Evolving Skills for Your Growing Company

Evolving Skills for Your Growing Company

Check out the latest episode below. Mr.Biz Radio provides business owners with the knowledge and insights needed to drive their companies forward.

Mr. Biz Radio: Evolving Skills for Your Growing Company

Unedited transcription of the show is included below:


Welcome to Mr. Biz radio BizTalk for biz owners during the next half hour, Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth, a leading business advisor, and two time bestselling author will cover topics. That'll help business owners run their companies more profitably and more efficiently. If you're ready to stop faking the funk and take your business onward and upward, this show is for you. And now here's Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth.


All right. Welcome to another episode of Mr. Biz radio with me, Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth and a, this, this week, we're going to talk about something that, gosh, no matter what business you're in, you've had to do this. We're going to talk about evolving your skills and, and being able to adapt and change. Dare I say the P word pivot as we've all had to do in some shape or form or fashion during the last gosh, 18 to 20 months or so I guess it's been now. And so this week we have Mr. Mike Konrad on with us and he is an expert in this field, as well as several others. He's got a ton of different types of experience. So Mike, welcome to the show.


Thanks Ken. I appreciate being


Here. Yeah. So, so I guess let's, let's get started with talking about your entrepreneurial journey. Let's let's get started with that.


Well, I like to define myself as a, as a reluctant entrepreneur. I am not one of these people who grew up thinking that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. That was the farthest thing from my mind. And I worked at a company 36 years ago. That,


So you were working there when you were like seven. I was working


There when I was like, yeah, nine, nine. Yeah. Thank you for the two extra years. Yeah, my child labor and, and I ha there was a government regulation without falling off the, the, the technical ladder and going way down a rabbit hole. There was a technical thing going on in our industry, the electronics industry that was going to ban certain solvents from being made. This was a big international treaty called the Montreal protocol. And it was signed in 1989 and, and basically circuit boards are cleaned after they're soldered. That's just part of the process and they're cleaned. They were cleaned in those days with a couple of different types of solvents, which were on the government's ten-year hit list. They through this treaty they were going to ban these and other similar types of solvents from production. And that created a huge ruckus in our industry.


It would just be like the EPA tomorrow saying, Hey, Hey, Hey folks, in 10 years, we're going to ban gasoline. Everyone would freak out. And, and this was as important to our industry as gasoline is to transportation. So everyone freaked out and tried to come up with alternative solvents, but basically if it worked well, it, it was probably harmful, you know, just like if it tastes good, it's fattening. If it worked, it was probably harmful. So they couldn't come up with anything that was really a drop-in replacement. And there was a little company off to the side not very well known that was taking dishwashers, residential dishwashers, and converting them into circuit board cleaners using basically soap and water. Not really, but basically soap and water. And I'm like, these guys are onto something. They're not doing it very well, but they're onto something.


And so I thought, well, let's, let's take that idea and do it well. And so I went to my boss and said, Hey, I got a great idea. And the boss looked at me like, you know, who are you? And, and didn't, I couldn't sell them on it. So eventually I was so confident. This was a great idea that I made a deal with my boss, that I would fund the R and D on my own time, I would take the full risk and then I'll present them with my findings and see if they're interested. So he's like, okay, fine. So I did that and worked with a friend of mine, childhood friend of mine, who's way more clever than me. And the two of us created this product and took it to my boss and said, what do you think? And he says, yeah, it looks good.


Does it work? I'm like, yeah, it works real well. And we happened to be a few weeks away from a major trade show in our industry. So I talked them into throwing caution to the wind. I said, let's just stick the company name on it, throw it in the booth and see what happens. And what happened was we sold five or six machines right off the floor. It was a hell. Wow. And then I realized that I'm a much better salesman than I am a production kind of person. And I was selling these machines by day and building them by night, which wasn't working. And so finally I realized that, you know, what I should do is just sell this product to my company and to my employer. So I not being a great business person. Particularly back in those days, I just took my costs, which were about $15,000 and said, Hey, give me 15,000 cover my costs and the equipment's yours.


And he agreed, it's all good deal. He agreed. Everything was great. And I had this sense of ego that, you know, that was, you know, I, I saved the company cause the company wasn't doing well. I said, I saved the company. You know, now they're going to carry me in on a chair. At next time, we have a business development meeting and I'm going to be carried out on a challenge fan with grape leaves and you know, I'll be the king of the forest. And so we had a product development meeting and I had another idea for the next product, which was to make this machine not have a drain, not require a drain, make a completely closed loop. And and I said, this idea and someone else had another idea, which was completely different. And the owner of the company said, well, we're going to go with this other idea.


And I looked at him and I said, I think that's a mistake. And then he said, one word, it started with F it had four letters, not the one you're thinking that was the inspiration for my, my journey into entrepreneurship. I looked at, I looked at him and said, I think it's a mistake. And he looked at me in the most dismissive manner possible and went fine. Like he might as well said another F F fine, like dismissive. You don't matter. You know, I don't care what you think. It's just fine. I don't care. So at that moment, I became an entrepreneur, not, I didn't realize it at the time, but at that very moment, I started my own company in my head. And that was the beginning of my journey. And I tried to get other people to pay for it and, and, you know, fund it and all this stuff. And then I couldn't get anyone. I filled up all my credit cards. I did all that, you know, we can go down that road in a few moments, but that was my journey in entrepreneurship. It was, it was, as I said, a reluctant journey, but one I'm so grateful that I went on. I'm so grateful for that F bomb. Fine. That changed my life.


Yeah, for sure. And so I think so often, you know, we have people on, and that's why we always like to start with typically, you know, having them tell us their entrepreneurial journey, because almost every single time there's one of those sort of epiphany or defining moments where oftentimes it's, it's either. And the epiphany of, I see this huge need in the marketplace for something, or you're in the corporate world. And there's this, you know, frustration point that it's just a tipping point that you say, that's it, you know, again, like you said, the, the unknowing or reluctant entrepreneur, you know, that you became at that moment because of the frustration you felt by being, you know, basically dismissed, you know, and like you said, you came up with this idea and you're like, you, again, you, you, you sort of alluded to it, but I'm guessing you're, you're thinking like, well, geez, my next idea, they're just going to rubber stamp it.


Right. So this one was such a hit, you know, and when that didn't happen, it's probably like, well, what the heck is this? You know right. You said, especially if the company wasn't doing well and your new product you know, was, it was obviously a hit. And so your gosh, I can't imagine that, you know, I had a similar situation, but not in the, in the same way. I mean, I had some, I, and I had a couple ideas that I always want to do my own thing. I had a couple ideas and they were not dismissed, but put on the back burner. And I got frustrated and that's when I decided to leave the corporate world myself. But anyway, this week we're talking with Mr. Mike Konrad, you can find out more about what he's got going on. He's got a couple of different websites, but when it's easiest to find is www.MikeKonrad.com, that's Konrad spelled with a K I should mention as well and follow him on LinkedIn. He's got a few podcasts of his own, which again, you could find it like www.mikekonrad.com and we're going to come back after the break, give them Mr. Biz tip of the week for this week. And we'll continue talking with Mike about his entrepreneurial journey and some of the things that he's learned along the way that are going to help us evolve our skills for our growing companies.


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All right. Welcome back to the show and it's time for the Mr. Biz tip of the week. And this week's tip is a, a simple one, very concise, but one that I think too often gets overlooked. As we, I like to have a lot of these tips, some of these things that aren't so obvious, or maybe, maybe seem obvious on the surface, but they get overlooked too often. And so this week's tip is happy employees equal satisfied customers. Oh yeah. Yeah. Like to keep that one nice and simple. And it was a math, math formula, but for those of you anti math people or people that don't do well with math, like Mrs. Biz that's a simple one. And by the way, I can take it a step further happy employees equals satisfied customers, and that equals a happy owner.


So keep that in mind, it all starts with the employees you have to treat, you know, gosh, if we just really it's as simple as following the golden rule, so often treat your employees the way you would want to be treated. And if you do that, you're going to have happy employees. They're going to have loyal loyalty to you. You'll have higher retention, which means, you know, just a whole host and myriad of positive things for your company. And then of course, they're going to go the extra mile for the customers and that's going to make you have satisfied customers, so good overall, but it's kind of start with the employees. So that is the Mr. Biz tip of the week. We're going to jump back into talking with Mr. Mike Konrad here. So, Mike so I guess you, you had a little bit of a, a start with your company, eh kind of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. I understand in a garage


That's exactly. I did start in a garage. My


What's the best word encouraged me to find a building or find another place to live, not quite serious, but serious enough. So yeah, I did start it in a garage and that led to getting a small unit in a multi-tenant business park. I think it was 1200 square feet. Basically. It had a roll up door in the back one walk-in door in the front, one tiny office, one small bathroom and, you know, space. And that's where I started my journey officially you know, after I left the garage, the garage was mostly R and D stuff. I had to design something that was different enough from what I had already sold to my, my former employer. And and that met the requirements that I wanted to, to start with. So yeah, I did that jumped into the deep end of the very cold pool.


Leased a building bought used furniture. I went to the used office furniture store and bought the crappiest old government desks I could find. And, you know, it didn't look good, but it, it performed a function. And then I emptied my, my tool chest in my, at my home and, and brought that over to the new location and, and started a business. So that further emptied your garage was probably made your wife even happier. Yeah. I'll tell you what else made her happy, quote, unquote, actually unhappy. I emptied the garage and emptied our bank account and filled up our credit lines, you know, as one does when they have an idea and, and they're blinded by the opportunity you know, we don't see all the risks and things like that, you know, which which we can talk about. I think there's a certain skillset that's required to start a company or to enter an entrepreneurial journey.


And I think the skillset required to start from nothing from a garage is ignorance, arrogance, ego, a very poor assessment of risk, lots of passion, lots of luck and money would be helpful, but it's usually not there. And those are kind of the skill sets I brought to the table and they were exceptionally valuable to start from nothing, because if I had, you know, naivety is one of the skillsets to start something from nothing. And I say that not really tongue in cheek, I'm kind of serious that if I had realized that 75% statistically 75% of all new businesses have failed within 10 years, 50%, within five years, 30% within three, I would never have risked everything. Why would I, that's all, those are horrible odds. I'm better going to Vegas. At least that's close to 50 50, right? So, you know, I think naivety is good. I think ego, you know, if you don't have money, you go helps. And all these things are drivers, right? They, they help you not see the full risk and really concentrate on the opportunity at hand. And, and you need those things because you're gonna run out of motivation. You're going to run out of options. You're going to run out of money. And those are the things that just keep you going, even though they don't make a lot of sense, you know, in the real world, they are everything at that moment in time.


Yeah. I think you're exactly right. I mean, it's, it's so, so important. I got asked this question recently when I was being interviewed about what, what was the number one skill or, you know, skill set that I think is that separates successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful entrepreneurs. I'd be curious to hear what your answer is for that mic. Okay.


Oh, I think I, I call it shifting S H I F T I N G, just to be clear shifting. And I think it's important to acquire skills at the right time in your journey. If I knew everything I know today 29 years ago, when I started this journey, I may not have done it. I don't regret doing it. No part of me regrets doing it, but I may have realized this is a really risky proposition and I may have just been scared. I may have just decided to keep a day job. And so I think that, that there has to be a willingness to kind of get out of your own way. There has to be an awareness that you don't know what you don't know. And there has to be a willingness to acquire new skills at the right time.


So I mentioned the skills that are required to start a company from zero arrogance luck, my equity, ego, passion, et cetera. Those are the exact same skills that will kill your business. If, if not shifted to another skillset, a more appropriate skillset for the level of business that you're at. So it there's a, a constant evolution of acquiring new skill sets and shedding old ones. Not that they were wrong, they were right at the moment in the moment. They're just not going to take you all the way through. And when I think about, you know, why is it that 75% of all businesses fail within 10 years, according to the U S bureau of labor statistics? W why, why is that a con a constant predictor? And I think a lot has to do with their owners, not acquiring new skills. Some people have, and I, I liken it to that.


The gears in a car first gear, everyone's got a first gear, that's got some passion and high and everything but you can't go far on first gear. If you try and go far and fast, and first gear, you'll blow up your engine and you can't start in fifth gear, it's higher, too highly leveraged. So you start in first, you move to second, third, fourth, fifth, and you go through the gears. And in this case, the gears are skillsets and there's a right time for the right skill set. Just like there's a right time for the right gear.


Yeah, honestly, Mike, I think I couldn't agree with you more because you know, you're spot on. As far as the skills, it takes to start up the skills it takes to run a 3 million, $5 million business, and then the skills it takes to run a 10 million, 15, $20 million business, those all evolve constantly. And they're different, different at different points during that journey, different ones are emphasized more than others and get exposed more than others. So when you have weaknesses there, so I think it's really important that self-awareness, you mentioned as well. So again, this week we've been talking with Mr. Mike Konrad, you can find out more www.mikekonrad.com and that's Konrad spelled with a K we're going to come back in the next segment. And Mike is going to talk to us a little bit more about evolving our skills for our growing company.


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All right. Welcome back to the show. And we're just starting to scratch the surface a little bit with Mr. Mike Konrad, about some of this, the whole notion of the evolving skillset. You know, as your company grows, you know, as Mike had mentioned previously, some of the things that, you know, really need in the beginning as a startup sometimes those that could be also the same things that if they're overdone can be the end of your company down the line. So I wanted to dive into that a little bit more if we can, Mike, you know, talk to me a little bit about that, that changing skill set. And I love the analogy about the gears of a car. I think that's, it's very very apropos in this situation. You know, I guess one of the things that would become along those lines as, as you were growing the company, maybe you're starting out and you're bootstrapping initially, and then what you might be a solopreneur. And then as you continue to grow, obviously you need to hire people. What are some of the things that you think are important in hiring a talented team?


Yeah. That I talked about, you know, shutting off certain skills, quote unquote, and adapting new skills. One of the skills that, or one of the attributes maybe I had to shed was ego. It was, it was an absolute benefit to drive my business. It was certainly not something that you want to keep around for too long because it'll steer you in the wrong direction. So when I kind of put the ego on the shelf and realize that there are more important things to focus on, that allowed me to surround myself with people brighter than me. And there's one thing about being an entrepreneur. We will, once you get that taste of running your own business, you will be the worst employee ever. You can never be hireable by anyone else because you don't just put up with anything. You know, you just, you're used to controlling your universe and you're used to, you know, just saying what you want and it's done.


So I had to kind of let that go and, and realize I'm not the smartest person in the room. In fact, my goal went from being the smartest person in the room to be in the stupidest person in the room. If I can surround myself with people smarter than me. And I'm, I'm the lowest of them all I'm, I'm in pretty good shape. So, you know, getting the Jim Collins wrote a book many years ago from good to great. And one of the things he, he coined one of the phrases he coined was no get the right people on the bus. And that was the beginning of a, of a turnaround for our company because companies go through ebbs and flows. They go through a profit and not profit. They go through challenges and more challenges. And as we went through those ebbs and flows of challenges I realized that people are the solution, the right people are the solution.


There was a time when, if you only had a pulse and a willingness to accept a low offer you're hired. And, and then I kind of went the other way. I kind of thought, just throw money at the problem and it'll go away, just pay someone more and they'll do better. And that's not true either. So I just had to surround myself with the right people for the right time in our company. Some people are destined to go the complete journey with you. Some people are only going to go on the first three stops of a train ride, you know, and then they get off and they go somewhere else and that's okay. So getting the right people with the right skill sets at the right time for your journey and where you are at the company, I think is vital.


Yeah. Again, I agree with you a hundred percent and I even saw this in the corporate world, so that you probably experienced this as well during your corporate days, as you would have someone who's a subject matter expert in a particular area, they've been in the area for X number of years. And so the normal thinking is that the evolution of their career is that, well, you're going to become a supervisor manager at some point. Well, you know, right along with your point, even in the entrepreneurial world, which is, I think it's even more exacerbated, even more is not, everyone's cut out for that. Some people are just good, you know, subject matter experts. They can do a thing. They're not good leaders, they're not good managers. And frankly, a lot of them don't want to be, you know, depending on, you know, especially what industry you're in.


You know, a lot of these folks say, look, I just want to come in and do my job and go home. I don't, I don't want to have to worry about employees and who showed up and who's not, you know, cutting away cutting their, you know, carrying their weight, carrying their load, et cetera. And so I think, you know, when those folks that have that sort of mindset or lack of skillset become entrepreneurs, I think that's a massive challenge for them as they move out of the sort of solopreneur bootstrapping realm into that. And I found as well, that, you know, to your point, when you made earlier, Mike, is that a lot of times they are, they feel threatened by people as well. And so they don't want to hire the smartest people. They want to hire someone who's not as smart as them. And, and, you know, I think that gets you into trouble down the road.


Absolutely. And that's that, that's totally true. I think also it's important that your employees know the type of person you are as an entrepreneur entrepreneurs in general, this isn't an exclusive list, but in general entrepreneurs are conceptual people, creative, conceptual people creative, conceptual people drive everyone else crazy because, you know, we're, Firestarters, we start all these fires and we don't stick around to put them out, right. We'd come up with all these ideas that are great. And we're not really interested in finishing the detail work. Right. Don't bother me with the facts. Don't bother me with details and we can drive our employees. Absolutely insane people like me. And so it's important that we work with people that have different skillsets than us. You know, I'm a conceptual person, a Firestarter and, and I want, I need to work with logistical people, tactical people, people who like lists, you know, people who like to get stuff done.


If we were all conceptual people, we would start a million projects and nothing would ever ship. If we were all tactical people, we would never change. We would never rise to the occasion. We would never come out with new products. We would just keep doing the same thing over and over again. You know, we'd be selling Betamax tapes still, if we were all tactical logistical kind of people. And you know, there's creative, there's, there's, there's conceptual, there's tactical. We need all those skillsets in a business. It's just like the ingredients of a soup. It can't all be one thing. We, we need the spice, we need the sweetness, we need all the different ingredients to make a flavor. And, and that's really important to surround yourself with different personalities and people who understand you and what your strengths and weaknesses are.


Yeah. I think that self-awareness is super, super important. One of the great examples I think of that, of, of something that everyone would know is, you know, Steve Jobs and, and Wozniak, you know, without Wozniak, who knows what would happen with Apple because Steve Jobs is the Firestarter right. That's going to start all these fires and nothing ever gets done. Nothing ever gets completed because you know, he, again, he's a brilliant visionary, but he's not a tactical person. He's not a one of my good friends calls it. He says he has a PhD in GSD and he get stuff done. And you know, I think, I think at that with apple was knack was the GSD guy. Like he would get it done. He would execute the plan that, that, you know, the vision that Steve Jobs had. And I think that is so important to have that self-awareness though, because if you just hire other visionaries that are like, you that's just a recipe for disaster.


Right. And the other thing about Steve Jobs real quick as we wrap up you know, Steve Jobs didn't invent too many things. He exploited things. And I don't mean that as a negative term, you know, he didn't invent the mouse that came from Xero's park, Xerox park. He didn't invent the gooey interface that came from Xerox park. I didn't invent the type of cleaning machine that we build today, but I made it better. So anyone that's thinking about being an entrepreneur, you don't have to start with something that hasn't been around. In fact, let someone else take that risk, let someone else experiment with that idea and then capitalize on it and bring it to the next level. That's where I think more success is found as opposed to creating a revolutionary device. Evolutionized something. And I think there's a greater chance of success and Steve jobs certainly demonstrated that. And yes, he did drive his partner crazy.


Yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah. And it's so true. We're, we're short on time here, but you know, the, the Uber versus taxi the Netflix versus a Blockbuster, I mean, there's just so many examples of this in history that we just mentioned, Micah. So I think it's, it's a great example to have again, this week we've been talking with Mr. Mike Konrad, find out more at www.mikekonrad.com. That's Konrad with a K follow him on LinkedIn, go out to his website to check out his podcast. Mike, thanks so much for being on the show. Thanks a


Lot. It's great.


All right. Thanks guys. Thanks for listening. Have a great week. And don't forget as always cash flow is king.


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