#23: How Thinking Outside Of The Box Can Help Grow Your Business Faster
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Learn More Earn More Business Growth Podcast

Host: Brian Webb

Guest:  Chris Guerriero

Episode 23: How Thinking Outside Of The Box Can Help Grow Your Business Faster

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RESOURCES & HELPFUL LINKS

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Chris Guerriero Website

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BOOK: Jack Welch: Winning

BOOK: Patrick Lencioni: The Ideal Team Player

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TRANSCRIPT: 

Brian Webb:

Chris, I am so excited to have you on the show. I know that one of the things that you're wanting to talk about today really, a principle that you're going to want to bring to our audience is how to think outside of the box. And you and I were just talking about the name of my agency which is Whatbox Digital, but welcome to the show today.

Chris Guerriero:

Thank you so much, Brian. I'm excited to be here.

Brian Webb:

Yeah. So, share with our audience a little bit of what you mean when you help businesses, what you do over and over and over again, you're really a serial entrepreneur. How do you help companies go and think out of the box?

Chris Guerriero:

It's not the easiest thing to get another company creative. So, inside of the company that I have inside of my portfolio, my teams have been chosen during the interview process, as well as during the onboarding process, and during the culture-building process. Everybody's been kind of trained to live this lifestyle, where we're not afraid to throw some ideas out there, and that we're also not afraid to plus on everybody else's ideas in the hopes that they're going to be the next level of growth for the companies. So, if I go into a company because I do one day a week consult with other companies when I go into a company as an advisor, it becomes this may be a mental training program over the first couple of visits may be, to get them comfortable thinking outside the box and throwing ideas out there, so that they're not going to get laughed at. And then showing them how every idea could be plus upon, and plus upon, and plus upon, until it becomes something that really is potentially a good fit for the next stage of growth for a company.

Brian Webb:

What is fresh in your mind as an example, when you say plus upon and plus upon, so you keep kind of creating synergistic value. What is something in the last two, three, four, five, six months that might be an example of where, maybe historically, they might be uncomfortable to bring some idea for the fear that they might be ridiculed or judged, but someone brought that idea, you created that culture to make them feel comfortable to bring that idea, and then it got expanded upon amongst the team? Is there an example that comes to mind?

Chris Guerriero:

Yes, I'm itching to jump in because I've got so many examples. [Inaudible 00:02:12] if I go back further and I'll give you some older ones and I'll bring you up to date because I think that'll get their juices flowing and maybe form some really great ideas of their own.

Brian Webb:

Perfect.

Chris Guerriero:

I started as a personal fitness trainer and I'm going to make a very long story short. This is many, many years ago, and the goal was always held the greatest number of people possible. And with that goal, that goal was the impetus for thinking outside the box for me for the very first time, and that goal helped me to stop just training individually. And I was watching a commercial, part of thinking outside the box is getting yourself in the right frame of mind and then being open to ideas no matter where the heck they came from.

So, I was sitting and I know you and I are a similar age demographic, but I don't know if you stayed up very late watching infomercials like I did a long time ago in the hopes that there was going to be something that would help make me a success. I remember a guy named Don Lapre. You remember Don used to go online-

Brian Webb:

I do.

Chris Guerriero:

... or used to go on TV and he would tell you, "Hey, here's this course, you buy it and it'll teach you how to place classified ads in the back of newspapers, and you could sell real estate, or you could sell products" or whatever the heck the case was. And I thought, "Wow. I have this personal training company, and I was training one person at a time, but my goal was help the greatest number of people possible," and in order to do that, I had to be able to train more than the few that I could fit on my personal agenda, [inaudible 00:03:37] in these classified ads and getting more clients.

And I got so many clients that it was way too much for me, and I decided I was going to place more classified ads to try to get personal trainers. So, after about a year of doing that, we grew from a single entity, a single person to almost 150 trainers up and down New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania training people under my umbrella. And then I learned my very first really big business lesson, I guess, and most of the big business lessons probably in your life, as well as everybody else's life, they hurt the most, they cost the most there, but they hit you like a hammer in the face. And this particular one was when you're working with independent contractors at that scale, and you don't know what the hell you're doing, they would take your clients, so that's what happened, but the goal was still to help the greatest number of people possible.

So, I went from being able to help a few individuals to be able to help hundreds with my trainers. And then I got into the health club industry, which brought me to be able to help tens of thousands of people because the first club grew into several clubs and we had clubs in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, so we were able to help so many more people. And then in 2003, when I really wanted to get out of that industry because it was changing so much, I decided I was going to take everything I knew and write a book still based on what am I going to do to think outside the box to help the greatest number of people possible? So, we went from helping a few as a personal trainer to helping hundreds with a training company, tens of thousands with the health clubs, to being able to help millions of people with the book.

Brian Webb:

You and I were talking before the show, and I was telling you about a principle that I learned from Jack Welch and his book Winning, and he instilled this principle called... I don't think it's even a real word, which I think is why he did it called boundarylessness. So, it's really interesting how you come into businesses and really help them to think outside of the box. Here's a question for you, when you're looking to invest in a business, how important is it to you that either one, they already have a culture of being able to bring thought leadership, bring ideas, think outside of the box, bring ideas that are out of the box versus is that important or do you just know that when you come in, that you can bring that into the team or is it important that that's there before you get there?

Chris Guerriero:

So, we invest in people. I don't know that there is a way, at least not using our model to go into a company that does not have a culture and instill a culture. Here's the reason why, because any big shifts in a company, when you infuse it with money or when you go in as a partner or as an advisor, any big changes stops almost everything in its tracks. Small changes in the right direction, filling a couple of holes, picking up some areas where they're leaving money on the table makes a huge difference, not just to overline revenue, but also to bottom-line growth, and to the scalability of the company and to the organization into its sellability to everything.

So, we invest in people, so what I do when I'm going into a company and I'm looking to see if it's a potential investment is I'm looking at the people and how they work together, and I'm looking at the industry differentiator, their company. Now, that could be a product, it could be their delivery mechanism, or it could be a company. I'll give you an example. I was in a company not that long ago who probably has the best customer support of any company that I've ever found online.

Brian Webb:

Really?

Chris Guerriero:

Yeah. They're tremendous, they based their culture on Trustpilot, how many Trustpilot comments they get from their customers, and they have those pasted all over the walls inside of their office, and they recite their favorite one before every daily team meeting. And it is wonderful and it's part of their culture, and it ingrains in everybody inside of that organization that that's what they're there for. They're really there, the company is there to help people. It's not there to sell a product, it's there to help people, and because it's based on that, they're scaling so massively.

Brian Webb:

Let me ask you this. When you come into a business, what are the top one, two, maybe three obstacles that you find that are there, or problems or challenges that they're dealing with, that when you come in, you help them to overcome that and that removes that impediment to growth? What are the top one, two, or three things that you see on a regular basis?

Chris Guerriero:

It is three things, I would say. Ego is number one and that's everywhere, top line all the way down to anybody else inside the organization. Anybody who has an ego doesn't like to ask for help, everybody who doesn't like to ask for help at the right time tends to end up being the weak link in the chain or the slowest person on the team slowing everybody down. And we have ways around that inside of our organizations which I'm happy to share with you. So, ego would be number one. I think untapped relationships and another big deal. So, people who are running a company who do not want to tap into or leverage their existing relationships, or be humble enough to join an organization that might be able to open their Rolodex up to people who could really shave years off of their learning curve for certain things.

And the third area would be anybody who does not have a really strong focus on customer acquisition. I mean, there's really three. I tell companies all the time, you're one to three hires away from anywhere between three and 10 times growth. And those three areas would be, I would want a rockstar as a customer acquisition manager, as a delivery manager, meaning we're delivering on the promises. We just promised people when we were requiring them, and then somebody or a whole system around an org chart based for the organization of the company, so customer acquisition delivery and organization.

Brian Webb:

Yeah. That makes sense. When you talk about ego or in the context of people not being willing to ask the right questions at the right time, how much of the time do you think maybe is that... Maybe it's ego versus depending on the culture that was preexisting that might be fear for being called out.

Chris Guerriero:

Oh, great question. I think they're equal, so an ego causes fear. Normally, when the person at the top has an ego, most of the people underneath them have a lot of fear. The way we get around it, we have daily meetings, so I don't know how much you know about my week, but my week is basically business meetings. So Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, I have meetings that start at... I'll give you my whole day. 9:00, I walk into the office. I do a lot of things before 9:00, but when I walk into the office, all the key metrics for each one of the companies inside of my personal portfolio are on my desk. They were put there by Emily who's been my assistant for over 18 years. She knows exactly how to deliver the three to five key metrics for each one of the organizations so that I can keep my finger on the pulse of everything.

And then from 9:30 to 12:30, I'm in meetings with each one of the leadership teams in each of my companies, and those meetings might last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how big that company is or how fast they're moving or whatever. Now, in those meetings, we go over three things and this is the key to making sure that ego and fear kind of get scratched out in the playing field. It's because every day, we meet with our leaders and we go over what they've accomplished so far number one. So, today is Friday, so today's meeting was what they've accomplished so far this week, and then what their top five most important uses of their time are today. So, because every single person in our company runs their day on top-five lists and that type five list is based on the company's main goals, so everybody is working together to move the company in the same direction every single day.

And then the third thing is the biggest and that's an obstacle that you have because what we found is that people, especially when they're new to an organization, they never have an obstacle ever. They don't even realize that most things are obstacles, but what an obstacle is to me, is something that is going to stop you from getting everything off of your top five lists today successfully, because if you're pulling things over from today's list to tomorrow's list on a regular basis, then you are the weakest link in our company. And the speed at which we can grow any entity, whether it's inside of my organization or something that I'm investing in or something that I'm advising, the speed at which we could grow is directly determined by the weakest link inside of an organization, so we're constantly looking to upgrade our rockstars, which doesn't always mean getting rid of people and bringing other people in, but often it means just teaching people how to not have any ego and not to be afraid to ask for help.

Brian Webb:

That sounds similar. I know that there's many different types of business management systems. Scrum is one of them out there. Is that specifically something that you drew from a specific management system? Is that based on Scrum or is that just kind of what you've just learned to do over the years?

Chris Guerriero:

So, we've been doing this... I've been in business now since the 1990s. Sorry. My kids laugh at me and they say, "You remember the '90s?" And I'm like, "Yeah, of course I do," and it seems like yesterday to me, but too many lifetimes ago.

Brian Webb:

To them, that's like a prehistoric. That's when cavemen were out, right?

Chris Guerriero:

Yeah. So, in another case, this is something that has been developed from years of cuts and bruises, and then learning a few things, and then failing many times, and then learning more things, and having really smart people come in and consult and teach me how to shave a few years off to speed things up a little bit and to think outside the box.

Brian Webb:

I have two or three more questions for you. One, how important is it to you to encourage a culture of failing fast, but failing forward. Not failing as in making the same mistake over and over again, but daring people to go out and try something to make it a learning experience, to see what works and what doesn't. How important is that to you?

Chris Guerriero:

It's very important. The one thing that I ask everybody, I mean, I ask every team member that I have, I ask my kids this, I ask my C-level people in each company this, I ask myself this on a regular basis, is what did you learn from that? And it's so super important because we're pushing our companies, right? We don't push people in a bad way. Literally, we have a culture that only people who like to grow quickly are inside of our organizations and they get excited by this, just like I do. So, when we sit down and we have meetings, people will leave more excited because we have clarity, and clarity is just such a wonderful thing in business that's so rarely attained, I think.

Brian Webb:

It absolutely is, yeah.

Chris Guerriero:

Yeah, but because we're growing, we're constantly trying new things, but being flexible enough to say, "Oh, that's not working," or maybe "How can we plus upon this? Let's have a meeting on what we're doing with our paid ads right now because they're falling on deaf ears. We're not getting the conversion we want it to, we're not getting the clicks we want it to," whatever the case is. And then we meet as a team and we have the stupidest ideas. I'll tell you, Brian, we had such stupid ideas. One time, I had a meeting with this one company that I was a majority owner in, and we sat there and we talked about what could we do to fill this membership site? Because we had an online membership site.

Partners in this company wanted 20,000 new members in this membership site, and we had hardly any marketing budget to do that. And after brainstorm, after brainstorm, after brainstorm, at the end of a very long day of this team brainstorm with all these stupid ideas hitting the table, which ended up turning into one that said, "Right before you came in as a partner in the company, we had invested in a NASCAR, and so we have the ability to put our company name on the NASCAR if that's valuable. Do you think that would be valuable to getting us to the end result here?" And I said, "Well, can we put a picture of me on there?" because I thought, "Wow if I've got to get something out of this, that will be fun."

And they said, "Yeah, we could screen anything onto the side of the NASCAR." And I said, "Well, could you put pictures of a few of my friends? Because I could go out there and I could get people to mail some of the biggest email lists around in our industry. I could get them to mail for us with a naked link," meaning there's no affiliate link, there's no tracking, they're just doing it out of goodness of their own heart. If I could give them something big enough, and if I could put their photo and logo on the side of a NASCAR during a race, then they could walk into any party for the rest of their lives and be the only person there that ever had their picture on the aspirin, so I did. I had a bunch of my friends mail and put their pictures along with mine on the back quarter panel of the NASCAR, big pictures, you could see them, it was wonderful. And so we grew that, but again, that's outside the box.

Brian Webb:

What a great idea. When you keep saying stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid idea, but obviously again, what you've done is you created a culture where it's okay to say something and then it get deem stupid.

Chris Guerriero:

Half the things I say are stupid. Yeah. When I say stupid, sometimes I mean, so stupid good, and it's okay. And we use that term because I want people to laugh at it, I don't care. if I'm going into a company, if I'm going into a meeting and somebody thinks their idea's stupid, but they're still open to saying it, that's where I need to be. That's fun.

Brian Webb:

Yeah. Patrick Lencioni in one of his recent books, I think it's called The Ideal Team Member. He says the three things you want are hungry, humble, smart. Hungry is obvious, someone who wants to grow, learn, acquire, scale. Humble is obvious, and smart does not mean your IQ. He's talking about really emotional intelligence and relational intelligence. So, let me ask you this. A few weeks ago, I don't remember exactly how long, I had a colleague on, his name is Julio Serna Molina and he's a business advisor who works with another client, a friend of mine, who has a private equity fund here in the Houston area.

And one of the things I learned from him, and this is going to circle back to something you said earlier, is the one thing I learned that private equity funds are looking for when they invest capital is synergy. So, who is in the portfolio that could potentially benefit from someone else who's in the portfolio, the fund wins, both of those companies inside the portfolio can scale faster. When you were talking about untapped relationships, I'd love for you to expound upon that, and what does that look like?

Chris Guerriero:

So, as it relates to what you're just saying, each one of the companies inside of my portfolio is intimately linked to each other, so that they help each other grow. I'll give you a couple of examples, and then I'll go into a little bit more about specifics about what I think you're asking. The VC firm, we used to get, I don't know, 15 plus prospectuses that would get shredded on a regular basis every single week. And I spoke to the partners inside of that firm one time and I said, "Man, a lot of these prospectuses, they're great. It's just that they are not organized enough to be able to make use of the funds that we would be giving them." That's why we're saying no to many of these companies, and because the funds would literally crush the company, right?

They don't have the organization to be able to utilize them properly or the track record to be able to take care of that money properly. So, I said, "I don't want to breach anything that we have in our agreements, but I don't see anything here that would prevent this. Would it be okay if I approach some of them and offer to bring them into a consulting program?" That's how our advisory firm actually started [inaudible 00:19:24]. And so I sent a letter to several of them and I said, "Hey, I'm the one inside the venture capital firm, who once we go about funding the company, I go in and I look at their people and their systems and their processes, and I help to restructure them for growth because we want to be able to get our investment back in three to five years. And because we don't make our money by a little bit of interest, we make our money because we still own a percentage of that company once we get our money back, so it becomes a growing asset inside of our portfolio."

So, I said, "Hey, listen. So, that's my responsibility inside the venture capital firm, and I know that we did not fund you. Here's the reason why, because you don't have the structure to be able to handle that amount of money. What I'm going to be doing is taking on a small group of people." It's 28 brands, all club 28 because I could only handle 28 brands because I only do it once a week. And I said, "I'm going to take on a couple of brands. and what we're going to do is I am going to personally work with them, not as a VC, but as an advisor. Here's the fee and this is what it would cost, and my goal will be to make it so that you don't even need the money anymore, that you are now so much more profitable, bottom line and top line, that you don't need the money to keep growing, that we will literally get you to your goals without outside capital. And if you're okay with that, then let me know."

And we ended up filling up very, very quickly, and we had a waiting list for years when we first started doing that, so that's one kind of way that to build to synergies to companies. That advisory firm came out of an idea from another successful company, and we've done that multiple times instead of different companies of mine, where we have a legal class action firm in California, and that firm goes out there and helps companies who are hitting the class action suit.

However, we've got denied by a lot of companies. We lost some of those contracts because there's a lot of other class action noticing firms out there that are bidding for them. However, every single time a company goes through a class action, there's so much bad press surrounding them, that we started a company called iBranding, and we went out there and went to everybody, every company that we lost that contract with, then we said, "Hey, listen. We understand everything that these bad guys are going to be doing to tarnish your brand during this class action lawsuit. However, you're a good company with a great brand, and we're going to be able to go in there and kind of make a lot of this go away." And we started a branding company based on that. Now, that branding company handles not just clients from that direction, but also politicians, also helping movie theaters fill seats.

Brian Webb:

So, you said earlier, this is my last question, that every day at 9:00 AM, you look at some key metrics and KPIs. What are the top three, or four, or five KPIs that you want to see every single day?

Chris Guerriero:

That's a good question. I'm going to answer it, but I'm going to give you a warning because I believe that answering it is... First of all, there's some synergy, but most of them have differences for each one of the companies. By my answering it, I don't want any of the listeners to say, "These are the best KPIs for me because [crosstalk 00:22:30] KPIs for Chris's company," so everybody's KPIs are going to be different. If you sell supplements in a warehouse, maybe it's bottles in bottles out, maybe it's the amount of time from an order to the amounts of time that it goes out to be distributed, maybe it's having zero tickets at the end of the day for customer support, whatever the case is.

I believe that every company should have... When you're just starting out, your metrics may be more than five, but as you begin to gain momentum, it should be as [inaudible 00:23:03] possible. Three to five is the magic spot for me. Revenue is always on there, and I break revenue down to not just overall gross revenue, but I want to know revenue to date this year, I want to know last year revenue to date, I want to know last year revenue this month, I want to know gross versus net revenue, so there's a few things that I want to know based on revenue. And then the second metric will always be something that has to do with bringing that revenue in, so I like metrics around. Revenue and reach, those are two big ones for me, and the other ones will probably be specific to the company. Reach being how many people we are reaching with our message.

Brian Webb:

Well, that is amazing. Ladies and gentlemen, he is Chris Guerriero. Chris, tell our audience what you're excited about, what you're thinking about, or you're focusing on now. And where's the best place for them to find you online, to connect with you, and engage with your services?

Chris Guerriero:

What am I focusing on right now? Right now, we're focusing a lot on just giving a lot of content online. We're building up a little bit of social presence online, so that answers I think, both questions, right? We're trying to give because it gives me the ability to not just do what I do inside of my companies and do what I do inside of some of the companies that we advise, but then to also go out there and help people who maybe can't afford to get into the advisory program or who are not ready for investments. We're building up YouTube primarily, but also LinkedIn and IG, and pretty much everything else. To find me, they could Google my name, pretty tough to spell, but hopefully, you can put that into the notes.

Brian Webb:

We will.

Chris Guerriero:

Otherwise, just go to just go to my website, chrisguerriero.com and that will give you a tremendous amount of information. In fact, there's a spot on that website. There's a direct link to @builttogrowreview.com or you just click the link on top of my website, and that'll give you access to a form that you could fill out, which shows you, after you answer a bunch of questions, what the holes are inside of your organization, what is actually breaking right now as you're growing that you may not know about and then at the end, it gives you solutions. It's totally free and it gives you all the solutions right there on the website to how you should, how most companies that we work with as an advisor or as an investor or inside of my portfolio, to break through those challenges as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Brian Webb:

Fantastic. Well, thanks for your generosity. Thanks for being on the show today. You're obviously making a huge impact on the world. It was great to have you on today, Chris.

Chris Guerriero:

Thanks, Brian. I appreciate it.

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