Stop Working IN Your Business & Start Working ON Your Business

Too many of us business owners are stuck on the treadmill working in our business. We work on the urgent and not the important. In this episode of the Rialto Marketing Podcast, we talk to Brad Holbrook at Peak Catalyst Group on ways to get off the treadmill. Check it out.

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Stop Working IN Your Business & Start Working ON Your Business


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Stop working in your business and start working on your business. Hi, I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing and today I am super excited to have with me a guest. I've got Brad Holbrook with the Peak Catalyst Group with me. Brad, welcome and thanks for taking the time to chat.


Brad Holbrook:

Hey, thanks, Tim. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. Absolutely. So, I think as business owners, a lot of us have a tendency of falling into the trap of working on the urgent, the fires that pop up, and we really need to focus on the important. And I know that that is one of the many things that you do to help business owners get from where they are to where they want to be. But before we get into some of these questions that I want to fire away at you, just tell us a little bit more about you, your experience, and how you help customers.


Brad Holbrook:

Yeah, Tim. So I have a long corporate career spanning about 20 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers, GE, and Western Union. In the last six years, I've had the opportunity to help a lot of different entrepreneurial enterprises, small businesses, larger businesses. And I think, yeah, I really enjoy that work because I love to do my best to have an impact on people. Our mantra is to achieve a better tomorrow. So I'm constantly trying to achieve a better tomorrow myself and I love to help my clients achieve a better tomorrow. And sometimes I get an opportunity to just impact people on a personal level as well. So that's really fulfilling.


Brad Holbrook:

But I would say that some of the things that we help them with really, and a lot of our clients struggle sometimes with maybe being overwhelmed with their business, a lot of people get into business ownership and entrepreneurship as a way to have more freedom, or create wealth, or those kinds of things, have more control of their lives. And sometimes they find themselves all of a sudden they feel like they're being owned by their business instead of them owning their business. And so sometimes that manifests itself in a way in the form of maybe not enough cash, or not enough freedom of time, or feeling like they just never have time and they're running around putting fires out all the time. So those are the things that I would say that we deal with the majority of the time, and they're things that I'm the most passionate about.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Awesome. So that kind of leads into, and I think may have touched on, when you start to work with clients, what are some of those most common problems that you see them struggling with?


Brad Holbrook:

Yes, I'd say that, I guess again, I think the number one thing is people want to know that they have enough cash on hand and predictable cash flow. So I think that's the number one thing. I mean, I always say that without cash as a business, you're dead. And so you can only last so long if you don't know how to generate that cash, how to have predictable cash flow. And so that's important.


Brad Holbrook:

The other thing that's important I think is just from being the best you can possibly be perspective, we need to feel like that we have the freedom in our minds and the freedom of our time to be able to put our time and our energy in terms of the highest and best use of our time. And so a lot of times it's cash, but it's also the time, and really the time's almost more important than cash actually. But I think that a lot of times people, once they get really into their business, they start reacting and it becomes such an ad hoc thing for a lot of business owners, and executives too for that matter, but we start reacting to all these little things when we find ourselves putting out fires all day long every day.


Brad Holbrook:

And sometimes you think, "Well, this is just going to be a today thing," and then today it turns into this week, and this week turns into this month, and then the months turn into this year, and before you know it, you just feel like I've lost complete control over what's going on here. And now my strategy and my vision, the thing that I wanted to accomplish by business ownership or entrepreneurship kind of goes out the window sometimes. You kind of end up going down this path maybe you didn't completely intend on going down.


Brad Holbrook:

So I'd say it's cash, it's loss of those things, it's maybe more of a feeling of chaos. And honestly, I believe that impacts people on a personal level from their ability to feel at peace mentally, and in relationships, and all those kinds ... So it kind of can steal a lot from your life. So I think it's just really the cash, the loss of, maybe control might not be the best word, but at least being able to be intentional, mindful, strategic in the things that you're doing within your business and in your personal life.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. Just to make it clear to anybody that's tuning in, we have all been in that position. I mean, at some point we feel like our business is running us rather than we are running our business. So it is a super common problem. We all struggle with that and it's okay to struggle with that. To me, it's part of the process because I think the plan that we all start our business with is not the plan that gets us to where we want to be. It's just a starting point.


Brad Holbrook:

That's right. Yeah. The saying is plans are nothing, planning is everything.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah, that's right.


Brad Holbrook:

I tell you what, I struggle too with the same thing. I have to hold myself to a sort of level of discipline to make sure that we have the status meetings, we have the check-ins, we're looking at the scorecards, and it's so easy to get caught up in that day to day and deprioritize those things that you should be focused on.


Brad Holbrook:

I sort of give the analogy sometimes, it's sort of like ... The reason why businesses need help with these kinds of things is the same reason why we might hire a personal trainer at the gym. I know how to go use the treadmill or the elliptical machine, or lift weights, those kinds of things. But on my own sometimes, I will put that off because something else more important comes up, et cetera, or else I go in there and I'm just doing stuff and I don't really have a real strategy or plan. But if I hire a personal trainer, now he or she develops a plan for me, a strategy for me based on my goals, and I know that I'm going and meeting with that person to achieve that goal, and they're going to kind of help to guide me.


Brad Holbrook:

And so now it kind of creates a little structure, some boundaries, what I might call a control mechanism. I'm putting that control mechanism in place where I know I'm meeting that personal trainer at 10:00 Saturday morning, and I'm going to show up and I'm going to do the things I need to do to achieve my goals.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. I think it's a lot easier for us to accomplish what we want to when we have accountability, which is lacking for a lot of business owners. So what types of tips do you have to help folks solve these common problems? When you come into a business, how do you approach it and what kind of tips might you be able to offer that would help somebody listening or watching?


Brad Holbrook:

Yeah. So we help businesses in four different areas. The four different areas are, one is the plan, planning area, planning the business, the vision and all that. We help them in the area of process, and of people, and of financial health. But the two things that I think are the most important really are, number one, I think that financial health is the number one thing. You have to have a foundation of financial health, and so you need, bottom line is you need to know your numbers. So if you don't know your numbers, you need to get to know your numbers. And so that means having predictable financials, financials that you know, and financials that you know are accurate really, is the bottom line.


Brad Holbrook:

And you don't want to kid yourself, you want to be realistic with the numbers that you're seeing. So I think that if you don't know your numbers, get to know your numbers, make sure you dig into QuickBooks or whatever system you're using, or make good friends with your CPA or bookkeeper and make sure that you're generating those reports on a monthly basis so you know where you stand as a business financially.


Brad Holbrook:

The second thing I think is important is the process. Process to me is everything. That's how a business scales and grows. If you don't have predictable processes, then you're going to have unpredictable results. And so I think you need to have a process that's unified or documented, that's followed by everybody, that has a clear owner, and it's measured. And so I think that's saying a lot of things, but I think if nothing else, if you can just write down the key business processes that you have, and then beyond that is write down the major steps that you need to follow within each process. Those are the two things I think.


Brad Holbrook:

And the third thing really I believe is to document the vision, the strategy that you're employing as a business. So really get that on a piece of paper. If you just want to make it simple, write down your three year goal, the three year goal is for your business, where do you see yourself in three years? Not just from a financial perspective, maybe a people perspective, maybe how many customers you serve, maybe how many locations you have, what's your geographic footprint, et cetera. And then once you have your three years down, then write down, where do I need to be in one year that puts me on the path to hit that three years? So I think those are the three things I would say that are good tips to really get people down: know your numbers, know your processes, and write down your goals.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. I think the biggest thing that is impacting business owners from getting out of their business and being able to work on it is that process step. It's so easy for us to, when we're working in our businesses, to be like, "Oh my God. It's going to take me more time to put down this process or this procedure and send it to have somebody else do it than it is for me to just do it right now."


Brad Holbrook:

That's right.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

But what people don't realize is that if you spend an hour now to do that, the amount of time that you get back longterm is exponential, right?


Brad Holbrook:

That's right.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

And so I think that out of, those three tips are awesome, the one that is really going to get people off the treadmill is the process. You have to take yourself out of the process. As long as you are in the process, you do not have a scalable business.


Brad Holbrook:

You're so right. I tell you, whenever I go into clients and they have process issues, they want me to help them with the process, they know they want to get their processes good, right?


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah.


Brad Holbrook:

But the business owners, executives, and even the workers really like it. They know they need to have a good process in place, but the problem is nobody wants to do the work to put it into place. It's always more fun to do the client facing thing, or just get it done and move on. I don't have the time for the processing, there's something more important coming up.


Brad Holbrook:

And so I think you're right. You get a good process in place, and like I said, there's three to four things: you need to have a process documented, defined and documented, right? You need to have a process that's followed by everybody, all the stakeholders in that process need to follow that process. You need to measure the process, and you need to have a clear owner of that process. I think if you can get those, even if the process isn't perfect, if you can just get those basics covered, now you can start to enhance or optimize that, and then that allows you to get some scalability and growth. And I just think it pays dividends for years to come really.


Brad Holbrook:

I mean, the future of the business depends on it, if you ask me. Because what I say is, if you have chaos in a business, meaning you don't have unified processes, you can only manage chaos to the level of your own capacity, and that's it. I can only juggle so many plates at one time just based on the hours I have or the mental capacity I have. So, you're only going to be able to manage that chaos to a certain level, then you're going to be running up against the brick wall. And now I can't grow beyond my own ability to manage the chaos. So it's important to eliminate the chaos or reduce the chaos, and that comes in the form of process.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah, totally agree. So, when you can solve these problems that we've been talking about for a business, what benefits do they start to see? I mean, what happens within the business and frankly for the business owner themselves, what happens?


Brad Holbrook:

Well, I think that usually what I see is a sense of, well, number one, I think it's a sense of excitement, of the passion, again, of I see that three year vision, I see the three year sort of strategic objectives that I'm heading towards, and then I see the one year. And when you start to put together that roadmap, because really I'm leaving a lot of steps out here, but when you get to those goals and you put together that entire roadmap that gets them to those goals, and they can see the path to get there, well, it becomes a matter of now I just got to execute.


Brad Holbrook:

And so I think I see a sense of excitement with the business owners, number one, and I think that's important, and a sense of really sort of relief that they don't feel like they're trying to manage all this chaos that I'm talking about. And they feel like they have a plan, right? They have a plan in place and plans will be broken of course, like we talked about before, but the planning part of it is so important because now when we come back together on a regular basis and we tweak and adjust based on economic conditions or whatever the case may be, at least we have that structure. We have that roadmap that we're executing against. And so I think it's the excitement. It's a sense of relief.


Brad Holbrook:

And the other thing that I've noticed a lot is really the people, the people resources on the team tend to get more engaged because they feel that they see where we're heading. I mean, all of us have I think a desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. And so when we feel like we're part of something bigger than ourselves, and I can see how my role ties to that bigger thing, then a lot of times that results in more employee engagement, more passionate about my job, because now I know how I'm going to impact the vision of that business and hopefully that's going to be a win for the business, a win for me, and a win for our customers as well. And so I think that that really helps with that.


Brad Holbrook:

And I think that the biggest thing that's maybe hard to measure is when you have a lack of employee engagement. And so I call it leaving your brain at the door. I mean, if your employees are showing up and they're leaving their brain at the door, then there's a lot of money left on the table because now they're not bringing their full engagement, their full brain capacity to do everything they can for their job because maybe they don't care. They don't see how their job ties to the big vision, or they're not excited about the vision. They're not excited about the plans or the path that we're headed on as a business.


Brad Holbrook:

So, I think there's a lot of benefits overall. And then obviously the benefit of more cash as well, more cash flow, and obviously the more financially healthy a business is, the more opportunity there is to reinvest in the business or have that freedom that you desire personally as a business owner and as an executive in the company.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. I love that. The part of that that really resonates with me is having that plan. People don't realize how freeing having a plan is. From a marketing perspective, we're always talking about, you've got to have a plan. It doesn't have to be this in depth 20 page plan. Frankly, I think the simplest plans are the best because they're easier to follow, and you know that it's going to change. But having a plan is freeing because it gives you focus. You don't have to get distracted on, "Hey, this is the coolest thing. You need to be doing this." No, I don't need to be doing that because it's not in my plan.


Brad Holbrook:

That's right.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Maybe it will be in my plan at some point in the future, but this is the plan I'm following right now, and this is what I'm going to execute on. And I can't tell you how freeing that is, and the focus that it gives you as a business owner is amazing.


Brad Holbrook:

Yeah. Tim, I think that's a great point. I think what I run across a lot of times in terms of resistance, sometimes when people are resisting putting a process in place or a plan in place, is they feel like sometimes the resistance is ... They say, "Well, this is an extra layer of bureaucracy. We don't need to incorporate in our business."


Brad Holbrook:

And what I think is if you have a process that feels bureaucratic, then I think you don't have a good process in place. I think if you have a good process in place, it should create the freedom that you're talking about, because now I don't have to really think about it and worry about it. It's just back to the personal trainer thing. I don't need to worry about my work, I don't have to go sort out a workout program online and figure out does that work for me? Do I have the right equipment? I have a process in place. I know the trainer's going to take care of it. So I just trust that trainer and I got to show up and bring my energy, bring my mindset, and work hard, and it's all going to work out.


Brad Holbrook:

I think that's the same thing. We hire a process, if you will, we hire a process, we hire a plan, because we want to achieve a certain goal. And so we develop that and hire that to be able to take that burden off of us and create the freedom that we're looking for, the extra mind space, et cetera.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

So, one of the things that you and I have talked about a few times that you are really helping clients with right now, as we all kind of figure out, "Hey, what's business going to look like as we deal with this pandemic and all the other things that are going on in our world right now?" And we talked about it as this disaster response playbook. Tell me a little bit more about what you're doing in that and how it's helping business owners work through this and kind of figure out their direction during this time.


Brad Holbrook:

Yeah. So thanks for asking, Tim. So, in addition to the typical work we do with clients, when the coronavirus hit in March and as it started to get more serious there towards the end of March, beginning of April, we started locking down people and locking down businesses, et cetera. I mean, the business owners I work with tend to start getting really worried, right? I mean, because it's really their livelihood is on the line here, their business is on the line, in a lot of cases, what they worked for their entire life is on the line. And so it can create a lot of angst, a lot of worry and justifiably so.


Brad Holbrook:

And so I think that whenever I look at ... So whenever I started thinking about this and started talking to them and thinking through with them how we can really help, I started thinking about it in two ways, right? When we're playing defense, when we're in a defensive posture, by implication, that means we're getting attacked. I'm defending myself against attack. That's what defense means, right? So when I'm playing defense, I'm getting attacked. And when I'm getting attacked and I'm worried about defending myself, it's hard to make forward progress when I'm defending myself, right? So whenever I'm playing offense, I'm on the move and somebody else is, getting attacked probably is the wrong term, but I'm on the move. I'm playing offense, I'm making gains.


Brad Holbrook:

And so it's kind of hard to do those two things at the same time. And so what I've done with several clients is developed this disaster response playbook. So really what we're trying to do is we're trying to say, "Okay. Let's define and put in a box what the playbook is from a disaster response perspective." And once we define those things, now I don't need to worry about it, because I have the plan in place, I have what my response is going to be when certain things happen. And so now that I have that defined and I know what I'm going to do, I can just start to play offense. And maybe that means pivoting with the services or the products I have and offering them in a different way in the marketplace. Maybe that means doing something completely different. Maybe it means offering additional services to the clients I already have.


Brad Holbrook:

But whatever that growth side is, I can focus on playing offense because I have the defense defined. And so what that means really is we're looking at, we're really getting down and understanding cash that goes out the door every month. And then we're kind of saying, "Okay. What's your comfort level between that and the cash I have on hand in the bank?" What's the comfort level that really you can get from the number of months of life you have left, and cash life. So, once I understand that, then I can develop, as a business owner, I can develop what's my comfort level. How many months of life makes me feel comfortable?


Brad Holbrook:

And so we've really typically broken it down into three different phases. So phase one is, well, I'm starting to get a little nervous. And so since I'm starting to get a little nervous because of that cash difference there, I'm going to cut these things. I'm going to take these actions. And then from there that frees up cash, that increases my cash life based on phase one. phase two is like, well, I'm getting a lot more nervous right now. We need to get a lot more serious about our reactions. So now we have defined, well now in addition to the phase one action, I'm going to do these phase two actions, and that gives me even more cash. My cash life, it extends my cash life. Then the third phase really is we're throwing everything overboard. If we don't, the ship's sinking kind of thing, because we're dead. We're going to run out of cash in a certain whatever period of time.


Brad Holbrook:

And so we're really kind of going through with those business owners, defining those three different phases. What triggers those phases in terms of cash flow, and then what's my response, what's their response going to be in each of those phases to really just say, "Now, okay, I have a plan," and what's more important than that really is we got to define that, but we also have to have what I call a control mechanism. So what's the point in time every month where we're going to review this, and we're going to be like, "Hey, well this is our plan. This is what we're going to execute if we hit this level."


Brad Holbrook:

So now once we put those two things in place, the response playbook and then the control mechanism and how we're reviewing the cash, now I don't need to really worry about it. Now I can shift to my growth piece and how do I pivot? How do I take advantage? Is there certain needs that are not being met in the marketplace where I can go meet those needs? I mean, I think there's opportunities in every economic environment. So, this one is no different. So that's what we're doing with some of our clients to really kind of help them now feel less worry, less concern, and feel like, "I have a plan in place. I can put all my energy on playing offense and not worry about the defense."


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. So their having this plan in place is putting them in this position where they're not playing not to lose, right? Which is never a winning strategy, and it helps them get into a position where they can figure out how to play to win.


Brad Holbrook:

Absolutely. Yeah, and I love that. It's so important from a mindset perspective. I'll tell you what, I play golf a lot. And any time, I try to work on my mental frame of mind before I go play golf because if I'm getting ready to hit a shot and I just think, "Man, I hope I don't shank it over there in the junk somewhere," then more than likely I shank it over there in the junk somewhere.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

That's it.


Brad Holbrook:

But if I step up to the ball and I'm thinking, "How close can I get it to the pin?" Then it seems like I tend to just hit better shots whenever I think that way. So I think it's what you're just talking about, it's like a mindset of how well can I win versus how much can I not lose? I mean, it's two completely different mindsets. And sometimes it ends up being sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy because we just don't have our mindset the right way.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. I love that analogy. I mountain bike, same thing, right? They always say, "Don't focus on where you don't want to go, focus on where you want to go," because inevitably, if you're focusing on the rock off to the right, or how you can fall off, that's what happens. So, totally get it and I love it.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Brad, this has been awesome, man. I really love the information we talked about and I think a lot of people are going to get a ton of value out of it. Where can people find out more about you?


Brad Holbrook:

I'd say you can go to our website, peakcatalystgroup.com. Feel free to send me an email, bradley@peakcatalystgroup.com. And then also we're active on LinkedIn, very active on LinkedIn, that's our main platform that we're active on. So search for Bradley Holbrook Peak Catalyst Group, and you should be able to find us on LinkedIn. We'd love to engage with folks. If anybody has any questions, thoughts, comments, feel free to send me a note on LinkedIn or email address and I'd be happy to reach back out to you.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Awesome. Thank you so much for tuning in. I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing. Just remember, marketing your business shouldn't be a challenge. All you need is a plan. So till next time, take care and we'll see you.


Connect With Bradley Holbrook

  • Email: bradley@peakcatalystgroup.com
  • Linkedin

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About the Author Tim Fitzpatrick

Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Marketing. At Rialto Marketing, we help small businesses & entrepreneurs eliminate the confusion of marketing by focusing on the fundamentals. As a marketing partner, we help clients put in place and manage a simple marketing plan so they can grow. Marketing your business shouldn't be a challenge. All you need is a plan.

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