The best way to figure out how to obtain the freedom that you’re looking for is to talk to someone who’s already done it; someone like Jonathan Goldhill. Jonathan is the go-to expert for entrepreneurs looking to find their vision of freedom. He joins Rodney Flowers on today’s show to share how nearly losing their family business spurned him on to become a coach for others. He has a lifetime career of working with entrepreneurs, helping them to be successful to grow their businesses and develop that same level of freedom that his family found. He also talks about the business playbook and how being a disruptive successor is a game changer.
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The Disruptive Successor: The Game Changer In Scaling A Family Business With Jonathan Goldhill
I have Jonathan Goldhill here in the studio with me. He is a masterful business coach and business strategist specializing in guiding next generational leaders of family businesses to scale up their business as they take control of the leadership and ownership of the family business. I know there are a lot of people out there, especially now, that are starting businesses, maybe taking over. I know there are a lot of Baby Boomers out there right now. Maybe you’re taking over that business for your mom, your dad or for your family. How do we do that? This guy specializes in helping you understand how to scale up your business if you’re taking control of the family business, existing businesses. We’re going to talk about some startups here too.
Jonathan left New York and moved to California at the age of twenty after his family’s large privately-held men’s apparel manufacturing company, which was started by his grandfather, was sold to a conglomerate in his third generation of family ownership. Within ten years, Jonathan had established himself as the go-to expert for entrepreneurs looking to find their vision of freedom. How many of you want freedom out there? How many of you have a vision of freedom? The best way to figure out how to obtain the freedom that you’re looking for is to talk to someone who’s already has done it. Jonathan brings about 30 years of experience to his work coaching, consulting, training, financing, and guiding entrepreneurs and family businesses. Without further ado, let’s welcome, Jonathan Goldhill. Welcome to the show, Jonathan.
Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Thank you for being here. I was looking over what you’ve done, 30 years of experience, taking over a manufacturing company at the age of twenty, that’s a major responsibility right here.
Let me correct you on that. I didn’t take over the company at the age of twenty. That would have been a lofty pursuit at that age. My family had a business that was very successful. It had a corporate headquarters in New York City and manufacturing factory in North Philadelphia, 500,000 square feet of factory space. In 1966, when I was eight years old, they sold the company. The reason why is my dad died in 1960, he was 35, I was two years old. Do you want to talk about resilience? Children are the most resilient probably of all of us because they’re born that way, hopefully, knock on wood, because some people don’t have lucky genes.
My dad had a massive coronary at the age of 35, his second one. My family decided they didn’t have the next generation to sell the business to. They sold the company to this conglomerate, Rapid American Corporation, and they continued to run that business for the next twenty years. They were pretty young and already successful. They were given lifetime employment contracts. The story why it’s important to me is because I never got a chance to enter that business because there was so much success in the first and second generation that the third generation lost interest. The only family members that came into the business were in-laws. They decided that there was nothing that they were going to continue. If they had continued, they probably would have closed the factory. They probably would have done what everyone else did, and started manufacturing overseas like in early company, go over to Asia to manufacture men’s suits.
At the age of twenty, I didn’t have a father in my life at that time. I had a wonderful, strong, loving, encouraging mother. I had a few dollars in my pocket because I was collecting my dad’s Social Security and the family was already successful and so they distributed some money. I said, “I’m going to California.” I spent the next ten years finding myself in California. I missed that opportunity to take over a manufacturing business like that, but it brought me back to a lifetime career of wanting to work with entrepreneurs, helping them to be successful to grow their businesses, to develop that same level of freedom that my family found. It does not come easy.
We’re going to talk about that because I want to understand some of the challenges that you experienced, but mostly I wanted to understand what was your why? Why did you get into this? Why did you begin learning what entrepreneurs need to know in order to be successful?
It took me ten years to get to that place. There was like a hiatus. I came out here at twenty and my first why was love life, enjoy freedom. I landed in Santa Barbara, California, which is arguably the most beautiful place on the planet. Many people refer to it as paradise. I’m like, “This is where I’m going to college. There’s a lake, an ocean right behind you, blue skies, blonde women. This is unbelievable. There’s no snow, no freezing, and no ice on the roads. There’s bicycling, running, everything.” I then felt that there was an obligation as someone who was pretty fortunate to give back. I spent the next handful of years doing things that were very cause-oriented activities.
I was fighting on behalf of renters for their rights after Proposition 13 passed in California. They were not being treated so fairly by property owners. I then started getting involved in tax reform work and started going door to door. I did a lot of what you’d call community organizing, knocking on doors, raising money. If I had any idea like President Obama, that would be a path to the presidency, not that I was aspiring for that, but he was a community organizer. He landed in high places, but for me, I bounced around for a little while. I then got into health, fitness, alternative lifestyles, and Eastern medicine. I was exploring human potential, peak performance, my potential.
It wasn’t until I went back to business school to get my MBA after I had an art and clothing business that arguably was a great experience, but it was a failure of the business, that I then fell into, “I want to be a coach, a consultant to entrepreneurs.” I think that small businesses were the next community organizing effort. I was going to organize small businesses to become successful, independent, free, and I fell in love with the whole entrepreneurial nature. That’s what took me full circle, so my why is there has always been a calling to help what I consider to be underdogs or less fortunate. I’m giving them the tools, the resources, and a leg up because life is not easy. For those of us who have been blessed with good genetics and some financial freedom, our job is to give back for the world to be a better place.For those of us who have been blessed with good genetics, like financial freedom, our job is to give back. Click To Tweet
How did you become the go-to expert for entrepreneurs?
I joined a company after my MBA in entrepreneurship and consulting at the University of Southern California. I joined a non-profit business and economic development firm. Our firm grew from 3 to almost 40 people. We took it from $100,000 in revenues to about $4 million in revenues, and from nothing in assets to over $7 million in assets over a ten-year period. We served businesses throughout the San Fernando Valley, which is a large regional area of Los Angeles. If it were a city, it would be the seventh-largest city in the United States. It is a big area, 65,000 businesses, 650,000 employees or maybe a million at this point working for mostly small businesses.
The San Fernando Valley is not a town or a community of large Fortune 500 companies. Los Angeles is mostly small and medium-sized businesses, most of which are mom and pop, and businesses like that are under $1 million in revenue. After the Northridge earthquake, which was in 1994, we received an extra $1 million in funding from the City of Los Angeles to serve all small businesses in the San Fernando Valley. We served over 10,000 businesses, helping them get SBA and FEMA loans, helping them write business plans. They went through our entrepreneur training program, they got counseling. After ten years of doing that, we were a go-to agency and I was one of their top consultants. After that, I went out on my own. That’s how I became the go-to expert.
As I was reading about you, I understand you believe entrepreneurs need to have a playbook. What can you tell us about why entrepreneurs need a playbook?
If I could do a visualization exercise with you, I used to do this in my workshops. This spells out the answer in a visual form. Imagine, I handed you a white sheet of paper and on that white sheet of paper, there were the numbers 1 through 100, but they were jumbled and scrambled all over the page. You looked at the page and I said, “This is your business without a playbook. This is what it looks like. Your job is to make sense of this.” What I do in this exercise is I say, “You have 30 or 60 seconds. I want you to circle the number 1, and then go find the number 2, and then go find the number 3, and then go find the number 4, and keep going as high as you can until I say, ‘Stop, the timer is over.’” I take them through this exercise and they’re hunting and pecking looking for these numbers. The average person gets up to 7, some people will get up to 13. This is 60 seconds.
Now I’m going to hand them another piece of paper. It’s 1 through 100, the numbers are jumbled all over the page. The only thing I’ve now done is I’ve put a frame around the whole thing, and I’ve divided it into fours, and it’s the same sheet. I say, “We’re going to do the same exercise, but now you see there’s a little bit of organization.” I’m making the analogy that this is what it looks like when you have a system or a playbook. I say, “Ready, set, go.” You’ve got 30 or 60 seconds to go through this exercise, and people almost always double their score. They get up to 14 to 26 and I say, “What was the difference?” The difference was, now they’re looking at their business through a lens of, “There’s a structure and a pattern to this. If I can see the pattern, then I understand now how much easier it would be to run and to scale a business.”
Why do you think we have so many programs for entrepreneurs? It’s because people who have been there before can tell people who are starting out. There’s a way to do this. Not every business is going to be exactly the same, and we’re always seeing patterns being interrupted. The latest pattern is you get these companies coming out of Silicon Valley that do what Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn called blitzscale. They become a unicorn. They’re a billion-dollar valuation company over a few years. We’re talking about the Ubers and the Airbnbs, companies that take off. That’s a new playbook and they now have their own playbook as well. Blitzscaling is a playbook for those type of unicorn companies.
What I mean is when you see your business through the lens of there’s a structure to it, there’s an organization and a process to it, you can start approaching it by looking at that structure. Michael Gerber is one of the first guys that spoke to the small business person, wrote this best-selling book, and what was he? He was a saxophone player who understood music and understood music has structure and system. You can be a free-form jazz guy and/or a rock and roll guy and not be able to read music, but when you can read music, that gives it some structure, the music, the notes, the patterns, the bars, the stanzas. It’s the same analogy. To be able to play outside of the stanzas, the bars and the notes, it would be helpful if you could first read the stuff and then you can go while. The best jazz guys probably knew how to read music well, and then they could get outside of that box, but they need to understand what the structure is.
A playbook is that same thing. Michael Gerber talked about business being three things. It’s selling and marketing, and then it’s doing the business, which is operations, delivery, whether it’s manufacturing or making, and then there’s collecting, recording, recordkeeping, financial stuff. When you started to see the business in these three different chunks, it made sense. When you start seeing that as a leader, as an entrepreneur, as a CEO, your role is very different from other people’s roles, your role as you start to build is to lead, share a vision, excite people and get them to follow you. Your role is not to do the work, but get others to do the work and lead them through that.
Are you speaking more to startups or this is more so to the five-year established company? Distinguish the business that you’re talking about.
I’m talking about both because I taught an adult entrepreneur program, graduated over 600 adults, and that was in the 1990s. We gave them a playbook for starting a business. The business plan was like, “This is your script for how to write a business plan, how to do the financial section, how to do the marketing section, how to define the operations.” Whom I speaking to now and my client base, they’re almost always at least 5 to 25 years in business.
How many employees?
My typical client has somewhere between 10 and 250 employees. They’re at that next level. They’re over $1 million in revenue, so they’re in that top 4% or 5%. Ninety-six percent of all businesses in the United States are under $1 million in revenue reportedly. I’m dealing with that top 5% and I am providing a playbook for those people, especially for the next generation leader who’s taking over mom or dad’s business and says, “I don’t want a $500,000 to $1 million or $2 million business. I want a $10 million, $20 million, $30 million or $100 million business.” What I tell them and what I wrote this book about called Disruptive Successor: A Guide for Driving Growth in Your Family Business, if you follow my seven Ps playbook, then you’ll be able to redefine your purpose, starting with the question you asked me first, what’s your why? What’s your family’s why? It’s no longer mommy and daddy’s why, it’s now what’s your why because it’s a new company now. It’s no longer that million-dollar small business where the person who’s running it is doing a lot of the work. It’s now being run by a next-generation leader who wants to scale it.Innovation often comes from looking outside of our industry and seeing how things are done. Click To Tweet
Let’s back up a little bit because you talked about a disruptive successor, let’s get clarity and definitization. What is a disruptive successor?
A successor is someone who’s taking over for the current leader and it is typically used in a family business context. The successor isn’t necessarily a family member. It could be an outsider like you or me, that could be hired as an outside hired gun CEO, but I’m talking specifically to that next-generation family member. Honestly, it could be any successor. A disruptive means that you’re not just going to run with the playbook that the mom or dad or founder or a current leader ran with. You’re going to run with a new script. Chances are that the old family member didn’t even have a written script. It was like they built the business, it was successful, it was cashflowing, they had some good processes.
This is the corporatization of a business. This is taking it from mom and pop to structured and organized where there’s a leader. There’s set of managers. There’s more accountability and people are clear on what the plan is and it’s shared. It’s not following what the leader tells you to do that day. Everyone knows what the vision is and what they’re trying to accomplish in the next 90 days, and then maybe over the next three years, where they’re trying to go to. The vision is shared by all. We’re talking about a little more sophisticated company and the disruptor is having to disrupt several things in the business. Maybe not all at the same time. The biggest disruption is changing the business model altogether.
Let’s say you’ve got a retail store or a DressBarn, and it’s going out of business because no one’s shopping at DressBarn during the pandemic, or maybe because it’s a tired brand. The disruptor comes in and says, “We’re changing the business model. We’re going to make DressBarn a completely eCommerce-driven business.” It’s got some brand cache with some people, I’m not sure who or where, but the goal would be to study and then market to those people, and go strictly eCommerce. It shouldn’t be that Amazon dominates eCommerce in every single area. There’s got to be brands that are valuable. Whether your GAP or Ralph Lauren or Banana Republic, you got to have a brand that’s online and maybe that one thing has changed the business model. That’s one example of ways to change it.
The other ways that you change it is you look at the processes and the way things are being done. You alter, upgrade, improve and document. It’s no longer dependent upon the owner and a few key employees. It’s now, “We have a cookbook. This is the way it’s done around here. By the way, we’re introducing a whole lot of technology and applications that are going to be used to disrupt the processes because it’s no longer being done on carbon paper. We’re using real-time information. We’ve got incredible technology apps.” The digitization of everything in our world has allowed that. You’ve got to be a disruptor of the processes.
Finally, you’ve got to look at your products and your services and say, “What can be done to make this better, to upgrade it, to make it current, more relevant?” That means you’ve got to get intimate with your customers and find out what they like and don’t like about your product or your service. There’s product innovation, there’s process innovation, and there’s business model innovation. That’s what a disruptor is. To put that together, we’ve got a disruptive successor.
Is your focus modernizing these corporations? We talk about mom and pops taken over. Maybe they haven’t considered the technology. Maybe they haven’t considered some of the efficiencies that are available to run businesses. During this time, a lot of times we stuck with what has worked in the past and say, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” There are opportunities to capitalize savings and efficiency using some of the technology that exists now. Is that your angle? I haven’t read your books, so I don’t know. That’s probably the first look. It’s making sure that we’re up to date with the latest versions of technologies that are available.
That’s an important part of what they need to do. It’s not where I spend most of my time talking in the book because my book is trying to be a game-changer for that next-generation leader. I’m trying to let them know that, “What got you here is great, but it’s not going to be what’s going to get you there.” If here and there or the same place, then stay put, no problem. Eventually, everyone’s going to pass you by and you’ll be a thing of the past. It’s the concept of if you’re not growing, then you’re dying. You can’t stand still. What I’m talking about mostly in my book is, what’s the mindset of an entrepreneur within a family business that is going to try and take the business to a new level? You’ve got to have this framework or playbook that you’re going to follow. It starts with your why, then it goes into what’s your plan, what are your products, who are your people, what are your priorities, do you have the right processes, and what’s the ultimate performance?
I’m looking for something different because when you’re starting a business, those are some of the fundamentals that you would look for anyways. It’s a reboot of the same things, but just in a different era. What you thought about in terms of processes and products twenty years ago won’t sell now. It won’t be beneficial now. It’s saying, “What works now? Where are we stale? Where can we freshen up a little bit in terms of operations, running the company?” I feel sometimes we need to take inventory of those things on a consistent basis or regularly. I relate that to where we are with COVID-19. I want to give an example of why what you’re saying is so important because a lot of the technologies that we are 100% reliant on now were available before COVID.
You’ve got Zoom, GoToMeeting, and all of these teleconference technologies. They were there but businesses weren’t using them. Microsoft hurried up and put out Teams, but it was in the works before COVID, but it’s certainly available now. Microsoft was slow to the game because there wasn’t a demand for it, but now COVID hit and then everyone’s running into those things. I said that to say we could’ve made a decision to utilize those things in the beginning. There’s a fear of change when it comes to, “Let’s revamp how we do business in an effort to get ahead of the game, in the event something happens and we can’t do business the way we’re doing it right now.” People don’t think that possibility was going to happen, that’s going to shut down my ability to do what I’m doing right now until COVID happened. When we deliberately take inventory and consciously and intently look to see what’s available to allow us to do work in a more meaningful and efficient way, we can make those decisions before crisis happens.
I’ve always been somewhat of an earlier adopter of technology. A case in point, I started doing all of my coaching the way we’re having a conversation right now all across the screen. I used a product made by Zoom or powered by Zoom called RingCentral. It’s their competitor, but it’s branded by Zoom. I’ve been using that for years. Before that it was GoToMeeting, and before that it was another product called ReadyTalk. This idea that for me as a business coach, I like to go to your office and see what’s going on, but unless I’m going to be working with a team of people at your office, once I’ve seen your office, I don’t need to come see it again. It’s not likely that you’ve changed your office a whole lot.
If your office has stacks of papers, messy, disorganized, and you’re one of those kinds of CEOs where the secretary or the staff people are constantly knocking and coming in interrupting, I know what’s going on in your business. I don’t need to sit there. I can sit in my office here and have this conversation. I think that people were slow and late. As I was joking, everyone was changing their business and going and working from home. I’m like, “Welcome to my world. I’ve been doing this for a decade or more. Finally, you guys got the hang of it.”
You and I were talking earlier about people commuting for 50 minutes and I’m thinking like, “My whole goal in life was never to live more than 30 minutes away from where I work because that’s a lot of downtime unless you productively use it, listening to podcasts, or educating yourself with books.” I think people were slow. We’re going to see this shift is going to have somewhat of a permanent transformation. People who are productive are not racing back into the office, unless they need to be there to supervise a staff of people, or have a team meeting. We’re going to have to figure out how to make this experience even more interactive, maybe even how to make it better.
In your opinion, pulling on the string a little bit, what are some other things? My mind goes to what if we were late to pull the trigger on something like Zoom that already existed. You and I are familiar with that, by the very nature of the work that we do. I ask myself, “What are some other things out there that maybe I could be taking advantage of that I’m not even aware of?” Where do I look? Where do I go? Who do I talk to figure out some of these things? I want to get ahead of it. I don’t want to get punched to figure out, “I should have been doing that.” I believe in playing to win. I want to be on the offense versus defense. I don’t want to make adjustments because of the defense has done something to me. I want to be the first to strike. I’m thinking, what else is there?
Let’s talk about that and see what we can come up with. I might have an idea to kick us off with. Let me back up for a second and say, where does innovation come from? It oftentimes comes from looking outside of our industry and seeing how things are done. I may be wrong about this, but I’m going to lay it down anyway. I believe that the drive-through fast-food restaurant thing came from the way banking was done. Banks used to have these stands and drive-through tellers. You don’t see that anymore. They got rid of that altogether with the ATM machine. There used to be like you drive through to get money. You’d see someone through a booth, you drive through, and you make your order. I believe that’s where the fast-food industry got this concept of, “Let’s have people drive-through and we’ll hand them their food order.”You need to be getting customer and employee feedback as frequently and as regularly as you're getting financial feedback. Click To Tweet
We have to look outside of our business and industry. One thing that I see going on right now is people are talking about how do we improve the management of our remote workers and how do we make them feel more engaged and connected with the team. One software that I’ve noticed and my client put it on all of her employees’ computers because they’re company-owned is tracking software that lets her see if she wants of how productive they are. It takes a screenshot of what’s going on. She can see are they sitting there on the same screen or where are they? She’s noticed that some of her people are not as productive outside of the office when they’re in the office. This software came from products like oDesk, Elance, Upwork. These are apps that allow you to find overseas or out of the area workers who will be virtual and remote. It’ll capture a diary by doing a screenshot every 7, 10, 13, 15 minutes to see where they’re at.
I’ve been using outside workers and employees for years. I generally like to believe that everyone’s honest, but this tracking system allows me to see they were working on my account. They weren’t doing something else. We have to look outside of our business and our industry to see what’s our biggest problem, what’s our frustration, what’s our pain, and what are people doing in other industries? I’m going to throw this back to you. I don’t know what the answer is to how to make people feel more connected in a COVID pandemic world. Maybe you could have this virus-free, super spreader human beings that comes around and gives everyone a hug or something like that.
I do see that there’s an enormous impact maybe that the gifting industry could be impactful. A guy reached out to me and said, “I’d love some feedback on my software and let me know what kind of wine you drink. I’m going to send you a bottle of wine for twenty minutes of your feedback on my software.” This wine industry, this gift wine club, I keep getting $100 vouchers for wine clubs and stuff, and I’m like, “There’s a lot of opportunities to be giving gifts away to make people feel good.” We need to be thinking about how do we create connection in a remote world. We still got a way to go. By the time this episode comes out, we might still be in the sixth or seventh inning stretch or third quarter.
You talked about the innovation side of things and the way we’re doing business now with tracking workers. I have an idea about that because rewarding or compensating people per the hours have passed. It’s ancient. It’s ridiculous to think someone who’s working in their home or in a remote location is going to be sitting there at their computer the entire time. It’s naive to think that. What is more important and what CEOs should think about is that level of productivity because sitting in front of your computer is not equal to productivity. I will sit at my computer because I know you tracking me to make sure I get paid, but it doesn’t mean I’m productive.
If you remove the requirement to sit in front of my computer and give me freedom, but yet I’m compensated based on my true productivity, not when I’m sitting in front of my computer, measuring what I’m able to produce and deliver, now it’s a different ball game. I have the freedom to work on that at my leisure, which is even more of an incentive. It gives the person more of the willingness to perform well because they can put themselves in an environment that’s conducive to them performing. When you’re in the office and the entire world is in the office, then the entire society is conducive to everyone being in the office. When everyone is remote, it doesn’t necessarily mean, especially now, because it’s such an abrupt change, that the environment is conducive to me sitting at my desk, at home during core work hours, your core work hours. Now my environment has changed.
Things happen during the day that if I was home and I thought I was at work, I would have a system in place set up to handle that, but because I’m home every day, that environment changes. Because it changes, it may require more of my physical being away from the computer at certain times where you think I’m not being productive. It’s me in a new environment. This is what’s required in order to be in this environment. Yet, I know that I still have a requirement for you, a requirement to be productive, whatever that means based on what I’m delivering. My computer is always here. I can go on my computer at any given time of the day, be it core business hours or not. When you need to be in meetings and things like that, that’s different, I get that.
What is true productivity? Corporations have to take a look at what it means. Business rules have to change and there’s going to have to be some flexing because if I’m short for a meeting, then I may want to walk away from my desk. I’m in my environment. I can meditate, I can go for a walk down the street or something like that. I can go hang out with my kids for a little while because they’re there. I can come back totally refreshed and I can push out that report. I can get that slide deck done. I can prepare for the next meeting. I can get the briefing prepared. I can do those things.
There are some business rules where I feel like sometimes, we still have a slave mentality. You put them in a room and you got to monitor them. You need to work from this time to this time, and they punch out and they go home. That’s ancient. Stop, it’s over. I don’t need you to be over my shoulder to motivate me to work. That’s not what I need. I need flexibility. I need trust. You talk about connectivity, we need trust. You hired me to do the job, trust that I will do it. If you hire me and then you got to monitor me, then I feel like there’s a disconnect.
These are good, valid points you’re making. Let’s talk about productivity and look at it in a couple of different ways. One is there’s the work that has to get done, whatever that is. Some of that are measurable for sure. We can have KPIs, Key Performance Indicators, that if you make 25 dials, chances are you’re going to get five conversations. If you get five conversations, you’re going to get one qualified lead. We have to have some of those measures in place, but then there’s a whole other level of productivity. That’s the productivity that comes from having a game-changing mentality around what productivity looks like. What’s a game-changing mentality? Let’s talk about 3M, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing company. The inventors of the Post-it Notes, and if I pulled up a list of all the inventions like Scotchgard and Scotch tape, you’d be like, “They made that too? Who would have thought of that idea?”
That comes from a corporate culture where they tell their employees that 30% of your workday will be spent on coming up with productive, possible ideas. Just innovate. They’re creating an innovative culture that says, “We want you to spend a third of your time making stuff up and figuring out if it sticks.” That’s pretty cool. We hear also a lot about Netflix having unlimited vacation time. We don’t know what’s behind the scene in that, and then we hear the opposite. Amazon has a pretty strict culture and maybe not so hospitable. Creating a place that allows an employee who’s a human being, not a human doing, be like if you can figure out better ways of doing this that is going to drive profitability and employee engagement, and that’s how we’re going to measure productivity, drive more fun, maybe make the customer experience better, that’s super productive.
We all know that the best ideas come in the shower. You can’t say, “It seems like you were in a long shower, so I hope you had some good ideas. You weren’t working today, I noticed,” “Boss, I was taking a long shower. I was thinking about things.” We have people who we know that meditate at work, and these are CEOs. We’re talking like Richard Branson kind of guys. We have to be open to thinking about what productivity looks like. I’ve been watching this program on television. It’s a romantic comedy taking place in France. It seems like the French love to live life. They work to live versus Americans who live to work. We’re the guys who get two weeks of vacation a year. In France, they’re shutting down for six weeks. There’s no question that we’re probably more innovative, more productive. We produce more in terms of a lot of things, but we don’t produce happier and healthier people, that’s for sure. This is a good time for us to be thinking about how to change that paradigm, and how to look at productivity differently.
It’s a collaborative effort. I mentioned where to look to find out what’s the next thing. CEOs and leaders have to not only look across at other companies and what they’re doing outside the industries and things like that, but they have to look down and talk to their employees as well. You need to understand from the employee’s perspective. I look at leaders and CEOs as coaches. They’re not on the field, but they’re sitting on the sideline coaching and watching the execution of the plays that they’re calling in as great, but it is different from being out there on the field. You don’t see the game the way I’m seeing it as a player. You need to come to talk to me so you can understand what it is. I get that you’re the man. Maybe you played before. You have experience. You’re the coach, but I’m the player. As I have to respect the coach, the coach has to respect the player and then understand the views from the player, what the player is experiencing, what’s going to work for the player.
If you look across a lot of teams, like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. There’s a great relationship between player and coach, coach and player, and that dynamic allows for a lot of success. It’s because Belichick was willing to listen to the player. He took it into consideration the views, and he respected the ideas of the player. In this case, where we are right now, we have to listen to the employees. It’s going to be challenging because not all employees are the same mindset. There’s a whole another philosophy around what type of players. When hiring and interviewing, skillset has to be a part of this conversation because now you got to have a certain level of skills in order for us to get to that place where we’re having these meaningful conversations to build trust.
There’s going to be a lot of cutting up the fat to make the team these days. It’s going to be tougher. It is going to be more of a requirement to be a player in this age than before. This is the dynamic that we’re playing. This is the field that we’re on. This is the competition that we’re up against. This is how we have executed in this day and era, and so that’s what’s required. Once we get the right people on the team, then we have to have this dialogue so we can understand, “This is the dynamic and the culture of the game, the culture of this team, and this is how we can be successful.” It’s having that two-way conversation with the coaches and the players.
When we talk about connection, what I’ve experienced is there’s a lack of this level of communication effectively, where there’s listening from both ends. It’s more of a top-down versus a bottom-up one-way communication. If you want more connection, there has to be more relationship. As with you and I were vibing here on this show. It’s my first time meeting you. I’ve never talked to you but because of the relationship, that the relatability, the respect, and the listening, we’re starting to cultivate our relationship here and I’m enjoying this.
When we talk about connection, it’s a relationship. It’s truly caring and respecting the person first as an individual. It’s not, “I’m your supervisor.” Everyone knows that and I know that. That creates a disconnect right from the beginning, but when we can approach each other equally, like I respect what you do and you respect what I do. Let’s remove ego, position, status and all of that because at this point those don’t matter. We’re all about the same thing here, which is winning. If we can get on that level, then we can have the connection that we’re looking for.
Some of the thoughts that came up in my mind were there’s that old adage that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. No one is going to follow you if you’re the leader, unless they feel like you care about who you are. If it’s all about them, then they’ll be suspect on that whole thing. I’d do believe that leadership has changed a lot. We’ve gone from a generally 1960s mentality where it was more command and control and top-down, where the leadership was a concept learned in the military and pushed out to civilian society, and it was top-down.
As a guy who spent his first ten years in my twenties being a grassroots community organizer, I’ve definitely approached it from it needs to be bottom-up. We need to be getting the feedback and the input. I tell my clients this on a regular basis, “You need to be getting customer and employee feedback as frequently and as regularly as you’re getting financial feedback.” It’s not just about how you closed out the month, but how many good references, testimonials, referrals, how much employee feedback did you get? We use something called the net promoter score or the employee net promoter score, but are you getting regular feedback from your people about how you’re doing? That type of thing is important.
There’s got to be this shift. There’s got to be a recognition that there is a leader, and that person is the person we hold responsible and look up to for communicating that division. If he or she is not in touch with what the people are thinking, wanting, and where he or she is leading them, then what good of a leader are they? I’ve always said this. A leader’s job is to understand first and to be understood second. I think it’s articulating the same message that you’re saying. In this time when a lot of people are working from home and there’s this most decentralized working experience ever, it’s been an amazing experience.
It’s democratizing of the world where everyone’s got a voice, everyone can be a broadcaster, everyone can create their own Instagram or Twitter following. It’s not hard to get a podcast going. I’m not trying to put you out of business but everyone’s got a voice and everyone’s voice matters. That’s got to percolate up in our society. We could go on about the societal problems and challenges that we’re having. I get emotional about this topic, for people to deny that there isn’t systemic racism in our society, and to turn a blind eye, or to be so ignorant to think that it doesn’t exist, they’re not listening. If America has to have uprisings and civil disobedience to get that level of attention going, then so be it. Wake up, everybody. Everyone’s voice matters. It’s not about the one-percenters. You’ve seen the data. The top 100 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 165 million Americans or something crazy like that. How can you listen when so much gold is in the hands of so few people?Transparency is important. How do you follow someone if you don't know where they're going? Click To Tweet
What that brings up for me is those numbers are so staggering that it reads intentional to me. It says deliberate because how is it possible to have that much disparity between two points? People are smart. You give a human being the right information, and you teach them, you give them what they need to know, you show them the way, 9 times out of 10, they’ll take the right way. If you withhold information, they don’t have the right information, you don’t lead them in the right way, then you can’t even have an expectation. That disparity tells me that as a country, we’re not doing a good job of providing the necessary tools needed for success. It’s not because we don’t want to, because there’s a fear that either I’m going to lose mine, or we have to be in this structure in order for businesses. You got to have a worker mentality. Somebody’s got to do the dirty work. Everyone can’t diss. There’s this mentality that exists in our society as a country, and until that changes, you won’t put the structures in place that truly allows for 100% equality.
It’s the lack of transparency, if you ask me. Transparency is important. I wouldn’t follow anyone who wasn’t transparent about their plans or their direction. How do you follow someone if you don’t know where they’re going and why they’re doing what they’re doing? These are important topics. These transcend a lot of generations.
There’s a lot of breaking down that has to happen in order to build that. It has a lot to do with mentality and belief systems and biases. That’s 3 or 4 different shows alone, but those conversations are still necessary.
This might be dated by the time your readers are reading this, but let me make a point here. Anyone who pays attention to the National Basketball Association can see how well they managed through the pandemic in organizing themselves. What’s interesting to me is you’ve got players from over 100 different nations being represented, which means that the NBA is now a worldwide brand, so that’s pretty cool. In order to play well together as a team, you got to be able to learn to listen and speak, and I guess English is probably the common language, but some of them probably don’t speak English all that well. As coaches, as managers, and owners of those teams, your cultural level of sensitivity has got to be at an absolute high point because you’re dealing with so many different types of people.
They’ve done a great job around this whole Black Lives Matter, the equality and justice, embracing this, be willing and be able to take a knee without getting slapped or spanked by political leaders in our country. Basketball has always been a love for me and it’s a great metaphor. I don’t think the NFL has been quite so on the proactive side. They’ve been on the wrong side of some of these issues or late on some of these issues. The NBA has been a model and a leader in showing what leadership looks like in this new multicultural, multigenerational, multiracial society. It’s cool to see what they’re doing.
If I can add one thing to that, I’ve said this before. The takeaway that I have from what you’re saying is that we’re all on the same team. We can take a look at what the NBA is doing and reflect back on ourselves. I need you because I know you’re out there on the field doing what you do. You’re not playing my position, I get it, but you play a position for the human race as a team. I need you to do what you do because you doing what you do helps me in some way. I do what I do helps you in some way because we’re all part of the team. When you win, I win. When I lose, you essentially lose. If we can view ourselves as teammates because we’re human, we’re all trying to get to the same place. We play in different positions on different areas. To hold someone else back is to hold yourself back because you don’t know what their contribution could do to help you, your children, your children’s children in this lifetime.
You talk about Tom Brady. He’s the only guy when he went on the New England Patriots that I could name on that team besides Bill Belichick, but he’s nobody without his 4 or 5 front offensive lineman. He’s only as good as his weakest link, so if he’s got a week offensive lineman that the defense is always crushing through, he’s not to look like that great football player that everyone thinks he is. Everyone plays their role, plays their position, and not everyone is in the limelight. Not everyone is handsome and rich and gets all the media attention and sponsorship, but it doesn’t mean that there are any less important.
Jonathan, thank you for coming on the show. How can people connect with you?
If you like to connect and have a conversation, you can always find me on LinkedIn, Jonathan Goldhill. You could check out my book and go to my website for my book, it’s DisruptiveSuccessor.com. I have my website, TheGoldhillGroup.com, and anyone’s welcome to email me Jon@TheGoldhillGroup.com. Those are places you can find me, follow me, and flag me down.
Thank you for coming on the show. It’s been a rich conversation. I’d like to know what you would like us to take away from this show. We always ask our guests this one question, the Game Changer Mentality question. How can we bounce back from adversity, dominate challenges, and continuously win at the game of life?
I have a list of twelve questions that I put in my book. They are questions about how coachable you are because it’s important. These are questions that I would have you ask yourself as a reader. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re starting a business, or you’re a leader in your company in a division, and you’ve got big ideas, and you want to make change. Ask yourself, are you approachable, receptive, curious, humble, trusting, and open to new possibilities? Can you be objective? Do you listen to others with the intent to learn? Can you listen without being defensive? Can you listen without saying, “I know that?” Do you regularly ask others for feedback or criticism? Do you invest in yourself and your professional development? I think Pat Lencioni was more succinct when he said, “The ideal team player is someone who’s humble, hungry and smart.” By smart, I meant like people smart. I’m trying to flesh those out. I had my twelve questions and those are important for people who are in leadership roles and are wanting to expand themselves. They must ask.
Thank you for that, and thank you again for coming on the show, Jon.
I appreciate it. Thanks so much.
There you have another successful episode. Those are some serious questions we have to ask ourselves. One of the things I love about the word authenticity, a lot of people think authenticity is being your real self. I like the challenge that word and challenge people’s definition of that word. It’s being real with yourself. If you’re going to be authentic with those twelve questions, some things may come up for you about how you are playing the game or how you are coaching the game as a leader. The most important thing is you need all of you to be on your game so that we do it. Until next time. Peace and love.
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About Jonathan Goldhill
Jonathan Goldhill is a masterful business coach and business strategist specializing in guiding next-generation leaders of family businesses to scale up their business as they take control over the leadership and ownership of the family business. Jonathan left New York for California at age 20 after his family’s large, privately-held men’s apparel manufacturing company—started by his great-grandfather—sold to a conglomerate in its third generation of family ownership. Within ten years, Jonathan had established himself as the go-to expert for entrepreneurs looking to find their version of freedom. Today, Jonathan brings thirty years of experience to his work coaching, consulting, training, financing, and guiding entrepreneurial and family businesses.
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