Stefan and Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach talk about why they love working with entrepreneurs! Discover what makes a great, engaged entrepreneur, why personal and organizational goal alignment means an unlimited future, how ambitious entrepreneurs can grow their businesses exponentially through the power of engagement – and positively impact global economic growth. This episode also provides you with simple, actionable strategies to engage team members in the process of creating your Engaged Organization™.
Stefan: Hello there, this is Stefan Wissenbach from Engagement Multiplier, and I am here today again with Dan Sullivan from Strategic Coach for our podcast series called the Engaged Organization. Today, we’re going to talk about why we love entrepreneurs.
Dan: That’s right. This is really interesting, Stefan, because you and I who operate in different organizational worlds, you in the Engagement Multiplier, and myself and the Strategic Coach, we’re in complete agreement on this point, and I think that anyone listening to us when we explain why it is that the focus here is on entrepreneurial business owners and their organizations exclusively your overlay to this.
Stefan: Absolutely. I’m a bit bias because as an entrepreneur myself, and I’m passionate about entrepreneurialism, and I spent my whole working life working with entrepreneurs. In the very early days, some 25 years ago, when I started my consulting firm, I started consulting just with entrepreneurs, wealth creators, because I love the contribution they were making, how they were in control of their futures, how they were, how they were creating jobs, and how they were able to make decisions. That’s evolved over the last 25 years. Having spent 20 or so years helping entrepreneurs to become more engage with their own personal futures, we also started to help their companies to become more engaged.
The interesting thing about entrepreneurs is they normally have tremendous vision and they have tremendous focus. One of the things that I noticed 20 years ago was that the business that I ran, they wouldn’t dream of running it without a business plan or important projects, they wouldn’t want that ran without a project plan; and yet, the only written plan they have for themselves was a written plan for when they were dead which is a will. What we started doing with them was helping them to become engage with their desired futures and helping them to create a written plan for whilst they were alive.
That then translated into how they could also then help their businesses or create an engagement in businesses has become a real hot topic over the last ten years as everyone wakes up to the transformational impact of having an engaged organization. I’ve, as an entrepreneur, naturally dealt with entrepreneurs, and continued to deal with entrepreneurs, and love dealing with entrepreneurs. That’s my side of it. Dan, what about you?
Dan: Very similar. Mine starts in the early 1970s, and I just jumped out into the marketplace after having spent number of years with a big global advertising agency where I was a lonely copywriter, and very, very cheap hire, I might say but what I noticed when I focused on developing my coaching career that there was a radical difference in coaching someone who may have been a very, very important manager in a corporation, may have been an executive in a government organization, nonprofit organization on the one hand, all those three on the one hand, and then on the other hand someone who actually own their own business.
I just noticed it wasn’t a matter of degree, it was a matter of kind. This was a totally different kind of creature, and it had to do with ownership, that they actually owned it, which meant that their notion of their rewards was much higher, and their notion of the investments that they were going to have to make and possibly the risks that they were going have to take were much greater, and they were personal, and they couldn’t avoid accountability. On the other side a lot of the success in those other organizations is the degree to which you can avoid the accountability, and then the entrepreneurial world, it’s the degree to which you embraced the accountability.
I think that that to me is the total thing, and the kind of conversation you can have with the entrepreneur because that’s really what we want to talk about here is total because if you are talking about the future, there is no other future besides something that they’ve already embraced legally, and financially, and they committed themselves to it. I think that’s the real reason I have their full attention when I’m talking to them about their future because their personal future and their business future are exactly the same thing. They are putting together a resume so that they can move someplace else. Their resume is the organization itself.
Stefan: Absolutely. We’ve noticed over the years that, in fact now, our focus is, within Engagement Multiplier, we want only to work with businesses that have identifiable ownership, where there’s bravery amongst owners and leaders, and where there’s a commitment and appreciation of the power of engagement and the commitment to follow through. I have had some experiences or several experiences, and I’m not going to name and shame very large corporates, but we have a number that we dealt with and we don’t deal with them anymore where very quickly we noticed that actually you may get a directive at a senior level from a CEO or a senior partner to actually say that wherever we’re committed to engagement we would like to work and want to help our employees to become more engaged, and actually very quickly that energy very rapidly dissipated.
Actually as you move through the organization, you very quickly find that the whole thing breaks down because actually, in many cases, everyone, they’re out for themselves, they’re not connected around the common purpose, an engaged purpose, and it becomes very, very, very hard for the employees, the people at the frontline that everyone wants to be engaged to even get the attention that they deserve.
Dan: I think one thing is that even though the business have actually created an entrepreneurial organization, it’s really quite difficult, and lot of people really don’t appreciate it because entrepreneurs, for the most part, are self-made people. Yourself, you, Stefan, and I come from backgrounds where there was no privileges or advantages that I was actually taking. I wasn’t taking advantage of anything. I wasn’t born into anything which in some way retrospectively was actually an advantage because I didn’t have anything to live up to. I’ve actually created it in the marketplace and the vast majority of entrepreneurs who are in the Strategic Coach, it’s exactly the same story.
Once you’ve established yourself, and you’ve gone through the critical trial and error, and there’s a lot of failure too, entrepreneurs deal with failure in a totally different way, there is a sense that you have almost an unlimited future. If your personal goals and your company goals are consistent and aligned with each other, then you can make promises and you can make commitments to everyone that surround you that this isn’t something that is going to be for 3 years or 5 years, this could be for 25 or 50 years.
I think it’s that ability to commit lawn is the defining difference between entrepreneurial owners and the leaders about their organizations that they have no guarantee that they can make any commitment even about their personal involvement in their organizations. There’s no predictability about their future; and therefore, they can’t make commitments that other people could really attach their lights to.
If I tell one of my team members, “I just want you to know, 25 years down the road I’m going to be coaching a Strategic Coach workshop, and it’s going to be at a higher, level and for a higher price but I can guarantee you I am going to be there, and I’m thinking everyday about my fitness, my health, my energy, and my constant increase of creativity, I can make you that commitment that I am going to be here.” That’s very important for them because to a certain extent I’ve given them a sense or reassurance about what otherwise might be a great deal about worry in their life. If they like the deal here, if they like Coach, then they can also plot out much longer than other people who, say, work for organizations whose survival may not be guaranteed in the marketplace. That’s an interesting thing.
Stefan: It removes a tremendous amount of uncertainty that would otherwise exist in a team member’s mind, doesn’t it? It gives them the ability to, with that removed, make plans themselves, become more engaged, and actually start to align what they are doing with what the organization is doing. It’s interesting because not every team member.
I think, just a bit of a tangential point here but I think the great entrepreneurs that we deal with realize that not every single team member is going to want to stay on the bus for the entire duration of the journey. The really great entrepreneurs get that, and embrace that, and say, “Whilst you’re here, for the time that you’re here, let’s work together, and let’s make sure we’re all aligned on achieving the purpose that we have, but because I’m engaged entrepreneur, share with me what it is that you really want to do to the extent that I’m able to, I’ll help and facilitate that happening.”
What then happens is you have a really engaged team member who gives all whilst they’re here because you’re helping them achieve what’s really important to them and they probably even hire their replacement, they probably even train their replacement, and you have a business that runs much more seamlessly. I think that stability of providing that environment where you are saying, “I’m going to be around for the future, this is what we’re doing,” and then facing up to the fact that for those that want to stay and those that want to continue to be a part of it, you’re going to embrace that. For those that don’t, you’re also going to embrace that. It just enables you to run your organization so much more effectively.
Dan: Stefan, I’m going to play the part here of the devil, and the devil is coming to you with a deal. It’s a very, very good deal. I am the CEO of a public corporation, and perhaps we’re in a trip, and you just are in a situation where you’re chatting with this individual about what he does and what you do, and you tell him about the Engagement Multiplier and what you do, and he says, “I’ve been looking for something like this, and I want you to know that any check that you would want to have for this, I can write that check, and we need this in our organization. If I like it, not only will I put in this organization, but when I move on to another organization, I’ll take the same platform with me. I can see this one of my outstanding advantages in going anywhere with your tool. Just say the word, I can make the decision. Just say the word, I can write the check.” You would say to that individual?
Stefan: Is this my coach’s way of getting me on audio commitment and get committing to something? It’s very simple what I would say because I had this conversation the other evening. I just happened to be in Chicago at the Peninsula Hotel, and I just got in on the late afternoon flight, and I hopped into the bar of the Peninsula. Tim, the bar man there, we had a lovely chat, and the youngest 50-year-old that you’ll ever see. Sat next to me was a Mexican couple on my right, and on my left was a guy from a large corporate. We just got talking, and we got talking about what I did, and we got talking about Engagement Multiplier.
Roger, the Mexican is a very successful entrepreneur with five businesses, and Roger is now in the process of becoming a client. The chap on the left wanted to pursue the discussions, and I said it probably wasn’t appropriate at this particular point in that journey.
To answer your question a bit more, why did I do that? I did that because Engagement Multiplier at the moment as a business, all of our experience and research shows us that the organizations that respond best to the program are those where there’s identifiable ownership, they care about engagement, and they’re prepared to take action. That’s a very, very big market. We look after companies that typically range from having ten up to a circle of thousands employees. That’s a big enough marketplace for me to make a very big difference with Engagement Multiplier. We don’t need a bigger pool than that.
I think one of the golden rules of business is focus. I think you said to me once that the smaller the niche, the bigger the market but if a very large corporate came along and said, “We wanted to implement this,” now the answer is no. in the future, we may one day have the capability to be able to go in and assess whether or not a large corporate body is capable of following through with the value that’s to live with by the program.
I had a conversation with the team the other day about this because the health service came up, and other large organizations. Some of them government-run where there’s just unfortunately a huge amount of disengagement and a huge amount of waste. One of the team members said because they’re passionate, my team about engagement which is what you’d expect, “Wouldn’t it be great one day if we could go in and help these organizations too because there’s people, there’s humans working there too that like to be engaged?” I said, “One day, yes.”
When they’re on the airplane, what they say to you is, in the event of an emergency and the oxygen come out of the ceiling, I said, “Put your own on first.” I said, “That’s what we’re going to do we’re going to do. We’re going to help entrepreneurs and business owners that are in our space, and one day, yes, it would be great as Engagement Multipliers grows for us to be able to, I believe we will have as we have already an expanded team of experts on engagement, and I’m sure we could go into these larger corporates and help. That maybe great fun and very rewarding for the team members here but right now, the smaller the niche, the bigger the market. Our focus is on businesses with identified ownership and brave entrepreneurs that care about engagement.”
Dan: It’s really interesting if you look at any economy. Countries are graded on separate economy. There’s the global economy, but then there’s the component parts of the economy, and that’s usually done on a country-by-country basis. There’s a direct relationship between the power of any national economy and the amount of new business formation in that country. If there’s almost like one way you could look at it, it’s like a vast spring of water that’s coming up from somewhere deep in the earth but it’s at the top of a mountain, and the spring is going down in all directions, so there’s rivers coming down. The more action there is the more possibility there’s going to be for corporations to form.
Corporations always form after entrepreneurial business formation. The really important crucial thing there about whether an economy is going to be very, very vibrant, very, very rapidly growing is the number of small organizations entrepreneurially owned that become big entrepreneurially on the organization. It’s the movement from small to big.
What fascinated me about the Engagement Multiplier when you first proposed it was that, for the most part, the barrier is to getting big for a small entrepreneurial organization usually don’t involve skills, they usually don’t involve the importance of their product, the value of their product, or their service. It’s an internal dynamic inside the organization where everybody in the organization is given permission to grow. There’s a companywide permission. We’re going to grow as an organization but you get to grow where you want to grow inside the organization.
It seems to me that as this takes form in the world, the Engagement Multiplier, and I’ve told you this right from the beginning because I’m a big history nut and I look at all these things that if you had to pick a spot in the 21st Century world where you could make the greatest contribution to the overall welfare of everything going on in the world, there’s no more important point that you give the tools to ambitious entrepreneurs to grow their companies, and to keep growing their companies, and almost have an unlimited future of growth. If you could provide them with a tool, a platform which would more or less guarantee that more than any possible other thing, that would be the single most important economic resource that you could give to the whole world. I actually think that that’s what you’re doing here. I think what you’re doing right here in terms of economic growth on the planet is the single most important factor.
Stefan: Thank you, Dan. Thank you. It’s humbling to hear but wonderful. I love how with the entrepreneurs that we deal with, they’re able to just take action. It’s learning, followed by action very quickly. I don’t think you get that as much in large corporates and you end up with … I’ve noticed this when actually we’re talking to perspective clients. We got off and talking to the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur makes a decision very quickly. I get it. They go, “I’m in.” If you end up dealing with HR, a person that runs the HR department, it’s a different set of motivations because if they make the decision to put in the Engagement Multiplier Program, what’s going through their mind is, “If this does not work, I’m not going to look great.”
It becomes a different set of motivations and I think that’s very relevant when it comes to the difference between a corporate mindset versus an entrepreneurial mindset. Brave entrepreneurs will take the learning that comes from scoring engagement and getting feedback from a team, and then they will act on it. Quite often, if you’ve noticed, so many entrepreneurs, they can almost turn on a dime and actually take action; whereas, the larger corporates tend to take a lot more time to make decisions, they tend to be slower to act, to intervene much more in the way of committees, and meetings, and things like that before anything and before anything happens.
Dan: Can I ask you a question about that because you’ve been through the sales cycle now with a whole dozens and dozens over the last couple of months of entrepreneurial companies coming on board to the Engagement Multiplier. What is typically from your getting their interest to the first survey being done, what is the time frame? Because I tell people, you could say yes today, and it would be a reality by the time that I talk to you the next time when you come back in 90 days to the workshop because we operate on a quarterly basis in Strategic Coach but 90 days is a no brainer, but within that 90 days how quickly could it happen?
Stefan: How quickly it could happen is literally within about a week. We’re fully automated and everything, we built this wonderful digital platform that manages everything. We can get set up literally in a matter of just a few days. What tend to drive how quickly the program gets launched with an entrepreneur is us encouraging the entrepreneur to kick it off right.
If all of a sudden, one day, every member of your organization simply gets an invitation to participate in an Engagement Multiplier survey out of the blue, you’re not going to get same value than if you spent some time explaining to the organization why it’s important to create an engaged organization. The benefits to them of being part of an engaged organization and ultimately a self-multiplying company, and actually help them to understand why you’re doing it, the motivations behind it, and setting out for them what could happen but also, reassuring them of your intent to actually take action, reinforcing the fact that it is absolutely confidential and anonymous, and you want them to be totally authentic in their answers because if you do that …
Incidentally we provide every single client with step-by-step guides, and we make this whole process really easy for you to do. We even give you the templates for the emails, and the launch messages, and everything. We’ve got it done for your system to make it very easy for any entrepreneur to launch but it does require, if you want to launch it really successfully, some form of communication from the owners to the organization.
That’s what tends to drive how quickly we can get out there because it might makes sense to wait for three weeks until there’s a companywide meeting and we can be up and running in literally days but we would rather that you wait until after you’ve have the opportunity to announce it properly because then, you’re going to get the best impact. When you get your first set of survey results back and when you get your first scores, there’s a certain amount of eagerness to see where did we score, but also what will happen is if you’ve launched it properly, you’ll end up with the best comments. You’ll get this authentic considered remarks from the team members because in my experience, team member in an organization do want the business to be better. If you ask them to give feedback on how they can improve things, they will gladly do so.
Dan: One of the things I found was really, really crucial, there’s a score, you get an overall score of how the overall organization grades itself from the standpoint of engagement but for me, the equally important score coming from the Engagement Multiplier is actually the participation rate. We had a very interesting experience because the first time we did it, and let’s say there were about 110 individuals who were eligible to actually they were plugged into the system, we had 83% participation which I thought was really great first time through.
Then, we got a little wakeup call because the second time we did it, we got a 69%. Every piece of information, whether it’s a positive score or a negative score, is absolutely a valuable experience. I got that 69% back, and I said, “I wonder if they think this another one of those things that Dan and Babs get really enthusiastic about but they don’t really have a lot of follow through.” It was a neat thing to do.
What I did is that I put both myself and Babs on high alert for the next quarter saying, “We’re really serious about this. There’s no reason, it takes ten minutes for you to go through a survey. We give you ten working days to do it. You’ve got the ten minutes, and we really want to know how you’re looking at your engagement level, what you observed as the engagement level of everyone else in the organization, including Babs and myself, and we’re really serious. Your vote really, really counts for us.” We went from 69% to 97% the next time. I considered that improvement in the participation rate and the survey equally important with the actual what the engagement score was.
Then, it was funny because this shows there is an interesting mentality that goes along with the score. I said, “Next time, I want 99% participation.” I said, “99%, why would I go for 99%?” I want everybody. Everybody, I want you to vote, you to vote, but I don’t want you to vote so we got 99%. I said, “Let’s go for 100%.” I’m putting a lot of push during the period coming up to the fourth survey to actually get 100%. Let’s just get 100%. Let’s get 100% once so that we know what a 100% feels like. Then, let’s get 100% from then on. My sense is that the participation rate will drive the other rate, the steps that we take to even increase our seriousness and our intentionality about the importance of the survey every quarter will actually come across as higher engagement for the entire organization.
Stefan: Absolutely. I think they feed off each other, Dan, because one of things that I think a lot of team members suffer from an organization is survey fatigue. There’s another survey, or something happens, and quite often in a lot of businesses, those surveys don’t necessarily result in anything meaningful. Quite often, the employees don’t even get to know what the results were. One of the things with Engagement Multiplier that’s very important is the minute the survey closes, the individuals can look on their own dashboard and they can see how the company scored, and they can see how they score compares to the company.
They’re immediately getting that instant gratification forming out to see for their input what the output is. I think that also to avoid survey fatigue or to avoid fatigue with any program like this and to keep participation rates up is the minute you consistently acknowledge, give it prominence, and then take action. Actually, as you’ve done today when we were talking before today’s podcast, we’re talking about some of the initiatives that have taken place in the business as a result of the program, and some of them quite small big impact, everyone gets to see that. Everyone gets to see the new screen in the coffee shop. Everyone gets to see the things that are happening around the business that absolutely come from people being listened to and respected. Then, people, they want to participate more. It’s a self-fulfilling thing. People want to take part because it’s doing good.
Dan: Along with that, I’d like to just stress that the urgency that I felt and Bab’s felt to get the participation score up was there in a way that I can’t imagine any corporate CEO or government CEO walking around and actually talking to people individually and say, “Look, this is going to be with us forever. I want you to know that every quarter for the next 25 years, we’re going to be doing this survey. Let’s get to the top right away and stay at the top.” I can’t imagine anyone who isn’t the actual owner of a company actually having that sense of urgency and intensity. The reason is I’m here for the long run and I want life to be great for me but I also want life to be great for you.
Stefan: That’s how entrepreneurs tend to be when they want to run engaged organizations. It’s fabulous. Thank you, Dan. It’s been another very interesting discussion. I hope you enjoyed listening to this today. If you’d like some further information on the Engagement Multiplier Program, please visit engagementmultiplier.com. We look forward to coming back with another podcast soon on how to create an engaged organization.