In this episode of InProcess Podcast, Trusted Counsel interviews Rhett Power, the author of “The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions” and co-founder of Wild Creations, an award-winning startup toy company.
According to Power, we are operating in a society defined by instant gratification (think status updates on social media and quick online ordering). We expect immediate results in our daily lives, yet find ourselves surprised when quick fixes in the workplace fail to produce lasting change. Power makes the compelling case that success in todays increasingly competitive business environment requires far more than the typical “10 easy steps.” During the course of our interview with Power, he strongly encourages entrepreneurs and leaders to take action daily to break old habits, think in new ways, and to develop a successful new mindset with thinking strategically.
Powers recounts his experience in turning around a start-up toy company he’d purchased. He states “we were an utter disaster. We had a terrible business model, but it was a wonderful product. The challenge, was figuring out how to scale this product, manufacture it efficiently, and ship it efficiently. We got our lucky break because of our excellent customer service. Also, we were spending all of our time working in the business, not on the business. So when we got that big order, the light bulb went off and it said to us, we have to stop and start thinking strategically. That was our turning point.”
After succeeding in turning around the toy business, Power tells us “that’s why I wrote the book.” He explains that he never took time in those first couple of years to work on the business. “I realized how important it was every day to take a few minutes to do the strategic things to think about what you’re doing…to take some time and stop making these rapid-fire decisions that aren’t always thought through.”
Power walks us through his favorite chapters in the book and tells us the one thing that busy entrepreneurs will get out of the book. He also briefly touches upon his coaching program and where his clients often need guidance on.
Rhett Power is the co-founder of the toy company Wild Creations and author of the new book “The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions,” about daily exercises for becoming wealthier, smarter and more successful. Power travels the globe speaking about entrepreneurship, leadership, and management; he has presented alongside Kiva’s Julie Hanna, AOL Founder Steve Case, and President Barack Obama. He has written for the Huffington Post, Business Insider, Time, and The Wall Street Journal. Power now has a rapidly growing coaching and consulting practice based in Washington, D.C. and Charleston, South Carolina.
During the course of the podcast, entrepreneurs and business leaders will learn about:
- Powers impactful story as an entrepreneur- how he saved his toy company from the brink of bankruptcy to become an award winning business
- What led Powers to write a book specifically for entrepreneurs
- How to shift your thinking from “rapid-fire” decisions to developing a new mindset (strategic thinking and decision making)
- Top issues entrepreneurs often need guidance on
- Hiring best practices according to Power, when faced with growing a company rapidly
Stream the conversation with Rhett in the player below to learn more about the above business topics. Discover top techniques to improve your strategic thinking when building a business and break your bad habits. Lastly, listen to leadership lessons that Rhett Power learned along his career as an entrepreneur. Don’t miss an episode, subscribe to InProcess Podcast on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show to your smartphone.
Managing Your Business: Keeping Cool When Everything is Hot
Rhett Power, author and co-founder of Wild Creations, an award winning startup toy company
Announcer: It’s time for InProcess, Conversations about Business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com. Now with InProcess, here are Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon.
John Monahon: Hello, and welcome to InProcess, Conversations about Business in the 21st Century presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. I’m John Monahon.
Evelyn Ashley: And I’m Evelyn Ashley.
John Monahon: And we are partners with Trusted Counsel. Evelyn, today we have Rhett Power, the author of “The Entrepreneurs Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter and More Successful.”
Evelyn Ashley: I’m up for it, John.
John Monahon: Yep.
Evelyn Ashley: You ready for this?
John Monahon: Me too. I think what’s interesting about his book is, he’s talking about, we live in a world of instant gratification, but that’s not really the way entrepreneurship goes.
Evelyn Ashley: No, absolutely not. As we know, basically an overnight success can be, I don’t know, 15, 20 years in the building. I think that the conversation is a really important one, and an interesting one for continuing perspective on growing a business well, and successfully.
John Monahon: Right. As you flip through his book, it’s a 53 week read with affirmations every day, steps that you can take to improve, to break habits. I think it’s interesting because it’s hard to, let’s put it this way. It’s easy to lose focus on that, especially as you’re trying to build a business.
Evelyn Ashley: Yeah, as things get tough, it doesn’t matter if you’re exploding or imploding. I think sometimes it’s hard to maintain concentration and focus on the right things. The idea of being able to be supported by some really great techniques makes a lot of sense. Rhett, in his book, basically talks about how to drive sustainable growth and essentially break bad habits, develop good ones, manage time and money more effectively, hire the right people for the right job, minimize the effort required to perform basic tasks, motivate staff to be mission focused, create free time to feed your innovative side. I think it really sounds great, and I’m looking forward to this chat.
John Monahon: Let’s introduce Rhett. Rhett Power is the author of “The Entrepreneurs Book of Actions” and co-founder of Wild Creations, an award-winning startup toy company. A member of the United States Department of States international speakers program, Power travels the globe speaking about entrepreneurship, leadership and management. He has presented alongside Kiva’s Julie Hanna, AOL founder Steve Case and President Barack Obama. He has written for the Huffington Post, Business Insider, Time and The Wall Street Journal. Power now has a rapidly growing coaching and consulting practice based in Washington DC and Charleston, South Carolina. Rhett, welcome to the show.
Rhett Power: It’s great to be here, thanks for having me. I’m ready, by the way.
Evelyn Ashley: Great.
Rhett Power: As I heard you say earlier.
Evelyn Ashley: Good, because we’re ready to hear all about it.
Rhett Power: Okay.
Evelyn Ashley: So Rhett, talk to us a little bit about how you came to, what happened inside Wild Creations that put you into a situation where you felt it necessary to start thinking about these kinds of techniques?
Rhett Power: Well, we were an utter disaster. That’s what, to be quite honest with you. I had left, my business partner and I were management consultants, and we have been working overseas in the former Soviet Union, working, helping them transition, their businesses transition from a command economy to a market economy. We got the wild hare one day that we really wanted to start our own business, that we should be doing this for ourselves and not for Kazakhstan and Central Asian companies. And so we started, we looked at all kinds of companies. We came back to the US in 2006, and we wanted to buy a company, and turn a company around. My lawyer actually found, he had this envelope in his desk. I had been beating the bush looking for a business to buy, and he showed me this business one day and said, “You know what? I’m going to completely disown you if you take this business. This business is terrible. This business is terrible.” Of course, we fell in love with it, and it was the business that we bought. He wasn’t wrong, it had a terrible business model, but it had a wonderful product. The challenge was to figure out how to scale this product, how to manufacture it efficiently, and how to ship it efficiently. It was a hard product to ship. Just like any other business owner, I was cocky going in. I told my wife, I remember telling my wife, “Don’t worry about it, honey. In six months we’re going to be profitable, we’re going to be sailing along. No problem. Don’t worry that I just took everything out of our 401(k) and out of our savings.” I’ll put that back in very soon, you know?
Evelyn Ashley: We’ve heard that before.
Rhett Power: A few years in, yeah, we were getting our butt kicked. I mean, we were just getting our butt kicked. And so we were almost broke, we were almost bankrupt, and we were almost about to close the doors and we got a huge break. We had a long time vendor, one of our only customers, she stood up in the middle of the general annual meeting in Toy Fair in New York and said, “Look guys. This is in the middle of the recession. You know what, guys? You’ve got to buy this product, because it’s the only thing in my store selling.” We walked out of that toy fair with a new company. We went from may be doing maybe 50, 60, 70 thousand in revenue to a $9 million company by the end of the year.
Evelyn Ashley: Wow.
Rhett Power: But we had spent two years really hustling, and trying to make it, and saving every dime, and we got that lucky break because of our customer service. We got that lucky break because, and I can get into the need to work with your vendors, and be honest with them, and tell them your troubles, and confront your problems. We did all that for two years, and that’s the reason we were successful at the end of that, because they all came to bat for us at the end. But all I could say is that it was a tough couple of years of not paying ourselves, and of saving every dime and putting everything back into the company. That’s really what defined us as a company, because even to this day, the company culture around saving money and being really efficient is part of the company culture. That was ingrained really early on.
Evelyn Ashley: So Rhett, when you say that your lawyer said, “Don’t buy this company, it’s a really terrible company.” You went in because you thought it was, I’m going to assume you thought it was innovative, and creative, and kind of fun. Is that correct?
Rhett Power: Well, it was, and we fell in love with the product. My business partner is a Georgetown MBA, I’m a marketing guy. If you look at any business case study that they would send to us, any kind of data that we wanted to use to buy this company, any kind of, he didn’t have any books. He took us over to the bank to show us that he made money, and the reason he made money is because he had a bank deposit full of cash.
Evelyn Ashley: Oh, okay.
Rhett Power: A bank deposit box full of cash. He had no sales receipts from his vendors. It was a terrible looking business, but we just fell in love with the product. It was a little toy, it was a little frog ecosystem, and the kids would go crazy over this thing, and so we knew we had something. We would go to these toy fairs, and we’d go to these toy shows on the weekends, and we’d have kids six, and seven, and eight deep all weekend. They were just going crazy over this thing. It actually became a toy of the year in 2009, a US toy of the year, but nobody liked it. The lawyer didn’t like it, the accountant didn’t like it, but we did.
Evelyn Ashley: That was the driving point.
Rhett Power: I guess that’s what was important.
Evelyn Ashley: Then was it that once you guys got in there, you realized that because of the lack of financial management, a lack of a foundation inside the business? Was that truly the problem that was sitting there? It sounds like you said you had to make sure that customer service was a great focus. Was it all of those things?
Rhett Power: Well, we didn’t have any customers.
Evelyn Ashley: Oh. That could be a problem, yeah.
Rhett Power: It was a seasonal business, and it went from June to August. The other way that he made money was he would go to these toy shows on the weekends. He didn’t have a plan for shipping it, there was no way for him to ship it across the country. There was no way for him to, he didn’t have it in stores. He was like a guy at a festival with a little table, selling his stuff. That’s essentially what he would do. So he didn’t have it in stores, he didn’t have a way to scale it on a big way. He was hand-making it, so he had limited capacity. We had to figure out how to produce the product, and it was a biological. There were several components of it, there was a biological part to it, and there were some other components that were very difficult. We had to bring in people who knew how to make the material. We had to figure out the plastics part of it. We had to figure out the shipping part of it. We got help along the way from all kinds of people that understood the potential once we sold them on the potential, and we couldn’t have done it without companies like FedEx, who came in and gave us technology grants to figure out how to ship it. Then we had to go out and sell it, and for two years during the recession, nobody wanted to buy it. We had to hustle.
Evelyn Ashley: Amazing. Rhett, we’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we want to talk a little bit about how you stepped back and came up with the plan to get the business in the right place, and the techniques that came out of that. We’ll be right back.
Announcer: And now, back to InProcess: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. For more information visit trusted-counsel.com.
John Monahon: Welcome back to InProcess. We are here with Rhett Power, the author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions, and co-founder of Wild Creations. Rhett, when we left off, we were talking about your story as an entrepreneur, how things weren’t going quite right in the company. Can you give us an idea of how you eventually developed a plan to turn it around? Obviously you got a good break at one of the toy conventions, but it seems like you had prepared hard to set up that opportunity for yourself. Then what came out of that, that eventually led to you wanting to write this book?
Rhett Power: Sure. What we had realized was that we were trying to change the car wheel as it was driving down the road at 65 miles an hour, and that we needed to stop and think about the business more. We spent all of our time, every day, back in the back, boxing up products, getting in a delivery van and driving it halfway across the United States. It was a terrible business model, and we were spending all of our time working in the business, not on the business. And so, when we got that big order, the light bulb just went off and it said to us, we have to stop and start thinking strategic. We have to start taking time out every day to look and see if we’re doing everything right, and we can hire somebody to go back and put tape on boxes and addresses on boxes. We can hire a delivery van driver to go out and run deliveries. We need to just take a step back, and run the business, and not work in the business. That was the turning point, because after that we were able to conquer some of those big strategic challenges, and those big challenges that we had in terms of shipping the product, delivering the product and selling the product. Once we did that, once we took that step out of the business, it turned around.
John Monahon: It’s funny. When you say this, I think that some entrepreneurs are caught up in the mythology of, “We did this all ourselves. We taped the boxes, we did everything.” A lot of times you have to because of finances, but they’re unwilling to let that go a little bit, and so they are working, constantly working within their business. I think it’s very true that you have to step out of it, and look at it from a different perspective. That’s interesting.
Evelyn Ashley: Perspective, yeah.
Rhett Power: That’s why I wrote the book. That’s why I wrote the book in the way that I did.
Evelyn Ashley: And so, when you were working your way through this, you and your partner, do you feel like it was quite as, that your plan and your actions were quite as tactical and specific as the book itself? How did that come about? How did you actually decide to format the book in the way that it is, with 53 weeks of actions? Talk to us a little bit about that.
Rhett Power: Sure. That’s why we, it’s because we never took the time in those first couple years to work on the business. Once we did that turnaround and I realized how important it was every day you take a few minutes to do the strategic things to think about what you’re doing, to take some time out and stop making these rapid-fire decisions that aren’t always thought through. That was when the light bulb went off, and I actually did it. Also, because I had ADHD, I think, or ADD, and I’ve never been diagnosed, but I can’t focus on things more than 30 minutes, or 20 minutes. This was a way for me to say, “Okay, I can take out 20 minutes a day, and do the really important things that I know I need to do. Maybe it’s that email I need to send that I’ve been putting off.
Maybe it’s that phone call I need to send, or make that phone call that I need to make. Maybe it’s that few minutes of reading and writing that I need to do, to think about a particular issue in the business. For me, this became a habit, and I started doing this every day. I started thinking about the things that I was having trouble with, and working on those in that 20 or 30 minutes every day. I’d journal, and I’d start writing in my journal about it. That’s how this book really came about. When I started writing for Ink Magazine, this also helped me because I started learning and thinking about the other problems I was having in the business, and I started writing about those. The book really came out of that time in my life, and the business where I needed to take a step back, and I needed to focus every day on important things. That’s where the book came from.
John Monahon: Now, the book is pretty unique because it consists of daily exercises. Do you want to take us through a couple of, I guess your favorite daily exercises, and how you expect people to read this book.
Rhett Power: Sure.
John Monahon: It’s some contemplation, and how you read it over time.
Rhett Power: Yeah, sure. I can take you through several chapters that I think are really relevant. I think the first chapter is pretty relevant. I think the first chapter helps you figure out why you do what you do. If you’d have asked me when I was a new entrepreneur why I was doing this, I might have told you money. I might have told you something else, I don’t really think I knew why I was doing it. Maybe I wanted the challenge. But now, once I started to figure out, and I did a personal mission statement about seven or eight years ago. That was really transformational for me because I understood then why I was doing what I was doing in my life, not only in my business but in my life. I defined my values, I defined what was important to me, and defined what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. That’s really important. That first chapter’s very, very important, where you understand your purpose and your passion. The second chapter, I think that’s really important for me is saying no. I think that’s chapter, was it 22? No, I have to look that up. Chapter 40. Learning no is a really important step for me. That lesson, when I started thinking about this lesson, we all like to say yes. Yes is a lot easier to say, and I’m a sales guy, so I really like to say yes. What I’ve learned is learning to say no saves you time and money. Really, I have to say no sometimes when I have something critical to get done, I have to close my door and say, “Hey, I’m off limits.” I have to say no when people come in the door and they want me to spend money that I know is not in my budget. Because if it doesn’t meet the business needs, or if it doesn’t, if it’s not in the budget, I can’t do it. I’ve learned that discipline by saying no, and that was a really important one for me. Take that time out.
Evelyn Ashley: I think that makes perfect sense, actually.
Rhett Power: It does.
Evelyn Ashley: Because the whole idea of even, to just even back it up, to know that you actually have goals and objectives that you’re supposed to be working on within a certain amount of time. You have a budget that goes along with that.
Rhett Power: Right.
Evelyn Ashley: I think you get so caught up in the day-to-day sometimes that it’s easy to lose sight on exactly what am I supposed to be focusing on today, and this week? I think that the whole concept of saying no, going back, stepping out of. Because I think all of us that are business owners try to always be positive, and maintain the upbeat. So, no is not a word we like, that we feel comfortable with.
John Monahon: I also think when you’re growing …
Rhett Power: But it’s part of your discipline. It’s part of that discipline, right? That we all have to have.
Evelyn Ashley: Yes. Absolutely.
John Monahon: Definitely, yeah.
Evelyn Ashley: Absolutely.
Rhett Power: John, you were saying something? Go ahead, I’m sorry.
John Monahon: No, I was just going to say as you’re growing, you get used to saying yes a lot too, because you’re welcoming in new opportunities, and you have time to do it when you’re growing at a reasonable pace, but when you have to make that next step that you’re talking about making, you just can’t say yes to everything anymore. There’s not enough time to do it.
Rhett Power: Right, right.
Evelyn Ashley: So, talk to us a little bit more about, what do you think someone who actually follows your program can expect to get out the other side? Both personally and professionally.
Rhett Power: Sure. I think there’s five things that I would say are the biggest takeaways, in my opinion. I think number one, it helps them take that 20 minutes a day, right? To stop and think, think about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, number one. I think that, you get in the habit of doing that. This is all about changing your habits, your daily habits. Number two, I think it helps you evaluate where you are, and what it will take for you grow and evolve, which I think is really important, and I think a lot of times that gets lost. I mean, we’re not always thinking about, what is our next step? I learned this in the toy business, because every time I would come out with a new toy, my customers weren’t interested in the new toy. They were interested in what was next. That was their question, and I started to think about, I’ve always got to be one, two steps, three steps ahead of what’s next. Number three, I think it helps you analyze what you’re good at and what you’re not good at, and it helps you come up with a plan to fix these shortcomings, and change those habits. Number four, I think it helps you come up and ask questions that you maybe ignored and not thought to ask in the past, and as you’re trying to grow your business. Number five, I think it can help you break those bad habits that I was talking about, that it might be holding you back. Like time management, like learning to say no. I think those are some of the really big takeaways, and I think that that’s what most people have gotten out of the program. I think it gives you some discipline. I think that’s a really big, part of this is to give you some early wins. When you try to make big change, a lot of times, let’s use the example of going to the gym at New Year’s. The reason that fails so many times is because we get discouraged. We set these unreasonable goals of, we’re going to lose 20 pounds in the first month, or we’re going to go to the gym five days a week, and by week two, things come up in life, and you start missing sessions.
Evelyn Ashley: Yep, management.
Rhett Power: And all of a sudden you’re down on yourself. I think what this does is it sets small goals, and you see this incremental, you hit these incremental wins. You get these small wins every day, and you start getting these small wins in your business, and the habits start taking form. I think that’s one of the things that you really get out of the book.
Evelyn Ashley: That’s excellent. We’re going to take a quick break, and we’ll be right back.
Announcer: And now, back to InProcess, Conversations about Business in the 21st Century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. For more information visit trusted-counsel.com.
John Monahon: Welcome back to InProcess. We are here with Rhett Power, author of “The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter and More Successful.” Rhett, we talked a little bit about, I guess the challenges of being an entrepreneur, and how this book helps people on a daily basis go through steps that hopefully break old habits, but also teach them new ways to grow. You consult with a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses that are growing. What’s the number one issue that your clients need guidance on?
Rhett Power: That’s a great question. I think being your own worst enemy is often a lot of it. I think a couple of the things I see the most often is discipline, and that’s financial discipline, that’s discipline in your life. Entrepreneurship, as you guys know, is really hard. So you have to take care of yourself, and I see burnout a lot. I see people who are working 18, 20 hours a day for months on end, and they’re just tired, and they’re not making great decisions. And so, taking the time to eat right, to sleep right, having somebody that can help pull you out when you’re too bound in your business. I learned that early on, I had to have a friend or somebody that said it’s time for us to go out and have a beer, or go to the football game, or to do something else. Go hear that concert or something. Go out on that date night with your wife. You’ve got to take some time, I see that a lot, in terms of time management and that balance that we all need. That’s hard to find early on, and I admitted I didn’t do it very well. I see that a lot. Overconfidence, not knowing what you don’t know, I see that quite a bit. Then planning, and people writing a fancy business plan, and then ignoring it and not following it, not sticking to the plan. The financial discipline’s probably the number one.
John Monahon: Yeah. What I thought was good about the book is it keeps drawing you back. When you mentioned discipline, I think that this book speaks to that because every day, first you have to be disciplined to read it, or you’re not going to get very far into the plan. But then every day it just reminds you of the things that you should be doing. Have you thought about it? Are you doing this? It would make you revisit some of the things that you’ve done, or put in place, which I do think is a key problem for a lot of businesses.
Rhett Power: Right. It holds you accountable. I think it holds you accountable for what you say you want to do.
John Monahon: That’s a good way. Absolutely.
Evelyn Ashley: I guess my question is, not only does the book hold, I see that the book can hold you accountable, but I also think that it’s, you need someone else that perhaps helps you through this process. Do you think that’s necessary? Because it just seems like, okay, I can be thinking through, I can be doing these things, but should you have a buddy, or a business partner, or someone who is helping support you through the process? Maybe you can tell me that no, you don’t have to.
Rhett Power: Some people have said that it’s like having a business coach without the $2,000 a month fee, and that’s going to make every business coach I know very angry, but no, I think it’s, I love doing something with other people. I think the fact that I had a business partner and he and I are still doing business today, and are great friends and will do more business down the road, I think it’s more fun doing it with somebody else. I think it’s easier, I think you get a better product at the end of the day. I think having somebody else to hold you accountable, absolutely. If you can have a partner, or a mentor, or somebody that can help follow the program with you, I think it absolutely enhances what you get out of it, no doubt.
John Monahon: On week nine, you discussed leadership lessons, which I think is one of the most important things. Of course, when you are growing a business, and you’re in charge of leading the business forward obviously, but what are the, when you focused on that, what are some of the key points that you think come out of that from your leadership lessons?
Rhett Power: I’ll give you an example, and I think you have to be mission minded. I think you have to lead with integrity. I think you have to be honest with your people. I think you have to be a role model. If you get to work at 9:30 or 9:45 every day and everybody else has been there for 45 minutes, it’s just a bad example. I love the example of being first in, last out. I think you have to show that you’re willing to work as hard as everyone else. I talk about taking yourself out of a business, but sometimes it’s helpful to go down on the floor and pack those boxes, or ride on the delivery van, the delivery route with your driver for a day. I think it’s just about being the leader that your company deserves. It’s about setting that example, and it’s about making sure your people know that you appreciate what they do. That’s what that chapter is about, it’s about stepping up into that leadership role. I talk a lot about, in week 22 and in week 9, about the difference between leaders and managers, and there is a difference.
John Monahon: Do you want to expand on what those differences are?
Rhett Power: Sure. I sure can. I thought you might ask that.
John Monahon: You set me up for it. It was a good one, though.
Rhett Power: No, but I think that the difference is, for me, a manager is the guy that has the deliverables, and has the targets, and makes sure that the boxes go out on time. The manager makes sure everybody shows up on time. I think the leader is the moral leader, is the guide, the person that sets the vision. You know, that sets the tone, sets the pace. That’s the person that’s out front. That’s the quarterback, and your coach is, or maybe your coach is the leader and your quarterback is the manager. I don’t know, maybe that was a bad analogy. My point is, the leader is out front, and the manager is the guy, the person that’s got that to-do list and made sure that the things, the operation is moving along as it should.
Evelyn Ashley: Probably also the idea of cultural pass-down almost, that certainly is, it seems like that is a leader and both a manager’s function. There is a certain cultural, the way that you deal with your customers, the way that you deal with your vendors, the way that you deal internally with your people, it seems like that would be so key to the trickle-down, how everyone actually executes and continues to carry through.
Rhett Power: Yeah. I think the leader says, “This is where we’re going. This is where we’re going, this is how we’re going to get there,” and the manager implements that. Maybe that’s a better definition.
Evelyn Ashley: So Rhett, whether a business is in the doldrums, or it’s growing at a really rapid pace, everyone is overloaded with work. It’s so hard to not do that quick fix of, I’ve got to hire someone really fast, let me get them in here. Then you find out, well, that was a mistake because we’re moving so fast. We don’t have training internally. Talk to us a little bit about hiring, and employees, and how you actually think that a plan of action should be put together for something like that.
Rhett Power: Well, we failed miserably at this, because we went from three or four employees to 50 or so in a really short period of time, but we learned a lesson. We put a lot of things in place after this that we lived by, and I’ve lived by it with everything I’ve done since. A couple things. Just a couple hiring tips that I think are really, really critical. Always test people for what they say they can do. What I mean by that is, when we had customer service reps, and they said they could type 60 words a minute, or 80 words a minute, we tested them on those skills. Very simple, but you know what? We hired a bunch of people that said they could do things, and by gosh, they couldn’t do them. Then you’re in trouble.
Evelyn Ashley: People want to get the job.
Rhett Power: Number one, exactly. Take the time to call the references, I think is really essential. You can get a lot. I know that we have strict laws about what people can say, but you can get a lot of information from the tone of that hiring, or that HR manager and the references. You can get a real understanding of a person. There are all kinds of other things that you can do, but I think that those are so key. The other thing that we do is, we do a team hiring. We have people at every level do interviews, whether it be somebody in the maintenance department, whether it be somebody on the production line, whether it be a driver, whether it be the cleaning person. We have people at all levels, four or five people in the company that do the interviews, and we, as a team, sit down together and make decisions on people. Because it’s really interesting to see how they treat the cleaning person versus how they treat the executive, right?
Evelyn Ashley: Yes.
Rhett Power: That’s one of the things that we’ve implemented that I think has been really effective, and we’ve made a lot fewer mistakes since we’ve done those kinds of things. Now, those take a little more time, and when you’re really trying to hire fast, you’re going to make mistakes. But if you put those things in place, it’s really, it can save you some time, energy and money, and some heartache.
Evelyn Ashley: And pain, yeah.
Rhett Power: In terms of, you mentioned rewarding. I think you talked about maybe, one of the things that you had mentioned was, how do we at that point, how do we create a culture in the company? I don’t think that’s where you were going. Is that where you were going?
Evelyn Ashley: Yes, exactly. Absolutely. Particularly when you’re hiring that quickly, I think it’s very hard to maintain the objectives and the goals. Actually Rhett, we’re going to pick that up in just a moment. We’re going to take a quick break, and then we’re going to be right back and continue that conversation.
Announcer: And now, back to InProcess, Conversations about Business in the 21st Century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. For more information visit trusted-counsel.com.
Evelyn Ashley: Welcome back. We’re here with Rhett Power talking about “The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions.” Rhett, when we broke last, we were talking a little bit about rapid growth and hiring, and the challenge of maintaining what I would call cultural integrity, or an attitude that you have developed as a small entity with regard to the way you interact, internally and externally. How does one overcome that? Is it possible when you’re growing fast?
Rhett Power: I think it’s tough, and you can very easily lose control of that process. I would say that we lost control of that process the first time that we did a major hiring, the first time that we ramped up very quickly. I’d say that we lost some of that culture that we wanted to instill in the company. You have to work really hard out of that. I don’t know that there’s a magic formula for it. I think you have to, if you implement some of those hiring practices I was talking about, you get people who, I think you tend to get better people. You get people who tend to fit in better. You get people who tend to buy in to what you’re trying to do better. I think that’s really the essential part of it. Because as you know, as the first couple people that you hire, they’re very personal because you get to know everything about them. You get to know their family birthdays, and anniversaries, and about their kids. By the time you have 20, or 30, or 40 people, you don’t know your people as well, but I think that hiring practice, and some of the things that you can do to reward and try to create that culture that you want. I think you have to work really hard at it. In the book, I talk about some of those things that you can do, and I think those things are important to building that culture.
Evelyn Ashley: Talk to us a little bit about, we know that you do consulting with entrepreneurs, and work on your actions and the process. Talk to us a little bit about some of the clients that you’ve worked with, and maybe how they have successfully implemented the techniques.
Rhett Power: Thank you for the question. The program is a yearlong, we’ve been talking about, and my clients, I run them through this program just like I would anyone. Most of my clients are startup entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprise entrepreneurs. Most of them have been in business for a couple of years, and so we walk through this program, we take a year to do it. The end result of this is confidence, discipline, and a lot of those benefits that we were talking about. It gets them in the habit of sitting down every day, and thinking about what they’re doing, and thinking strategically, to follow their plan. I think they come out of it better entrepreneurs, and more mature. I wish I would have had this program when I was an entrepreneur. I made years and years of mistakes, and that’s where this book comes from. I think the benefit of that coaching is, they come out of it better.
Evelyn Ashley: That’s a good thing, yeah.
Rhett Power: I think that that’s, I always compare it to Olympic athletes. Olympic athletes have coaches, and trainers, and nutritionists, and physiotherapists. Business people need coaching too. Business people need someone they can talk to.
Evelyn Ashley: Yes.
Rhett Power: It’s lonely. Entrepreneurship is lonely, and so having somebody that you can talk to and helps you along the way is not a bad thing.
John Monahon: So, what state do most of the entrepreneurs come to you in? Is this, “Oh no, I’ve hit rock bottom,” or, “I’m really struggling.” Or are some of them doing quite well when they contact you?
Rhett Power: It varies. I’ve got people who are really young, in their early 20s, who have been told by an investor or by somebody, “Hey, you’ve got to go out and you’ve got to somebody to help you.” I’ve got people who are on the brink of failure, I’ve got a guy right now I’m working with who has got no financial discipline. He wonders why he never has any money, and I am struggling with him right now, to get him to see, and to make a financial plan, because he likes to go out and buy toys. You know, you can’t keep doing that in a small business. You can’t. You’ve got to be conservative, and you’ve got to have a plan. You don’t have to be conservative, but you’ve got to have a plan. I get people in all states, and that’s what makes it a lot of fun for me, because I have a new challenge every day, which really makes me happy.
John Monahon: Do you do an intake process? How do you evaluate where they need to most grow? Do they generally know, or is it something that even they are perhaps oblivious to?
Rhett Power: Sometimes they’re oblivious to it, and sometimes they know exactly what they need to do and they have a great plan. They’re just rattling on how to figure it. Some of their problems are significant, some of them are smaller, and we can spend a month or two months together, and they’re off and running, and they don’t need me anymore. Sometimes it’s going to need to be a much longer intervention, and a much longer process. A lot of the more experienced entrepreneurs I have, they could take this book, and they can read it, and they can implement it on their own. A lot of the younger people that I work with, I really want to run through this whole program because there are a lot of lessons in here that will take you years to learn and I’d love to expedite that process for them.
Evelyn Ashley: I think that’s actually really critical, and it’s also a great perspective because I’ve had the benefit of having a number of mentors in my business career, and have used coaches also. I do think that when I look back to when I first started out, if I had only had that information all in my head, oh my God, Rhett, I would be retired by now.
Rhett Power: You and me both.
Evelyn Ashley: Tell us what you think are the main takeaways that our listeners should have, from the book, from your learning. Give us some more perspective on this.
Rhett Power: I think one of the things that I realized in writing the book, and working early on in my entrepreneurship career was that one of my biggest challenges was never giving up. When we were broke, in debt, and probably should have filed for bankruptcy that I could keep going that I could get through the debt, I could get through the tough times. I learned resilience, and this book, I think one of the things you come out of the end of it, if you stick to it for a year, you learn resilience and you learn that you can just about get through anything. I think you’re going to have, your judgment is going to be better. I think there are a lot of things that you’re going to get out of it, and you know what? I hate to say all that, but I think it’s going to be individual. It’s up to the individual to see what they get out of it. I think each individual will probably have different takeaways than I do.
Evelyn Ashley: Yeah, different experiences.
Rhett Power: There’s so much to work on, right? We all have our own challenge. I mean, I know my challenges are individual to me. You guys have your individual challenges. We’re all unique in that way, and so I think different people are going to get different things out of this book.
John Monahon: Thank you, Rhett. This has been a great conversation. We definitely appreciate your insight into entrepreneurship, and how people can be more accountable, and more disciplined, and have a plan to grow their business and move forward. If you’d like to learn more about Rhett, his new book and connect with him, please visit his website at rhettpower.com. That’s R-H-E-T-T power.com. There you’ll find information on hiring Rhett to speak, executive coaching and leadership training for your, or your organization. We hope you enjoyed InProcess today. If you have any questions on the topic, and would like to be featured as a guest, or want to learn more about our practice, please email us at email@example.com. Also, if you visit our website at trusted-counsel.com, you will find a listing of our past and upcoming shows. Thanks for joining us.
Evelyn Ashley: Thank you. See you next time.
Announcer: This has been InProcess, Conversations about Business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com.