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Season 01, Episode 05

How To Build A Company Vision And Mission Your Team Cares About

With guest, Cameron Herold, bestselling author and founder of COO Alliance.

About the Episode

Cameron Herold has a special ability to simplify business problems. He’s worked with hundreds of organizations including a big 4 wireless carrier and a monarchy, and he’s built $100 million dollar companies. Cameron grew 1-800-GOT-JUNK? from 14 employees to 3100 employees. He’s written best selling books like Double Double, Meetings Suck, and Vivid Vision, helping companies eliminate unproductive processes and guiding them on the shortest, simplest path to exponential success. If you’re listening and you’re on the path to becoming a Chief Operating Officer or you’re already a COO, you’ve definitely heard of his group COO Alliance. It’s an exclusive group for people like us that just get process.

In this episode, we talk about sharing your vivid vision with your team, the upside-down organization chart, focusing on documenting the systems that work, hiring interdependent people, and more!

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Full Transcript


Chris: Hey everyone. I’m Chris Ronzio founder of Trainual and this is Process Makes Perfect. We’re talking with experts in process creation, automation, delegation. Basically, just the people that know how to make business easier. So today we have with us, Cameron Herold. Cameron has this special ability to simplify business problems. He’s worked with hundreds of organizations, a big four wireless carrier, a monarchy. He’s built a hundred million dollar companies. He was just telling me, 1-800-GOT-JUNK, went from 14 employees to 3,100 employees. He’s written bestselling books like Double Double, Meetings Suck, and Vivid Vision this year. If you are listening and you’re on the path to becoming a chief operating officer or you are a COO, you’ve definitely heard of his group COO Alliance. It’s an exclusive group for people like us that just get process. As I got into this space, the operations, and the process space, so many of my friends and entrepreneurs said that I had to talk to Cameron, David Berg, Paul Binsfeld, Joe Polish, Dan Martell, they all said this is the guy. So, Cameron, I am really excited that you’re here today and thrilled to introduce you to our audience.

Cameron: Hey Chris, thanks for having me. Wow, we’re kind of like one degree of separation. That’s cool.

Chris: Yeah, it’s pretty funny. We have a lot of friends in common. So I’ve been looking into of course a lot of your content, your Ted videos, and if you’re just meeting Cameron for the first time, definitely Google him cause this guy has tons of content. But Cameron, one of the things I saw is you talk a lot about vision and how to start with the vision. So a lot of companies that I talk to, maybe they get the business going and they don’t really have a bigger vision. So where do you start if you’re just kind of wrapping your head around that?

Cameron: Yeah, I think most companies, unfortunately, we’ve kind of been trained by professors or teachers in school. And they told us to have a mission statement, you know, so we got our employees together and we grabbed all of our favorite words. We put ’em up on a whiteboard, we voted on which words we loved and we took the six leftover words and we mashed them up into one sentence. And that was our mission statement, right? Go team. But we realized that that doesn’t really align people. It doesn’t actually get people to see what we can see. So what I realized about 20 years ago from working with an Olympic coach who was a sports psychologist, was the entrepreneur or business leader tends to have a vision in their mind of what their company or business area looks like three years out. But no one else can see what they can see.

Cameron: So the vivid vision concept, and I cover it in the book, Vivid Vision also in Double Double. And then I also covered a bit of it in the book, The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs. It talks about how to get the vision out of the mind of the entrepreneur and written up as a four or five-page written-to-skit description of what your company looks and feels like three years in the future. So that it’s almost like you were walking around your company describing what you see, if everyone else on your team, if your employees, your customers, and suppliers, if they can all see the future like you can see it, they can then help you reverse engineer it and make it come true. So the vivid vision is a four or five-page written description of your future.

Chris: I remember maybe 10 years ago, someone, one of my mentors told me to write down a vision of where I was headed and laminate it and stick it in my office. And I had almost this narrative, this story to myself that I kept looking back at. And it’s amazing how if you have that vision, you start to almost unconsciously pursue it.

Cameron: Now the only thing your mentor missed was share that with everyone. So it was really good that you read it. But what if every employee read it as well? What if your spouse read it? What if your parents read it? What if your banker and your accountant and your lawyer, what if everyone read that same laminated vision once a quarter? So every quarter they could all see what you could see. Then you’d all be completely for the first time on the same page. And that’s been the missing piece. So I liken it every business is like a jigsaw puzzle. The most important part of the jigsaw puzzle is the picture on the front of the box. That’s the vivid vision. If you can’t see what you’re building, it takes you forever to build that jigsaw puzzle. So most companies are missing the picture. Nobody can see what the entrepreneur can see. And a one sentence statement certainly does not give you enough information.

Chris: It doesn’t sum it up. So do you think if you’re just putting this together, do enroll your team in the process? Do they contribute to the vision or is it strictly the owner?

Cameron: Yeah, it’s the owner. It’s the entrepreneur or the business leader who does it for their area or for the whole company. It would almost be like saying, do you want to write the vivid vision for your personal life three years from now? Or do you want to get all your friends to decide who they want you to be? Well, that would be stupid. Like, yeah, you’d get some good ideas from your friends, but you’re in charge of your life. So the entrepreneur has to codify their vision and then get a whole bunch of people who are excited about it to help them make it come true. In fact, I ran this session years ago. I was brought into a company, they had me speak for about three hours and I ran a workshop for all their employees. At the end of the three hours, the CEO stood up and handed out a copy of his vivid vision to all 85 employees.

Cameron: All the employees read it together. And at the end of reading it, Dean said, 15% of you hate what you just read. And that means today is the right time for you to quit, but 85% of you are excited about what the future has in store. Two weeks later, 15% of his employees had quit. A year and a half later, he was ranked as the number two company in British Columbia to work for. The number one company, Nurse Next Door was another client that I’ve been coaching. So if you’re okay with some people quitting because they don’t like the future, that’s when you know that it’s yours. That’s when everybody believes in it. But if you, if you get too many people involved, that becomes a Kumbaya group hug. 

Chris: Yeah. Wow. So as you’re, as you’re putting this together, is it something that you want to introduce to everyone when they start working at the company or what’s the right time to your vision with someone?

Cameron: Yeah. So the first thing you’re going to do is get your leadership team on board with it and then you’re going to share it with all your internal employees and then your customers and your shareholders and your support group. After all of those people have seen it, then from that point on you want every employee to reread it every quarter and you give it to every potential employee right when you get their resume. So if a person applying for a job, you kicked back in auto reply saying, thanks for your resume, please read our vivid vision and this article of us that appeared in the media. If this sounds like the kind of company you want to help fly to the moon reply now and put interview me in the subject line and we’ll bring you in for a group interview. But I wouldn’t read your resume unless you’re excited about the vivid vision and it’s kind of what Steve Jobs used to say in the early days when he was launching the Macintosh computer, he would show the wooden prototype of the Mac and he said if he didn’t see the twinkle in their eyes, he didn’t bring them in to see if they had the skills because he didn’t care if they have the skills like I don’t want to interview you unless I know you’re vibrating when you read the vivid vision.

Chris: So one of the things we’ve done is we put our core values into the hiring process, and we get people to tell stories around that. But I think it’s easy for people to make up that they fit into your core values. So how do you, how do you filter if someone’s making up that they’re excited about your vision?

Cameron: I asked people what their core values are first. Okay. Right. How do I know if they’re excited about the vision? I asked them specifically what parts of the vision they’re excited about and specifically what they’ve done in the past that can show me they could actually make those sentences come true. You can tell when somebody tells you if it’s flat-lined energy, they’re not excited. But if they’re twinkling, if they’re sparkling. We had a guy, Andrew, who said, “You can’t see me right now, but I’m vibrating in my seat.”

Chris: That’s great. So when, when entrepreneurs especially are creating this vision how far down the personal path do they go? Is it all about the business or they start to describe elements of their personal life?

Cameron: No, it is all about the business. So now when I’ve written my vivid vision, because I’m more of a lifestyle brand, you know, as the coaching side of the business, it included a lot about me. When I wrote the vivid vision for the COO Alliance and for the CEO city forums, there’s nothing about me and there at all. It’s all about the business and the brand. So I tried to remove the person out and then do your own vivid vision for your personal life and your family separately.

Chris: Got It. Yeah. It’s hard to motivate with, I work one day a week and I go on all these vacations. Okay. So I heard a Claire Hughes Johnson who was the COO of Stripe, she said that when you have this narrative about your company, you should be updating it annually and tell the story about the next year to all of your employees. Do you subscribe to that or how do you feel you should update this, this vision?

Cameron: I only update the vision every three years and I love what you’re saying about the every year, but the reason I like to only do it every three years is it pulls the people forward enough that they feel tension towards getting it. I find that if the vision is only one year out, it feels too much like today and it doesn’t really provide enough kind of stress or strain. My caveat would be if you’re growing up more than a hundred percent growth per year. So when we grew 1-800-GOT-JUNK, we had six consecutive years of a 100% revenue growth. So when you go from 2 million to four, from four to eight, from eight to 16, to 16 is a pretty big difference in a company. But that’s still works in a three-year vivid vision. If you’re growing at 200 or 300% growth, right? If you’re like on a real rocket ship like Uber or like a Google, you might actually need to revise your vision maybe every, you know, 12 to 24 months.

Cameron: But I think three years tends to be the right time. Five years out is way too long. So I’ll work where Claire and I would really align is only putting a one year plan in place for the three-year vision. Right. There’s no point in having a three-year plan because that’s, that stuff changes too quickly. So a three-year vision and a one year plan, almost like you’re building a house. I want the plan to build the foundation in year one, in year two to put in all the electrical and the plumbing and drywall and year three to put in the cabinets and the Wolf stove and the cool flooring. Right?

Chris: So I’m glad you went there with the one year planning because that was my next question. So when you’ve got your three year vision, you’re clear about where you’re going and you break that into what we’re going to accomplish this year. What kind of system do you subscribe to or what sort of cadence do you subscribe to in terms of the frequency of your planning, of your updates, of your meetings? I know you’re an expert in this, so I’m curious how you go about it.

Cameron: Yeah, so again, everyone knows where we’re going cause they re-read the vivid vision every quarter. Then what we do is we have an annual planning meeting. The annual planning meeting is held two to three months prior to the start of the calendar year. So I like holding our planning meetings in September, October for the next year. At your planning meeting, you come up with five core goals. What’s your employee net promoter score for the year? I actually do three year, two year and one year goals every year. So what’s our employee net promoter score? What’s our customer net promoter score, what’s our profit number in a dollar value, not a percentage. And then what’s our dollar revenue goal? And then lastly, what’s our big strategic thrust? So it might be getting into a certain area or going to new geographic expansion. So those are the five goals I set every year.

Cameron: Then the team comes up with the core plans to make those goals come true and all the business areas sign off on everybody’s plans. That’s what I tend to do at the annual retreat. And then we do a quarterly planning meeting that’s held three weeks prior to the start of each new quarter. And that’s when we press reset on the plan to come up with the core projects for the plan, the goals for the corridor, and every one of the 13 week goals as well. So we know what our, what our kind of hurdles are for each of the 13 weeks, and then we can bake that into the budget and bake that into the MIS or KPIs that we measure.

Chris: I love that. And then are you reviewing KPIs and tracking those goals on a weekly basis? You said there’s a different goal every week? 

Cameron: Yeah, so we review our KPIs on a weekly basis. We have what we call our WAR meeting, which is the Weekly Action Review. The management team meets for 90 minutes every week as does each business area. So if the management team or leadership team is meeting for the week, the first 30 minutes of their 90 minute meeting as each person doing their five minute updates. So what’s going well, what’s not going well, what I’m working on and where I’m stuck. Each business area does their update. Then you spend 30 minutes looking at the dashboard and we only look at the core things on the dashboard. So there might be 12 core numbers on the leadership team dashboard. Let’s say there’s two for finance. If they’re both yellow or red, we’ll open up finance and we’ll look at what all 20 metrics. If finance is measuring to see where the real problem is, we’ll look at two for marketing. If they’re yellow or red, we’ll open up and look at all 30 or 40 marketing metrics. But at the leadership team level, we just look at the real dashboard unless there’s a problem. And then the last 30 minutes, did you help unstick people? So as a group, as a team, you’re helping each business area move things forward. 

Chris: So when I talk to customers about their meetings and about their management and how process oriented they are and how accountable they’re, they’re holding their teams there seems to be this balance between not paying attention and micromanaging. And so what do you think is the right mix of, of check-ins and overlooking tasks?

Cameron: Yeah. Let’s talk about meetings really quickly. I want every employee at every company to read the book, Meetings Suck, for one core reason. Most people have never had any training on how to show up and attend and participate in a meeting, let alone on how to run a meeting. And most employees spend one hour a day in meetings. So for 15 bucks, train all your employees on it, get everybody the book, have them read it all. It’ll blow businesses out of the water. If we talk about what’s the balance of micromanaging or holding people accountable or looking at the numbers, I believe in what’s called the the kind of upside down org chart. So the CEO is at the bottom supporting the VPs who support the managers who support the employees. And our job as leaders is to make sure that our team is working on the right stuff to make sure they have the skill development on the areas that they need it and to give them the emotional support in their lives and in their jobs.

Cameron: It’s not to hold them accountable. I hire accountable people. So when we’re looking at the metrics as a team, it’s just like, it’s like playing in a professional sport. You need to see the data. And the numbers to win. So we’re not doing it to hold people accountable. We’re doing it to when we’re doing it to hit our goals, we’re doing it to drive our objective. And I’m not going to come down on you if you’re missing a number, I’m going to help remove obstacles. I’m going to help you brainstorm. Like if your business area is missing on a couple of metrics, it means you need help or support or our resources to kick in as a team to help you. So it’s a very no-blame environment. Look at the missing systems and help and support people. People won’t feel micromanaged with that at all. 

Chris: So as a business is starting to build, they’ve got a team of a few people when, when does it shift where you’re just kind of a few people wearing a bunch of hats to now we really need to understand all of our roles and start to have crystal clear responsibilities.

Cameron: The first shift is usually when the CEO hires someone who’s now managing some direct reports. So when there’s one person in between you and someone else, that’s the first shift in the business. The second shift in the business is when you have people under all your direct reports. That’s the next kind of second stage, right? To be a first stage, second stage. And then the next stage after that is the 50 employee mark. 50 employee mark you tend to start having to have planning and processes and there’s politics are kind of creeping in a little bit, not so much. People are going to meetings and you’re not sure why, and you’re getting less done with more people than you used to. Right? That’s the third stage. The fourth stage is at the 100 employee mark. And that’s when the entrepreneur doesn’t know the names of some of the people walking around. And you’re really not sure what everybody does and why. And then at the 250 mark is when you’re dealing with politics and cross functional decision making and it needs to be more of a mature business. That tends to be where the leadership team probably is being replaced. Right? Where you, where the people who got you from 10 employees to 250 can’t take you from 250 to a million.

Chris: Right. So businesses are built on systems and processes. We’ve talked about this. You mentioned Michael Gerber right when we first got on the call and how you, you, he came into 1-800-GOT-JUNK – actually, you have to tell the story, share and share with everyone.

Cameron: Yeah. This was back in around 2004. Michael Gerber walked into 1-800-GOT-JUNK, we had about a $60 million business at that point. And he walked in the front door and he stopped in his tracks. He’s wearing his classic white fedora, he stopped and he looked around and he’s like, “Holy shit, people read my book, but you guys actually do it.” And he could see that we had systemized every part of the business just from coming in the front door. So yeah, we believe that people don’t fail, systems fail. And we created that mantra in that environment. So no one was afraid of saying they broke something or did something wrong because they knew we weren’t going to blame them. We knew we were going to support them and help give them the skills.

Chris: So a lot of people will get hyped up and they’ll read a book, like the E-Myth or they’ll go to a seminar and they want to come back and work on their systems and processes and work on their business and not in their business. And so if you’re just starting down this path of building your standard operating procedures and you’re creating systems, where in the business do you recommend that someone starts?

Cameron: I start with everything that will drive sales and gross margin first because there’s not a problem in the world that exists that a check can solve, right? You can, if you have enough money, you can buy your way out of any problems. So I would systemize everything that will drive revenue and will drive more gross margin into the business. Then I can use that to put the people in the systems in place to scale and perfect everything. But I’m, I’m the kind of believer that momentum creates momentum, right? Perfect. Doesn’t create momentum. So I wouldn’t even want the perfect system. I would want a bunch of really good systems that would allow me to get momentum so I could get more good systems later because the reality is in 12 months, any system we create today, we’re going to have to tweak anyway and in 24 months we’re going to tweak it again. So don’t worry about, it’s kind of the people that obsess about getting the A+, no one has ever asked for your high school or university transcripts since you graduated. So it didn’t matter whether you got an a plus or a C+.

Chris: Or at least an A+ and an A or an A-.

Cameron: I got C’s. I only ever got one A in all of the university I had, I had a 64% GPA when I graduated [from] university.

Chris: I think there’s an important lesson there because you hear that, if you can’t ship something, if you can’t do something, you know, imperfect is better than never done.

Cameron: Yeah. Instead of minimum viable product, I call it minimum viable everything, right? I want the minimum viable, everything. Just get it out the door and then revenue will help you solve the problem later.

Chris: Okay. So if you’ve documented some of your systems in your sales and you know, margin and things like that, where else in the business are you focusing? Because a lot of people will just document and they’ll get on this, this project of wanting to write everything down, but for no reason. And then they never used the materials they wrote down and they collect dust. So how do you think about that?

Cameron: So you have to create the systems so that you almost need to use them for the actual business to work. That if you don’t use the systems, the business will break, which really forces it to be a good system. The perfect system for speeding to stop speeding. It’s not, it’s not speeding tickets, it’s not radar detectors. It’s not road signs. It’s not your car beeping with you. It’s actually putting a governor in place so that the cars on the highway can only go to the speed that the highway allows him to go. Period. Speeding stops. But the government would lose too many tax dollars by enforcing the right system. So I try to look for the system that works. And without the system, everything kind of breaks down. That’s one method. The second is to hire people who are interdependent.

Cameron: And by that I mean they’re dependent enough that if a system exists, they’ll use it. But they’re independent enough that if none exist, they will create one. So I do not like hiring engineers or MBAs or pilots because pilots are broken. If they can’t see a system, they don’t know what to do. They need to follow the checklist. Right? The only exception is the guy who landed the plane on the river. He was independent, interdependent, right? Systems. None exists. I will make one up. MBAs want to overthink everything. They want to always build new systems and their systems are too, too big. And then engineers want to recreate everything as well. So I like hiring interdependent people.

Chris: Yeah. Reed Hastings from Netflix said that if you create a so many systems that you’re trying to dummy-proof the business, you end up with a business where only dummies want to work. And I thought that was a great point. You know that you need people that are creative thinkers, they’re independent enough, but they will use the systems. So some are balanced in the middle.

Cameron: Yeah. So they want to rely on the systems. Now here’s the only caveat I’ve ever, because I’m a big systems person, I’ve built a lot of franchise organizations, which all rely on systems. I just got off a call with Bedros from Fit Body Boot Camp. I’m mentoring he and his team, they’ve got 750 locations. When the only time I don’t like a system is if I see a diamond in the rough. When you just know that that opportunity is big, grab it, fuck the system and just like if you just know the person who is good, get them before somebody else gets them like so I will, I will follow outcomes over process all day long. If I can grab the outcome quickly ’cause it’s a diamond in the rough, I will avoid the system. But I will put systems in place for the 99% of the time that we really need it.

Chris: Right. Process shouldn’t hinder you, it should help you so you shouldn’t move despite process. But then put process in place to catch things from falling out. 

Cameron: Right. And then still trust that every once in a while we’re going to have that gut instinct that we just need to rely on.

Chris: Right. So you’ve run big organizations. What’s the difference between onboarding people in a five-person company versus a 500-person company? How much do you need to train them? How many systems do you need to get them up to speed on?

Cameron: I think, I think companies actually do a disservice to themselves when they’re smaller by not spending as much time on the training side of the business. I think it’s really important to train all your employees. But I use kind of the Simon Sinek concentric circles where he does the why, how, and what. I want all employees to be trained on the why first. Why do we exist? Our core purpose, our BHAG, our vivid vision, the history of the company, how we do things where we’ve screwed up and had fun in the past. Like so they really know us, right? And then I want all employees to be trained on the house stuff. So situational leadership, coaching, delegation, time management, problem-solving, conflict management, team building. Like all the soft skills leadership. Most companies only train on what we do and I think you have to obsess more on getting people trained on everything else first. So I like having an onboarding process and onboarding training program. We went so far as to have all employees go through three weeks of training before they were able to start working in their job on day one. So it’s kind of a lot of sharpening the saw to let them go really fast later. Right.

Chris: And do you recommend a lot of cross-training? Going through a few positions in the company?

Cameron: Oh yeah. We had, so as an example, at 1-800-GOT-JUNK, every employee had to go through franchise partner training, which was a week. Every employee had to go through call center training, which was a week. Every employee had to go out and work in the trucks and haul junk for two days. Every employee had to do all that. They had to meet with every director and go for lunch. So we had the same onboarding process, whether you were an accounts payable clerk or an it guy coding or a marketer. They all went through the same onboarding. So they all understood the whole company and how everything related.

Chris: Yeah. It’s amazing how many companies don’t take the time to give the context of here’s what the whole business does. They only explain your certain role and then you don’t know really how what you’re doing day to day fits into the bigger organization.

Cameron: And that’s why they spend so much time holding people accountable and managing is they haven’t given people enough visibility to understand everything, so they all have the same level of intuition.

Chris: It’s just common sense. Yeah, absolutely. It’s just common sense. I love that we should, you know, we should end on that. That you know, process and building businesses is just common sense. And if you feel like it’s not common sense for you, then maybe you should be a part of Cameron’s COO alliance. So Cameron, where, where can people find you if they want to learn more about the group? About you?

Cameron: Yeah, that’s place is just go to the COOalliance.com and then all of my books, if they just look up my name, Cameron Herold. All four of my books and soon to be five will or on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes as well.

Chris: And you heard it from him. Every employee at every company should read Meetings Sucks. So start there. 

Cameron: And another thing, well I just forgot they should all listen to the Second in Command Podcast because everyone interviews the entrepreneur. I only interview COO’s ’cause I want the rest of the story.

Chris: I love that. Great. Well check Cameron’s podcast out, his books, his website, and like I said at the beginning, please Google him and you’ll find an endless amount of content. So can Cameron, thank you so much for being here.

Cameron: Hey Chris, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

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