Dave Quick, the CEO of Helping Bulls, leadership and sales coach, Vistage Chair and Culture Index Licensee. We talk about Dave’s career, his sources of inspiration, hiring philosophy and insights to developing your company’s culture.
Listen to the podcast here
The Magnet that Compels and Repels with Dave Quick
Our guest is Dave Quick, the CEO of Helping Bulls Thrive in China Shops. He started life as an US Navy officer. He was a surface warfare officer in the US Navy. He was there for seven years. And then he went into big pharma and he worked for companies like Bayer and Roche, really big corporations. And he was in the sales and marketing arena. And then he became the sales and marketing, senior vice president of sales and marketing of a fast going medical supply distribution company. And I’m sure he’s got a couple of stories about that.
And then he’s also a two-time CEO, I guess a three-time CEO because he’s CEO of his own business. He’s also a seven-year Vistage Chair. He has been culture index licensee for almost as long. And obviously he works for his clients. He coaches CEOs. He helps with sales training and leadership training. Dave and I go way back. We met almost seven years ago. And I remember we were part of a group of 50 former CEOs who were trying to become Vistage chairs, the facilitators of CEO peer groups.
And I saw Dave the first day, I already recognized him that he’s the guy I want to get too close to because he had an extraordinary presence. He was really working the room. He had a really perceptive eye for issues, asked penetrating questions. So, after the training, I caught him up and I was thinking about how I’m gonna convince him to become my coach, because I knew if I get Dave on board, I’m going to be fine. So, I don’t know what I did. I probably had a beer beforehand, but somehow, I managed to talk him into becoming my coach. And that’s been seven years ago, and we’re calling each other every week or two and having a conversation. So very excited to have you, Dave, and welcome. And my first question, I mean, unless you want to share something or to greet the recipient.
Oh, it’s fun. Or Steve, as many others call you. Fantastic introduction. It makes me wonder who we’re talking about. But anyway, enjoy spending time with you and certainly have over the last seven years. It’s been awesome. So, it’s great to see where each of us have started and where we’ve gotten to, it’s remarkable in many ways.
Great to have you. So, I introduced you, but I mean, what is your origin story? I mean, how did you get there and why? And how did you make your decisions? You’ve been in different leadership positions. You’ve been CEO of a couple of companies. What brought you to this point in your career? Can you share with us?
Life was always full of kind of changes and turns. But at my core, I remember early on, even in middle school, with the desire to coach. So, I’ve always had that kind of teach-coach. Both of my parents at different times have been teachers. My mom is a school superintendent now, college professor, helping other school administrators become superintendents. My dad was an Air Force officer, so that was the military background for me.
But as a third career for him, he owned an Ace Hardware store for many years, and then he moved on and teaches emotionally handicapped kids now. So, there was always this kind of drive to help others to coach. I started giving saxophone lessons as a junior high kid to a younger junior high kid, and that’s persisted throughout my career, both coaching sports, helping as a tutor in the Connecticut prison system.
And so, when Vistage called, post kind of my CEO gigs and said, hey, are you interested in this? I was remarkably so, and dubious about what it was and trying to understand how Vistage works and what is it. But at my core, always have had this desire to go teach and coach. While at the Naval Academy, the second time, now as a professor versus a student, I went back and got my master’s degree in education. There was a strong desire at that point, when I retired from the military was the thinking at the time, I’ll go be a high school math teacher and a basketball coach or baseball coach.
And so, there’s always been that element for me to help other people to learn and help guide. And it’s been remarkable to do that. I probably get more joy out of seeing, I just had my Vistage meeting today via Zoom, and I have a young gentleman whose business is growing and flourishing, and he was like, I’m buying a new house, my business is just exploding. And, you know, Steve, you know, as we do this work, there’s something pretty special about that that just says, hey, I had a small part in that.
And I love the impact you have across broad businesses. My mom always kind of instilled this, make your small corner of the world a better place. And this work allows you to do that. It allows you to help business owners. If you can help them, their businesses thrive, their teams thrive, their people thrive, their community thrive. And it’s just a neat, neat thing. So that’s probably more than anything. And there’ve been a lot of twists and turns that we can talk about more today, but I’ve really loved this aspect and point in my life where I’m helping other people move toward this concept of thriving. And it’s been awesome.
Well, it’s definitely very rewarding. And I think the reason you’re good at it is probably part of the reason is that you really love to do it. So, when we get on the phone, I always feel like you’re 100% all in, in our conversation. And that’s actually a very empowering feeling to have if someone is really focused on you and really wants to help you. Even just the feeling itself is already uplifting. So definitely, I think you’re in the right place.
So, you know, coaching and leadership training and sales training, this is basically a professional service. You help other professionals, you lift them. What do you, and this podcast is a professional services podcast. So, I want to ask you, what do you feel makes a professional services business different from other businesses, which are maybe other business service or distribution or manufacturing or whatever else? How is it different? How is, what are the peculiarities of it?
Well, I mean, I think at the essence, all business is similar in some way, but this professional service businesses, can you help other businesses understand their business and help them press forward? So, we, as the name indicates, we help other professionals get better. And I think that can be in a wide array of professional services. I mean, there’s all the traditional legal, tax, there’s plenty, but there’s also this aspect of leadership or culture or part of our business is how do you hire more effectively.In the realm of professional services, success is not just about crafting your future; it's about illuminating the path for others to find their way. Click To Tweet
But in the end, it’s can you elevate businesses and help them see a better future. So that’s different than seeing your own better future as a company. And that really our success depends on how well we can transform other businesses versus our own. And there’s pluses and minuses to that, of course, which is you don’t have as much control. You can influence, you know, I joke with many of the clients that I spend time with every day that for a full day, that I’m here for one out of 22 working days. And that the other 21 days, you guys have to do the hard work. You have to stay on top of what you’re trying to do, be intentional, press forward.
And that’s hard to leave that lasting influence because we don’t have that day-to-day contact with our clients like we do our employees. And so, it’s just a different aspect, but in many of the same ways, we have to deliver quality service, we have to leave an impact, we have to understand where we’re going and kind of our vision of future. So, there’s many aspects that are the same. I’ll call it the basic business principles. But how we enact or live every day is different than we would if we were running a manufacturing company and making metal parts, for instance. It’s just a different world. There we have contact every day. We can see our people. We can see the product. We can hold it. And there’s a recurring daily impact that isn’t really present in this type of work, at least in most instances.
So, what made you want to be an owner of your own business? You were running, you know, you’re pretty successful. I’d really like your story about how you grew that medical supply company. It was like an astronomical growth. So can you share that story?
Sure. So before that, if I look at what was appealing of being a business owner, there’s a bunch in my own background, so my family’s background. My first job was at 11, working in my grandmother’s retail stores, who at one point was my grandmother and grandfather. They went through a bitter divorce. They split multiple companies and they had locations in Chicago and in the middle of nowhere, Indiana, a little town called Soto, Indiana.
And that was my first taste for business, for family business, seeing how that business gave freedom to a bunch of people. It was my grandmother, my great aunt, my father, my uncle, and that business provided for many people and gave great flexibility. When the business started, they were so lucky and fortunate, they were open only two days a week. They were open Fridays and Saturdays. And this little middle of nowhere, Indiana, there were people coming from Chicago every Friday and Saturday, and they became millionaires open two days a week.
So that concept has always hit me as, man, that’s what it means to own your own business and have that flexibility. And is my view of an 11-year-old kid remarkably fun. It was, you know, them going on buying trips and they were kind of a closeout business. So that was my earliest recollection of owning a business. And then later my dad owned his own Ace Hardware store and I helped him open that store. And then while at Roche Diagnostics, they were doing something called venturing and they were taking some of their best leaders and having them kind of do kind of venture capital startup ideas and really kind of intriguing process.
They did it through a global consultant and they put, you know, 10 or so of these ideas in incubators and they would fund the ideas for 90 days increments. And I was fortunate enough to do that. They then funded one of those for me and then later said, hey, we want you to do this full time. So there was an aspect of go create an idea, start a business with what I always joked, Mother Rocha’s big pocket book. So there wasn’t the stress of, hey, can I, do I have enough money? It was just being convincing enough to get the money.
So that part was really intriguing. That led me to the smaller, as you alluded to home delivery company. I knew the CEO, he was a Navy guy. We had started at one of the earlier companies together as former junior military officers, and both in sales. We both were remarkably successful in sales. And he was trying to move that company from traditional TV advertising. Anyone that knows that space, there’s the Wilford Brimleys talking on TV about get your diabetic supplies sent to your home. And we really revolutionized that business by adding a direct sales force, calling on physicians versus running TV advertising. And in four years grew from 50 million to 550 million.
We went from the day I started four sales reps to about 600 sales reps. We had 1500 in a call center. I mean, just really explosive growth and just a blast doing that work. Also, with the understanding that you’re helping diabetic patients live a better life, which was awesome. And so, there was just a bunch that was really fun about that work. A bunch changed in the medical reimbursement world, and that led to me going and taking another CEO or my first CEO job and loved that transition as well. Another high growth company. I’ve kind of always moved to high growth areas and that’s where I’ve had the most fun. So yeah, it’s been quite the journey for sure.
Okay, that’s awesome. So, you had a lot of successes in your career, but I’m sure you also had your fair share of challenges. Can you share with me what was your darkest moment and how you dug deep and how did you bounce back from it?
So, as you can imagine, there’s plenty of darkest moments and which is the darkest is hard to discern. And it’s interesting when you reflect on your life, there are a bunch of those moments. And to come to mind, there was just sheer fear when I left the Navy. I share this story with people all the time in an exercise I call eves of fear. So much like Christmas Eve, think about the nights in your life where you were the most fearful. And so that was just a moment where I was incredibly scared. There’s no other way to talk about it.
Very fearful, kind of curled up in a ball. I remember crying, spending time with my wife, going, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m leaving something that I’ve known, which was the Navy. I’m gonna go sell medical equipment and knew nothing about it and was just terrified. And you know, all of that turned out fine. Probably darkest hour, if I go to, hey, where that was, and I’ve had moments where I’ve gone through a divorce. I’ve had a lot of the, I would call it stereotypical entrepreneur challenges.
But my last CEO gig, I joined a company, the CEO had been, he had passed away about eight months prior to me joining the company. They didn’t have leadership, got them to profitability, turned them around, but I still had a lot going on in my life that led to, at the end of my two-year contract for them just saying, hey, I don’t think we’re going to renew your contract. I was living in Connecticut at the time, very expensive cost of living, and was left with, well, what do I do?
And so, tried to find employment, find another CEO gig. I’m glad I didn’t. But those kind of periods of time looking for a new job, ended up moving back to Indiana for a short stint, living with my parents. You know, that whole thing is, you know, if I think about it, though, probably that going, all right, I’ve been a successful CEO, we’ve done a bunch of things. And I’m moving back with mom and dad for even though it was a short period until I started my own company, started consulting and doing other things. And, you know, that was not an easy path to success that it’s taken, you know, years. As always, you kind of look back and go, oh, it was easy.The path of an entrepreneur is paved with uncertainties. The art lies in turning fear into fuel, propelling you forward even in the darkest hours. Click To Tweet
And then you reflect on, no, there was plenty of really hard grinding, including, you know, launching the Vistage Group. And, you know, you and I share that path, which is, it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve done. It’s, it’s not an easy thing to do to get that up off the ground. So, yeah, that’s part of the story. Everyone has those things in their lives. And as you alluded to it, if you can bounce back, I have a, a business owner who I coach, who I adore. And he talks about the bounce or to use flat and, you know, the best bounce. And they find a way to persevere and move on. And I feel like I’ve done that in my career but I’m sure there were moments where others around me or even I felt like there was a little bit of splat.
Yeah, you alluded to the Vistage build which we called it, the building a group from scratch. You go to a town and build a group of CEOs and get them, convince them to come together even though there’s no group. And you don’t have any experience as a CEO facilitator. So it’s a very remarkable sales job. And I remember that we were doing it. And I think the two of us were the first one from a group of 50 to launch the group. And when people asked me how it worked so fast, I just tell them that basically I had no other options. I had no plan B. It was kind of a gun to the head. It had to happen. And it was then it became crystal clear what I needed to do. And I just did it. So it wasn’t that complicated.
No, you and I have talked about that many times that that burn the boats clarity, that there’s no other option brings. Certainly that clarity focus and for, you know, real gritty entrepreneurs, they’ll find a path to succeed. And both of us did, both of us, it’s led to other things. It was a remarkable kind of jumping off point to a new career for sure. And I owe a lot of that to Vistage and you and other kind of mentors throughout Vistage. So I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity. It’s changed my life in a very positive way and love that work, still do it. And it’s an interesting kind of reflection to go back and think about those days.
So we have had a lot of fun. You’re still having fun with your research group. I’m no longer, I’m kind of, I have a bit of a fumble about that. But I particularly remember you came to speak to our research group two or three times. Actually, I had two groups and we spoke to both of them several times about how to pick the right people, how to manage your herd, and how do you put the right people in the right seats, about culture, how to be the culture. You spoke about the US Navy and how the Navy creates that unique culture. So why do you think culture is significant for businesses?
So I talk about it as this magnet that compels and repels people toward you. That your essence, who you are, how your company operates, the environment is this magnet, whether you want it or not, and the best companies, and I see this over and over again, have a very compelling magnet. And at the same time, it repels. And you can think about any organization that’s somewhat polarizing. Our current president could be viewed that way. I mean, there’s plenty of things that we can look to and say, you’re either attracted or repelled.
And I spent a lot of time around culture doing that, that the more compelling, the more clear it is, the more, and that starts with a bunch of things that are present in EOS and other systems is where are you going? What’s your vision of future? I talk about it as the big placard on the front of the bus. And if people can see that, understand that, and it’s crystal clear where the bus is going, they’re either compelled to get on the bus and go where you’re going, or they’re not, they’re repelled.Be a compelling magnet. Your essence shapes your company's attraction and repulsion. Click To Tweet
And the more clear you make it that here’s where the bus is going is the first step in that culture. But my view is that that culture matters, that it is, you know, and there are a bunch of people that talk about the impact of culture, but for me, you just see it. And I talk about it as there are cultures where it’s kind of win-lose. In my bold metaphor, I call it in-the-ring cultures where there’s anger, disgruntled, bitter, aggressive. There’s also helpless or hapless, and we all see those companies and cultures that are just kind of going through the motions.
And then there’s those that are remarkable, that you look and go, I don’t know how they do it, but it’s remarkable. And it’s funny, we’re saying is this still fun? Today, we went back and revisited one of the very first topics that we talked about as a group, which was Simon Sinek Golden Circle, Start With Why. And we had a long conversation about all of our why’s and what matters and all those things. And I shared a really neat story with them today.
And I got an email from Roger Penske, who now owns the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy 500 is going to be this weekend. And his letter was just, it was an awesome letter saying, hey, fans, I really apologize because of COVID, we can’t have fans at the track. And that’s really disappointing. And he said for a whole bunch of reasons. One, it changes the experience. Two, I’m really proud of all the things that we’ve done at the track since I’ve taken over ownership from the George family and He then shared he goes. This is the reason That I bought the track is that I had a fan experience when I was a young kid and he shared it He said I think was 1954 or something.
He goes I was a young kid I got to sit in a car put a helmet on and he was it’s had a profound impact on my life. It’s been what has made me Roger Penske that day. And he goes, I want to share those days with other people. And so that resounding why of why we do things matters a whole bunch. And that’s the first step for me in culture. And it’s key to things like traction and other operating systems, which is where are you going? True North, there’s a bunch of things that talk about that. There’s painted picture, there’s a bunch of equal concepts, but this, where are you going is most important to set a culture.
That’s so true. So in EOS, we talk about a couple of things. So we talk about the core values, of course, and the emphasis is really to discover the DNA of your company, not to come up with an inspirational core values, but really what’s ingrained already in the company, what has helped your business come so far? And let’s dig that out, even if it looks unattractive to many people, this is who we are, so let’s get it out, even if we reek of it, it’s who we are. And then we just have to attract the right kind of people for our organization. And let’s not waste our time with people who don’t fit that culture and just embrace your culture.
So Juan, I’m a student of traction, read it while I was a CEO of one of my companies, injected a lot of that thought into my companies, but I’ve always talked about core values that they can’t be table stakes. A lot of organizations say honesty, that we want everyone to be honest. Well, every company does. So it can’t be that nor, as you said, aspirational. It can’t be one day we’ll be able to act and behave this way.
I always frame it for companies as who would you clone in your company? Who’s your best corporate citizen? If you look across your 10 employees, 30 employees, 1,500 employees, who are the people that you wish you could put in a cloning machine because people act and behave the way they do. And then I also joke once you get that set and you have this compelling magnet where people understand that’s the way you want them to act and behave that we start talking about it all the time.
And that’s a key element of traction as well that we hire to it, that we measure to it, that we fire to it. And I joke all the time, I go, it’s like Sesame Street. If you’re the one that’s not like the others, then we’re going to ask you to leave. And that compelling way we act and behave is there again. So for me, this essence of culture is vision, which is very common with traction. Values, expectations, which there’s a bunch in traction around process. But for me, it’s how have you set expectations organizationally?
And then the last component is engagement for me, which is how well do we engage as a team? What does it mean to be part of this team? How do we interact with each other regularly? And our clients, what does it feel like? What’s the atmosphere of engagement in our organization? So, I think that’s a big part of what I’ve done with organizations, my individual coaching. It’s probably at the essence of helping Bulls thrive in China shops is this four tenants that we believe and act on all the time.
So that’s definitely very compelling when you have core values that really authentic to you and that the people resonate with it inside the organization. The other piece that I’m very passionate about is actually the passion of the organization. So what we call in the US, the purpose, cause, passion, that comes from the Jim Collins’ hedgehog concept, you know, one of the legs of the stool. What drives, what is this emotional juice that is driving people in the organization that gets them out of bed? So what are they excited about?
And what I see is that when clients figure that out, it’s like the coin drops and suddenly they say, yes, this is really compelling, I want to be part of that. I’m proud to be a part of this story for this company that they are trying to achieve. And it helps the leadership of the organization to harness the energy. Every company that I go into, I feel that sometimes the business owner think that people are lazy and they don’t try to work hard, but I see the opposite being true that people are not bringing everything because they are not being inspired to bring everything. And when you get the team together and they see that there is a common, a co-created vision, and they can be part of it, and they can be an engaged participant, then it’s like nuclear fusion. It brings people energy, and then they’re gonna contribute a lot more to the company.
So Ishvan, I just view that as this create and fuel the magnet. And create the magnet is create this compelling vision of the future start talking about it all the time establish and live your core values and those should be compelling as well people should be drawn to them so you know I spend a lot of time with organizations helping them create their core values and we do things like we’re all willing to sweep floors that we care deeply about our customers, our colleagues, and our company. And that we can measure those.
We can look at people and give them a score one to five on how well they are willing to sweep floors. And if I’m hiring you as a new employee, I can go, Ishvan, one of our core values is we’re all willing to sweep floors. Here’s what that means. If we give you an assignment that says, I need you to clean the bathroom, and you roll your eyes or act like that’s beneath you, then you’re not right for us. Now, what’s great about that willing to sweep floors is that won’t work for some organizations.
A big stuffy law firm isn’t gonna have that as a core value, but a growing, thriving, entrepreneurial company that has 15 employees and go, we all gotta do everything, will embrace that. And so it has to be true to your kind of core and essence and part of your language, used all the time. And as soon as you start doing, here’s where we’re going, here’s how we act and behave and set an expectation, that’s when, you know, you talked about the coin drops and this culture flips and I just go, well, you’ve created the magnet, but now you’ve applied energy to it. So as soon as you apply energy to it regularly, people are compelled and repelled.
The people who are drawn to what you’re saying and doing, vision of future, how we act and behave, and here are the expectations, and you engage with them in meaningful ways, are drawn to it. And Simon Sinek talks about it, that they stop working for money and work for blood, sweat, and tears. They’ll come and do whatever it is to live that vision. LinkedIn, second command talked about Jeff Weiner and said, he’s created a wave that we’re all compelled to ride. And it’s that mindset that just says we’re drawn to it.
And often we can’t describe why we’re drawn to it. We just are. And it’s, again, for me, there’s a magnetism, a compelling magnet that draws us and keeps us coming back. And the way I envisioned it in my own companies was how many people today, Sunday, are thinking about going to work tomorrow and are excited about it. And they’re going, I can’t wait to go to work. And in most organizations, that’s not the case. Most people on Sunday afternoon are going, why not one more day of the weekend? Why not? And you want that.
That’s right. And it’s not necessarily their fault. So that’s, I think, when people go wrong, they think that most people are lazy. It’s not. It’s inherently in it in humans, it’s the Nietzschean will to power. We want to do more, but we just don’t know how to do more. And if there is a strong, powerful leader who shows us how to do it, then we’re glad to go with it because it gives us self-confidence, it builds up our own self-esteem, it feels like our life is not wasted because we are serving a great purpose. That’s super powerful.
Well, and I think best summarized for me, and I’ve used this quote since early in my career, it’s a Drucker quote that says, “Only three things happen naturally in organizations, friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.” And so for me, what you talked about is, it’s easy for leaders to point and say, it’s my people’s fault. Drucker puts it in that quote and says, no, it’s leadership’s fault. So if there’s friction, if there’s confusion, or if there’s underperformance, it’s the fault of leadership, not the people. And you see it too many times. You change a leader in an organization and same people, all of a sudden successful.Only three things happen naturally in organizations, friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership. Click To Tweet
There’s nothing else that changes other than leadership. And it is that essence of where are we going? How do I want you to act and behave? How are the expectations being set? And then what’s the meaningful engagement we have? And what traction other systems add is, and there’s a routine process that drives our intentionality around that. That we can put a system in place that makes us and holds us accountable to a process that delivers that. So, I tell people all the time, you don’t have to have that process, but man, it makes it a lot easier. If you can put something in place and be intentional, it’s like going 30 days without using your calendar. Good luck.
I agree with you. I’d like to build on this point that you made about the golden circles and expectations. Sam Bolton of Walmart, he said that high expectations are the key to everything. It’s about setting high expectations. People actually want high expectations because they want to see themselves succeed and they know that if they are put in an environment, if they can put themselves in an environment where their expectations is high, they just have to hang on for dear life and they’re gonna be successful. The expectations are going to help them. And I think the reason Steve Jobs was so successful, I think Elon Musk is so successful, they say they are crazy. Yeah, maybe they are crazy, but they definitely set high expectations and they attract all those people that are striving for the vehicle to be successful and they latch themselves on those people because they know that we just have to hang on here and we’re going to be successful.
Absolutely, and I frame it, there are many times in my life where the higher that you set the expectation, it’s amazing how you land near it. And I always look at it. It’s the equivalent of throwing darts. If you throw a dart at a target, your likelihood of getting near the bullseye is a lot higher than just throwing darts against the wall. And, you know, I often talk to my business owners and go, this feels like you’re just throwing darts and putting circles around them. Instead of, we’re aiming at something. And too often we’re fearful of setting really high expectations. And, you know, I use sports examples all the time.
And you can take the New England Patriots over the last, you know, 10 years and look at their expectations, American football. And if they don’t win the Super Bowl every year in the past, that was a failure. And if you take another team like the Cleveland Browns, many of their years were, can we just win a game? And that’s easy for people to understand and go, but that’s every organization on the planet, is that they’re setting expectations somewhere in that realm, which is we’re going to win the Super Bowl or we hope we just win a game. And there’s everything in between. And it says, how do we set that realistically, but with a stretch, how do we really set a high expectation for our organization? And there’s proof all around us that shows that that’s more effective.
So, this point, it takes us to the traction conversation on entrepreneurial operating system, how we do it. We basically have eight questions and our philosophy is that it’s enough for a leadership team and then for the whole company just to give the answer, the same answer to eight questions and that will create 100% alignment in the organization. So the eight questions are, what are your core values, which you already discussed? What is your core focus, which is this purpose, course, passion that you talked about and your niche, where you have the chance to excel?
Then what is your big North Star, the big expectation, you know, the 10 year target, we call it, which has to be, we put it out 10 years because we want it to, so that we want us to, ourselves, to give the opportunity to give a really big goal that has enough tension to create the excitement. And then how are we gonna get there? So what is your marketing strategies? How are you going to get there to your 10 year target? And then we bring it down to the ground with the three year picture. So creating this visual of where the organization will get in three short years.
And then you start breaking it down into one year plan, quarterly rocks and issues. And when you answer the same, these eight questions, the same, then everyone is crystal clear on your vision, your values, your culture, the passion, the targets, the plans, and everyone’s going in the same direction. So I wanted to ask you, because obviously you said that you use traction in all your past companies. So what has Traction EOS, how did you come into contact with it and what have you benefited from applying EOS principles?
So in my own companies read the book, applied you know some of the forms from a VTO perspective, hey let’s go through it. We didn’t have an implementer, we all read the book, we talked about it, we used this principle of quarterly rocks level 10 meeting and did it. I’ve seen it done better for sure. I coach a couple of companies that are using EOS or have an EOS implementer. I’ve witnessed firsthand the work that you’ve done, Ishvan. For me, it adds this robust system of intentionality around the process. There are many ways to get to the strategic thinking, a vision values, expectation, engagement that I talked about, this 10-year vision, you know, all that’s found on the VTO.
I still have many of my organizational coaching clients go, go fill out the the 10-year, go off and do a two-day retreat, you want me to participate, that’s the foundational piece. Could it be done better? Sure, but what’s elegant about it is it forces you to answer those questions that do create clarity, that create the environment for this magnet to be set. And that once people have that clarity, if we go back to the Drucker quote, there’s no longer friction or confusion. And now I can perform. I know what’s expected of me. I know what’s most important. And it gives people the opportunity to say, that’s not a priority. It’s not one of our quarterly rocks. We shouldn’t be doing it this quarter. Now, undisciplined organizations will still take on more. Disciplined ones will say, this is what’s most important. And we’re gonna have to push that to next quarter or later.
And so, there’s, sorry, go on.
No, but there’s plenty of other concepts that are like that, which are, do the first things first. There are many of, you know, these leadership principles, which are common across thought leader or thought leadership or thought leaders. The ability to then do it is the challenge always. So there’s – and none of this is rocket science. It’s can you put a system in place and do it. And whatever fits you and your organization will move you directionally that way. And like anything, if you need a coach or an advisor, you should find someone like this to help you. If you want your golf game to get better, you can try to do it on your own.
You can watch YouTube videos, or you can hire a golf coach. And I think, you know, there are many people that think that they know better than the golf coach and they’re better off without a coach. There are many who are open to be coached. And you and I know that there’s clients on the wide spectrum of coachability and what’s awesome about traction like anything else is those who are open to and want someone to guide them be another set of I call it unbiased ears and eyes tell you the real truth hold you accountable then you should look for an EOS implementer because they can help you through that process.
Thank you, Dave. I’d like to share a very fresh story that I came across with one of my clients, which is a very successful company. It’s a high-growth technology company, venture-backed, and they really are growing by like 50% per year. And one of their challenges is actually to prioritize, and they are really smart people. They’re the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. You really see that those guys and gals are really, really intelligent and they are very hardworking, very driven, but they still have a challenge with prioritizing because really what it is, it’s saying no to things.
So making decision, to decide means to cut off, it comes from the Latin, it means to cut off, and it means saying no to things. And that’s really, really difficult for people. They have this fear of missing out, of if we say no, then we’re not gonna get this. So we try to do everything. And then by default, they’re not gonna do everything. And guess what? They’re not gonna do the hardest things because they kind of reduce their overvalue by cutting off or doing the easy stuff. And then the most important things don’t get done. So one of the things that the CEO said yesterday, okay, we have all these goals, but let’s sit down and let’s not cut off anything. I don’t like cutting these things.
Let’s just get together for another meeting and decide what are the three most important things and just focus on those. But guess what? If you don’t say no to the other 12 or 15, then people will feel that they would still have to do those as well, plus the three, and then they just burn themselves out. So you have to have the courage of saying no to things. And when you’re a facilitator, it holds your feet to the fire. And it basically stops you getting in your own way and pushes you to make those difficult decisions.
Yeah, and my own view of that, Ishvan, is it doesn’t always have to be no either. It’s just no for now. So, you know, traction has a mechanism for that. We put it on a parking lot. We say we’ll do it one day. We add it to, yeah, it’s important, it’s an issue, but we just haven’t gotten to it yet. And we’re not going to because we don’t view it as more important than what we’re focused on in our quarterly rocks this quarter. Or even in a broader view, this year.
It’s not part of our annual goals. It’s not part of what we said we were going to get done this year. We’re not going to. Now, could it be awesome? And I think that’s the trade-off all the time. And in my view, I always tried to do this with my own organization and my people, which is if we had three priorities, I did this and say, yeah, and if I come with you with something else, it’s very fair of you to go, well, where does that fall? And I can’t just go, well, it’s now four, and they’re all equal. I would say, ah, well, it is now number two and number four can fall off the list.
And if we can be that disciplined, and I realize that sounds easy, and for every one of us is what you said, which is we then have to say no. We have to say no to opportunity. We have to say no to new potential. But the more effective we do that clearly again around our vision of where we’re going. And that’s the real thing. If it’s truly in line with where we’re going and important, then we should be going, where does it fall in terms of how important, how timely, how needed now? And if it is truly new thinking, new idea, better than anything else we have, great, elevate it. But drop something off the list. Allow people to work on the things that are truly most important versus everything. So.
All right, that’s a great point. And let me switch gears here a little bit. I wanted to ask about people that influenced you in your career. Can you name the two or three people that have been the most influential to you and what you learned from them?
Yeah. So certainly my mother is probably certainly up there. I don’t know if it’s the most influential, but in many ways, yes. Really high expectations of us as kids pushed us really hard and that’s persevered. And there was also this, hey, make your small corner of the world a better place. Both of those things have stuck with me. I also had a high school baseball coach who I think the world of and was just great, and we talked about expectations. He made baseball very simple in terms of what he expected.
And he was just great in terms of anyone, anyone that plays sports was, you know, if you go back to here’s how we wear the uniform, it was a very defined way, including things like and I’m a high school in the early 80s, so the hair was long and all that. And he reinforced that everyone’s hair had to be off their ears. And parents complained and said, we don’t want to do that. And he said, great, he went to a local barber. He said, it’s too expensive to keep the hair off your ears. And he got a haircut for a dollar.
So you could go get a haircut for a dollar. And I remember the practice where he came in and said, and if you can’t afford it, come to me, I’ll give you the dollar. He goes, but your hair will be off your ears. And so there was just a very firm expectation around everything. And if there are listeners that are students of baseball, it was constantly do your job. And things like if you make a physical error, I will never complain. And I never ever in the three years I played for him heard him complain about a physical error.
On the other hand, if he made a mental error, he would become unglued. He was a tyrant. He would scream and yell. He would poke you. He would pull you from the game. And so it was just here’s the expectation of how we play baseball. And he talked about physical errors. And it’s funny, cause that’s carried through with my organizational stuff, which is skill we can rehearse, skill we can practice, skill we can get better at. There’s thingthat we can’t change that are like inherent attitude. How do we approach life? What are the ways in which we do that? And so I’ve always taken that, which is we can make physical mistakes. Humans will make mistakes.
And that our approach to that is, well, how do we coach them to not make it the next time? How do we elevate and inspire? And that’s always kind of stuck with me. And the third is my first boss in the Navy who was the most process-driven person I’ve ever met and he when you reported aboard you knew what you were doing a year from now by the day it was here’s the system here’s the process here’s what you have to do there were components of that I hated I still talked about it felt like you had to ask dad to go home at the end of the day you had to go and say hey he was the chief engineer we would call him Chang hey Chang can can I go home you had to ask and there was almost always a series of questions, which is, did you get this done? Did you get this done? Did you get this done? And he would reference where that was in your planning guide.
So, have you gotten page 22 done on your planning preparation for the diesel inspection that’s happening in 30 days? And you got, at least for me, I got so good at thinking how he thought that I would have all that done so that when he would go, did you have this done, this done, this done? I would go, yes, boss, yes, boss, yes, boss, and I could go home. But that took about a year to get to that place. So those three probably had, and there’s hundreds of others that have had impact. I’m a student of leadership, so even the thing today from Roger Penske has an impact on you. You look at it and go, oh, that’s the right way to communicate.
So that’s great. And it kind of triggers my thought about EOS again, because we have basically a similar process. We have set scorecard measurables for everyone. We set ROCs, major initiatives for everyone. And then we check in with each other every week. Are you on track with your measurables? Are you hitting those numbers? Anything that’s not hitting immediately becomes an issue. Any rock that is not on track immediately becomes an issue and then we can focus on it. It’s by management by exception kind of thing. And also making clear that people understand that they are being held accountable every week on what their commitments.
And if people hold each other accountable, then everyone knows that it’s worth doing it because I get the recognition. Everyone else who’s not doing, they get the negative recognition of it not doing. It makes me look good because I’m doing it and it can be very motivating, especially for A players who are competitive by nature. It works really, really bad for them. So listen, we are coming up to the hour very soon and I don’t want to overstep. I want to be like your boss in the Navy. I don’t want to renege on my commitments and I committed that it won’t take longer for an hour. So those people that really like you and they like to hear more about you, want to contact you, where can they reach you? Where can they find information about you, Dave?
So, in any way that I can help, I’m more than happy to. The easiest way to find me is at helpingbulls.com. There’s a bunch of information there. LinkedIn at Helping Bulls, Twitter at Helping Bulls. If you type in Helping Bulls Thrive in China Shops or just Helping Bulls, you’ll find us. We’re really focused this year on culture index, helping companies hire more effectively. That’s an important tie-in to the get it, want it capacity to do it inside of traction, there’s a great way to add data to that process.
So instead of scoring and being subjective, you can add a layer of objectivity. If people want that culture index survey, assess themselves or their entire team, that comes at no charge for 30 days, try it out, learn, see how the tool, it’s one of the most remarkable things that’s helped me through my career in terms of finding talent, motivating people, moving from what I call the golden rule to the platinum rule, which is most of us treat others how we want to be treated. So for you and I, we’re assertive, we can push on people. Not everyone wants that. Some people want a more gentle nudge, a more accommodating approach, a more inspirational push, and this tool helps you understand that and treat them the way they would want to be treated. So happy to help in any of those ways, but they can find me easiest at helping both.
Yeah. I mean, I have, I have to confirm that culture index and your facilitation style is really great. Many of my Vistage members at a time when we invited you to talk to us, they embraced that system and they are still using it. And many of my US clients, I invited you to several meetings that we had and most of them loved it. I think the only people who didn’t love it was either they couldn’t afford it or they were using another system.
Another system. And there are plenty out there now. Many organizations are using something already.
But it’s very, very powerful. And obviously as the way you train them to use it, it’s also very impactful. So listen, Dave, it was a pleasure. It was more than I expected, which was high. I had high expectations, but you managed to outdo them. Love talking to you.
- Pinnacle: Five Principles that Take Your Business to the Top of the Mountain
- Helping Bulls website
- Helping Bulls Twitter
- Roger Penske
- Steve’s EOS blog
- Join a webinar with Steve
- Book a free consultation with Steve