ET51- How to Scale Fast the Right Way with Vinnie Fisher
Hiring The Right Team And Building For Growth Is Key
As a true serial entrepreneur and an “entrepreneur facilitator” Vinnie Fisher knows how to grow big companies from the ground up and how to pick the right people along the way. He is an advocate of outsourcing the things that aren’t core to your business, hiring for alignment of values rather than for skills and letting the team build the processes the business needs to succeed.
Successful leaders know how to get the right people in the right place and then get out of the way. The ones that struggle are the ones who won’t delegate and have to micromanage everything. It was an interesting lesson in fast growth and scaling who has the track record to back up everything he is espousing on the show!
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Matt: Welcome to Entrepreneur Talk Podcast. I have the pleasure today of chatting with Vinnie Fisher of thetotalCEO.com. Vinnie is a consummate entrepreneur. He is a guy that helps turn entrepreneurs into rock stars. So, I am very happy to have you on the show today. Thanks for taking the time. Why don’t you just kind of jump in with a little bit of your background and how you got to where you’re at?
Vinnie: Hey! Thanks, Matt! Thanks for having me on your show. I love the fact that your show is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs. We need more of these. So, really kudos to that! I know you got a really busy business that you’re running at. So, giving back like these is huge and I am happy to support that in whatever way or themes we can do that. So, Vinnie Fisher, I am a corporate and tax layer by trade, serial entrepreneur. I had the great privilege of scaling and growing to 8-figure businesses. The one i x-zillion sold in 2010 was a direct response and publishing business that we grew almost an $110million a year in revenue. Then, I exited there and grew up a very large hosting company called Brian Host. We got to almost $40million a year in revenue. During my 10 year, I’ve had about 16,000 plus employees. I’ve learned a lot about the idea of scaling the business. What people know me as is a guy that will open and grow a business and very quickly, immediately work on the number 2 where I call the quarter back even business so I’m not trapped inside the organization. We continue to scale and grow. So, just recently, within the last couple of years, I’ve doing that for entrepreneurs and friends. I’ve been a mentor to some and many friends. As a matter of fact, so much have I been called CEOs to CEOs. That’s a very humble thing to be called. I appreciate it. we now have The Total CEO which its main vision is to do just that – grow quarterbacks, build the team and help un-trap the entrepreneur from parts of the businesses that forced them into doing that they shouldn’t be doing.
Matt: So, what do you think the common mistake is that somebody gets into? You know, they get into a business. They’ve got an idea of a product – maybe there’s a decent market fit or starting to get some sales. What are the things that trapped them and keep them small, keep them from growth? I’m sure there are some key points that are what tends to hold most people back.
Vinnie: Yeah. The magic that makes the entrepreneur that kind of gun-slinger, scrambler, pull-it-together, I have [inaudible 0:04:42.4] now been personally involved with so many business, either as a mentor or as a creator of it. I’ve learned few things. One is that, virtually, every entrepreneur, this is an aside open parenthetical, close parenthetical to the engineers of the world. We leave them in their own special box. But just about every other entrepreneur is either good at sales and/or marketing or they are product creator. So, with that magic, one of those talents, just using up both sales and marketing, I think that get lump together. But I found that an entrepreneur is good at one of those or really great at business denulment or they know how to craft the message either electronically or in writing to a consumer or they build great products. There’s almost no fine line in between that – American or North American Entrepreneur. So, what happens is, we get exactly what we want as an entrepreneur. We start selling something or people really want what we have to offer and the business grows beyond our shadow, whatever we’re able to handle. The next thing you know, because of the nature of a startup, you have to wear multiple hats. Next thing you know, you started doing a bunch of things in your organization and you hire 1 or 2 people who turn out to be a complete train wreck. You take the word back because you don’t trust anybody. Before you know it, you find yourself growing a business that a million, a million two, two million, and you could never break above it because you are stuck in this constant constraint of worrying about processes and systems or worrying about a business like yours, the back-end key metrics are running your accounting or you’re worried about the team that you need to build but you don’t know how to hire. So, what happens to that entrepreneur? [Inaudible 0:06:37.6] to get good at that. If you are like me, my major skill is business development. So, what would I do to solve my problems? I go get more gross revenue. You, the accountant, know that that just an absolute model for disaster. So, I did that in my company. We want a $40 million company that because of the nature of leverage of growing that kind of aspects, your margins are very tied on acquisitions. You might grow plus 5%, minus 5% depending on how you’re acquiring. It’s your life long term value that customers wouldn’t make you money. So, if you’re running at a minus 5% of $40 million dollars, that’s going to hurt real fast. So, what happens to the typical entrepreneur is we ignore the things that we’re not good at and our business start turning some major problems fast. That’s what I discovered that the way to solve that problem is to help the entrepreneur identify what needs the company has. Find some people who line up culturally with that entrepreneur. Get them on that team and start removing responsibilities that are critical to the organization. You can do that through virtualization or team building.
Matt: Do you think that … Well, how am I going to say this? To build the culture, I think you have to have the ability to be open to the idea of delegating. Is that something that can be trained? Because I’ve ran across lots of clients just don’t seem to want to let go and that’s what’s stopping them more than the ability to find somebody to build a team with. Is that something you can help people open their minds to? Or is it just sort of “Well, if you’re not open to it, you are kind of already out in the cold.”?
Vinnie: Well, I think you have to make some decisions. I think as an entrepreneur, you go through that process. It’s a mindset issue. If you really don’t want to let go of control of certain areas in your business while remaining in charge, then, maybe you should only run as small business that stays within the shadow you can catch. So, if you can’t get past that issue, you’re probably more mature as you say “You know what? Maybe I need to just run a small floor shop or have a small legal or accounting practice that is just based on me and not have these dreams and visions and scaling beyond myself and live within that structure.” Otherwise, what it usually is is people don’t truly want to be in control of everything. You just don’t trust anybody. They’ve been burning so badly. They don’t know how to actually expand beyond themselves. Its lacking the ability to do it more than it is. Rarely do I run into the control freak and no matter what will not give up anything. It’s usually trust and ignorance not the ability to let go.
Matt: So, from that perspective then, is the right step to create a process that you want somebody to execute for you and then hire somebody to execute? Or do you bring somebody in and let them manage creating the processes for the portion that you’re handing off to them?
Vinnie: So, if you are a business of one, then you should create your own processes and systems. If you’re already in the situation where you want to bring somebody on and you don’t have a process or system, I would always almost 100% of the time want the new person to build the process and system because it’s their job. Right? If we go build their job for them, they are going to be ineffective at doing it. So, to me, it starts with a different premise. We should not hire for competence over culture. So, the small entrepreneur, probably your audience are small business owners, they should think about this idea of culture over competence because the heartbeat of the business is the critical part of it. I think what happens with most small business is we have a wrong perception of culture. We think it’s just a community thing of the small business that everyone creates that culture. I’m here to tell you small business owners, you are the heartbeat. You are the culture. So, if you don’t get a good handle on being able to identify you’re God-given talents and you’re personality and traits that are important to you, understand and be able to put language to your heartbeat then, you’ll always going to hire wrong. But once you are able to put language and understand exactly the important parts that make you check, you’re ability to hire the right team with dramatically change with the 1 or 2 hires. Then, just to answer your question, once you’re at that base line correctly, we should always push down and delegate processes and systems to the one who’s going to do the job.
Matt: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Here I am, the entrepreneur of a million dollar business, I want to scale it to 10 or 15 million, 20 million and I hear about the total CEO, what is my next step? What do I do? What do I get out of it and what can I expect to learn from joining the organization? How does it even work? Is it virtual training? How does it work?
Vinnie: Yes. We have different pieces to it. so, most of our stuff has required us to grow as worked off of kind of mentoring and consulting where we come in and help specific entrepreneurs work on from hiring into identify the number 2 and growing beyond themselves. As we continue to expand, we will once services are coming on, group coaching ability, the ability to virtualize your back office, but the big offering that all of our clients want, the big deal is we have a brand underneath it called Total Team where we would help identify and train your number 2, 3 and 4, your executive team. We will do that through live workshops, virtualization and group performance. That’s the biggest need that all of our people want. All of our entrepreneurs not only do they not know how to find the right person but once they got them, they don’t know how to train them. So, we’re stepping into fight the good fight and do that.
Matt: So, it’s sort of a recruiting plus training process to get the right people in and then teach them how to be the top level management of a growing company?
Matt: And how rare are those people? Because that sounds like a pretty unusual skill set for the average employee that’s shopping for a new position?
Vinnie: Yeah. That’s the thing. We got that all wrong, Matt. All of us have it all wrong. It’s not just you and I talking about that but, there are only so many extraordinary people. I don’t consider myself one of them actually. The rest of us are just ordinary people who have the clear vision and understanding, line up culturally with the people we are working with and we’re given a chance to succeed because we then, using our exact talents to do what we want to do and we’re able to be more effective. The vast majority of people are ordinary. It’s actually a great thing to know because it makes hiring a lot easier when you are not hunting for the mythical dragon. You are really looking for an ordinary person where you’ve clearly what you need from them.
Matt: Yeah. Actually, I guess, I hadn’t considered that at the management level. I always heard that at the employee, the day-to-day employee level, you want to design systems that will work for the average employee, not the extraordinary employee because otherwise you have to stop the entire business with the extraordinary employee. The chance that that would happen is just almost zero.
Vinnie: Yeah. So, I would like to challenge your audience, you can write me e-mail. Flood my inbox. I don’t care. Hit me up on Facebook. I like to have a list of your extraordinary employees. I like to see people call them out. What you’re going to find out is they are home-grown good ordinary people. This isn’t about .. I want to make sure I’m real clear. I don’t put systems in front of people. I think good ordinary people are what make businesses drive and [inaudible 0:14:51.2] they have to be at the right spot, the Jim Collins thing being at the right seat. I believe in home-grown people. Home-grown people can do wonderful stuff in the business. Here’s why. Because they are culturally lined up and their heartbeat beats like the owner, that person, to them, in that setting, becomes extraordinary. But they are not universally extraordinary. They are like everybody else. That’s why it’s a mythical dragon. It’s actually a lie. We’re hunting for something that doesn’t exist. These are great people who want to work hard. They are just misaligned. It’s not because of competence. I didn’t know how to be a lawyer. You have an MBA and a BA, you didn’t know how to run a bookkeeping business until you did it. So, competence is this forever thing we’re chasing. I think you can go to [inaudible 0:15:43.2] when you want to virtualize, or outsource. But growing team members? It doesn’t work that way. I did not know how to practice corporate law until I get it. But I’m aligned up with my mentor and his heartbeat and why he cared about hospitality and commitment to not lying and honoring what we said we were going to do. These are critical important things to me. How you can test that is a real simple exercise that I can throw you and you could put up a link to your people. So, start developing your heartbeat because as soon as you know that, your ability to hire good people becomes amazingly more effective.
Matt: So, I guess that’s a good .. We keep coming back to the point. So, I guess a good next question is how do you layout and design “I know what I want our core principles to be.”? But how do I lay that out and communicate that and make sure that’s at the essence of who I’m hiring so that I’m hiring good people who could become extraordinary employees because they are aligned? How do I get that lay that out?
Vinnie: I’ll break that down for you a little bit. I kind of like the messy question because it is a messy topic. Here’s how I would start that. I already spoke with your audience about the idea of the base line, understanding your heartbeat, but what does that mean? What I would do is I would really question mission and values by people. If they are not done for, put it together in this structure. So, I’ve learned over hundreds of employees. Like I said, I don’t think we’re at 2 thousand yet but I know we did count 1,600. I had a few hires and a substantial over [inaudible 0:17:34.0]. I know some common things that have happened. What I know is this the mission and values of our business are clear. Like what you want to accomplish as a company should be very simple and clear that you can state in 1 or 2 sentences. If you can’t, you may not have a selling or value proposition that’s clear and simple and focused. But parking that on the side, I think a lot of folks go and take values of like it’s almost like a hallmark card. You go look at some things that are cool. You want your company to stand for these principles. I would encourage the entrepreneur to scrap those and sit down and list 15 traits about you. Let’s have 15 traits about yourself and simply identify how you interact with these to a team you have or other people, vendors and see what’s critically important to you. For example, Mine Republish. You can look at them. They are critical to me because who you give the biggest benefit of the doubt to? Yourself, right? So, you know you screw up. You know you’re going to scram when you’re going to do things. So, when someone acts in your heartbeat like yours, you’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt. So, for Vinnie Fisher, it is critical that I’m surrounded by people that are personally accountable. What’s the other side of that? If you are finger pointing, you are blaming external forces for why you lack performance, gigantic big deal for me. I have few more of those. I just want to use that as an example. When I interview, I know the 5 things that matter to me. My core intention, my number2 and my executive team in our companies line up at those 5 things that matter the most to me. If they don’t align in almost all of them, there is no real great area there. There are wrong fit. People say all the time, “Vinnie, why are your executive teams [inaudible 0:19:31.6]? Are you that great as finding extraordinary people?” No, I’m that good at identifying my heartbeat and only finding people and willing to hand the keys to the kingdom to the ones who line up with me on that. So, what do I do? I interview in a reverse attitude. I have those things armed with me. So, if I’m going to hire a customer service person, a manager of customer service, it’s a little higher level. I’m interviewing this nice lady hypothetically called Carol and I start asking her questions about her competence so I can find out she can do the basic things. But then, I stop. I think of this concept as a reverse hiring technique where I now hiring for no. as oppose to being consumed by the fact is good at issue resolutions and can handle customers and people like her on the phone, that’s how most of us hire. “You can do the job. Great! Come on in!” Once competence about 90 days down the road runs its course, we start falling apart because of all other issues. I want to know how she response, what’s her biggest failure she ever had in her office? And whose fault was it? When she start blaming everybody by taking personal accountability, that might not be a big deal to somebody else but it is to the guy she’s going to work with. That’s my point. This is unique heartbeat to every small business. And your value sir, should be those 5 things. So, for me, its commitment. We run in our service business. I go to doctors and [inaudible 0:21:04.2] when I’m late for my appointment by a few minutes that I haven’t heard from somebody. That same issue exists in our businesses. If we promise something and we don’t deliver it, we haven’t communicating while we have it, I literally care more about that than most issue. That’s not a big of a deal to some other people. So, I knew this stuff about myself. It’s important when I hire that these are non-negotiable. I’m looking for a reason not to have somebody on my team. When we do this, when we do suspend certain hiring rules, [inaudible 0:21:37.2] business that you have to take some risks but if we are in that mode of suspending the hiring practices, then every time we do this we’re bedding very close to 100% people that are going to stick and grow and look like what that all outsiders would call extraordinary.
Matt: Wow! That’s definitely a detailed process. But I think just sitting here and listening to it, I think it makes a ton of sense. I think you’re right. If the default is hiring decision is “Do they have the skills to do the job? Do they seem like a reasonable person and we don’t take it to the next step? Are they good culturally? Do they have the same value system? Will they respond the same way in a crisis or whatever? In extraordinary situations, are they going to be able to make the same decisions we would probably make?” That comes down to “Are they kind of built from the same frame set of ideals and personality?”
Vinnie: I love to add to that, just like a little qualifier. I was raised in an environment where lying is kind of an accepted practice. So, I was trapped to kind of posture and put yourself in a best lie, not that they’d be destructively lie but to position in a way that maybe isn’t accurate. I always thought that was okay. That’s a big deal for me to fight through that not being okay. I recently have a team member who was okay with positioning white lies because it was better in her mind for the business and literally got caught and do a weird situation with a client. So, [inaudible 0:23:19.4]. We completely realize that she was okay with white lies and I wasn’t. That’s a big thing. I’m not talking about competence whether she was getting the work done and whether she was able to reconcile a bank account. We were dealing with a core value issue. And so, can she strike out on one and line up on our other four? Sure. There’s going to be grace and mercy. But, I would encourage people that there’s got to be this list that near and dearly. I beg you. If everyone start and did this and look at the people that they’ve been burned with the most, it’s rarely competence and its almost always cultural fits.
Matt: Yeah. That definitely makes a lot of sense. Just thinking about this is not my first business, I’ve had a lot of nowhere near 1,600 but probably in hundreds of employees in various businesses over time. I would think if I had to look back that really didn’t work out more than anything, it was kind of a fit more so than they just couldn’t add or they just screwed up basic directions. It was just a fit from that perspective. That higher level personality type. What they were willing to accept vs. what I was willing to accept. It just wasn’t the same. That was the cost of it not working out more than anything.
Vinnie: I have a friend of mine, a great business owner, one who runs a wonderful business. He cares about absolute excellence in everything you deliver. I know that sounds very cliché. To him, to deliver a client worth anything, it better look as close to perfect as possible. How does that play out for him? If you hand him a resume that’s wrinkled, you might not actually get an interview. That’s how much it matters to him. Quite honestly, that didn’t occur to be a big deal. You wouldn’t be disqualified in an interview because of that didn’t occur to me a giant issue. That’s why it is different for each of us.
Matt: Yeah! I can definitely see. Sort of back to your white lie example, some people run things that way. That’s okay. That’s sort of baked in on how we do things as long as nobody’s getting hurt at it, white lies are okay. Other people would absolutely not accept that on any level. It’s just differences [crossover 0:25:59.8]
Vinnie: That’s why we’re not looking for this mythical dragon, the extraordinary person that can be plugged in to any business. If you really share that analogy all the way through, look at professionals in sports who excel in one thing but not in another. It’s because they are positioned correctly not because suddenly their skills got better in a different environment. So, this is [inaudible 0:26:21.8] finding this mythical extraordinary person. That’s why if we simplify these things, we really bring this down to its smallest denominator. We could absolutely help thousands of entrepreneurs really get this right.
Matt: Yeah. I completely agree. I think that’s where so many of them – to go back to an earlier point in our discussion – I think that is where so many of them stall because they try and hire somebody that’s probably not the right guy. They probably don’t spend a whole lot of time training them and then they are disappointed in the results. Then, they have the attitude of “Well, there are no good employees. I got to do everything myself. I might as well check everything. I got to do all myself because I always have to check everything anyway.” As a result, you can’t grow past your own abilities to work 60 or 70 hours a week. That’s where they tap out. It’s all from just having the wrong mindset and the wrong approach from the beginning not because, as we both know, there are no any good employees. Obviously, not true.
Vinnie: Yeah. There you go.
Matt: Awesome! Well, I appreciate you taking the time to share all that with me. Those are really good insights and not something that because of your experience and having done this so many times and coach so many people through it, it’s not a perspective I get to hear a lot. I don’t think a lot of people, my audience, too either. So, I appreciate you sharing that. For people who are looking for more info or to get in touch with you, where should they go?
Vinnie: You can go to thetotalCEO.com. In the contact us section, I’m very accessible. Vinnie fisher, social media wise, I am very accessible. Those are the best ways really. I mean, I have a personal e-mail. I’m really very accessible to people. It’s going to be hard to have a vision to help un-trap 10,000 entrepreneurs and not be accessible. That’s why you should probably go to thetotalCEO.com and reach out either We Care At or our Contact Us page and one of our team members would be on and connect you directly with me if that’s something that’s important to you.
Matt: Awesome! Well, I appreciate your time and sharing your expertise and knowledge. I’m going to go right down my traits so I can get started on that.
Vinnie: Good! I love it. I really do appreciate what you’re doing. This doesn’t have to be [inaudible 0:28:41.4] I know this in your language. You’re not the only one saying that it’s real. The more we can take this scary monsters out of the closets, I think that what people don’t realize is that the business that you and I work with, make up almost 65% of the North American Market Place. So, we had signed up for a big burden as entrepreneurs. I think if we can actually start tackling some of these real issues, we can make a big change in a lot of businesses that don’t have to die unnecessarily.
Matt: Yeah. Of even if they are making it but every day is a struggle. Right? Every day is putting out fires and running around pulling your hair out. It doesn’t have to be like that.
Vinnie: It doesn’t have to be miserable. Right? Its passion or purpose. I always say I can get passion about my bowel movement but my passion is going to fall off when another misery says I’m not doing what I like feel like impactable to other people. So, a lot of times we could be at a store hungry and buy a bunch of crap in our card only because we’re getting deluded or [inaudible 0:29:50.8] with a bunch of things that are completely necessary.
Matt: Totally true. Awesome! Well, thank you very much, Vinnie. I appreciate your time.
Vinnie: Thanks, Matt! I really appreciate today.