The Mission-Driven Business—Business Fuel Podcast #47

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Listen to our interview with Dick Cross

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What could your business become? Do you have a mission?

8x turnaround CEO Dick Cross explains why creating a mission-driven business is important and gets everyone on the same page. If you’ve ever wanted to know why a values-based mission is what makes businesses successful, Dick lays it out in today’s podcast.

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of what Dick and the Cross Partnership are doing. Join us for today’s podcast, you won’t be disappointed.

You’ll also want to join us for Friday’s live chat. You can check it out at Noon Central Time on #businessfuel.

Readable Transcript

Information you need, the podcasts you trust, this is the PatrickWiscombe.com podcast network.  Bringing you interviews with top business professionals and business financing tips to fuel your American dream.  This is The Business Fuel Podcast heard exclusively on Lendio.com.  And now, here are your hosts, Ty Kiisel and Patrick Wiscombe.

Sponsorship:  This podcast is sponsored by Lendio.com.  The online source you need to find the right business financing to grow your company.  Check them out for free at Lendio.com to get your business growing right now.

Patrick Wiscombe:  It is The Business Fuel Podcast.  Good morning.  Thank you for tuning us in and taking us along wherever and however you are accessing the podcast.  On today’s show, we have the triumphant return of Dick Cross.  But before we talk to Dick, let’s bring in Ty Kiisel, producer and co-host of the podcast.  How are you?

Ty Kiisel:  I’m good.  How are you?

Patrick Wiscombe:  Doing well.  Let’s say hello to Dick Cross, author of Just Run It.  I want to get your take on something tech related.  Microsoft bought Nokia for $7.2 billion or something like that.  Something that I admire about you is that you don’t take the big corner office.  I’m just curious what you think about these executives taking the big corner offices to dictate their agenda.

Dick Cross:  My hero is Meg Whittman at HP.  She works out of a cubicle.  One of the things I do early on is draw the organizational chart for everybody.  It’s the typical pyramid, but I put it upside down.  I say that my job is to make sure everybody is more successful here than anywhere else.  I paint over all the reserved parking spaces.  I will not drive a fancy car to work.  I find when companies learn they have a humble person at the helm who is also competent, they will protect you voraciously.  Our topic today is mission driven businesses.  It absolutely has to start at the top.  It has to start with somebody that the entire rest of the organization wants to help make successful.  If the person at the top is admirable, trustworthy, and is consistent in their behavior with a set of values, strikes up an idea and can back it up, eventually it generally happens.

Ty Kiisel:  What is the mission of the company you’re at now?

Dick:  We have an immediate mission and another mission that is 24 months out.  Our mission today is to put in place a platform by the end of the year that will allow us to double this business over the next 24 months.  Missions can’t stand on their own, they have to be backed up by some other ideas.  One of those ideas is our sense of purpose for this business.  We recycle batteries and we all agree our mission is to protect people and the environment.  Standing behind that idea are 4 core values: truth, transparency, fairness and passion for our service.  If the mission is understandable and looks like the logical next step, you create organizations that accomplish unimaginable missions.

Ty:  It sounds to me like your purpose, values, and mission are all very intertwined.  Without one, you’ve got nothing.  How do you take that concept from posters on the wall to actually living them and inspiring people?

Dick:  The posters on the wall are really an outcome.  It takes awhile for people to be engaged in conversations.  You sit down with cross sectional groups and say, “What’s most important to you in your life? What would you like coming to work feel like?  What values would you like to see protected?”  You have some vague conversations like that.  What emerges through those conversations are these notions of what’s the higher calling for our business? Once that surfaces, it’s the job of the person at the top to capture those and make them succinct and vet them over and over again with people.  At that point, the banners and new logos are just like, “Well of course.”  It doesn’t work the other way around.  It starts with a high degree of consciousness and attention.

Ty:  My question is, why?  What’s the value of this?  Most of us have been in the business world long enough to know what matters to most leaders are the numbers.  Does this impact the numbers?  Why should I even worry about this stuff?

Dick:  Everybody should read your Forbes article this week.  It is emblematic of a new consciousness about running organizations.  It is required to lead the “millennials,” they are just built differently.  Nobody is going to work their heart out just to make some rich guy richer. My people care a lot about a charity our company is proud to support.  They care if we stake out some lofty goals and the leadership in this organization live according to those values.  Those are the things that work.

Ty:  I can imagine when your employees talk about what they do, it is more meaningful to say that you protect people and the environment than we’re making our corporation wealthy.

Dick:  It’s taken 4 months for people to think this Cross guy isn’t from outer space.  Once they get comfortable that you are authentically committed to those ideas, it releases a level of energy that is kind of explosive.  You feel it when you walk into a company where it exists.

Ty:  I imagine that positively impacts the bottom line as well, right?

Dick:  So much of the way our statistically defined lives are supposed to lead are straight lines.  But the power curve on this is different.  It starts out slow, but then it accelerates.  If you’ve got the patience and confidence to support it’s emergence, there comes a time when you simply sit back and fuel the fire because it will amaze you.  It’s not what most financial people are accustomed to seeing.  It is investment upfront, but then things really start rolling.

Ty:  I would think everybody, including the typical CEO, would want to be in this type of organization.  They want to do something bigger than themselves.  It’s a leap of faith isn’t it?

Dick:  You are right and there are so few publicized role models.  There’s just really not that much written about how you do that job at the top.  I’m going to give a plug from my next book which is, 60 Minute CEO.  In the book, I say that the job at the top is the single greatest determinative of business success.  And it’s not that difficult to do.  It really involves two components.  One of them is thinking.  But quite frankly, thinking is hard.  Thinking about where your business is today and where it needs to be in hard.  And the hardest thing is, “How do I get that to happen?”  In our business culture, we simply don’t have frameworks that will guide us with confidence in that style of thinking.  That type of thinking results in missions which are beyond most anyone else’s ability to conceptualize.  That’s half of what you get paid the most to do.  Our research at Cross Partnerships found that CEO’s spent 95%-100% of their time doing things other than thinking.  Because, #1 – They don’t have frameworks to guide them.  #2 – It’s not an acceptable way to spend your time.  It doesn’t look like you’re working.  The other half of the job is character.

Ty:  If you ask a Japanese CEO to define his job, he’s likely to tell you his role is to harmonize values so employees can adjust to shifting priorities and demands.  I get from you that it’s the purpose and values that drive whatever the mission is.  Do you agree with this assessment of harmonizing values?  And why would your mission change over time?

Dick:  In the 50’s and 60’s we were beguiled into this idea that if you know the numbers, you can run anything.  This idea of the person at the top being the custodian of the values, aspirations, and values of the organization is just right.  We’re sort of coming back to that right now.  In my context, I think about the core purpose and values of the organization as being permanent.  Those are ideas that should transcend generations of management.  But your mission is your next heroic goal.  Once you get close to accomplishing one, strike at the next one.

Ty:  So if I’m a small business owner or a CEO and I want to create a mission driven business, how do I start?

Dick:  You start by thinking, by yourself.  What are the core values that I really believe in and I want to see reflected in my business?  What can I imagine to be the higher calling of my business?  I helped a company, automobile body shops, grow from 100 franchises to 400 franchises.  Once we passed about 6 months, we concluded that our purpose was not fixing cars, it was helping people through a crisis in their lives.  We started that by thinking, “What do we value and what do we consider our highest purpose?”  We wanted to be the biggest collision repair company in the business and in two and a half years, that happened.

Ty:  Wow.  You said a while ago that you spend time devoted to just thinking.  I think it’s important to give business owners permission to do that.  Because I think there’s a difference between being busy, and doing things that are going to make your company grow.

Dick:  I 100% agree.  Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that if we’re not grinding through spreadsheets or looking for people who are doing something they’re not supposed to be doing, we’re not doing our job.  Somehow we’ve got this idea that thinking is not work, wrong.   Thinking is the base for all successful enterprise.  Our research show that most people spend their time doing what they did before they got the job at the top.  If you came up through sales, you make sales calls.  If you came up through the financial side, you sit in your office and run through spreadsheets.  We’ll do anything other than think because thinking is hard.

Ty:  If you could give our audience one piece of advice about building a mission driven business, what would it be?

Dick:  Title of the next book, 60 Minute CEO.  Block yourself out 60 minutes, 3 times a week.  Believe me, telling someone to do this is like telling them to do 100 push ups.  This is hard.  Sitting in your office, shutting down your phone, no emails, and think.  Look at the wall or a whiteboard.  Think about your business.  Start with 20 minutes if you have to, build up.  You will change your organization and they will be ecstatic that you’ve done that.

Patrick:  Recently I’ve been thinking about my real estate business.  The end goal is to sell real estate, but what sets me apart from anyone else?  I’ve been giving that a fair amount of thought.  And you’re right, 60 minutes is tough.  I can’t say that I’m there yet, but I’m trying.

Dick:  Those 60 minutes are the most impactful and ultimately, the most satisfying of your week.

Ty:  Seth Goden said that most people can lift.  Fewer, but still a lot of people can sell.  But the most rare talent is the ability to create.  And if you have that value in your organization, I think it makes all the difference.

Dick:  It doesn’t matter what country you’re in.  It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling newspapers or you’re creating the next Apple computer.   The thinking is what gets it done.  If you think about what made Steve Jobs great, it was he knew how to think.

Ty:  That’s the difference between the organizations we look at and go, “Wow” and the ones that become irrelevant in a few years.

Dick:  And to circle it back, it’s not sufficient just to think.  You have to handle yourself in such a way that people are anticipating hearing what you think about.  You have to be able to translate those thoughts into ideas of mission that will inspire your organization to get things done that it never would have imagined it could have done otherwise.

Ty:  Dick this was incredible. Thanks again.  I think it should be the goal of every business owner to create a mission driven business.  Thank you very much for everything you shared with us.

Dick:  Thank you.  I say it every month, but this is one of my favorite hours each month.  I love speaking to you guys and your audience.  It helps me to think.

Patrick:  Ty, why don’t you go over your Forbes article for this week.

Ty:  As we discussed today, it’s the values and the purpose of your organization is what inspires people. It’s what drives the mission. I think if you don’t establish values, you’re missing the boat.  One of the things we do here at Lendio when we get together once a month is we focus on a value and it’s relevance to the organization.  When we’re making decisions, we talk about those values.  So this week in Forbes, I identified and defined what those values are.  I gave a little bit of insight into why they make our company what it is.  It needs to be more than a poster on the wall.  It needs to actually be in form in your actions for them to be powerful.

Dick:  One of the things I really admire about your company is the terminology that you have chosen to describe your values.  Because they are vividly rich and indelibly memorable.  Things like, “Life at mach 10.  We are scrappy.”  Those are inspiring notions and I commend you.

Ty:  Thank you.  We have an inspiring CEO.  Brock Blake is just awesome to work with and I believe in the values.  I’ve bought in.

Patrick:  Ok, we’ll go ahead and wrap up today’s edition of The Business Fuel Podcast.   Our thanks, as always, to Dick Cross, author of Just Run It and 60 Minute CEO.  You can also read Ty Kiisel’s articles on Forbes.com.  Just do a search on his name in the upper right hand corner.  Also look for his stuff on Lendio.com and Lendio.com/blog.  So for Dick Cross, Ty Kiisel, I’m Patrick Wiscombe.  Thanks for listening.  We’ll talk to you next Tuesday.

Bringing you interviews with top business professionals and business financing tips to help fuel your American dream.  This has been the Business Fuel podcast, with your hosts, Ty Kiisel and Patrick Wiscombe, heard exclusively on Lendio.com

About the Author

  • Ty Kiisel

Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business financing and trends accessible in common sense language devoid of the jargon. Ty writes about small business financing and other best practices for Lendio, in addition to sharing his passion for small business every week on Forbes.com. He's also the author of the book, Getting a Business Loan: Financing Your Main Street Business.

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