BILL FLYNN has more than thirty years of experience working for and advising hundreds of companies, including startups, where he has a long track record of success. After working for ten different high-tech startups in different market segments such as speech recognition, e-commerce, and affiliate marketing where he was a VP of Sales eight times, twice a CMO and once a GM of a division of a $100MM IT services company, he pivoted to becoming a business growth coach. Prior to, he had five successful outcomes, two IPOs, and seven acquisitions, including a turnaround during the 2008 financial crisis.
Bill is a multi-certified growth coach, has a Certificate with Distinction – Foundations of NeuroLeadership, is a Certified Predictive Index Partner, author and international speaker. Bill’s best-selling book – Further, Faster – The Vital Few Steps that Take the Guesswork out of Growth continues to garner a 5-Star rating.
- CEO Hack: Make yourself useless in the business
- CEO Nugget: Few things matter in life and business and but those that do matter tremendously
- CEO Defined: Being a good leader – have a great team, create a physiologically safe environment, have courage and a vision
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you are in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.
Gresham Harkless 0:29
Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on my show today. I have bill Flynn of catalyst growth advisors on the show, Bill, it's awesome. have you on the show? Hey, Gresh
Bill Flynn 0:38
Thanks for having me on. Appreciate it.
Gresham Harkless 0:40
No problem super excited to have you on. And before we jump in, I want to read a little bit more about all the awesome things that bill is doing so you can hear and learn a little bit more about him. And Bill has more than 30 years of experience working for and advising hundreds of companies including startups, where he has a long track record of success. After working for 10 different high tech startups in different market segments such as speech recognition, e commerce and affiliate market marketing where he was the VP of Sales eight times, twice the CMO and once a GM of a division of 100 million multi million dollar IT service company, he pivoted to becoming a business growth coach. Prior to he had five successful outcomes two IPOs seven acquisitions, including a turnaround during the 2008 financial crisis. But as a multi certified growth coach has a sort of certificate with a distinction. foundations of neuro leadership is a certified predictive index, partner, author, international speaker and Bill's best selling books further faster. The final few steps that take the guesswork out of growth continues to garner a five star rating bill, are you ready to be to the imcl? community?
Bill Flynn 1:41
I am ready fire away.
Gresham Harkless 1:42
Let's do it. So So to kick everything off, I know you're doing so many phenomenal things I wanted to kind of I guess start from the beginning. So to speak here a little bit more about your what I call a CEO story. We'll get started with awesome picture working on.
Bill Flynn 1:53
Yeah. So I kind of started being CEO starting my own business. Because I think it's a shame that really good ideas really good people really good businesses either die, or struggle for completely preventable reasons. So I sort of dug into figuring out why that was, I've been studying business for almost 330 years now, really, a lot more intensely in the last four to five. And I've found that there's a few things that really good leaders really good companies do. And they're the same few things. And they do them really, really well. So that's sort of how I got to where I am after that. That intro that you gave me You missed it I was I must have been a contributor to the the CEO Blog Nation.
Gresham Harkless 2:34
Yes, you have been contributor and we've definitely been proud to have you contribute so many times, and you're doing so many awesome things to help make us a better platform. And so I know one of the big things we're always talking about is kind of resources and making sure that we kind of tap into the minds of really successful people that have so much insight like yourself is is that what you do you know, from your kind of business coaching standpoint, able to really guide people into how to be successful? Or how would you kind of quantify exactly what you do to support these clients?
Bill Flynn 3:00
Yeah, so my little tagline is I help leaders take the guesswork out of growth. Most leaders are guessing. And if you look at the data from the last 2530 years, we don't guess very well. It's, I think if you started a business in 1994, by 1999, half of you were out of business. And by 2009, I think it was 75% were out of business. And if you went to full 25 years, only about 14 or 15% were left. So the longer you're in business, the more likely it is that you go out of business. And I said it's it's completely preventable in most cases. But we've sort of never been taught that. So that's what I do is I teach a framework and really more of a mindset, which starts from having the leader fire him or herself from the day to day. Because your job really once you've sort of gotten through that startup knothole. And you've got a business's predictable, and somewhat scalable, you get somewhat of a business model. The next thing you have to do is start figuring out what should I do less of because my job now is is really the business, not the product. So that's sort of what I help leaders do.
Gresham Harkless 4:03
Yeah, absolutely. And it's so funny, you said that phrase, and it really stuck with me, because I was gonna ask you do you feel like sometimes some of the time, the reason that businesses haven't been as successful as they could be is because it had they haven't taught been taught that they haven't learned that it isn't something like they, I guess they could have went to school for it, but it may not have been taught in the right way in school. So it kind of gets you in that same place.
Bill Flynn 4:22
Yeah, you know, I it's a great question. Gresh I looked it up because I was curious. I said, you know, how do we teach people how to be CEOs how to lead an organization of disparate people and figuring out the problems of their customers and doing them in the best possible way delivering, you know, sort of excellence to their clients and I really couldn't find anything. We're taught how to be good in finance or engineering or, you know, marketing or something like that. But there's very, very few places you can go to sort of teach to to run an organization. Most people are really good at it or good at it because either they had a really good person that they followed, or that person that they followed, made so many mistakes. Over time and just kept getting better and better and better and learning from the mistakes, and then I became a really good CEO. But other than that, it's really hard to do. So. So that's sort of what I've made. My mission is I just want to share the few secrets that I've learned over 30 years of studying and doing it myself, and see if they fit with other people. And most of the time they really work well. So yeah, no one, as far as I can tell. You're not taught how to be a CEO. You got to figure it out on your own certainly being a parent, right? Yeah,
Gresham Harkless 5:25
Bill Flynn 5:26
You should be parent can be a good parent, right?
Gresham Harkless 5:29
Yes, just advocator. You figure it out on the way down the plane on the way down? So I know your book has loads of gems and information in it too. Could you touch a little bit more on that? And what we can find, you know, in your book? Yeah. So
Bill Flynn 5:42
what I found is that there are three things really that the best leaders do in the best leadership teams, I wouldn't, I wouldn't say it's just the leader, it's also the team that helps the leader. The first is that is the team. You know, what I've the sort of little phrase I came up with was performance is a team sport. Most people are on a team, I follow Marcus Buckingham his work at ADP, and he talks about it, some survey he did, or some research he did a year or two ago that over 80% of all of us at work are on at least one team, about 70% of those folks are on more than one team, and about 60 some odd percent of those folks are on more than that. And most of those teams in that third group are not represented in the org chart. So what you have to do is you have to really know how to craft a grow, and help to get it create the environment for really good teams, and not just one team. But teams of teams, because most most of the businesses are like a jigsaw, crossword puzzle, right? They're all interlocking and things are dependent upon other things, you got to be really good at, at at teams. The second thing you have to do is understand that if you want your business to scale, you have to think about systems and processes. And the one really big system that overlays all of them, to me is your strategy and execution system, you have to have a decent strategy that sort of is unique, the best strategy is typically unique strategies, you know, like Southwest, or Dyson, or nest or something like that. And then you will have to execute on it. Because that's basically what you're executing on is your execute on a strategy. And then if your strategy is always gonna have issues with it, because it's it's sort of organic, right, your customers issues change, technology changes, all sorts of stuff changes. So your strategy at a high level probably stays about the same. But you have to sort of mix and match a little bit, you know, the best strategy on the planet, at least in terms of public companies is Southwest, their strategy is called wheels up. And they the job is to get the plane in the air. And they do everything around that they've modified the strategy a little bit over time. And they focus on that. So strategy and execution are really two sides of the same coin. And then lastly, if you want to be a growth company, cash should be your primary, primary financial growth metric. Why? Because cash is an antecedent to growth, you have to invest in front of growth. So what I teach my clients is, okay, let's figure out what we want to look like in two or three years. How much will that cost? Okay, now let's build a plan to generate the cash to pay for the stuff that we want to do. Because you might have to hire some more people, you might have to build a factory, you know, whatever it is, you got to do stuff in front of it, to be able to support it. So those are the three things teamwork performance is a team sport, you have to create a cohesive and coherent system of execution and strategy and use cash is your primary financial growth metric.
Gresham Harkless 8:22
Nice. I absolutely love that. And I think so many times, as you said, you know, so well, in the beginning that so many times as leadership leaders, we're just kind of going through the motions or not really staying focused on what we're trying to do. And I love especially that last point, because so many times we forget about where we're going, and what do we need to get there? And how do we break that down as far as steps and actions or systems that we need to put in place or the team that we need to have to be successful, so that we can get to where we want to be? And I think so many times we forget all of those integral pieces, just like the leg of a table. If we don't have one of them? It sounds like they can all fall kind of all over? Yeah, good. Good summary. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So you might have already touched on this, but I want to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. And this could be for yourself personally, or your business or a combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?
Bill Flynn 9:01
Yeah, it's probably a little bit of both. Um, so I sort of have two things that I that I, I think set me apart. At least that's what I'm told. One is, we've touched on a little bit, I sort of have this cradle to grave perspective on business. I've been at 10 startups, I'm five or 10. So I've seen success and how it works. I've seen failure in startups. And I also have worked with dozens, really hundreds of companies that are beyond startups, and I've worked for them, or I've done that. So I've seen that. So I basically studied success and failure. And I had the experience and the research to do that. So I have a generally good idea of what has worked and what hasn't worked. My brain works pretty well at finding patterns. So I kind of have a pretty good idea of how to distill it down into sort of simple things. And then lastly, speaking of simple I have a first principles approach, really to life into business. And so I weave neuroscience into everything that I do because that's a first principle your brain basically controls almost everything that is there. You, and I've been studying cause and effect for years. Um, so I work with folks to help them understand. For instance, do you know exactly what causes your customer to buy from you? And most of the time, when I ask this, I get an answer. But they're almost always wrong. And you ask your customer, they don't actually really know why either. So I'm a big fan of jobs to be done. If you're familiar with that philosophy, which basically says that, that people don't buy products, they hire solutions to help them make progress, they have a struggling moment. And they hire something to to help them make progress. And they if there's something that they're working now, that isn't, they fire that and hire something else. And understanding the sort of functional social and emotional needs that people have when they make a purchase, or make a decision of any kind, is is the underpinning of jobs to be done. It's been around for 3035 years. It is like magic. If you can do it. It's like magic. You've probably already seen it. You probably familiar with the Snickers commercials that around about satisfaction. Yeah. So the gentlemen Bob mesta, who's really one of the CO originators of the philosophy in the 80s. And 90s, was the guy who worked on that campaign. And he found out that, that Snickers doesn't compete with Milky Way. Because Snickers people hired Snickers because of fatigue. And they wanted the energy and they found that the peanuts and whatever was in it gave them some energy, where Milky Way's more of an indulgence, it's like brownies or cookies. So they started focus on, you know, it's about satisfaction, and etc. and now they sell it in three and a half billion dollars worth of Snickers bars every year. And it was from that understanding of that sort of cause and effect. So it's kind of a cool, kind of cool model.
Gresham Harkless 11:35
Awesome, awesome, awesome. And so I wanted to switch gears a little bit, and I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an apple book or a habit that you have, but what's something that you feel makes you more effective and efficient.
Bill Flynn 11:45
So I think for me, or for anyone, really, and that kind of said already is, is you need to figure out a way to make yourself useless. Because your job isn't to run the business anymore, as I mentioned. And if you're if you're running the business on a day to day that's a doing that's a that's a doing the thing. And leadership is more about thinking that it is about doing Hmm. Especially if you're trying to predict the future. That's about insight and creativity and innovation. And I ask this a lot, no analysis view. Gresh is, so when do you get your best ideas? What are you doing?
Gresham Harkless 12:13
Usually not working, which is funny enough in the shower, or it could be running or doing working out doing something like that away
Bill Flynn 12:18
from the word I have asked hundreds and hundreds of people this question CEOs, and it's the same thing I was running, I was running my bike, I was in the shower. I was sort of waking up in the morning. Mm hmm. No, it's another one. And that's because your brain is quiet. Right? And and that's when you get your best ideas. And if you want to do innovation, and insight and creativity, that's what you have to do.
Gresham Harkless 12:38
So now I would ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. And this could be a word of wisdom or piece of advice could be around leadership. Or it might be something you would tell yourself, if you were to hack into a time machine or maybe a client as well.
Bill Flynn 12:49
Yeah. So the the nugget I have is few things truly matter in business or in life, but those that do matter tremendously. And as a leader or as a parent, or as a friend or whatever, you should spend more time there.
Gresham Harkless 13:03
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So now I want to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different, quote unquote, CEOs on the show. So Bill, what does being a CEO mean to you?
Bill Flynn 13:12
So I think a CEO has to do three things really well. And I've touched on a little bit, but I'll sort of summarize. One is you got to pick a great team for yourself. Right, and the team isn't necessarily people who just report to you, you can also have an advisory team, but the people you surround you that you surround yourself with should be they should have skills, abilities and knowledge that round you out. So you can go to certain people when you need it, whether it's internally or externally. So you really got to figure that out. Then you have to create a safe environment that helps people to be their best selves every day, and and to pursue their strengths as often as possible. The word from Marcus Buckingham says that about we have to do it about 20% of the time, as long as we can do what we really love about 20% of the time or more. We're more fully engaged at work are more satisfied and fulfilled. I don't know. I don't know if it's true, but I think it's sort of that light that light at the end of the tunnel. Right? As long as you have something to look forward to. It's like vacation. No, as long as I know the vacation is coming in a few months. I can get through some
Gresham Harkless 14:11
Bill Flynn 14:12
I think if you know I'm going to enjoy something at least one day out of this week or parts of this week. I'm getting to do something I really love. It helps make the hardest stuff a little less hard. And then lastly, I think this is really important is you have to have courage. To be a leader. You can be humble like Elena Lally, as I mentioned are not like Bill Gates. You can be charismatic like Sam Gus Herb Kelleher from Southwest or not like Warren Buffett, you can have empathy like jerk jacinda ardern or not like Jeff Bezos, you can have integrity like Mulcahy or not like Steve Jobs. You can be honest, like Marcus Aurelius or not like LBJ. But the one thing I found across all leaders is courage in one form or another. We can argue how great or not each of these leaders is or was, but it's hard to deny that every single one of them had courage. I think you got to do that you got to focus on those three things a great team, create a psychologically safe environment in a moment. says and have courage, you can do those things. You'll be a good leader. Now you're gonna have that compelling vision, of course, right? It's part of it. But if you can surround yourself with people who can help you realize that vision and do those three things, I think you'll be a great CEO.
Gresham Harkless 15:12
Awesome, awesome, awesome. Well, Bill, truly appreciate that definition, I appreciate your time, even more, what I wanted to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional, you can let our readers and listeners know. And of course, how best they can get overview, get a copy of the book and find out about all the awesome things that we're working on.
Bill Flynn 15:26
Yeah, so um, so I'm more about the message than the money. So the book I give away for free on my website, you can buy it from Amazon or audible or one of those places, you know, if you want to pay money, which is great, I get, you know, a few bucks every time it happens, but I will never make the money back that I put into the book. It's more about getting the word out and trying to help people make their lives a little bit better. And my book and I write, I read a little bit as you know, because I helped you out with the the Blog Nation stuff, like put a post out twice a month, they're all really short, minute to Two Minute reads. And there's almost always something of action to do for the person who's reading it. And that's on my website, which is catalyst growth advisors.com and all my contact info and Twitter and all that kind of stuff is on there, too. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Thank
Gresham Harkless 16:07
you so much bill, we will have the links and information in the show notes that everybody can you know, find out about all the awesome things that you're putting out of course, you know, get that free copy of the book if you don't want to get it from from Amazon or audible. So I appreciate you for giving us all that wisdom and of course creating so much content and information for us to learn from as well and I hope you have a great rest today.
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