BEFORE ELITE FORUM
“We were just making a product and selling it and having some success, but we weren’t sure what you do if you want to go beyond that”
AFTER ELITE FORUM
ANNUAL REVENUES: 250% Increase
EMPLOYEES: 300% Increase
Industry: Financial Software
Elite Programs: Forum, Momentum, Mastermind
• Given me MUCH greater confidence as a CEO.
• Given my COO (she attended too) confidence and structure to implement new processes and guidelines. To help guide and keep the business on the right track for growth.
• Helped me see I don’t need to know the answer but I do need to use all of my assets – my team, my mentors, other leaders, my fellow entrepreneurs
• Given myself and our team a sense of purpose – true purpose – and the clarity to define our process.
• Structure that allowed us to express our purpose, core values, vision and current mission so that not only our team can embody it but our clients can feel it as well.
• Ways to empower our team members to be leaders.
• Doubling of team and revenue.
• Used the strategies learned to successfully secure our first small business loan
What percentage of your employees were the right people in the right seat on the bus BEFORE Elite Forum?
75% – One team member needed a greater challenge and a different focus in his role with us. We’ve since updated his position to suit his talents and had great results!
What percentage of your employees are the right people in the right seat on the bus AFTER Elite Forum?
90% but we also have a plan to help them grow out of their current seats, we just switched our Marketing person to focus on Communications only and we are hiring a marketing person, and our own software development made one of our support worker’s job redundant who was out on mat leave so she’ll return as an EA to our COO). There are some new team members who’s role fit we are still assessing.
Why did you decide to attend the Elite Forum? What challenges did you want to overcome?
We knew we were doing well and growing, but there were so many gaps in our knowledge when it came to figuring out exactly how to grow – how to get to the next level. We knew our product at its core worked, and we knew we had good quality team members. We didn’t know how to use what we knew about our existing culture or team members to attract more like them. We lacked a clear vision of where exactly the company could go. When we came to Elite Forum, my original goal was to build a company that in a few years might make more than $1mi on average per year. I had no clue how big we could really get! I had no idea how to get extremely clear on our purpose. We were just putting one foot in front of the other, and we were moving forward, but we didn’t know how to move faster. We weren’t sure how to create leaders. We didn’t understand that I needed to grow in order to become the CEO we need now. We also needed to define how to clearly reveal and live by our values and company purpose. In other words, we needed to execute our mission as a company. I knew we could be so much more, our team knew it too. So we leapt!
What was your biggest challenge as the leader of the company?
The biggest challenge was my lack of clarity on where exactly we were going and how to get there. I could come up with goals, and short-term strategies, and I could even play out in my mind a projection of our possible results or strategies. But there was no pattern to it and we needed to establish a rhythm. I was in need of a concrete structure for our meetings, and I lacked a quarterly review process. For a long time it was just me – so even with a great team in place, it was hard to guess what to do next. My biggest challenge was that I had only evolved into the ideal leader for what my company was years and months prior. I didn’t have the tools, guidance or mentors to figure out how to become the leader my company needed in that moment, much less in the future.
Did you have a vision for your company? What was it?
Yes, I did have a vision. I’m not sure that I communicated it clearly enough to our team. They needed to know exactly how we’d get there and they needed to know how big we could really be. I was able to empower them to embrace a bigger vision for us, and share it, but it was too broad because it really wasn’t clear where we were going specifically. Our Before Purpose: To be the change the financial services industry needed to see. To show advisors how to show clients that they could get more life from the money they had. To ensure we NEVER left the industry the way we found it.
I probably spent about 10-20% of my time working on strategy, mostly while at my Strategic Coach Workshops. I would return from the workshops all fired up but then quickly get lost in the hurried and panicked nature of the day-to-day noise of the business. I was conscious that working ON the business was drastically important, but struggled to make it a top priority.
Since attending Elite Forum, what percentage of your time is spent working ON (not IN) the business?
80% – depending on the week (except for Workshop weeks which is only 40days a year). I spend entire days on strategy only. We had 3 days of strategic meeting end of December and we were able to run the company and have all leaders out for the full three days.
What is your company’s Purpose?
To Fund People’s Dreams.
What is your company’s Mission?
To be the dominant force in the Cash Flow Planning industry, and lead 10,000 Certified Cash Flow Specialists.
What are the top 1-3 things that you’ve implemented from the Elite Forum that have had the biggest impact on your success?
1. Core Values – we created a core values index (a sort of online test to measure core values fit at the very beginning of our hiring process). We’ve made 4 good fit hires since Elite Forum, doubling the size of our team. The index has proven very accurate. Of course, it doesn’t indicate skill level, or other important criteria but it weeds out those who are not a core values fit right away. Those who wouldn’t be a good fit use almost none of our time and we don’t end up part way down the road to hiring or worse, hiring and then realizing there is not a fit with our core values. We also established a 90-day audition process that new team members must go through where we get a chance to see their core values, skill level etc. in action. So far, everyone who’s tested over 60% on the index (we also pay attention to how fast they complete it, 5 minutes or less is a good indicator) and have made it through their 90-day audition have proven to be a great hire. We’ve also embedded the core values early in the training process. During our daily meeting, each new team member shares a way in which they lived a core value the day before. For example, one of our values is “Innovation through experimentation” so our marketing manager might say that she tested out a new type of post on our Facebook business page.
2. Meeting Rhythm – We’ve stuck to the meeting rhythm learned at Elite Forum and we’ve added a daily stand-up. We all work remotely so it’s important for us to touch base via phone. Our whole team works from home offices in 4 different provinces and 3 time zones. Meeting rhythm has been HUGE for us. Even though we are spending more time in meetings with each other, they are effective and have helped us improve communication and they’ve helped us keep on top of tasks, projects, and each day/week/month’s activities. This way, everything we do aligns with, or supports, our annual and quarterly priorities as well as our values, purpose, and mission.
3. How to grow – Learning how to grow was probably the hardest thing to find the Elite Forum level of open guidance on anywhere else. It was exponentially valuable to be able to see the track that Infusionsoft grew on. It was inspiring to learn about when and how funds were borrowed, and when they were raised from investors. I just can’t think of anywhere else were we would have received the level of openness from a company your size. I asked a mentor of mine, who is very well-known in Canada and literally invests in companies like ours, among others, and he gave me very vague advice. He’s been a small business owner, still is, and HE’s invested in thousands of small businesses yet he either held back, or didn’t really have the ability to use his experience to at least give me a point of reference from which to compare our business and it’s trajectory. At every turn, the Elite Forum team and, since then, the Momentum Faculty have been so incredibly open. They do listen, they learn, they care. AND they accurately explain lessons learned and successes they and Infusionsoft have grown through. Your team gave us just what we need, when we needed it. We like to face challenges and opportunities with an equally adventurous attitude!
How has the Elite Forum impacted your business?
There may not be enough room on this application but I’ll try:
- Given me MUCH greater confidence as a CEO.
- Given my COO (she attended too) confidence and structure to implement new processes and guidelines. To help guide and keep the business on the right track for growth.
- Helped me see I don’t need to know the answer but I do need to use all of my assets – my team, my mentors, other leaders, my fellow entrepreneurs, great books, probably, most importantly, my ears – to uncover answers, or at least the next step in finding the answers.
- Given myself and our team a sense of purpose – true purpose – and the clarity to define our process.
- Structure that allowed us to express our purpose, core values, vision and current mission so that not only our team can embody it but our clients can feel it as well.
- A drastically larger vision of the company than I ever had before.
- Ways to empower our team members to be leaders.
- Amazing resource of the leadership team at Infusionsoft, but also a community of other like-minded CEOs, and entrepreneurs.
- Doubling of team and revenue.
- Used the strategies learned to successfully secure our first small business loan to help us grow our BIG project for 2015.
- Insight into how to build leaders among the team, not just how to become a better leader myself.
- And Elite Momentum on top of all this has given me a way to grow leaders and further multiply my people!
How did the Elite Forum impact you personally?
The clarity of my vision for the company allowed me to communicate more accurately to my family what we were trying to accomplish. My husband has only ever known me as an entrepreneur throughout our over 13 years together. My 8-year-old son thinks that all mummy’s run multiple businesses from their basement, have teams, fly all over the world to speak to huge rooms of people, and go inside the TV to work. So while both my husband and son were not strangers to the entrepreneurial effect on family relationships, it was hard for me to share with them because I didn’t really know where exactly we were going. I’ll give you a great example, before I could clearly show my husband where the company was headed, I’d tell him we added a new team member and he would say, “Oh. Are you sure you can afford to pay more people? How’s that going to work?” But since becoming more clear on our vision, now even when I tell him we added 3 new team members he says, “Awesome! What are they going to be doing? What province are they in? In Canada right?” Because we have so clearly established our values, vision, mission and purpose, it’s now simple to communicate with my own family. It’s easier for them to see and understand where we are going. It makes it so much easier for them to continue to support my sometimes crazy schedule. They can also more clearly see the progress the company has made in the last 9 months, versus the previous 2 years. I’ve also become more protective of my time, personal time, thinking time, working on the business time. And I have mostly successfully (progress not perfection) managed to lean on my team to support what I must learn, and do, to become the CEO they need me to be. Not just now, but a year from now, 2 years from now, and even beyond our current mission.
I have become hyper-focused with all business day time being valuable and utilized. I’ve listened to, or read more, books in the last 9 months than I can count. Every car or plane journey, doing my hair or make up in the morning, even during some exercise (except for running or skipping – Eminem is required for that) can be used when I’ve got a great book at the ready on Audible.
Beyond all of that, Elite Forum has helped me form a degree of certainty about our future in my mind. While I know I can’t control the future (nor can I predict it), I believe that having a clear vision and an articulated current mission itself gives me such a feeling of confidence. I feel assured and that is helping me to become a better leader, mother, wife, and overall member of my community.
What innovative ways do you hire, train and fire to the vision?
First of all, we created a core values index, we’re on the second version of that index now and it’s proven even more effective. Because we so clearly established our core values, I was able to give my team at all levels, but especially our leadership team (formed in early 2015 and we recently welcomed our software developer Ryan Campbell to give us a leadership team of 4), a way to filter potential candidates for new roles. We also use our core values in the daily team meetings. Team members are more conscious of the core values when they are thinking about which core value example they lived that day and how they can share it with their team the next day. That awareness level increases the quality of their work and their work/life balance as well. As soon as someone proves a staunch or drastic core values disconnect, we are able to take immediate action. If the action warrants giving an example of how the core value was violated and the team member easily understands, we’re able to move on. If the team member demonstrates a complete disconnect with the core value – this is the first evidence that they may not indeed be a fit. If a new team member intentionally violates a core value during their 90 day audition, a swift response such as immediate termination may occur. We’ve had to exercise this once since establishing our core values. Without our core values, we wouldn’t have been able to act so quickly and I believe the mis-hire would have caused serious damage. Team members who wish to be leaders start by planning out how they’d like to build their own teams. We do their Unique Ability exercise (from Strategic Coach) quarterly during their “One-on-One Strategy Sessions” when they are ready to grow in their role. We use this exercise to help each team member determine what parts of their current role can be packaged into a new role. From there we think about creating a role for a new team member with a more fitting skill-set. We then use the hiring process to help them recruit and hire their own teams. Their leader supports them in this process but they are responsible to build their own training plan, seek expertise from their team members, and if they miss-hire, they MUST fire.
What innovative things do you do to strengthen your company’s culture?
I think the most innovative thing we’ve done is to grow this company remotely. Without the core values, and a focus on accountability that we learned from Elite Forum we couldn’t have pulled of the growth we have. My first remote team were all in the same city and only a few minutes away and people I knew or who knew each other. Thanks to what we’ve learned we have hired people on remote islands or in cities thousands of miles away and been able to train them, watch them grown and see them become productive members of our team, often before we’ve ever met them in person!
But my favorite? It’s technically a punishment/entertainment but it embodies our core value, “Work should be fun.” If you are late for a meeting – you dance. We record you and then we string them together and we’ll show our clients the video of our team dancing to show their respect for everyone else’s time and our core values. One of our new prospective team members says we should also dance for wins! I like that too. This year’s “Late Dance” presentation at our annual conference was a huge hit.
What was the most challenging thing to implement? How did you overcome that challenge?
SMART’s are still our biggest challenge. We’re getting a better sense of using them as we get a team big enough to pull of the bigger projects and priorities. Our priorities graphic which we circulate to the entire remote team is helping us in this area.
What would your business look like today if you hadn’t attended the Elite Forum?
Not sure if we should burst out laughing or crying when we consider what things might be like today if we hadn’t attended Elite Forum. I’m not sure what would be going on, but I’m pretty sure we’d either have lost a key team member, or two, or failed to attract the wonderful new talent we’ve now hired. I think we’d be struggling quite frankly, if not we’d be have gone under, or it would just be me and a few helpers still. Realistically, I think we’d be having a hard time getting projects finished and closing deals. Without our new sales team (who we only found because of our hiring process which came from our core values) – there would be simply NO way we could keep growing our sales. We were getting stuck because we needed to grow the team in order to grow the company. We needed meeting rhythm to get things off the back burner. We were not even really doing employee reviews when we came to Elite Forum. We were selling and growing but NOT on purpose with vision. I also think that without Elite Forum we wouldn’t have found the strength to see where we needed help, the holes in our process. We wouldn’t have had the insight to know when it was time to borrow or take on investors to continue our growth.
That is a very terrifying question, it literally sends a shiver down my spine. I’d be going around the country doing speaking events from time to time, I’d have a few helpers, our software wouldn’t be functional, and I’d have maybe 3 employees and I would not be clear still. I learn really fast but not if I have to guess what to focus on I’m in trouble. I need to see an example to get me started. I need some structure and then the freedom and encouragement to execute and I wouldn’t have signed up for Elite Forum that fateful day at ICON14 I would have that clarity or structure I’ve needed.
What’s your #1 tip for other Elite Forum graduates?
DO NOT GO ALONE. This is true especially for the visionary of the company.
It’s tempting to want to leave the other important team members back home running the company, but that is the MOST costly decision you could make.
What’s your #1 tip for other business owners who want to grow from 7 to 8 figures?
#1 tip is stop hesitating on the stuff that scares you and makes you uncomfortable when it comes to growth, and start hesitating on anything that feels comfortable when it comes to growth. Comfort is dangerous when you’re trying to grow a business and change the world. If you’re NOT trying to do those things…well by all means relax!
How has Elite Momentum specifically helped you?
Elite Forum is great, but you can’t go very far if you only fuel the bus that one time. #1 Way Momentum has helped us is it’s given us a learning rhythm that complements the other rhythms of strategic planning, meetings and one on one strategy sessions etc.
The access to your experts has been one of the most valuable things. We learn so much from people who can give context to the ideas and real examples that work for real businesses. Your people are a consistent reflection of your core values at Infusionsoft and it permeates and heightens our experience. The time with peer groups, and the web classes in between keep me able to support my team in continued growth between sessions.
Specific recent examples include: Sales Process last session I was able to gain enough information from the day 2 morning and ask the experts that I was able to come back, tear down the old “pretend excuse for a process” and rebuild it entirely. We’re almost done. So far the sales team has tested the new process 14 times and had a 93% success rate to commitment to the next step as well as revived and closed some opportunities that seemed lost.
I had to do a significant lay off in Dec, in the end we went from 34 people to 15 people. I managed to do that with as much care as possible and immediately get the remaining team excited and on board to be better with less. And we are….example sales are up and getting more predictable by the day and lead generation is up 600% in the last 30 days! I can’t just magic this stuff out of nothing. I leverage every thing I learn and then I come home and put the ideas and structure to work!
How has Elite Mastermind specifically helped you?
It has been the thing that magnifies the impact of the other Elite Programs. Time with Clate is a key part of that. I know he can only be spread so thin, but seriously, especially when you’re doing crazy things like raising capital, hard decisions, working with a board, there is no one better to learn from than an experienced, well spoken, CEO who’s got the road rash to prove he knows what you feel like. The peer group there is even stronger. I love that I go alone and that I can be open about my challenges and my wins! Specifically Mastermind has helped me #1 figure out how to sort out the org structure and what not to do in my role in order to make the room to raise the funds we needed to grow. #2 Attract and put together a VP & C-Suite level comp package including the complexity of equity options to attract both our CFO/COO and VP Software Engineering.#3 Deal with the process and my own head junk that would follow when we did a large lay off in Dec #4 The thinking, peer group and expert resources to really think through the plan we needed so we didn’t waste the VC funds we raised.