In this episode Josh speaks with Alfonso E. Chávez, CEO of Mocha Media. They discuss being open and removing barriers to communication can accelerate ideas in your company.
Alfonso E. Chávez founded Mocha Media® in Boston, MA in 1996 and raised it in Los Angeles, CA for since 1999 in response to the increasing demand for multimedia development, audio/visual production, and IT systems management.
Alfonso’s passion for blending business, technology and multimedia with leadership inspired him to trademark Mocha Media’s tagline – Human Meets Digital® which embodies the Art and Science of Technology Management and how Alfonso blends resources creatively.
In today’s episode you will learn about:
- Naming your business and owning your name
- Radically openness concept
- How much does it cost you to keep the secret
- How to move to a culture where you share basically everything
Narrator: Welcome to “Cracking the Cash Flow Code”, where you’ll learn what it takes to create enough cash to fill the four buckets of profit. You’ll learn what it takes to have enough cash for a great lifestyle, have enough cash for when an emergency strikes, fully fund a growth program and fund your retirement program.
When you do this, you’ll have a sale ready company that will allow you to keep or sell your business. This allows you to do what you want with your business, when you want in the way you want. In Cracking the Cash Flow code, we focus on the four areas of business that let you take your successful business and make it economically and personally sustainable.
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 and allow you to be free of cash flow worries.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow code. My guest today is Alfonso Chavez. He is the CEO of Mocha Media. He is an interesting explanation from Mocha Media certainly let him tell you himself what it is. Let’s bring Alfonso on. Hey, Alfonso how are you today?
Alfonso: I’m doing well, Josh. Thank you so much for having me and great hello to the people of Vermont and to your family and Happy New Year to everyone.
Josh: Thank you so much. We are recording this by the way on January 2 although, it’s likely not to be actually broadcast till the spring. Alfonso, tell me the story behind Mocha Media.
Alfonso: Thank you for asking. Well, Mocha was started in Boston during a wonderful time in my life when I was attending Berkley College of Music as a post graduate. So I did my undergraduate work at Boston College. I had gone off and started my first company in Mexico and from there at the dawn of the internet, I graduated BC in 94. Yahoo was born in 92. At the dawn of the internet, I had this great idea of going back to do some work in multimedia and Berkeley in Boston was the best choice at the time.
So Mocha Media was born in a dorm and the name Mocha came from the metaphor or the analogy of blending different kinds of things to make something else. At the time, coffee was a big hit. You were pretty big coffee aficionados, and we figured well it would be a great metaphor for what we’re trying to do, which is blending different kinds of things: technology, media, marketing, and everything in between.
So Mocha gets born in Boston and then we have a wonderful opportunity to go out to Los Angeles. We came out in 1998. We started very organically here in LA. We got really lucky and things grew and we incorporated local media in 1999 here in Los Angeles, California. At the time, it was a wonderful thing to have this great opportunity to trademark our name and to register it, but unbeknownst to us, Scott McNealy at Sun Microsystems wasn’t too happy with the fact that we taken Mocha because he had Java. So we ended up in a six year quagmire with Sun Microsystems. I’m happy to report that we won so we own the trademark to Mocha Media.
Josh: Well, you did better than a friend of mine. A friend of mine who I helped open a dental clinic named it McDentals. And as you can imagine, McDonald’s didn’t have a lot of sense of humour around that. They pestered him for about seven or eight years and he didn’t go to court he decided to give up the coast and rename his clinics. Congratulations for winning over the gigantic monolith.
Alfonso: It was in our deal and look to the title of your amazing book, Sustainable Business and this podcast. I think that one of the first pursuits of any city sustainable business or for any entrepreneur is to own your name. I mean, it doesn’t really help if you’re called something that you can’t really tell people about or used in a commercial sense. So I think that, at least to kick off this conversation today, owning your name or having the right to use a name is I think the bedrock of starting a sustainable business.
Josh: Owning your platform or think is more important to many businesses. I see put all their eggs in either Facebook basket or LinkedIn basket or a Twitter basket. At the end of the day, they don’t pay enough attention to their own real estate which they control. They’re really putting their business at risk because of the whim of say Amazon changing the rules or Facebook changing the rules or even worse, Facebook throwing off the platform with no way to fix that.
Alfonso: Yeah, I agree. It’s a big hurdle and expensive. Not everyone can take on a Scott McNealy or Sun Microsystems or a Microsoft or a Coca Cola, but to a greater extent I think that at least in the US, we have this incredible entrepreneurial opportunity to be able to register and to do so very, very, very efficiently. So I always encourage people to register no matter how complicated it might seem, just go to the US Patent and Trademark Office and their website online and just do your homework and do the best you can to register.
Josh: It makes perfectly good sense. So tell me about being radically open because there’s a lot of disagreement on that term, if I interpreted it correctly.
Alfonso: It’s a wonderful concept. It’s something that I just recently came across. The title of the book is called Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It was written by Thomas Lynch. The tagline of the book is theory and practice for treating disorders of over control. And so in 2017, I embarked on a new adventure to graduate school at Columbia University to get a master’s in science and tech management. At the time, my specialization in Columbia was cyber security.
As you can imagine the topic of cyber security, security and now privacy with everything that’s going on in Europe and in the US, has now created somewhat of paranoia among entrepreneurs and business owners or leaders with regard to everything under the sun. Do we talk about it? Do we not talk about it? Do we share? Do we not share? How much information do we give our employees? How much information do we even want to gather or take in from our clients? This is a huge issue. It’s a huge, huge issue. It not only creates somewhat of a conundrum, but it creates massive overhead and massive costs. Because to manage it, to even talk about it is an expense.
And so, to a greater degree, there are a lot of smart people working on this problem. I loved reading Thomas Lynch’s book Radically Open. To me, it just kind of opened a whole new paradigm into having to really think about the sustainability of keeping things top secret or keeping things tightly held in organization. And so I welcome everyone to think about this idea in terms of their own business. If you own a restaurant, how much is it worth trying to keep your great grandmother’s secret recipe for cookies or for anything that you’re serving?
If you’re a business like Elon Musk, and you have a small company called Tesla, think about what has happened. Elon said, “That’s it, we’re giving away all of our IP or releasing it to the public. We’re no longer in the business of spending hundreds of millions of dollars in protecting it, keeping it secret or top secret, and we’re just going to let the markets treat us as fairly as possible.”
There’s something there. I’m still working this out intellectually because I have an enormous amount of clients that are on both sides of the fence, very conservative and very, let’s call it secretive about what they’re doing or what they’re up to. Then clients that are saying, “Look, I’ll fund so I don’t want to spend the money to have to guard my grandmother’s secret sauce.” There’s something there. I think that we have to explore it a lot further, Josh.
Josh: I would agree with that. You’re not talking about Ray Dalio’s Radical Open, which is, you tell whatever people you’re thinking all the time, no matter what.
Alfonso: There’s that too. I’m going to call there’s a whole species, if we’re looking at it taxonomically. There’s a whole species of radically open thinkers from philosophers to politicians, to scientists. I mean, everything in between even the concept of area 51 and extraterrestrials is somewhat of a conundrum. I mean, how radically open do you want to be about letting that cat out of the bag? So I think it’s a fascinating conversation, but for purposes of our discussion in terms of sustainability in business, you really have to look at it as a KPI.
Those of us who don’t know what that means, a key performance indicator is typically what companies in the small, medium business range to much larger are using to kind of keep track of things that they care about. So this whole notion of what is it costs my business to keep something top secret or secret is something that very few business owners even know. I would challenge any one of your clients or anyone who is having this kind of conversation with an executive at a company to ask them that single question and say, “Hey, how much does it cost you to keep the secret here?”
They’re not going to know because they’ve never KPI it. They’ve never studied it. They just don’t know what we’re talking about. So once they start seeing the numbers, and they start doing a little bit of research into what it really costs the organization at that point, I think it becomes a business issue. Then it becomes a business intelligence issue, which I think is one of the greatest things you reported in your book, Sustainable that you wrote, which I think is the greater point you were trying to make is, “Look, how much BI or business intelligence am I actually aware of as the owner of this company or as a manager of this company?” I humbly submit to you that this idea of radical openness is going to have a huge impact on the bottom line.
Josh: We’ve been preaching this for about 40 years. We started off with what was called book management, where you share all your financials with your employees and when I’ve recommended to people over the years that they do this is, “Oh, we can’t show that because my competitors might see it.” So a question I always like to ask people when I’m talking about radical openness is, if your competitors got a hold of a particular measurement, would it be something that could harm you or not? That’s the first place you want to start. The truth is, if I show you my balance sheet, my profit and loss statement, you might say, “Boy, you don’t make very much money.” But it’s not going to give you any ability to use that against my business because there’s nothing there that strategically important.
Josh: I will say that there are lots of things in a business that you might measure which are strategically important. Some of those are good and you can share and some of those you may want to experiment with before you do a full share. It’s going to be a little bit at a time and what I find is that most business owners are private to their detriment, I would say.
Alfonso: Absolutely. I think the greater issue there is, how does that affect innovation? How does that affect the ability for different people within an organization to communicate in a way that gives them the ability to innovate or to solve a problem? Because clearly, if the marketing department has no idea what’s happening in the R&D department, I mean, nothing’s happening. And so I think for a lot of us, especially in technology, we’re trying to bridge those communication gaps to find ways to accelerate that communication because the power of one idea can immediately transform an organization within seconds, within minutes.
And if you bottleneck bad, or if you fire a wall it, use my own terms, then you’re stunting the organization in a way that’s going to enable growth. I think that to greater degree, the art of a CEO is therefore, how do you find that balance between risk and reward? Because clearly, there is a risk. I mean, there is somewhat of a risk, especially when you’re kind of in your early stage of development, especially in high tech. There is a risk to kind of give away too much, if you will. But there is a reward in terms of the internal benefit of the organization talking openly about this stuff.
And what really concerns me and this is probably an interesting segue to this article I just wrote recently on LinkedIn about privacy, freedom of speech and radical openness in terms of let’s call it digital dialectics in terms of the greater conversation online. The bigger question is, “Well, what’s happening right now where a Google or an Amazon or another large organization like Microsoft can immediately squelch free speech.”
Or determine that you, I, or anyone is not either good enough, smart enough, or articulate enough to be able to say what we want to say online. At that point, I think we have another kind of problem that we’re hopefully trying to not get in the near too distant future. Because right now, at least from where I’m sitting here in California, there are a lot of people that are worried about where these tech companies are leading us in terms of digital radical openness, the openness of the internet.
Josh: I think the challenge becomes in that particular case, do you label these big tech companies as news organizations, which puts them under a bunch of regulations that they presently don’t live on. The truth is radical openness is great. There has to be guardrails around it .In any business, I’m going to share information with you and when I’m sharing information with you, I’m also showing trust, that you can use this information in a responsible manner that’s going to help the goals and the purposes of the business.
And if you as management do not communicate to your people, then they go off and do stuff that you didn’t want to do. It’s not their fault. It’s your fault. It’s sort of like working with values. In my book, I open up and I say, “Look, values are the thing.” But a value without a clarifying statement is a useless word.
Josh: If you don’t use a clarifying statement to run your business, then you’re missing a huge opportunity. In fact, I’m doing a video series on that right now on how you use values to actually move your company in a way that’s forward so radical openness is a great idea. By the way, I am not in favor of Ray Dalio’s say whatever comes into your mind and just blurted out all over the world, because I think there’s more destruction that comes from that and good.
Alfonso: Filters are a good thing. I think that you’re absolutely correct. We definitely need to filter portions of our existentialism because we tend to as human beings, I think we tend to err more than we do get it right. And so, in that process, you’re absolutely correct, that freedom could also lead to other kinds of problems that we could face, either on the risk side in terms of business or just on the liability side in terms of civility.
Josh: No question about that. So, let’s talk about this. How would you operationalize or make it operationally doable to move from a culture where you don’t share anything to a culture where you share basically everything? What are the kind of steps as a business owner would likely have to go through to do that?
Alfonso: That’s a great question. There’s a book that was written by Edgar Schein. I hope I pronounced his name correctly. It’s called Humble Inquiry. It’s a wonderful book, I highly recommend it. There’s another book that I read in graduate school called Strategic Learning and Immunity to Change. There’s a ton of books that [inaudible 00:16:16]. I can remember the titles.
But after having spent a lot of years studying this, and of course over 20 years in the field working with executives, I think I can safely say that I’m still a big fan of what I call servant leadership. I know it’s a very ubiquitous term, and somehow it gets misinterpreted in a theological sense or in a metaphysical sense, but I want to use it in a human sense. The human sense, you really need to employ humility and approach every problem with absolute skepticism. In other words, try to start from zero.
This is something I talked about in my article called Google Cogito, ergo sum which is an analogous title that I borrowed from Descartes, which, who came up with copito, ergo sum, which is I think, therefore I am. So I just play with words a little bit and added Google in it. But essentially, you start with humility, you kind of shake everything off, if you will mentally, and take the approach of just asking some really good questions, and try to get as much real information or real data as you can.
From that point, I think it takes a lot of discipline to then draw from your core experiences and follow a process that has either proven to be successful in your own career or proven to be successful in someone else’s career. I think that we have an enormous amount of models upon which to start from in order to be able to then continue to gather data, and then hopefully at the end of this exercise or process, figure out what needs to be done and then how.
To this point, I would say that the next step would be and I’m going to borrow another term here from another great book that was written by Tomsky in terms of manufacturing consent. At this point, you’ve done your research, you’ve gathered your data, you figured out a process. Then at this point, you need to go out and then work with other either leaders are operators. Then find a way to win their consent to be able to then adopt whatever changes need to happen to then go out and then affect change. Otherwise, I think it’s an uphill battle, there are too many pitfalls along the way.
Josh: So what you brought up here are two things which I think are really important. Servant leadership for me is, I just turn my organizational chart upside down. In other words, my job is to make the people who report to me, my job was to make their life at work easier.
Josh: And if all managers just focused on that, and when you’re delegating, you need to be thinking about this also, is my delegation making it harder or easier for somebody to get the job done properly or get a task done in the company properly and easily. If you work for me, your job is not to make my life easier. It’s my job to make your life easier. For me, that’s a great definition of servant leadership in a business sense.
Alfonso: Absolutely, in all aspects, not just let’s call it laboriously, but also intellectually. There are many things that we do, especially from the technology side, to be able to empower people to have the right tools to do their job, but also to give them that latitude and that freedom to be able to explore or to test different things out. I think that it’s comprehensive. It’s not myopic in the sense that you can just provide one opportunity and then try to bury the others.
Josh: Yeah, we’ll go down this road further, but unfortunately, Alfonso we are out of time. So I’m going to bet there are people who are listening to this podcast episode and would love to learn more about you and what you’re doing and what you’re up to. So if they want to do that, how would they go about it?
Alfonso: Thank you, Josh. Look, it’s a wonderful conversation. I hope we do this again. I would kindly invite everyone to come to our website, https://www.mochamedia.com/. Mocha like the coffee mochamedia.com. They can also find me on LinkedIn at alfonsoechavez. I’m listed as a CEO of Mocha Media. They could email me directly at alfonso@mochamedia com. I’m very happy to respond to any questions and to say hello.
Josh: Okay, cool. Thank you so much. I also have something for you. I’ve been working on this program for quite a while now. It’s called the Financial Freedom Project. It’s about how you can become financially free from your business. But before you learn to be financially free, you need to know where you stand. So I had this tool I’ve used for years on a yellow pad. I made a little program out of it. It’s called The Four Boxes of Financial Independence as a quiz.
It takes about seven or eight minutes to fill it out and you get an answer about, are you on the road to financial freedom or not? If you are, there are things you should do and if you’re not there things you should do. Again, it’s really easy and free. You just go to https://thecashflowcode.com/. That’s https://thecashflowcode.com/. Click on the orange button that says get started and you can take the quiz. This is Josh Patrick. You’re with Alfonso Chaves. We’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to the “Cracking the Cash Flow Code” where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 extension 102. Or visit us on our website at www.sustainablebusiness.co. Or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening and we hope to see you at Cracking the Cash Flow Code in the near future