IAM1991 – CEO Shares the Power of Technology in Business

Podcast Interview with Jeff Mains

Starting a business can be an exciting prospect, but it's important to have a clear vision and direction.

In this episode, we have Jeff Mains, an expert at turning ideas into enterprises. With experience in building five companies and generating over $200 million in combined revenue.

Jeff shares his insights on entrepreneurship and offers valuable tips for business success. In this blog post, we will explore the key takeaways from the podcast script and dive deeper into Jeff's strategies for building a world-class business.

Jeff also talks about his book “Small Fish, Big Pond: Building a World-Class Business that Swims Circles Around Competitors” and his passion for incorporating fish analogies into his work.


Jeff Mains' insights offer valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders. By focusing on problem-focused solutions, embracing failure as a learning opportunity, and staying adaptable, entrepreneurs can build successful businesses. Finding the right market and leveraging technology are essential elements in today's business landscape.

Additionally, leaders must prioritize supporting their teams by removing obstacles and fostering an environment of growth and collaboration.

Website: championleadership.com

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Full Interview:


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Jeff Mains Teaser 00:00

So many times someone will start a business and whether it's technology or something else and, hey, I'll get this great idea and we're going to start this business and they've got a solution in search of a problem rather than finding a problem. And someone's very specific who has that problem and building the solution. For that person, for them.

Intro 00:20

are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of. This is the I Am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:47

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gretch from the I Am CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Jeff Mains, Jeff excited to have you on the show.

Jeff Mains 00:55

Hey, Gresh great to be here.

Gresham Harkless 00:56

Yes, absolutely. You're doing so many phenomenal things. So what I wanted to do was just read a little bit more about Jeff. So you can hear about some of those awesome things.

Jeff is an expert at turning ideas into enterprises. He has built five companies, totaling over $200 million in combined revenue, and four have been acquired by strategic buyers. He's the founder and CEO of healthcare SaaS Intelligent Contacts headquartered in Plano, Texas.

Fanatical about helping entrepreneurs build stellar companies. Jeff is the founder and CEO of SaaS growth accelerator Champion Leadership Group, where he mentors business leaders to navigate complex changes and future-proof their business models to weather the inevitable storms of life in markets.

He is an author of the book, Small Fish, Big Pond Building a World-Class Business that Swims Circles Around Competitors and as I was talking with Jeff earlier, it's always awesome to have other podcasters on the show. He also hosts the SaaS Fuel Podcast and also as an English major, I always love analogies and it's awesome how you're able to incorporate fish into his book.

And maybe if we're lucky today, he'll tell us why we shouldn't put cucumbers in our pico day. So Jeff, excited to have you on the show. Are you ready to speak to the I Am CEO community?

Jeff Mains 02:08

Yes, I am.

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Gresham Harkless 02:09

Let's get it started then. So I know I want to dive into the Pico de Gallo, but to kick everything off. Tell me more about your story. What led you to get started with all the awesome work you're doing?

Jeff Mains 02:17

Sure. I've been an entrepreneur for a long time. And like you said, we've built multiple companies and had really good success. At the same time, I've probably failed more than I've succeeded. Not probably, I have.

And still do on a regular basis, but entrepreneurship is about failing forward and getting up and continuing to move on continuing to push forward. And so currently run Fintech company, intelligent contacts from the business side of health care, help hospitals, health systems, fix the billing process.

Which is I think one of the biggest challenges in health care and then run a Champion Leadership Group, which is the growth accelerator, like you said, and help other entrepreneurs specifically B2B SaaS founders scale and grow and not make all the dumb mistakes that I've made. And that's a pretty long list over the years.

Gresham Harkless 03:05

Yeah, absolutely. I was big, huge Michael Jordan basketball fan. And he always talked about like how many shots that he made.

But What you saw behind the scenes was how many shots he missed so that he made shots and that was the reason. So it sounds like you're speaking a lot to that.

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Jeff Mains :03:19

Oh, absolutely. And that's part of it is really, working with people who have been there and been on the journey before and they can really help you coach you and make sure that you don't make a lot of obvious mistakes.

But, every time I fail, it's not because, I did something that just made absolutely no sense at all. It seemed like a really good idea at the time. And so you're trying to do things right, but sometimes those don't always work out. And some of those could have been prevented, with the right counsel others, you have market conditions that haven't been seen before or something that's unique.

And it's a lesson that you learn, but I think it's really important to have people around you that can help you, process that and get through and move forward so that you really do fail forward, not get stuck there or think that doesn't work. I need to go try something else.

Gresham Harkless 04:04

Yeah, that makes so much sense. So I know you touched a little bit upon like how you serve your clients with your two organizations. Could you take us through a little bit more on what that looks like, how you're making an impact with both of those?

Jeff Mains 04:15

Sure. So we work with SaaS founders in two different buckets. One is on the journey from one to 10 million. A lot of companies can make it to 1, and 1 in 40, 000 companies makes it to 10, which is, some pretty significant odds in doing that.

And part of the reason for that is there are three strategic shifts that happen in order to do that. And it's at three different points. So, kind of there's 1 from 1 to 3.

there's another 1 somewhere between 5 and 7 and then again from 7 to get to 10. and so it's really making sure that you're making those pivots and doing it. Because the things that you're doing to get from 0 to 1 will not get you from 1 to 3, the things that you do from 1 to 3. Will not get you from 3 to 5 or 7.

And so it's making some fundamental shifts along the way. So that's 1 of the reasons that would really focus there. And then we have a mastermind that is for those that are 10M and beyond. So, 10 to 50M plots. And again, you're dealing with some very different things that the challenges you have at 5M.

Are far different than what you have at 10 or 15 or 20. And, just thinking about that and thinking about it in different ways and being able to process that, if you're running a 20 million dollar company, you probably have a board. There are certainly things that you don't want to talk about.

With your board. You want to have some external advice. You want to have some people around that you can bounce some ideas off of, say, I'm thinking about this. Am I thinking right? What am I missing? So that you can go back and have more intelligent conversations with your board. So I think that's really, really helpful for a lot of our leaders in those ranges.

Gresham Harkless 05:46

Yeah, and I can imagine, to me all aspects of entrepreneurship, but I can imagine like you start to use that number only 40, 000 make it to 10 million. I imagine that you start to probably feel and the only word that's coming up to me is isolated. You feel like you're the only one along that journey.

Jeff Mains 06:02

We're in the most connected society maybe ever in history, but yet we're the most isolated. And I think you take entrepreneurs or CEOs and you put them into a separate category as well of extreme isolation. Because other people don't understand what it is they don't understand and I hear this all the time of, I talked to my friends and they just don't get it.

I talked to my family and they try and be supportive, but they don't get it because they aren't there. They haven't done it, but when you can get around other people that are in that same boat and that do get it, magic happens. And you find out that the problems you're experiencing, they're not unique.

They're not just you. There are other people that are experiencing the same things and we can overcome those together and move forward and make progress and solve them. And not every solution works. And so it's when you run up against those and you have a solution, you go try it and it doesn't work.

Then you can go back and we can try something else. We can iterate. We can work together and we can see because the market changes really fast as well. So, the strategies that worked 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 2 years ago, pre-pandemic don't necessarily work the same today. And so I think mastery is not just knowing how to do something or having done it once.

And so, whether that's one person or the real power is that group and having other people that have those experiences and see things differently. Because I may see a problem from here.

But somebody else can take that and turn it around and they'll see it this way and their perspective will have so much more value because now instead of having one way to do something now we have 10 different options and I think mastery is knowing which one or two or three of those is most likely to work right now in this situation.

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Gresham Harkless 07:40

Yeah, absolutely. And so you kind of work with the SaaS founders and people that are continuing to grow. Is that largely because of your background?

Because of the expertise and experience that you have in the company that you have now, but also what you've been able to accomplish?

Jeff Mains 07:53

It is. So 2 of them have been SaaS companies. They've all been in different industries and in really different types of companies as well. And so I think that's really unique that the one thing that ties them all together as there has been a technology component to all of them.

So it's been consistently using technology to grow business, but they're not necessarily all tech companies. Technology is certainly something that I really enjoy, which is maybe a little bit strange because my background is not technical. I'm not a developer. I'm not a technical person. I'm a marketing and sales guy, but I can take that and I can see how you use technology.

To provide those solutions and then how we take that and articulate it to the world where the message really resonates with the target audience and they go, Oh, yeah, I want that. That's me. You're talking to me. I want that.

Gresham Harkless 08:43

Yeah, absolutely. And, I don't know if this is part of what I like to call your secret sauce could be for yourself, the organization or a combination of both, but the ability to maybe recognize that technology is everywhere in every single industry. I think your ability to recognize that as part of like your secret sauce for yourself and your companies as a whole.

Jeff Mains 09:01

Without a doubt, and I think that's continuing technology and business are emerging so much more closely together.

I think for a while, maybe it flipped to the other side. It's you have technology that's driving business, but I think that is really starting to change where business is driving technology, and we're figuring out how technology is not holding business hostage or not something that a business uses, but a combination in the business model that gives it a competitive advantage.

So how can we use technology today, whether it is systems or processes or AI or whatever it is to make our business run better?

Gresham Harkless 09:39

Yeah, absolutely. And I know that strategy is a lot of what you talk about in your books. I wanted to hear, a little bit more there. Could you tell us like the big idea and what you're talking about within those pages?

Jeff Mains 09:48

Sure. So Small Fish, Big Pond is really looking at entrepreneurship through the world of fish.

And it's a kind of a combination of story and, business experiences, business stories, things that I've experienced along with a passion for fish and scuba diving and the ocean. And so it's looking at business, through that lens, which is very different, which I like because it engages right brain, left brain.

So if you're creative, if you're analytical, it's got both of those and switches back and forth. But it really brings lessons that are very practical. And you can use in the moment.

Gresham Harkless 10:26

Yeah, that makes so much sense.

Jeff Mains 10:27

Making sure you know who you're talking to and then making sure that your message is for that specific audience. I think those are two really important concepts. A lot of times, businesses are very broad. And so, say who do you serve? We serve, small and medium businesses and big businesses and enterprises and solopreneurs, and it's like the entire world.

It's impossible to market to that. It's impossible to message to that, but when you can break it down and that's, but there's a chapter in there and that kind of the big idea is to get big, go small and the smaller you get. The bigger you get, which is completely counterintuitive.

They think I need a really big funnel on top, but the thing is, when your funnel is so big, that good stuff doesn't go into it and then less is coming out the bottom what's wrong, what you need to do is flip, take that funnel and flip it upside down so that the small end is on top and you're really, really focused on that market and when you think you're small enough. Go smaller.

And then when you think you're scary, small and it's just so, so tightly defined, go smaller and then you'll probably be about right. Maybe even smaller than that, but the smaller you can get, the more finite that market becomes, it's easier to target. And it's very easy to message.

And I think, so many times someone will start a business and whether it's technology or something else and hey, I've got this great idea and we're going to start this business. And and they've got a solution in search of a problem rather than finding a problem and someone's very specific who has that problem and building the solution for that person for that problem.

Gresham Harkless 12:03

Yeah, that makes so much sense. And so I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. And this could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have.

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But what's something that you feel like makes you more effective and efficient?

Jeff Mains 12:15

Something that's been super helpful for me, I'll give you two of them. One is I work in sprints. And so what I do is actually divide my time. I've seen my days and so I do specific things on specific days and then I work in sprints and the way that I do it is it's a 50-minute sprint and I am completely focused on one thing for 50 minutes and then 10 minutes is, get up completely change my state, do something physical, do something different just completely unrelated.

Instead of just trying to grind it and work, work, work. And what I found is that when I do that, I can get 2 or 3 of those a day. I can get more done in those 2 or 3 sprints. Then I used to be able to do in a 10 or 14-hour day of switching things and just, firefighting. And so I think that's a really, really important 1 is, making sure that you're really focused and getting things done that are important.

The 2nd, 1 dovetails onto that. And that is make sure that you're working on things that are strategic for the business. It is so easy to get stuck firefighting. Or doing things that are not strategic to the business because it needs to be done or there's nobody to do it or, if I don't do it, it's not going to be done or it's not going to be done.

Letting that go is really, really important. And it's a difficult thing to do, but take those things that are not strategic that somebody else can do and get to the point where you're doing things that only you can do. And that's a, it's a hard place to be. And I'm pretty much there in both organizations.

Gresham Harkless 13:50

Yeah, I absolutely love that.

So what would you consider to be what I call more of a CEO nugget? And you might've already touched on this can be something from your book. But it could be a word of advice, a piece of wisdom that you would give to your younger business self. If you were to happen to a time machine.

Jeff Mains 14:05

And one of the greatest pieces of advice that I ever got from an executive been that been doing this for, for many, many years.

And he just said, wherever you are, be there and whether you're at work, be there, be 100 percent completely focused on that. When you're at home, be there, be 100 percent focused on that. Don't let those 2 worlds cross where you're bringing a bunch of work home and doing that and taking your family time and then don't bring the family problems and things like that to work, but really be focused, be present where you are and you'll be much happier relationships will be significantly better. But wherever you are, be there.

Gresham Harkless 14:45

Yeah, that's so powerful. So now I want to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote-unquote CEOs on the show. So Jeff, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Jeff Mains 14:56

I think it is removing obstacles. And so really having a view where you're actually seeing what's going on the playing field and working with your players, your team and an understanding, with the challenges they're facing and removing obstacles from their way, and so you're seeing what those are.

You're having those conversations and I think that's a big part of it is really leading by example and removing obstacles. So I think that's what a CEO is.

Gresham Harkless 15:22

Nice. I absolutely love that. Jeff, truly appreciate that definition. Of course. I appreciate your time even more. So what I wanted to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know.

And of course, how best people can get ahold of you find about all the awesome things you're working on. Subscribe to your podcast and of course, get copies of your book.

Jeff Mains 15:41

Yes. Yes. Yeah. Definitely pick up a copy of the book The Small Fish, Big Pond, Building a World Class Business and Swim Circles Around Competitors.

You can learn more about me at championleadership.com. And follow me on social. I am at Jeff middle initial K Mains, Jeff K Mains or at Jeff K Mains on all social platforms. So i'm the same everywhere and so, we'd love to connect with the listeners and appreciate you being here

Gresham Harkless 16:06

Yeah, absolutely super excited to have you on of course We're gonna have the links and information in the show notes as well, too, so thank you so much for obviously doing that and so many awesome things you're doing, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of day.

Jeff Mains 16:16

Thanks Gresh. I appreciate it.

Intro 16:18

Thank you for listening to the I Am CEO podcast, powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I Am CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Check out the latest and greatest apps, books, and habits to level up your business at ceohacks.co. This has been the I Am CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

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(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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