Our guest, Rob Michon is going to help us understand why you need a six step check up for your business. In today’s podcast we’ll talk about weird seminars that we’ve attended, why you need to value mistakes and the beginning part a conversation about niches which we’ll continue on a later episode.
Rob is one of those people who add tons of value and loves to connect like minded thinkers. I’m sure that you’ll love what you’re about to hear today.
Some of the things we’ll cover are:
- What Rob’s six step check up is and why you should care.
- How to understand what got you here probably won’t get you there and what that actually means.
- How to take the excitement you find in a program and actually do something with it when you get home.
- How you can go to a meeting and not have your staff cringe when you come home because of all the changes you’re going to demand in your business.
- How to get your staff to like the changes you’re about to propose and how to properly introduce them in your company.
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.
Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast.
Today, our guest is Rob Michon. I met Rob at this really interesting conference last year called the Baby Bathwater Institute. It involved 100 entrepreneurs there. I found him the most interesting to talk with and I’m going to bet you’re going to find what we’re going to talk about today really interesting. He runs a bunch of elite mastermind groups and he does one-on-one coaching with folks that do over a million dollars a year. He just told me that the total amount of business of the people that he’s working directly with – well, it’s over a billion dollars. I find that kind of impressive. I guess you will too. Anyway, let’s bring Rob in and we’ll start the conversation.
Hey Rob, how are you today?
Rob: Josh, I’m fantastic. Thank you for the compliment. A matter of fact, I felt the same way at that conference. I’m like, “Wow, this guy really stands out. He’s a cut above” so I’m glad we’ve kept in touch.
Josh: Yeah me too. This is one of these relationships when you go to conferences and you hope you meet someone you stay in touch with that’s worthwhile, you’re certainly there. So, you have this thing you call the Six-Step Checkup for Entrepreneurs. What is that and why should they do it?
Rob: It’s kind of a rule of thumb. It’s not something I’ll go through like you would at a Lube Express oil change but it’s something that I like to keep in mind when I’m working entrepreneurs. I typically find, just like working with any other industry, that you often there are very common mistakes. There are very common issues that you run up against. Much as we’d all love to believe that we’re so much different and unique than everybody else, quite often, once you narrow things down to a niche – be it business owners, physicians, attorneys, or whatever it might be, we all end up having similar characteristics, similar hang-ups, so I like to kind of keep this in mind when I’m working with clients to just think through their issues and help them become a little bit more resourceful.
Josh: So, what kind of things would you go through in the Six-Step Checkup?
Rob: You know, the first thing I like to ask is “What got you here? And will it get you to where you want to go next?” I know there’s a semi-famous book that Goldsmith put out What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, and he talks about fixing behaviors. I’m not a big fan of fixing anything. If you look at the change genre and how books talk about how to change your habits that are out there and how popular they are, it seems to me that nobody’s really cracked the code because people are still struggling with it. So, when I’m working with an entrepreneur, I don’t really want to change anything about them. I want to work who they are.
So, one of the things I look at is “What got you here? And how did you build on those strengths?” And then, “Is it still useful or do we need to sort of mold things or change our environment some way or just shift how we’re doing things so we can still take advantage of that strength that you brought to the table?” So I look at whether they’re playing to those strengths or if they’re more managing around them.
A number of the people I work with, they’re big idea people, they’re visionary types. The problem is they have a tendency to fall back to that. And they’ll go to a conference or a seminar, come back to the office, full of vim and vigor, all excited, going to totally change the business or going to revolutionize how we do things. And then they come back and their staff is either apathetic, luke warm, or they’re like, “Oh, can’t wait until this blows over.” Nothing really changes. And the thing is that that’s a big strength that got their business to the state it’s in now, so they rode that pony to this point but now that they have a staff involved and they’ve got other stakeholders, so to speak, in making those changes – they often don’t find that they have the level of excitement that they felt in that conference room so they’re whipsawing their staff back and forth. So a couple of things that I’ve worked with people on doing is just channeling that energy so you can satisfy that need for novelty, for newness, for change and keep things fresh and new for yourself without killing your staff.
So, a couple of points that I put together for how to manage the effectively is (1) institute some sort of mandatory waiting period. I don’t know how familiar people might be with the Kolbe Assessment but typically, on the Kolbe Score, Quick Start is extremely high for most business owners – particularly people that have founded or started their business from scratch.
Rob: And what this allows you to do is satisfy that need to put something new out inti the world. It’s an idea but then you decide – with your staff, together in advance, “How long are we going to let these things just chill for a while” and then we’ll revisit them and see “Is this still a good idea or not?” Because if you’ve got the kind of brain that’s really good with coming up with great ideas, fact of the matter is most of the ideas you come up with really aren’t as great as they seemed at first contact. So you give yourself however much time you feel is appropriate for that to blow over and then look at it again with a little bit more logic and rationality at play and see, “Is this still worth pursuing or not?” and then you get a little bit more staff buy-in because some of those will be thrown out because they just don’t make any sense. So you’ll lighten their overwhelm right from day one, before you even get started because you won’t be implementing ten new initiatives, you’ll be implementing maybe one or two or three and you’ll get more buy-in and more cooperation that way.
Josh: You just described me.
Rob: Very common.
Josh: When I was in my early days of the vending business, my staff used to just cringe when I went to a seminar because they knew – I was one of those guys that would go to the payphone and start making changes during the breaks.
Rob: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Josh: So, I finally fixed that. So I put in–
I’m glad you brought that up because I haven’t had a chance to talk about this yet, but I have this thing called the Two-Week Rule which means anytime I go to a program, I am not allowed to talk to anybody in my organization about it until two weeks after I come back. And only then, if it still seems like a good idea, I get to ask some people questions so you’re right on the money.
And by the way, if you haven’t taken the Kolbe Index, you should. I’m a 10 Quick Start so that’s a real surprise, I bet you.
Rob: Yeah. You actually told me that at the conference and I was like, “Yeah, I’m not surprised.” I love it though. I really have a hard time even relating to people that are super, super low on that index. Not that being low is a bad thing. It’s a skillset and a mindset in and of itself but I really have a hard time bridging that gap.
Another way that you can manage this is – I took some leadership training last year and my mentor taught me about tentative talking. So, you could broach the subject with your staff by saying, “You know, I’m kind of mulling this over. I’m not sure if I want to do it. I don’t know if it’s yes or a no but here’s what I was thinking, tell me what you think about it.” And then you just put it out there without any attachment or endorsement of the idea and just get their feedback but you have to come from a neutral state. That’s not always easy to do when you’re fresh out of a conference.
Rob: A couple of things I like to ask when evaluating an idea that actually might make the cut. “What’s the least amount of effort we could exert to see if this thing will work? So what’s the easiest test with the lowest amount of investment both in terms of time, money and effort to get something off the ground and just see if takes off?” One of the things I have found in working with a lot of my clients is there are people that are just dying to give them money for a certain type of offer, but instead they want to go climb Pikes Peak or something. And it just doesn’t make sense to me when you look at that. If you’ve really got to invest a tremendous amount of energy to get something up off the ground, how much more energy is it going to take to maintain momentum and continue? I just think that most things are fairly easily tested. And if you get some uptake at all, then you’ve got something to work with. But if it flames out immediately, then just ditch it.
Josh: Yeah. One of my favorite sayings around that was developed by a guy named Doug Hall who was a great innovation guy. His mantra is “Fail fast, fail cheap.” So you just described my modus operandi.
Rob: Yeah. Yeah, well with the Ten Quick Start it’s the only way you can survive with your sanity, I imagine.
Josh: I’ve lots of energy for change – way more than the rest of the world.
Rob: I know.
Josh: So what’s a useful question to ask yourself when you’re facing a challenge with an employee?
Rob: One of the things I’ve found–and again, this actually ties into the leadership training I took last year, to learn how to have just more effective conversations with people. By nature, I’m a bit argumentative and I like the exchange of ideas. I like to debate and see whose idea really stands out. I know, a lot of people aren’t wired that way.
The other thing I’ve also found is that “If you haven’t taken the time to establish some of the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing, especially when it comes to a new initiative or changing a process that you have internally, if you can’t get the buy-in that you want – rather than trying to force change down your employees’ throats, sometimes it’s better to ask the question that I learned through this training. One of the questions that they use, when working with somebody who’s just acting irrationally – for example, you want to make a change that will actually an employee’s job easier and the client’s experience better and you can’t figure out why they’re resisting it, the key question that I was given was “Why would a rational person say this? Or why would they advocate this?”
And so, one of the things I’ve taken from that is, not only trying to figure out how this makes rational sense but then I also like to ask myself, when I’m facing some resistance, “How am I really wrong here? Like, what is wrong with what I’ve put forth here? Was it the delivery? Is the idea unsound? Is it an ill-fitting solution to the problem that we’re trying to solve here? How might this be wrong?” And you really have to look at it with a sense of curiosity and actually flipping the thing over and saying, “Can this thing be fine tuned? Is this thing completely out to lunch? What am I missing here? And how is this maybe just not a good fit?”
And then the other thing I also like to see people ask is, “How are they right?” If we were charged with defending their point of view, what would be the reasons that we defend that? And then, once I’ve looked at “How I might be wrong and how they’re right.” then I try to look for ways that we can bridge the gap between those two points in a way that makes were palatable for the staff to (1) initiate and (2) continue to follow, going forward.
So I found that if I question my own thinking—since a lot of entrepreneurs really don’t have a lot of staff that communicates effectively when you’re challenging them from an authority standpoint, it’s best to try to just play that role yourself and work on their behalf to try to bridge that gap because a lot of times I see employees not really knowing how to communicate with their own or in an effective manner so they can have a productive debate as to how and why they’re going to be doing the things that they’re doing.
Josh: So it sounds to me like you’re a fan of using questions as a management strategy, is that fair to say?
Rob: Absolutely. Absolutely. Somebody asked me, a couple of months ago—I have 11 books on how to ask effective questions and I’m actually going to be acquiring my twelfth.
Josh: So what is the twelfth book you’re acquiring?
Rob: I think it’s 1001 Solution-based Therapy Questions. It’s actually something from the therapy field. It’s a form of therapy where they actually ask questions in a way that’s solution-oriented. So it’s not like lying back on the couch and, seven years later, you’re still talking about what mom did to you but actually talking about quick change and finding a way to make improvement as quickly as possible. And it’s actually a short-basis therapy as opposed to a long-term engagement so I’m looking forward to digging into that.
Josh: Cool. So could you talk a little bit about the power of questions, especially when you own a company and helping others to using questions to manage other people?
Rob: A couple of principles that I practice, that have been extremely helpful to me, and this wasn’t easy transition-wise for me because I was naturally argumentative and I like to defend my point of view. And like most humans, I’m biased towards confirmation. What I was able to do was flip this around so I become insanely curious about someone else’s point of view – and not from a standpoint of wanting to attack or dismantle what it is they’re trying to say but to really truly understand where are they coming from and why is what they’re saying making sense to them? Under what conditions does this really make sense? And where are they really coming from? And if I really—again, this is old stuff but, you know, the Covey book, “seek first to understand and then to be understood”. If you generally adopt a sense of curiosity about seeing the world through their eyes, it makes bridging those gaps much easier and you start to see a whole world of possibilities of working in concert with each other as opposed to trying to impose your will on somebody, so that’s #1.
#2, I find that if I am fully present with present with someone – instead of thinking about what I want to say next, but really digging into how they’re communicating? How are they talking? What’s their cadence? Have they slowed down for a moment here? Have they sped up? Has their tone risen or lowered? Has their volume changed? If I’m hypersensitive to those types of changes, I can glean a whole lot more information from their communication than I would if I was just listening to their words or thinking about what I wanted to interject in a whim. So if I combine two things, I get a real good sense of where they’re coming from.
And then lastly, I find that if adopt that sort of mindset, I can get away with asking some pretty, otherwise contentious types of questions without it feeling like I’m attacking them, so I can really peel back the layers. And, you know, it’s quite often in client work, people present with a given problem and the problem they present with is really not the real problem. There’s always a problem behind the problem if not several layers deeper than that. And so, what I find is if I’m able to do these two things well at the beginning I can question around it. I can look for exceptions. I can look for connections between what they’re saying and what I’m advocating et cetera. So, the questioning point of view puts me shoulder to shoulder with the person I’m working with as opposed to across the table from them.
Josh: That’s very cool. I like that idea. I think I’ll try that myself.
So I’m going to do another pivot – because I like to do pivots, and you mentioned niches very early on in the show, and I like to consider myself a niche-aholic. But you could talk for a little bit about how you work with your clients around niches and what your thought process is around them? Because most of the folks I talk with – their customers are everybody which, in my opinion, is nobody. And when I start talking to them about niches which means they need to take what they’re really good at and moving that down, they always think I’m from Mars. How do you get people to understand that they really need a niche and they’re doing themselves a big disservice when they don’t use one?
Rob: I’ll give you a good example, or at least what I think is a good example, and this just happened actually this morning. I’m helping someone develop some marketing materials for a guitar – learn how to play the guitar course, okay? And I imagine you are familiar with the group Boston. They wrote a song called More Than a Feeling. And he’s actually developing a course starting with that song and then through a series of questions he’s able to determine how long it’s probably going to take a person to learn that song. So, if I I’m marketing off the back of More Than a Feeling, I can start to draw some pretty good conclusions about how old that person probably is, the kind of music they like to listen to, the style of guitar that they’re probably playing et cetera. So, I can start to draw some real good conclusions and I can start speaking directly to that person.
He was developing a quiz-based survey which is what we spend a lot of time working on in our mastermind group and the thing that was interesting to me was – okay, I could pretty much peg someone would be interested in playing that song and that’s not going to appeal to someone who’s, say, 16 to 21 years old and loves Greenday, they’re going to want to learn something else. They’re not going to want—they may not even know what More Than a Feeling is, right?
And what was interesting is, we start this process with what’s called a softball question. The softball question is often age- or gender-based or maybe industry-based. What I noticed about the way he framed his first question, his first question said, “Now, which age group are you in?” And it said, “20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s?” And right there, as a customer – right from the very first step, I begin to wonder, “Is this thing even really for me or not?” Because why is he asking 20’s to 70’s, that doesn’t make any sense at all.
So I’m probably in the age category that would make sense to market this thing to. I’m in my middle 40’s. So someone who is interested in More Than a Feeling us going to be 40 to 65. So if I come into his world and he’s asking, “Are you in your 20’s and 30’s?” it just starts to create the slightest bit of friction and makes me wonder, “Am I in the right place? Is this really for me? Why is he speaking to everybody when he should be talking to our little tribe?” And so, it’s a subtle distinction here.
But what happens is when you’re trying to talk to everybody, you start making people wonder whether they belong here at all and that’s not how you want to start a conversation with a prospective customer. Normally, people talk about niche and why it’s important in different ways but what I find is, one of the most interesting books that I read in the marketing space, which wasn’t a particularly good book but it was provocative, was called Different by Youngme Moon. This was written about I don’t know maybe eight to ten years ago. She talked about how things are going to be starting to move in the direction of hypercustomization and we’ve seen that take place over time. The thing is if you start turning left, when everybody’s expecting you’re going to be turning right, you start creating friction. And over time, people reach a threshold where they say, “You know what, I’m out. I don’t know why I don’t feel like I belong here. I don’t know why this product doesn’t seem like it works for me but it just isn’t hitting me where I think it is important.” So what I find is, just from a subtlety point of view, speaking to a niche market at every step of the way – from the first interaction that you have, sets things off where they’re looking for reasons why they want to do business for you as opposed to “Yeah, I’ll make a mental note of that, I don’t think I really belong here” because when people show up in your world, they’re really mostly looking for ways to reduce their set of choices, reasons to eliminate you from their search of consideration. So any reason you give them is going to be counted against you. And the worst thing that you can do is try to speak to everybody because that really shows that you’re not paying attention to my needs – my interests, what I want to learn.
So, if I show up for a products that wants to teach me how to play More than a Feeling and then you start talking about things that would be of interest to 20‑year-olds like impressing girls or becoming popular at your high school, well that’s not a conversation I want to have. And at the same time, if you try to cop everything down and talk generically about some nebulous reasons as to why I might want to learn how to play a guitar, that’s not really going to hit me either because everybody’s talking to the masses. So, it was some kind of a long‑winded explanation.
Josh: It’s a actually a really good one and I’m glad you did it because I think it really helps people realize that they have to talk to their best customer and not anybody who’s warm and has a pulse.
Rob, unfortunately, we are out of time and I know that there are people who are going to want to contact you, so if they want to go about doing that, how would they do so?
Rob: You know, I’d love to know if they’d found me through you so I think probably the fun-est way to do this would be I’ll give you an e-mail. That would be the fastest way to get to me. I’m a very behind-the-scenes kind of person so. Let’s do this, we’ll go firstname.lastname@example.org. How about that?
Josh: Cool. We can do that.
Josh: So, if you want to contact Rob, what you do is you go email@example.com.
Rob, thanks so much for being on today. This was really fun. And we’ll have to have some more of these conversations.
Rob: I look forward to it. Thank you.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.