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IAM859- Strategy Adviser Empowers SMBs to Drive Growth

Podcast Interview with Michael Haynes

Michael Haynes is a B2B Customer and Marketing Strategy Adviser.

Michael’s passion is empowering SMBs with BUYER-driven approaches to acquire and retain business customers and drive business growth.

Michael works primarily with service-based SMBs in Professional Services, IT and Financial Services.

He has over 23 years’ experience and has advised SMEs, start-ups and corporates in Australia, Canada, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

  • CEO Hack: Planning for the week and reflecting at the end of each day
  • CEO Nugget: Have no shame and always do marketing
  • CEO Defined: Delivering impact at multiple levels


Book overview and chapter sample:
Twitter: @2Excellyourbiz

Check out one of our favorite CEO Hack’s Audible. Get your free audiobook and check out more of our favorite CEO Hacks HERE

Podcast Interview:


Intro  00:02

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're in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast. Hello, hello. Hello, this

Gresham Harkless  00:30

is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Michael Haynes of listen innovate grow, Michael, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Michael Haynes  00:39

Great, thanks to be here.

Gresham Harkless  00:41

No problem. Super excited to have you on as well too. And before we jumped in, I want to read a little bit more about Michael sabian. How about all these awesome things that he's doing? And Michael is a b2b customer and marketing strategy advisor. Michael's passion is to empower small, medium sized businesses with buyer driven approaches to acquire and retain business customers and drive business growth. Michael works primarily with service based small medium sized businesses and professional services it and financial services. He has over 23 years of experience and has advised small and medium sized enterprises, startups and corporates in Australia, Canada, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Michael, are you ready to speak to the IMC community?

Michael Haynes  01:23


Gresham Harkless  01:24

Awesome. Let's do it then. So to kick everything off, I wanted to kind of get started in the beginning here a little bit more on how you got started. Can you take us through what I call your CEO story? When did you get started with the business?

Michael Haynes  01:35

I CEO story. So in a nutshell, I started off in corporate back in Canada was working for a large retailer, Canadian Tire Corporation then did some work at Kraft Foods, Kraft Foods at their Canadian Division. Then I got a bit of the itch to travel relocate moved here down under to Sydney, Australia in 2000. And then had some various corporate roles. One working at one of the big banks as a marketing manager, then progressed over and worked at Accenture management consulting firm, then moved over to one of the largest telecommunications companies Telstra, where I headed up there customer research and analysis in their wholesale division. And that's where I really got into the b2b space. And then what that will take us up to about 2010. And then at that point, I was offered to go into the top talent executive program on I thought, working in big corporate, as an exec now I think it's time to do something different. So after a career break, when it's an American volunteer, I then set up my independent consulting firm, under my initial brand to excel in 2011. And I've been working as an independent, fundamentally, ever since.

Gresham Harkless  02:46

Nice, absolutely appreciate that. And I don't know if you would definitely agree with this almost feel like getting the opportunity to kind of work and have those different experiences. To me, like I always feel like at the heart of entrepreneurship is about creating solutions to problems. And I feel like having that kind of varied experience, I guess you can say gives you that kind of new light to be able to not look at things in the same way that a lot of businesses and organizations can fall victim to.

Michael Haynes  03:09

Oh, absolutely. So that very corporate experience was very good in terms of building my skills around research, analysis strategy, how to be customer centric, what are some of the key approaches of what to do, and also what not to do as well, by seeing some of the things that big corporates do and where they kind of get bottlenecked. And what's important to customers, you also begin to recognize some of disconnects, and some of those things that you want to be able to work through in smaller, more nimble organizations. And you can really see some of those places that can be opportunities for them to really focus on and delivered to customers and be able to win in the market by recognizing someone's potential bottleneck and problem areas.

Gresham Harkless  03:48

Yeah, absolutely. And I think so many times we forget is sometimes smaller, more nimble organizations that we have that opportunity to really kind of see an opportunity and really leverage that a lot quicker than those larger organizations. And I know that's a small piece of what you do to kind of help these organizations that you work with. So I know I read your bio, a little bit, talk a little bit more about it. Can you drill down a little bit deeper? Take us through how you serve your clients and what exactly you do to support them?

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Michael Haynes  04:13

So that's a great question. So I'm all about working with small medium enterprises, service based businesses, as you said, to help them develop the strategies and action plans to enable them to acquire new business clients retain and expand to get more cross sells upsells and retain those those clients that they're seeking. And do it through a framework which I call the Listen, innovate, grow b2b framework, which has three core activities that every b2b organization and every SME needs to be doing. So the first part is about making sure that they're listening and listening is all about getting an in depth understanding on three levels. First, is listening to you which is all about understanding you as your company. What's your vision, your mission, your purpose? What are your strengths? What are your, your goals? What are your capabilities and resources that you have? That's one area that you won't be focused on until you get an idea of where you should be focusing on where are you winning in terms of what kinds of industries, markets and customers? Secondly, is listening to the market to really having an understanding what's going on in your external environment. In terms of your industries, in terms of geographic market? What are the regulations, technology, disruptions, what our end customers looking for? What are your competitors doing, and that's very, very important, and particularly in the environment that we're in right now. aggression, it's really important that you're continuing doing that market scanning to understand what's happening in your external environment, across industries and markets, which are continually changing. And then the third element is listening to your customers. And that is really about really having an in depth understanding about your customers in terms of their needs, priorities, challenges, pain points. But in b2b, it's very important that it's not just enough to understand at a customer level, at an organizational level. So let's say an SMB wants to get into the IT department, let's say of United Airlines, for example, it's not enough to just understand about the organization, United Airlines, you need to understand within that particular department, that part of the business, who are the decision makers, who are the buyers and influencers, and you need to understand their specific priorities, challenges, pain points, areas focus, and then everything that you do in terms of what you deliver, in terms of product services, advice, how you deliver in terms of channels, hours of operation, level of expertise, a high promoting engaged with those key, those decision makers, all of that has to reflect around those decision makers need the needs of those individuals or people that are involved in that purchase decision process. So that's hence why it's important that your buyer driven. And the reason why that's important is because buyers and users, when you're getting into large organization, those who make the decision to purchase your let's hear an IT company, you're trying to get into that airline, those that make the decision to whether or not they're gonna purchase just services. And those who might use could be completely separate different people, you might have the head of it, who might make a decision, but they may never actually be involved that but they have those KPIs of business objectives, operational financial objective they're trying to achieve. So you have make sure you're catering to their needs and priorities, in addition to those who are actually using it, your project managers or analysts, etc. So it's a subtle distinction, but it's quite important that you recognize buyers and users and that you are making sure you're delivering to buy requirements. Otherwise, you could have missed opportunity.

Gresham Harkless  07:34

Yeah, absolutely. And and definitely miss value as well. So what kind of sounds like if you don't have that opportunity to create that win, win win opportunity. And that listening piece sounds like a very foundational piece, because I always look at it or approach it kind of like a doctor, when you go to the doctor, you figure out what exactly is going wrong, so that you can pry try and see what you're providing does provide that solution. But if you don't ever listen, and it's hard to really figure out how to create that Win Win opportunity.

Michael Haynes  07:58

Yes. And once you once you have done that listening on those three levels, that gives you really where you need to focus. So what's industry markets customers, what buyers you need to focus on, then it's determining how you're going to win. So based on understanding those needs, priorities and challenges, then you're going to be determining what are the areas where you need to make some changes are new introduction, and or improvements, which is business innovation. And you might it might be around your products, your services, it could be around your processes, it could be on how you deliver, it could be about getting into joint ventures. So then by having an understanding of where you're going to focus what those needs and priorities are, then you'll determine how you're going to win, you know, new product lines, product extensions, new channels, what have you. And that's how you're going to innovate in terms of meeting those needs. And then your growth phase is about how you're going to sustain that growth. What are the different, you know, marketing and sales strategies that you're going to be using to be able to, you know, to acquire, retain those customers, engage with them, so that you can maintain and get that growth that you're thinking?

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Gresham Harkless  09:04

So I wanted to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce. And this could be for yourself personally, or your business or combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

Michael Haynes  09:15

What sets me apart makes me unique is the fact that a I am very buyer driven. I think my secret sauce is my ability to help organizations to do that listening to bring together those different elements of what's going on within their company combined with what's going externally with the market and their customers to bring that together to say what you know, fundamentally, you know, what are those areas you need to focus and how are you going to win? What do we need to be focusing on because fundamentally your strategy in b2b to deliver to your customers is really three things, what you need to deliver. So it's not just your product or solute solution with the information and advice and insights to help decision makers make those decisions, how you deliver in terms of you know how we're going to channel geographic reach You know, expertise, what, what quality? What do you need to really focus on in your method of delivery? And how do you engage. So my I guess secret sauce is really about pulling those insights across from that listening, and how you translate that into those three elements of how you win in terms of what to deliver, how to deliver, how to promote, engage, and turning on integrate actionable steps. So I'm always big and taking everything to an action plan, where you can say, these are the priorities, these are the key activities, and who's going to do them, because that's how you get traction and momentum. definitely appreciate that, Michael. And

Gresham Harkless  10:31

so I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app or book or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient,

Michael Haynes  10:42

I guess, a CEO hat for me, I guess I'm big on planning. So I like to, at the end of every day, reflect at what I've done, you know, what's worked, what's not worked. And then, particularly at the end of the week, I like to reflect on to say, okay, where I'm at, and then start on Friday, start to plan for the following week, in terms of what are the key things I need to do? And I really break it down to kind of A, B, and C to A being, what are the priorities that are must do, and most aligned to build and growing the business and then priorities B and C. So it's really that that planning for the week, and also, at the end of each day to say how I did each day and what's going to happen for the next day, I find it just keeps me focused on what are the things that I really need to do a, b and c priorities on a daily and weekly basis keeps me focused so that I'm focusing on the things that matter because there's so much that you can get subsumed in,

Gresham Harkless  11:32

I wanted to ask you now for what I call a SEO nugget. So this could be like a word of wisdom or piece of advice, it might be something you would tell a client or if you hacked into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self,

Michael Haynes  11:44

I would say the tip I got from a good friend of mine who's an entrepreneur in New York has a couple of businesses. And it's I guess it's two things have no shame and always be marketing. Yes, Cynthia was always big on you always have to be marketing, always have to be promoting herself, and be switched on. Because you never know. When you're going to meet someone who might know someone, you might be sitting beside someone on the plane, and they might be a CEO of a potential client. That happened to me a few years ago. So yeah, I have no shame and always, always be marketing. Because if you don't promote yourself, no one else is going to.

Gresham Harkless  12:17

Yeah, absolutely. It's so funny. When I when I first started my business, I think the first thing that I read, or one of the first things I read was to the people that are successful are the people that are telling everybody that they have their business and what it is that they're doing. And I love that how you know not having any shame and always be marketing kind of go in tandem. Because I think the people, I always say the name of the game is all about visibility and being found. So being able to have that visibility to tell people what you're doing. And do that in a marketing way. You never know when or how those opportunities come about. But if you're always doing it, you always kind of have that that those actions that mindset.

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Michael Haynes  12:51

Yes, people will, yes, you know, you'll start to get that visibility that cut through people will see you start talking about you. Absolutely.

Gresham Harkless  12:58

Nice, absolutely love that nugget. 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 this show. So Michael, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Michael Haynes  13:11

I guess CEO, for me, is about delivering impact. For me, it's about delivering impact to the clients that I serve, so that they can achieve the objectives that they want to achieve. And often with many of my clients, I found a lot of them, they have a higher purpose that they're trying to achieve, as having impact with them. And I also am big on giving back. So helping to entrepreneurs that are coming up leaders that are coming up on helping them you know, providing them insights, guidance, advice, and being a sounding board for them to help them reach their aspirations and their dreams. So ultimately, for me, it's about Yeah, delivering impact.

Gresham Harkless  13:48

Yeah, I definitely appreciate you for talking about that, as we were talking about listening, the multi faceted aspects of of being able to kind of have an impact, because I think so many times we think of, you know, bottom line, and of course, you can have an impact when the bottom line is taken care of. But as you said, having those mission driven organizations being able to kind of reach back and provide insight and influence and mentorship to so many people, there's so many ways we can be of impact. And I think if we forget the holistic aspect of that of being a quote unquote, CEO, we really are, I guess, not really having the impact that we could have if we don't look at all those different aspects.

Michael Haynes  14:24

Yeah, yeah, I'm not we do have a lot to bring by virtue of our, you know, our skills, our experience of what we've done. There's a lot to bring to our clients, to, you know, future leaders and to our communities as well. So yeah, for me, it's ultimately about Yeah, creating impact on multiple levels.

Gresham Harkless  14:40

Yeah, absolutely. And just like we talked about with always be marketing, sometimes that impact is seen sometimes it's not seen initially and it can go and create a ripple effect that we can hear and see for years and years and years. So Michael, truly appreciate that definition and I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic so to speak, just See if there's anything additional, you want to let our readers and listeners know and of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things that you're working on.

Michael Haynes  15:08

Fantastic. So for those that want to learn more about how they can develop those strategies and action plans for client acquisition, retention and growth, visit my website, listen, innovate, grow calm. So that's listen to innovate And there, there are a wealth of resources, videos, articles that you can utilize to help you build your understanding of what you need to do. There's also a free playbook understanding the business buyer in the new norm, which shows you what you need to understand about today's business buyers in this current environment, and how to go about leveraging that to drive those action plans that you need to get those clients at drafter. So listen, innovate, grow calm, and I'm also very active on LinkedIn as well. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I

Gresham Harkless  15:53

truly appreciate that. Again, Michael, we will have the links and information in the show notes as well too, so that everybody can follow up with you. But I appreciate you for providing so much information as we kind of touched on you know, before we hit the record button, and even just now like how important it is in this time and age to really be aware and listening to what's happening in the market with your customers and and all those different aspects. I appreciate you for providing some insight today for providing so much insight and information on your website as well too. And I hope you have a phenomenal rest today.

Outro  16:22

Thank you for listening to the IMC o podcast powered by Blue 16 Media Tune in next time and visit us at I am CEO CEO, I am CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five star rating grab CEO gear at WWW dot sceeto This has been the mF CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening

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This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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