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Episode #124
Jason Forrest

From 7-Figure Solo Consultant To 30 Employees

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Running a business or organization is always better when we have the right mentors, coaches, and trainers to improve our processes, sales, and workforce quality. That is why it’s crucial to remember and acknowledge the value a coach brings to a business. In this episode, host Michael Zipursky interviews author and the Chief Culture Officer of Forrest Performance Group, Jason Forrest about his career journey in consultancy and how his consultancy is improving company cultures, redefining trainings, and transforming lives within an organization.

I’m here with Jason Forrest. Jason, welcome.

It’s great to be here. I’m very excited to be a part of this.

You’re an author, CEO and Chief Culture Officer of Forrest Performance Group, an Inc. 500 fastest-growing company in America. You’ve given hundreds of keynote speeches a year. You’ve been consulting and coaching for quite some time. I know what a CEO is, but a lot of people might wonder, “What does a chief cultural officer actually do?” Take us through what does that role look like for you.

First off, to me, a CEO stands for Chief Everything Officer. One of the main roles with the CEO is to pivot to the area that they need to spend the most time and focus on. Several years ago, I wanted to create the best place to work environment, which we have won four times in a row, Best Places To Work in Fort Worth out of 80,000 businesses. Culture is everything. Culture is what happens behind the boss’s back. If you’re looking to create a company to scale, then the only way to do that is to say, “How do I clone myself?” For example, when I first started my consulting business, it was working out of my house. I had an assistant and I outsourced some stuff. We did $1.2 million in twelve months with just myself and less than $200,000 in overhead. That’s great but I was maxed out. I was doing 100 different keynotes a year and close to 1,000 hours of coaching and consulting calls. I filmed the videos myself and edited myself. Everything was me.

The idea was, “I want to scale this. How do I clone myself as much as possible?” That’s culture. Harvard Business has a great quote that says, “70% of the worth of an organization is in their intellectual property and their human capital,” which is crazy. I used to be a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch and have licenses for that back in the day. You wouldn’t look at the value of a company like that. You would look at it based on their sales, revenue and other things, but that’s not true. It’s 30% of that stuff and 70% is the human capital and the culture. The number one profit leak in an organization is people’s productivity. They say that on average, an employee only gives you 40% of a given workweek. It’s about how do we dial it up.

Talk to me a little bit about what was going through your mind? The audience might be going, “Jason got his business. He was a consultant and a coach up to $1.2 million. He was busy. There are a lot of people in that situation who are then afraid to make that leap to scaling the business because they’ve been in the corporate world. They’ve been in positions where they’ve had to manage people. They don’t necessarily want to manage people anymore. They don’t want a lot of complexity. What was going through your mind when you decided to make that leap from you as a solo consultant to building a business with a lot more human capital?

Culture is everything. It’s what happens behind the boss's back. Click To Tweet

When people procrastinate on doing any goal that they want in life, there are a few reasons. Number one is they don’t have a strong enough compelling vision. They don’t have a strong enough why. I would say the second reason is they don’t necessarily know how. The third reason is they’ve got some leash, some mental resistance that’s holding them back. If you look at the first one, what is their why? What’s the benefit for them to scale their business? In my case, the benefit was definitely not profiting because as you can imagine with $1.2 million and a couple of $100,000 in overhead, I was making a lot of money back in my pocket.

Immediately to bring in more people, my profitability would go down. My compelling vision was I believe that I had a training program that was better than what other people were offering out there. I believe that other people were hurting customers. I was on a mission to redefine training, change the culture and transform lives. My compelling vision was so strong. It said, “I’m going to take the leap. I’m going to do this.” The last thing is the leash because everyone can talk about the how. The how is easy. You can read a book called Scaling Up or Traction, you can figure all those systems out. There are four types of leashes I talked about a lot. One is a story and a story is anything external.

The second one is self-image. I don’t believe I have the identity to pull this off. The third is reluctance, a reluctance as a situational fear. The last is a rule, and a rule is anything I need to see, feel or hear in order to give myself permission to engage and move forward, whatever’s stopping them. To me, a person should do the self-work and ask themselves, “What’s the problem I’m trying to solve? If I scale this, is it bigger than whatever potential obstacle I feel like I’m going to have in the way?” In the case of, “I don’t want to coach with the complexities of having people. I don’t want to run in systems.” You can hire an integrator or an operator and you’ve got to relinquish control. You’ve got a set of standards and these are all things you can do to make it happen, which is what we’ve done.

When you went from that business doing $1.2 million essentially with yourself to starting to build your team, what happened? The reality of your profit and revenue, how did those move as you made that transition to building your team? What should people expect when they make a leap?

The first thing that happens is you have to start getting people to become you. For example in my case as a consultant, talking to other consultants out there, you’re the guru that has all the information. What I had to do very quickly, and I didn’t learn this in the first year, I had to get people to become versions of me. I developed a concept called No Show, Do Teach. The first thing I do is I bring a person on. There’s another trainer or consultant and I give them the knowledge of, “Here’s what I’m teaching someone,” or “Here’s the advice I’m giving.” I make sure they understand the why and the how and then show. They shadow me and then they do it and I shadow them and give them feedback. They have to teach it to someone else. That’s that mastery process. I would say the biggest thing where I failed, in the beginning, is I hired people and I wouldn’t let go of my own clients because I was scared.

What were you scared of? What was going through your mind?

CSP 124 | Improving Company Culture

I was scared that I had all this revenue and immediately if I stop working with the clients, then I would lose the revenue. If I said, “I’m not working with you anymore. I’m going to hand you off to someone else because I’m not doing that anymore.” I was worried about that transition and there’s always an awkward transition because at that time I was fully booked, so I had zero time to develop anyone else. I went through several trainers or consultants that failed in the beginning. I didn’t give them the proper onboarding, training, coaching because I wouldn’t let go of the business. I don’t take on any new clients.

When you said that it was a mistake, why was it a mistake? What should you in hindsight have done differently around letting go of your own clients? What was the reality of that situation? How would you handle it now knowing what you know?

What I would do back then, which is what we do now, is that if I’m going to transition a client off of me and onto another trainer, that person will co-lead with me. I would use that No Show, Do Teach concept. I would teach them on the side as much as possible and then they would shadow me. I would give them feedback on what I was doing, making sure they understood how to think as I think and do like I do. We would co-lead some things and then I would give them feedback and eventually, they would do it all and I would give them feedback and then I would let them go. I didn’t do that early on. I didn’t develop them at all. We give them the business and they would figure it out on their own and I would still have my own portfolio over here. They didn’t succeed.

That’s fantastic advice for a lot of people who are in that exact spot looking at like, “How do I transition? How do I bring on a new team member? How do I do that successfully?” Your background is sales. You’ve been in sales for a long time. Some might look at that and go, “Naturally, Jason uses sales skills to get his first few clients and build the business.” Was that the case? How did you go about getting your first few clients? How did that get you to their first $1 million and beyond? Was it pure cold calling and networking? What were you doing to build your book of business in the early days?

We still do that to this day, which is interesting. My sales guys do the same thing I did. We use this assessment tool called SPQ, which measures the situational reluctances that a salesperson has. There are sixteen different reluctances. It’s a third-party company called Behavioral Sciences Research Press. We’re their leading distributors of this product. We grew a lot of programs off of it. What I would do is I would give some value-add. I would call a person and I would sell them on the importance of making sure they understand who their salespeople are, how to hire correctly. The test is $200 apiece. I would say, “Here’s the deal. I believe so much in the efficacy of this test that I’m going to give you this assessment. I’m going to give you one for free. Don’t tell me who the salesperson is. Don’t tell me if they’re the bottom producer, average or top. I will tell you who they are. I will tell you where they fall. I will tell you what’s holding them back and what excuses they’re giving you. If I’m correct and I can prove the validity of it and we’ll go from there.” I did a lot of that stuff in the beginning.

Were you calling people that you had absolutely no connection with where it’s finding their name, information, and then picking up the phone and calling them? Were there any seeds that you’re planting beforehand, value-giving before you were making that call? Was it a straight call?

70% of the worth of an organization is in their intellectual property and their human capital. Click To Tweet

We still do both, but a lot of it was a strict cold call. I would write articles and I did write a book quickly. I’m big on writing executive summaries and site-type of books that the people read and don’t just stay on the bookshelf. I’ve spent my whole life listening to the executive summary type of things. I write a book you can read within an hour or a little booklet. I would send that to people and then I would be on the call with them. I’d be pretty courageous. I would say things like, “You haven’t even had a chance to look at it yet? No problem. Do me a favor and open the book and thumb through anything. The first thing that catches your attention, tell me what it is.”

In that case, I wrote a book that I literally made certain paragraphs and certain sentences big and bold. I would force the reader to pay attention to certain lines and they’d say whatever the thing was. I would leverage that and get it positioned as a strength. Why did they send it out to you? How would that benefit you? How is that different from you’re thinking now or different than what your people are currently doing? I would use techniques like that to get some leverage. I call it a position of strength and selling. Position of strength is the most important thing, in my opinion when it comes to selling. What specifically do you offer them? Can you do for them that would benefit them, would move them towards improvement and move them away from pain? It’s not you telling them that. It’s giving them some options and then they pick something and then you leverage that. You maximize that. That’s where that value comes in.

Is that the assessment that you offered to people, “It’s a $200 value, but I’m going offer it to you for free.” You do not need to sell yourself. You’re offering something of value to them, which probably lowers their resistance. They don’t feel like they have to make a decision about you. It’s something that they can appreciate in terms of value. It makes the follow-up conversation much easier and much smoother.

It’s high value, low time on their part and it’s a pretty ballsy claim. In the book thing, it says, “Anything that you find in the book will be a value to you if you just flip through.” That’s a confident thing to say or in the assessment, it’s, “I guarantee you that I can tell you if a sales producer is bottom, middle or high, and what specifically their excuses are.” Who doesn’t want to know? That’s like a tarot card reader. They want to figure that out. How do you know that?

How did you figure that out? How did you come up with that strategy, that approach? That in itself is unique. The whole positioning, the way you laid it out, you’ve always choreographed it and thought about how to make that stand out and to convey a lot of value through it. What were you trying to accomplish in developing that approach? Were you testing it?

One of the ways that we got to a million followers on Facebook is we did a lot of hypothesized tests and pivots. We use that philosophy a lot. In this case, I wouldn’t say arrogance, but it was a tremendous amount of confidence that I had a lot of efficacy in what I was teaching or in this case, this assessment or this book, whatever it was that I knew in my heart it could solve a problem they have. In my world, it’s easy because everyone’s got a sales problem. In most cases, no one ever says, “We want to sell less.” They always want to sell more. I have a pretty easy thing in my opinion. Where people get reluctant with me or they get skeptical with me is they’ve done sales training in the past and it doesn’t work. I wrote a book called WTF: Why Training Fails and $164 billion are spent every year on some training and 70% fails to reach its ROI. There’s a lot of skepticism out there when it comes to training in general. People are trying to change the name, they call it development or whatever they get away from it. I’m big on, how do I confront that head-on? The book says WTF on it and it catches people’s attention.

CSP 124 | Improving Company Culture

They’re thinking of something else when they first see WTF. You’ve built the business to this point where you have 30 employees. How has your marketing changed? How has your approach to sales changed over the years? What are you doing differently now compared to what you were doing before? Is there anything that stands out as, “This is a real takeaway. I wished that I would’ve been doing this earlier?”

We still do all of that stuff. The difference is I have a sales team that scales it.

You’ve replicated yourself. There’s a whole bunch of Jasons and other people, Jills that are doing what you were doing. How about the methods?

The method hasn’t changed from that standpoint. I would say the things that we’ve gotten smarter on is we do a thing called a cookie funnel, which to get a person to talk to us, we will send a sales team a box of cookies. It says it’s from FPG. It doesn’t say anything about us. A good majority of them will email back, “You got my attention. What do you guys do?” That’s one. If they don’t call us at all, then we’ll call them and say, “We want to make sure you got the cookies and wanted to check in on that.” We’ll leverage that and turn that into something else.

We’ve sent people pizzas. We’ve gone to Domino’s and delivered pizzas to people to get them to talk to us. Our team is good and we live by what we preach. We have a discipline 5-4-3 sales process that we follow when we teach. When they get on the phone with them and they get them to talk to them, we follow that process. We do a lot of posting on LinkedIn and Facebook, but anytime someone comments, then my sales team is immediately reaching out to that person. “I’m glad that you commented on that. What did you like about it specifically? I’d like to have a conversation with you.”

We’re following up on comments, which I guarantee you most human beings are not doing that. They’ll post something on LinkedIn. This show, for example, I guarantee you my team will take this and they will chop it up into segments, into sound bites. They will repost it on LinkedIn and people will engage in it. You will watch my team immediately reach out to the people who are engaging, liking it or commenting on our conversation. They will leverage it and try to get on the phone with them and make them a client. We can add value.

The number one profit leak in an organization is people's productivity. Click To Tweet

You’ve talked a lot about this idea of there’s a lot of sales training out there at WTF but a lot of it fails. What’s different about what you do? What is the secret sauce? If you had to point out 1 or 2 things that differentiate or are set a different way and help your clients to see success and to achieve that true ROI, what is it?

We have a five-step process. Number one is everything we teach is tactical and chunked down, which sounds ridiculous. It’s amazing how many training programs are out there. We do leadership training and we do sales management training. We do salesperson training and customer service training. We do different areas as well, but everything we do is step-by-step. For example, if you go to our competitors, they will tell you what to do and even why to do it. People are left with, “How can I do this?” Challenger is a big competitor of ours and not to bash them. Challenger has been good for us. We’ve got a lot of business off of Challenger. Challenger would tell you, “It’s important to challenge the customer’s perspective to give them insight.” People buy into that stuff like, “How in the world do I even do that? When do I give them insight?”

They’re not getting the scripts or the wording or the exact 1, 2 and 3.

We’ve got a 5, 4, 3, so it’s twelve different steps into the process. It’s chunked down. Even within the steps, there are steps and so forth. Number one is tactical. Number two is mindset-based. Everything we do is about removing the leashes, the rules, the reluctances, the stories, and the self-image that prevents them from doing the tactical training. That’s a big thing. The mindset is huge for us.

How do you deliver that to your clients? Mindset is one of these things that for some people, they understand and they know that they need to be stronger or to expand their mindset. Even when they still face the truth, they don’t necessarily implement it. How do you help your clients to benefit from that understanding around mindset?

Myself and Mary Marshall, the President of the company, we’re both one of less than 2,000 in the world master practitioners in neuro-linguistic programming. We use a lot of cognitive-behavioral therapy. We’ve developed that. In every video that we teach them some tactical things, there’s also some belief stuff that goes with that as well as we do a monthly masterclass around mindset. We’re taking these concepts of, “What is holding you back from doing this?” You post something on social media and people comment on it. What’s stopping you from picking up the phone or LinkedIn message to them and having a conversation with them? Ask that question and that’ll tell you the story, the self-image, the reluctance or rule that’s preventing them from doing, “I don’t want to wait.”

CSP 124 | Improving Company Culture

There are many people who are leaving opportunities like that on the table, every single day where there’s some hesitation or something that’s holding them back from doing that. I want to thank you for sharing that because I hope that people reading this is going to take that to heart and take action on it.

The third thing is everything we do is a program-based approach versus an event-based approach. Learning is a through time process. It is not a one and done process. It’s completely false. That’s why training fails. People call themselves trainers, but you can’t change behavior in a one-day event. It’s impossible. If you learned the concept that only 5% of our decisions are made from a conscious perspective on a daily basis, 95% are made from a subconscious perspective. 70% of those subconscious programming was created by the age of seven. Another 30% was created at the age of thirteen. If what you want from your conscious perspective of, “Here’s what I want to achieve in my life.” If it’s not in alignment with your subconscious, 95% you’re never going to get it. You’re going to hit a wall. You have to change that through habituation, through the mindset thing. We do programs. It’s experiential learning, weekly calls, seminars, the whole program.

Is that delivered for each client individually? Are you opening it up to all of your clients as almost like a group coaching type of, “If you’re one of our clients, you get access to this weekly training?” How do you structure and deliver that for your clients?

It depends on their investment. If it’s an individual consultant, salesperson, a small business, they can join one of our public type of deals, even though those are less than fifteen people per Zoom. You’ve got fifteen people in a Zoom coming together in a public seminar going through the curriculum, the 21-week follow-up program. If it’s an enterprise client or a sales team of ten or more people, they would have a private program that would be just those people in that company going through the curriculum together on that weekly basis. It’s different. On our calls, what’s different is that we’re not talking in theory about, “Did you like the concept?” It’s, “Tell me about a customer you’re working and let’s talk specifically about how it works and what stopped you from doing it.”

It was a lot of accountability on those to remove and bust those leashes down. That’s that program-based approach. The fourth thing is sales management coaching. We will not do a sales training program unless it’s for an individual. For the company, we will not do a sales training program unless the sales managers go through leadership sales coaching as well, which turns them into high-performance coaches and shows them how to follow the four-stage coaching process in a coaching methodology. All the research says that you get three times greater performance when the sales manager is going through the same program and coaching as the salesperson is going through. That’s a huge thing. The last thing is the culture. Culture is like the umbrella fifth step where we work with the C-Suite and the CRM, rewards, compensation, hiring, assessments, all that cultural stuff to reinforce what we’re asking them to do to change that individual behavior. We’ve got to make sure all that is in alignment from an organizational development perspective.

It makes sense. I have two final questions here for you, Jason. How has your pricing changed over the years as you’ve added more team members? You’re working both with individuals, small business owners as well as large organizations. What’s happened to your pricing as the business has grown? Have you found that you’ve productized more and you’ve been able to bring prices down to make it more accessible to more people? Have you increased your prices as you’ve created greater results? Have you changed your compensation models where you’re taking a percentage of an increase in revenue? What is your pricing strategy or thoughts around pricing as the business has evolved?

The most important thing when it comes to selling is what you specifically offer people and what would benefit them. Click To Tweet

We’ve added this individual product. It’s $5,000 and they go through four days of seminars over eleven months and 21 follow-ups and the videos. Before, we didn’t have that. Before, an individual person will be priced out of our program. That’s very reasonable and that’s very aligned with the market. We’ve also added the monthly masterclass that we do. That’s $20 a person per month to be part of that masterclass thing. We have offered and created some other pieces.

Why do you do that? If you had the larger organizations that you are serving, why not just stay focused on that? What was the decision strategically within the organization to add that additional layer?

I felt that when you look at something like Sandler. It owns the space in the individual small-business sales training and we did not have that space. We weren’t in that space. We feel that their program is very outdated. I’m not saying it’s not a good value, it doesn’t have the mindset piece. It doesn’t have as much follow-up. It’s not as tactical. It’s not as relevant. We just feel like it misses the mark. We felt that we had a lot of requests from the market that said, “I have to use Sandler. I’d rather use Warrior Selling in FPG, but I know my company’s not doing this. We can’t afford it.” We listened to the market in that case and we wanted more people to have access to it. As far as our pricing is concerned, I would say our pricing is relatively the same.

It’s probably gone up maybe 10% in the several years. Through infrastructure, systems and processes, and different things, we have been able to increase our profit by leveraging different resources. The profits got up because I don’t do the training anymore. As a consultant, I charge $20,000 for a keynote. When I first started, I was charging, $3,000 for a day. I’ve got people that are doing that at a much lesser rate. The same price I used to charge, we’re charging but I’m not doing it anymore.

It’s like coming back to the original point where you were at full capacity. You’re doing over $1 million and then building out. Initially, I’m guessing your profit went down as you have to add on all those additional resources, but the revenue top line was growing. Do you remember how long it took you to get your profit back to where it was when it was the one-man show?

Probably 6 or 7 years.

Now that you’ve reached that place, it’s an investment well worth it and you create a lot more leverage in time for you that you didn’t have to do everything.

I’m more of an artist, which I assume a lot of people reading are as well. Most businesses are started by an artist. They have something they want to create and give their art to the world. In my case, I love creating new material and new content. I love solving new problems. The coolest thing for me is it allows me to make that happen. For example, I tell my company all the time that my employees are my human guinea pigs. Every Monday, we have a thing called Monday mission meeting and then Thursday, I have a thing called a leading-edge meeting. These are two hours where I take my 30-plus employees and I’m teaching them something that I’ve been working on the last seven days.

It’s the most original concept that I’m dissecting. We have this big theme in our office called abundance and we’re getting ready for 2020 on abundance. I’m taking them through all kinds of exercises to remove their self-worth issues and their image issues about giving themselves a pay raise. This is just an accountant. I pushed the envelope a lot and that brings me a lot of joy because I can do what I want to do and at the same time, get the kinks out and then what makes a difference, then we can turn into a program and sell it to the world.

CSP 124 | Improving Company Culture

You have your book, The Mindset of a Sales Warrior. You share mindsets and strategies that make up the top 1%. We’ve talked a fair bit already about mindset and the importance of it. Is there any other mindset or one point from that book that you’d want to bring forward and share with people? I want to make sure that we can let them know how to go and find out more about it and all of your other work and your company. What stands out? What does maybe one powerful mindset or way of thinking that someone could implement that could benefit them even starting in the future?

The whole book is all around how do I increase my goal level when it comes to self-promoting and engaging and bringing in more business? How do I increase my motivation? How do I decrease the four types of leashes: self-image, stories, rules and reluctances? It’s 42 strategies on how to do all of that. One would be the technique that I gave, which is the procrastination concept of a compelling vision and removing the leashes. An easy one specifically is whenever you have something you want to strengthen, you want to create an affirmation around it.

Anything you want to weaken, you want a question. For example, let’s go back to the idea of putting something on LinkedIn or Facebook and someone engages in it, an article, a video, whatever. I need to go follow-up that person and see if I can provide value and generate some business from it. The first question you would ask is, what stops me from doing that? That would identify the leash and then the leash will come up and they’ll say, “I don’t want to come across being too pushy.” “What’s your strategy to not come across too pushy?” “I’m going to continue giving them more value and see what they do.”

“How many pieces of value do you want to do before you’re going to reach out and contact them?” “Five pieces of value.” “If they have a problem they need to be solved, is it possible that they will be able to get to those five pieces of value before their business can go down and go under? You could serve them. How do you know it’s going to be true that they’re going to talk to you after five pieces of value?” A lot of that is questioning it. What you’re doing by questioning the leash is you’re making it ridiculous because if you questioned that, you disassociate and go, “There’s no evidence to prove that if I did five pieces of value that they’re going to pick my phone.” What’s the evidence to prove that they’re not going to talk to you if you call them? Maybe they will talk to me. It’s that questioning process. Of the 42 strategies, that would be one. There are some exercises in there that I take them through. It’s very tactical.

It’s the importance of working with a coach. Regardless of what stage you’re at in your business, some of these questions you mentioned, that’s the value that a coach can bring. Hopefully, they’re challenging you on some of your ways of thinking. That situation that you brought up would be a common and powerful conversation to have. Let’s make sure that people can learn more about your book and what you have going on. Where should people go, Jason, to get a hold of all that?

If they go to, what we’re offering is they can get the book for free. We are asking to pay for shipping and handling, which is less than $10. If they don’t want to do that, they can go to Amazon and pay $26 plus shipping and handling for the book. Inside of that, there are several other offers as well. You’re going to pay an extra $30 and you get the audiobook where Mary and I discuss each chapter in great depth. I also have some hypnosis tracks. I’m certified at this when it comes to business, and so I have some hypnosis tracks that I can take them through on removing these leashes, these blockages, some affirmations and posters. I have some recordings of coaching sessions I’ve done with salespeople on breaking their leashes down. They can listen to that. There are a lot of cool things they can get in there.

I want to thank you so much for coming on here and sharing some of your journey and wisdom with us.

Thank you very much.

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