Have you ever wondered how some of today’s most well-known businesses craft the perfect office cultures for innovation and creativity? In this episode of the Rocket IT Business Podcast, we sit down with Halogenex President and business coaching extraordinaire, Lee Wolfe to hear how he’s helped shape major players, such as Chick-fil-A, IBM, Fujifilm, Emory University, and General Mills.
Through his expertise, Lee continues to help business owners create cultures of high-performance, while empowering people to shine brighter and embrace their talents. And now, with his more recent involvement with Convene, Lee is looking to connect leaders who want to develop best practices and maximize performance.
In This Episode, You’ll Hear More About:
- Hurdles to eliminate to ensure a business doesn’t fail
- How to find a proper hiring pace
- When it’s worth salvaging a relation wit a team member and when it’s time to let them go
- Common misconceptions of rising leaders
- Steps to prepare for selling a business
- Why you should move from annual to quarterly goal planning
- How coaching can be used to transform work culture
- Benchmarks for measuring the success of coaching
- How to move from a task-forced manager to a vision-driven leader
Ryan Bonilla : (00:00)
Today’s episode is brought to you by Rocket IT. Is your team still working remotely? Is it starting to look like a more permanent solution? Let us help you streamline that experience and increase productivity by creating a reliable network, increasing collaboration and boosting security. Click the link in this video description for more information about Rocket IT’s remote workforce roadmap.
Matt Hyatt : (00:37)
Hello everyone and welcome to episode 23 of the Rocket IT business podcast. I’m your host, Matt Hyatt. And today we’re talking with my friend and business coaching extraordinary Mr. Lee Wolf. For the past 31 years, Lee has served as the president of Halogenex serving as both a coach and consultant to organizations like Chick-fil-A, IBM, Fujifilm, Emory university, General Mills, and even Rocket IT. Through his expertise, Lee continues to help business owners create cultures of high performance while empowering people to shine brighter and embrace their talents. And now with his more recent involvement with Convene Lee is looking to connect leaders who want to develop best practices and maximize performance. Lee, welcome to the show.
Lee Wolfe: (01:19)
Thank you, Matt.
Matt Hyatt : (01:20)
Super glad to have you here. You and I have known each other for a good long time and you have been helping my team and we have seen the result of your influence on the organization. And so I wanted to give our listeners an opportunity to spend some time with you, because they don’t know you. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. What is your professional background and how did you get into the coaching business?
Lee Wolfe: (01:45)
Well, I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree I got from University of Georgia. I have experienced organizational dynamics is varied as the army and Fortune 50 corporation and family business have everything from a business size to different industries. And what I’ve found is that people who are running businesses, executives, need somebody that they can rely on. Somebody they can talk to. Somebody that has expertise to be able to relate to their conditions and their struggles.
Matt Hyatt : (02:25)
You know, it’s funny you say that. Absolutely correct, executives do need people that they can talk to. And I have several times in the past told folks that being an entrepreneur or a business owner can be a very lonely experience because if things aren’t going well, or if there’s stress and, in our lives, there are not many folks that we can talk to. We can’t talk to our employees about it because that would scare them and probably make things more, less stable, right. Less stable than they might otherwise be. We can’t talk to our customers about it. And we most certainly can’t go home and talk to our spouse about it because that was here, that person too. And so having someone from the outside that’s maybe not directly vested from a financial perspective can be very helpful, just distant being able to talk. And I imagine that’s true with managers too. You know, they, if, if someone’s struggling, they don’t want to go to their boss and say, Hey, I’m really struggling here. Can you help me? Because that might put them on shaky ground and, and all the other same dynamics must most apply.
Lee Wolfe: (03:37)
Matt Hyatt : (03:38)
Did you start out thinking, you know, someday I’d like to, to be, a business consultant or is that something that kinda came along later?
Lee Wolfe: (03:47)
No, I was pretty much thrust into it as, um, when our family business was acquired. I, um, show the acquiring company what needed to be done. And they were very impressed and worked with them for five years. And they finally said, come show us nationally what you do locally.
Matt Hyatt : (04:13)
Oh, really? Wow.
Lee Wolfe: (04:15)
So I started working with the 50 or so locations that they had nationally helping them improve their performance. And that’s how my consulting business began.
Matt Hyatt : (04:27)
Lee Wolfe: (04:27)
It was an internal consulting effort and it worked out well.
Matt Hyatt : (04:34)
It’s a huge spread between companies like General Mills. everybody knows that that organization. Chick-fil-A a lot of folks know that organization and small businesses like Rocket IT and others. And I know you’ve worked with a number of locally based businesses here in Gwinnett County. How in the world do you manage the differences between those I I’ve struggled. I’d just give you an example. I know that I have struggled and I’ve talked to you about this in the past. Even hiring somebody out of a large organization to bring them into a small organization. Often there’s such a culture shock there.
Lee Wolfe: (05:09)
Matt Hyatt : (05:09)
That’s a difficult transition. How do you, how do you find that working in those different, you have to sort of put a different hat on when you go into these different organizations?
Lee Wolfe: (05:19)
Matt Hyatt : (05:22)
Lee Wolfe: (05:22)
The issues of business are the same, no matter what the size is.
Matt Hyatt : (05:26)
Lee Wolfe: (05:27)
You get to hierarchy this much stronger in a larger business, but the issues are almost identical from one organization to another. So it’s a matter of working through the structure of whatever the company has from a communication and coordination standpoint and a leadership standpoint. But when you’re working at the top of an organization, which is what I do there, they’re very, very similar.
Matt Hyatt : (06:00)
How about that? I wouldn’t have guessed that. Tell us about the name Halogenex where did that come from?
Lee Wolfe: (06:06)
It’s we decided that we were interested in shining a light on problems and solutions and the halogen bulb is the most bright, bold that you can, you can acquire. So halogen is the first part of the name to reflect what we do and EX is for excellence, which has to do with the results. So we shine a light and we create excellence in results. So in our name, we have our mission.
Matt Hyatt : (06:40)
I love it. Yeah. That’s, that’s very nice. I had actually thought about that before, but, I love how you put that together. So tell me I’ve I often refer to you and I often introduce you to my friends and colleagues as our business coach. I have gotten the impression, maybe that’s not your favorite description. You think of yourself maybe as a business consultant or a mentor. Tell us a little bit about what does Halogenex do. How do you describe the organization?
Lee Wolfe: (07:10)
Well, business performance consulting is a fundamental that we use. Executive coaching comes with that, or it can be separate depending upon the need of the organization. And both are supported by behavior profiles that we use in order to expedite results in working with people.
Matt Hyatt : (07:35)
Got it. Do you have a preference? Do you find it more fun to work with large organizations or small ones?
Lee Wolfe: (07:41)
No. I prefer to work locally. I have traveled enough in my career. I don’t need that anymore. I don’t need to wear out any more seats on the aircraft.
Matt Hyatt : (07:59)
Right. How’s the Zoom and Teams deal working out for you?
Lee Wolfe: (08:03)
It works, okay. I missed the interpersonal relationship, which I think most people do, but the thing I appreciate the most about it is the commute time.
Matt Hyatt : (08:14)
Yeah. It’s a lot easier, right?
Lee Wolfe: (08:16)
Matt Hyatt : (08:16)
I know for our team, we’ve got some folks that are closer to, services like high-speed internet and some are a little further away. And so that’s one challenge that we’ve run into a little bit is just sometimes if somebody is not got a great internet connection and I’m, I’m right here in Metro Atlanta, I don’t even have great internet at my house. And so sometimes I have to come into the office to do that. It seems like that’s working out okay for you?
Lee Wolfe: (08:41)
Yes. It’s it’s working fine.
Matt Hyatt : (08:44)
Yeah. So let’s, let’s jump into talking a little bit about businesses and some of the common pitfalls we all run into. We are all somewhat familiar with the statistics of the number of businesses that start every year and the number that fail. And it’s always rather shocking to hear how many businesses just don’t make it past their first year or five years. A lot of businesses never make it to a a hundred thousand dollars in revenue or a million dollars in revenue. And of course the statistics are worse and worse. The higher you go, what do you find are some of the potential hurdles that folks just have to eliminate out of the box if they’re going to have any kind of staying power?
Lee Wolfe: (09:27)
Well, the traditional answer to that is, is cash and cash flow. Where people are, they’re just fundamentally don’t have enough cash to start the business. But beyond that, I find that there’s other conditions that are there. I’ve found that entrepreneurs can pursue their vision too far and too fast. And, and their expectations that their unique approach to their market will create demand in the short term. It often does not. Then that result is a lack of truly objective planning and forecasting that identifies significant obstacles in advance.
Matt Hyatt : (10:08)
So you think it’s a good idea to have a great business plan and kind of cash in the bank to start a business?
Lee Wolfe: (10:16)
Well, I don’t think you need a ton of cash. I think you need enough to be able to support yourself and move forward, but you also have to be realistic and what the revenue stream is going to be able to generate. And it’s, it’s, it’s one of those conditions that having some objectivity prior to the investment effort that you’re making as an entrepreneur can add a lot of benefit.
Matt Hyatt : (10:49)
You know, it’s funny, these days there seems to be this huge focus on two, two things. One is failing fast with a new business and then, and then the other is getting funded. You know, we hear that a lot, a lot of entrepreneurs, particularly in the tech world.
Lee Wolfe: (11:09)
Matt Hyatt : (11:09)
It seems like their entire focus is to get to attract venture capital funding, angel funding and get money in the door. What do you think of those two concepts?
Lee Wolfe: (11:22)
Well, I think what I’ve found is that people who are starting businesses and have a focus on their market focus in raising funds, like you’re talking about often are reticent to get assistance. The assistance that’s available, even free through SBDC, through other organizations with retired executives, for example is available to anybody. And even then they tend to resist it because they’re just single minded and single focused and narrow visioned. And that’s what gets them into trouble. More than anything else, they can create an exciting message to raise funds, but getting the, the down and dirty work done is often more difficult than they imagined.
Matt Hyatt : (12:28)
Lee Wolfe: (12:28)
The business is easy. Running a business is very simple. You run it by the numbers until people are involved, then all bets are off. So it’s the people issues that often will undo a business.
Matt Hyatt : (12:45)
So do you prefer failing fast or slow success?
Lee Wolfe: (12:51)
I think depending upon your situation, both can be okay.
Matt Hyatt : (12:54)
Really? Okay that’s really interesting. Yeah. I don’t know. As, as the, a member of a steadfast member of the slow success crowd, the failing fast thing has always sort of made me scratch my head a little bit. So go ahead.
Lee Wolfe: (13:10)
There is a significant difference between people who are successful as entrepreneurs and people who are excellent employees, and sometimes people who are excellent employees think they have the ability to start and run a business on their own. And they found out the hard way they don’t .
Matt Hyatt : (13:31)
A lot of, a lot of moving parts there, right?
Lee Wolfe: (13:33)
Yeah. It’s a different attitude that it’s a, it’s almost a sacrificial attitude that entrepreneurs have to have. They, they put themselves on the line and, and sacrifice basically everything for where they’re trying to go. Whereas employees who make that decision are losing the security that they had as an employee. And that becomes an obstacle to them and to their families. And it often can undo what they’re trying to accomplish.
Matt Hyatt : (14:06)
Right. You know, it’s funny you say that. I, I think the experience that I have seen and the people that I’ve known over the years is the, the idea of an employee turned entrepreneur. And by the way, I, I belong to that club. So I was an employee and turned an entrepreneur The ability to do that fades with age, I think. And I think it all has to do with not just what you’re used to, but also what you have to lose potentially. And so my thinking is, is that become a choosing to be, to start a business and become an entrepreneur is often something that is maybe more easily accomplished when you’re young, because you don’t have as much as risk. Maybe you don’t quiet. You know maybe you’re not married yet. Maybe you don’t have kids, a mortgage, those kinds of things. It might be easier to make that leap in your twenties or in some cases, even your teens than it might be when you’re 40, 50 or more. Do you find that to be true or, do you think that, just depends on the situation?
Lee Wolfe: (15:09)
No, I think you’re right. That’s what I’m calling security. When you, when you have a need for security and consistency, becoming an entrepreneur does not fit
Matt Hyatt : (15:22)
Lee Wolfe: (15:22)
Because you, you are risking the ultimate condition when you start a business.
Matt Hyatt : (15:30)
Well, let’s move on. So speaking of employees, I think that’s probably one of the biggest challenges you said yourself. Gosh, if it was just as simple as, “Hey, I need to have a certain amount of money in the bank and a business plan, and here’s my marketing plan and what I’m going to do,” it might be easy. Then you throw people into it and suddenly it gets complicated. How do you manage that well? And I know you’ve been involved a number of times, even with Rocket IT as we’ve attempted to find and onboard new team members. So, you know, speaking from, from experience, what do you find are some of the common pitfalls? And do you think business owners are maybe too quick or too slow to make those kinds of hiring decisions?
Lee Wolfe: (16:12)
It’s interesting. You have a question like that because in one organization you can have both conditions.
Matt Hyatt : (16:19)
Lee Wolfe: (16:19)
Where you can hire too fast in certain circumstances, and you can hire far too slow in other circumstances. I’ve seen both conditions and both have serious detrimental effects on the business. Hiring or failing to hire are both based on the lack of understanding of the needs of the business from a personnel standpoint. This includes defining job requirements, recruit, planning, and selection. Proper onboarding is, is a critical aspect. And the preparation of performance-based evaluations. When those things are in place, you have a structure that you can apply and use when the need arises for personnel. The commitment and complexity required to have that be consistent and effective in a hiring process is often intimidating to an entrepreneur who functions on the fly because it’s, I know what I’m doing. Let’s just, let’s just move ahead. So they make quick decisions and hiring and firing, and the result is they find they experience very costly turnover and the turnover conditions will often prevent them from moving forward on hiring because they are just trying to avoid overhead increase. And so it’s a, it’s a kind of a self fulfilling condition that moves from one extreme to the other.
Matt Hyatt : (17:55)
Speaking from experience, that’s a ton of work putting, putting together the list of conditions under which you will hire, the job requirements, being able to assess candidates, doing the marketing necessary to attract quality candidates in the first place, onboarding new team members, just planning for that, I think could take quite a lot of energy. Is there a canned approach that can work or is this really every entrepreneur needs to sort of invent this process for themselves?
Lee Wolfe: (18:30)
It is very culture focused, Matt. So you have to have a structure that works with your environment, works with your mission, works with the purpose that you have in mind for your business because the recruiting process is very, very unique for companies who have specific needs. Here’s one of them, here’s one of them that has a high technical demand for capability and competency. Also a high demand for continual learning. So you have a culture focused that defines who you need to recruit, and all companies will have the same kind of emphasis depending upon where they are.
Matt Hyatt : (19:18)
It can become an emotional decision too, sometimes hiring or firing. We get particularly enamored of someone because of their personality or sense of humor, or even just the way that they present themselves in an interview. when maybe not always, the competency might not always kind of line up. Do you find that’s a common pitfall?
Lee Wolfe: (19:45)
It is. And in working with clients, particularly from an interview process, there is, there is a relationship that’s developed during an interview that can be deceptive. And that’s where behavior profiles come in, who can be highly objective and beneficial. But fundamentally, I like to explain to clients that hiring a person is an investment decision and thinking of it as an investment decision, you have to determine how the investment will be identified and how it will be used to be able to advance the business. So you can take a little bit more objective approach when you think of hiring in that way. Clear performance objectives and measurement are also a critical condition. In general, under achievers, negatively impact cultures. I’m going give a short answer to this very significant question here. Peer level accountability is often overlooked. When managers see potential in an employee who is underachieving, often use a sports example to demonstrate this dynamic, the decision to increase the investment with additional training, mentoring, closer supervision versus cutting losses and providing the employees opportunities elsewhere can be actually, can be supported and directed by looking at peer level personnel. This simple approach, eases management decisions to invest further and cut the losses simultaneously reinforcing the culture. I have told clients that the best possible firing decision that can be made is for peer level people to tell somebody not to come back to work.
Matt Hyatt : (21:44)
So when you say that you’re referring to the manager seeking feedback from the people that the candidate work with, or are you suggesting that the people that the candidate work with actually approach the team member and say, Hey, buddy, maybe you need to go find a different job.
Lee Wolfe: (22:08)
What I’m saying is when the culture reaches that level, where the peers feel highly competent to do exactly that, you’ve reached the pinnacle of opportunity. I have experienced that. I experienced that in my own business, and that was the one condition. I’ve only had one EOC complaint that I had to deal with.
Matt Hyatt : (22:32)
Lee Wolfe: (22:33)
And when that person came in, he came in and told me about an employee that I didn’t even realize was an employee. Was my failure. I didn’t recognize that. So I told him he needed to talk to the operations manager and he came in the office about 10 o’clock in the morning. He came back in the office about 5:30. I was impressed by that because I didn’t think bureaucrats would work that late. He said, his response to me was, I want to know how you do it. I said, what are you talking about? He said, the people that this person was working with told him not to come back to work. And I said, I wasn’t aware of that. He said, they told him that he did not measure up to their expectation of people that were going to work with them.
Matt Hyatt : (23:28)
How about that?
Lee Wolfe: (23:29)
And he said, I’m denying this, this request. And just want to know how you do that. I said, well, I didn’t do anything that was up to them.
Matt Hyatt : (23:42)
That’s great. Yeah. I don’t know. it was certainly had input from team members a number of times. Yeah. Just talking about their experience with, with coworkers, of course we’re in a pretty small organization. There’s no question, who works here and who doesn’t, but it is interesting to hear that that you’ve experienced that in one of your organizations. Well, let’s talk a little bit about raising people up inside an organization. Do you find that there are some common misconceptions when it comes to rising leaders in an organization and how, how they achieve success?
Lee Wolfe: (24:23)
Common misperceptions? I’m not sure what you mean by that.
Matt Hyatt : (24:30)
So, here’s the, here’s the common thing that happens in my industry. It certainly happened in Rocket IT, and in my peers that I’ve talked with all the time. It’s very frequent occurrence that happens. And that is that we have an amazing technologist or an amazing sales person that is a technically competent and does a great job and has become sort of the defacto next manager in the organization. Hey, this person’s so great at their job. We should get them to lead other people in the organization. And so I don’t, know that, that’s a, it just, over a long period of time, I don’t know that that’s a recipe for success. It can work, but I don’t know if it’s the path that I would recommend. So that’s an example of maybe a, a common mis perception or, or conception of, Hey, we should take our best technical folks or our best workers and promote them to managers.
Lee Wolfe: (25:29)
Matt Hyatt : (25:30)
So that’s, that’s the kind of thing that I am referring to. Do you find that, that that’s a common issue out there with other businesses?
Lee Wolfe: (25:36)
It is. And you’re exactly right. Probably the most common condition is the highest performing sales person becoming sales manager, which often is a miserable failure.
Matt Hyatt : (25:48)
Lee Wolfe: (25:50)
The same thing can be true of high tech conditions where that technical competency does not lead to leadership and the ability for people to, to manage others. That becomes a particularly personal agenda. When people have the ability to lead others, it’s recognized often by other people, even more than supervisors, more than managers would see that. So the relational aspects that are important from a leadership standpoint become even more critical when you’re promoting. And you’re looking for leaders within an organization that can accomplish and maintain the culture that you’re trying to promote and sustain.
Matt Hyatt : (26:52)
Right? I do think there’s a pretty natural concept or idea that, you know, what, if I’m, if I’m going to play say sales manager, I need someone who’s walked in those shoes, right? I need someone who’s been a successful salesperson, right. Or I’m going to put a technical manager for our, some of our clients, their engineering firms. I need somebody who’s an engineer in order to lead other engineers. Do you think that’s a true statement, or is there value in that? Or is it, you know what, no, it’s all about just leadership skills versus the technical prowess of the other roles.
Lee Wolfe: (27:32)
It depends upon the organization. You have to have people in leadership in your organization that have technical competency. You cannot have a conversation with someone about a technical issue, dealing with a customer, which is all relational without having some basis in technical competency to carry on a communication with people internally. On the other hand, you don’t have to be the highest achieving tech person in the organization. You have to be a person who is going to be accepted by the organization and, and has the ability to go challenge and support the people that report to them.
Matt Hyatt : (28:15)
Hmm. I love that. You know, we’ve, we’ve talked here on the podcast before about the support challenge matrix and how it’s so important to balance those two things to be an effective leader. And it is something that I think is a learned skill. So that’s something we often run into is, Hey, I’ve got this, this person that I think has leadership potential. They don’t have the skill set yet, but they have the technical background. For example, going back to the technical manager. Luckily I think that’s a skill that can be learned. I don’t think that necessarily folks are natural leaders. Do you agree with that or no?
Lee Wolfe: (28:59)
I think you’re probably right. That there are a few out there. There are a few who have natural ability. It just is part of their experience. They learn it in school, they learn it in sports. They learn it with their families, but it’s a rarity.
Matt Hyatt : (29:19)
Right. You mentioned that you got started in the business consulting realm because of a sale of a family business. I’d actually like to dig into that a little bit, because I think that that is something that I have found pretty common. And at least in my circles, in my industry that a lot of fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders, aren’t really planning for a future transition. And I have found that those that don’t plan for it end up near the end of their career. And, Oh my gosh, now I’ve got an emergency. I’ve got this business that I need to either unload or shut down, which can be painful for all kinds of reasons. Do you find that folks do a good job of, of planning and what are the steps that you’ve seen are most critical in that process for those that planned well?
Lee Wolfe: (30:14)
No most business owners do not plan well. I think it is a condition that is actually fearful.
Matt Hyatt : (30:23)
In what way?
Lee Wolfe: (30:25)
Too fearful for them to consider what the alternatives are. Fearful from a standpoint of having to look at yourself as potentially out of the picture and creates an anxiety that’s difficult to deal with. That is, is a fundamental condition that’s critical, just like starting a business. You need to have plans in place for transition in your business. And you never know when it’s going to happen. I have a client who has a customer who has a very successful business, locally, about 150 employees and he dropped dead at 50 years old.
Matt Hyatt : (31:19)
Oh my goodness.
Lee Wolfe: (31:20)
And had no plans, no transition. Everything is up to the estate. And it’s turning into a very, very difficult situation. The planning process for transition of business is in my mind as critical as the startup planning. Once you have a significant business going, you got to be able to have a, a plan to be able to protect your employees, to protect your business, protect your family. But oftentimes we get so caught up with running the business, enjoying what the benefits are of the business that we don’t look at the opportunity to plan for the future.
Matt Hyatt : (32:10)
Interesting. Is that something that you work with entrepreneurs on?
Lee Wolfe: (32:15)
Well, I encourage, you really need to have a team of people. You need to have your CPA. You need to have your attorney. Probably need to have a consultant to help you, but it takes a team to put that together because there’s legal obstacles. There are conditions that you start planning. There’s always transitions that will change over time, whether it’s with new legislation, whether it’s with family environments, whether it’s with environmental conditions or the condition of the business itself. So you have to be planning for flexibility and having those things addressed as part of the objective is, is critical.
Matt Hyatt : (33:04)
Yeah, I like that. Thing I’ve been doing for a number of years now is annually or biannually, depending on what’s happened in the year, meeting with our CPA and our business attorney, personal financial attorney. All of those things together has been super helpful to my family. So I liked that idea and maybe bringing a coach in and also just to make sure that the transition, that there’s a plan in place for transition, because it can come sooner than we expect. Can’t it?
Lee Wolfe: (33:37)
Exactly. Right. And it can come with opportunity as well, and it can come with somebody approaching you to buy your business, and you have to have your resources in place to be able to deal with that as well, because that can be a very unsettling condition.
Matt Hyatt : (33:52)
Lee Wolfe: (33:55)
I have a client who was about to, was expecting that they were going to conclude the sale of their business December 31st. They found out in January that the purchasing company is backing out of the deal.
Matt Hyatt : (34:12)
Oh my goodness.
Lee Wolfe: (34:13)
So those kinds of things happen and you’ve got to be prepared for whatever the eventual outcome would be.
Matt Hyatt : (34:22)
Well, I’ll tell you what, with the year that we’ve had amidst the pandemic, I think we’ve all become masters at flexibility and planning, but as we kind of look ahead, I think there’s optimism that we’re going to see an end to the pandemic sometime in 2021. But I think we all know this is, there’s a bit of a wildcard there. We don’t really know what’s going to happen. What are you advising that your clients focus on right now in this era of unknowns?
Lee Wolfe: (34:57)
Well, the conditions we have right now are, um, are so difficult for small businesses. The conditions that have been supported by the government have basically empowered large companies to be gobbling up more and more market share. Constantly evaluating market conditions and providing product solutions and support is critical for any company, but it’s going to be even more critical as we move forward. I believe that we have an opportunity coming up as we start to get back to what is not considered normal, but it’s going to be different. And, and I think it’s going to be different because things are going to move a lot faster internally and externally creating opportunities for moving quickly, having a flexible workforce, having a flexible dynamic approach to the market, being able to move quickly internally and externally is going to be important. Companies will have to accelerate access to new external opportunities at the same time, accelerating internally to meet new challenges. And those new challenges are going to come from clients that you don’t even have at this point. Customers that didn’t exist before we went through this, this stressful time. And the traditional annual goal setting is not going to work. It’s going to have to be faster objectives. It’s going to have to be identifying and setting short-term objectives that will achieve monthly or quarterly goals and be required to maintain focus and initiative. That’s going to be a shift in attitude. There’s going to be a shift in priority because the, the organization and the small company that is responsive is going to be the one that’s gonna gain the, the opportunities. And it’s going to be critical that that happen. At the same time, the internal structures are gonna be different. I doubt that we’re ever gonna return completely to just face-to-face conditions. The, the cost effectiveness of, of Zoom communications with both customers and employees is, is beyond a doubt, a benefit to the companies. I can’t see us rejecting that as we move forward, but if you take a look at it, it will accelerate the ability to communicate. It will accelerate the opportunities to communicate because it is so cost-effective and that’s going to increase and requiring additional flexibility on the small business part.
Matt Hyatt : (38:13)
You know, something you said in there, I thought fell into the easier said than done category when you were talking about how we need to be prepared to move more quickly to act on opportunities and that sort of thing, and, and not only internal, opportunities, but external opportunities. You know not too hard to say that, but boy doing it kind of left a question mark in my head a little bit, but something you said afterwards was maybe changing the velocity or the timing of our strategic planning. And that’s something we’ve been doing at Rocket IT as, you know, for some time where we transitioned from an annual strategic planning process to a quarterly strategic planning process. And that has, I think it was very lucky and fortunate that we happened to do that. I don’t know, maybe 12 months before the pandemic, was when we started doing that. And we were working with your guidance through the book the 12 Week Work Year. I think that’s what it’s called.
Lee Wolfe: (39:23)
Matt Hyatt : (39:26)
And you’re right. That was helpful to be able to just not only speed up our planning process, but make sure that we’re focused from quarter to quarter on the right things has been tremendous and really helpful. Are there other tips there that you can think of in terms of how people can prepare their businesses for that change in velocity?
Lee Wolfe: (39:45)
Yeah, I think, I think it’s going to come back even further. I think you’re going to be looking at monthly conditions.
Matt Hyatt : (39:51)
Lee Wolfe: (39:51)
And you’re going to be looking at maybe even weekly objectives, because I think you’re going to find customers becoming impatient and there’s going to be a move to move farther faster as the economy comes back and it’s going to be an opportunity to truly accelerate in that regard. I think you’re moving in the right direction. There’s no two ways about that, but you’re moving in a direction that most companies haven’t even considered at this point.
Matt Hyatt : (40:30)
Lee Wolfe: (40:30)
In fact, I think many have just buckled down and tried to survive.
Matt Hyatt : (40:37)
Lee Wolfe: (40:37)
Rather than looking at the opportunities to structure for thriving as the business has a potential to do.
Matt Hyatt : (40:47)
How do business owners and leaders know if they’re moving at the right pace on these kinds of things? Is there an objective way of looking at our businesses to tell whether we need to put our foot on the gas or the brake?
Lee Wolfe: (40:59)
Well, the ultimate condition is the financial measurements and that’s where employees should be very key to understanding how a particular your key leaders should understand exactly how your organization responds from a financial impact standpoint, both positive and negative, so that they can have the flexibility and the interest to move the dial in the right direction. And they don’t have to wait around and stew until somebody makes a decision to tell them what to do.
Matt Hyatt : (41:37)
Right. You know, it’s interesting that you say that. I’d remember not terribly long ago, but in the early and middle days of, of Rocket IT, a lot of thought that I put into whether to run the business as an open books, business sharing all of the nitty-gritty details with, with my team and whether that will be helpful or harmful to the business and the team to, to do that. And as you know, we eventually settled on that different team members would have access to different levels of information. And so our executive team has a complete knowledge of the full P and L versus some of our middle managers are going to have access down to the gross profit line. And then , our remaining team members, you know, they have visibility into the revenue and, nothing below the revenue line and that’s worked for us. But have you seen a move for more transparency and finances with your clients over time? Or do you find that a lot of business leaders like to keep their numbers close to their chest?
Lee Wolfe: (42:48)
Well, a lot of privately held companies do exactly that keep the numbers almost exclusively to themselves.
Matt Hyatt : (42:56)
Lee Wolfe: (42:57)
And that’s a mistake what you’ve done. Let me tell you the caveat to that. The people that you share financial information with have to have the maturity, have to have the perspective, have to have both self confidence and the confidence of the owner that they will be justifiably involved in making decisions based on the financial performance. It takes a while to grow those people. They don’t come to you ready for that kind of condition. On the other hand, many privately held companies have people in place that they trust and they, they utilize as leaders in the organization, but they don’t share the financial information with them. That’s a mistake. And that is also part of what we talked about just a few minutes ago, with the transition of a business. Those people will become the most critical aspect to transitioning the business either with an acquisition or because of the change in ownership, for whatever reason, they will end up being more of the security going forward. So including them in financial disclosure is pretty critical.
Matt Hyatt : (44:20)
I totally agree. And I like, and I like that thought process. It was something you mentioned though that I think is interesting and worth diving into a little bit, as you were talking about our leaders being prepared and ready for that new information. You know, a lot of times when folks are gaining access to the finances for the first time, not only are we learning about things about, you know, how the P and L works and the balance sheet and cashflow and those kinds of things, which are the learning process there, but I think there’s also just a complete change in perspective of, Hey, I’ve been kind of looking at this from my own point of view, as an employee in the organization. And now I’m gaining a new point of view from an owner or a stakeholder perspective. Tell us a little bit about that perspective change and why it’s so important to the behavioral aspects of what we do.
Lee Wolfe: (45:21)
Well, what you’re talking about is introducing risk. And when people understand that it’s not just their personal income, that’s a priority when they’re in leaders of an organization, but it is their sense of the business opportunities and downsides their personal risk associated with it just as the owner, has dealt with for the entire time he’s owned the business. And that sense of risk becomes a factor that is critical for decision-making and long-term benefit for the leaders in the organization. That’s often not understood by owners of companies and they see it as more as revealing the secrets of their business, rather than forcing the opportunities on people, their leaders in particular, to share the burden and to be able to understand what’s necessary to run a business and.
Matt Hyatt : (46:27)
Well, I’ll tell you why. And I love that Lee. I think that’s so important for people to understand. And I think I went a long time without really understanding it. You know, there are certainly fear as a business owner of, Oh my goodness. If I pull back the curtains and show folks, you know, how the business works and how it makes money and how much money it makes that there might be some sort of a revolt or surprise or something like that. And, and, and I’m not suggesting that isn’t the case every time, it might, that might actually be the case sometimes. But I think that idea of introducing risk when you are inviting one of your team members to share in the knowledge of how the mechanics of how the business makes money and what the effect of, decisions are on that, that important fuel for the organization. The ultimate result if done successfully is that it is no longer the sole burden of the owner or the leader to worry about that risk. And having other people involved has been well, it’s made a huge difference in my life. And so I think that’s super important. I’m glad you, you mentioned it.
Lee Wolfe: (47:49)
Well, I’m glad you’re experiencing it very positively.
Matt Hyatt : (47:55)
The alternative doesn’t sound fun at all.
Lee Wolfe: (47:57)
Well, the alternative is picking the wrong person and not structuring the way you introduced the information properly and you have done it properly. So it’s working and that’s the way it should be.
Matt Hyatt : (48:11)
Not that not to say that there weren’t any bumps in the road, you know, there’ve been things that we’ve worked through, but having, having a coach help us out with that, not working, not only working with me, but working directly with some of our leaders, I think has been super helpful. So let’s talk about coaching for just a second, because I think that many times, again, just speaking from my experience with peers, friends that, that run other businesses, there’s this idea that, well, I, you know what Lee, I think I had this when, when I first contacted you for the very first time we talked, I talked with you about the fact that I felt that I needed a business coach, and you helped me understand that it wasn’t just me, that there are other people in the organization that needed some outside perspective also. And ultimately that made a huge difference in my business. And I’m grateful for that. Tell me a little bit about the transformation that people might see when they invite a coach into a business, especially if that coach has influence in other parts of the organization, besides just the leader of the organization.
Lee Wolfe: (49:28)
Well, my experience has been when I start at the executive level, the top, the owner, the CEO of an organization, that it grows to the next level as well, because the transition is important as the executive owner of the business is looking to transform or build or sustain or promote their culture. Typically the transformation requires that they have people that are directly reporting to them involved and supporting, and being able to understand what’s going on and how it’s going to be transformative for the entire corporation. It’s the culture of every business is driven by the top, it’s driven by the executives. And when you’re talking about transformational culture change, it is a very important condition that requires more than one person driving the bus. So it’s important to understand who is going to be actually promoting the process and, and developing the culture and sustaining it as it moves forward. And that’s not quite often understood. Every, every company has a culture and it’s always driven by the owner or executive of the organization, but they don’t often understand that it’s either driven and developed by default, which is around their own personality or it’s driven and promoted by direct planning. And the planned culture is far more effective than the default culture. So the transformation of a culture becomes a critical condition that really requires leadership beyond just the owner of the business.
Matt Hyatt : (51:28)
I love that because, and again, you know, I’m speaking a lot from my own personal experience, growing a business from one person up, there was a period of time there where, you know, especially early, early on, you are 100%, you’re doing everything. We’ve joked many times about being the technician and the salesperson and the bookkeeper, the marketing person, so on, but then eventually you’ve got to hand over some of those reigns and bring other people into the organization and let it go. And, that includes, I’m not saying I’m not suggesting that folks outsource culture building to their leaders, but that is an effect what, what can happen as the other leaders in the organization have more influence, they can impact the culture. And of course, as the leader of the organization, we want to keep that thing on rails and working in the same direction.
Lee Wolfe: (52:24)
Right. That’s a critical leadership focus because you’re talking about a shift from being individually responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen to now being responsible for others who have the same requirement to be responsible for what fails to happen or what does happen positively.
Matt Hyatt : (52:49)
So Lee, when you go in and work with these very diverse organizations, large and small from all kinds of different industries, are there some common benchmarks that you use to measure progress and make sure that you’re feeling confident that we’re moving in the right direction?
Lee Wolfe: (53:03)
Yes. I think probably communication effectiveness is number one. When I hear an owner CEO, tell me, this is what I think we’re doing and how we’re doing and I find from their direct reports that they have a completely different opinion. That’s a cause for concern, right? The other is achievement of prioritized goals when things are prioritized and the achievement is working in the right direction and it’s consistent with where the owner wants to go. Then that’s a farming condition. Technical condition is a three 60 feedback tool, which gives the owners and the leaders in the organization the opportunity to see what the opinions of the organization are. The ultimate goal obviously is the achievement of the business and the performance of the business. And those things tend to tend to blossom. And I have been told by many clients, I had no idea we could reach this. We could do this well, right. It’s.
Matt Hyatt : (54:18)
The ultimate compliment, right?
Lee Wolfe: (54:19)
Well, it’s a compliment to them because they had the resources and the energy and the capability all along. It was just a matter of structuring it so that they could achieve it.
Matt Hyatt : (54:30)
You mentioned some of the different personalities at work earlier in our conversation. And yeah, I’ve seen this play out in my organization. And what I’ve come to believe is that some folks are more natural task oriented people. So they feel success by having a list of things to do and checking the box and making sure that those things get done. And then others and, and I think I fall into this category, prefer to spend their time sort of thinking about what the future is going to be like. And they tend to, you know, a lot of times folks would refer to me as a dreamer, for example, because I’m thinking about what you know is going to happen 10 years from now. And I quickly get bored with some of the task-based things of, of getting things done. But I think a lot of entrepreneurs are faced with a very difficult challenge of being good at both. Do you find that folks make the transition to successful leader that they’re wired in a particular way? Or do you think that’s accessible to everyone?
Lee Wolfe: (55:43)
I think you’ve made the transition very successfully. You have moved from the task oriented focus, which is required to be successful initially to a more visionary condition, which is, when you’ve got a successful business, is much more satisfying to the owner to be able to guide and direct the business from, from a vision standpoint, rather than having to check off the boxes and deal with it from a task standpoint. Not everyone can make that transition, Matt. And what happens with those who can’t? They end up stagnating. They end up being able to only move as far as their personal capacity can allow the organization to move. They end up either with a burnout condition or they end up selling their business, but it is not, they’re not able to transform both themselves and the company to achieve much higher levels. That is not an uncommon condition. And it’s unfortunate, but it’s a matter of the decision process that the individual owner makes. If they make a decision, I want to get out of this, I want to stop doing this. I want this business to run more effectively either without me, or because of me from a vision standpoint, they can make the transition, but often it’s, it’s very difficult to do.
Matt Hyatt : (57:25)
Thank you for the compliment, you know, I point out to our listeners that I’ve had a lot of help and it’s been a long period of time. That’s something that, worked out for, for a long time. So it wasn’t something that’s happened overnight. And I would suggest that, that transition’s not over, it’s still something that’s under development. Tell us a little bit about Convene. We’ve mentioned it in our intro. Tell us about your focus there and what you’re doing.
Lee Wolfe: (57:54)
Convene is a national organization, which has as its mission to connect, equip, and inspire Christian CEOs and business owners to grow exceptional businesses and become higher impact leaders to honor God. That’s the basic mission. I am the chairman of the local advisory board on which members focus on that mission for their businesses. And so that’s a peer level support group.
Matt Hyatt : (58:22)
So you’re leading a group in the Metro Atlanta area of Christian business owners that are looking to build their businesses. And at the same time honor their faith. And I think one of the benefits that I’m hearing out of that is that not only do participants have feedback from their peers, but Hey, they get a, a really great business coach out of the deal, too.
Lee Wolfe: (58:52)
It comes along with the whole situation. Yes. I work with them on a coaching process as well as the forum team.
Matt Hyatt : (59:01)
Gotcha. I love it. We’re going to ask you towards the end of this, how folks can get in touch with you. But I think there might be some of our listeners that might be interested in talking more about that.
Lee Wolfe: (59:11)
That’s be great totalk with them.
Matt Hyatt : (59:14)
So I confess Lee. I’ve known you a long time and the entire time, all I’ve really known as that you’re older than I, but I know that I’ve been thinking for a while, Gosh, one of these days I’d love to retire, but you seem to get a lot of energy out of, out of working. How do you, how do you relax and unplug?
Lee Wolfe: (59:32)
Well, I think you’ve experienced some of that. My wife and I have a cabin in Toccoa, Georgia.
Matt Hyatt : (59:39)
That’s right. Up in the mountains.
Lee Wolfe: (59:39)
We’re on the Lake Lake Hartwell, and I enjoy relaxing up there and fishing and being on the water and working with little projects that I start. And my wife has said, you’ve always got some project going on. And I said, I hadn’t thought about that, but that’s the way. So it’s just fun to keep that kind of thing going.
Matt Hyatt : (01:00:05)
I love it. So do you try to separate your business and your work depending on your location? Or are you happy to, to work in the mountains and do projects back on,
Lee Wolfe: (01:00:19)
I do both.
Matt Hyatt : (01:00:20)
Lee Wolfe: (01:00:22)
Work from the cabin and work from home. It’s just a matter of what the schedule is.
Matt Hyatt : (01:00:27)
You must have a good internet up there.
Lee Wolfe: (01:00:28)
I do. It works. At least it’s been reliable so far.
Matt Hyatt : (01:00:34)
Excellent. Well, fantastically, I think it’s time to move on to what we call our lightning round. And this is just a few questions that we ask all of our guests. And I love to hear some answers from you. So tell us about who’s the person that’s been in your life that’s made a profound impact on your journey.
Lee Wolfe: (01:00:54)
I had when I was just a first Lieutenant in the army, I was reporting directly to a Colonel and he actually impacted me probably stronger than anybody else experienced.
Matt Hyatt : (01:01:09)
Lee Wolfe: (01:01:09)
And shortly after I left the service, he was promoted to general.
Matt Hyatt : (01:01:14)
Lee Wolfe: (01:01:14)
But he had a great deal of impact on me and I also on him, but he gave me the support that was necessary to completely transform a process that the army had been doing wrong. He supported me to correct it and the results were astounding. So he was very instrumental in making that happen. He also tried to prevent me from leaving the army, but that was a different story.
Matt Hyatt : (01:01:48)
You know, it’s really great. And I don’t know how those things happen, but it is really great when someone takes an interest in another human and sort of takes them under their wing and says, Hey, let me, let me see if I can help you out here. It sounds like that’s what happened.
Lee Wolfe: (01:02:03)
That’s exactly what happened.
Matt Hyatt : (01:02:06)
So in your, you, you might have, you might have the opportunity here to give us the best answer we’ve ever heard. I’m going to set you up for success here because you’ve had so many interactions with several different, all kinds of businesses and industries. What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned in your professional career.
Lee Wolfe: (01:02:25)
That’s a very simple answer for me.
Matt Hyatt : (01:02:28)
Lee Wolfe: (01:02:28)
I’ve learned to ask more questions than to make statements. And I’ve found that asking questions is a farther, carries the results much farther than making statements.
Matt Hyatt : (01:02:44)
Is that because you’re learning something out of asking the question or is it because you’re causing the person you’re asking to think?
Lee Wolfe: (01:02:51)
Both. I’ll tell you the other secret about asking questions is you can ask questions continuously until you get the person to understand what you’re trying to communicate.
Matt Hyatt : (01:03:06)
I think our kids do that.
Lee Wolfe: (01:03:08)
Matt Hyatt : (01:03:08)
Why is it like that? Why?
Lee Wolfe: (01:03:10)
It works with everybody except your wife.
Matt Hyatt : (01:03:17)
I love it. So are there any books or I don’t know if you do you, are you a YouTube guy? Do you listen to podcasts? What, what’s your favorite way to learn and what are some of your favorite influential media?
Lee Wolfe: (01:03:30)
Well, I have a whole library of books, but recently, I’ve been able to use the services provided by Convene to all its members.
Matt Hyatt : (01:03:41)
Lee Wolfe: (01:03:42)
And that’s called Right Now Media. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that.
Matt Hyatt : (01:03:46)
I’m not familiar.
Lee Wolfe: (01:03:46)
Right Now Media includes in-person videos of virtually all the well-known business leaders, well-known coaches, well-known authors. And it is a very powerful tool to be able to use that. And I’ve been using that more than anything, both with my forum team and personally.
Matt Hyatt : (01:04:08)
Interesting. So kind of like a private Ted talk channel for company members?
Lee Wolfe: (01:04:15)
Matt Hyatt : (01:04:15)
Very nice. Is there a favorite speaker out there that you enjoy hearing?
Lee Wolfe: (01:04:19)
I probably think Pat Lencioni has been enjoyable. He’s he’s very personable in his presentation, but there are others that are just as good.
Matt Hyatt : (01:04:34)
Lee Wolfe: (01:04:34)
And I have a message that’s worth hearing.
Matt Hyatt : (01:04:39)
Yeah. Pat Lencioni is a favorite for sure. Lee, thank you so much. What’s the best way for people to reach to you if they they’re interested in Convene or interested in coaching services? How can they reach you?
Lee Wolfe: (01:04:49)
Well, my office phone number is 770-979-3467 and it’s extension number two.
Matt Hyatt : (01:04:58)
There you go.
Lee Wolfe: (01:04:58)
My email for Convene is firstname.lastname@example.org. So I would welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone that listened to this and found some benefit in it.
Matt Hyatt : (01:05:14)
Excellent. Terrific. Well on that note, I think it’s time to wrap things up. Lee from myself and our audience. Thank you so much for joining us today and to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. Should you have any suggestions on future topics? Did you like to hear more about, please email us at podcastsatrocketit.com and finally, a quick plug for Rocket IT. We help businesses leverage technology to create seamless networks that encourage productivity and profitability to learn how a personalized roadmap can bring efficiency to your business and clarity to your team. Visit Rocket IT.com/roadmap-help or click the link in this episode’s description. Thank you so much, Lee. We loved having you.
Lee Wolfe: (01:05:53)