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IAM2100 – The 8 Pillars of Business Success: Lessons from Over 1600 Podcasts

Special Episode by Gresham Harkless Jr.

Originally posted here:

Hello, CBNation Builders!

As we navigate the thrilling yet challenging world of entrepreneurship, there are key lessons and principles that consistently rise to the forefront, shaping the path to success. After doing over 1600 insightful podcasts with industry leaders, innovators, and startup veterans on the I AM CEO Podcast, I've distilled what I believe were 16 themes or that I heard consistently throughout the podcast. I even made a list of 100s of things I've learned that we added to the I AM CEO Handbook Volume 3.  While 16 is my favorite number (see Blue 16 Media), it didn't feel quite complete to have a list of themes.

As, I myself start to go through EOS and the Traction Book and start to look more about business foundations and go back to the business plan and really start to evaluate the core part of business. Looking at CEO Hacks like the Personal MBA even and Harvard Business, Entrepreneur Magazine made me realize the best way is to see further is to “stand on the shoulders of giants.” It's at the heart of why I even started CEO Blog Nation's first site Hearprenur to “Hear from Entrepreneurs.”

So, could I distill these 16 even more? Yes, of course. 

As Steve Jobs said, “That's been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”

I came to 7 which signals completion but even that didn't seem right as I tried to merge “technology” under one of the foundation principles. But as, we've had a monthly theme many times “We are a technology company that does…” It was only right that we changed 7 to 8. While it's more than I expected but think it's accurate. It's half of 16 and if you want to know the symbolism of 8 for fun you can Google it or check it out using Perplexity.

These are the core areas every entrepreneur, particularly those in the crucial first five years (the Builders), should master. My journey would have undoubtedly been smoother had I fully grasped these concepts from the start. Now, I'm eager to pass on this blueprint to you, potentially paving the way for an impactful resources designed to elevate Builders to Architects and eventually, to Mogul status.

The reality is that these are pillars but they're not silos, the people you have in place will ultimately affect you financial projection. While the products and services won't be nearly as impactful if your operations aren't in place. Do you feel as if you have most of the pillars in place but you ignore technology, it can completely disrupt your indudstry and your buisness. Maybe you don't fully understand business or entrepreneurship and you throw in the towel because you reach one road block.

That's the challenge in business. However, if you have the right people in place, it can completely change everything, they can execute on a level that helps support all the other aspects in business. Do you really have great financials, it could help give you more runway than your competitors for mistakes, failures or even disruptions in business.

So as I like to say when you are building a media company, things might be simple, but understand it is by no means easy. Sometimes focusing on 1-2 “ingredients” can have the biggest impact, but you just have to figure out what that “one thing” is at the moment. It will test every aspect of who you are as an individual and leader. And the thing is when it's hard and you have challenges, it doesn't mean you are doing it wrong. As I try to highlight on the podcast, it's actually the norm. As much as you build the buisness, you are also build yourself.

So what are these business pillars:

  1. People
  2. Operations
  3. Strategy
  4. Product and Service
  5. Financial
  6. Visibility
  7. Technology
  8. Entrepreneurship

As we shift and pivot our sites and resources, you will find more and more content and information “fit” into these pillars to help support you as a Business Builder.

Here's a little more about the 8 Business Pillars and there's lots more to come:

1. People

First and foremost, your team is your greatest asset. The right mix of talent can innovate, execute, and breathe life into your vision. Invest in hiring individuals who not only have the skills but also share your passion and values. Remember, a strong culture leads to sustained success. Also don't forget that you are also the people you have to maintain so don't forget to “fill up your cup.”

2. Operations

Efficient operations are the engine of your business. Streamlining processes, managing resources effectively, and continually improving workflows are crucial. The ability to deliver with consistency and quality underpins your credibility in the market.

3. Strategy

Your roadmap must be clear and agile. A sound strategy involves setting achievable goals, understanding your competition, and adapting to market changes. Regularly revisiting and revising your strategy will keep you aligned with your long-term vision.

4. Product and Service

The heart of what you offer — ensure that your products or services solve real problems and deliver exceptional value. Innovate and evolve as you gather customer feedback and stay ahead of industry trends.

5. Financial

Robust financial management can make or break your venture. Understand your numbers, from cash flow to profit margins. Make informed decisions to fuel growth and ensure sustainability. Remember, financial knowledge empowers you to steer your business with confidence.

6. Visibility

In today’s digital age, how you manage your brand presence is crucial. Effective marketing, advertising and public relations can greatly enhance your reach and reputation. Build a narrative that resonates with your audience and engage them consistently.

7. Technology

Leverage technology to your advantage. From CEO Hacks like productivity tools and CRM systems to e-commerce platforms and data analytics — the right tech stack can drive efficiency, enhance customer experiences, and open new avenues for growth. Also, don't ignore AI and new technological enhancements.

8. Entrepreneurship & Business

Last but certainly not least, embody the spirit of entrepreneurship and business. Resilience, innovation, leadership, and a willingness to take calculated risks are the hallmarks of a successful entrepreneur. Stay curious, embrace challenges, and be persistent.

As a community of driven and innovative builders, our potential to prosper is boundless, particularly when we support one another and learn together. This distilled wisdom from years of conversations with business leaders could soon evolve into a structured course and other offerings. This educational journey would aim not only to deepen your understanding of these pillars but also to facilitate your transition from working IN your business to working ON your business — moving from a Builder to an Architect and eventually, to a Mogul who shapes the world.

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Stay tuned, and let’s continue to build not just businesses, but legacies.

Together, we grow stronger and more resilient. Remember, every challenge is an opportunity, and every misstep a lesson. Let’s harness our collective experiences to build a community of successful, impactful leaders driving change across the globe.

What do you think? Did we miss anything are there any other pillars that we should add or subtract?

Check out our CEO Hack Buzz Newsletter–our premium newsletter with hacks and nuggets to level up your organization. Sign up HERE

I AM CEO Handbook Volume 3 is HERE and it's FREE. Get your copy here: Get the 100+ things that you can learn from 1600 business podcasts we recorded. Hear Gresh's story, learn the 16 business pillars from the podcast, find out about CBNation Architects and why you might be one and so much more. Did we mention it was FREE? Download it today!


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Gresham Harkless Teaser 00:00

We think that, we need to do all of the things, but often as a CEO, entrepreneur, business owner, a builder, whatever title you might give yourself, we don't realize that there is that quote-unquote, one thing.

There are things that you could focus on that actually play a bigger and more impactful result in your business and they create that. So make sure that you are aware of the things, but you may not necessarily be You zero in on all of the things. And that's one of the things we want to make sure that we do.

Intro 00:27

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 00:56

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh here. And this is episode number 2100 of the I AM CEO podcast. And I feel like I haven't hopped on as much to really discuss all the different landmarks and opportunities that we've had and milestones that we've had in creating this episode.

[restrict paid=”true”]

And please definitely know it is not been a straight path at all. It's definitely been a path that's been littered with lots of things that haven't gone the way you want them to go mistakes, failures, all those things. And I think one of the crazy things about doing this many episodes is that you start to hear different things consistently.

And that's one of the reasons I paused last year to really go through and hear about these different themes, topics that came about. And we came down and came across about 16 of those different topics.

Now, well, those 16 topics were great. I felt like it was a little too much. And as I start to, journey in this year, I wanted to drill down a little bit more to streamline what that looked like and how exactly you can create better experience for people that are listening to the podcast, but people that are just going through a business overall.

And when we started to come back into recording episodes, I had a lot more of a focus around us serving those builders. Those people that are within the usually the first couple of years in business, first five years in business, and they're looking to try to level up more than likely they might be working more in the business rather than on the business and want to level up in some form, shape or fashion so that they can get themselves out of the business.

But what I started to realize as I go through the EOS process myself, and I referenced that in the blog posts, but also through. All the different aspects of business you start to read more business books. Is that there's a lot of different aspects of business.

Are there as many as 16? I didn't really feel like there was, but I wanted to really drill down to get around maybe 7 different aspects. I felt like 7 definitely represents that completion the end of a week in so many different ways, but it still really didn't quite fit because there was a pillar that I felt needed to be included in everything that we're doing. And that was technology.

So, what I'm gonna do for the sake of this is I really just want to celebrate the guests, the listeners, everybody in between that have really been throughout this entire journey. But I also want to do a couple of things. One, I really want to drill down for you some of those 8 pillars that I think are going to be integral for people that are trying to build their business.

And I always talk about going from builders to architects really to moguls. Or luminaries or whatever you might consider to be your rockstar type of entrepreneurs. But most people are within that builder to architect phase, maybe a little bit, even before that the builder phase is often, I believe started when you're thinking about that idea.

That's to me, like where that seed is planted about starting a business. And most people sometimes don't get beyond that idea. So what we really want to start doing throughout our sites and really start to drill down on how we can serve the builders, how we can get you to be more , into being an architect.

So you're working more on the business rather than in the business. You're thinking strategically about that business. And so the best way to lay that out is to explain what exactly are the aspects of business? What exactly are all of these pieces that people think about when they're starting a business?

So, that's part of what I, focus on when I've been creating, the content lately is how to not necessarily create the content in a way that fits into these different pillars, but that these pillars fit around what the content has created.

And I think going through each of these different 16 themes, the hundreds of CEO hacks and CEO nuggets that you hear consistently, I really wanted to nestle them and create these pillars that were in alignment with some of the known business principles, things like marketing and sales and operations, but also present a newer perspective in a kind of a fresh set of eyes on aspects like technology.

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And understanding how all of these things are not Pillars that are siloed, but actually, they're pillars that are firmly intertwined and that's one of the reasons technology was one of those big things. So I wanted to touch on that because to follow, you're going to hear and see more of us that are going to be around these different pillars. And I'm going to definitely touch on those pillars.

But I also wanted to let, that throughout some of these podcast I've talked very little throughout all of these interviews. I've had awesome guests on the show and I've always wanted to highlight those guests, but you will start to see a lot more solo podcasts. So that I can, I think, start to distill down some of this information.

One of the things that we want to do when we look at a I and different innovations that have happened. We've seen a transition where a lot of times people are not necessarily looking for all the information you're looking for the exact answer. And that's what we want to try to provide a little bit more.

We want to move a little bit away from like the haystack philosophy that we've had with the content and information to be able to provide more of a journey for people that are going through being a builder and wanting to become those architects within their business.

So, with that being said one of the big things that I really wanted to do was take you through this post in this post, you're going to see a lot more information on what it means to be a builder versus an architect. Of course, we're going to drill down more on that. But more than anything else, you're going to find out what are those 16 things.

As much as you want to hear about those 16 things, I think the reason you want to hear about those 16 things is becomes because they become the Eight things I started out with seven, as I mentioned, but really wanted to come to eight and I'm just going to touch on them today. I'm going to spend some time during each of the interviews to drill down a little bit more of those solo podcasts that you'll listen to. And you're like, Hey, this is one of the pillars that you want to know.

So very first thing that you want to know is people. People are extremely important to the business and what exactly you do often say that you want to, of course, take care of the people within the organization. But don't forget that we are quote-unquote people. We are the people that we want to make sure that we're taking care of.

So people is all inclusive includes people. Building those relationships, those connections, and all those things that are super important within business.

The next thing, number two is going to be operations. Operations is the flow of everything in the business. And this is probably case in point. One of the biggest examples that I wanted to share because operations is one of those things that can definitely affect your product or service. It could affect you financially. It could affect you from a visibility standpoint. You can affect all these different aspects and other players that I'll go through.

So make sure the operations are the flow by which you're starting to get your product and service out there and what that looks like, but also understand tying into that people part, you can have operations on a daily basis. Just think of something like your morning routine. That's how you operate to make sure that you're going to be your optimal self. As much as the business itself is going to be optimal.

The next thing is going to be strategy. And the strategy is one of the kind of founding reasons why the I'm CEO podcast was started now, your CEO podcast was started largely because we want to redefine what it means to be a quote-unquote CEO.

And the best way that we try to do that is we try to have different types of CEOs at different stages, different sizes, people that even didn't even consider themselves CEOs largely because we wanted to basically plant a seed about the strategy. Strategy is ultimately like how you're executing the thing that you're doing.

It's extremely important, but it's also where you ultimately want to go. Like, what is your business going to look like? Is it always going to be a solo business? It's going to be a business that grows into 100, 000, 000. 1000 employees. Is it going to be a business that only has five employees and looks to be acquired?

Is it look, there's gonna be a business that hopes to be sold. So all these aspects play a really big part into what it looks like and what it means to have that strategy.

And then, of course, number four is going to be your product and service. How are you creating that impact for the ideal clients that you're working with? It's all about creating that solution. And I think so many times when I'll talk about a little bit more into entrepreneurship, we forget about it's all about creating a solution for a problem.

While we love the shiny product, the widget, the thing that shines and does all the flips and tricks and all those things is super important that we understand that the product and service is how you're delivering that value to the people that you're serving. If we forget about that and we forget about ultimately why we're doing the things that we do, which goes a lot into that strategy and that purpose, you're wide and all of those things.

Number five, you hear all the time. If you listen to the shark tank, if you listen to Mr. Wonderful, know that numbers you want to make sure that you have a, an understanding of all these different aspects and what the numbers are, your customer acquisition costs, your costs and budget for your marketing your kind of number of full-time employees that you might have and what that costs and how much you're investing in technology.

What's your turn rate? What's your cash flow look like? All these things are such huge parts to your overall success in business and it's extremely important that you have a good pulse on your financials, or at least be able to know where to ask and who to ask. And visibility is all around marketing sales Public relations, advertising, how are you getting your name out there after you have that really top-notch product or service that can provide value?

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How are you executing on that to make sure that people know who you are? That also fits into your strategy as your strategy fully evident and thing that you do, as we start to see more and more businesses and organizations that are commoditized, the question now becomes, are you showing your secret sauce?

As we like to call on the podcast in every episode and also in your business strategically so that people know not just what you do, how you do it, but ultimately what makes you unique and what sets you apart.

And I touched on technology. Technology is one of the things that I wasn't sure if I wanted to include under operations, but I feel like it's definitely its own thing. I feel like technology affects every aspect of business. So I wanted to make it its own pillar, not so that it stands alone, so that it's understood as being fully integrated in everything that we do.

It's not just integrated under operations. It's not just integrated under people. It's not just integrated on your product or service or it's financial or visibility. It's actually integrated in all those aspects. And as I think we start to look at technology and start to understand that technology can help support the things that we're doing.

We start to see that it does overlap into every aspect of business. And often we've had even during our topics each month. We say we're the technology company that does dot dot dot. And the reason for that is when you're the technology company that does dot dot dot, it means your technology 1st, and then you're providing services later. So. Yeah. That's why that is number seven.

And number eight is entrepreneurship. And when we talk about entrepreneurship, we talk about that problem-solving piece, but we also very much so talk about the heart of entrepreneurship.

And I think so many times people get started, especially builders, they go through really difficult and challenging times. As a matter of fact, I'm having a difficult, challenging time myself today. But I think the reality is that we can very quickly say this is not what I'm made for. This is not what is supposed to be.

I'm doing it wrong because I'm not supposed to hit robots, speed bumps or any of those things. But the reality is, is that as you go through business, you start to realize that there are more and more issues that pop up. There are more and more fires that happen. And if you start to understand that is a part of entrepreneurship and also it's very much so intertwined with success.

You start to realize that that is part of the journey that goes hand in hand with it. You can't go through and have the success without having the failures, without having the things that go wrong. So understand that, that is part of entrepreneurship and business and being able to solve the problems is at the core of that.

So make sure that you are paying attention to what entrepreneurship truly is. And that's one of the really big pillars that I always emphasize throughout podcasts and interviews, but really want to make sure that I, that I touch on this today. So, like, I mentioned, prepare to see loads and loads of great information related to each of these pillars.

I think we're going to start to segment a lot of the things that we're doing under these pillars and start to break up a lot of the content on those players as well, too. But I'm super, super, super grateful to be doing 2100. Episodes of the I AM CEO podcast, and I'm truly, truly grateful that I get the opportunity to interview phenomenal people.

And I'm. Even more grateful that you are listening to this. So truly appreciate you. If you have any questions or anything that we could do, definitely let us know. Of course, of course, of course, make sure you check out the show notes for this post so that you can give your two cents on these eight pillars.

They feel like there should be more, there should be less, but keep in mind that I have looked at things like EOS, the personal MBA, I've read different articles and posts and try to combine as much as possible into what this means. And while these topics and these words are not necessarily all inclusive, what I hope to do is start to drill down a little bit more into ways that we can potentially do that.

You might even see a course that breaks down exactly what that looks like and how you strengthen each of those aspects. And I think so many times I just leave you with this. We think that, we need to do all of the things, but often as a CEO, entrepreneur, business owner, a builder, whatever title you might give yourself, we don't realize that there is that quote-unquote, one thing.

There are things that you could focus on that actually play a bigger and more impactful result in your business and they create that. So make sure that you are aware of the things, but you may not necessarily be You zero in on all of the things. And that's one of the things we want to make sure that we do.

We help create it and make that a lot easier for people that are within that business, identify what that is and really start to drill down on how exactly they can improve that for themselves, their organizations and all the people that they serve.

So this is Gresh signing out. Truly appreciate you again, listening to this happy 2100 of the I AM CEO podcast.

If you've been a guest, are you. Are gonna potentially be a yes. You've definitely been a part of this. And even as a listener, if you haven't actually hopped on the other side of the microphone with me, you are a part of this. So thank you so much for doing this and stay tuned for some awesome things we're gonna work on.

Outro 14:52

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 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 as CEO hacks. 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(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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