Ep. 190 – Cameron Has Been On…

Today’s special episode features clips from various podcasts Cameron Herold appeared on as a guest speaker. Cameron has spoken on several different podcast shows, but the ones we’re sharing today are from the following:

  • The Drop-In CEO
  • Your First Thousand Clients
  • Media Maven
  • Coaching for Leadership
  • Mixergy
  • Leadership and Loyalty

In This Conversation, We Discuss:

  • Hypergrowth vs the slow and steady philosophy
  • The power of free PR and how to reverse sell
  • What is a Vivid Vision and how it differ from a mission statement
  • What to look for when hiring a second in command


Connect with Cameron: Website | LinkedIn

Get Cameron’s latest book: The Second in Command – Unleash the Power of Your COO

Subscribe to our YouTube channel – Second in Command Podcast on YouTube

Get Cameron’s online course – Invest In Your Leaders

The post Ep. 190 – Cameron Has Been On.. appeared first on COO Alliance.

Before we jump into the episode, you need to know about two important ways that we can help you and your company grow. Number one, check out the COO Alliance. It’s for COOs, presidents, VP ops, or whoever is your company’s second in command to the CEO. The COO Alliance is the world’s leading community for the second command. It gives CEOs the tools and connections to grow themselves and the company. Head over to COOAlliance.com to learn more about our members and the results, the program and our TEDx guarantee. If you qualify for membership, you can set up a complimentary call with our team to discuss if it’s right for you. I’ll tell you about number two in a bit, but first, let’s start this episode.

Over the last 189 episodes, I’ve interviewed several COOs and seconds in command who have shared their experiences working directly under the CEO. We’ve explored their roles and how they set the standards in the workplace with their staff, as well as establishing their ideal culture. In this episode, I want to share highlights of several shows that I’ve been featured on. These highlights include valuable insights on entrepreneurship, establishing real and obtainable goals, and how to have the most productive meetings. I hope you enjoy this episode. 

My conversation with Cameron Herold was amazing. This soundbite sums it all up, but one of your keynotes is leadership at 100 miles an hour. You talk about these are the secrets that you need to double the size of your companies and increase profits. I’m curious because there’s also a mindset, or maybe it’s the wrong one, slow, steady, consistent quality will win the race. There’s no shortcut to success. Go there. Tell me what you think. 

That sounds horrible to me. There are shortcuts to success. The answer is in the back of every textbook and Google gives you the answer. You could get seven people to all write the exam together. There is a better and faster way. I don’t believe that slow and steady. I believe that momentum creates momentum. Instead of a minimum viable product, it’s minimum viable everything that the reality is that it’s about getting it done and out the door because that momentum will create momentum. Here’s something interesting for everybody smart who’s reading. Everyone who’s worked hard in university or high school to get the A or 4.0, I didn’t even realize until there was a 4.2. I had no idea. No one’s ever asked for your GPA since. No one has ever asked for the transcript of your university grades.

No one’s ever given a crap whether you got a B, C or an A. The reality is okay is good enough. Unless you’re flying planes or doing brain surgery, no one needs perfect. It doesn’t have to be the perfect email, system or slide deck because you can always make something a little more perfect. Growth for me comes with alignment with the vision, core values and obsession with good people, giving people the tools to do their job. I’ve always believed that the leader’s core job is to grow people. It’s even the course that I launched is called Invest in Your Leaders. The whole idea is to give them the skills to do their job.

The twelve modules of the course are Situational Leadership, Coaching, Delegation, Time Management, Project Management, Conflict Management, Effective Meetings, Interviewing, Hiring and Onboarding, the skills that every leader needs that we don’t teach them. We wonder why are we running crappy meetings? We’ve never trained them. Why can’t people get their email done? How come they don’t deal with conflict well? It’s because we’ve never trained them. We teach them how to do the functional aspects of their job, but we don’t teach them of the executive functioning skill.

Until you’re in a big company like Xerox, Starbucks or GE, where they have leadership teams and HR departments. Most of the companies with 30 to 300 employees have no development training to grow their people. I believe that hyper-growth comes from growing the skillset and capacity of our people so that they can do more. If we grow their confidence at the same time as we grow their skills, cheer them on, praise them, find areas they’ve done well and celebrate successes. That energy fuels them to do, take and try more.

How did you land on however COO versus CEO? 

Everyone in the world is targeting CEOs. There was a bit of a blue ocean with the COOs. I had been a COO three times, where I was the second in command for this collision repair chain and painting business. I’m running the West Coast of the US. I was also the second command for 1-800-GOT-JUNK and for the private currency company for a while when I was acting as president, reporting to their CEO. I’ve been in that second-in-command role in these entrepreneurial organizations. I saw there was a missing link there. In a lot of worlds, we’re trying to teach entrepreneurs how to do stuff when they’re not capable of doing it. They’re capable of knowing what it has to get done, but the COO is capable of getting it done.

Three of my clients that I was coaching, their COOs wanted to get together and talk about the ideas. When you talk to an entrepreneur about recruiting, they’re like, “We got to get all the right people on the bus.” They feel like that was a discussion about recruiting. That’s like a tagline from Good to Great. When you talk to a COO about recruiting, they could spend two days dissecting top grading, the interview process, reference checks and scorecards. I saw that need for them and we started the organization. We’ve now got about 145 members from 17 countries around the world. Minimum criteria you have to do at least $5 million in revenue to join. We’ve added nine new members. We’re hitting a bit of an inflection point now in our growth.

You’re developing the COO as the second in command. What are those challenges or opportunities for the COO for which your services and insights can move them ahead? 

One of the core ones is understanding the dynamics of the CEO and COO relationship. Almost like the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus book. That got powerful when men finally understood women and women finally started to understand men. We realized that men aren’t hairy versions of women. We’re different animals and we think differently. We approach things differently, while CEOs and CEOs approach companies in very different ways. It’s understanding the personality profile of the CEO.

It’s understanding their DNA, how to communicate in a way that they can hear, how to ask them what you need in a way that they can deliver that to you and how to build trust. Building that high-functioning team is probably the first thing that we focus on. The second one is educating the CEO what needs to happen in the company. They know what needs to happen but letting them know they don’t have to worry about how to do it.

SIC 190 | Guest Speaker

Guest Speaker: Employees must understand the DNA of a CEO. This way, they can communicate with them better and know how to ask them for support.


The COO will take over to make sure that the team knows how to do it. Almost as if we were building a home. As the homeowner, as the CEO, I know what I want to build, but I don’t have to know how to do electrical, plumbing, foundation work or drywall. I just need to know that that has to happen. The CEOs are often trying to do the wrong stuff. For the COOs, we’re trying to grow them, so they have the skillset, and the capacity and can build trust then.

The third area is how to have tough discussions with the CEO that no one else is often willing to have. It’s often the emperor’s new suit where no one’s willing to tell the king that he’s naked and someone needs to tell the CEO that there’s a problem in a confidential environment behind the scenes where we don’t make them look bad. Where we can tell them, “You’re doing something that’s coming off the wrong way. You’re frustrating people.” Doing it in a very trusted way where you make them look good. The COO’s job is to make the CEO look good and the CEO’s job behind the scenes is to make sure that people still like the COO, who’s often rolling up the tough decisions. We spend a lot of time around those types of areas.

SIC 190 | Guest Speaker

Guest Speaker: It is the COO’s job to make the CEO look good publicly. It is the CEO’s responsibility behind the scenes to make sure that employees still like the COO, especially when they are making tough decisions.


Those are all incredibly powerful ways of building a business. When you stack them one on top of the other the way you did, you’re bound to grow and make progress. My favorite of all the things you talked about, I have two. My favorite is culture. My second is PR. The reason I like PR much is because I built my own business on PR, but I didn’t have a vision that PR was important. I had an economic problem. PR was free. 

PR was free for us too. We didn’t spend any money on advertising for the first three years. We had our big trucks driving around and then we leveraged the press. One thing I know about the media is every day they wake up wondering what they’re going to talk about. If you give them some good content, they’ll write about you or they’ll cover or interview you and it scales. The other thing is no one believes advertising. They didn’t believe that many years ago and they’re not believing it now but they still honor what the traditional press is covering. All this talk about fake news, the reality is news is news and PR is free.

We were forced into a situation where we blew our entire budget on some crap ads that didn’t work. From there, all we had left was PR. We doubled down and went all in. For us, that turned out to be the magic that brought us to life, particularly in the minds of our ideal clients. It was a great strategy then, as it is now. The other thing that I loved about what you said is culture. I bet I have a different viewpoint of culture than you. Can you tell me yours and how deliberately did you create culture in that environment?

I want to underscore something that’s critical. If a company’s not making enough money, culture and PR won’t help them. So many businesses don’t get the proper financial oversight in the early days when they’re set. You don’t have to have a full-time CFO, but have someone run your numbers, run your models, poke holes in it, and show you what you need to be charging. If you can’t charge it or if you’re opening up a muffin store and you realize you need to sell 7,000 muffins a month to make money, you’ve got to wonder whether it’s going to happen or not. A lot of people just fall in love with their business, culture and brand and the press will talk about you, but if you’re not making any money, you’re never going to make money. I’ve seen so many businesses fail that way.

Culture, for me, starts with alignment with the CEO’s vision. As long as every employee understands where we’re going and what we’re building together and can make a lot of the same decisions based on the same gut-level intuition the CEO has, that’s where it starts. Secondly, culture is about having the true A-players on the bus and getting rid of the bad people, getting the cultural cancers out of your company. Almost like you would get a cancerous tumor out of your body. You can only have good people in your company driving the business forward. You don’t have to hold people accountable and manage them. You hire people that manage themselves and they’re aligned with that shared vision, that vivid vision.

The third thing is that you have to have strong communication protocols in place so that people communicate clearly, respectfully and quickly internally. That’s lateral communication, also top-down communication and bottom-up communication. Also, communication out to your clients and suppliers and your outward market.

The fourth is the space and giving people an environment and the technology tools to be able to grow and scale the company. Culture is not the free perks. It’s not the free stuff. It’s not the massage, the free lunch and the Wii room. It’s all about the vision, the people, communication protocols, and the space and technology tools to do the job. You have to be able to live and obsess about your core values and fire people who break them.

What I do when I install culture into the companies that I work with when I build certification programs is what we call the code of ethics. The code of ethics you might think of as restrictive, but it’s not. It says exactly what you can and cannot do and be right or wrong. For example, you cannot take the company’s intellectual property and sell it to somebody else or put it on your website.

When you create this group of boundaries, it’s where real freedom exists. When the CEO’s why is fully understood and can be translated down to everybody in the organization, from the lowest to the highest person, they understand their boundaries and it’s a great place where communication is encouraged. We would encourage them to make mistakes. When you do, also make solutions. That helped the culture evolve into a place where no one was afraid of making mistakes as long as they weren’t going to crash the company.

I call it a no-blame environment. We also have the Michael Gerber idea of, “People don’t fail, systems fail.” You’re always looking for the broken or missing system to fix, not blaming a person. People don’t show up in the morning wanting to mess things up. They’re trying to do the right thing, but they make mistakes. Maybe it’s because they’re carrying too many balls. Maybe it’s because the system wasn’t in place for them to follow, but no one is intentionally making a mistake. Find the system that’s broken or needs to be fixed. Create that no-blame environment, so people are okay with putting their hands up saying, “Something’s broken,” because they know no one’s going to get in trouble for it.

I’m excited to have you. I was chatting with my friend. I believe I was listening to the How I Built This Podcast when I heard the story about 1-800-GOT-JUNK. I believe it was a feature in Fortune Magazine, how one feature in Fortune Magazine blew up the business. I was talking to Azul about it and he was like, “I know a guy named Cameron Herold who you should talk to about this.” That’s how he made the introduction. Am I right? Was it The How I Built This Podcast where I heard that story?

Brian was the founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK. He was on with Guy Raz. Guy and I hung out together at the TED Conference years ago. It was a Fortune Small Business. It was the print edition of the magazine Justin Martin was the journalist, the writer who came out and spent a full day with us and wrote a strong two-page article with photos about 1-800-GOT-JUNK and covered Brian and I extensively in the article. Funny story of that article in 2003 or 2004, Simon Sinek heard about us through that article, called me and asked if he could come for lunch. I said, “Sure. Do you want directions?” He goes, “No. I’m coming from the airport.” I said, “Are you out of town?” He said, “No, I live in New York.”

I said, “You said you’re flying from New York. You’re coming for lunch.” He goes, “I’m going to fly up from New York. I’ll come for lunch and then I’ll take the rib eye back to New York.” I’m like, “For real?” He goes, “I need to find it if you guys are a real company or not.” Simon Sinek, the number three TED Talk of all time. That’s how he and I met. This was way before anyone in the world had heard of Simon. He and his business partner owned a three-person agency. He was 4 or 5 years before writing his book Start With Why. That article that Justin wrote caught the attention of the mass media and Oprah. It brought us into CNBC Squawk Box. Over six and the half-year period that I was the chief operating officer, we landed 5,200 individual unique stories about our company. That was one of the tipping point stories.

SIC 190 | Guest Speaker

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

After that article, you got busy. You had to unplug the phones because they were ringing off the hook. 

There’s some truth to that, but there’s also some art behind that. I taught the company something called the reverse sell. The reverse sell is something I learned at a group called College Pro Painters, where if you’re selling a franchise, if you put a turn on the pressure too hard, too keen or too energetic, you’ll turn away the prospect. What you want to do is get the prospect to be selling you the whole time on why they’re good enough. What we did in terms of unplugging the phone was we create urgency. We taught everyone in our franchise sales group to leave a message that said, “We’ve been covered in the media this week. Sorry, we’re busy. Please leave your name and phone number. We’ll call you right back.”

That message was on the voicemail for years. We turned the phones off, but we did it very strategically, not truly because the media overwhelmed us. The second part of that story, though, is it did overwhelm us, but we had a system in place called a No Faster Than Number where we decided how fast we could possibly grow without breaking, like what kind of quantum leap in terms of growth could we go without breaking? At the time, we were doing about 4 new franchises per month and we realized that the fastest we could do was 16. We created systems to be able to interview, recruit, offer, train and onboard sixteen new franchises a month without breaking. That was probably the tipping point of us being able to accelerate our growth as well.

I am obsessed with what you said because nobody gets this and I would say probably about 90% of PR agencies also do not get this. I’m speaking from the journalism side. I was getting pitches all day, every day for ten years as a TV reporter. I preach to my audience like, “Stop trying to promote yourself. It is not the media’s job to give you free commercials.” Many business owners and PR agencies do that. How did you learn this?

I learned it at a group called College Pro Painters, which was the world’s largest house painting company. I hired Kimbal Musk to work for me. Elon’s brother back in 1993. I got trained at a very young age. I was pretty naïve and grew up in a small city. I thought, “This’ll work anywhere,” sure enough, it did. When Brian and I met fourteen years later, he was cold calling with the media as well in a small way in Vancouver and he was getting some success with it. It was like nitroglycerin when you took his little expertise in the Vancouver market and my expertise working it in multiple countries already. You pour gas on that fire and it lit up. We understood how to craft that story.

I also understood in the very early days when I came into 1-800-GOT-JUNK, I came in with three core focuses in that first year. The 1st one was we had to increase our revenue so that we could make money and our franchisees could make money. We took our full load of a truck from $338 to $458 a full load overnight. Everyone in the company was terrified. I’m like, “We’re either going to go bankrupt because we don’t make money or we’re going to go bankrupt because we’re charging too much. I’d rather try to charge too much and then deliver.” Sure enough, it worked.

The 2nd thing was to turn the company into a cult and create a culture that was strong, we would become a magnet for great talent because we would always need great employees to scale. The 3rd was to be the first in the media. I said, “If we could own the press, then we would own the minds of the consumer because they would always believe what the media said about us. They would never believe our marketing or advertising. If we could be the leaders in every market in the media, none of our competitors would ever get a toehold because we’d always be mentioned even in the articles that were about them.” Those were one of our three core focuses was getting publicity.

We did it. We would pick up the phone and call journalists. We’d give them stories. It evolved in the first six months of me doing it where I would do probably ten hours a week as one of my core roles as the chief operating officer pitching the media then I hired a guy who worked for us in the trucks and taught him how to do PR. He’d never had any PR experience. He went on to land about 600 stories about our company, including Oprah. He got us on the Oprah show. We finally built out a PR team of six full-time in-house PR people and a PR admin none of them had any PR experience. We would never hire anyone with a PR background.

They just want to write news wires and press releases. They don’t get it. We loved women 25 or 26 years old who loved to sell and cold call, and that was great on the phone. They could pick up the phone, bound out calls all day, and build a connection with writers. We taught them how the product, what’s the story and how to sell that product.

The biggest shift people will see as they get into the vivid vision, which I want to ask you about here, is the amount of detail involved in this. Can you paint the picture for us of what is different about a vivid vision versus that 1 or 2-page mission statement or sentence that might go up on a board?

The difference between a vivid vision and a vision statement, the vision statement is a one-sentence statement. The vivid vision becomes a 4 or 5-page written document describing the entire company or business area in complete detail three years from now. You’d be leaning out to December 31st three years from now, describing, let’s say, the entire company. The way I teach people to do it if you were describing your entire organization, would be, “Describe every area of your org chart three years from now. Maybe put 3 or 4 bullet points down about each area. Describe marketing, IT, finance, operations, sales, customer service, and put 3 or 4-bullet points down around each area then you describe your culture, your meeting rhythms, the metrics, KPIs and dashboards you use and how the leadership team works.”

“You put down comments around what the customers and employees are saying about you.” Almost as if you were standing in your company, walking around three years from now, you could describe what you see. You’re not sure how it happened because you were almost transported into the future. You can describe what it is it looks and feels. The key is when you get that first 3 or 4-page rough draft of the vivid vision done, you then give it to a writer or copywriter who can make it polished and pop off the page. You add some graphic design elements to it to make it feel like the rest of your brand. That’s what starts to align people because then everyone can see what you can see

Why three years as the timeframe?

It seemed to be about the right amount of point to provide enough of a dream, push enough, excitement and energy that’s different from now, but not so far out there to wrap your head around. Five years seemed to almost be too far out there that people didn’t see any urgency or maybe it was too different from now, like the 10, 20 or 50-year BHAG were impossible for people to get excited about. There’s a different tool with a Big Hair Audacious Goal, but to describe something. It needs to be achievable in people’s minds. You want the employees to see that they could be a part of making some of these sentences of the vivid vision come true.

This is great because this is one of the questions I get a lot from our audience, like, “How do I do this? I want to see if I can get my brain around the logistics of this.” You mentioned it’s 4 to 5 pages. How does that show up? What do you do to generate that? Is it one person sitting in a room writing this and who is that person? How does that come together? 

Ideally, the leader of the company is writing the vivid vision for the company. If you want to trickle that down to have individual ones for each business area or for some business areas, it would be the leader of that business group. Let’s say the VP of marketing might do one for the marketing team. The leader of the company or the leader of the group is writing it independently and then getting buy-in from their team. I coached a company on this years ago and the CEO took all of his 85 employees offsite for the day and read out his vivid vision for what his company looked like three years in the future.

He turned to the team after reading it and he said, “About 15% of you hate what you heard, but that’s okay because you now know what the company looks like and you know it’s the right time for you to quit, but 85% of you are probably excited about what the company looks like in the future, which means now you know exactly how you can help make it come true.” He was right. About six weeks later, 15% of the company had quit and then 2 years later, he ranked as the number two company in his province to work for.

I noticed that one of the things you teach is that when you articulate a vivid vision, the goal isn’t necessarily to get something that everyone in the organization buys into right away. A little bit of pushback is probably a good sign that you’ve created something that is powerful. 

The key is to get that almost like a magnet approach. You want to write the vivid vision in a way that it magnetizes and pulls people toward you. In fact, you’re going to be sharing a copy of the vivid vision with all potential employees, customers and suppliers, as well as your current employees, suppliers and customers. You want to pull people towards the organization. If it’s written in such a watered-down way that it’s trying to please everyone, it ends up pleasing no one.

I’m curious as to what precedes getting into the room and writing it. If you are the owner of the business or the leader of the division prior to sitting down and starting to do that draft, what kind of thinking, conversations, and listening should be happening that would inform what’s going to go into those 4 to 5 pages?

It’s funny that you said sitting in a room to do it because I want people to get out of the room, office or boardrooms and go somewhere where they’re inspired, somewhere around nature with no laptops, no iPads, no phones, and go with a notepad and a pen. Start mind mapping and dreaming about what the company looks and feels like. I have a book on a vivid vision that talks about how to create the vivid vision concept, but it also talks about how to create one for your personal life or for your family.

The same principles in terms of driving towards a goal apply, but you have to get out of the office to write one and let your mind drift. Start by doing the mind map and jotting down a bunch of ideas. If you’re somewhere around nature, somewhere that you’re inspired or if it’s in the middle of winter somewhere, I’ve gone to big ski lodges and sat by big huge fireplaces or go to big beautiful hotels and sit in a lobby area by a fireplace in a big and comfy leather chair. I let my mind drift, start dreaming and writing down the ideas.

SIC 190 | Guest Speaker

Guest Speaker: When creating a vivid vision for your business, you need to get out of the office and let your mind drift. Be somewhere around nature and create a mind map full of incredible ideas.


Do you still manage your own email? 

No, she goes into my inbox and everything. I will respond to some emails on my own, but I’m like a baby with her. She’ll do a screen share with me and we’ll go through email together. If there’s an issue that takes me more than two minutes, then she’ll follow up on it as I move on to the next email.

She’ll triage a lot of it for you then as well. I’ll give you another system called Inbox Zero that I use as well that’ll help you and her to even get a little bit more of that off your plate. When it comes down to hiring a second command, the first area that I would start is you writing a vivid vision for your company. It’s you leaning out three years and describing your entire company in its finished state. It’s what we covered in chapter one of Double Double. My new book on Amazon is called Vivid Vision. It codifies the idea of taking the vision you have in your mind for your company, writing out a 4 or 5-page description of what your company looks like three years from now, that then you can hand to your team and to your COO that we’re going to help you hire, who can then help reverse engineer that.

They need to see the entire picture of what your company looks, acts, and feels like three years from now. You know what the customers, guests, sponsors and suppliers say about you. You have to describe your marketing, IT, systems and processes all as if it’s completed, then they can figure out how to reverse engineer that. When you’re looking to hire a second in command, it has to be a true yin and yang relationship for you. You’ve got to look at the stuff on your plate that you love to do, that you get energized from, that you’re good at, the stuff that you don’t want to give up and do for free except your kids have to eat. You keep that.

Everything else you’re going to delegate. When you come up with a list of all that other stuff, that’s going to start to describe what that COO looks and feels like for your company. It’s very different for every company. I interviewed a COO from my show, the Chief Behind The Chief. This COO runs finance and IT and engineering. I interviewed another COO, Harley Finkelstein, from Shopify. He doesn’t run finance at all. He doesn’t run engineering that’s under Tobias, but Harley’s very sales, marketing, culture and operations in biz dev. Your COO is going to be the perfect compliment to the stuff you love and he’ll or she’ll be able to take the stuff you suck at and the stuff that you don’t love. The first area is figuring out what you want to get off your plate. What were your grades like in school? Were you a good student?

I was a good student in some places and not in another. Anything that had to do with Chemistry and Science, I didn’t do well. In anything that was math-related or later on, Business-related in college, I excelled at and loved it.

Straight As or Bs?

In those areas, straight As. I would’ve been disappointed if I had B-plus in the areas like Chemistry.

“I would’ve been disappointed had I not got a straight A,” is part of what makes you good, but it’s also a bit of your Achilles heel.


I heard, “I want them to do it my way. What I mean is I want them to have systems.” You are looking an awful lot for perfection. As an example, if you could get your executive assistant to get all of your guests a microphone, she knows the part, she sends it out, it goes off Amazon, they plug it in and 65% to 70% of them use it, for me that’s a straight A. For you, that would be an abysmal failure because you’re only going to be satisfied if 100% of your guests use it.

When you first said it, I disagreed with you then when you put a number to it, I said, “Sixty-five percent? It would be awful. I’m buying 100% and 65% are using it.”

Sixty-five percent, for me, would be one of the most kick-ass. If you can see my university transcript, it’s bad. It’s B, F, C-minus, D-minus and that continues.

I think of you as more of an A-plus student than I am.

Not at all. I was 62% in high school and 62% in college, but I realized that no one was ever going to look at my transcript, so it didn’t matter. I became president of my fraternity. I was on the university ski team. I was doing student government. I was running a business. I had twelve employees when I was in my second year in university. I was very active and engaged in everything else. School was kind of, “I’ll get that.” If you can bring a bit of that into your company, you win. I was coaching a CEO. He’ll do $6 million in revenue out of his dorm room at Cambridge. He’s in third-year school at Cambridge and made $2 million in profit and he was wanting to quit.

I’m like, “You can’t quit. If you’re at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, you stay in school, you finish, but I want you to not go after a 4.0.” Be okay with getting a 2.8 for the first time in your life. Call mom and dad and say, “I’m going to get a 70% average and I’m going to make $3 million in profit in my last year. They’ll be happy.” For you, it’s a bit of the same thing. If you can move towards momentum creating momentum and not perfection creating momentum. No one ever said perfect creates momentum. Getting microphones out the door to the guests will wow them. It’ll impress them. It’ll be better sound quality if 70% of your podcasts are better, that’s better.

It’s fascinating because w a monarchy is an absolute rule. I know that you are about flipping that pyramid upside down.

One of the things that I worked with them on was caring about their core values. I said, “You can’t walk around saying that you want to build a great country or a great group of businesses without giving a crap about your people.” You have to care about the core values, which means you have to live them. I pushed hard on that. It was confrontational because they weren’t ready to hear it because it was a different world over there. I’m like, “You have to care. You have to decide. You can’t walk both sides. You can’t say, ~I want to build a great company,’ and still be a jerk.”

A lot of people are practicing that.

They placate like Enron had core values. Enron’s core values were in their marketing on their walls. They didn’t live them.

There are a lot of people doing that, “These are all values and we stand by them except that we don’t.”

The wireless carrier that I’ve worked with is Sprints. I’ve done coaching with Marcelo Claure, who’s the CEO of Sprints. I also coached one of his second in command. He cares. He obsesses about core values, customers, cutting waste, getting rid of bureaucracy, and getting rid of all the private expense accounts. He runs it like an entrepreneur, but he was an entrepreneur before he went in. Those are the great ones for me to work with, are the companies that are completely aligned from top to bottom or from the bottom up. They don’t see a difference. They’re willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty.

You said when you think bout Brian from 1-800-GOT-JUNK, Joe from Genius Network and Dave Asprey from Bulletproof, they all obsess about it. They all eat, sleep, live and breathe. I believe the most successful people in the world are obsessed. That’s a bad rep in our world, but the truth is we’re obsessed about what it is we’re obsessed about and that’s what makes us successful. What is your obsession? What are you obsessed about?

I’m obsessed with helping entrepreneurs make their dreams happen. The reason I created the concept of the vivid vision and why I started the COO Alliance is there are a million groups for entrepreneurs. You have YPO, EO, Vistage, Genius Network, Mastermind Talks, Maverick, Go Abundance, Davos and TED. You got all these places where entrepreneurs hang out. There are places for marketers, engineers and lawyers, but there was never a place for the COO. I wanted to help the COO grow. We started the COO Alliance to help the entrepreneur, but it’s always helping the entrepreneur. At the end of the day, I’m obsessed with helping entrepreneurs. I would do it for free, except my kids have to eat.

You need a place to stay if you have a flood. 

The flip side of that is I think they’re also obsessed with other activities besides work. The most truly successful, even Elon Musk, who is obsessed with business, still has these outlets of Burning Man. They still have these other obsessions where they disconnect or connect with people and friends. That’s consistent as well. Joe is obsessed with health, stopping addiction and with friends. Dave Asprey is completely geeks out on biohacking and the science of the body. Brian to the family, friends and all of his hobbies.

You talk about vivid vision and purpose. How do you see those two things as separate and how do they come together?

Let’s say you build a business like a jigsaw puzzle. The front of the box of the jigsaw puzzle is your vivid vision. It’s the picture of where you’re going. Four corners of your jigsaw puzzle are your core purpose, your core values, your BHAG, which is your Big Hair Audacious Goal, and then the system or the reverse engineering system, the plan to create the vivid vision. Core values are the things you’re willing to fight for and die for and you would fire people for if they break. The big test for me is you have to be willing to fire them. Maximum 4 or 5 core values for a company. They have to be short phrases, not single words. The core purpose is why do we exist as a company?

My core purpose is to help entrepreneurs make their dreams happen. Apple’s core purpose is to create insanely great products that challenge the status quo and change human rights. You have to understand why we exist as a company. Not what do we do, but why do we do it? The big hair audacious goal is that pursuit that you’re after for the next 20 or 30 years that, from the outside world, people don’t think could happen, but inside, you might think is possible. It often doesn’t have anything to do with what you do. Many years ago, Microsoft was good at putting a computer on every desktop and didn’t even make computers. Their BHAG was related to if they made this insanely great software, people would want to have a computer to use their software. That’s when you know you’ve nailed the BHAG.


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