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IAM1602 – Strategy Adviser Empowers SMBs to Drive Growth

Podcast Interview with Michael Haynes

Why it was selected: We often will forget that buyers are the reason why we do things we do and how we can make an impact. It is important to remember that when we are working on our products and service. In Michael's podcast, we talk a lot about this and the framework that he uses for that especially in the B2B space to strategize for SMBs to grow.

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Michael Haynes Teaser 00:11
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.

Intro  0:13
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.

Gresham Harkless  0:41
Hello, hello, hello, this 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 0:51
Great, thanks to be here.

Gresham Harkless  0:52
No problem, super excited to have you on as well too. And before we jumped in and want to read a little bit more about Michael so you can hear 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 and medium-sized businesses with buyer-driven approaches to acquire and retain business customers and drive business growth. Michael works primarily with service-based small and medium-sized businesses and professional services, IT and financial services. He has over 23 years of experience and has advised small to medium-sized enterprises, startups, and corporates in Australia, Canada, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Michael, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Michael Haynes 1:34

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Gresham Harkless  1:36
Awesome. Let's do it then. So to kick everything off, I wanted to start in the beginning to hear a little bit more on how you got started. Can you take us through what I call your CEO story? Where did you get started with your business?

Michael Haynes 1:47
My CEO story. So in a nutshell, I started off in corporate back in Canada working for a large retailer, Canadian Tire Corporation then did some work at Kraft Foods with Kraft Foods of 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 theit customer research and analysis in their wholesale division. And that's where I really got into the B2B space. And then that will take us up to about 2010. And at that point, I was offered to go into the top talent executive program and I thought, working in big corporate, as an exec now I think it's time to do something different. So after a career break, went as 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  2:57
Nice, absolutely appreciate that. And I don't know if you would definitely agree with this, I almost feel like getting the opportunity to work and have those different experiences, to me, at the heart of entrepreneurship is about creating solutions to problems. And I feel having that kind of varied experience 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 3:20
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 deliver to customers and be able to win in the market by recognizing some of those potential bottleneck and problem areas.

Gresham Harkless  3:59
Yeah, absolutely. And I read your bio, 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 you support them?

Michael Haynes 4:09
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 I 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 are 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 goals? What are your capabilities and resources that you have? That's one area that you ought to be focusing on to 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 markets? What are the regulations, technology, disruptions, what are end customers looking for? What are your competitors doing, and that's very important, and particularly in the environment that we're in right now, Gresham. It's really important that you're continuing doing that market scanning to understand what's happening in your external environments, across your industry, the 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, I mean, 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 those buyers and influencers. And you need to understand their specific priorities, challenges, pain points, areas of 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 promo and engaged with those key decision makers. All of that hats are reflected around those decision maker and meet the needs of those individuals or people that are involved in that purchase decision process. So that's why it's important that you are buyer driven. And the reason why that's important is because buyers and users, when you're getting into large organizations, those who make the decision to purchase, let's say you're an IT company, or 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. So you might have the head of IT who might make the decision, but they may never actually be involved, but they have those KPI's 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 buyer requirements. Otherwise, you could have missed opportunity.

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Gresham Harkless  7:30
Yeah, absolutely. And definitely miss value as well too. So it kind of sounds like if you don't have that opportunity, create that win win opportunity. And that listening piece sounds like a very foundational piece, because I always look at it or approach it like a doctor. When you go to the doctor, you figure out what exactly is going wrong, so that you can 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 7:58
Yes. And once you have done that listening on those three levels, that gives you really where you need to focus. So what industry, markets ,customers or buyers you need to focus on, it's a determining how you're going to win. So based on understanding those needs, priorities and challenges, you're going to be determining what are the areas where you need to make some changes, or new introduction and or improvements, which is business innovation. And 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 having an understanding of where you're going to focus, what those needs and priorities are, you'll determine how you're going to win 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. So what are the different marketing and sales strategy that you're going to be using to be able 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  9:00
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 9:10
What sets me apart, makes me unique, is the fact that 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 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 strategies in B2B to deliver to your customers, there's really three things what you need to deliver. So it's not just your product or service solution, what's the information and advice and insights to help decision makers make those decisions, how you deliver in terms of how are you going to channel geographic reach, expertise, quality? What do you need to really focus on in your method of delivery? And how do you engage? So my 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 and engage and turning out into a very 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.

Gresham Harkless  10:30
Definitely appreciate that, Michael. And 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, a book or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Michael Haynes 10:38
CEO hack for me, I guess I'm big on planning. So I like to, at the end of every day, reflect on 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 where I'm at, and then start on Friday. I 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. So a) being what are the priorities that are must do, and most aligned to building and growing the business and then priorities b and c. So it's really 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. Those 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  11:28
I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO 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 hopped to a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Michael Haynes 11:40
I would say the tip I got from a good friend of mine who's an entrepreneur in New York and has a couple of businesses. And it's I guess two things, have no shame and always be marketing. Yes, Cynthia was always big on always have to be marketing, always have to be promoting yourself, 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, have no shame and always, be marketing. Because if you don't promote yourself, no one else is going to.

Gresham Harkless  12:13
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 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 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 that, you always kind of have that, that those actions, that mindset.

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Michael Haynes  12:47
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  12:54
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 and quote, CEOs on the show. So Michael, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Michael Haynes 13:07
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. So it's having impact with them. And I also am big on giving back. So helping entrepreneurs that are coming up, leaders that are coming up, helping them, 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 delivering impact.

Gresham Harkless  13:44
Yeah, I definitely appreciate you for talking about that, as we were talking about listening, the multi faceted aspects of of being able to have an impact because I think so many times we think of 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 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 being, the quote and quote, CEO, we really are not having the impact that we could have, if we don't look at all those different aspects.

Michael Haynes  14:20
Yeah, I know we do have a lot to bring by virtue of 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 creating impact on multiple levels.

Gresham Harkless  14:37
Yeah, absolutely. And just like we talked about always be marketing, sometimes that impact is seen sometimes it's not seen initially and it can go and create a true 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, to 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  15:04
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, listeninnovategrow.coma nd 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 on 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 And I'm also very active on LinkedIn as well.

Gresham Harkless  15:48
Awesome, awesome, awesome. I 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, providing so much insight and information on your website and as well too, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro  16:18
Thank you for listening to the I am CEO podcast powered by blue 16 media tune in next time and visit us at 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 This has been the I am 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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