93: Deploy a Custom Business Operating System with Greg Cleary

Greg Cleary is the Founder of Pinnacle Business Guides, a community of entrepreneurial guides with real-world, hands-on experience running businesses. We talk about why people are the most important assets in your business, why you need a business operating system for your company, and why you would want to customize it for your business. Also learn about Steve and Greg’s new book, Pinnacle: Five Principles that Take Your Business to the Top of the Mountain.

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Deploy a Custom Business Operating System with Greg Cleary

Our guest is Greg Cleary, the founder and the Yoda of the Pinnacle Business Guides organization and the guide himself. And, Greg is also my co-author of our brand new business book, called Pinnacle, Five Principles that take your business to the top of the mountain. Most gracious, I don’t know how to say that. Welcome to the show, Greg. Great to have you here.

Thank you, Steve. It’s really good to be here with you as well.

It’s very exciting. We are launching this book. So when you’re listening to this podcast, the book is going to be either imminent or already out. So we’re talking about the Pinnacle Business Guides organization and we’re talking about the book. So Greg, let’s start me with the question. You have described your entrepreneurial journey. How did you get here? How do you end up founding the Pinnacle Business Guides organization?

Steve, how long is this podcast? I have a long journey.

You can cut out the ones that I don’t like.

So listen, I started my entrepreneurial career, I went to a Brian Tracy seminar, and Brian Tracy had a program called the Psychology of Selling and the Psychology of Achievement back in 1985, so I’m dating myself a little bit, but it just turned on the lights for me. I just had never seen a seminar like that where you could just go and learn so much about a specific topic. And so I asked him for a job and I became one of his reps actually out selling his training. And I moved up through the regs, became the national sales manager, peak performers network, where we had Harvey McKay, Jim Rose.

I just want to butt in here. I can’t resist it. I love that. And I started my kind of entrepreneurial discovery through Brian Tracy when I was still in Hungary. I bought the CDs, the psychology of selling, the psychology of achievement, all that stuff. So it’s amazing in the 90s. So sorry, carry on.

We’ve been on the same path, Steve, as you know, until we recently came together a few years ago. So our journeys were similar. And from there, National Sales Manager, Jim Rohn, Harvey McKay, Tommy Hopkins, create a great network where people would buy a membership and come every month to different speakers. And as the business evolved, then they became mega events, right, with lots of people, thousands of people. And then training changed. We went to a train-the-trainer models, right, where you certified in-house people. That was called TeamTrack. I co-founded that company with a gentleman, Tom Winiture, and very successful.

And then 2001, the towers came down and I was like, I have to get off the road. And I hung up my shingle to be a sales coach. So I’d heard about all these trainers. I’d been flying and listening and going to seminars, you know, for a long time, 16 years. And it was just time for me to do my own thing. And so I took a few clients and what I would do is I’d write the sales process. And then I said, listen, I’ll go prove it to you. I’ll go out and ride with your salespeople. And at any time in the sales presentation, they can just say, hey, Greg, do you have any questions?

Whenever they got in trouble. And so from there, that took me to 2010. And one of my clients said, have you read the book Traction? And I said, no, I haven’t. They knew I was a huge reader like you, Steve, look at all these books behind you. And I read it and I wondered if Floyd Wickman was in a relationship to Geno. And I had worked with Floyd on our lineup at Peak Performers. And so when I called Geno, I said, yes, I’ll point to my dad and I knew all the tracks, Mr. and Mrs. Wichakowski over at Happy Hollow.

Are you looking for an ideal home in a quiet neighborhood? And he just said, man, you really do know my dad’s stuff. And so I paid a 29.95 and flew over to Detroit and became certified US implementer. I happened to get on the ground floor. I was the eighth certified US implementer. And I rose through the ranks and in 2019 the fall of 2019, I departed the community is truly the number one US implementer with revenue and sessions, and I started pinnacle business guide with a couple of great colleagues that quietly in September and the fall of 2019.

And on March 4th, 2020, you guys realize this timing is brilliant. March 4th, we thought was a great symbolic time to launch. And March 5th and 6th, a mastermind group went to Dallas to the UN conference. And then the following week, we watched the entire country and the world shut down with COVID. So it gave us some great time to work on building curriculum and our brand, the community. And learning Zoom, Steve, learning more about Zoom.

Yeah, that’s awesome. So that was two years ago.


So what have been the challenges? What are the challenges of building a coaching community of guys? What has been some of the challenges?

Well, as you know, Steve, there’s a lot of really good thinkers and authors and brilliant people out in the marketplace. And I think one of the challenges is just bringing all of it together, curating all the different ideas and concepts and trying to distill it down into like a bite-sized manageable process. I think that’s one of the big challenges. You know, you can read a lot of books and sometimes the books are 300 pages to get one idea, right? To get a couple of ideas out of it or make their point.

So the challenges to synthesize and, and that’s really segues well to the next question which I’ve been thinking about asking you but I actually never asked you is you came up behind the wall as well, but I really wonder how did you hone in on these five? What was your process? How did you figure out that these are the most important ones?

So a couple of things, you know, when you spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs, and that’s what I do with my coaching all these years, you would just learn. I became like a great sponge. I would pick up ideas and then cross pollinate along the way. And I remember one of my clients, Steve Gustafson, said, Greg, the role of a leadership team, they only have two things they need to do. Every day they come to work, sales atrophies down by itself, sales will drop down. And so your role as a leadership team member is to prop up sales every single day. You got to push that up.

And he said, the second thing that happens every single day that you come to work is expenses creep up every day, a little couple of percent more for gas, paper, delivery materials. So as you know, the visual, sales coming down, prices going up. He said, our job as leadership team is to push down expenses and push up sales. So that was something that stuck with me. So over the years, you would read a book on Jim Collins, you’d see someone talk about people first or who first, and you start to realize that it really, business is a lot more in common than there is in different in terms of similarity.

Our job as leadership team is to push down expenses and push up sales. Share on X

And it does come down to four key components, if you like, we call them principles, but it starts with people that, you know, The World is Flat was a great book that came out and it really talked about, you know, really ideas in the East Coast and the West Coast and around the world, how quickly they’re adopted, they move at the speed of business. And if you have a competitive advantage, somebody buys your product, reverse engineers it, and now, you know, starts to drive down the price, right? Re-engineering it. And that one, the last competitive advantage is we have is people. And so that’s why we start with people first. We don’t start with anything else. We say, you’ve got to get the right people on the team.

If you tell me who’s on your team, I’ll tell you how big you’re going to play, right? I’ll tell you where we’re going to go. I’ll tell you how big your vision is. So it starts with people, Steve. If I keep going, then the people need to know, right? It’s right people in the right seats, but doing it right, doing what’s important, making a difference. Today, that’s the purpose component, right? The world has changed. We are looking for just causes. We’re looking for rallying cries. We’re looking for meaningful work today. No, the younger people are not gonna go work for the factory for 50 years and retire and get a gold watch, right? That’s not what they’re gonna do. They want to make a difference.

It's right people in the right seats. Share on X

And they also want to have their own, like they watched how mom and dad and how hard they worked and they don’t want that. So they want to do some meaningful work. So that’s our purpose components. We said it’s the why, right? With kids, why, why, why? We have to explain why. The third is playbooks. So I looked at franchises and we go all the way back to Michael Gerber, right? The E-myth in 1977 and the turnkey revolution that happened. And then I realized that the bane of small businesses, they never finally like document or put their thoughts down on paper, right, Steve? So, you know, somebody leaves, all that tribal knowledge goes out the door.

I like to say to some of my leadership teams, you know, within 10 miles of my session room, right, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of solopreneur practices that have never been able to grow, right? The dentist that couldn’t grow, the CPA firm that couldn’t grow, the mechanic that couldn’t grow, yet other companies, right? There’s whole franchises, right? Around discount tires or dental groups, and they figured out how to scale their businesses. So you need to get your ideas down. So they’re repeatable, the clients have a repeatable experience. It’s not dependent upon, oh, I need to have Joey come fix my computer.

And then of course, once you get the playbooks, then it’s how do we perform, right? It’s simpler, better, faster, like chasing the waste out, right? Having people rise. We often say the A players are free, right? And other, or even retail stores have come to realize that, right? The A players are free. So I just thought, you know, really took that high level view. Like if I was to simplify, what is it that leadership team, right? Just like they had to push up expenses and drive down costs. What are the components to do that? And the things to do that are the people with a purpose and a playbook and making sure they’re performing at a high level. And if you do that, then you do get a spread in the middle. You actually get something that we call profits. And profit is just an indicator of how valuable your work is, how quickly you’ve shared with the marketplace.

Profit is just an indicator of how valuable your work is, how quickly you've shared with the marketplace. Share on X

So profit is just a measuring stick, how well, how differentiated you are in the marketplace, right, and how much the customers value your product and how effectively you serve them. That is really cool. And so how is Pinnacle different? So Pinnacle is, I like to call this management blueprint, scaling up and great game of business. And, you know, the email three ways, I call them management blueprints. Some people call them business operating systems. So how is it, how is Pinnacle different? Is it just a run of the mill, one more business operating system, or do you see it as a totally different animal?

Steve, I really think it’s 180 degrees away from everyone else. And why do I say that? One thing I learned in work with all those speakers for all those years, I mean, literally dozens and dozens of the best thought leaders in the country. And I realized that they all had great ideas, but no one had the market cornered on all the ideas. No one had like truly, you know, had the whole thing covered from sales and marketing and finance and ops and culture and team health and recruiting, and no one had it all. And so I also realized that every time you talk to an entrepreneur, they’ll tell you their business is different.

Yes, we’re in the HVAC business, but we do commercial or we do this or we do this, right? And then they’re in different territories and geographies, right? An HVAC company in Minnesota with four distinct seasons is very different than a company in Florida, right? Or Arizona or Southern California, where really the air conditioning is on all year and the furnace is off. So the businesses really are different. There’s different challenges to all those businesses.

And so I think what makes us completely different is rather than focus on this management blueprint and say there’s only one way to build this hotel or restaurant, we literally talk to the client and ask them what do they want in their home. Right, do you want a two story, a one story, a condo? You want a beachfront house, you want a mountain? So by focusing on them and then bringing the same materials if we’re using this management blueprint, bring the same materials, right? You’re gonna need heating and air conditioning and plumbing and bathrooms and kitchens and bedrooms. You’re gonna need all those things, but they mean totally different things to totally different people, right? Some people are very simple or modern, some people are very traditional.

And so by us being focused on our client and bringing them structure and discipline, curated tools, in the end, they need to have their very own, business operating or management blueprint. It needs to be customized and personalized for them. So that’s why I think truly we’re different. We’re everyone’s focused on this is exactly how you do it. This is the recipe where I think we are taking a different approach saying, we’re gonna meet you where you are.

And if you’ve got a young team of 25 year olds, you can sprint up that mountain. And if you have a very complex business with five locations and 200 employees, and you’ve been around a long time, it’s gonna be harder to bring that team, right? Because people have their biases, it’s always the way we’ve done it. Like they have other things that they’re gonna have to overcome. So that’s, I think, Steve, how we’re different.

I love that metaphor of meeting clients where they are, because really, everyone has a unique journey. And what you don’t need to regurgitate other people’s journeys just to have a complete process to tick all the boxes. What you need is someone come to us and identify the low hanging fruits that we can harvest immediately and go to that and use the leverage from that, whether it’s cash flow or whether it’s fixing our culture or whether it’s figuring out where we’re going or creating a cadence of execution, whatever it is, and that will give us the boost so that we can go to the next one and the next one and then keep moving up the mountain, mountain that way. The other thing I wanted to ask you about is you talk about the 100% solution. So what do you mean by Pinnacle being the 100% solution?

So what we found, you know, if you look at many companies or think of an operating system for a company like an ERP and then they have to bolt on all these other software programs. I need Outlook for email, I need this, I need accounting, I need finance. They need all these different things and they have to hire all these different consultants and they’re trying to get them all to work and there’s no standards for them to plug into each other and so on. And so it makes it a painful journey. And so most of the programs out there are not holistic.

They truly have come up with their lanes and they’re gonna stay in their lane. Hey, we help you with sales. We help you with finance. We help you with inventory and warehouse logistics. And I thought, you know, they shouldn’t have to go find all those places. There could be a place where, you know, great minds come and focus on being 100% solution. And what I mean by that is if you’re gonna go climb a mountain, you don’t want somebody, you know, you want somebody to help you get all the way up and all the way down. 50% of the accidents on mountains, 50% of the people die on Everest on the way down.

If you're gonna go climb a mountain, you want somebody to help you get all the way up and all the way down. Share on X

And so you want a 100% solution. We want it to be around sales and marketing and finance and ops and culture and cash and hiring and team health. We want it to think about all the challenges our entrepreneurs were facing and saying, listen, could we provide or find or recommend a tool or a resource for that? And Steve, while we might not have them all, you know, 100% is a very high bar. What we have done is we’ve also identified where we have some gaps and we’ve chosen some partners, right, and said, hey, you need help with process, process optimizers, great.

You need some help with a virtual assistant, we have a great partner. You need some help with hiring, we recommend you work with VisionSpark. So we filled in any of the blind spots and the weak areas with some very strong partners to be that 100% solution for our clients. So they don’t have to go out and find it on their own. We vetted it and tested it. And we have leverage with those vendors and partners.

That’s definitely true. And I’d like to go back to this idea of customization because I think it’s really, really important. And one of the things that stuck with me when you first talk about the pinnacle and what your vision was the pinnacle was this idea of, yes, you need tools, but it’s not about the tools at the same time.

So, but we have a tool, like the idea of the tool is to have an aha effect with the leadership team. So when you show them a tool, for example, and say, here, there’s this good, better, best pricing, and rather than have people shop around and get two or three other quotes, you could actually provide them three different levels of service. Or we teach you a tool around pricing. And we say, you know what, if you actually had a 6% price increase, could afford to lose 10% of your people, clients, and you’d still actually make more money on the bottom line.

And so the tool is just designed to like, like change your paradigm, to get you to think differently. When we come in and say, do a tool like level up and say, who on your team is underperforming? If they walked in tomorrow and quit, how would you feel? And when you say, man, we’ve got 12 people and eight of them might be okay if they left. Actually, I’d be happy if a couple of them left. That tool just turned on the lights. And so it made a big difference. It wasn’t the tool that’s gonna make all that change. It’s you coming to the realization. I have eight people on the team. And if I could just level them up a little bit, think of the payroll and the expense there.

If you can make them 20% more efficient in the next quarter, what the ROI would be. So it’s not so much the tool, the tool just really like shed some light. You know, it’s like you got a flashlight in the dark, you turn on the lights and you’ve got the flashlight to see where you’re going. It wasn’t so much the flashlight, it was just now I could see where I’m going. So the tools are important, but they’re just tools. They’re just tools is nothing, you know, truly magical about them, there’s just different tools for different situations.

So it’s not about the tools. What I like about it is, is basically it’s not a lack of information your information is all the functions that are out there. You know, maybe you have to pay 15 bucks for it, but it’s there basically virtually free. the get the information in digestible form to people so that they can use it in their business. They’re not in the business of absorbing and synthesizing information. They’re in the business of running their own company, and they just need the guidance to implement. So one of the things that what

I want to say is we’re not obsessed about the tools, but we’re obsessed with helping companies grow. And we think they we think every company can grow if they get focused, get in alignment with the team, right? Get the vision down, 1% vision, 99% alignment. If we can just truly stay focused, right? Follow one course until successful. And the tool is important, but it’s not everything. Again, just think of, I use a lot of different analogies. One of the analogies I use, go get a high-performance sports car.

You’re not choosing the airbags and the braking system, right? It’s all coming together. And really smart people chose which braking system, which airbag system, what engine, what tires. I mean, they thought through the entire system, right? Like, truly, it’s an operating system for the car. And you didn’t get to choose that. But in the end, that whole combination is around performance or luxury or whatever it is you’re trying to achieve with that. So the tools are important, but they’re not everything. They’re not everything.

They have to be built together to give you that luxury car or fast car.

They have to come together.

Cost efficient car, whatever you’re looking for.

Listen, look at the world. We are all looking for personalization. Mass customization is a term, right? Where even though they sell those cars, people still will go in and get in line, and we’re gonna pick different colors and a different combination of everything. I love the example of the Starbucks, how many millions of combinations of a drink there is, right, for them, and yet they sell lattes. Well, a latte, soy, one pump, single, extra hot, two scoop, no foam, right? All that combination of it makes it personalized and customized. And who’s to say whose latte is better than the others, except for it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Right. If you’re willing to pay five seventy five for a latte, I’ll make it how you like.

That’s right. Yeah. I wish it was only five. So if I think it’s seven, seven, something like that. about customization, what I really love is that we don’t just customize the approach, but we also create a customized business operating system for every client. So how does that work? Can you explain how do we kind of brand it for the client and customize it? How does it look like so that they can own their own business operating system?

So, Steve, it has to be very relevant to their people. Like, it needs to be sticky. So we don’t introduce a lot of acronyms in our system Pinnacle, right? We don’t throw lots of these three-letter acronyms at people. In the end we say, listen you’re gonna have a daily stand-up, give it a fun name, right? Is it the spit it out mean? Is it the quick connect mean? Is it the daily press release? Like is it GSD? Is it the all hands? Like what is a fun name for your 831 Express? Like what’s a fun name for your daily standup that’s meaningful to you.

Then name your weekly tactical, give that a fun name as well, right? So my fluid power connection company has the quick connect, and then they have the leak detection for the weekly. It’s fits exactly in their wheelhouse, those names. And so making it, you know, customizable and personable to them, it’s gonna make it far stickier than if we call it, you know, the AGP or the BBC or the, you know, we gave it an acronym. So I think it’s very important for them to name all the different components, because in the end, it’s their journey. 20 years from now, 15, 20, 25 years, right? Director, hey, your system is perfectly designed to give the results you’re getting.

So the systems are evolving. And so why not have it be your business operating system? And it’s all made up, if I walked in and looked at it, it would all be your logos, your names, your terminology. I mean, it just fits very well with your culture, right? Is your culture fun or is your culture very intense and serious or innovative? Just make it look like yours. And I think that’s a big part of, you know, where managed for blueprints and operating system. I think that’s where they’re going to go, they’re going to go where people are going to say, Hey, I’m going to take those components and this is what it’s going to look like for us.

Okay, that’s cool. So, as you were writing this book we had a lot lots of discussions, where we basically were kind of grappling with, okay, how to push certain things and one of the things that you convinced me to do in the, in the book is to simplify the process of setting rocks. So some of those other systems, you know, most most people on the score will be familiar with quarterly objectives quarterly rocks was that most of these operating systems talk about. you know, aspirational rocks, committed rocks, all that stuff. You have synthesized, simplified it down for me, and you convinced me that you don’t need all these different types of rocks, just have one type of rock. So tell us a little bit about why do you believe that and how it works.

Well, people are exhausted. This COVID has worn people out. This work-life integration has forever changed. And so if the reason you’re going to come to your next meeting and just get more rocks and rocks and rocks, pretty soon you feel like you’re in a quarry, right? Where you have nothing but rocks around you. So I think rocks have really changed. Covey put it on the map, right? With 7 Habits, Highly Effective People, where he talked about the glass jars that went around the country. Smart rocks, everyone listening to your podcast, unless they’ve been living in the cave has heard the term smart, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

Well, as you and I both know, MIT came out in the fall of 2018 and said smart, fast beats smart, and they came up with a new acronym for ROCKS, fast being frequently reviewed, ambitious, so no sandbagging, like really stretch, specific, no change there, and then transparent. Love that transparency, by the way, because we would have clients working against each other, right, somebody is trying to reduce inventory in the warehouse, and then the sales manager is trying to reduce, you know, increase fulfillment rates, and they were just working against each other.

So our approach is very different. We literally say you can grow as fast as you wanna grow. So let’s set your revenue goals and your profit goals. And then we have a very like great conversation with them. Okay, so you wanna grow 20% this year, by what means? By what means? It’s no different, Steve, than if you said, hey, I’m gonna lose 20 pounds, but you weren’t gonna do anything different. You’re not gonna lose 20 pounds. But if you said, hey, I’m gonna start counting calories, I’m gonna start sleeping, I’m gonna get an exercise physiologist, I’m going to the gym, I’m gonna ride my bike to work. And if none of that works out, I’m gonna wire my jaw shut and drink, eat everything through a straw. I’m pretty sure you’re gonna lose your 20 pounds, or you might lose 40 that way if it all had to go through a straw.

But by saying by what means, it just focuses the mind to take away all that distraction. And then what we do is we pick some of those, you know, we brainstorm with them. We put them in the categories. It’s around people or sales or marketing or ops or tech or simplification or playbooks. And then we hold their feet to the fire. And every quarter we just chip away at those. And we said, listen, team, just look back. If we did these things in these buckets, would we hit our 20% and our revenue? Like, oh my gosh, we would do so much more than that. Okay, then let’s do this and stay focused on it. And so the leadership team has three to five, you know, rocks for the quarter.

And the leadership team owns all those rocks in terms of, even though we have champions, and we don’t bog them down with a lot of individual rocks, because many of these rocks are so, like they’re big initiatives, that sales and marketing and finance, right, and our fast rock planner, we say identify the resources you need. And some of these big initiatives and rocks need a lot of different people working on them. So we are from the school, you know, do less and do it better, right? Do less and do it better. Not, we’re not here just to check the box, do less and do it better. And then you can actually make more progress, right, in the direction you’re trying to go. So that’s our approach, Steve.

I think it is different, you know, when we get back then the quarterly lookout, we just say, okay, team, here’s the annual goals. What do we need to do this quarter? What do we need to do this quarter? Then we get in Q3 and Q, okay, what do we need to do to finish this off, get over the finish line? And they’re always pleasantly surprised, right? They’re like, wow, look at the progress we’re making. And they stayed the course, you know, in terms of where they said they wanted to go at the beginning of the year. And the progress is usually astonishing.

And I love you mentioned the 20%, because one of the things we talk about in the book is that you can actually 5X your business in five years with five principles. And the way the math work is, if you grow by 20%, which has been pretty much the average growth for most of the guys that you’ve worked with, 10% growth, top line per annum. So if you keep doing that, and you start working on your execution and your playbooks and your differentiation, it’s going to be very easy going to be to double your profit margin, your net profit margin, and then you’re there at the five times the value of the company, probably more because you get a higher multiple in the meantime.

So and that’s a very verse five rule for companies to shoot for let’s 5x this business and the owners of the company, if they 5X the value of the company, then they can do whatever they like. They can get to their ideal life, whether running a great company or doing something else, selling the business, that’s gonna really help them do that. So Greg, it’s been very exciting to have you, you know, work with you on this book. And here’s the book, it’s still got a little stripe on this, but by the time you watch this episode, it’s going to be without the stripe because the book will have been launched. And what is your, like, famous final words before we wrap this up? Where can people find out more about the book, the system? What do you suggest, Greg?

Well, first of all, if you want to play bigger and truly maximize your business.pinnaclebusinessguides.com is the domain where you can come. We have lots of guides, colleagues, coast to coast, other countries. As you know, Steve Wright, that they can find someone that they could talk to and have a conversation with. We’d be happy to come out and we call it audition. Come out and meet with your leadership team, spend an hour and a half with them, audition, see if our chemistry and our approach would be a great fit with them. And we would welcome those conversations, those introductions to earn the right to be your business guide.

And in the meantime, don’t forget to go to Amazon and buy the book, the Kindle, the discounted price of five bucks. So if you can’t afford that, then don’t bother. Otherwise you can get the book. We are coming out with an audio book as well. There’s a couple of weeks. So check it out for yourself. And if you find it interesting, then go to Pinnacle Business Guides and check out who is the guy near to you or the one that you like the profile of and just have a conversation and let’s go from there. So Greg, thank you for coming on the show. Great to, it’s been a great adventure working with you both together. And promoting it together is going to be a great adventure too. And for those of you listeners who have enjoyed the show, don’t forget to rate and review and to come back next Monday or Tuesday morning because I’m going to bring another exciting entrepreneur onto the show. Have a great week. And thanks Greg for coming.

Thank you Steve. Absolutely my pleasure. Take care.


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