Building Companies That Can Scale Quickly is something that has to be done with intention and purpose. Claire Chandler is our guest on this episode and that is exactly what she helps entrepreneurs and business leaders do; build companies that can scale quickly. You can listen to the full episode on the podcast section of the site and all the major apps and services. Watch the interview on YouTube,
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Tim Kubiak 0:09
Hi, thanks for listening to bowties and business. I’m your host Tim Kubiak. As always, you can find us on our socials at bow ties and business on Facebook and Instagram and bow ties and bi z on Twitter. You can find me at Tim Kubiak just about everywhere including Twitter, LinkedIn, and my website can Kubiak calm. Today with us we have Claire Chandler. She’s worked with many diverse startups and corporations over the last 25 years, Claire experienced the most companies fall apart when they start to scale. As a solution to the business time bomb, she created the Whirlpool effect, a revolutionary way to align leaders and teams around unifying vision that attracts, retains and motivates the right talent to achieve your mission. It’s a simple yet straightforward process helping many companies find and fix the bottlenecks that are choking their business performances. Rather than go with a pre scripted interview today, everybody guys, since I’m a recovering corporate guy who just built up a sales team in my last corporate role, we’re just going to have a conversation. So Claire, thanks for being here.
Claire Chandler 1:05
Thank you, and I can relate to him, I am a corporate survivor as well. So I feel your pain.
Tim Kubiak 1:10
So what led you out of the corporate world into this part in startups are their own animal, they absolutely
Claire Chandler 1:17
They’re their own animal. And I you know, I find that every entrepreneur that I have worked with come across, you know, cross paths with, we all have this transformational moment that led us or inspired us or pushed us to or, or dragged us, in some cases, out of that comfy corporate box, and out into the, you know, the risky unknowns of entrepreneurship, and my story is no different. So, back in 2011, I was knee deep in a corporate role, I was a vice president of human resources for a for an international company. And I was traveling all the time and going 150 miles an hour. And it was really outside of my comfort zone. Because prior to moving into that role, I had been squarely focused on all things talent, talent development, talent management, succession planning, recruiting, onboarding, all of that great stuff. And it was being groomed to go into a more executive level HR role. And to do that I needed to broaden my my experience of my accountability to fullcycle hr. And so I was traveling all the time, I was so busy, that I was able to outrun the voice in my head that would have asked me, am I doing what I’m passionate about. And then all of a sudden, I got a call in the spring of that year that I got a cancer diagnosis. And so I had to, you know, stop what I was doing, take a month off of work, have surgery have follow up, you know, all that all that fun stuff. And I was blessed with a, you know, an outstanding team. You know, so delegating to them and leaving work in their hands was was not an issue whatsoever. But in that quiet post surgery, I finally could not run that, you know, that question? Was I on the right path? Right? What was I doing what I was passionate about? And I finally had to acknowledge that the answer was no. And so it’s amazing how the word no, can actually open up possibilities, right. And so once I finally admitted to myself that you know that I was not on the right path, the path that was going to fulfill me, it did open up so many doors, and so many conversations, and so many, you know what ifs possibilities. And so I finished my convalescence, I went back into work. And I gradually kind of stepped away and outside of corporate, I didn’t leave until fall of that year. And I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to focus on. But I knew that things that I didn’t want to focus on. And so I sort of left into the unknown. And just kind of, you know, went went out on my own as a consultant, not fully appreciating what that meant, what that was going to do, how I was going to get my first client, you know what I was going to offer them. But it was it was exciting. And it was such an exciting exploration of what was possible. So, so that’s kind of how I burst out of the corporate level.
Tim Kubiak 4:32
Scary leap. Right.
Claire Chandler 4:34
Absolutely. Scary leap. Yeah, yeah. If you if you’re a fan of Indiana Jones, if you remember that one scene where he’s got to take that, that leap onto the invisible ledge over the Abyss as he’s going after the, you know, the chalice right. It felt sort of like that. He just sort of put his hand over his heart and took that first step, not knowing if the ground was going to be there. Yeah, and then you know, it’s exhilarating. You go from, Oh, my gosh, this could kill me to the, you know, the exhilaration of I didn’t die. Let’s just keep moving forward and see what’s behind door number two
Tim Kubiak 5:14
that yeah, and you know it’s a ride like no other but when you went out on your own and by the way, there’s a ton of great resources on your website. So it’s Claire Chandler dotnet, the links are in the show notes for everybody. And we’ll talk about some more things that are on the website and what I’ve enjoyed about it as we go there. And you know, here, I’d love to hear your thoughts behind it. But you left a big global corporate role. And you’re working with startups, how do you? How do you go from, you know, dealing with what may have been a behemoth to dealing with guys that are, you know, going 1000 miles an hour and maybe don’t have any org structure?
Claire Chandler 5:48
Yeah, absolutely. So what was interesting was, like I said, when I, when I first went out on my own, I didn’t really have a very clear picture of who I would serve and how I would serve them. But over time, you know, when you when you first go out, you don’t have a plan, like I didn’t, you know, you just, I just left all the doors open. And I just kept looking for different ways that I could bring in a little bit of money, doing some things that I knew I had some some skills at. And gradually, that led to bigger opportunities. And, you know, over that first nine to 12 months, I really kind of stumbled into that, that niche of helping smaller companies, startup companies, you know, mid sized companies, but but less so. But the companies that had zero bureaucracy, very flat organization, but not a lot of structure to support, what they were trying to build and achieve and grow. And so, you know, typically my foot in the door was through my HR experience, and having that perspective of coming from a global organization, you know, which had a lot of best practices, a lot of structure, you know, a lot of processes already established and nailed down. But you know, you can’t just unplug them from a global situation, and try to put them into a startup and hope that they fit. But what I found was because I was working with companies of that size, I had direct access to the CEO, the President, the founder. And so that really gave me an opportunity to tap back into what I loved, which was more around being an advisor to leadership, being the voice in the ear of, you know, executive leaders, who have, in their own minds a very clear picture of what they are wanting to build with their company. But perhaps struggle with conveying that in a compelling and consistent way to the people that they’re trying to lead. Entrepreneurs are amazingly creative. They’re free thinkers, they are, you know, not terribly fond of corporate boxes and bureaucracy. But most of them struggle with people leadership, and business management, because they’re so in their own heads, right. And I’m guilty of that, as well. You have so many ideas of what you want to become, that you don’t stop to think that the chaotic life of an entrepreneur is not necessarily reassuring to the people that are trying to follow your lead.
Tim Kubiak 8:41
Communicating that vision in a way that other people get, it’s such a challenging thing. Do you have specific industries or segments that you specialize in?
Claire Chandler 8:51
I do what’s what’s interesting is, I think, because my background in corporate was more in the energy and environmental space, water and wastewater utilities, oil and gas. I’ve always gravitated more toward what I would call the blue collar industries. And so that, you know, it kind of opened doors for me to, you know, the chemical industry, the manufacturing industry, I have a great client in the Mining and Metals industry. So very, very different businesses and services and products that they are involved in, but the leadership challenges are largely the same. And then I have another vertical, if you will, around pharmaceuticals and biotech, and that actually sprang from more of the communications background that I had. So I, I, you know, would would be introduced to a larger company to help their HR organization or their communications team, you know, craft messages that were more public. attractive to outside candidates, internal employees, etc. and then open doors to you know, helping to realign their leadership. So yeah, it’s it’s it’s interesting it’s it’s primarily kind of the blue collar side with some some pharma biotech sprinkled in.
Tim Kubiak 10:19
So you got regulatory on this end maybe different regulatory on this end, and people breaking glass in the middle that’s got to be a lot of fun.
Claire Chandler 10:28
It is a lot of fun. And it’s interesting that observation because you know, these are these are companies that you know, from from startup and small midsize to large. They don’t want to be told what they can’t do, right, they want to sort of break that mold and break the glass. But in each industry, whether it’s blue collar or professional services, or pharma, or biotech, they are put into these boxes because of regulatory requirements or OSHA requirements or, you know, employee compliance needs, etc. So trying to, you know, kind of walk that middle line between, we want to be innovative, and we want to grow in new ways that no one has thought of, and we want to create this environment for people that they can bring their best, while still having to fit into certain boxes that the regulators say they must play in, can often be a difficult juggling act, and then you layer on top of that, trying to manage a business so that it is profitable. And lead your people so that they perform at their best and behave your best. It’s it’s a lot to juggle, especially for a smaller company.
Tim Kubiak 11:37
It is. So I’m gonna I’m gonna give you huge credit, right, you’ve come from an HR background, and you have an amazing sense of humor and the things you produce your 50 ways to lose your employees video. And for those of you that are listening, I’ll link in the show notes. Go check it out on YouTube, you have a really playful edge about it is that part of your success?
Claire Chandler 11:59
it’s so fun. So thank you for noticing that. It absolutely is part of my success. You know what, what is so ironic is first of all, I spent 18-20 years in corporate after swearing when I graduated college, I would never work in corporate America because I’m just, I’m just not that mold. Right. But I you know, I made a successful career in corporate America, but I’ve always had this internal monologue. You know, whether it’s in a, in a meeting, or I’m, you know, I’m presenting or facilitating a workshop of 250 people, I always had this internal monologue in my head thinking if they if they knew what I was actually thinking, while they’re trying to be serious in it, you know, in a boardroom setting, they would throw me out. You know, I had a couple of bosses who would tell me that I was a bit too goofy for corporate. But you know, I did, I did Well, anyway, I had a couple people say my walk was a little bit too happy. And could I dial that back? Because it was really freaking out some people. So of course, I just amplified it, because, you know, what are you going to do? Um, so yeah, like, you know, in, in corporate, it, it kept me from getting too weighed down by the bureaucracy. You know, from my very early days, just even doing temp work through college, you know, when all you were doing was, was doing data entry and making copies, you know, I, I always sort of looked at it as a game and, and something fun. And so now I’m out of the corporate box, and I’m as goofy as ever, you know, my humor is very sarcastic. You know, I’m slightly irreverent. You know, and I, and I talk to clients, the way that they need to hear the message that the people within the corporate walls have been trying to get across to them. And it’s so funny, you know, one of the highest compliments I’ve gotten from a client is that I am, you know, I’m calm in the crisis and creative with my solutions, but I’m only professional when necessary. And I and I just thought that was that was high praise, you know, and invariably, every client that I work with, at some point in our engagement, says to me, are you sure you worked in HR because you don’t talk like you, you come from HR. And it doesn’t mean I curse like a sailor, it’s just, you know, I don’t sometimes leaders need some tough love. And sometimes they need straight talk that you know, their their people, advisers, their coaches, their their HR experts have been trying to get across to them, but they’ve been too polite about it, if you really want to get to that next level of growth and leadership to the point where people truly follow you. Sometimes it takes a little bit of tough love and you know, I’m I’m here to serve the leaders that I counseled not to please them. You know, because being surrounded by people who just say yes to them all the time. Not going to get them to that next level
Tim Kubiak 15:03
is part of the beauty of what you do the ability to tell those founders, and I’ve worked with a lot of business founders in my career, and my backgrounds tack. So right, I’ve launched a lot of companies inside of big companies when they brought their vendors on board. And sometimes the founders telling them no, nobody’s told them no, maybe outside of a financial partner ever.
Claire Chandler 15:27
Yeah. Yeah, it’s, um, it is fun to tell a founder, no, you know, it’s being a consultant coming in from the outside does give you a little bit more leverage and freedom to say things to the founder to the, to the CEO, to the, you know, to the Chief Human Resources officer, that their own people, perhaps would not say, right. And, you know, with some engagements, I do a little bit of, you know, part of my discovery process, or my due diligence, is to, you know, meet with key employees, one on one. And, you know, confidentially just sort of, you know, collect that feedback in in aggregate. But I always ask them, what’s one thing you would tell your leaders, if you weren’t afraid to tell them to their face? What’s one thing that you wish they knew, and it’s always so enlightening, the things that they say, and the things that they tell me. And there’s often a misconception that leaders can’t be approached, because, you know, almost always when I deliver that type of feedback to, you know, to the, to the CEO, or to the founder, and I say, here’s some of the concerns that your employees are free to tell you. They, they’re almost hurt by that not by the feedback itself, but by the fact that it took an outsider to get them to open up about it. And so there’s there is often that that, you know, sort of misperception that there’s this, this glass wall between the executives and in the people. And it shouldn’t be like that shouldn’t be like that in any organization. But especially in a startup, it’s trying to grow. You know, just because when you grow, you need more structure does not mean you need more walls, you want to keep that open door, mindset, you want to keep a culture where people can speak up, take risks, innovate, you know, fail forward, and, you know, really contribute their very best ideas, as goofy as they might be, right? Because if more of your employees did have a happy walk, you’d be surprised at the results you could get.
Tim Kubiak 17:48
So with that, how do you determine who’s the right employee?
Claire Chandler 17:54
Yeah, that’s it’s a, it’s a great question. And the key word is the right employee, not the best employee. I think often where companies go wrong or go astray, is that they all want to hire the superstar. Right? But they have, so they have champagne taste, but a Budweiser budget. And it’s not about hiring the quote unquote, rock star, because a rock star in one situation is not necessarily going to be a rock star for you. And so And oftentimes, it’s finding that diamond in the rough, how do you know who the right one is, though? It’s that starts with absolute clarity on what your mission is, what your, what your company is in existence, to accomplish, why you’re there in the first place. And that sounds very simplistic, but you’d be surprised how many companies completely overlook getting that dialed in, nailed down and conveyed in clear and consistent language? You know, I’ve worked with some founders where, on three separate occasions over you know, the course of a week or two, I’ve asked them, you know, what is your mission. And I get three different answers from the same guy. It’s very clear in their head, but it’s kind of fuzzy when you try to put words to it. And until you are crystal clear on why your company exists in the first place. You can’t go out first of all, you can’t get the buy in of the leadership and a team around you because they can’t buy into something that’s fuzzy. If they like the concept of being part of a startup because it’s fun, it’s flexible. They can skateboard from one meeting to the next there’s a you know, there’s a pool table in the in the break room, whatever. That’s all great. But that’s going to wear off if all they see is management by chaos. They really need to know what’s going to sustain a positive, fun, innovative culture. And what’s going to To sustain the scalability and the sustained profitability of that company, it starts with mission clarity. So once you’ve got that nailed down, now you can start to break down, okay, what fundamentally Do we need in terms of skills in terms of mindset in terms of behavior in terms of knowledge and expertise, to achieve that mission. And so now you’ve got this sort of collection of attributes and characteristics. And you may already have some people on your team that that fit that mold. But now you’ve got a much clearer picture of who you need to be looking for, to add positively to the mission that you’re trying to achieve.
Tim Kubiak 20:44
Does that tie into why you wrote the book, the Whirlpool effect?
Claire Chandler 20:48
So though, it does the Whirlpool effect, that was not the original title, I was playing around with a bunch of titles. And it you know, it started from when I first went out on my own, and I was trying to establish what my own mission was, I was doing a lot of motivational and public speaking. And I was talking to the to the kind of frontline employee level and middle manager level, about how to reignite your passion for what you do. You know, being fresh off of my own cancer experience, which really dialed in for me, you know, the whole concept of life is too short not to do what you’re passionate about. And so I had these amazing sessions with people. And they would come up to me afterwards and say, you know, you you rekindled this for me, I had my lightbulb moment during the session, and it clicked for me, you know, what I want to do next. And so it felt great. The problem was, I was getting them all jazzed up to be passionate about what they were doing, and arming them with how to have a conversation with their boss, and returning them into workplaces reporting to leaders who were not so enlightened. So they were getting all excited and energized and passionate and saying, okay, with a couple of tweaks to what I’m doing, I don’t have to leave my job, I just have to retool what I’m doing. They were hitting their heads against the wall, because the leaders were saying, Yeah, we can’t do that. Because, you know, we have to fit you in this in this box. And so what prompted me to write the book was, I realized that if I’m really going to help cure workplace misery, I was starting at the wrong end of the spectrum, I had to start from the top. And so I started to write this book, really is a wake up call to leaders who are frustrated with the lack of results, the increase in customer complaints, the office drama, the you know, they keep losing their their star performers, they’re walking out the door, and the same leaders looking around outside of themselves for the reasons why this was happening to them. And so the book was really a wake up call to say, the root cause is a lot closer than you think. I think it’s, it’s really the way that you’re leading. And so I was trying to, and that’s kind of, you know, really what the book serves to kind of wake people up to the real root cause is how you lead but the good news, and that is, because it’s you, it’s completely within your control to fix this. And so I was trying to develop a metaphor that would convey what real true leadership followable leadership looks like. And it was reminded of a childhood memory. So I live in New Jersey, I grew up in New Jersey, summers here are extremely hot. And the most popular kid on the block was always the one with the swimming pool. And so all the neighborhood kids would gather at this one house, right. And, you know, having having a good time splashing around and being goofy and whatever. And invariably, somebody in the pool would shout, Whirlpool. And instantly, we all knew what that meant, we would just stop what we were doing, start trotting around in a circle, make a couple of laps, and so we could pick up our feet and be carried along with the with the tide with the current. And so I thought about that, and I thought, that’s what leadership, real leadership looks like. That as a as a leader from the top down, you have a very compelling message that’s simple, that’s easy to understand. And it’s easy for people to see not just how they contribute to it, but what they’re going to gain from it such that they’re going to enthusiastically contribute to achieving that. So that’s what the Whirlpool effect is about. It’s It’s It’s truly getting business leaders to you know, go back to what’s simple and get to a message that’s compelling, easy to understand, easy to attach meaning to easy to see how it matters to me as an individual employee. And and see the results from that which are, you know, higher retention, higher productivity, greater profitability, more innovation. Better growth, better competitive edge, all of those wonderful things. And the leaders find that it’s more fun and easier to lead that way. So that’s what the Whirlpool effect is all about.
Tim Kubiak 25:12
You did two things in that explanation. You took me back to my youth, I knew exactly what you meant. No, I had no idea that that was the inspiration before asking the question. And secondly, I really do see the benefit of it.
Claire Chandler 25:24
Yeah, yeah, it’s, you know, it’s and it’s so interesting, because leaders, there are two types of leaders, there’s ambitious leaders, and there’s aspirational leaders, and ambitious leaders see the trappings of that higher office, they see the leather chair, they see the corner office, they see the better parking space, the higher car allowance, etc. The aspirational leader says, I don’t necessarily wants to be in that role. But if that is where I can best serve this company, I’m going to take on that mantle, and I’m going to see that you know, the duty I have to you know, to lead people effectively. In both cases, they can become disillusioned by the fact that leadership is not as fun as they thought it would be. You know, the ambitious one may see that it’s not even though they get all of the the compensation rewards, it’s still more difficult than they thought their power was going to, to wield, right. And the aspirational one says, I know, this is a duty, I know, this is a calling. I know this is something I need to do. But I’m somehow lacking the confidence or the competence to do this in such a way that it’s fun for them. And it’s fun for me. And so you know, that’s, that’s really part of leadership shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t be a punishment. And it really shouldn’t constrain the growth and the innovation and the, you know, the attractiveness of a company. If you do it right, from the right mindset with the right approach, the results can be amazing.
Tim Kubiak 27:04
So that leads me to an interesting question, coming from a personal place. The joke I tell people when I work with them, in even in corporate life was I was never the guy you put in charge of something that was working. I was the guy you put in when it was broke? And it was ugly to fix or it needed built. Right? Yeah. And by the way, if it worked, I learned the hard way. I break it so I could build it again. Right? In working with younger companies and high growth companies, how do you help them recognize that maybe some of the people that have been with them from the beginning, aren’t the right people to carry them where they need to go?
Claire Chandler 27:46
It’s such an important question. And it’s an extremely difficult decision point or awakening, to get leaders to. Because, you know, leaders, really good leaders, really values driven leaders are deeply loyal, not just to the idea of the company they’re trying to build, but to the people that have that have gotten them to the point that they’re at. So it is very difficult. To me, it all comes back to that that clarity of mission, one of the one of the positive outcomes are many positive outcomes to getting really, really clear on your mission and where you want to go. But one of the positive outcomes is that the clearer you are in what that mission is, how you convey how consistent you are and the connections you make between the people on your team and how they can contribute to the mission. The clearer you are in doing all of that, the more clearly people you know, the employees on your team will see their place in that structure as part of that mission, or they will see the mismatch. That doesn’t automatically mean that, you know, those certain employees are going to just step aside and take their cue and take an exit gracefully. But in a lot of cases, they do. And, you know, the the clarity of mission makes it a lot easier to have conversations around, you know, employees that are no longer the right fit, sometimes they’re not the right fit in the role that they’re in, right. So sometimes there is an opportunity for them to step up by stepping over into a different, you know, different role or a different discipline. And in some cases, it’s a complete mismatch. But the clearer you are, you know, from the from the top down and throughout the organization. This is what we’re all about. This is where we’re headed, and this is what and who we need in order to get there. It guides those conversations in a more rational way. Right. It’s the same reason that conflict resolution to one of the The biggest skill gaps in in managers and in leaders at all levels, even leaders who have decades of experience in that role. I don’t know anybody who when I use the term conflict resolution, they don’t visibly cringe. You know, it’s it’s a difficult, it’s a difficult thing. And a lot of founders and entrepreneurs are conflict averse. And so they’re, they’re always surprised when they start to hire people that they don’t just regulate themselves. It’s like, well, this isn’t a, this isn’t a consultancy, you’ve built this is an actual company with employees, they’re not, you know, independent contractors that just sort of come and go, you’ve got to provide some cohesion, which means you have to deliver very clear expectations on performance on behavior. And you have to give feedback that keeps them moving along the right, you know, the right road forward, and gets them back on the right path. If they’re not. So that clarity piece is so key to how you hire, how you how you part ways with employees and how you resolve conflict.
Tim Kubiak 31:06
So one of your articles, and you can find it on your website, I think it’s on, but you can also find it on LinkedIn. Right? So you can go to Claire Chandler dotnet, you can follow you on LinkedIn is you talk about, and I’m actually going to jump to it because I want to get the title, right, because I kept the pull up. Um, you don’t have a hiring problem, you have a culture problem. Right? How do you create a culture in a company that continues to go, right now, you know, everybody likes to point at Amazon and sale, Bezos has always said this, or Apple’s always done that or blah, blah, blah. But most companies, those are the exceptions, not the rule in most companies, cultures, I think, have to evolve, maybe as the clarity evolves, but certainly as a structure evolves,
Claire Chandler 31:54
Tim Kubiak 31:56
How do you keep the good?
Claire Chandler 31:58
What What a great, great question. And thank you for reading the article. By the way, that’s, that’s awesome. Um, you know, I truly do believe that the biggest, the biggest impact on a company’s culture is the behavior of its leaders. Leaders tend to think, well, culture is sort of, you know, bubbles up from the bottom. And it’s, and it’s an expression of, you know, the personalities of the of the collective of employees we’ve gathered. But that’s actually not true. And especially in the, in the case of startups, a startup is always, at least in the beginning, an expression of the founders personality. Always and there’s, there’s good and there’s bad in that right. And I don’t mean bad as in, you know, evil, that there’s an evil twin, be fun to work with an evil twin sometimes just to just to see how I can convert them. But that’s a story for another time. But you know, there there are always things that they are genius at typically, it’s, it’s being creative and being strategic and being the relationship builder with with clients, right. And that’s always part of the growing pain is as we grow. Um, you know, we become victims of our success, that we can’t handle the delivery and the execution of every client engagement that we enter into anymore. That’s why we need more people, right, and we need the right people. But they have to be extensions of us, they have to compliment us in areas that we are not, you know, that are not our genius zone. But they also have to deliver a consistent quality experience to the client, because the client comes on board, because they want you know, they have established a chemistry or rapport, a comfort level with that founder. And now you’re going to say I don’t really get to work with him or her, I work with a team behind them. If they are not truly a cohesive extension expression of you know, the founders vision for the company, that client engagement is likely not going to go terribly well. And it’s going to require that founder that you know, CEO, to spend an inordinate amount amount of their time and attention on keeping that relationship fresh and strong, rather than looking for the next innovation, the next client engagement. When I work with startups, they often do ask me that that question or they’re at that, you know, that struggle, that’s a key growing pain for them is, how do we how do we bottle up what is great about the founders culture and keep that going with us as we grow? Because the bigger we get, the more geographically spread out we get, the more clients we have, the more experience we gain. The higher the risk, we’re going to get separated from that, you know, that founders personality. And the answer is simple, but it’s not easy. Right? So this is this is a kind of a quick exercise that anybody can can do, at least as the first sort of, you know, starting point and even just a founder who’s thinking of adding their first their first folks because they’ve started to grow you know, you can you can do that. individually. And it’s basically if you if you picture a Venn diagram, you start with a circle that says, you know, what are all the great things about where we were in our past, when we first started out? You know, what, what was so key about why we started this business in the first place? What is unique about what we offer? What are some of the, the qualities and personality traits of the founder, that are magnetic and attractive, and, you know, positive? And let’s kind of put those in a circle. The next circle is, is the present, right? So what are our current priorities? What are things that our clients are, are looking for from us to solve, to deliver to make better, you know, to innovate, etc? And what are some of the things that are unique about that? And what are some of the skills that we’re being called upon to demonstrate right? And so that’s your second circle? And the third one is you probably guessed is future, right? Where, where do we want to get to? What is our vision for either that next plateau? Or even one, you know, 10 years down the line? What do we want to look like? What do we want to be about? You know, what, what are the types of solutions or innovations we want to offer? What are some of the the character traits and behaviors and values we want to demonstrate, and the more specificity you can build into each of those circles,
as you enlarge them, where they overlap in the middle is going to be a sweet spot of, there are certain things that overlap across the three and there are, especially from that starting box, there are going to be traits that are very key to your founding, that are still priorities now and your clients expect and that you want to retain in the future. So looking at that sweet spot. That’s really what you want to kind of package up and bottle up and make sure it is a visible, tangible, expressible part of your brand.
A little homework for your audience, their
Tim Kubiak 37:04
A little homework for the audience, I’m going to hit you with one that I don’t know you run into often, but it’s one I’ve experienced a lot. And that’s a lot of times, small companies get acquired. Sometimes they take outside money, and they have accelerated growth. And then original founder exits. Hmm. And I’ve seen a fair number of times that they bring that executive back 2,3,4 years down the road to kind of right this ship. Yeah, how can you structure if you’re the founder, your exit, especially if you have outside board members, right, in a way that can continue on and you’re less likely to get sucked back in before you earn outs over?
Claire Chandler 37:47
Oh, what an interesting question. And it’s very timely, because I literally had this conversation with a colleague of mine yesterday, who is working with a founder. on doing their rebrand, she says she’s a brilliant brand strategist. And she said, this is a founder who started the company 12 years ago, exited the company, and is now being brought back. And she’s been gone for call it five years. And she wants to bring back what was so great about that culture and the mindset and the values and the mission and all of that. And it’s crystal clear to her because it’s exactly the same as it was when she left. But the company has now evolved, and they’re five years, you know, kind of down the road. And those paths have diverged. And so what she’s struggling with is, it’s very clear in her mind, what should be about who they should hire, you know, the types of client patients they should go after, and how they should behave. And she’s struggling with getting the rest of the leadership on board with her vision. So there’s a couple of things there. You know, in hindsight, is 2020. But I think your question is, is it is a very keen one on those who are preparing for an exit. We often talk about when employees leave an organization to do an exit interview, right. And it’s one of those things that unfortunately, in a lot of companies, if they do them at all, it’s a check the box exercise, they take the feedback, they don’t do anything with it, and they file it in a you know, you know, in a box somewhere, to make themselves feel good that they actually did it. And so, that’s definitely a mistake and we could talk about that another time. But you know, with with a founder, the exit strategy is as critical as the re entry, right? So the exit strategy to the to the, to the degree that the founder can have some control over this and typically they can because they can negotiate, not just their beliefs, but if they’re going to be called back, but as they go sheet their, their exit their graceful exit, making it continue no making part of that contingency that they retain certain quality of certain aspects, you know that that sort of past and current bubble of that Venn diagram that we spoke about, you know, so that even if you don’t envision you’re going to return, that, you know, I’m recalling Jim Collins Good to Great, right, the best companies are those that that not just survive, but continue to thrive, you know, 510 15 years after the founder had over the CEO has exited. And so it’s in the best interest of the acquiring company, to keep that success going, their priority is to incorporate them into their, into their larger culture into their way of doing things. But I have more, unfortunately, much more often than not seen, the company that gets acquired, not get very purposefully integrated into the bigger company. And what happens is, there’s no real strategic plan for for either incorporating them and a cultural, you know, integrating them into their own culture, or leaving them alone and letting them you know, kind of keep going autonomously with the culture that they’ve built and created. It’s typically a hybrid of the two, because they both kind of fail, right. And that’s why a lot of mergers, you know, crash and burn, they don’t get the returns that you hoped for. So it’s, so it’s two things from the from the founder standpoint, it’s, you know, make part of your exit, you know, conditions that they retain certain aspects of, you know, the culture that you’ve built in the, in the values in the, you know, sort of the personality. But for the acquiring company, as well make a very, very clear decision and stick to it on whether you are going to fully integrate them into your culture, your processes, your norms, or you’re going to run them as a successful offshoot of you, whose culture is so strong, and get such positive results that you don’t want to mess with success. So those are really the two keys in my mind when you talk about a merger and acquisition.
Tim Kubiak 42:26
So it stopped just eliminating duplicate positions and saving money to the bottom line. Fascinating. No.
Claire Chandler 42:34
Surprise, right. And that’s all they focus on. And then they are surprised that acquisition after acquisition fails, because that’s what they focus on. I don’t know about you, but I don’t walk very effectively backwards. And leaders, you know, they want to move their companies forward. But they focus on walking backwards. And what I mean by that is they focus on lagging indicators. They say, you know, we had a, we had a substandard financial quarter, last quarter, or, you know, we lost some key hires, so we’re going to backfill, like, for, like, whatever those duties were, we’re going to hire somebody else, you can do those responsibilities. That’s not the way to grow a company. That’s not the way to evolve a company. Every setback is an opportunity to build a stronger business, a stronger culture, you know, a culture and an environment and a business that will help you innovate and grow. And if you’re constantly looking at what happened a quarter ago, a month ago, an employee ago, you’re walking backwards, and you’re not going to see where you’re going. And you’re going to be surprised when the trajectory you’re now on, is nowhere near the moon shot that you had planned.
Tim Kubiak 43:48
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. I’ve actually preached it for years. And as a sales leader, it’s a dangerous philosophy, but you can’t manage your business quarter to quarter, and you can’t even manage it year to year. If you’re not looking three to five years out and have the patience to get there, then you’re going to just keep adjusting course changing staff changing executives, right. And it’s a vicious cycle. And once it starts, it’s hard to stop. That’s right.
Claire Chandler 44:19
That’s right. And it you know, the the statistic is scary, and I forget, but I think it’s like two thirds of new executives fail. More than 50% of startups fail. And part of that reason is because especially for CEOs, they are they’re beholden to their shareholders, their board of directors, right. And so they’re looking at this lagging indicators and saying you have an 18 month window to get this company on the right road to get it to you know, X percent profitability and to you know, turn around what is not working When you only have an 18 month window, to really put your stamp on things and to and to fix what’s broken to write the ship and to and to build it stronger, it is impossible to look long term. And I agree with you, that’s exactly where you should be looking. But we no longer have CEOs who have, you know, 10 and 15 to 20 or 10 years, they’ve got an 18 month window, whether they’re hired from the outside or growth within, you know, to to build a better mousetrap. And it’s a it’s a system, it’s set up for failure, in my opinion.
Tim Kubiak 45:31
in, you know, it’s interesting, I have a CEO that I had worked for, that had a big company background that recently had something like that happened to him. And he’s in the midst of a changing industry. So the industry’s, you know, tried to get three years worth of work done in a year and a half. And that was almost dead on knows, a tough job.
Claire Chandler 45:52
Yeah. And it’s, you know, it’s interesting, you talked about you, you, you don’t want to come into a situation where everything’s working, right, you want things that are that are broken, you know, I always laugh at it, when we put an executive or a senior leader who specializes in turnarounds in fixing what’s broken. And we, you know, we put them into a into a project site at a company or an operation or a division that needs to turn around that has had years of steady decline because of poor leadership, or we’re, you know, myriad other things. And we say, this place is a mess, you’re a turnaround specialist, we’re going to give you whatever resources, whatever backing whatever autonomy, you need to get it done. And week two, they turn around, and they start beating up that turnaround manager for the results that they’re getting. And it’s like, Wait a second, it took us 357 years to get to this place. What happened to all the support and the rah rah, and we’ve got your back, and we realize this is going to take some time, that all fell apart, because we have such a short term memory for knowing that, you know, positive change often takes more than one quarter or one year. And we just you’re absolutely right. The tolerance for slow and steady growth, for learning and for failing forward are very, very low.
Tim Kubiak 47:17
Yeah, everybody wants to make that acquisition and get the hockey stick growth. Everybody wants to the silver bullet that, Hey, I know we’ve lost 50% of market share, but we got it back in 12 weeks. It’s amazing. Right? Right, right. Barring inventory constraints, that’s not going to happen,
Claire Chandler 47:34
rRght supply chain and all that fun stuff. That’s right.
Tim Kubiak 47:37
Yeah. Which is a whole nother topic, your website, you have a couple of different programs on it, do you mind sharing with what they are? And maybe who’s a good fit for you?
Claire Chandler 47:46
Yes. So I, as you probably have guessed, throughout this conversation, I specialize in working with CEOs, founders and business owners, on you know, from from startup to mid sized companies that are at a point where they want to scale want to get to the next level, you know, and, and don’t necessarily know, all the things they don’t know, right, and they want to avoid the growing pains of, you know, not necessarily having all the right people, not necessarily having the right leadership structure and processes in place, you know, starting to see the level of service and customer satisfaction drop off because people are getting distracted by all the things required to to pivot and to scale. So I work with, you know, the top leadership down, because that’s really where that stabilization has to start. It’s with getting that clarity around your, your mission, the fundamentals that you’re going to need to, you know, to compel that mission forward. And, and all the sort of the talent, people leadership, process infrastructure that’s going to be required to, to support that. So I do that in a variety of ways. And, you know, if people are curious, I would love them to visit Claire Chandler dotnet, you’ll find out more about me, there is a media page where you can learn a little bit more about my reverent take on things. And then there’s a resources page, the resources page, I’m continually adding to but there are some, some free goodies on there, that will really help you know, leaders of companies of any size really kind of diagnose where they are currently, you know, in terms of the the mission readiness of their company, the the the real cost of the turnover that they’re experiencing, and all the money that they’re leaving on the table. That one tends to make people kind of freak out a little bit. So that’s not for the faint of heart. But definitely they should they should look at that. And
Tim Kubiak 49:57
There’s some other there so read it before bedtime.
Claire Chandler 49:59
Yeah, what I would definitely not do that as your nighttime activity. But it’s you know, it’s there are a couple of really good sort of diagnostic tools in there. And then there’s a variety of ways that people can can reach out to me and set up some time, you know, have a have a no cost, no obligation chat, we’ll kind of talk about where you are, what you’re, you know, what’s kind of rattling around your head and see if we can clear out some of the as I call it, the head trash and get you on the right road.
Tim Kubiak 50:28
So how do you define a midsize company for yourself when the clients you work with? Because that’s could be a broad spectrum, right? It could be 10,000 employees could be 100.
Claire Chandler 50:37
Yeah, so my sweet spot is really companies, I do have some companies that are smaller than 100 employees. My sweet spot, though, is really the 250 to 5000 employees. And I know that sounds like a like a big sweet spot. But it really does. Like I said, I mean, industry to industry and company size might vary. But a lot of those core issues are very, very similar. When you peel away the symptoms, right? When you peel away the symptoms, and you get down to the misalignment and the lack of clarity at the senior leadership levels. Once we fix that, a lot of those other symptoms start to go away. And then you really start to you know, take the take the brakes off and really let let things fly.
Tim Kubiak 51:24
Just a question, knowing your background. Are some of the companies you work with you help them with multinational or international expansion because then then that size, I would think you’d start to get into that.
Claire Chandler 51:34
It starts to get into that I I don’t specialize as much with international although I have advised some companies that are going in that direction. I do typically focus on on the US leadership on but I have worked with with leaders in Canada and in Europe.
Tim Kubiak 51:53
Yeah, it because that’s a whole different ball of wax. Right? Yeah, Americans, I worked for a Brit and his name was Simon. I worked from for five years, I came back and took a role in North America. And I walked into the first North American board meeting and I was interacting the way I’d become accustomed to in the UK, because that’s just what you do. And everybody’s like, man, are you doing jerk? Yeah, what did you What is wrong with you? They’re like texting him. He texts me. He’s like, what are you doing? I’m like, talking like I talked to you.
Claire Chandler 52:22
You know, and I’ve worked for a bunch of Brits, one of the the best CEO I ever worked for and with was was a Brit. And they are very, he was kind of a unicorn, he was just so special. But a lot of the other British managers were also great, but very performance management metrics focused. And it’s Yeah, if you if you don’t see that coming, you can very easily you know, misread them as as sort of crusty and cold.
Tim Kubiak 52:53
Yeah, exactly. He’s just trying to go five questions deep and I just got in the habit. So it happens. I love it. So you get a great YouTube, right, we’ve talked about your website, you’ve got a podcast you haven’t talked about that at all. So once you once you tell people what they’re going to hear what they’re going to find on there and where to find it.
Claire Chandler 53:13
Yeah, so I actually don’t have my own podcast. I’ve been doing several episodes such as you know, coming on to your great show and talking with you know, established podcast hosts, but I’ve been on several now and they’ll your audience can find those on Claire Chandler dotnet, and also on SoundCloud, but the link is on the homepage of my website.
Tim Kubiak 53:36
Okay, beautiful. Claire, thanks for being here today. Really enjoyed the conversation.
Claire Chandler 53:43
Same here. I appreciate you having me on.