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Season 01, Episode 03

How To Transition From Corporate Employee To Entrepreneur

With guest, Sheri Hamilton, COO of Cardone Enterprises.

About the Episode

Sheri is the COO of Grant Cardone’s portfolio of companies and a true operations expert! Sheri brings over 30 years of corporate operational experience to her current role, which she started in 2011, when she left the corporate world and entered into the entrepreneurial scene as COO of Cardone Enterprises. Since then, the organization has grown to over 140 staff, with a digital TV network, ad agency, online sales training university and well-known business conference for entrepreneurs – 10XGrowthCon.

In this episode, we talk about her transition from corporate operations to entrepreneurial operations, keeping her team aligned on Grant’s mission and vision, the onboarding and training experience at Cardone Enterprises, and more.

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Full Transcript


Chris: Hey everyone. I’m Chris Ronzio, Founder and CEO of Trainual and this is Process Makes Perfect. As always, we’re talking with experts in process creation, automation and delegation – basically the people that just know how to make business easier. And today we have with us Sherri Hamilton. Sherri is  the COO of Grant Cardone’s full portfolio of companies and a true operations expert. She brings with her over 30 years of corporate operational experience to her current role, which she started in 2011 when she left the corporate world – can’t wait to hear about that – and entered into the entrepreneurial scene as the COO of Cardone Enterprises. Since then, the organization has grown to over 140 staff with a digital TV network, an ad agency, online sales training university, and of course, the well known business conference for entrepreneurs, the 10X Growth Con, which we’ll talk about more. So Sherri, thank you so much for being here.

Sheri: You Bet. You are welcome. It’s nice to be with you, Chris.

Chris: Great. So I’ve heard the story. I’m sure a lot of people have heard the story of you when you first met Grant, but I’d love to hear your, your transition from how you jumped out of the corporate world and joined this crazy whirlwind of a business.

Sheri: It’s really amazing. I actually met Grant through his twin brother, Gary. I knew Gary through some charitable organizations that we had a mutual interest in and we happened to be going to a big event. And here we are at this beautiful groundbreaking ceremony of this multimillion-dollar building in Florida, and Grant and Elena come in and since it was sort of this pioneer sort of vibe and theme for the event, Grant comes in with his cowboy hat and Elena’s got her fringy skirt and her boots on and here we all are. And they helped break ground on this beautiful building. And that was my first experience ever meeting Grant. So when I moved to California, he was doing a party for his 50th birthday. It was very Moulin Rouge, and he was announcing the release of his first book, Sell to Survive. And so I’m invited to this party and we start chatting. It’s his home in the Hollywood Hills and he’s very Hollywood and I’m very JP Morgan Chase. And so that’s how we first met. And he was running the business with a few people out of his pool house that had been turned into an office. And that was when our first conversation started.

Chris: So was there an alert to the craziness? Did you know when you met him that you thought you wanted to work with him? Or was it him recruiting you hard?

Sheri: It was more the recruiting peaks of it because, you know, when somebody’s been in a very structured environment and used to things going a certain way, the fun, loving, free-styling, it’s a little bit like, “Wow, okay, so how do we actually get things done in that environment?” And the cool thing is he was getting things done like right and left. And as he was expanding and actually growing his business and moving into something that was more than just him, and more of a team, now he’s seeing, “Wow, okay. I don’t really want to be doing all this other process stuff. I want to do my thing.” And so he just needed somebody with the experience behind them of a company that knew sort of how to put those pieces in place.

Chris: I love that. So for anyone listening, if you’ve seen Grant’s Instagram or YouTube or watched him at an event, you see he’s on stage. But behind the scenes, everyone’s reporting to Sheri, which I find so interesting. So you actually have all the departments reporting right to you, is that right?

Sheri: Well, we have department managers, thank goodness, we have at least 10 of those guys now at otherwise there’s no way I could handle 160 people. It’s really interesting because for a long time we did do that. But you’ll see, and that’s part of putting processes in. As you begin to grow, you really don’t want more than 10 or so people reporting to any one person because then if you have more than that, there is just no way that you can give the feedback you need, do the process improvements you need, take that input, put it into your processes and procedures, make sure that you’re doing everything that you need to do as a leader. By putting those leaders in place, it helps those departments run smoother.

Chris: So with the explosive growth that you have, how frequently are you having to change up your managerial structure of who reports to who?

Sheri: Well, in some areas, it’s almost weekly. It just depends on how many people we’re hiring. So in our newer areas, you’re going to hire somebody new this week, that means a lot changes. You know, in our more established areas we’ve had some people that are on the job for many, many years and those things don’t change. But you’ve got a lot of new folks coming up under and maybe then you create new teams because for example, in our sales team we’ve got now we’re at the maximum capacity where one person could manage them. So we need to have team leaders so that those guys actually get the attention they need in order to, in order to succeed.

Chris: Right. We just went through that too, setting up all different team leads and I know it can be a painful process. So how do you communicate the change to everyone when you’re going to shift up a department? Is that something you do or is it something that your other leaders do?

Sheri: It depends. In this particular case, my leader of my sales team, Todd, he’s the guy that would communicate that out. He’s been around a long time. If it were a newer leader, then I would help them out and I would make the announcements so everybody would understand and be able to absorb the information. One thing that we do is we meet every week managers of our departments only. And this allows us to work things out amongst our leaders prior to rolling out to our grand population as a whole. Because one thing that’ll happen is if you roll something out and it’s poorly communicated or halfway communicated or hasn’t been fully vetted and you find you need changes down the line, it just creates a massive confusion. So we decided, and I said, “Guys, let’s just meet once a week management team.

Sheri: We’re going to come in before we start work. So we meet at 8:00 AM because our start time is 9:00 AM and we kind of bat these ideas around, “Hey, this is what we want to do. What do you guys see as something that would come up that might be a problem there?” “Oh wow. Well, we didn’t think about that.” “Okay, let’s think about that and vet that all the way through. And then we will actually roll that out as a process or a procedure and it’s not then a surprise when it lands on accounting desk that we have a new product or a new service because we’ve already covered it in our meetings.

Chris: I think it goes with a smaller organization that everyone’s around the table making decisions. It’s kind of a consensus sort of thing. And then you shift from cooking the pizza together to almost partially baking the crust with the team of leaders, right?

Sheri: It’s right. And you really have to be sure that as you’re growing and you’re implementing new processes and new procedures that you’re consulting each department because otherwise, they cannot wear their hats. They cannot do their jobs. If you just spring something on them, which we very often find happens, we’re at a conference or a convention and we want to do a different special for example or guess what, we’re going to offer this extra added bonus with it. We didn’t have that in our plan. So we have to have a communication process whereby we let everyone know otherwise the client doesn’t get the assets they’re supposed to get. Customer service doesn’t know how to answer the phone calls. Client relations doesn’t know how to onboard the client and accounting doesn’t know how to charge them or what they’re supposed to have and not have. And then you have shrinkage, and you have loss, and you have upset customers. So we’ve learned that it is really key as much as possible to stay flexible. Yes. But to have a plan and to involve everybody in the plan, you know, it’s not just the sales team that needs to know, it’s the entire team because it has to flow through the entire organization to be successful.

Chris: Right. What good is a process if no one knows about it. Communication I think is so important.

Sheri: Is the bottom line. Communication. It’s so key. And you know, what’s always surprising to me is how little people really understand about how to communicate and how to communicate broadly and what needs to be communicated. It’s very interesting to me and it’s probably the biggest challenge I have in any company I’ve worked with.

Chris: So perfect segue. Before this, you worked at JP Morgan Chase, which is obviously a dramatically different company than Cardone Enterprises. So how did training and standard operating procedures, in general, vary between a big corporate enterprise? And the one you’re with now?

Sheri: Well at JP Morgan Chase, you’ve got hundreds of years of legacy there and they developed a lot of training and processes and procedures. They’re very training heavy and that’s also because they’re extremely regulated. And so you need to make sure that your people are not saying and doing the wrong things and they are saying and doing the right things because the bigger you get, obviously as an organization, especially in financial worlds and regulated worlds, the bigger the target you are. Let’s be real. So when I came into this company, there was exactly zero policy or procedure. There was nothing at all. And it was really actually perfect because I had so much experience with such a large company that I was able to say, well, let’s see, how can we just start and how can we just implement something? And when it comes to that, it’s always something is an improvement.

Sheri: You take what’s happening right now, what, how does it exist right now today? And you just put something in, let’s communicate that thing. Let’s write that thing down. And then, you know what, I found it very cool little hack is you give it to the person that’s doing that process or procedure and you have them expand on it. “Oh, you know, what I found as I was implementing this process or procedure, that I often got asked this other question. Or I often ran into the fact that I had to use this particular software thing.” And then they are responsible for expanding on that policy and procedure. And thereby they’re writing it down, it’s sticking with them, they’re remembering it, they’re doing it every day. They’re closer to it than you are. And then guess what, when you hire another person on, you’ve got a, inbred, inborn trainer that you’re going to use to bring on that new person. And you’ve got your policy now that as closely as possible resembles reality. So one of the dangers is when you, when you get this policy and it’s older, it doesn’t apply anymore. What good is it?

Chris: Right. And it’s such an iterative thing as you hand it off to someone else, like you said, they improve it. You know, I think a lot of people, especially in operations leadership roles, they put the onus on themselves to develop all this. But I think you said it perfectly. If you put someone else at the, at the, in the driver’s seat to refine the process, then it just gets infinitely better.

Sheri: It’s so true. And honestly with all of the different specialties that we have in our company, you’ve got somebody who is a web developer specialist and he might be a front-end web developers specialist and then you’ve got your back-end coders, you’ve got your funnel people, you’ve got your email marketers, there are so many specialties. It would really be impossible to find an operational executive that was savvy enough in all of those areas to properly instruct those teams. You know, it’s impossible. That’s why we do so well really, because we have Cardone University and our Sales University. We teach teams how to sell. So an executive of a very large company like Google or Toyota or any of these Merrill Lynch people, they don’t have to be sales experts because we’ve got that taped. We’ve got it down and we can implement that process and that procedure into their teams. And so that’s what I think is a really good way to approach it.

Chris: So the company is so well known for your sales training and how great you are at coaching and training people up. How do you surface best practices, not only in sales but in the operational areas of the business. When someone figures out this is a better way to do something, how does that make it to the playbook?

Sheri: It makes it to the playbook through the team leaders and they roll that process out to their staff and it’s usually on a departmental basis. Every so often, occasionally we’ll have something that is a universal policy change, in which case I’ll usually announce it. And we’ll make sure that the team leaders kind of repeat the process and procedure down through the divisions. One thing that, you know, it’s been very clear to me is you cannot say something once and expect that it actually is received. You have to repeat it over and over and over again. And many different ways. Maybe it’s in writing, it’s announced in a meeting, it’s then reiterated in the department meeting, then it happens in the one on ones and then it gets a video and then we put it in the university. I mean you just, you know, it’s amazing. And, and actually it, it gives it longevity and it gives it that, that point where you can tell the next people. It’s not just in people’s heads, oh, this is how we do this.

Chris: Right. Get your business out of your brain. That’s what we say. So one of the things we often recommend people document first is just an employee’s first day, some basic training orientation. So I’m intrigued. What does an employee’s first day like at your company?

Sheri: Well, we have a little check sheet and it’s an onboarding check sheet. And they come in, they attend the morning meeting, and then they go down the checklist. They meet with all the different divisions of the company. They learn what each division does. You know, they get their email, they get their computer, they log in, they know where the supplies are, they know how to scan, copy, fax, etc. They know how to put their alarm codes in, they know what’s going to happen to them. If they set the alarm off on my weekend and you know that they know how to park, where to park, what to say, who to talk to on which but it is a lot. So it’s a broad orientation day one and then they’re going to get oriented to their particular work that’s going to happen via a colleague or via their department leader or myself, depending on what department they’re coming into. And then it’s going to be an ongoing process, an ongoing learning. And they’re going to be pointed to Grant’s Books. They’re going to be pointed to Cardone University and they’re going to be responsible for bringing themselves into the loop on everything that we have going on.

Chris: So it’s always a little at a time, but it sounds like you’ve got a sequence and at least a process for doing this, which is great. Now, one of the things I’m sure you introduce everyone to is the mission and the vision. The values. I think it was Cameron, Harold’s podcast, the second in command podcast. I heard you say how aligned you and Grant are on, on mission and how that helps you you know, execute all the craziness. So how do you incorporate the mission into your training?

Sheri: Well, first of all, it happens in the interview. In the interview, I’m extremely clear with everyone or the department managers are the same. “Listen, here’s our purpose here. We are looking for people who want to help us reach every person on earth and help them do better in their businesses, their careers, in their lives, using our technology. That is what we’re about. If that’s something that gets you excited, if that’s something you can feel gratified contributing to everyday, if that’s something that you feel like you can make your mission, than this is a place that we want to explore further.” So it starts there. And then as, as part of making it part of the training, we have a morning meeting every single morning, 9:05 every single morning and it gets put in and put in and put in and we share success stories and it talks about this guy, he did this with our training.

Sheri: He had this success. Here’s this company. They had this win. Here’s this sales guy. He had that win and we help everybody every morning reorient themselves. It’s part of this, you’ve got to keep the message going. This is a leader’s responsibility. Keep the message going. And that is how every single day we incorporate it into every single person. And at the end of that meeting, I always ask them, are you guys ready to help some more people today. Like I am inviting you to join into this mission and it’s every day so that no matter what problems or issues or what’s happened in their night, what’s happened in their morning, the kids are sick. They don’t feel well. They’re having trouble with his spouse, their money problems, this or that. They had a little fender meant or whatever it is, whatever difficulty it is, I’m every morning I’m reorienting them to our mission.

Chris: I love that. So, so when you flew into this company, you said there were no processes and procedures and policies. When should a company start to work on this either by size or situationally? When’s the right time to start to tackle this

Sheri: Immediately, if not yesterday. It doesn’t matter how big or how small. In fact, I really believe that if you are a solopreneur you need this more than any other person. You need to understand when you’re being a salesperson, when you are being the bookkeeper, when you are being the collection office, when you are being the the payroll person, when you are being the promoter, when you are being the promotion and marketing creation person. And it’s really very key because whether you realize it or not, you are being all of that. Plus you are the service, you are the product. You are the delivery. Yeah. And so if you don’t really map out how you do each one of those things and what time you’re allotting to each one of those things, you will be a messed up, jumbled up ball and not many things will be be productive that you’re doing, cause you’re always just kind of in a confusion.

Chris: I remember when I was starting out, I had this big org chart on my wall and all the boxes just had my name in it, but it was that representation of you’re doing everything and at least you carve out the boxes from the get go.

Sheri: That is the point. If you don’t at least realize it, you will never ever expand because then you can never say, man, I’m really getting bogged down in this box over here. So I need to hire a person to handle this box. Now you know what your job description is of the person you need to hire. What skills do they need to have? How much could you pay them will because you’ll know then what it’s worth to you to have that job done for you. It just accomplishes everything and it’s a part of organizing any activity or even your life, you know, like it’s everything productive is going to come from that.

Chris: I love that. Such a great tip. So wherever you’re at in your organization size, create a future org chart, put your name in the boxes and then watch it expand. So speaking of expansion, let’s wrap up here by talking about the 10X Growth Con, which has expanded like crazy since you launched it. How many attendees are you up to now?

Sheri: 35,653. We hosted last February at the Marlins Stadium and I’ll tell you, this was a, just something that was purely by demand. People wanted to start seeing grant in person and we had just gone totally digital. And you know, we kept getting the client saying “Yes, but we want to see Grant in person, we want to hear him speak live. We want Grant.” So we started with 2,400 people in a hotel. The next year we went to Mandalay Bay events center. And then this February we were at Miami Marlins Park. We just can’t believe the response that we get. It’s such a cool networking opportunity. And the speakers we have just unbelievable. The talent’s a list. So this coming February in 2020, we’re going back to Mandalay Bay events center and we’re going to host about 12,000 people there. So that’ll be a little more intimate than 35,000, but I think that’s going to give everybody some great opportunities to network.

Chris: That’s unbelievable. And my first company was an event production company, so I appreciate how much process went into that.

Sheri: Holy smokes. It is amazing.

Chris: Yeah. Well, Sherry, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I think the theme, if I looked back on the conversation was repetition and process really is repetition, right? It’s doing the same thing and refining it and getting better at it as you grow. So if anyone would take one thing away from this, do you have one recommendation to leave everyone with?

Sheri: Do it now. Don’t do it later. Don’t procrastinate. Just sit down and write your duties. Right. How you want things to be. And you know, don’t procrastinate because the moment you do that, it just won’t ever happen.

Chris: You heard it from her. Do it now. Sheri Hamilton, COO of Cardone Enterprises. Thank you so much for being here and sharing your message with us.

Sheri: Great to be with you Chris. Thank you a bunch.

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