our favor for the most part. For example, going back to LUNA, about 5,000 reviews were wiped by Amazon in a day. They just cut them all. We’re like, “What happened?” We contacted Amazon because people do crappy business out there to get reviews. Reviews and selling are very directly correlated on Amazon. Because we operate as a completely honest and transparent company, we’re able to get those reviews back.

You’ve been able to stay within the lines. It hasn’t impacted you as much as somebody who is maybe playing outside of the lines and there were some risks.

The people that are playing outside of the lines got the biggest hit. It still affects us because they do a blanket. Amazon usually has a blanket hit and then they cycle back from there. We have to make our argument and go from there.

Talk about your clients. Do you sell directly to the consumer as well or exclusively on Amazon?

We do have our website as well. Amazon has always been our biggest market. That’s probably our biggest pain point right now is that we’re doing so well on Amazon. It’s growing so quickly. It’s difficult to get off Amazon. We don’t want to be a single channel business.

The heroin drip is too strong. You’re on that drip. You’re getting clients coming in. You don’t have to do any real marketing for it. Do you guys do a lot of marketing on Amazon? Do you do a lot of work around?

We’ve got a team of three specialists on Amazon for keyword and marketing and ads.

Walk me through a little bit with Amazon. What are you doing with Amazon? You don’t have to tell me if it’s anything that’s trade secret. What are you doing to convert people from Amazon customers over to a direct to consumer? Where you can pull back some of that revenue and you can cross-market some things that maybe aren’t allowed to sell on Amazon, etc. The reason I bring it up, I was at this conference, Baby Bathwater. I was talking to someone who sells hemp products only on Amazon. In his hemp products, he’s marketing all of his THC and CBD products so that everybody comes from the Amazon hemp business back to his CBD and THC business offline or direct to consumer off his own website.

It’s very difficult to do because Amazon has an extremely thorough and long list of rules of how everything has to stay on Amazon. It’s Amazon’s customer. We’re there to pass the bottles along to the customer. I don’t know if how much I can go into this one for you. I’m sure there are a few trade secrets. It’s definitely not easy especially when you’re trying to play by the rules. There are different ways around it. People work on, but we’re trying to do everything to play by the rules. It’s not easy.

I’m thinking of putting a sticker on the front cover of Meeting Suck like a call this 800-number. When they call the 800 number, it explains why you should be buying hundreds of copies of it. Either linking them to a direct sales page that is off Amazon or even back on.

Technically, the phone number may be okay, but you definitely cannot have a sticker with a link on it that’s not directed back to Amazon.

It’d be interesting if a free recorded number could cross-market your things, if there could be offers. That would be something to test out and play with.

That’s a good idea. A lot of people do boxes as well because you can put whatever stuff you want inside the box.

That was the other thing that I was telling my clients at Viva. Put a sticker on your product and put stickers in your boxes. Put inserts like, “Here’s our brand” and throw it on your laptop and it’s got the URL whatever. There are some huge opportunities there. If Amazon did not exist now, they’re not going to go bankrupt, but what if they went bankrupt and you had to completely pivot? What would you do quickly and differently?

Very quickly, we’d be working much more on customer acquisition. It’s not a thing with Amazon. You put your product up and you compete. That would be our big focus. We’d probably have to hire someone with a lot of experience in that. That could get us going on immediately. That would be the first thing.

SIC 25 | Nested Naturals
Nested Naturals: If you look at improving behavior, providing something positive for good behavior or behavior you want to increase is far more effective than punishing bad behavior.

 

On the CEO-COO relationship, you’re trying to drive towards that true Yin and Yang. That real partnership between the two of you. What areas of the business does the CEO run and what areas do you run now?

He’s doing a lot of getting out there and getting our name out there as a business. A lot of finance, getting in investments, getting out and doing talks. That’s what he spends a lot of his time on. He’s also running the video so he’s doing a lot on getting the education out there. That’s something he’s very passionate about, teaching people about health and wellness. As far as the day-to-day operations, I’m making sure everything’s running. We have what we say we have that the products are being turned out. Marketing, we have the CMO who’s handling that.

A lot of CEOs are very outward facing and they’re doing a lot of the interviews. They’re with the media. That’s why I started the Second In Command Podcast. I wanted the rest of the story. It’s not that his story is not true, but there’s a very different perspective to that same story. I wanted to hear the story from the chief behind the chief. Talk about how do you get your relationship with Jeremy, the CEO? How do you work on strengthening your relationship and building good communication? What do you do? Are there any meeting rhythms you have or any systems or tools you use to help you?

We have Slack. We talk socially all the time. We WhatsApp each other all the time. We see each other probably once a month where it’s not about work. We’ll go for dinner or lunch or something. We spend some time together. Every week we meet each other. That will be Monday at 1:30 PM. Every single day, we meet, we chat, we check in on each other, “How are you doing? How’s everything going?” We went to Panama for a month last year as well, just him and me.

That’s the stuff that when you’re doing that with the CEO then your relationship is going to the next level for sure.

When you get that rhythm with someone where it’s back and forth, you don’t even need to say much to cover the entire topic.

Without throwing them a completely under the bus. There’s obviously always something that’s going to drive us a little bit crazy about our partner, either on their personal life or business. What’s one thing that drives you crazy about your CEO? How do you work around that or with that?

Jeremy has got a bit of the head down syndrome. When he sees something, he goes all out for it. I admire that so much because he doesn’t back down. He works and works. You don’t always get that from a CEO or owner that is willing to drive themselves so hard towards a goal. I admire that. Sometimes that’s towards a wall. A lot of it is taking the time, looking at communication. We had four different psychometrics. One thing I did was to essentially create a Venn diagram on where we overlay and where we’re different. I try and keep that in mind like, “This is something that’s going to require more thorough communication” and I double check that. I see what would be a better way to communicate with them on it and try and coach it over. One thing I’ve learned is sometimes it takes more than one try. You’ve got to try a few different methods and keep chatting and keep the open discussion going.

If at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again. All of these that our grandmother is sayings are so true. I don’t think there’s a single grandmother that isn’t absolutely correct. One thing I know about you is you’re not letting irritations turn into bigger problems. Walk us through your mindset with that and tell us about a specific example where you had irritation and you short-circuited.

That might take me a few seconds to come up with a specific example, but that’s something that’s always bugged me. It probably didn’t make me very popular in high school is I didn’t like drama. I want to solve any issue immediately. If you have a problem with someone, go up and talk to them right away and solve it. Don’t let it become an actual underlying issue on how you communicate with someone. Another big thing is in trust too. If you can’t trust another person, especially in your team, you’ve let something go too far. That problem needed to be addressed. It’s hard to think because there are always a million little irritations that I always try and tackle right away.

How about praise? A lot often as leaders, we’re very driven. People are starving for praise. They’re starving for that human connection. They’ll often receive the negative feedback or the constructive criticism much better if they’re getting some praise along the way. You know that term shit sandwich, you give them something good and you tell them this criticism. Do you focus on praising people? Do you have any systems in place to help with that?

One of our values is positive vibes and as well as teamwork, Gestalt psychology, which I won’t get into on this. What we try and focus on is the operant conditioning model. If you look at improving behavior, providing something positive for good behavior or behavior you want to increase, is far more effective than punishing bad behavior. Trying to stop bad behavior by saying no isn’t helpful. The rule that I usually give to people or the general concepts is if I’m giving you directions on how to get to my house and I said, “Don’t turn right,” do not turn right. You have no idea how to get to my house. That’s not providing the information, it’s saying what not to do. Providing something to do is always significantly better to increase behavior. We have part of one of our meeting rhythms on Fridays, which I’m very thankful for is something we call a Kudo session where we stop and we give praise to each other face-to-face. The whole team sits down. I saw an opportunity to recognize each other on the great things that we’ve done during that week. It forces me to reflect. I’m very forward thinking for the most part. Having that time to stop and think like, “What did my team do for me this week that was fantastic?” Those small little things have a huge impact.

I used to coach a company years ago called Nurse Next Door. I started coaching them before they started franchising. I taught them a lot about culture, PR and their systems on meetings. They put in place the daily huddle in the morning at around 10:55. We’d run it in all companies seven-minute daily huddle. In the afternoon, they put in place a system around praise. They had a Japanese term for it. It might have been kaizen. There was this thing around praise where they were coming in and praising all the employees and staff. It was powerful to have those two very fast, one was seven minutes, one was five minutes meetings. People thought, “It’s such a distraction to have your people come and do it?” The energy they leave from is so powerful at the person in the afternoon.

It’s something that we do as well in the morning, which is super helpful. It gives us the ability to practice gratitude. We do a meditation together before we do the daily huddle. We would spend ten minutes meditating together, then we go into the huddle and talk about what we’re going to do on that day.

One of our members in the COO Alliance run a company called Dry Farm Wines. They have all of their employees meditate together for an hour a day. Mark and his CEO, Todd, and I were talking together at this event, Baby Bathwater. We’re up at the top of this mountain chatting. I was asking about the meditation and where it came from. He’d had a severe accident and it helps him get through the accident. It carried on to his life. When he hired his first employee, they saw him doing it and they joined him. It went from there.

The neuroscience behind meditation is incredible. It’s super fascinating research. It’s what started neurofeedback as well.

What meditation do you do? Is it a guided meditation or is it TM?

We vary it up. We do usually guide meditation on Mondays and Fridays. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we’re doing some nature sound where it’s more self-guided.

Michael, any tips that you want to give an emerging second in command or an emerging leader? Any lessons that you’ve learned that you wish you’d known earlier on in your career?

The biggest thing for me was taking the time to plan out. It’s called autotelic goals, self-driven goals, goals that are motivating within themselves. It took me a long time to build those out. I always knew what I liked. I knew what I was passionate about. I didn’t fully take the time to plan it out and look at what it means. Going back to that flow model we use. Don’t only do it for yourself, you got to do it for your team. If your team loves what they’re doing and they’re there because they want to be. It happens to be where they work as well. It makes such a difference for the whole team and for the business.

SIC 25 | Nested Naturals
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

You got to dive into that a bit more. You can’t tease us with autotelic goals and think we’re going to even follow you. What’s that mean? Give us the who, what, when, where, why and how autotelic goals.

Autotelic means self-goal. It’s a goal that is something that you want to do because you like to. That’s not a goal because you want to get $2 million in sales this quarter. It’s a goal because it’s something that you love to do and it’s why you’re going to work on. It’s a fundamental breakdown of what you’re passionate. Look at what you love doing and then break that into essential tasks. What aspect of this do I love? I’ll use sports because it’s simple. If you love playing hockey? Do you like to score it? Do you like to pass? Do you like to defend? What aspect are you truly passionate about? Break that down on how you can improve that. You’ve got to go back to the flow model. It will take me a long time to explain that. There’s a book out there called Flow by Mihaly that I would suggest checking out.

He breaks it all down for you. You can see in great detail what it all entails about breaking things down in that method. The general rule, if you don’t want to read the whole book, is it’s always 4% harder than what you think you can do. It’s not going to give you anxiety. That’s not going to be too much that you can’t do it. It’s so not too little that it’s not going to be challenging. If you need to be so focused, think of Michael Jordan with his tongue out where he’s not self-conscious at all during that timeframe. That’s one of the rules. You can’t be self-conscious. You can’t be aware of your own body. You can’t be aware of time. Whenever I’m trying to truly focus in, I hide clocks for myself so that way I can truly focus in. There’s a series of tips up there in the book.

It’s a good one to leave us with as well. Michael Byrne, the COO for Nested Naturals, thanks for sharing with us. I appreciate. Say hi to your CEO for me as well. We’ll see you at one of our next COO Alliance events as well.

Thanks so much, Cameron. I appreciate it.

Thanks for all the time.

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About Michael Byrne

SIC 25 | Nested NaturalsI am determined to make a difference in this world through logical and rational thought.

My biggest passion lies in employee optimization. I focus on getting each and every employee working on what they love and doing so in the most optimal way with research from Psychology and Neuroscience such as the Flow state of mind.

I believe time is our most valuable resource. Therefore, improving efficiency is the most valuable action one can take. Time management, cost: benefit analysis and high-quality productivity are natural modes of thinking for me. Some of my key accomplishments include business strategy development, negotiations that got the company cash positive which increased cash by 16.5% monthly, training program development, KPI development, multi-platform, and marketplace management, and single-handedly running inventory management to anticipate growth and maximize profit margins.

I hope to improve the lives of as many people as possible. Contact me if you believe in making a brighter future, one person at a time.

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