Understanding Scaling Up

Consultant Cheryl Beth Kuchler shares her experiences founding CEO Think Tank and methods to manage and grow small business.

 

Cheryl Beth from CEO Think Tank

Chris: Hello and welcome to Thought Leader Magazine. My name is Chris Carr. I am the president and founder of a company called Farotech. We decided to, embark on a new adventure to start our own podcast where we, where we learn from really great CEOs and founders, people who are disrupting their industry, people who bring a lot to their market to either change this world, help people create jobs and basically people that I want to kind of rub shoulders with people that I find very interesting. And so, I’m using this platform to teach other CEOs and other people who founded, other smaller companies to kind of learn from the lessons of people that have been down this path before. And today I’m happy to say that we are going to be meeting with Cheryl Beth Kuchler. Cheryl Beth, is the CEO and founder of CEO Think Tank from which we are a member and we are really excited to have her on. And so, let me do that now. Cheryl Beth, welcome.

Cheryl: Well, thank you. Thanks for having me, Chris.

Chris: Yeah, this is really great. I’ve been stewing around the idea of starting this, this podcast in, you know, in March here. and when I had the opportunity to interview, I was really kind of anxious to start to get started, even if I didn’t have all the bells and whistles ready with the company.

Cheryl: Right.

Chris: I was really excited to kind of dive in. So, tell us a little bit about CEO Think Tank, you know, how did you start it? What was your inspiration?

Cheryl: Yeah, so, I’m actually an accidental entrepreneur as I think I’ve mentioned to you before. I had a son who’s now 23, and I wanted to work four days a week when he was born and the company I was at wouldn’t let me and I had a very good friend who said, you know, you’ve got this great skill set. You’re an engineer, you’ve worked at Procter & Gamble, you do organizational development and six sigma, you could do consulting and she’ll help me get my first gig with a $250 million trucking company. And that’s what happened, and five or six years into it, I did a strategic planning project with a $48 million company and I fell in love with working with small companies. I always worked with the big companies before, like J&J and GE and Amazon. And I said, you know what, that’s the small ones that need the help. And so that’s where CEO Think Tank came from.

Chris: That’s really great. I’ve learned a lot so far throughout the program and where we came in as a company is, I started this company, that was 18 years ago. And, you know, I hate to steal popular tagline right now, but we were trying to figure out how to really streamline our business to have really great people, really great product and a really great process. Now that sounds really great. However, I’m executing it and actually getting it done or oftentimes a big challenge.

Cheryl: Yeah.

Chris: And so, we tried it for as long as we could on our own. We were finding is it was very hard to step out of the business to work on the business. And so, we asked around and we, we made some connections with West Bank because our bank and they said, Oh, you know what, you got to hear about the CEO Think Tank and that is how we got involved.

Cheryl: Yup.

Chris: And. Yeah, so that’s, that’s been exciting. So, tell me a little bit, what are your priorities as you keep building your business?

Cheryl: Well so as you know, we are very, very big on having a strong culture and core values and one of our core values at CEO Think Tank is to practice what we preach. Um, and for us that means three things. When it comes to, to focus and building, CEO Think Tank and growing CEO Think Tank, first is profitability. So, making sure that your business model is actually creating a profit that you’re going after the right clients and saying no to the wrong ones. With the idea that if you’re generating profits, you’re generating cash and ultimately that will lead to a strong balance sheet so that you have the ability, you have oxygen basically, right? We always say cash is like oxygen to a business and if you don’t have the oxygen and then you can’t do anything. And the second piece is predictability. And part of the reason that we run the CEO think tank round table groups is because we find that that, that type of community not only helps with results, but it also helps to for us with our own predictability around revenue, right? Because we’ve got folks that are part of the group for up to five, 10 years and it’s a one, it’s not completely reoccurring, but it’s a pretty good form of reoccurring revenue for us. And it allows us to, the flexibility to do additional work like scaling up and strategic planning, implementation and leadership work and team building and, and all that together actually combines to create sustainability. And those, as you know, are the three things that we preach. You know, first of all, you’ve got to be profitable going after the right business, then it’s got to be predictable. We don’t have a crystal ball, but predictability is key. And then finally that will lead to sustainability and value.

Chris: Great. And then, so what is your vision for the future? Or how do you scale this thing?

Cheryl: So, consulting companies are notoriously difficult to scale. It’s not something that’s done very easily. In my world, what that means though is creating a really strong brand. So, CEO Think Tank is trademarked. It’s been trademarked since 2002, 2003. It’s having strong intellectual property. You know, you can build value a lot of different ways. If you check out, there’s actually a great blog that we wrote on the Sparkle Model, which is the model that we use to assess value. Having a really strong group of, of in our world, independent contractors. So, if you go to CEO Think Tank website, which is www.CEOThinkTank.com you’ll see our, our group of alumni that are now working with us around CEO round tables and scaling up. And, and then the last piece is developing the content. So, as you know, we have a tendency to curate a lot of content, and we’d been told by a number of folks along the way that that’s one of the things that they consider the most valuable is that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel, right. In addition to scaling up by Verne Harnish, mastering the Rockefeller Habits, we have a lot of other content around creating, strategic positioning and having the right people in place. And so, we’ve curated that and, and that also will be part of the value of the company as it grows.

Chris: That’s great. That’s great. I do encourage our listeners to check that out. What are you most passionate about?

Cheryl: What we’re talking about growing small businesses. You know, so, so it was interesting. So, Jeff Hoffman, who’s the Co-founder of Priceline and he actually, Jeff is actually also the one, he was a comp sci major, computer science major at Yale. He also invented the airport kiosks. So, you know, when you go into an airport and you know, you had your ticket printed out there, if you still do that, he was the one who invented that, but he spoke to a group of coaches in the coaching community that I’m a part of with Verne Harnish, back in October. And he said, you know, entrepreneurs are the ones that are going to change the world. So, you want to change the world, go find an entrepreneur and, and help them. And that’s really what I’m passionate about. You know, 90, 96% of the people in the US are employed at small businesses, right. I mean, jobs are created at the small business level. This, that’s where the, that’s where the money is. And if we can help those entrepreneurs to be more successful and less crazy and have less heart attacks along the way. And that’s a good thing.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Maybe see our wife and kids once in a while.

Cheryl: Absolutely right, have a family life. That would be important.

Chris: Yeah.

Cheryl: Yes

Chris: Yeah. So that’s really great. That’s really great. So as a coach, I’m assuming that you rub shoulders with a lot of people that really inspire you along the way. Have you been able to develop a mentor or, and like I’m sure you probably have several, but you have a mentor in particular and, and why would you pick them over others, or why we particularly that mentor?

Cheryl: Yeah. Well, yeah, you’re right. I mean I’ve had advisory boards and users’ groups and all sorts of folks. I’m not usually afraid to ask for help. The one that comes to mind, that has been instrumental along this path has as a woman by the name of Aldonna Handler who calls herself, self the growth strategist. And Aldonna is just near and dear to my heart. She’s now in her seventies. But she was a very, very successful business woman in her own right. She actually took her consulting business ASAP way back when. She actually started her, her consulting business because when she graduated, she, the only job she could get was as a secretary, even though she had an MBA. And, so she’s- just talk about inspirational, just incredibly inspirational. And she’s the one who got us connected in with Verne Harnish. And when I was creating, trying to create my own process, my own operating system for how to work with small companies, because all the CEOs that I used to work with when I first started in this market would say, well, you know, Cheryl Beth, we can’t do what you did at Procter & Gamble, you know, or J&J, we don’t have the time, money and resources.

Cheryl: And I would argue with them, Chris, about, you know, well you can’t do everything, but you can do some of the things. And, and she said, well, mastering the Rockefeller Habits, you know, Verne Harnish already has the IP. Just read that again.

Chris: Sure.

Cheryl: And so, I read it again and I was like, oh, well he’s already got the operating system. Oh, by the way, it’s really robust and thousands of companies around the world, I’ve used it and successfully to grow their businesses profitably. And so, you know, she was, she’s behind my success in a lot of ways.

Chris: Wow, that’s great. That’s great. And then you know, when you’re basically, when you have this type of experience and your, your business is constantly evolving, like what do you do to kind of take a step back? Like how are you, what do you do to, in your, with your free time, or do you have free time? How do you, how do you step back and sort of be present?

Cheryl: I know, right, ironically, I started my business so I could spend time with my family. Right? No, that’s always been really important and I’m a big sort of not “work-life balance”, “work-life integration” person. So, you know, my kids are 23 and 21 now, but spending time with them when they’re around. I mean Jared is in Boston, Ethan’s down in Nashville at Belmont studying audio engineering. But spending time with them, making time for my husband of 26 years now, 27th year, too he and I, I got him into golf, silly me. So, golf season is almost upon us.

Chris: Yeah, finally.

Cheryl: And at least on the east coast, and, you know, taking time to go on vacations and just go on a date night, go see a movie, hanging out together is really important. And, the other thing that’s really important for me is just quiet time, retreat time, right? I mean, we have within the CEO Think Tank community, there’s probably 30 CEOs that we’re working with. So, you know, it can get crazy. And if we don’t take time for ourselves and to retreat and reflect, there’s a great, there’s a great place in New Jersey, Francis House of Prayer, that’s not far from me, you know the Burlington area, that I go to for personal days, I go up to a, there’s an Episcopalian monastery that I go on retreat, probably once a quarter, it’s called Holy Cross monastery up in New York, on the banks of the Hudson. It’s just a gorgeous place. Very quiet. I can shut my brain off.

Chris: Yeah,

Cheryl: Cell phones are not allowed, so you have to leave them in your room. It’s, it’s really pretty amazing.

Chris: That’s awesome, that’s awesome. So, you know, what I find and what I read is that a lot of really great leaders are, are really great because they find processes and habits. Now you were talking about, you know, one of your habits is finding, you know, that quiet space, quality time.

Cheryl: Great.

Chris: Is that the habit that you would probably say is the number one habit you kind of have in your life to kind of keep it all glued together?

Cheryl: Yeah, I mean that along with planning time, you know, actually scheduling planning times. So, you know, in our world we say it’s a three-year, it’s a three-year plan that you have to do 90 days at a time.

Chris: Okay.

Cheryl: So, you know, definitely once a quarter or taking a step back and saying, okay, how did we do in the last quarter? What did we learn? Where were we not successful and what do we need to do differently going forward in the next 90 days? But then for me, I add on two additional steps. The first is every month sitting down. So, as every month turns every 30 days, what are the big priorities for this month? ‘Cause you can’t do everything? And as you said in the past you can get inundated with the next big idea and lose track of what’s really important. So, taking time at the beginning of the month and say, what are our priorities? And then literally every week I sit down, usually Sundays, like Sunday is my couple of hours. What’s going on? What do I need to accomplish this week? What kind of follow-up, do I need to do from the week before? And even when we work with people, I always will let them know, you know, my clients, my staff, I’ll say, okay, you’re going to get emails from me on Sunday. I’m just letting you know; you don’t have to reply to them until Monday morning. But I’m just letting you know.

Chris: That’s a funny story because we, you know, I run a digital marketing agency and we help our clients find the best time to communicate to their, to their clients. We have tons of analytics to find out what messages are working when it’s working, what time of day, you know, the common, the common blogs you read or say, oh, it’s got to be Tuesday at 10 in the morning or Thursday at three o’clock. And in our experience and our analytics were finding that if you want to reach C- level employees, it’s usually Sunday night.

Cheryl: Sunday night.

Chris: From like seven to like one in the morning.

Cheryl: Yep, that’s when our LinkedIn posts gets the most traction.

Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was reading a blog about Tim Cook and he has all the C- level employees, you know, they have meetings on Sunday nights. So, that you don’t get inundated first thing on Monday morning when the fire happens, they plan. Yeah, yeah.

Cheryl: Yeah, you’re prepared.

Chris: Yeah. I know.

Cheryl: You know, Murphy’s going to intervene on this question.

Chris: You’re, you are not wrong. I often find times to work to take off when, when my employees are working and then work the times that they don’t.

Cheryl: Right.

Chris: So that said, I can get that, you know what I mean? That focus time.

Cheryl: Right, get caught up.

Chris: Yeah.

Cheryl: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. Well, I wanted to thank you very much for joining us.

Cheryl: Yeah absolutely.

Chris: How, if our listeners wanted to hear about, CEO Think Tank, how would they get in contact with you?

Cheryl: So the best place is to go to our website, www.ceothinktank.com, that’s us. And there’s a contact form there. You can email us; you can also just call us. There’s an 800-toll free number, but you can also just 856-627-2773. Old land line. So, that’s possible too and we’re happy to take a call or exchange emails, give you resources or come to one of our events. We always have a couple of events going on with some thought leaders. I mentioned Jeff Hoffman, he’ll be here in October in the greater Philly area, and we’d love to have guests come and meet our community.

Chris: That’s great. That’s great. So, to kind of plug CEO Think Tank, we have been members going on a year now, and it’s forced us to really take a step back and work on the business. We are about 75 to 85% through our one-page plan.

Cheryl: All right.

Chris: Get individualized consulting outside of our forum groups. There are really great speakers that come out. I think the only problem I have with the speakers is that like, I’m in a spot where it’s just like enough is never enough, like, kind of like want to drink it up. The last speaker was really, really good. So, then it’s just the good part about a speaker, is they’re really good speakers. The bad part about a good speaker is like, now I’ve got to cancel what I was planning on dealing with…

Cheryl: They give new ideas.

Chris: This whole new thing. But we’re even doing a retreat I believe this summer.

Cheryl: Yep.

Chris: So, what I’ve been able to do with our, with our group is to get to know them on a one on one basis. I would consider many of them friends. It’s just been a really great opportunity. So, if you have the chance and you are trying to really try to transform your business, I would highly recommend CEO Think Tank.

Cheryl: Thank you.

Chris: I’m not just, I don’t know, I’m not only a member, but I’m an advocate, so.

Cheryl: Thank you, thank you.

Chris: I definitely recommend you check that out. So, thank you very much, Cheryl Beth. I am going to stay on the line and go into our marketing minute, but thank you very much for your time.

Cheryl: You’re welcome.

Chris: This will be, this is airing live and we’re also going to have recorded versions of this on YouTube and we’re going to be publishing this on our website. Our website’s going to be published in the next three weeks, so we’re excited about that, but there’ll be multiple ways to hear about her, hear back from Cheryl Beth. If for some reason you can’t get ahold of her, reach out to us and we’ll make sure we make the connection for you.

Cheryl: Great thanks, Chris.

Chris: Yeah, thank you very much.

Cheryl: Absolutely.

Marketing Minute

Chris: Yeah. So, this is the part of the show, in our closing moments, I like to take a couple of moments out and talk about what we call is, the Marketing Minute. Today’s Marketing Minute is about a book that I’m reading. It’s called Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. If you’re not familiar with Donald Miller, he’s got a really exciting program. He’s even got like these seminars that you can go out; I think they’re in Nashville right now or they’re on the west coast. But what he has is a very unique process on how to basically take your clients and make them the hero of the story. And let me kind of understand, and let me kind of unpack what I mean by that. So, we have a digital marketing company, we help generate leads for our clients, then we help convert those clients into customers. And then ultimately, we’re trying to get those converted customers to become brand ambassadors, give referrals to their business.

Through that process, we developed a pretty elaborate content strategy. But what happens here is it’s very easy to have our clients tell us who they are and what they do. And I take that content, I make it sound pretty and make it sound compelling and I put it online. But what Donald Miller kind of says is he’s like, we should take a step back. And if your business is the hero of the story, you told the story wrong. Your clients are the hero of your story. And so, what he does is he basically makes you reexamine your content and then be in a scenario where you are going to outline where your clients were, what was their hero’s journey and how did they transform their business, their life, their career, etc., etc., through this, this arc, this story, this journey. And we have been applying this to our clients and we’re really excited about some of the results we’re seeing. Some of the things we’ve been able to do, some of the conversion paths we’ve been able to see. So that is our marketing minute and if you have any questions about how to do some things like that, how to transform your company’s marketing you can reach us at www.farotech.com, we’d be happy to talk to you about that. So, on behalf of myself and Cheryl Beth, we want to thank you for listening and we hope to see you again next week. Thank you.

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