This is a recast of an episode of the Chris Harder Show, in which Chris sits down with Cameron to discuss how to be a better CEO and choose the right second-in-command. During the discussion, they talk about the takeaways from his book, *The Second in Command.* They discuss Cameron’s current digital nomad journey and how traveling the world has transformed his approach to business leadership. You’ll also hear Cameron’s perspective on what it takes to be an entrepreneur and how to stay connected with your core purpose through all the ups and downs.
In This Episode You’ll Learn:
- How to scale faster by delegating tasks and staying within your zone of genius.
- Why it’s so important to invest in a business mastermind community.
- The top three tips for business owners who want to franchise.
- The first position you should hire for, regardless of your industry.
- Conflict resolution strategies for CEOs and COOs.
- And much more…
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
I’m sharing with you a recast of my appearance on The Chris Harder Show. In my conversation with Chris, we dive deep into the world of leadership and making that crucial decision of finding the right second in command. We also explore insights from my book, The Second in Command and discuss how my current digital nomad journey has transformed my approach to business leadership. Trust me, you don’t want to miss our thoughts on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and how to stay connected with your core purpose through all the ups and downs. Let’s jump right in.
Cameron, welcome to the show. What an honor. How are you doing?
Good. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
My privilege. We’ve never met before, but everybody who we have in common as friends and acquaintances raves about you. They rave about you as a human, as a leader and as a teacher. This moment for me has been long overdue and one that I’ve been looking forward to.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
I want to kick this thing off by saying congratulations. Your brand new book dropped and it is topping the charts on every single chart since it dropped.
Yes, we got lucky, I guess. We were already number one in five categories and it’s starting to climb. I didn’t write it. I’ve always hit number one in Amazon in multiple categories. My goal is to be an Amazon number one bestseller, 2, 3, 4, 5 years from now. To write a book that is strong for the ages and that will help change companies, that’s what we did with this one.
It’s called Second In Command and we’re going to talk plenty about it as the show goes on. Before we get into the book, I want people to get to know you. You’re doing something cool. You sold everything. You are hitting the road literally and metaphorically. You’re a free man out there in the world, visiting countries. Shed some light on what you’re doing.
A few years ago, my wife and I sat down and talked about what did we want to do? Where do we want our lives to go? Where do we want our relationships to go? We realized that being in one spot all the time wasn’t what we wanted. We wanted to explore the world, see the countries, and see what was out there. I lived in Arizona. I had a home here for ten years. I had a home in Vancouver for 27 years. I was a member at the Arizona Country Club. I was a member of Marine Drive Country Club in Vancouver.
I was a member of the Vancouver Lawn and Tennis Club. I wasn’t even using 3 memberships at 3 clubs. I had all the cars, the assets and stuff. I was like, “I’d rather be traveling.” My happier times are when I’m exploring the world with my wife, friends, myself, and my kids. We sold everything and we saw these digital nomads and said, “There’s no age category on that. I can run my company from anywhere. My employees are all remote anywhere. My clients are from all over the world. I’ve got clients from 17 countries. Why not go and travel?” Now we’re doing it.
What’s been the biggest lesson on the road so far?
Probably how little you need, how little I need to be happy. Amazon’s constantly not showing up at the door because there’s nowhere to put stuff. You’re not buying things because you don’t need things. I’m pretty happy wherever I lay my hat. I can settle into a place pretty quickly and feel comfortable. I don’t let stuff rub me. I roll with the punches and I’ve been able to do that as well.
It’s interesting you say that. You and I were talking offline and I said during COVID, Lori and I bought a motor home. Lori’s my wife, and we bought a motor home. We hit the road for months. I am not trying to paint the picture that we were roughing it. It was a 45-foot bus, but when you said you don’t need much, we ate off the same plastic dishes every single night. It was a bag salad and some meat on a little Weber grill. The simplicity of that was one of the absolute best parts. You do learn what makes you happy and what ties you down that you thought might have made you happy. I recommend everybody does it.
Yes. It’s not easy, either. My wife bears the brunt of a fair bit of our stuff because she likes to coordinate, organize things and likes things to be perfect. She looks for the right Airbnb in the right location. It’s hard to find some normalcy at times too. It’s hard to find a gym or a yoga studio. It’s hard to find a good trainer. It’s hard to find the right grocery store.
Once you figure it all out, you pack up and leave again. When you’re moving every couple of weeks, we hit 23 countries. We hit five continents. We were in Antarctica. When you’re constantly moving like that, it’s hard to find some stability. That can be hard as well. You don’t want to paint the picture when you see that perfect Instagram photo, there’s often a lot happening behind the scenes to take that photo too.
Do you wish that you would’ve done this at a different stage in your life or is this the perfect time for you?
I did do it as well. When I was 25, I traveled around the world for 12 months and hit 18 countries and 12 months backpacking with no internet or cell phone. I went by myself. I did a lot of Southeast Asia, the Middle East and parts of Europe. Doing it then opened me up. I’ve been to 64 countries. That exploration has always been a part of me. Even my kids have both been to about 25 countries each already as well.
Cameron, this is a good way for us to start dipping our toes into your profession. When I opened the show, I said everyone I talked to says you’re the best leader on Earth. I’ve had the privilege of seeing you speak before and every single thing I’ve ever seen coming out of you, I would have to agree. What did you say, 64 countries?
Experiencing that much different culture and ways of living and different types of business, I’ve got to assume that you picked up a lesson or two that’s made you the leader you are. Is that a fair assumption?
I’m certainly more empathetic to people. I’m empathetic to the human condition. I’m empathetic to the fact that we’re all struggling. We’re all walking each other home. I’m empathetic, especially for the US, how divided it is currently. The rest of the world is talking about it. I can give you a list of countries. Pick any of them that I’ve been to in the last few years. If they’re talking about a debate on something, they have the debate and then they continue with their dinner.
It doesn’t end with, “You’re this political party or that I’m that political party,” and it’s sad seeing that. They’re looking in going, “What is it? I want to go for a burger.” “You’re such a Republican.” It’s like, “No, I want a burger.” “Let’s go for a swim.” “You’re such a Democrat.” “No, I want to go swimming.” I’m seeing that. I don’t know if that’s made me a better leader, but certainly, my eyes are wide open for sure to the world.
Let me ask you a follow-up question about that. I’ve got friends there, ex-pats, they moved to Florence, Italy. The approach towards life over there is so opposite compared to the approach in the United States and you know what I’m talking about.
We were in Italy for six weeks. I ate pasta for 6 weeks, 2 meals a day, and I lost weight.
Yes. Isn’t it wild?
I lost weight because the sizes that they serve are human size, not family size for everything. You get a little bit of pasta and then you have your meats. They serve the food in the right order. You have your salad first and then you have your meats and then you have your pasta. They serve it in an order that your bodies are supposed to be digesting it. You walk everywhere. You don’t get in a car and drive to the restaurant. You walk to the restaurant, to a cafe, to your home, to the sites and to the theater. You’re constantly walking. We were walking 12,000 steps every day without doing anything. Here it’s a chore to walk 1,000.
You notice that as well. Florence is magic. People also, in the rest of the world, work to live. They don’t live to work. They work to be able to pay their bills and provide themselves with a lifestyle, but they’re not trapped in all of these things, partially because they don’t have these huge homes to be able to fill them with stuff.
They all get 5 or 6 weeks of vacation. That’s normal. Italy takes off the entire month of July. They all shut down. You start realizing that’s what life is about. Time with friends, family, yourself, and your hobbies. Work is something we do to pay the bills. It doesn’t have to be lopsided. You can still enjoy what you do to pay the bills too, but it doesn’t have to be our everything.
Here’s the first tough question, then. I feel what you’re describing is the right approach to life, but that’s an opinion. It sounds like you’re pretty fond of that approach to life as well. You built three different companies, not the one you’re famous for, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, but three different companies to multiple nine figures. I’ve got to imagine that it took some live-to-work grind to get there. How do you reconcile those two things?
Yes, it didn’t take it. It’s what I sadly put in. It could have been done better because I’ve seen plenty of companies do it better. Yes, that was me. You can see that picture. That was 42 pounds heavier than I am years ago. I was unhealthy. You don’t have to be unhealthy. You can still work hard and go to the gym. You can still work hard and eat healthy. You can still work hard and have normal outlets for your stress that aren’t alcohol.
I was getting up at 7:00 in the morning and working until 7:00 at night. I could have probably had a salad at lunch instead of snarfing down pasta and a sandwich at my desk. Instead of going out for dinner or if I did, I could have had a salad but not started my dinner with two Manhattans and a bottle of wine and Grand Marnier afterwards, which was four days a week.
I was living this very unhealthy lifestyle that had nothing to do with whether the company was big or not. At 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I would be home every day at 6:00 and I was spending time with my kids. I wasn’t working on weekends. I shouldn’t have worked as many nights because I was never going to catch up. I should have delegated faster or said no more. If I’d learned to delegate faster and said no more, we probably could have grown even faster. We could have been a much better company had I learned what I now know now back then.
Cameron, this right here, we can end the show. That is the lesson of all lessons right there. You don’t have to forsake the size of the goal, but there’s a much more elegant way of getting there. Here’s the follow-up question to that. In a country where everybody seems to be running a rat race to grow these great big milestones, how do you set the boundaries? How do you hold onto the boundaries to be the healthy person that can still grow a large-sized company?
It’s by deciding what’s important in life first. None of this shit matters. We’re all going to die. This is what we do to make money. It’s deciding what you want your life to look like. How do you want your relationships to be? How do you want your time with your kids? What are your hobbies going to be like? What are you doing for fun? What are you doing for balance and then saying, “How does work fit into that?” Instead of focusing on work, we often miss the rest of our lives.
We don’t have goals for the rest of our lives. We don’t commit the goals to the rest of the people in our lives. We’re so often myopically focused on work. Sometimes we’re only focused on that because we’re hurting in all these other areas and we don’t know who to turn to or how to turn to others to get support or to get help or to say that we’re hurting so that we fill our life with the one thing that feeds us, which is that dopamine rush we get from working.
I want to take you back in time. I want to ask you about your father. I had the best relationship in the world with my father. He was taken too early and had many profound effects on who I turned out to be. I’ve seen and heard you say that your father groomed you to be an entrepreneur. Explain that if you don’t mind.
Yes, my dad sadly passed away very suddenly as well.
We were together over in Poland. We had an amazing trip in Poland together. He had his 80th birthday with all of his kids, grandkids and stuff around. A heart attack and then he was gone. He was swimming 3 days a week and golfing 3 days a week at 80. It was very sudden.
Cameron, that was my father. Not to compare stories, but 72, healthy, worked out every day. No body fat and no precursors, and had a heart attack and was gone.
My dad was such a strong athlete that he was pushing through stuff, but his arteries were all completely clogged because of diet and not understanding that. He’s trying to push through that. When the body said, “I’m in trouble,” the mind can’t push any harder. The body had to kick in. My dad groomed us as entrepreneurs. My father was an entrepreneur. Both sets of grandparents were entrepreneurs and we were groomed to be entrepreneurs and never to be employees.
We were told that being an employee was stupid. We were told that being an employee was a bad deal that you were trading time for money. We were shown that employees work hard all day to get the same paycheck every week, no matter how hard or little they work. We were shown the opportunities of free time. Being an entrepreneur wasn’t about money. It was about being able to do what you want, when you want, with who you want, delegate all the stuff you don’t want, and have as much free time as you want.
Take vacations whenever you want, go wherever you want and the money will follow. Yes, my brother, my sister, and myself have all run our own companies. It’s all that. I’ve worked for a couple, but I always partner in or in a very entrepreneurial nature in the sense of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, but I’m entrepreneurial for sure. I had 12 employees when I was 20 years old.
What was your first successful business? However, you want to define that.
My first real business, I was 20 and I had 12 employees. I was running a house painting company while I was in university. I did that for three summers. I made very good money. I graduated from university with no debt. I paid for all my own schooling and I bought a house the year that I graduated. That would’ve been my first successful business.
My first business venture, I was 7. I was collecting coat hangers from houses and then I was selling them to the dry cleaners. I was negotiating over the phone with dry cleaners, trying to negotiate prices. My mom came into my bedroom and I was going through the yellow pages. I can still remember doing it. I was writing the price down beside every dry cleaner. I was phoning them all. One of them only wanted to give me $0.02 and I wanted $0.03 per coat hanger.
He’s like, “No, $0.02.” I’m like, “How about $0.025? He goes, “How old are you?” I said, “I’m seven. How about $0.025? He goes, “Okay.” I said, “Good, we’ll come this afternoon.” I hung up the phone. I was seven and hardcore negotiating. I learned all these lessons as a kid and entrepreneurial that have stuck with me now.
Do you think being an entrepreneur as a personality type, is that nature or nurture or a little bit of both?
I did a talk that’s on the main TED website about Let’s Raise Kids to be Entrepreneurs. It got millions of views. I talk about thing 1 and thing 2. There’s the DNA of the entrepreneur and then there’s the skills that you need to become an entrepreneur. The DNA is something that a lot of people don’t have. Sadly being an entrepreneur has become very trendy and a lot of people are trying to become entrepreneurs and they’re not meant to be. They don’t have the entrepreneurial DNA and they’re not wired to be entrepreneurs. They might be entrepreneurial, but they’re better off working in a corporate environment or in a business environment or maybe being a freelancer for lots of different companies. They’re not cut out to be entrepreneurs. Some of the entrepreneurial DNA recognized by the medical and school systems are called diseases.
ADD is a disease, but it’s a superpower for an entrepreneur. The fact that I have 17 of the 18 signs of Attention Deficit Disorder means I see everything. I see what’s happening with my customers, the suppliers, the market, the economies, my social media, my launch, what’s happening in the family with my numbers, and the website. All these details overwhelm me and I can’t keep track of them all so I need to delegate them quickly or I need to create systems to organize all this stuff.
If I was so focused, I would miss all those other opportunities. When I was told by the school system, “Sit still pay attention,” I can’t. I can’t pay attention. I’m seeing everything and you’re not seeing anything. For me, it was a superpower to recognize that. If I medicated that, it would hurt me. What I learned was how do I leverage my ADD. Including this Airbnb home that I’m in, I’ve sat in 4 different places doing work because of the external stimuli I get fed by. There are different spots that I work in that are better for different kinds of work.
The second part DNA trait of entrepreneurs is most entrepreneurs are bipolar. The mania is why people will quit their job and join us. It’s why they’ll invest in the idea. It’s why we start things without a plan. It’s where the perpetual emotion machines and people love that energy that they feed off of. The stress and depression are simply us course correcting because we can’t tell everybody what we’re feeling.
We can’t tell the new employee, “By the way, I’ve hired you and I have no idea how I’m going to pay you.” We can’t tell our spouse that we’re working hard, but we’re not paying ourselves what we should be or submitting expenses. We are not quite sure how we’re going to meet payroll or if we’re going through an audit. We can’t tell our employees all this stuff. We sit all by ourselves unless we’re in a mastermind community with other entrepreneurs that we can connect with. That pressure also often magnifies. We also often try to work our way through stuff.
Instead of feeling good about taking a break, we feel the guilt of the breaks instead of recognizing we need to slow down to speed up later. We need to treat ourselves like racehorses. Those are the DNA traits of entrepreneurs. The skills of entrepreneurs are problem-solving, leveraging technology, marketing, sales, leadership, time management, and project management. Those are skills that can be learned but the traits are very different. I had 15 little business ventures by the time I was 18. I could name them all to this day. That’s not a normal childhood.
What’s neat, though, is you’ve spoken to a huge chunk of the population who are sometimes told that they’re broken, they’re not going to make it, or something’s wrong with them. You’ve empowered them to harness their uniqueness and find a way to make it a superpower. You freed a lot of people up right there.
I was sitting with my dad outside of the principal’s office when I was in Grade 6. My dad was inside. The door was closed and he was arguing with the principal. Finally, I heard my dad say, “There’s nothing wrong with my kid. The problem is the school.” The door opened and he grabbed me by the hand. He goes, “Let’s go. We’re leaving.”
On the way home, I said, “What’s going on? What’s wrong?” He said, “There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just like me.” I was getting in trouble for not paying attention, for selling stuff to all the kids, for being distracted or for not following the rules because it was boring. I don’t still don’t even understand why I was learning how to multiply fractions. When am I going to use this?
I was going to say thanks for sharing some of those quips about your dad. He sounds like he was an incredible man and an incredible leader for you.
Yes. He was good.
You mentioned mastermind. Are you a fan of masterminds?
Yes, I’ve been in about 9 of them. I’ve spent about $700,000 in mastermind communities, but I’ve easily got a 10X return on all of them. I was in Strategic Coach and Genius Network for 7 years. I’m going to my fourth Baby Bathwater event. I’ve been to five mastermind talks events. For five years. I was a member of the Entrepreneurs Organization. I’ve gone to War Room, GoBundance, Camp Mavericks. Gazillions.
I feel the exact same way as you. You met your business partner for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? at a mastermind, right?
Yes, we were both members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and we ended up in a forum which is a small group of entrepreneurs that met every single month for four and a half years. Before I joined him, he’d watched me build two other companies. He was my best man at my wedding three months before I started to work for him. We had an unfair advantage and it was because of that mastermind community, because we invested to be a part of this and be around other entrepreneurs. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. It was that whole adage of going in and showing up and learning and realizing we know nothing and yet we knew everything.
This brings me to two different questions I want to ask about being in a mastermind. The first one’s the easy one, so I’ll tee it up. I run a mastermind. It’s a $50,000 mastermind for seven-figure earners and up. In there is this incredible couple from Canada and they are starting a service-based franchise. They’re in the very beginning. They haven’t franchised it yet. It’s been a service that they’ve had for a long time. They want to turn it into a franchise. They would kill me if I didn’t ask you this. What would be your one piece of advice for them as they look to franchise?
I got to give you 2 or 3. The first is to make sure that your corporate location, your current location, is successful and that you systemize the hell out of that so that other people can do that. Your system and your single location need to make enough money that you’re happy. If it doesn’t, it means you’re franchising because you’re not making enough money.
You’re going to try to franchise people and sell them the entrepreneurial dream and you’re going to take 15% of their revenue, which means it’s going to even be harder for them to make money. Make sure that it makes money. Most franchisors never sell more than seven units. It’s because, at some point, the early franchisees no longer believe in the dream. They need to see the data from the current franchisees.
That’s the first. The second is to charge more. I don’t know what your business is, but whatever it is, you need to charge more so that you make more. There are more royalties available. There’s more advertising available, so you can pay your employees more so that you can deliver on your quality focus areas and your service areas so that your franchisees make more. Be the premium like Starbucks or the FedEx of whatever, or even above that, the hipster coffee place. The third is constantly growing your people. Keep growing their skills and their confidence because whoever you’ve got in there is what’s going to propel the business.
Thanks for letting me tee up that selfish question. Another selfish question. This one’s about me. This one’s more applicable to the book. I like the direction that this is going to go. I’m currently building a peer-to-peer lending app for small personal loans under $2,500. I’m helping people get out of a financial jam real quickly by matching those who have a need with those who have the means. To do this, I went out and got a business partner who is very profound in, or I should say, very skilled at building tech companies.
He’s already had a multiple nine-figure tech exit and he was able to retain his core team. I’m very much a visionary. He is very much the integrator individual who loves to build teams, loves to build processes. Our opposite skill sets have been a dream come true so far. Being that your book is literally about being second in command, should I, as the visionary, take a step back and defer to him and myself become second in command or should he be second in command being that he’s the more integrator-minded one? How do we know which role is right for us?
The visionary or the CEO should be the one who loves strategy, loves culture, loves vision, loves the ideation. That tends to be the CEO. The second in command tends to be the one who likes to figure out how to make it come true. The COO tends to be the brakes for the entrepreneur’s gas. They tend to be the leash for the entrepreneurial dragon. The COO is different for every CEO. I would be a horrible COO for your business because I don’t like technology.
I don’t like technology and so I have no skills around it. I’d be a horrible second in command for that. I have 170-plus members in our COO Alliance and I would be a horrible COO for 90% of their companies. They either don’t have the right skills for what their CEO needs done or I’m the wrong culture fit for their CEO or the size of their company is the wrong size for where my skillset or my behavioral traits fit well.
This helped a lot because that’s what we’re doing. I’m taking the reins of CEO, but my fear, and I’m being honest, was if he’s better with the team and he’s better with processing, he’s better with building, am I going to mislead the company? As long as I can clearly articulate the vision and know how to get the best out of individuals, it sounds like we’re set up for success, would you say?
Yes. The key is for the two of you to stay on the same page. You are clear on what the plans are and he’s clear on what the vision is. You stay on the same page and you divide and conquer. You might move more into a biz dev, outward facing, sales, marketing, and rainmaking role raising money. He might stay focused more on the integration, the operations, and the internal focus. That can switch over time too. He is that he shouldn’t want to do the stuff that you want to do. You shouldn’t want to do the stuff that he wants to do, but you should both want to make each other look good.
That we have dialed in For sure. That being said, from a COO’s perspective, how do I be the best CEO to the second in command? How do I make sure that they thrive?
They’re going to ask more questions than you because you’re going to feel they’re arguing with you, but they’re not. They’re trying to understand and catch up with you. They’re going to want to put systems and processes in place for stuff that you’re not going to want to follow. You have to adapt a little bit, play within those systems and processes, and trust them to be true. You’re going to have to get them to work with you on executive summaries.
They give you the bottom line and you can ask for more details later if you need them. You’re going to have to slow down for them because you’re going to come at them with 100 different ideas. It’s almost as if you were building the iPhone. We’re in version 14 or something. A lot of the ideas in this current iPhone probably came about when they were working on version seven, but they knew that those ideas weren’t for now.
It wasn’t a no. It was great idea but not yet. They parked those ideas because a lot of what you’re going to have to recognize in building your company, you might hear about, “We should do this meeting rhythm.” “Cool, but we’re doing seven other projects right now.” There’s an order of operations to what you need to work on in your company first, in math. Work on those foundational parts first and then be careful with a lot of the crazy ideas that come to you from wherever that might not be the right time. Even if they are the right time, what other projects are they going to push away? It’s being cognizant of that.
What would be the most important chapter or lesson in your book, Second In Command for Matt, who’s my business partner?
It’s about building trust, relationship and communication protocol so that you can discuss and debate, but not in front of the kids. Mom and Dad need to fight, but not in front of the children. You need to have the same vision of where we’re taking the family, stay aligned with that vision, and keep driving toward that vision. You need to work to realize that conflict is healthy and that you have to work through some of those conflict areas together. You’ll never solve all that stuff on your own but don’t have the conflict in front of each other, in front of the kids. Argue not to be right, but argue to be heard. Argue for the sake of the business and the sake
Conflict resolution is a tough one for a lot of people. Was there a time in your career when you guys had a conflict and weren’t sure how you would get through it? Can you talk us through that?
There was an early stage conflict where I don’t even remember what it was about, but we ended up getting a woman, Joan Mara, to come in and facilitate. This was many years ago. She came in and facilitated with us to help us understand each other, work together, and collaborate to scale. I have a marriage counselor that I’ve done calls with for years to help us build a stronger marriage. I’ve had her work with CEOs and COOs because it’s the same thing. How do you get them to talk to each other, understand each other and apologize more, not take stuff so personally and realize you’re two different people all trying to do something together? Those are very similar. Those are human issues. They’re not marriage issues or CEO, COO issues. They’re humans.
It’s human communication skills. In your six years as COO at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, you helped take the company from $2 million to $106 million. That’s no small feat. What main principles from that journey made it into the new book?
We did it without giving up any equity. We did it without any debt. We were very profitable in that tenure as well. We scaled. I’ll give you a few. One is we raised prices 40% on day one because no one was making any money. I’m like, “Brian, you have to raise prices because we can’t afford to do anything we want to do.”
Can I stop you there? Was there a lot of fear that if we raise prices, we may not have customers?
Yes, the comment from the 12 or 13 employees were, “We’re going to go bankrupt if we raise prices.” I’m like, “We’re going bankrupt anyway. Nobody here’s making money. You’re not making money. He’s not making money. Franchisees aren’t making money. Guys and the trucks aren’t not making money. Nobody’s making money. What’s the point?” We raised prices by 40%, and everybody was starting to make money, and then we could afford to do what we wanted to do. That was one.
The second one was that to build an amazing business, it has to be a little more than a business, a little bit less than a religion. You’ve got to get it into the zone of a cult. We built systems to become a strong cult and culture. We ended up ranking two times in a row as the number one company to work for in British Columbia.
The year before I left, we ranked number two in all of Canada to work for. Very strong culture and that permeated the organization. That’s how we got more done with less people faster. We had that machine. I am obsessed with growing people. My whole thing was we doubled the size of the company six years in a row. Imagine double revenue six consecutive times. When you do that, you’re either putting people out of a job or you’re having to hire people above them constantly or growing them so that they can keep up with the job they’re in.
If you’re the marketing manager of a 20-person company and then next year it’s a 40-person company, and next year it’s an 80-person company, your budget goes from $500,000 to $1 million to $2 million to $4 million, you’re running a different business. My thing was to grow their skills as leaders so they became better at coaching, at delegation, time management, conflict management projects, reverse engineering vision, one-on-one meetings, and doing interviews. All of those things are what I grew them in. That wasn’t what they did day to day, but it’s how they operated as leaders.
A quick question for you. Our tagline at the show is, “When good people make good money, they do great things.” It’s speaking of when you arm a good person with means, then they can do better things than if they didn’t have those means. In all of your success as a leader and with the exits and everything, what is something great you’ve been able to do along your journey that you wouldn’t have been able to do without means?
Not just travel, because that’s selfish.
It’s for other people.
I’m the guy who’s constantly in the drive-thrus buying for the person behind me because it’s funny. I do it and I pay. I drive away and they never know why I did it. I do it. I don’t even know who they are. I pay my people more. I give people five weeks’ vacation. On day one, they all get five weeks of vacation. I had one of my employees who I found out his car had broken down and his wife with 2 kids, 4 and 2, were driving. I’m like, that’s not safe. How often does it break down all the time? I sent him $3,000 that day and gave him a link to a car dealership to go buy a minivan and put $3,000 down. I looked up how much it was going to cost, and I gave him a pay raise that same day. He called me crying and he said his dad realized he needed a little bit more. His dad coughed up another $1,500. No one’s ever done that for me. It gets a rounding error right in the scope of that.
Cameron, I’m so glad that you shared those examples that sometimes people don’t talk about these things but the truth is this is what inspires people to be successful is to be able to help the person next to them. I see examples of that time in and time out again. I’m glad you’re willing to share that.
The other thing that people need is our time. We often give our time to our worst employees instead of giving our time to our best employees. If you fire your worst employees, if you talent stack the organization, so you keep hiring more and more A and B players, get rid of your C players, and give your time to your ass and Bs, you can pay people more.
One A replaces three Cs. You don’t need to have a lot of the people you’ve got. You can pay some of your current best players a little bit more and then invest in them. Give them the time, the coaching, the emotional support and care about who they are as humans. That’s what people are starving for, and some of that doesn’t take money. It takes us recognizing it and caring.
I see you all over the world speaking at other people’s events, other people’s masterminds, and doing a lot of teaching. That in itself is a form of generosity. What drives you at this point to keep paying that forward?
I’ve done 800 paid speaking events too. Don’t get me wrong. I’m paid $40,000 for an in-person speaking event, and they pay for my travel. I’m speaking to the Entrepreneurs’ Organization when I’m over in Egypt, but they’re paying me to show up. I do some events that are pro bono, but I’m paid $10,000 for a one-hour Zoom event. I do those constantly, like once every two weeks. First off, my core purpose is to help entrepreneurs make their dreams happen. That’s why I do what I do.
Simon Sinek, who popularized the idea, was on my board of advisors four years before he did that TEDx Talk. Four years before he wrote, Start with WHY, he was on our board at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Simon flew out to meet Brian and me because he read about us in Fortune magazine in 2003. I’ve understood my core purpose for a long time. I say yes to things that are aligned with my core purpose. That’s number one.
If it’s a group that can’t afford to pay me, and I’ve got time, and I can do it over Zoom, I’ll probably say yes to it if I can help them grow. If it’s a government organization, it’s a no. If it’s nonprofit, it’s probably a no. If it’s a hospital group, it’s probably a no. Not that I don’t care, but there are too many groups that would want me to speak. If it’s an entrepreneurial group, it’s easier to say yes if I have that time, and I have that balance and I come in with energy. That’s why I do it. It’s aligned with my core purpose.
This is the sixth book that you’ve churned out. Writing a book is no small feat. What keeps you writing?
I had no desire ever to be a writer. I was horrible in class, in school. If you look at my English grades in high school, I was terrible. I was 60%, C-minus, probably a 2.4 GPA. The first book that I wrote was Double Double. It was to raise my profile. It was a branding. It was to get my ideas out there and raise my speaking fees, which it did. It took me from $3,000 to $10,000, and it started my brand-building. I then realized that there were a couple of chapters in that book that were good, but I could have given more. That became Vivid Vision, Free PR and Meetings Suck, where there was a lot more content than one chapter in the book Double Double could cover.
That’s where those three books came from. I was in a mastermind group, the Genius Network, and Hal Elrod, who wrote The Miracle Morning, walked up to me at the bathroom one day. He said, “Do you want to co-author The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs with me?” I’m like, “Yes. You’re on a rocket ship with your brand. I’ll do it.” I did that one.
The Second in Command is book six. There was a huge need in the market. No one’s talking about COOs. I’ve got a podcast with 245 episodes called the Second In Command, where I only interview COOs and have the COO Alliance. I had all this IP, data and people. I thought, “I’ll share that.” That was probably the book I needed to write.
I love it. Pitch the book to the perfect person who’s reading right now. I know you said it’s for COOs, but is it only for COOs? Who’s this book for?
No, it’s mostly for entrepreneurs who are looking to bring on that second in command. They’re looking to grow their free time to grow their business. They know that it’s not by them working harder. They’re the fly trying to get out the window. They end up dead on the windowsill. It’s how you attract, onboard and build a relationship with a strong second in command, whether that’s a COO, a president, a VP of operations, director of operations, a GM or a project manager, who is your true COO?
By the way, for anybody reading, if you don’t have an executive assistant, you are one. First, hire an executive assistant. I got my EA, who’s been with me for years. She’s now my EA and director of operations. I gave her a title increase. She’s now got an executive assistant. There’s too much admin stuff. I’m like, “Why am I paying you $46 an hour now to be my EA after seven years when there are $6 an hour tasks that we can get delegated to somebody?” That’s the first position you should hire for.
In other words, this book’s going to create a lot of freedom for those of us that are banging our heads against the windowsill?.
We only start a business for 1 of 3 reasons. We started to give us cash, to give us free time or to put the stake or the flag in the ground to say that we did it. If you’re feeling good about what you’ve done and you got enough cash coming in, the free time is the big opportunity. The more you delegate, the more you get off your plate, the more time you free up, and the faster your business grows. You’ve got other people scaling it for you. We often hold onto stuff for too long and we even slow down our growth instead of spurring on our growth.
It’s called The Second In Command. Where’s the best place for people to get it?
Cameron’s account is @Cameron_Herold_COOAlliance. If people at this point type in Cameron, they’re going to have their rest pop up with a blue check mark. It’s the blue check mark. He’s easy to find. Cameron, I can’t thank you enough for your time. I’ve been looking forward to this. We’ve got a lot of friends in common. They all rave about you, and I can see why. You’re an incredible individual.
Chris, thank you. I appreciate your time.
Congrats on the new book.