Guest Post | Whose Voice Are You Listening To?July 12, 2018
This week I’m happy to welcome Thomas Miller, from Leaders Building Leaders, on the blog for today’s edition of #ThoughtfulThursdays. He’s sharing some of the things he’s learned in his business – including who you should be listening to in your business.
The first two books I read when I started my leadership training company for school leaders were Simon Sinek’s Start with Why and Michael Gerber’s E-Myth. Start With Why taught me that people don’t care what you do as much as they care why you do it. Be clear on your mission, be disciplined, and be consistent. On the other hand, Gerber’s best-seller taught me that without systems, businesses fail; in fact, 80% fail within the first five years.
Since my business officially opened (July 1, 2014), every morning I jump out of bed to be the difference-maker in the leadership development of individuals and organization. I hear Sinek and Gerber’s key learning points in my head. They’ve become a daily mantra of “Stay true to your mission; build the business.” “Stay true to the mission; build your business.” “Stay true to your mission; build the business.”
Serving our main client, public charter school principals and board members, my company was the fastest growing leadership training company in North Carolina by year three. We were projected to secure the highest revenue numbers in our short history, growing by 300% in the last year. We were staffed with a dedicated team of former principals who are great leaders of people. We strategically mapped out our training and marketing plan for the year. This plan consisted of a paid monthly membership training sessions where we would upsell them into a mastermind book study during the training session. We were ready to execute.
We sold out the first session of the year and 25 principals came to the training. About an hour before it was my turn to close out the day and sell the book study a voice began to creep into my head. “You know what, Tom? These principals work hard. They spent the day with you and the team and learned a great deal. Why don’t you just give them the books you bought for the book study? They are all pretty busy, so just let them know if they want to participate, here’s the phone number.” So I did. I gave away $500 in merchandise and asked no one to join the paid book study. I was certain that the value that we brought to the 25 principals in the room was going to lead to other business, and we would be fine.
In month two we had a similar turnout. We used the same plan and had the same result. Another $400 in books gifted, $375 for lunch and expenses, not to mention everyone’s time. The voice said, “It’s all right, the money you brought in from ticket sales covered almost all of the expenses. Look at the smiles on their faces and the difference you are making in their lives.” Someone is bound to call for services. They didn’t.
As we moved deeper into the year the voice got louder and came more often. “You know, you’ve never done this before. You were a principal. You don’t know how to build a business. You don’t know how to lead a team. No one wants to come to your trainings. Why would they buy from you? You were a self-proclaimed terrible principal!” After the first quarter, my love for my business was waning, and I was feeling a crushing weight on my shoulders. I was hiding from crucial conversations. I stopped prospecting. I wasn’t leading anyone. I spent my time reacting to hunches, rather than following the plan we had set. A freight train called “cash-flow” was coming my way, and I had no plan to get off the tracks. I was stuck.
As a certified member of the John Maxwell Team I have access to a faculty of mentors that have all leveraged their talents to build multi-million dollar personal development companies. I scheduled a private thinking partner call with my mentor and President of the John Maxwell Team Paul Martinelli. I filled out my pre-mentor reflection sheet and shared with him my playbook, our plan, and the business numbers to date. The first question he asked me was, “Why did you start your own company?” My answer was the feeling of freedom. The freedom to create content and change the lives of others. His next question was, “Well, how free do you feel now?” The answer was “I don’t, I feel trapped.” Paul has built four multi-million dollar companies for over two decades and he went on and shared some of his own learning experiences and failure in starting and building companies.
He then asked me, “How much longer are you going to feed the beast you created?” He pointed out that what I was seeking, freedom to create content and change the lives of others, didn’t necessarily mean I had to build a million dollar company. I certainly could, but without systems and processes to affect sales, the business owner becomes the rainmaker. The result? Everyone else in the company gets to enjoy the fruits of one person’s sales abilities. That is not a formula for freedom. That is a formula for resentment, and resentment was my current state of mind.
Our mentoring session continued with him asking me, “What is holding you back? What are your competing commitments?” He explained that a competing commitment is when you say you are committed to achieving a goal, yet your actions say otherwise. What you say and what occurs are total opposites. Your actions speak louder than words.
My Competing Commitments:
- No one will hire a speaker and trainer who stutters.
- Educators are not supposed to be rich.
- Money will not buy happiness.
- You don’t need to be profitable as long as you are making a difference.
- Your team has never sold before; you can’t bother them with that now.
Paul went on to explain that WE create a system to fortify that competing commitment to ensure we stay safe.
During my reflection session, here is a list of the systems I identified that I created to make sure I stayed attached to my competing commitments:
- Hiring a CFO and marketing team who didn’t have the necessary skills.
- No verification of the set deliverables of third party contracts before paying.
- No Client Relations Management (CRM) system in place
- Avoiding sales conversations with prospects (secret agent sales process).
- Building a sales process that relied on one salesperson.
- Setting an employee salary scale based on their work as a principal.
- Disorganized marketing plan for new product launches.
- Spending time revamping the website, writing blogs, developing the perfect email marketing campaign or Facebook ads based on theory, not client needs.
- Hire friends and acquaintances to execute the most challenging aspects of the business.
- Giving away thousands of dollars of books, merchandise, and free or reduced-price training sessions.
When the voice of doubt creeps in, you need to challenge your competing commitments and discover the truth. I realized that my dream of designing a business that would provide me freedom was growing in toxic soil. My next step was to take these identified competing commitments, and the systems I built for them, and change how I thought, how I communicated. Change how I looked at each problem and identified what the truth could be. Not what I had done in the past. They may have been facts up to this point, but they were not my truth. I know now, by not dropping these commitments and my attachment to them, I will continue to be stuck in the day to day of my business and bound in a world of resentment.
Remember, the most powerful voice you will hear today is your own. So be careful what you say to yourself.
My purposes in sharing this message are to first, hold myself accountable for eliminating my competing commitments and two, to build your awareness on how cunning the mind can be and how powerful that voice is in your head. I highly recommend you get a mentor or coach to assist in navigating through your challenges. Since that thinking partner call, I have made significant changes to my business model. I have built a picture of what freedom in my empowered business looks like and feels like. I have I still have a tremendous ways to go. However, because I can see my destination more clearly, I know what voice I should be listening to get there!
About the Author
Dr. Thomas Miller is the founder of Leaders Building Leaders, the difference maker in the leadership development of individuals and organizations. Thomas is a certified speaker, trainer, and coach specializing in leadership development, as well as sales training and public speaking training for leaders through the John Maxwell Team.
Leaders Building Leaders has successfully turned around multiple organizations, saving them from imminent failure and guiding them to long-term success. A combination of successful experience in leadership roles and transformation with John Maxwell Leadership principles allows Leaders Building Leaders to provide elite-level leadership development instruction to those seeking to navigate a course from success to significance.