Interview: Bill Flynn, Catalyst Growth Advisors

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Bill Flynn, Chief Catalyst of Catalyst Growth Advisors

Bill Flynn has gained over 30 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, which he brings into his new passion as a business coach. Over his decades-long career, he has been a member of the “leadership team of 10 different startups in the Boston area.” As business adviser, he has founded Catalyst Growth Advisors, which aims to help entrepreneurs focus on building the future instead of getting caught up in the present.

At Catalyst Growth Advisors, Bill Flynn takes “the guesswork out of growth.” With his expert coaching, clients can focus on improving their company from day to day so that they can better prepare for and predict the future of their business.

Bill Flynn coaches his clients according to three main areas, which are the teamwork aspect of a business; the strategy and execution aspect; and the funding for growth aspect. With his support, clients are able to hire qualified and skilled people and put them in the right jobs and with the right teammates, so that they can better contribute to company growth.

In terms of strategy, Bill Flynn wants his clients to come up with “an industry dominating, outcome-based, customer-focused strategy,” which they should execute and implement perfectly.

Finally, Bill Flynn wants his clients to use cash as the primary metric of successful business growth.

Check out more interviews with thought leaders here. You can also check out Bill Flynn’s book, “Further, Faster: The Vital Few Steps that Take the Guesswork out of Growth,” for free download or purchase.

Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Bill Flynn: My company stands out for its singular focus of helping leaders predict the future of the business through creating it themselves. The first step is to begin to fire yourself from the day to day to focus on the few things that truly matter to your team and your customers. This approach is what leads to taking the guesswork out of growth. I teach what can seem like magic to some in its extreme effectiveness.

Here is what others have said after working with me or attending one of my workshops:

“On behalf of AIM and the 3,500 members we represent, I wanted to thank you for delivering an outstanding presentation for our Thirty on Thursday webinar participants this morning. Not only was the content relevant and timely, the delivery was flawless! Having facilitated AIM’s CEO Connection Group for over 5 years, and having had several presenters on Growth and Resiliency, today’s webinar blew them out of the water! Below is just one of the comments we received.” — Beth Yohai, Vice President of Business Development at AIM HR Solutions

“This one was excellent, better than the other’s I listened to. The whole series has been good but today’s on target for me.”

“Bill provides some of the highest ‘value per word’ of any consultant (coach) I’ve ever met.” — Erik Waters, Co-Owner/CFO, Adtech Systems

“Thank you, Bill for such a clear, accurate and eye opening workshop!” — Gil Almog, Chief Product Officer, MindCET — Edtech Innovation Center

Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Bill Flynn:

  1. There is a meaningful gap between what science knows and business does. Stop doing what so-called experts tell you from their experience and follow the science of running a business. We are taught the wrong way to do almost everything in business from change to decision-making to strategy to meetings to hiring and on and on. With a slightly better than 15% chance of lasting twenty-five years, maybe bucking the trend is a good thing. There are repeatable examples of exceptional companies and leaders like Alan Mulally. Study what they do. I share much of this in my book.
  2. Few things truly matter, but those that do matter tremendously. Leaders do not spend enough time here. Most businesses die of indigestion, not starvation. Those that thrive do the same few things really well time and time again.
  3. Leaders rely too much on effort, luck, timing, and force of will to achieve “success”. These do not scale profitably. As a leader, create an environment where the day to day running of the company or key team function is the primary role of others. Fire yourself from the day to day to the greatest degree possible to spend more time on creating the future of the business.
  4. Production before Deduction. We do not spend proper time up front to save time overall. We often prioritize the urgency of getting going over the ideal outcome in the name of expediency, ironically. Often times, it is better to think things through a bit more and gather pertinent information from the right sources — those who have already been where you want to go — before jumping to action.
  5. Stop solving the problem that is right in front of you and start solving the problem that is causing the problem that is right in front of you.

Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Bill Flynn: Blair Heavey taught me to focus less on products and features and more on how those can help the prospect. The prospect’s main goal is to solve a problem or lessen a current struggle they have been wrestling with. In essence, he taught me to be compassionate and curious to be a better salesperson. He also taught me to be self-reliant and not accept what others said was the way to do something. Finding solutions through the “art of the possible” became etched into my mind and I carry that lesson to this day.

Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

Bill Flynn: Most businesses fail (65% w/in 10 years, 75% w/in 15, and 84% w/in 25 acc. to U.S. BLS), many struggle, and few thrive.

The strugglers are the good companies. They survive through force of will, effort, luck, and timing too often. The lives of the leaders are often consumed by the business, their personal lives are not nearly what they want them to be. They do not sleep nor have nearly enough down time to recharge and refresh themselves. This often leads to a downward spiral, bad decision making, and short tempers.

The thrivers are the great companies. They are planning years ahead and are deciding how fast they should grow. Their team is highly engaged and productive. They understand the root causes of why their customers buy from them and have a unique strategy that they execute to near perfection. They have enough cash to weather almost any storm and to invest in their people and business without hesitation.

These companies are my examples: Southwest, Vanguard (under Bogle), Dyson, Intel (under Andy Grove), IKEA, Apple, Atlassian, Virgin, Ford (under Alan Mullally), HubSpot.

Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

Bill Flynn: Research about what people want from their leaders regularly shows that people want two things from you: (1) They want to know that whatever you tell them is true; and (2) Where are we going, and how can they help? People want a destination and a purpose. They want to know where the business is going and why. Purpose keeps us moving toward a destination, illustrated ultimately, in a compelling, vivid vision. Destination and purpose help leaders make decisions: being true to a purpose beyond profit and a clear understanding of where they are taking the business.

You’ve no doubt heard some of these more famous destinations:

  • Bill Gates’s vision for Microsoft of putting “a computer on every desk and in every home.”
  • Red Balloon’s goal of “2,000,000 gifting experiences in ten to twenty-five years.”
  • Boeing’s pledge to “Become the dominant player in commercial aircraft and bring the world into the jet age.”3
  • And John F. Kennedy’s promise to America: “We will send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade.”

Circumstances push people to settle. Many just end up working for a paycheck, with no real passion for the work. No purpose. Given a choice, though, people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to get behind something they believe in that they can contribute to and make a real difference.

If you give people a chance to provide value to that bigger thing, they’ll give their blood, sweat, and tears to it. The ultimate metaphor here is the United States. People came to this country to be a part of something they believed in, and many made the ultimate sacrifice to get here and defend what they helped build.

If you’re leading a company, and especially if you’re the founder, you started with a cause, right? You believed in something bigger than yourself enough to get behind it and give it your all. It wasn’t just about the money. You wanted to solve a problem, ease a pain, right a wrong. Think about how hard you worked to make that happen. Don’t keep that bigger thing all to yourself. Invite your people in and let them be a part of it too.

Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Bill Flynn: Worldwide, there are about 300 million persons trying to start about 150 million businesses [at any given time]. About one third will be launched, so you can assume 50 million new firm births per year. Or about 137,000 per day.

That’s right: About 6,000 new companies start every hour of every day, year after year, according to research compiled by the late research consultant Moya K. Mason. She then goes on to note that firm “birth and death” rates are about equal, with roughly 120,000 active firms terminating trading each day. And it’s not getting any better, even for more established firms. Four hundred and forty firms that were listed within the Fortune 500 in 1955 have been replaced as of 2017. According to Credit Suisse, the average age of an S&P 500 company is fewer than twenty years, down from sixty years in the 1950s.

So many new businesses begin, yet so few remain in the short term — or the long run. No doubt, their founders all started out with hopeful visions of success. Yet they faltered.

Unfortunately, most businesses fail and most of those that do not struggle mightily. Here is what I have learned on how to avoid that.

Fire yourself from the day to day so you can have more time to think about the future. If you do not want to do that, then sell the business.

The key to most successful businesses and leaders is to figure out the few things that truly matter. For, in business and in life, few things truly do matter, but those that do, matter tremendously.

In order to do this, you have to escape the tyranny of the moment. You have to fire yourself from the day to day in order to figure out those few things that truly matter to your team and your customers. Then instill a relentless pursuit of perfection in the organization starting with yourself.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de St Exupery

We must strip away the things that matter far less in order to focus and pursue perfection for the few things that truly matter.

As a leader, your job is no longer about running the ship but to understanding the direction of the seas. To navigate, not to steer. To figure out where we are going over the next few years with such clarity and vivid detail that you describe the future it as if we have already arrived. Your team is thirsty for this. They want to know where they are going. What is the North Star, the core destination, the BHAG? Where are we headed and how will we recognize it when we arrive?

To do this, you must, as quickly as possible, fire yourself from the day to day. Make yourself useless so you can focus on the essential. Greg McKeown teaches us that Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time (attention) and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

And, “..the faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus.” For “you cannot overestimate the unimportance of almost everything.”

That’s what this book is about. In order to go further, faster, it is essential to ignore the siren song of this moment’s tyranny, the trivial but familiar, the mink holes (rat holes that feel really warm and comfortable).

The key is to find out what truly matters to your customers and team members. In order to do this, you must create the space and time to think, to ponder, to ask questions of childlike curiosity and to create the environment so the ones nearest the problem have the authority and the framework to make the best possible decision on their own. Freeing you up to create and continually validate or update the framework that drives the business so that if you took a month long vacation, from the outside no one would even notice you were gone.

Throw out the rule book. Most were designed to deal for the 1% while pissing off the other 99% anyway. As Simon Sinek says, “Rule books tell people what to do. Frameworks guide people how to act. Rule books insist on discipline. Frameworks allow for creativity.”

I personally like the rule book that has one rule. “Do what is best for the company and the customer.” With a solid framework and the right trusted team in place, you will only need this one rule.

With so much change coming at an increased pace, leaders have to get out of the way and allow the capable, knowledgeable, and trusted team take care of the business. You hired these great people after all! As Richard Branson says, “You have to train people so well that they can leave and treat them so well that they never want to.”

For when you have extraordinary confidence in your highly skilled and engaged teams, they perform exceptionally.

Peter Drucker taught us that effective executives do not make a great many decisions. They concentrate on what is important. They try to make the few important decisions on the highest level of conceptual understanding. They try to find the constants in a situation, to think through what is strategic and generic rather than to “solve problems.

“What is the ideal outcome I envision for this business and the stakeholders it serves?” Write your answer clearly and simply. To be clear, this is your vision, not a watered down consensus-based vision statement. This is your manifesto. Your conception of an ideal future state.

Once you have a solid first draft. Share it with your team to make sure they understand it fully (make changes if necessary for clarity) and then, and only then, weave it into everything you do from hiring to exiting to growing and to serving.

That will be the first step of going further and faster than you ever thought possible.

Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

Bill Flynn: Believe, in your bones, that the customer experience starts at their first thought of change and does not end until they are fully satisfied. Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success are not serial links in a chain but an interwoven set of concepts in the customer’s mind. Customers will move forward and backward to and through these steps during the entire buying process which likely started well before they knew of you and your brand and last well beyond the purchase event.

Bob Moesta, co-creator of Jobs to be Done puts it this way:

“Sales, marketing, and customer support must learn to play together! Most organizations treat them as three separate entities, but they’re not. And treating them as such makes sales unnecessarily hard. First thought, passive looking, and active looking are a combination of marketing and sales. Deciding, onboarding, and ongoing use are a combination of customer support and sales. Sales covers the entire process! But because the three departments don’t talk, customers get mixed messages. They are bombarded with value propositions and online tactics that try to push people to decide when they are in active looking. It’s making the consumer frustrated and anxious, while putting salespeople at an immediate disadvantage.”

Until the leader believes this is true, the company will never deliver the fullest Wow! Customer Experience possible.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Bill Flynn: When you drive your business from your point of view, you will always be at increased risk of people writing bad things about you. However, if you are constantly putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and focus on helping to make their lives better versus meeting arbitrary business goals, I believe, the need to play defense and do damage control on social media is mitigated tremendously.

When you do this well, social media will be a way to be a concierge and introduction platform to your future core customers and will repel those who would not be great customers in the long run.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Bill Flynn:

  1. Solve a problem that matters deeply to you and your target customers. Do not fall in love with your idea. Fall in love with the problem and the customer.
  2. Solve it in a unique way that focuses on progress and not just profit (or revenue). Please see answers above on Jobs to be Done on how to do this.

Here is a post I wrote a while ago that goes into more detail on how to do this.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Bill Flynn: You can find me on the following:

Twitter
LinkedIn
Instagram
Facebook
Website

Download my book for free or buy it online. Much of what I wrote here is from my book.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

Bill Flynn has gained over 30 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, which he brings into his new passion as a business coach. Over his decades-long career, he has been a member of the “leadership team of 10 different startups in the Boston area.” As business adviser, he has founded Catalyst Growth Advisors, which aims to help entrepreneurs focus on building the future instead of getting caught up in the present.

At Catalyst Growth Advisors, Bill Flynn takes “the guesswork out of growth.” With his expert coaching, clients can focus on improving their company from day to day so that they can better prepare for and predict the future of their business.

Bill Flynn coaches his clients according to three main areas, which are the teamwork aspect of a business; the strategy and execution aspect; and the funding for growth aspect. With his support, clients are able to hire qualified and skilled people and put them in the right jobs and with the right teammates, so that they can better contribute to company growth.

In terms of strategy, Bill Flynn wants his clients to come up with “an industry dominating, outcome-based, customer-focused strategy,” which they should execute and implement perfectly.

Finally, Bill Flynn wants his clients to use cash as the primary metric of successful business growth.

Check out more interviews with thought leaders here. You can also check out Bill Flynn’s book, “Further, Faster: The Vital Few Steps that Take the Guesswork out of Growth,” for free download or purchase.

Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Bill Flynn: My company stands out for its singular focus of helping leaders predict the future of the business through creating it themselves. The first step is to begin to fire yourself from the day to day to focus on the few things that truly matter to your team and your customers. This approach is what leads to taking the guesswork out of growth. I teach what can seem like magic to some in its extreme effectiveness.

Here is what others have said after working with me or attending one of my workshops:

“On behalf of AIM and the 3,500 members we represent, I wanted to thank you for delivering an outstanding presentation for our Thirty on Thursday webinar participants this morning. Not only was the content relevant and timely, the delivery was flawless! Having facilitated AIM’s CEO Connection Group for over 5 years, and having had several presenters on Growth and Resiliency, today’s webinar blew them out of the water! Below is just one of the comments we received.” — Beth Yohai, Vice President of Business Development at AIM HR Solutions

“This one was excellent, better than the other’s I listened to. The whole series has been good but today’s on target for me.”

“Bill provides some of the highest ‘value per word’ of any consultant (coach) I’ve ever met.” — Erik Waters, Co-Owner/CFO, Adtech Systems

“Thank you, Bill for such a clear, accurate and eye opening workshop!” — Gil Almog, Chief Product Officer, MindCET — Edtech Innovation Center

Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Bill Flynn:

  1. There is a meaningful gap between what science knows and business does. Stop doing what so-called experts tell you from their experience and follow the science of running a business. We are taught the wrong way to do almost everything in business from change to decision-making to strategy to meetings to hiring and on and on. With a slightly better than 15% chance of lasting twenty-five years, maybe bucking the trend is a good thing. There are repeatable examples of exceptional companies and leaders like Alan Mulally. Study what they do. I share much of this in my book.
  2. Few things truly matter, but those that do matter tremendously. Leaders do not spend enough time here. Most businesses die of indigestion, not starvation. Those that thrive do the same few things really well time and time again.
  3. Leaders rely too much on effort, luck, timing, and force of will to achieve “success”. These do not scale profitably. As a leader, create an environment where the day to day running of the company or key team function is the primary role of others. Fire yourself from the day to day to the greatest degree possible to spend more time on creating the future of the business.
  4. Production before Deduction. We do not spend proper time up front to save time overall. We often prioritize the urgency of getting going over the ideal outcome in the name of expediency, ironically. Often times, it is better to think things through a bit more and gather pertinent information from the right sources — those who have already been where you want to go — before jumping to action.
  5. Stop solving the problem that is right in front of you and start solving the problem that is causing the problem that is right in front of you.

Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Bill Flynn: Blair Heavey taught me to focus less on products and features and more on how those can help the prospect. The prospect’s main goal is to solve a problem or lessen a current struggle they have been wrestling with. In essence, he taught me to be compassionate and curious to be a better salesperson. He also taught me to be self-reliant and not accept what others said was the way to do something. Finding solutions through the “art of the possible” became etched into my mind and I carry that lesson to this day.

Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

Bill Flynn: Most businesses fail (65% w/in 10 years, 75% w/in 15, and 84% w/in 25 acc. to U.S. BLS), many struggle, and few thrive.

The strugglers are the good companies. They survive through force of will, effort, luck, and timing too often. The lives of the leaders are often consumed by the business, their personal lives are not nearly what they want them to be. They do not sleep nor have nearly enough down time to recharge and refresh themselves. This often leads to a downward spiral, bad decision making, and short tempers.

The thrivers are the great companies. They are planning years ahead and are deciding how fast they should grow. Their team is highly engaged and productive. They understand the root causes of why their customers buy from them and have a unique strategy that they execute to near perfection. They have enough cash to weather almost any storm and to invest in their people and business without hesitation.

These companies are my examples: Southwest, Vanguard (under Bogle), Dyson, Intel (under Andy Grove), IKEA, Apple, Atlassian, Virgin, Ford (under Alan Mullally), HubSpot.

Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

Bill Flynn: Research about what people want from their leaders regularly shows that people want two things from you: (1) They want to know that whatever you tell them is true; and (2) Where are we going, and how can they help? People want a destination and a purpose. They want to know where the business is going and why. Purpose keeps us moving toward a destination, illustrated ultimately, in a compelling, vivid vision. Destination and purpose help leaders make decisions: being true to a purpose beyond profit and a clear understanding of where they are taking the business.

You’ve no doubt heard some of these more famous destinations:

  • Bill Gates’s vision for Microsoft of putting “a computer on every desk and in every home.”
  • Red Balloon’s goal of “2,000,000 gifting experiences in ten to twenty-five years.”
  • Boeing’s pledge to “Become the dominant player in commercial aircraft and bring the world into the jet age.”3
  • And John F. Kennedy’s promise to America: “We will send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade.”

Circumstances push people to settle. Many just end up working for a paycheck, with no real passion for the work. No purpose. Given a choice, though, people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to get behind something they believe in that they can contribute to and make a real difference.

If you give people a chance to provide value to that bigger thing, they’ll give their blood, sweat, and tears to it. The ultimate metaphor here is the United States. People came to this country to be a part of something they believed in, and many made the ultimate sacrifice to get here and defend what they helped build.

If you’re leading a company, and especially if you’re the founder, you started with a cause, right? You believed in something bigger than yourself enough to get behind it and give it your all. It wasn’t just about the money. You wanted to solve a problem, ease a pain, right a wrong. Think about how hard you worked to make that happen. Don’t keep that bigger thing all to yourself. Invite your people in and let them be a part of it too.

Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Bill Flynn: Worldwide, there are about 300 million persons trying to start about 150 million businesses [at any given time]. About one third will be launched, so you can assume 50 million new firm births per year. Or about 137,000 per day.

That’s right: About 6,000 new companies start every hour of every day, year after year, according to research compiled by the late research consultant Moya K. Mason. She then goes on to note that firm “birth and death” rates are about equal, with roughly 120,000 active firms terminating trading each day. And it’s not getting any better, even for more established firms. Four hundred and forty firms that were listed within the Fortune 500 in 1955 have been replaced as of 2017. According to Credit Suisse, the average age of an S&P 500 company is fewer than twenty years, down from sixty years in the 1950s.

So many new businesses begin, yet so few remain in the short term — or the long run. No doubt, their founders all started out with hopeful visions of success. Yet they faltered.

Unfortunately, most businesses fail and most of those that do not struggle mightily. Here is what I have learned on how to avoid that.

Fire yourself from the day to day so you can have more time to think about the future. If you do not want to do that, then sell the business.

The key to most successful businesses and leaders is to figure out the few things that truly matter. For, in business and in life, few things truly do matter, but those that do, matter tremendously.

In order to do this, you have to escape the tyranny of the moment. You have to fire yourself from the day to day in order to figure out those few things that truly matter to your team and your customers. Then instill a relentless pursuit of perfection in the organization starting with yourself.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de St Exupery

We must strip away the things that matter far less in order to focus and pursue perfection for the few things that truly matter.

As a leader, your job is no longer about running the ship but to understanding the direction of the seas. To navigate, not to steer. To figure out where we are going over the next few years with such clarity and vivid detail that you describe the future it as if we have already arrived. Your team is thirsty for this. They want to know where they are going. What is the North Star, the core destination, the BHAG? Where are we headed and how will we recognize it when we arrive?

To do this, you must, as quickly as possible, fire yourself from the day to day. Make yourself useless so you can focus on the essential. Greg McKeown teaches us that Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time (attention) and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

And, “..the faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus.” For “you cannot overestimate the unimportance of almost everything.”

That’s what this book is about. In order to go further, faster, it is essential to ignore the siren song of this moment’s tyranny, the trivial but familiar, the mink holes (rat holes that feel really warm and comfortable).

The key is to find out what truly matters to your customers and team members. In order to do this, you must create the space and time to think, to ponder, to ask questions of childlike curiosity and to create the environment so the ones nearest the problem have the authority and the framework to make the best possible decision on their own. Freeing you up to create and continually validate or update the framework that drives the business so that if you took a month long vacation, from the outside no one would even notice you were gone.

Throw out the rule book. Most were designed to deal for the 1% while pissing off the other 99% anyway. As Simon Sinek says, “Rule books tell people what to do. Frameworks guide people how to act. Rule books insist on discipline. Frameworks allow for creativity.”

I personally like the rule book that has one rule. “Do what is best for the company and the customer.” With a solid framework and the right trusted team in place, you will only need this one rule.

With so much change coming at an increased pace, leaders have to get out of the way and allow the capable, knowledgeable, and trusted team take care of the business. You hired these great people after all! As Richard Branson says, “You have to train people so well that they can leave and treat them so well that they never want to.”

For when you have extraordinary confidence in your highly skilled and engaged teams, they perform exceptionally.

Peter Drucker taught us that effective executives do not make a great many decisions. They concentrate on what is important. They try to make the few important decisions on the highest level of conceptual understanding. They try to find the constants in a situation, to think through what is strategic and generic rather than to “solve problems.

“What is the ideal outcome I envision for this business and the stakeholders it serves?” Write your answer clearly and simply. To be clear, this is your vision, not a watered down consensus-based vision statement. This is your manifesto. Your conception of an ideal future state.

Once you have a solid first draft. Share it with your team to make sure they understand it fully (make changes if necessary for clarity) and then, and only then, weave it into everything you do from hiring to exiting to growing and to serving.

That will be the first step of going further and faster than you ever thought possible.

Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

Bill Flynn: Believe, in your bones, that the customer experience starts at their first thought of change and does not end until they are fully satisfied. Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success are not serial links in a chain but an interwoven set of concepts in the customer’s mind. Customers will move forward and backward to and through these steps during the entire buying process which likely started well before they knew of you and your brand and last well beyond the purchase event.

Bob Moesta, co-creator of Jobs to be Done puts it this way:

“Sales, marketing, and customer support must learn to play together! Most organizations treat them as three separate entities, but they’re not. And treating them as such makes sales unnecessarily hard. First thought, passive looking, and active looking are a combination of marketing and sales. Deciding, onboarding, and ongoing use are a combination of customer support and sales. Sales covers the entire process! But because the three departments don’t talk, customers get mixed messages. They are bombarded with value propositions and online tactics that try to push people to decide when they are in active looking. It’s making the consumer frustrated and anxious, while putting salespeople at an immediate disadvantage.”

Until the leader believes this is true, the company will never deliver the fullest Wow! Customer Experience possible.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Bill Flynn: When you drive your business from your point of view, you will always be at increased risk of people writing bad things about you. However, if you are constantly putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and focus on helping to make their lives better versus meeting arbitrary business goals, I believe, the need to play defense and do damage control on social media is mitigated tremendously.

When you do this well, social media will be a way to be a concierge and introduction platform to your future core customers and will repel those who would not be great customers in the long run.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Bill Flynn:

  1. Solve a problem that matters deeply to you and your target customers. Do not fall in love with your idea. Fall in love with the problem and the customer.
  2. Solve it in a unique way that focuses on progress and not just profit (or revenue). Please see answers above on Jobs to be Done on how to do this.

Here is a post I wrote a while ago that goes into more detail on how to do this.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Bill Flynn: You can find me on the following:

Twitter
LinkedIn
Instagram
Facebook
Website

Download my book for free or buy it online. Much of what I wrote here is from my book.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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