Our guest is COO Alliance Member Angelo Keely, Co-Founder & COO at Kion.
It will always be easier to communicate when your team is just starting up because one and all are manageable. As the business grows, the team multiplies, and that’s where group dynamics’ significance comes about. Kion, the ultimate source for everything a human being needs to achieve peak performance, look amazing, defy aging, and live an adventurous, fulfilling, joyful, and limitless life, uses this as their team management approach. Angelo Keely, the COO of Kion, lets us in on how they keep pace with the CEO’s vision and ensure the employees’ skills are maximized. Also a professional musician, Angelo touches on the core skill sets of being a COO of their company, the key aspects that help align the management and employees with the vision of the company, and the challenges in managing a remote team.
Kion Co-Founder & COO Angelo Keely
Angelo Keely is the Cofounder and COO of Kion, a dietary supplement and functional food company where he oversees all business activities. Angelo has a truly diverse and unique background. He also put himself through college as a professional musician, beatboxing, rapping and drumming. I’ve heard him beatbox and he blows me away. He led and developed youth service programs for immigrants and orphans in the US, Central America and India and graduated as valedictorian with a major in religious studies. He then moved to France to learn French and he knows multiple languages. He also quickly got a job to develop corporate training programs at a new French satellite campus for an American University in a rare education business partnered with Apple. After a few years in France, Angelo moved to India to become a lead mentor and trainer for Apple with Creative software and then ultimately led the international development department at a top Indian business school.
Following India, Angelo moved to Boulder, Colorado to raise his family and then successfully founded the US branch of an international software development company. He developed a creative business training program for artists and operated a behavioral healthcare company focused on helping troubled young adults. In late 2016, Angelo was introduced to a fitness influencer and podcast star Ben Greenfield to help Ben launch a new dietary supplement company. They quickly bonded and cofounded Kion three months later. Angelo has since led the long-term strategic initiatives and daily operations as COO. I’m also happy to say that Angelo was one of the founding members of the National COO Alliance Program. Angelo, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Cameron. It’s an honor.
I’m looking forward to this and it’s funny even after all the time that we spent together, I didn’t realize that you had spent so much time over in India and I’m fascinated with that. I’ve been to India four times. I love to learn a little bit about that as we get going too. Why don’t you start us off by giving us a little bit of your background? Tell us where you believe you got some of the core skills to be the COO of Kion?
The way I see life is, there’s a way in which we have these inherent talents that we discover over time and things that we’re called to. Over time what I’ve realized is I am excited and passionate about helping facilitate other people’s visions take form via working on developing education programs and working for a lot of different visionary leaders in education, in software and business. I’ve been attracted to when someone has a lot of ideas and passion and they want to make something happen, but it fumbles, or it needs form and it needs direction and organization. I had an innate passion for that and then over time, I’ve developed the skill sets that enable me to support that process for others. That’s exactly what they needed in founding Kion and it’s been the role that I played.
What do you think some of those skill sets are then? Walk us also through how you and Ben stay on the same page with the vision that he had initially for Kion.
The core skill sets are more of a core system level. They are around, am I able to, in wanting this role, be comfortable with a big exploration of ideas and brainstorming type of activities where you’re not going to shut that down. You’re going to support creatives in that process. From that process, taking those ideas, picking out the best ones, picking the ones that make sense and in alignment with a bigger vision. Speaking to the Vivid Vision process that you have influenced in us to take those ideas, form a concise vision of what’s most important and then drill down from that vision into smaller, clearer and strategic tactical steps to manifest that vision. It’s rather broad, but it has to do with breaking things down into subsets of goals, into timelines that’s a core aspect of this whole process.
Another big helpful skill set that I developed and I didn’t realize until I finished it. I ran this healthcare company for about three years and in it, I worked with a lot of therapists. I learned a lot about group dynamics and being able to keep the group functioning as a whole. Particularly in my role and my relationship with Ben, to keep the visionary connected and excited, and to help that person ensure that their vision is coming to fruition, while also they tend to be wild people. Ben is super wild. If you don’t know, just go to Ben Greenfield Fitness and check out some of the stuff he does and he’s up to. Keeping that person excited while also keeping this whole team balanced and moving forward and executing. Those two skill sets are probably the most important ones that I’ve found. There are all kinds of other business and finance and marketing and all the core business goals are very important.
Tell me, did you roll out your Vivid Vision to all of your employees and have you rolled it out publicly?
We rolled it out to all of the employees and we rolled it out publicly but we have more work to do to continue to formalize it. One thing that we did, we did it in a marketing format. We worked on the vision and then we did it as a nurture sequence that we rolled out to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Community as we were launching Kion. We had this initial audience that was based around Ben and then now we’ve launched as a much larger product company. We did it as part of that process which I think was helpful and got the audience to buy into what we are up to and why we were doing this.
I love the way that you launched it out as part of a sequence. Give us some of the key aspects then that when you created the Vivid Vision, it helped align you and the employees. What was it that became part of that process or part of that document internally?
Just to clarify, you’re saying what part of the process of doing it was valuable or are there highlights from core pieces of the document that are especially helpful?
The highlights or core pieces. Were there any big a-ha moments where you were like, “I didn’t know you were thinking of that. I didn’t know we were thinking in that direction,” or that you and Ben maybe got in alignment on that then rallied everyone else?
Surprisingly, in great detail describing what the office was going to look like, what the culture was going to feel like, what employees were going to say about their job. Those were much more potent and powerful than we imagined. Lots of times it was like, “This product that we’re going to develop and how we’re going to change the world or change this aspect of consumer’s lives.” We’ve got a lot of feedback from both employees and our audience and consumers about those.
I see that a fair bit with the number and I codified the idea of the Vivid Vision concept in my first book, Double Double and then also in my third book, Vivid Vision. I also covered it a little bit in The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs and the idea around describing all of the relationships with people whether it’s your recruiting process, your interviewing process, your onboarding, your training, what employees, how they work together. Maybe even some of those group dynamics. Tell us a little bit about group dynamics. I’ve heard one of the COOs mentioning that on our podcast. Walk us through maybe some of the insights of what you see and how you’re managing the group dynamics. First off, with your employees and leadership team. Secondly, do you do anything with regards to suppliers? I know you guys have a fair amount of suppliers that you work with too.
The way that I think about group dynamics is, we’re running a business and we’re running a team but ultimately it is a bunch of human beings in a group together doing these activities. I try to hold that fundamental picture and then we’ve created, as a leadership team, this vision of what we want this group of people to be working on and doing. You have to take it to these individuals and find ways for them to be connected to it. Similarly, to find suppliers to be connected to it and to want to be part of it. The first step is observing that each different person has a different set of core needs and desires and thus motivators, things that they are looking for in their life. Some are more passionate about growth and excitement. Some are into service and feel like they’re helping the team. Others just want to achieve and prove that they can do things.
Some are OCD about making things perfect and working well. Others are concerned about safety and wanting everything to be well-organized and nothing to go wrong. It’s finding out how to communicate what we’re doing as a company to each one of those different types of personalities in such a way that they can get behind what we’re doing. Also, finding them the right seat in the company. If someone’s into safety and systems, I’m probably not going to put them in creative marketing. It could be someone who starts in that type of role because they’re creative and they’re smart and they have unique ideas. They’re going to be better suited towards perhaps implementing systems and operations and they still can apply that creativity and inspiration to creating better systems.
What you’re also touching on is how the best companies will handcuff their key employees as well. If handcuffing Gen X is easier than handcuffing Gen Y, especially in the younger part of Gen Y, but when you start to understand the intrinsic satisfaction that an employee is going to get inside of your company, what they’re looking for beyond just the job itself, that’s how you’re going to keep them in your company. They’re going to stay because they like the environment, the employees, their boss and the perks. They’re going to stay for a long time and also be engaged if you tap into what motivates them. Do you have a system for finding that or are you teaching your team to look for that as you scale or is it an innate ability that you spot?
We do two tests. We do the Kolbe A test and we do the Enneagram test. We use those in a complementary fashion to each other. We find them to be very different and to share different types of information. Everyone’s tested on them. Everyone knows and everyone’s scores. We’re a new company, but we did our first big all team multi-day retreat in April and in that we dug deep into those scores with each other and talking about and understanding where and how we’re motivated in different ways in different situations. I would say it’s formal in that way and it’s very explicit. We’re able to talk about it and understand each other.
I don’t want us to pigeonhole you guys into a supplement company. Kion is a little bit bigger than that. Can you walk us through so everyone can understand what Kion is and why you decided to start a business in such a crowded space?
That fundamentally Kion is a lifestyle company and that word is thrown around a lot, but it is a company that is devoted to helping people live more adventurous and fulfilling lives. It speaks to a certain way of approaching that. We are committed to combining the best wisdom of our ancestors. We’re using ancient wisdom and using modern science to support and empower our followers and the people that are part of our community to have the most integrated whole life in terms of both their body, their mind and their spirit. The easiest way of describing oftentimes is we’re a supplement company because we do have a range of supplements that we offer. We also have a gratitude journal that we’ve launched.
We’ll be launching more products like that. We have a coaching certification program that launched. The enrollment is now close to it. That program will be starting in July where we’re training coaches. These are existing physicians, naturopaths, personal trainers or people that already have a pretty developed practice in our method and way of seeing the world and seeing people and how to support and coach individuals in the Kion way and the Kion method which is this optimization, integration of your body, your mind and your spirit.
I’ve spent a fair bit of time with Ben. He and I were members of a couple of different mastermind groups that we attended together. He does embody this and lives this. What was it that he saw in you and what was it that you saw in him in the early stages that made you want to work with him as a COO? What was it that he saw in you that made him want to bring you on?
The simplest way of thinking about it is complementary skill sets and inclinations. I was first exposed to Ben in the introduction of us potentially working together. I reviewed everything he had done and I talked to him. I saw this guy has already affected a lot of people. Clearly, he had 60,000 to 50,000 Facebook followers or something like that. He was well respected by lots of other influencers and practitioners. The 50,000 isn’t huge, it’s not millions. This guy could be big. He could impact and affect a lot of people. That could be via his own brand or through a company or whatever but he has much energy, much vision and much passion for what he’s up to and what he’s doing. He’s not talking about it and then faking it and living a different life. He’s so devoted to it. I originally came on as a consultant to work with them and help them and work with them more.
He’s the most hardworking person I’ve ever met, one of the most efficient people I’ve ever met. On a third thing it’s maybe not as clearly complementary. He’s the most action-oriented person I’ve ever met. He takes action. He doesn’t think through things as much. He just goes and does it. In doing that and seeing that I want to be around this, I want to have this influence on my life. There are parts of myself and me where I could influence him and support him in certain ways. It’s the stuff we’ve already talked about. It’s my more systems-based thinking. It’s an inclination towards in between vision and action, implementing more strategy. It’s strength around group dynamics and leading groups of people to buy into something, to want to work on it together and to fulfill specific roles. I think Ben saw that.
You mentioned doing the Kolbe A profile. What’s your Kolbe A and what’s Ben’s Kolbe A? Do you remember?
They’re almost identical. Mine is a 4-4-8-4 and I think his is 3-4-8-9-4. They’re pretty close.
You’re very entrepreneurial as a COO and that’s probably why it worked well as you were in that startup phase. You were both creating the company from scratch. You weren’t coming in to take it to the next level as much as to complement him and help grow it together.
That’s accurate, which would be interesting to see as we’re growing fast at two to three years from now, what those Kolbe A scores will look like. We need a lot more of people potentially that are more like 8-8 or the opposite score that’s 8-3-8 or something.
My Kolbe profile is very similar. Mine is a 4-3-9-3. When I was building 1-800-GOT-JUNK? that was perfect for the first six or seven years and then we needed to have a different profile to take it to the next level. We also surrounded ourselves with people that had Kolbe’s that were different than ours for sure. I’m sure that’s what’s going to happen as you scale.
Even for example, my right-hand person, particularly the op side, she has an opposite score. She’s an 8-8-3-8 or something.
You said you had another personality profile that you used as well, what was it called?
Do you teach all of the employees how these profiles work or is it just the leadership team that’s using them? How do you work with these profiles?
It’s all the employees. Everyone’s taking them. We’re a smaller team, we’re twenty people right now. We have the benefit of being able to do a retreat with the entire team and to go into detail in all of them. We do them for old and new hires as well and then when someone comes on and does it, we do a review with them. We let them know what everyone else’s scores are. They have open access to seeing other people’s information as well.
You’re a member of the COO Alliance that I run, but also we attend a mastermind together. We’ve gone to Baby Bathwater a couple of times. I’m curious as to what your perspective is on both of those events. Baby Bathwater with you as a Cofounder and then also the COO Alliance where you’re there as the second-in-command. What are you seeing in terms of the differentiation between the different styles? I’m sure you’ve been to others. What are you pulling out of the COO Alliance that is different from other masterminds or other groups?
They are very different, I’ll start by saying that. I’ll speak to the COO Alliance because that’s more pertinent to people reading this as well. It is unlike other masterminds that I’ve been to. It is exceptionally oriented towards operations, towards what it’s going to take to change things, to grow the business. It’s much more implementation-oriented. I can go to another mastermind, a Baby Bathwater and get a cool marketing idea and get excited. I can potentially get a relationship that would perhaps drive a lot more traffic to the business and then I have to go back and I have to implement it.
I would say that there’s a lot more opportunity to talk to people that are in the implementation role at the COO Alliance. They know the pains of what it’s going to take to try out this new technology that we might be excited about. With that, I have found that I have a one-page list that every COO Alliance I leave with where I write down, “These are the actions I’m going to take.” I feel so much more supported, inspired, motivated to do those things because of what the community is about. They’re realistic, they’re not just ideas. I would say it’s very pragmatic and implementation-oriented.
That was definitely the hope. It was supposed to be focused around that area of operations and getting stuff done. Even the reason why I started the Second In Command podcast is I wanted to hear the rest of the story. We often hear the entrepreneurial view or the CEO/Founder view of how they grew the company. There’s often a different perspective. It’s not that one is right or wrong. It’s a bit of a Yin and Yang approach. With Ben heavily being the CEO and spokesperson for not only the Ben Greenfield brand but also for Kion, what do you think is the rest of the story? What are you guys doing that maybe isn’t being told publicly that is contributing so heavily to your success?
The first word that comes to mind is the work but it’s the dedication to the strategy and when I say strategy, the main thing I’m thinking of is prioritization and sequencing. What’s the most important thing we need to work on and then in what order to get to where we want to go. Having a team that has the group dynamic stuff not sorted out, but it’s a pretty healthy team. I am proud of our team and I’m excited to be part of our team. That’s a big part of it and to have that cultural group that’s unified and connected and then working on what’s most important. Why do we do it and in which order? Let’s do it in that order. It’s not just a bunch of dreaming up all the coolest things we want to do. It’s dreaming those up and then applying that dedication. I can go into more detail in every area from more detailed operations of producing supplements to marketing all the details of finance and admin, but most people that are within a company get the sense of those.
Are you hiring people that are good at project planning and execution? What are some of the core behavior traits or skills that you look for in addition to the functional requirements of the job that you’re hiring for?
That is such a good question and it’s something that of late has been particularly challenging. As we start to grow faster, we think we need these people with these specific functional qualities. I need someone that has already run content marketing at this level. They know exactly what to do for the next steps etc. and in doing that and making that the primary search. We’re going to search for culture and other types of fit. We’ve struggled and we prioritize it. Another thing that Ben and I do is we try to read books together and to clearly track those to take the best ideas of them. One of them is Principles by Ray Dalio. It was impactful for us. He talks about the best cultural fit then the ability and then finally the actual proven skills. I think higher in that way, it’s like, is this the person someone we’re going to want to be around? It doesn’t mean that everyone has to have the same personality type. It’s not like we’re hiring a bunch of alphas.
People that are only motivated for success in one way or funny but are they going to get with the group? Do they believe in what we’re doing? Do they like this style of work? Do they like the way we interact together? The next is on the ability level. It is some of these core qualities. Can they synthesize information? Can they get big ideas and a lot of different ideas and synthesize what’s most important and be able to take action on that? Can we trust that they are a reliable hard worker and that doesn’t mean that they need to work a certain way at a certain time? Do we trust that they are interested and excited by work itself and in professional development as part of personal development? They like work and they want to work, and they like doing that hard work, those two key things. They get excited about the way that we run meetings. They get excited about how we have quarterly goals and annual goals and how we strip things down to make them as simple and as measurable as possible. People that are inclined towards that, even if they’ve never worked in that type of system before, they love it and they eat it up because it makes them a better person.
It’s interesting that you mentioned Ray’s book. I pulled that out and started reading it as part of my morning savers. The R in SAVERS is the Reading and that whole idea of hiring for culture abilities and skill is exactly what I’ve always done. We learned that in the early days at College Pro Painters. The adage of hire for attitude, train for skill, only gets you growth to a certain percentage but when you hire for the right culture fit and proven skill set that they’ve done it before, that’s what will accelerate your growth. If you compromise and you hire the best-skilled people who don’t fit culturally, it is a negative. You need to have both.
It’s obviously and immediately negative because some of the group dynamic stuff, no one’s working in their own little island. They’re working with these other people. If people don’t want to work with them or there’s distrust or they don’t get along, it slows down the whole thing. You can have a star running back but if that running back doesn’t get along with the rest of the offensive team, it doesn’t matter.
It’s interesting you even mentioned that you’re not hiring the same behavioral traits. You’re not hiring all alphas or the same. What you are hiring for is the way we do things and also core values that they have to already lived the core values of the organization. Talk to me a little bit about your recruiting process and your interviewing process. Is there anything unique that you guys do there?
I haven’t compared it. I honestly haven’t done an extensive review of everyone else’s recruiting processes. I don’t know exactly how unique it is. The things that we focus on are, at the very highest level, what is this job? What is this role ultimately responsible for? At the highest level, what does this person need to love and be motivated by? Clearly defining what the responsibilities are going to be in no nonsense language, not these complicated and flowery things. What is the person going to do and what do they need to? They have a clear idea of what they’re getting into and we have a clear idea of evaluating, if they’re doing it or not and hopefully that train is endearing in the interview.
A lot of companies don’t even sit down and think about that. You are on the right page with that. Harvard wrote an article years ago called the Misunderstood Role of the COO and they identified seven distinct types of seconds-in-command. Talk to us about the core areas that Ben oversees in the business and what he’s responsible for, then the core areas that you’re responsible for. It differs from everyone that we’ve interviewed on the Second in Command Podcast. What do you oversee and what does he oversee and how did you decide which areas to be responsible for?
There are ways that we naturally divided tasks or responsibilities. Implementing the EOS system via Gino Wickman that helped us as well. We do clearly see things in terms of being a visionary and an integrator. Ben primarily performs the visionary role and I perform the integrator role. As a visionary, Ben’s primary role is maintaining this clear, distinct mental image and vision of where we’re going and why we’re going there. Being out in front of the company and being that figure for all of our potential customers. They’re associating this guy and this guy’s vision with who we are and where we’re going and then similarly doing that for our internal team.
He represents why we’re doing it and where we’re going. The other main thing I would say is high-end relationships. Because of the high-profile nature of Ben, he’s able to manage important, high-profile relationships. Get out there, draw attention, get big deals in the door and then once they’re in, it’s my responsibility to turn it into something. Beyond that, my primary role is leading the whole team on a day-to-day basis, facilitating how the entire team and group is operating and then overseeing each of the business units.
Ben is a quick start, very similar to you with your behavioral trait or your Kolbe profile. As a visionary entrepreneur, he has lots of great ideas and comes back from these masterminds with great ideas. How do you protect him and save him from himself? How do you protect the company from having to start every one of these good ideas?
The other thing is how do we protect Ben or whoever in that role, their freedom to be excited? There’s got to be a way. I want Ben to stay excited and keep coming with all these ideas. I don’t want him to feel shut down and every time he brings a cool idea it’s going to be, “Sorry, Ben. We can’t do that right now. We’re working on something.” I want him to stay excited and inspired and feel like there’s a place for him to deliver those ideas. I’m going to be excited about them and I’m not going to shoot them down. One primary thing is trying to keep that with me because what we don’t want to happen, we wanted him to bring all of his ideas to some other team members. They don’t know if it’s a priority or not, “I thought there was this other priority. Ben is telling me this thing,” and so then they’re confused. Maybe they liked the idea and so they go with it and maybe it’s not a priority and we shouldn’t be doing it.
Maybe they don’t like the idea and then they shut Ben down and Ben’s like, “What’s going on? I thought I was the founder of this thing and I’m the guy out there doing this. I know what’s right.” Providing a safe place to where he and I have weekly meetings. I let them know all the time. We use Voxer a lot because we don’t live in the same place and it’s a voice messaging app. He can send me a voice message whenever with any idea. I collect them all and I put them into somewhat like a Dreamcatcher document that we review for the next strategic planning session. If an idea comes in right now and if it feels something that’s pretty good and we could implement quickly, I go to that team and I’m like marketing, “I think that we should change this menu item. It’s a good idea that Ben has. Can we test that?” They’re like, “We think we can do it.” If it’s something that feels big, we can save it to a later meeting to discuss in more detail. I always try to make sure Ben feels like it’s safe to share the ideas and to encourage him to keep bringing them.
What most founders need is to know that they can share all the ideas. Once they’ve shared them with us, we’ve got them, we’ll put them into a process to vote on them quarterly, monthly or yearly. They know their ideas are now trapped. In the absence of some system, they tend to want to start things. If they know that you’ve got the idea and it’s safe and it’s good, they can keep sharing them a month or two later. They’re going to go back and look at all their ideas and they’re going to help vote through some of those too. They realize that in the scheme of things when they had 40 ideas, only five of them can get started.
I honestly want to give props to Ben on this. One of the things I most respect about him is how open to growth and change he is in some ways. When I first started and we started this company, it was hard for him. He would want to start things. He’d want to have tons of different people starting things all the time and we just talk through it and he got it. He was like, “I get it, but I need that safe place to be able to share that stuff. I feel I don’t have a message for how to create that with another CEO because it didn’t feel that challenging in my situation.” It took a year for us to get there, but that feels relatively fast right here. Some other people, it is years of this speaking past each other in a more of a CEO-COO relationship.
You are touching on it that you have a good open dialogue, a good open trust and good communication. What do you guys do in terms of meeting rhythms for yourself to stay connected with each other, to stay on the same page and talk through things, and working remotely to do that? What else do you do besides using Voxer to stay on the same page?
Having a weekly scheduled meeting even if we don’t need to use full-time, honestly, it’s been a little tricky. His schedule has been so packed lately. He’s constantly traveling and it’s been a little tricky these last few weeks and I can already tell. I can tell there’s a little bit of a slippage. I don’t think there’s relationship slippage, but staying on the same page and ensuring that we both know what’s going on in the two different key roles that we’re playing. Just having a weekly sit-down meeting or call that you adhere to no matter what.
Are you guys using and leveraging Zoom, doing it over video?
We do. The only thing is neither of us is very inclined to sitting down all day or being in front of a computer all day. I hold the role more of organizing and keeping track of everything like I need to stay in one place. Ben prefers to be on a phone call and being able to go on a walk which I totally respect. If I were in his seat, I would take that too. I wouldn’t want to be in front of the computer doing it and I don’t mind it at all.
It’s good that you have the weekly meeting as well and whatever format works for you. I love the leveraging video because we can keep that human connection. It does build especially over time. It keeps the connection strong because you can see the other person, look them in the eyes, smile together and laugh together. It keeps the connection going where sometimes, it’s just the voice or certainly even over texts is a lot worse, not quite as strong.
On that point, there was a big thing that I got out of the COO Alliance because there were two big things about this company for me. One was I had never run a remote company before. I had with the software development company, but I was doing more of sales and partnership work. It wasn’t like managing a team of 20 or 30 or 40 people. I walked into this remote thing and I was like, “How do I do this?” I don’t feel like I have a pulse of where people are. I brought that up in a COO Alliance meeting. Matt Wool, who is a member as well and runs a huge remote only team was like, “You have to tell them they have to be on video. Just go back and do that immediately.” I went back and I did that immediately and it changed everything. It had a huge impact saying, “For meetings, you need to be present on video.” If you have some good reason for why not or there is some issue, but otherwise the expectation is on Zoom calls, on team meetings, you’re on video and it did make a huge impact.
Video is powerful. I got off a call with my Director of Operations. Over the last few days, there were lots of messages, texts back and forth and email communication. All of a sudden, the video opened up and we both started laughing and saying hi and everything. It was great and it builds that human connection which is powerful. I want to know what you think are the core areas that you’re still working on? Ray Kroc who built that McDonald’s said, “When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you’re rotting.” Where are you still growing as a COO?
I think speaking to the Kolbe score and my Enneagram score, my Kolbe score is oriented towards starting things and getting things going. My Enneagram personality results are oriented towards growth, excitement, the fun stuff. I’ve worked hard the last couple of years, I’d say pretty intentionally on trying to value the things that I’m strong at, but also smooth out other areas. I’ve been more oriented towards particularly the implementation of strategy because I’m an idea guy. I like the strategy, the sequencing and the planning but then pushing forward on implementation and keeping it tight, not allowing for too big of ideas or expectations to go on without coming back to them. It ensures that we’re coming back to the same thing, being consistent, taking action on that and implementing what we plan to implement. I still have work to be done on that in places we’re getting clear about, the places where I’m not as good at that. Just delegating it faster, not holding onto it, not feeling like it has to be my thing if it’s an area where I’m not going to be good at.
It’s not about us getting it and doing it. It’s about it getting done. One of the speakers that came into the COO Alliance was Ari Meisel. He’s an expert on efficiency and automation. His process is when you’re looking at projects or things that we do in the company to decide if we can stop doing it. Can it be optimized? Can it be automated? Can it be outsourced? Do you guys look to put things through that filter or a filter similar to that at all?
I’m somewhat familiar with Ari’s work. I know Ben’s more familiar with it than I am. I wouldn’t say that we adhere directly to that, directly to that filter. I think that fundamentally, we understand those principles and we try to work towards them.
You mentioned that you and Ben are trying to read a lot of books together. What are the ones that you’ve read, that you guys have been excited about or have gained some great ideas from?
The three most influential ones had been Principles and then the next two are part of the same system but it’s the Traction and then Rocket Fuel. The last two are both parts of the EOS system, but Rocket Fuel is written to more of a visionary CEO type. Traction is more written to the implementer/integrator role. Those three books have definitely been the most impactful and we’ve tried to stick with implementing the best ideas of those before we try to read too many new things.
I’ve been encouraging people, I don’t believe and there are some thought leaders that say you have to read a book every week and I completely disagree. It is stressing people out and adding miscellaneous things to their to-do list. What you should be doing is reading very specific books around areas that you or the organization wants to grow in and applying your learning and time to that. The rest of the time giving yourself a break and putting those systems in place. I love that you get that, that you’re taking the core principles from EOS Traction from Rocket Fuel and from Principles. I’m putting the systems in place deep into your company. When you’ve done that then you can grab another book. What word of advice can you give to not just a second-in-command, but any leader that you have out there?
Study yourself because the biggest risk out there is not seeing that you have some type of unconscious emotion or drive that is going to influence a decision that’s potentially not best for you, for the company, for the team, for society. Take time to study yourself however you do that, whether that’s journaling or meditation or walks or therapy and study yourself.
The next time we’re together. I want to sit with you over a drink and hear all about your experiences in India. I am fascinated with that country after being there four times. I was there in 1991, 1997, then a couple of times over the last few years. I’ve been to probably twenty cities over there. Where did you base? What did you like about it? What did you learn from it? India is a crazy place.
I’ve also been there four times. The first time I went was to do this service work at this orphanage for about a month in Bangalore. I spent a month doing a yoga program in Rishikesh. It’s on the foothills of the Himalayas. It’s all another story to tell you, but I was involved in that crazy bus accident over there where all these people died. It was very sad and very few people were available to rescue them. I was part of this very small group. They featured me in the newspaper. It was a wild, dream-like, bizarre experience. I went back and I created a program where we ran a summer camp at the university I was at. It’s still running and they send kids, college students to this orphanage to run a summer camp there. I did that the second time.
The third time I went back, it was work related but for fun with my wife. The fourth time, I was based out of Bangalore for a year and a half where I worked with Apple and worked with this university. It was very different than the travel experience as being more integrated into the workforce itself and could feel the social and cultural and race dynamics. It was a very interesting experience and the last thing I’ll say is, my driver got fired for something after a couple of weeks. I was like, “I’ll drive until you hire another person.” Once they heard that, they would never hire me another driver. I drove my own car when I was there. If you ever had been to India, I should get major props for that.
There’s no way I would drive in India. People will be like, “I’ve never been to India, but it’s probably like Mexico.” I’m like, “No, it’s not.” It’s like Mexico on acid. It’s ridiculous. Angelo, thanks so much for sharing. I appreciate it. I’m looking forward to seeing you.
Thank you so much for having me, Cameron. It’s an honor.
- Ben Greenfield Fitness
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About Angelo Keely
Angelo is an executive leader with experience in creative business consulting, health and fitness, software, higher ed, corporate training, and behavioral health. He has proven leadership success in Fortune 100, start-up, and small business environments. Additionally, he’s multi-lingual with several years of international professional experience.