From Infomercials To Mentor To Millions With Kevin Harrington And The Business Pillars Every CEO Needs To Know With Trey Taylor

Are you thinking of informing buyers on your product but found commercials too short? If so, then infomercials are the way to go. In this exciting episode, Dr. Diane Hamilton sits down with the man behind this great advertising platform, Kevin Harrington. Kevin is no other than the inventor of the Infomercial and the Original Shark on Shark Tank. Here, he lets us in on how the idea of infomercials came to be, how he started his entrepreneurial career, and who are the mentors that helped him along the way. Kevin then shares his latest book, Mentor to Millions, reminding us of the importance of having a mentor to one’s success.

What does it take to become a CEO? How did these successful leaders rise to the top of their game? Trey Taylor, Managing Director of Trinity Blue Consulting, joins Dr. Diane Hamilton to share with us some of the answers to his questions. With his new book, A CEO Only Does Three Things, he breaks down the three important things they need to be mindful of: culture, people, and numbers. He shares a couple of strategies companies can utilize for their hiring and retention processes and more. Join Trey as he helps you figure out things that are necessary to a company’s success in this conversation.

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I’m glad you joined us because we have Kevin Harrington and Trey Taylor here. Kevin is the inventor of the Infomercial and an Original Shark on Shark Tank. He is also the author of a new book called Mentor to Millions. Trey Taylor is a Managing Director of Trinity Blue Consulting. He’s also an author and his new book is A CEO Only Does Three Things. Kevin wrote the foreword for Trey’s book. This is going to be a great show. I’m looking forward to it.

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From Infomercials To Mentor To Millions With Kevin Harrington

I am here with Kevin Harrington, who is the inventor of the Infomercial and the Original Shark on Shark Tank and now the author of Mentor to Millions. It’s nice to have you here.

Diane, thanks for having me. Let’s have some fun.

We are going to have fun. We had fun the last time we met. It was a wonderful event and it was nice to meet you in person. I’m glad we got a chance to follow up with this. Many people know you, but in case they don’t know your path to how you got to be a Shark and start Infomercials and all that, can you give a little backstory on you?

It goes way back. I’ll be brief. I’m 1 of 6 kids. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was the fourth child. I had a couple of older sisters. My dad was a bartender, but he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He saved up enough money and he said, “Kevin, I’ve opened up my first bar, Harrington’s Irish Pub. I’d like for you to come in and learn about working inside the family business, etc.” I was washing dishes and serving tables. He also would bring me into the back room at the end of the day when we count the money and show me, “The bar business is more profitable. The food business, we’ve got waste. It cooks and all kinds of overhead.” To make a long story short, I learned enough about that business that I knew I never wanted to be in the restaurant or bar business.

My dad worked eighteen-hour day. They were opened at lunch and they closed at 2:30 in the morning six days a week. I was working a 40-hour week, but finally he said, “Kevin, you should start your own business now.” I was eleven when I started. I was fifteen when he mentored me to start my own business. It was a driveway sealing business, sealing asphalt driveways in Cincinnati. I was knocking on doors. I put a sign up on the place that I did the driveway. I’d take a before-and-after picture and then showed it to the neighbors. All of a sudden, I could pick up 15, 18, 20 in a neighborhood after I did the first driveway.

This was a great business. I got into college and my dad said, “You’ve got to pay for your own education books, tuition, room and board, insurances, everything.” I said, “I can’t do it on driveway sealing. I needed to start something fresh.” I started a heating and air conditioning business. I was a freshman in college, installing furnaces and air conditioning systems, believe it or not. What I was doing was I created a sales system. I was getting the list of new homeowners. Imagine this, you just bought a new house, the biggest purchase you may ever make. We call you and say, “Don’t turn that furnace on until you get a free safety check. We’ll perform that check. We’ll also clean the furnace.”

Mentors take a look at not just your business life but also your personal life. Click To Tweet

We were getting twenty new jobs a week and that came out of all of this. Here I am going to school five hours a day in between. By my sophomore year in college, I had 25 employees. We’re doing the equivalent of $5 million to $6 million in sales. I was going to school five hours a day until I finally said, “I can’t do both.” I quit school. I loved what I was doing selling, but I didn’t want to be in heating and air conditioning my whole life. I sold that business to one of my employees a couple of years later. I transitioned into something exciting. I wanted my education some way somehow. I didn’t get it in college because I went to the University of Cincinnati, 30,000 plus students. My first class was 800 kids orientation to business and the teacher wasn’t there. There was a video playing, “Sorry, I can’t be here now. You’re going to have to learn from this video.”

I said, “If he can’t make it, I don’t know that I need to be here.” Make a long story short, I started a business brokerage company because I wanted an education on small business. I was selling pizza parlors, restaurants, delicatessens, flower shops, restaurants, small manufacturing companies. What did I have in order to sell these companies? I had all their information, their books and records, their tax statements, their financials, everything. This was an education to me because I had fifteen salespeople working inside my brokerage company, selling businesses. I owned the company. We were selling dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of businesses and franchises.

I saw all the inside tracks of all these companies, their sales, their leases, their ups or downs, their percentages. If it was a restaurant, what were their food costs? What were their throw out costs of damaged product that was no longer fresh, etc. This was a turning point for me of getting good at education. I started investing and partnering with a lot of these companies. When I did get that phone call from Mark Burnett, this was part of my background of being involved with hundreds and thousands of different small businesses.

Here I was an entrepreneur and I ordered cable TV. This was the changing point in my life. I got cable TV with 30 channels. I get to the last channel, ESPN sports, MTV Music, HBO movies, I get to channel 30 and there’s nothing on. I called the cable company and said, “There’s a problem. I’d love this 29-channel cable thing that I’m getting, but there’s nothing on the last channel, Channel 30.” They said, “Yeah, that’s Discovery Channel. It’s a brand-new channel.” They only program eighteen hours a day because they don’t have a budget for 24 hours. We’re just going to give you eighteen hours a day and then six hours of dead air. I’m like, “What’s dead air?”

They said, “It’s nothing.” I said, “Six hours of nothing is going to be just coming in.” They said, “We’re going to put bars up on the channel.” That’s when the light bulb went off and I said, “I’m too entrepreneurial. I’ve got too many businesses, products and deals. I’m going to fill that airtime. Let’s cut a deal.” It went down. That’s what we did. We started selling products inside that six-hour block. I then signed a multi-year contract to own Discovery Channel for six hours a day, 365 days a year for a number of years nationwide.

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Mentor to Millions: Secrets of Success in Business, Relationships, and Beyond

That then was when the infomercial industry started. This was the early days of the birth of the modern-day infomercial. They called me the creator of the Infomercial because nobody was doing this before that. We were filling it with kitchen products, Jack Lalanne and the juicer, the Ginsu George Foreman, Tony Little and Fitness, you name it. This was the early days. That company went public on the New York Stock Exchange and we built it to a $500 million a year business. That’s when I got the call from Mark Burnett to go on Shark Tank. That brings you up to speed. That’s my background.

That’s an abbreviated version. First of all, I want to congratulate you on an amazing career. If I knew you had that air conditioning background, I might’ve taken you up at that event. What was the absolute first infomercial that you came up with, do you remember?

I seldom tell the story this way, but you asked the question. I was a business broker selling businesses, the very first thing I did is I put twenty businesses for sale in the show. I interviewed the people. I interviewed the head of the Small Business Administration who said, “We can give you financing.” It was called the Own Your Own Business Show. I had a cohost and we would talk to the business owner who was selling his business. He said, “I’ve had it for twenty years. It’s time to retire.” Here it is and then we’d have a franchise. If you see now, you’ll see sometimes these real estate shows where they show houses on the weekends. I was showing businesses back in the early ‘80s on cable television. We went to products. One of the first products was Ginsu Knives, a product called the Food Saver. It’s a vacuum food sealer. In the early days, the products were gadgets, they were housewares and home products, hardware, Billy Mays, Tony Little Fitness and all that stuff. We started with lead generation for business opportunity sales.

I remember when we were signing off at midnight or whatever. We used to have three stations back in that days. It’s amazing to see the transition and to be such a big part of that. That’s got to be such a great feeling to know that you had an impact. That led to quite a bit of attention to you. When you got that call about Shark Tank, did you know what it was going to be? What was your initial insight on that?

When I first talked to Mark Burnett, I said, “Mark, I know all about you with Shark Tank.” He said, “I can’t tell you over the phone because you’ve got to sign some papers. Come on out here. Get out of here within the next two weeks. We’re making some decisions.” I said, “I’ll come see you.” I got off the phone. I said to my wife, “I’m going to go see Mark Burnett. He’s a famous TV producer. He’s thinking I might be good for a new show that he’s doing.” She said, “What’s it all about?” I said, “It’s called Shark Tank. He won’t tell me over the phone.” She said, “I know why he won’t tell you. What does he do to those people on that Survivor show? What’s he going to do to people on Shark Tank?”

She was kidding me, but I’m like, “He said, it’s a business show. I don’t know.” She was giving me a little poke in the ribs like, “What is Shark Tank?” Until you saw the first episode, nobody knew what Shark Tank was. When I finally sat down with Mark, I said, “I’m curious. How is Shark Tank a business show?” With inventors and people with ideas or businesses, they get three minutes to come out and they’re going to pitch to a panel of five sharks. If you’re one of them, you get three minutes to make up your mind, whether you’re interested and if so, you negotiate against your other sharks to get the deal.

When things change, you need to pivot. Click To Tweet

I said, “Mark, you won’t believe this, but if that’s what you call a Shark, I’ve been doing that for 35 years. I’m already a Shark.” He says, “What do you mean?” I said, “I go to the houseware show, the hardware show, the fitness show, the beauty show, the toy fair, the PGA golf fair and what do I do? I take pitches from people with products. I’ve been doing that for 35 years.” Mark said, “Great. Let’s do a little audition.” I did. The rest is history. Shark Tank has been the number one business reality show in the history of television. It’s airing all around the world. I had a good run, 175 segments that I did on Shark Tank. They keep rerunning them over and over, which is cool, all over the world. They do a local version of Shark Tank in Mexico. They have Mexican Sharks. In Israel, Israeli Sharks.

They started dubbing us in the local language. If they got a good acceptance, they went and produced their own local show. In various markets around the world, you’ll see the American show dubbed into the local language. You’ll see some of these local versions also running. They have local versions in about ten countries, so not in every country. It’s been a powerful format. Some companies have done pretty well off Shark Tank.

I include a lot of talk about that in a lot of the courses I teach. You get mentioned quite often. I know you’ve done so much for that show and in general. Your latest venture, you have a new book and I wanted to talk about that in our final time. You co-wrote with Mark Timm. I’m going to go right to chapter three because it’s about curiosity. I love how curious you are and I love that Zig is your mentor. You mentioned Zig, I want to talk about the hologram thing. That was interesting, but give me a little story about what made you want to write this book. I want to know more.

I’ve had a lot of great mentors in my life. I mentioned my father mentored me when I was 11, 15 and the rest of my life. He was an amazing man. There were certain things he was good at and other things that he wasn’t. I needed help in other areas. Zig Ziglar was one of the greatest sales trainers in the world. In 1984, when I started doing infomercials, his book came out, Secrets of Closing the Sale. I was utilizing many of his closing techniques in the techniques of closing sales in infomercials. I ended up hooking up with the Ziglar group and getting mentored by Zig in the world of sales, training and motivation and also mindset, etc. Zig had many different great teachings and thousands of hours as well as 35 books.

When he passed away and talking to Tom Ziglar and Julie and the family, I found out that Zig was never a social media guy because he was in his 80s when he died. Facebook and Instagram barely existed. When he died, they put a Facebook page up to leave a tribute to Zig and over five million people have now joined Zig Ziglar’s Facebook page, a deceased man, which is pretty amazing shows the power that Zig Ziglar had in the world. Mark Timm was also a mentee of Zig and Tom Ziglar said, “You guys need to talk.” I became a mentor to Mark. Tom got involved with all of us and then came the concept of the book that mentors have changed all of our lives.

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Infomercials: A real mentor is going to look at all the things you’re doing in business, personal, and social life. They look out for you as a whole being.

 

I’ve had many other mentors and still to this day have a number of mentors. Mark and I wrote the book and it’s about a journey that we take. I am the mentor. Mark is the mentee. One of the chapters, as you mentioned, is something that you’ve studied. Whether it’s a curiosity overload or aggressive curiosity, I find that for me, this has been powerful. This is one of the things my father taught me. He worked 80 plus hours a week, eighteen-hour days. On a Sunday, when he had a day off, he’d have a stack of journals, books and trade show information beside him and he’d be going through it. I’m like, “Dad, this is your day off. What are you doing?”

He’s like, “You have to stay on top of what’s the latest and greatest. I’m too busy working during the week. I need to know maybe there’s some new food cooking techniques, reading the journals and going to the trade shows.” I would go to the trade shows with him. He was in the restaurant business, but for me, selling businesses. Now I became aggressively curious in many industries, not just restaurants because he was there, in laundromats, flower shops, dry cleaners, drugstores, manufacturing companies, hardware and housewares. I started getting curious to see all of the things that were going on at these trade shows. To this day, it’s still a big part of what I do.

Now with COVID, most of the trade shows have been canceled, including the biggest one, the Consumer Electronics Show, which is in January 2021, it will be virtual again. It is what it is. We’ve had a tough run with COVID, but there are still amazing ways to stay aggressively curious over the internet, which you and I are doing quite a bit of. That’s how we came about with writing the book and the launch has been great. We’ve had a lot of great feedback from people. We hit number two on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, which is cool. That’s based on data and sales. We had some crushing weeks of big success. Thanks for having me on because we’re continuing to get the word out about the book Mentor to Millions. That’s just one chapter, but I’m glad that you cued in on that.

I love the whole mentor thing. I was on the board of DocuSign with some wonderful different people from Keith Krach put together. We started this mentoring group called the Global Mentor Network. You couldn’t be more on topic than you are right now because everybody is discussing this. Zig was a huge influence in my time as well because he was the guy. I’ve had Tom on the show. It’s great to hear all these connections. How would you define mentorship? I talk to students about this quite a lot in my courses. How is it different than coaching or something else?

There are different levels of mentorship. When I think of coaching, I think of a fee-based service. There are a lot of coaches out there. This is their business. This is how they get compensated. It’s generally, fee-based. Mentorship takes on a little different help. There’s one true mentorship and this is where there’s no monetary involvement. I have a lot of people that I mentor. This is just me giving back to my entrepreneurial roots and the entrepreneurial community that I’ve been involved with. I don’t know if you know this, Diane, but I was one of the cofounders of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

This was all about mentoring. Verne Harnish, myself, Mike Dell, we said, “We were young entrepreneurs. We need help. Let’s set up an entrepreneurs’ organization where everybody gets mentors,” and that’s called Your Forum. There are people that have been involved with EO that have had a mentoring meeting every month for dozens of years. Once you join EO, that’s all part of it. It’s free. Mentors take a look at not just your business life in many cases, your personal life. Maybe some things that are happening in your personal life that are interfering with business.

If you wait, your competition is going to get whatever opportunities are there. Click To Tweet

I try not to get too involved in too much of the personal side, but oftentimes I find that there’s an obstacle there that needs to be addressed before the business can be run properly. I had many challenges with my personal life over the years. I’m been married twice. My wife and I have been together several years now. It’s been amazing. The first time around was not good for me. I had some business mentors that helped me through a challenging time back in the earlier days. It’s going back many years now. That’s when I had these challenges before.

A real mentor is going to look at all the things you’re doing in business, life, personal, social, and look out for you as a whole being and how they can help you overcome the challenges that you have and create a more successful business and also personal life. With Mark and I, there were some things geared around his home, his family and some powerful transformations that occurred during the book’s timeline that we followed.

You brought up many great things. I’ve loved having Burnett on the show. I got to meet him at the Genius Network. He was on the show and we talked a lot about that, what he’s working on with all of that. It’s important. When you talk about all these things in terms of mentorship, I’ve had a lot of people where we’ve discussed curiosity and its impact on being a success in business. I’m curious about what you’re seeing is the biggest factor that is holding people back that you’re working on. You mentioned your personal overlaps a little bit here and there and that, but is there one mistake that you’re seeing more often than others in leaders and people trying to run businesses?

I deal with all kinds of people. I deal at the base level inventors, entrepreneurs getting started. I deal with business startups. I deal with companies that are in business and expanding. I ideal at the highest level I’m on nine public boards also. You mentioned DocuSign. That’s an amazing company to be involved with. I got involved with a little company called CELCIUS. It’s an energy drink product. This was a $2 million company six years ago. We’re $1.7 billion now and we’re in 165,000 stores. I’m on the board and founding board member. Let me tell you what I see as some challenges. On the beginning entrepreneur entry level, there are a lot of people just wanting to wait.

When COVID first hit buried their head in the sand like, “I don’t know what to do. I’ve got to wait this out and see.” Me, I immediately looked at the metrics and I saw, first of all, when COVID first hit, people were home because the businesses were closed. Now you’ve got computer usage and television viewership was spiking at all-time highs. At the same time, you had advertising dropping all-time lows because the restaurants were closed. There were no concerts. There are no stores to advertise about sales.

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Infomercials: The more curiosity and risk-taking courage we have, the more you propel the growth of your firm in the future.

 

You had a huge increase in viewership, a tremendous decrease in advertisers. This delta provided amazing opportunity for customer acquisition. Companies like myself and all the companies we were involved with, we went aggressively after customer acquisition. If you ever heard of the company called Beachbody, Carl Daikeler, for example. He’s a billion-dollar business. He was hitting the airwaves with, “I’ve got $8,500 in video programs available for you absolutely free, just call this number.” He was acquiring hundreds of thousands of customers.

The smart people were going after eCommerce strategies and customer acquisition, but also reframing their offerings to what the market was looking for. We had some products several years ago in hardware categories, the magic saw, the magic wrench, the magic hammer. I said, “These might be good now because people are staying home. They’re doing more do-it-yourself projects around the house.” We started going for housewares, hardware and fitness. We pivoted. This is key is when things change, you need to pivot.

For example, our company, CELCIUS, their competitors are Red Bull and Monster. These are huge companies. It’s all about retail distribution. That’s what the past has been. What we did at CELCIUS and this took us from a $300 million company to $1.7 billion in less than nine months’ time. What we did is we focused on direct to the consumer. Here’s a product that you could find at Publix, Kroger’s, GNC and vitamin shops, but we got into the business of Instagram influencers, direct to the public, Amazon, etc.

We’ve got over 1,000 fitness influencers now pitching the product direct to the consumers. Pivots are necessary. The key thing is you can’t just sit and wait. One of my other books was called Act Now! Inventors are always coming to me and saying, “I’ve had this idea for ten years. What do you think?” I’m like, “What do I think? I think you should have done this ten years ago, but why did you wait ten years?” In other words, now is the time. If you wait, your competition is going to get whatever opportunities are there.

That’s a great place to end because a lot of people need to act. I’m very excited about your book, Mentor to Millions. Thank you, the great Kevin Harrington. Where can people follow you and find you?

A good conversation always leads to other good conversations. Click To Tweet

My website is KevinHarrington.tv. That’s a great place. I’ve got all downloads and free things there. If they want to get a copy of the book, they can go to Amazon or KevinMentor.com. You can also get it there too. A couple of different places, Amazon, KevinMentor.com, KevinHarrington.tv. Thank you. It’s good seeing you.

It was nice to see you again.

The Business Pillars Every CEO Needs To Know With Trey Taylor

I am here with Trey Taylor, who is the Managing Director of Trinity Blue Consulting. He advises and coaches C-Suite members. He is the author of A CEO Only Does Three Things. It’s nice to have you here, Trey.

Diane, it’s good to be with you again.

We got to chat in the past and I got a lot of background on you. It was fun because of all the things we talked about and at the end, we didn’t get to talk about a lot of other things. I didn’t realize how much venture capital stuff that you knew about and all the different aspects of all the investing. You’ve had many directions. I didn’t know which way to go. I’m glad we got another chance to chat.

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Infomercials: The board is supposedly there to empower the company and give you all different perspectives, not just the perspectives that you get as the head of the organization.

 

A good conversation always leads to other good conversations.

It does. I want to get a little background on you for those who aren’t familiar with your work.

I went to law school. I came out of law school right in the beginning of the first internet bubble. I started with a company that became WebMD. We were doing a lot of fun and super cutting-edge stuff at that point that you do a deal on Thursday and then Friday morning, you’d be on the cover of the Wall Street Journal. It was fun. It was a graduate degree in transactional business. We acquired 78 companies in about fifteen months. We did huge mergers with Healtheon. We bought up all these other companies. We put an ecosystem together. It was fun to do that.

In the meantime, we became interested in various other things so we started a foundation for the company. We started also a venture fund. We did a lot of different things at WebMD that led in the future for me, starting my own venture fund and consulting practice headquartered in Atlanta. That led me to a lot of other things until September 11th, which dropped me out of that business completely and into in-house positions at EarthLink, AOL. I had a bit of a family tragedy where I had to stop all of that, go home and run my family business. That’s what I’ve done for the past several years.

It gave me a great platform to study CEOs and how they worked in large and fast-moving high velocity companies and then distill all of that because I needed to know how to run my own business at that point. A few years ago, a friend of mine said, “Our only obligation in life is to be the person we needed when we were young,” and that stuck with me. The only gift that I could give my younger self was a handbook for how to be a CEO. That’s how the book came about.

You said there is no job description for a CEO sometimes. It’s a challenge. A lot of times it’s reinventing the wheel. That’s unfortunate because there’s much that’s been done that’s great. Before you, I had Kevin Harrington on the show. You knew that because he had written the foreword for your book.

Our only obligation in life is to be the person we needed when we were young. Click To Tweet

Kevin and I had a great conversation one day and he said, “Why don’t you put this in a book?” I said, “It’s in a book and here it is.” He read it. He loved it. He said, “Let me write the foreword for you because this is interesting. These are principles that I rely on. I insist that the companies that I invest in rely on.” It became a good little relationship between us there.

I had met him in the past and I was interested in all of his work. I know he had said he wished he had read that book before he started his first business. What comes to mind is talking to Keith Krach, who was the CEO and Chairman of DocuSign, how he said he knew when he was going to take that job that he was going to end up in the fetal position of once in a while lenders. It does do that because it’s challenging at times.

I say in the book that being the CEO is the hardest job by a factor of three in the business. I know Keith as well. He’s a great example of that because he’s capable. He’s had all business success. It feels to us like everything that he touches turns to gold. We don’t have to live those sleepless nights with him. It’s the hardest job completely. It can reduce you or it can strengthen you. It’s a matter of what character we bring to it.

If you’ve done it once, it helps. For first time CEOs, its challenging. What you wrote about was interesting to me because you broke it down into three things. You said that the CEO should be doing these three things and you say it’s culture, people and numbers. Let’s hit each one of those. Culture is a big one for me. I’m a consultant. I deal with a lot of developing curiosity, perception, emotional intelligence, soft skills, all those things. How important is culture and what happens if the CEO has a negative culture? Can the rest of the company get away from it or does it all run downhill?

We identify these three things as things that only the CEO can do because the CEO has a perspective that no one else in the organization has by definition. One thing is not more important than any of the other two things. They all have to work in concert and they have to be additive to one another. When we focus on culture, you’ve identified, you put your fingertips right on it. There is either a highly articulated and clear culture that we call an articulated culture, or there’s a culture that the CEO leaves his or her hands off of and lets the organization find its own level. We call that the least common denominator culture.

An articulated culture has the effect of benefiting everyone in the ecosystem. It’s clean water in the fish tank and everybody takes benefit from that if you think about it that way. A lowest common denominator culture benefits the individual over the organization as a whole. You’ve seen thousands of businesses and you’ve seen various iterations of those things. It’s a spectrum. Nobody gets it right all the time. There are things that a CEO can professionalize and get on the map so that all of the employees, partners and stakeholders in the organization can come to it at the same time and on the same page. That’s what we work with CEOs to do is articulate values. Make sure that those values show up in the behaviors of their people even when people aren’t being watched. That’s the upshot of culture.

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A CEO Only Does Three Things: Finding Your Focus in the C-Suite

I had worked for a company where they made us memorize their core culture statement, but it was three pages long. We had to memorize it. The instructor in me I wanted to fix the grammar. That’s bothering me. They were from Charlotte, North Carolina. You could tell it was Southern sweet but not professional. I wanted to fix it. When I gave my own rendition of it, I changed it a little bit. The basic idea behind it was thoughtful. That’s important. You get this Code of Ethics. You get this Code of Conduct. You get all these different things that they should create. I’m teaching a course at a university here in Arizona. I teach for a bunch of different universities. I’m having them talk about their Code of Conduct. We go into Enron. We go to some of these things, what happened, what went wrong in these different companies. Do you think these CEOs spend a lot of time thinking about the culture in terms of their Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct as they should?

They do because it’s the cool thing to do nowadays is to talk about your culture. There’s a joke in PR circles that if your earnings are bad, you talk about your culture. If your earnings are good, you talk about your earnings. We do see that people pay lip service to it or something. The biggest fault that I see in the CEO world is imposing a culture from the top down. If your culture does not show up in the behaviors of your people, you don’t have that actual culture. You’ve got a different one. You mentioned Enron. Enron had a fabulous mission statement. It was engraved with gold letters on marble and no one acted according to that mission statement. Why is that? The culture demanded different things for success in that organization.

The exercise we walk CEOs through is doing about two months of observation and jotting down notes of what values do you see coming up in the culture. It’s changing the prescription and the lenses to see what’s there and not what you hope from an aspirational standpoint is there. We take inventory of those values and say, “Which are the positive ones and which are the negative ones, we want to reinforce one and they eliminate the other.” We’re building a cultural apparatus and operating system from the ground up based solely on the values that exist in the organization.

I had to Bethany McLean on this show, who wrote the Enron book. She was in that movie they made based on it. It’s amazing if you read their Code of Conduct and Ethics of what they said versus what they did. It’s a time where we are having things like the Wells Fargo incident and other incidents like that where there’s pressure to be successful that sometimes they don’t recognize that you can write certain things, but you have to recognize what pressure you’re putting on your people to do certain sales and performance goals. Speaking of people is the second. We’re talking about people in terms of culture, but what do you differentiate in terms of people?

The exact point that you’re making is that you can’t have a culture without people. There’s no point to it. There’s an argument it even exists without the active participation of the people. People are those who are with you on the ethical journey. Wherever it is you’re trying to go in life and using business as a means to get there, you’ve got adherence to that message, to that cause along with you. We spend a ton of time in the consulting practice using organizational psychological techniques to understand what it is that makes people function in the way that they do as individuals. Trying to call out the best parts of that in the collective so that we achieve our goals.

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We have a different recruiting strategy built into our system. We call it the four Cs where we interview people for their cultural awareness and cultural fit, for their capabilities second, for their compensation needs third, and for their commitment needs last. It flips on its head a little bit. We encourage companies to adopt that foresee strategy. What it does is it lets candidates write their own job offer at the end of the process. That’s a thing that people look at and say, “That’s weird. It would never work here.” We have good successes and a lot of success stories that come from that.

The entire thing of reconsidering how people fit into a cultural articulation is the key point there. A lot of CEOs look at it and say, “Hiring is not my job. It’s HR’s job.” I take a strong stance against that point. Larry Page at Google, for example, when he was the CEO, reviewed every single application for somebody before they could be extended a job offer. He was all over the world running one of the fastest-growing phenomenon companies in the world and he could find time to do it and yet we can’t. I’m not sure that I believe that as much. We encourage a CEO to be as highly involved in people hiring and retention. There’s a lot of retention tools that we use as well because we think that’s something that only the CEO can do at the end of the day.

As you’re talking about your Cs, I’m jumping to curiosity in my mind because that’s what I study. Francesca Gino was on my show from Harvard talking about her case for curiosity that was an HBR. In a lot of the research that I’ve read that backs up what she wrote is a lot of leaders think they encourage curiosity, but then when you ask their employees, they go, “Not so much.” You can hire for curiosity, but the hiring process is challenging. A lot of companies already have most of their employees in place. How do you develop a curiosity in your employees when you’ve already got everybody onboard?

It has to be part of the culture. That culture shows up in the behavior of the people that are on the journey with you. You have to be clear that if that is a goal, if it’s an aspirational value to hold for the business, then you have to make sure that your internal philosophy supports that as well. For example, in my organization, we have thirteen value statements. We call them the Be Attitudes. Each one is important. Number eleven for us is to be intrepid. In that value, we talk a lot about it is a great uncharted value for us. The more curiosity we have and the more risk-taking courage we have, this is what propels the growth of our firm in the future. For example, if we see a product need that isn’t being met now, when we trace that back, it comes out of a curious question where somebody says, “Why isn’t this being done?” If I shut that down as the CEO, either explicitly or implicitly by my actions, I can be damaging the future of the firm in doing that.

It’s such an important point and curiosity came into play. I have another book coming out on perception. Perception to me is a combination of EQ, IQ, CQ for Curiosity Quotient, CQ for Cultural Quotient. We’re touching on a lot of these things that it’s this process that we go through when we make decisions. We’re evaluating and predicting, interpreting and coming to conclusions based on all of these other factors. What you’re talking about here is critical to the success of organizations because we’ve got more diversity that in groups that we need that. We also have more conflict with that diversity. The more we question things and we build that empathy to be able to see things from other people’s perspectives. I want to see if you touch on perception at all and what you think of that point.

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I do. In the final chapter of the book is where I give a charge to CEOs to say, “Now that you know these things, it’s now important for you to perceive how they work in the firm and what changes that you’re making.” I take perception and change it out to the preception a little bit. A lot of times you can see things as the leader inside of people before they can see it inside of themselves. We believe that leaders should precept knowledge of people and we believe that they should evoke that knowledge. Preception and dedication is the charge that I live with each CEO in the final chapter.

I like that because that ties into foresight and being proactive in a lot of things. It’s the famous Stephen Covey proactive thinking. We need a lot of that. A lot of people are focused on specific things. Sometimes we don’t know what you can see in somebody else that they don’t even see in themselves. I love it for that reason. I want to jump to the third thing though because you have culture, people and numbers. Numbers is not my favorite part sometimes. Help people like me who maybe are CEOs who don’t want to spend all day looking at balance sheets and thinking numbers.

Numbers isn’t only dollars. We make that point in the book right upfront. We can go glassy-eyed right when confronted with a wall of numbers. Some CEOs say, “Numbers are not my job. That’s the job of the CFO.” I disagree completely because one of the things that a CEO does that no one else can do is to set the agenda. It isn’t necessarily how do we measure success or something of that nature. That is a tactical thing. Rather it is what the success looks like. What’s the agenda? There are financial measurements to success. We’re not going to get away from that as much as we may want to on occasion. There are other measurements as well.

We have a list of KPIs. I’m sure your business does and the businesses of people that’s reading this. They all have those. Some of them are hard numbers and some of them are soft numbers. There’s an old joke in the consulting circles that everyone has a number. Even down to the receptionist, which is two rings good, three rings bad. Everybody can quantify the quality of work that they bring to the table. That’s where we get excited. The second pillar of that is that a CEO who is confident in their ability to hit numbers and to manage that numbers process should also be confident in sharing those numbers at a highly transparent level with the entire organization.

In my own firm, we have P&L review every single quarter. Everyone no matter what their level of the organization, looks and sees what we spent, every dime that got spent that came in the door, they know implicitly who’s doing their job and who isn’t when they see those numbers. We build incentive structures based on those numbers as well. You might say, “Trey, you’re still talking financials,” not necessarily. If we have people who hit their soft number goals each quarter, then they receive time off, special privileges may be in the workplace. They get to go to the Christmas party at the end of the year or something of that nature. We have a lot of fun in dialing up and down those different numbers each year.

We’re extraordinarily transparent. What it does is it unlocks creative potential that we have historically ignored in American business. I’ll give you an example. In 2008 and 2009, when the world was falling apart, we knew that in our business, we needed to shave as much of the fat off the cow as we could. We had gone through this exercise and everyone knew our numbers. I came back to the table and said, “I need an extra $200,000 in bottom line.” We each shared some ideas on how we could accomplish that. We got to the number. That doing so made the next couple of years for us a lot easier than it would have been if I was trying to carry a larger load that way.

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One of the ladies that worked with us said, “My mother runs a company. It’s a great consumer of what we’ve done. You guys have never called on. Let me see if I can get an appointment with her.” We did. We ended up selling a $300,000 contract to her company. We did great work for them. She referred us to several other companies in the same vertical. That never would’ve happened if I wasn’t transparent with the entire company and had someone who was a receptionist in the company created $1.5 million revenue over a couple of years for us solely because she knew we needed it. That’s where transparency comes in.

It brings to mind thinking of many things that CEOs and discussions I’ve had with them on the show and the things that concern them. Did you deal at all with boards and who to have on your board? Do CEOs struggle with these three things of culture, people, numbers? I’m curious if you touch on that because I haven’t seen that final version.

No. We don’t tie it in the book that way because many of our clients are dealing with that. The real point there is that the same rubric, culture, people, numbers is what you should use to recruit members of the board. In other words, people who share the same values that you do, who see the vision and the journey in the same way that you do. When I counsel CEOs and consult with them, a lot of times there’s hurt feelings. I went to the board meeting and they didn’t agree with a 100% of what I said. It’s this existential problem. You have to bring them back to the point that the board is supposedly there to empower the company and give you all different perspectives, not just the perspectives that you get as the head of the organization.

That’s important. I’m excited for your book. Trey, I was grateful that you would do the show again because I’m fascinated by the last conversation. Every time I talked to you, it’s like an onion, we keep on peeling these layers of things that you do. Your book, it’s going to be available soon. How can they find you? How can they follow you? Can you give us some website or anything, social media to follow?

The book does launch on November 10th, 2020. It will be on Amazon paperback, hardback. We have an audiobook in production as well for release in 2021. We can listen to the book while we’re getting for our exercise and our commute. That’ll be great. My personal website is www.Trinity-Blue.com, that’s the consulting firm. It will have a page on the book there as well. If anyone wants to reach out to discuss the book, we can do that. We’re going to do a virtual book club with the author. We’ll do 2 or 3 of those in 2021. You can find those announcements on the website.

Trey, thank you. It was fun to have you on the show.

It’s always fun to be with you, Diane. I appreciate the work that you do and the introductions that you make offline are valuable to us. I appreciate you as a resource when it comes to that.

It’s always been great, the back and forth. I wish you great success with your book.

I’d like to thank both Kevin and Trey for being my guests. We get so many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can catch them at DrDianeHamilton.com. Also, find out more about the Curiosity Code Index and the Perception Power Index on the site. Contact me, let me know how you like things on the show and anything I can do to answer your questions, please feel free to reach out. It was such a great show. I enjoyed this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Kevin Harrington

TTL 775 | InfomercialsKevin Harrington: Success Catalyst

An original “shark” on the hit TV show Shark Tank, the creator of the infomercial, pioneer of the As Seen on TV brand, and co-founding board member of the Entrepreneur’s Organization—Kevin Harrington has pushed past all the questions and excuses to repeatedly enjoy 100X success.

His legendary work behind-the-scenes of business ventures has produced well over $5 billion in global sales, the launch of more than 500 products, and the making dozens of millionaires.

Twenty of his companies have each topped $100 million in revenue.

About Trey Taylor

TTL 775 | InfomercialsCURRENTLY NOT ENTERTAINING LEAD-GEN OPPORTUNITIES.

Trey spent a career in the finance, insurance, and technology industries leveraging his law degree, skill at negotiations, and relationship acquisition to build value for employers and clients.

In his current role, he direct investments for Threadneedle, a single family office with entrepreneurial roots in the financial services industry. They hold investments in insurance and financial services, commercial real estate and early stage technology investments.

His specialties include business development, deal structuring, venture capital investment, corporate investment, M&A deals, sourcing and negotiation.

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