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Episode #215
Felix Velarde

Pulling the Right Levers for Rapid Consulting Revenue Growth

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Summary

Growing the revenue of your consulting business is not an easy task. There are many ways to do this whether it be marketing yourself better or having a clear proposition. Launch your consulting business by pulling the right levers with your host Michael Zipursky and his guest Felix Velarde. Felix is the CEO of The 2Y3X Programme. He is also the author of Scale at Speed. Join Michael and Felix as they discuss why your core values need to be aligned with your team’s values. Learn how teaching played a big role in Felix’s scaling journey. Also, find out how to properly sell to your target audience. All of these things will accumulate to growing your consulting business. Join in and start learning!

I’m very excited to have Felix Velarde with us. Felix, welcome.

It’s lovely to be here. Thanks, Michael.

You are a keynote speaker, author, adjunct professor, also CEO of the 2Y3X Programme. You’re a specialist on fast growth, mergers, acquisitions, strategic mentoring, value proposition development, and a whole bunch of other stuff that falls under the umbrella of being a serial entrepreneur. You accumulate a lot of experience over the years. The word serial entrepreneur is one that a lot of people like to throw around.

I remember a point in time where it was almost like a badge of honor to say that. When you looked at their profiles or what they had done, maybe they had 1 or 2 companies, but you truly have a serial background in terms of multiple different organizations that you’ve worked in and grown. You have a new book out called Scale at Speed: How to Triple the Size of Your Business and Build a Superstar Team.

I want to dig into that because there’s a lot of information in there that our audience and community of consultants here could find beneficial. Before we get into all the strategies and tactics on how people can grow their businesses, let’s go back in time a little bit to 1994. You started one of the first specialist digital creative companies. First, tell us, what does that mean being a specialist digital creative company? What were you doing that?

It’s a fancy way of saying that I started one of the first web design companies. It was one of the first six. I used to think he was one of the first five and then somebody corrected me. It may be somewhere in the first twenty. It was the same year that the web had its very first commercial website. I was there completely by accident on day one. It was fun.

What did you learn from that time or that experience that you still keep with you to this day or that maybe you’ve pulled through the different organizations and companies that you’ve built to this point?

Whether you are going to succeed or fail, it's all about who you surround yourself with. Their values need to be congruent with yours. Click To Tweet

Core values are everything. My first agency was called HyperInteractive and we became famous for being the first creative digital agency. There were others who were much bigger and much better than us that were technical or marketing focused. Some of those became globally known giants. Mine was cute and exquisitely creative. I had amazing partners and amazing people working within the business doing amazing stuff. I got to be the guy who waved his arms around a lot and spoke at conferences.

The thing that I learned was in the breakup of my partnership with my business partner, which led to me exiting the business and then starting my next business, which was even more creative and successful, it all comes down to your personal values. Whether you are going to succeed or fail is about who you surround yourself with. The people that you surround yourself with the need to have values that are congruent with your own. What I mean by that is it’s going to be extremely difficult for you to trust somebody if one of your values is constant learning and it’s not one of theirs.

You’re going to find yourself asking them to do stuff that requires constant learning. They are going to be incapable of doing it because it’s not one of their things. Integrity, honor, diligence, or an eye for detail, I don’t have any detail at all, but all of my colleagues all over the world and through several different companies have all shared that honor thing because it happens to be the thing that’s my central value.

Core values are not the crap you see on people’s websites. I want to emphasize, this is not the customer comes first. This is what’s buried deep in you that you’re not going to change. If you surround yourself with people who share your core values, then you know that they’re going to behave in predictable ways under tough situations. Growing a business is all about dealing with tough situations and being able to rely on other people because if you can’t rely on everybody else and it comes down to you, then you’re the bottleneck. I’ve been there and it’s stressful.

All of our audience will know that I’m in strong agreement with you. We did an episode on the importance of values in business and developing those values. That’s something that we as a company have gone through over the last little while, where we’ve embraced this. If you go to ConsultingSuccess.com, in Our Story section, we have our values there. We spend a lot of time developing those with all our team members.

To some reading, this idea of values they’ve heard of before, it still sounds a little bit squishy and may not be relevant to an independent solo consultant or even a very small team. In your experience, at what stage should somebody be thinking about values? Is it relevant even if you’re a one-person organization or is it only when you get to a level where you have team members?

You know what your values are. Although, to be fair, no, that’s not quite true. Most people don’t have the impetus or an excuse to dig in and find out what their own values are and think about it. When you do, what happens is that you realize that your values have colored everything in your life. They have colored your behaviors in terms of what you’ve chosen to do and who you’ve chosen to be with, and who you’ve chosen not to be around.

CSP 215 | Consulting Revenue Growth

 

Sometimes they are exclusionary values. I mentioned the word honor. It’s difficult to pin down what that means. It’s almost impossible to prove whether somebody always behaves honorably, but you know when they behave dishonorably. It can become a red line. That’s quite important because when you’ve identified your values, it allows you to think, “Of the people that I’ve always worked well with, what do I think their values were?”

“Of the people that I’ve had a conflict with, I wonder what their values are.” You start building a picture and coming to a realization that I worked best with people who share your values and you are worst with people who don’t share your values. Wouldn’t it be nicer if your clients shared your values that you weren’t in conflict with?

That’s exactly it. That point is one thing that we’ve found as we’ve become more intentional in telling our stories, sharing values where in the past we didn’t. You tend to see that when you put into your messaging and tell that story, you will repel the people who don’t resonate with your values, but that’s fine because you would not want to engage with them. It’s not going to be a fruitful engagement, whereas those that share those values are attracted to you because of the shared values. We’ve seen even from a marketing perspective a real benefit from doing this.

I do quite a lot of personal consulting work with agencies, consultancies, law firms, and service-type businesses around proposition development. It’s not my day job. It’s a thing that I have a passion for. When I’m doing proposition workshops, which tend to last for two days, the place that you start is with the core values of the team in the room. That has several functions. One is it allows people to articulate what their values are in front of their colleagues. By and large, the superstars who are the people that you’re going to invite into the room are people you probably share values with.

It exposes the fact that you share values which is great. That’s an amazing, “I’m in the right place. I’ve got colleagues whose values I share. This is great.” Also, values are true and they’re more or less immutable. It takes trauma to change your values, probably trauma when you’re 7 or 11 to create them in the first place. Whatever work comes after that is founded in a common truth within the team that is creating the proposition for your company.

The great propositions that I’ve worked on over the years with some of the best agencies in Europe and also starting to be in the US and Canada, they come from that true place of the place we started isn’t going to move. Sometimes you get real personality coming through in a proposition because of that faith that people have in each other.

Let’s shift to talk about revenue growth and sales because you’ve played a big role, and you’ve done a lot of that at multiple organizations. When you enter a new company, whether it’s one that you started or one that you’ve been brought into or you joined, what are the levers that you tend to look for that you can pull to increase sales? Where does your mind typically go? Where does your eye go in terms of priority, the first things you would look at as an opportunity to increase sales and revenue?

Your values color everything in your life. Click To Tweet

I hate to say it, proposition. We were trying to change the subject, but if you haven’t got a clear polarizing proposition, then you’ve got nothing to work with.

Also known as a value proposition, we refer to this message. Some considered it a unique selling proposition. It has many different names, but it’s a statement.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. Alpha Century, “The creative agency for entrepreneurs,” attracts entrepreneurs. Another in Impero, “We make tired brands famous again.” If you’re not a tired brand, you are not going to find them, but if you are, they’re on the list. Clever campaigns created up North. Talks about the Northern attitude and so on. Sophisticated CRO for BigCommerce, it talks to the audiences. It says, “If you’re not sophisticated or if you’re not big commerce, if you don’t want CRO, don’t come to us.”

One quality that stands out among each one of the examples that you shared is focus and specialization. You’re specific and intentional calling out who the ideal client is, which for some people at one point or another is terrifying because you’re saying no to a lot of potential “market.” How do you guide the agencies that you’re with to overcome that fear and to embrace it with confidence and have the level of bravery to move forward with a new statement that does focus or specialize on a very specific, smaller group of the marketplace?

There are several different aspects to the answer to that. One is if you’re an agency or a consultancy, more or less, you can only handle twelve clients. AKQA, which started two weeks before I started my first agency, they are much more successful than mine financially, but they’ve only got twelve clients that just happened to be global. One of them is Microsoft and the other is Nike.

You can only manage twelve clients. That means that you can leave on the table the tens of thousands of other clients who you’re not going to work with. Most people don’t want to say, “I only do this,” because they’re hoping that Coca-Cola is going to phone them up and say, “Do you want to be on our roster?” Or that you’re going to win Chase Manhattan as a legal account if you’re a law firm.

The reality is Chase and Coke aren’t going to phone you because they’ve got their stuff sorted. You might as well specialize. Jim Collins described the hedgehog concept, which is you have to do stuff that you are good at, because if you’re no good, then you’re not going to keep your clients that you have a passion for because that drives you and attracts people, and is profitable. You have to have all three of those things. You have to be good at it, passionate about it, and it has to be profitable in order to drive your success.

If you haven't got a clear and polarizing proposition, then you've got nothing to work with. Click To Tweet

If you’re not passionate about it, then why bother doing it? Life is too short. I had six agencies on my own. Three of which were wildly successful and very famous. One of them, the industry it was in, didn’t take off interactive TV. The other two were abject failures. I’ve made every mistake that you can make. I had six companies of my own, and I ran a group of companies, a virtual merger of twelve companies. In the last several years, I’ve helped 30 or 40 companies scale.

Myself and I’ve got a bunch of colleagues doing the same thing. My own business is scaling worldwide 2Y3X. The first thing that we do is say, “What do you want to do? What’s the thing that makes your eyes light up or your brain crackle, or your heart warm when you think about that work?” Then do that because life’s too short to do crap for people who want to hand you money.

It’s such a powerful message and one that we share all the time with our clients. The study that we did was the same thing. Most consulting firms can manage between 8 to 20 clients maximum. It’s not hundreds. You mentioned that’s the first thing you look at it in a company. You look at what is their value proposition. Are they clear on that? What would be the next? What would be the second thing you would look at? Can I pull that lever and make a difference for growth?

This is going to go back to core values. Everything comes down to your values, who you are, and what you do. We work with all kinds of organizations and businesses. Social impact business, law firms, accounting, creative agencies of all kinds and consulting firms. When we go in, the first conversation we always have is, “How many C players have you got?” What we mean by is C player is the disengaged, the person who moans all the time, won’t do the work and doesn’t turn up, and always has an excuse and badmouths people behind their back and stuff. Usually, we work with businesses that have got between 15 and 150 people.

You watch the owners or the leadership team looking at each other and they go, “We’ve got Mark, Sally, Joe, and Azeem.” You think, “Good. You all know who they are, right?” They’re all looking at each other, agreeing. “Why are they still with you?” Somebody will inevitably say, “We can’t get rid of Joe because they organize the drinks on Friday, so they’re responsible for our culture.” Quick wins. It’s an immediate call.

The reason it comes back down to values is because they’re not bad people. They are not bad at their jobs. They just don’t share your values. Invariably, two things happen when you move people on. You move people on to companies where they share the values, and suddenly, they become superstars. You look at each other, and you say, “They were awful with us.” It’s because they didn’t fit your values. Their values are different, they now fit the new place.

The second thing that happens invariably is you get a stream of people saying, “I don’t know why you didn’t do that years ago.” We prevaricate and procrastinate sometimes for years before getting rid of people we know are holding us back. Those two things, you get a great proposition and the right people on the bus. That’s what gives you the power.

I want to push you to go a little bit more tactical because our community is saying, “These are great. These are very powerful.” If I’m looking over the shoulder of Felix, as he’s running one of his companies and he’s tasked with revenue growth and scaling the business, what are you doing on the day-to-day?

CSP 215 | Consulting Revenue Growth

 

Let’s assume that you have the right people, mainly A and maybe a few B players. You have a clear focus on who your ideal client is, and you have a proposition and a statement that you can put in front that will differentiate you. What are you doing on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to grow revenue? Where do you focus? What does that look from a more tactical perspective?

I’m a great believer in not trying to push yourselves onto a client base. A little anecdote. In 2008, I was fourteen years into my agency CEO career. I was probably on agency number 4 or 5. At the time, we had invented ECRM by stealing Mei Lin Fun’s CRM principles out of Oracle. A side story to that, I’ve met her at a conference a few years later, and she said, “What do you do?”

I said, “I invented ECRM.” She said, “That’s amazing. I invented CRM.” We had this great proposition. We were the market leaders. In 2008 the phones stopped going for the first time in fourteen years. For fourteen years, we’d thought, “We want to grow a bit.” The phone would go, and it would be General Motors giving us their business. That happened from ’94 to 2008.

Why did that happen? Why were you getting phone calls from General Motors or whoever else?

We were great at PR. I had blue hair and was arrogant, and we invented stuff. My colleagues went around doing amazing, groundbreaking work and attracted a lot of attention. We were always high enough profile, and we always had a highly specific offering.

Can you give an example of something you had other than having blue hair that helped you to get press and publicity? I’m doing great work too, but my phone’s not ringing. Give us an example of what you are doing.

In the beginning, it was easier. I was writing about the web in campaign magazine and via the advertising press because they didn’t know what was going on. Probably for the first ten years, it was about being controversial and irritating people. I’d say something controversial like, “Banners suck. Anybody who’s doing banners should die.” I’d write an article about that and using nice long words and a relatively intelligent argument. That would get enough attention.

You have to do the things that you are good at and have a passion for. That will drive you, make you profit, and attract more people. Click To Tweet

Polarizing work, then I’d stand up and I talk sense. While everybody else was using technical jargon, I use plain English because I don’t think anything that I ever did needs to be technical. It doesn’t need to exclude people. I want to include people and bring people into the fold and teach people. What was interesting is that teaching people became the solution in 2008 when the phone stopped going.

I tried and hired a new business development agency. Telesales, hitting the phones. I hired an agency that did speed dating for client-agency type things. I went along to a bunch of those. I hired an in-house head of business development. When that didn’t work, I hired a guy to go through LinkedIn and try and call people up off LinkedIn. None of it worked. My usual old shtick of standing up on conference stages and being slightly controversial stopped working. It all stopped working because everybody was terrified because they didn’t know what was going on in 2008.

Somebody handed me a book called SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. I was told by a very published friend of mine that if you’re writing a book, it has to be 50,000 words or more because otherwise, they won’t print your name on the spine. Neil Rackham’s book, SPIN Selling, is a very big book. It’s quite thick, but it can be summarized on a single sheet of paper, which is quite cool. One of the interesting things it says in the course of this book is teach people and people will think you’re an expert.

I thought I’d been doing that, although I’ve been doing it in a slightly controversial, polarizing way since the beginning of my career. I’ve been telling people what the web was going to be capable of doing. I’ve been talking to people about user-generated content and inventing stuff, and telling people how it works. I decided to teach. I put on an event which was, “We’re going to teach you how to do best practice in ECRM Strategy. If you’re interested in this, come to this event.”

How did you promote that? Were you sending emails? Were you calling people or sending letters in mails?

We repurposed Nathan, who was the guy who was hired to call people from LinkedIn to find people with CRM in their job titles and invite them to this event. We hired the top floor of a private members’ club in Soho in Central London called the Groucho Club, which is a famous boozy place, but during the day it’s completely empty and unused.

I figured that because it was quite famous and quite fun, people would want to come there as much for the venue and to see a famous members’ club, as much as to come to see me flapping my mouth talking about ECRM and it worked. Over four years, I gave the same talk 37 times. Every other event that we put on, we won a client.

Teach people and people will think you're an expert. Click To Tweet

Did you charge for that event or was it free?

It was free at the time.

Do you remember how many people you got the first time you ran it? How many people attended?

The first time I ran it, Nathan forgot to follow anybody up that he’d invited. At 8:00 in the morning on that day, he said, “Felix, I’ve got a confession. I forgot to follow anybody up. There’s only one guy coming.” I said, “We’ll cancel.” He said, “No, he’s coming from Manchester,” which is a few hundred miles away from London, a significant distance in UK terms. It’s insignificant from anybody else’s point of view, but it meant that he’d got a hotel and he was coming. We put this event on for one person. The following day he gave us £250,000 worth of business.

How did you feel? At that moment, I would assume you’ve been mentally preparing for this big day to see many people in the room. Now there’s only one person. You wanted to cancel, which would be the state of mind of most people in that situation, but you pushed through. How did you do that? What were the lessons that you learned from that if there were any that you could extract?

A million lessons. I packed the room with people from the agency, our various partners, a couple of ringers, and somebody from next door. It looked like it was full. I told this story on LinkedIn, and Max, who was the guy who showed up, wrote to me. He said, “I never knew that.” He was a client of ours for years. Now, he runs his own agency. The lesson is the show must go on. If one person turns up, they may become your biggest client. This guy gave us £250,000.

It’s a very solid six figures.

It’s a decent amount of business and a long relationship. The lesson from that, the show must go on and you never know how important one person is going to be. Even now, we run webinars where we teach Scale at Speed methodologies and frameworks. We teach the 2Y3X Programme’s methodologies and frameworks to anybody who wants to come. If there are 10 or 70 people there, it gets exactly the same amount of attention because we don’t need millions of clients. We need the right clients. If we put on the right training event, the right clients will come.

CSP 215 | Consulting Revenue Growth

 

When you look back, whether it was that first one or even your more recent webinars or workshops or talks that you give, at the end of that, you are making some a call to action, an invitation for people to take the next step or to contact you, correct?

No.

Not at all? This is why I was going to ask. I know there’s a very big difference between how, whether it’s British or certain European countries, think about the offers that they make and how intentional and direct they are, especially in comparison to market in the US, where it can be much more direct. Some people might say a little more aggressive, but also create fantastic results. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

It’s different cultures.

Talk to me about that. You have gone from focusing on the European market to going more global. I’d love to get out here is, what have you found to work best? If there was no call to action, let’s say you have a chance and an audience full of great people in the room that you want to become clients. What would you do and say as you transitioned through that content? When you get near the end or in the middle, what do you find works best to go from teaching to turning that into a client conversation?

When I was 18 or 19, I sold advertising space on the phone for commission only. I did it for eighteen months or something. I was good at it. You become a sales machine. I hate to say it, you become a sales asshole, and it put me off selling for life. US people don’t like me saying that because selling is a very highly regarded profession because it’s extremely well done there, and it’s part of the culture. In my culture in the UK, we shy away from it.

What I learned about selling was it’s not about how you manipulate people or push people or persuade people. It’s about how you lay the stuff that you’ve got out in a way that people can easily figure out whether they want it or not. The proposition comes into that. My company is called 2Y3X. It does what it says on the tin, 2 years, 3 times growth. That’s what we do. People can figure out whether or not it’s for them. I don’t need to sell it. I do need to have it out there, but I don’t need to sell it.

What we used to call the customer journey and is now called a sales funnel, especially if you go to the clubhouse. A customer journey essentially says, “You pick people out who are vaguely interested or might be interested or generally interested, and you make it more specific as you go along.” Let’s say I write an article on Entrepreneur.com about the general principles of scaling are.

Selling is not about manipulation or persuasion. It's about how you put it all out there for people so they can figure out whether they want it or not. Click To Tweet

Somebody read that, they may remember my name, the 2Y3X name, or the name of the book Scale at Speed. If I put on an event that says, “How to use 2Y3X’s framework to implement scale at speed?” Those people who are interested are going to come to that event. If the next point of contact is that they get a self-assessment tool, which is one of the things that we do. They can do that, and there’s no contact. We’re not pushing them through anything. If they want to do it, they do it.

The more that you get your audience to do stuff of their own volition, to elect, to follow you and follow the journey, and to go narrow, at a certain point, they’re going to have to because there’s nowhere else to go. They’re going to have to start talking to you. “How can you make this better for us?” We teach a lot. It’s all out there. The book is the full manual for 2Y3X. What it doesn’t do is do it for you. It doesn’t hold your hand. It doesn’t hold your feet to the flames. You’re not guided through the program.

If you’ve read the book and you’ve done the self-assessment and it has told you what your biggest areas that you need to address are and your biggest opportunities are, you can try the process for yourself. A certain point, a certain type of customer or prospect is going to say, “I would pay to have this done for me.” For us, we’re the most expensive in the market in Middle-Eastern Europe, the UK, and Canada. Not quite in the US. We’re a premium service. Again, coming back to proposition, it’s 2Y3X, 2 years, 3 times revenue. If you want that delivered for you, then you’re going to have to talk to us at some point.

I find it very interesting because we often share with our clients is the idea that the biggest mistake that people make when it comes to sales is they think that sales, they need to do to somebody. That’s why it’s with manipulation, persuasion, and all that stuff.

You remember that “Get them to say yes, four times, they’ll say yes the fifth time.” We’re much bigger believers in this idea that sales is I need you with someone, it’s a collaborative process. It’s about supporting them. One of my first companies with my cousin, Sam, that we started many years ago was called Kankei Culture. Kankei is the Japanese word for relationships.

We believe in relationships and culture as we were building in the Japanese market. I’m very aligned with what you’re saying. It is important that people look at what’s going to work best in their culture. What works, for example, in the US may not work somewhere else. Likewise, the UK may not work as well in a different market.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. We opened up 2Y3X in the Middle East at the beginning of 2021. Our consultants tend to work with 3 or 4 clients, which means 3 or 4 days a month, working with clients. They usually have either a portfolio career, or they’ve got a day job. One of our consultants is the head of the customer experience for Amex in the whole of the Middle East. He’s based in Saudi.

In selling, you pick people out who are vaguely interested and you make it more specific as you go along. Click To Tweet

He tells a story of there’s a manual that says when somebody decides they want to cancel their Amex card, the manual that’s produced by Americans says, “Phone them up straight away and you will turn them around.” In the Middle East, life doesn’t work like that. He spent two years persuading them and then running tests to show them that decisions like that are made on emotion, not on logic.

In America, those decisions are logical decisions. “I can’t quite afford it. It’s not giving me the benefits that I thought it would.” In the Middle East, it’s, “They’ve pissed me off. All their transaction got declined. I’m annoyed with them. I’m going to cancel.” If you let them cool off for a week and then phone them up, they’ll almost universally sign straight back up.

The culture there, as compared to the US, is very different. Our head of the US business is based in California, which to me is the gentle end of the US. He works with a client in Calgary. The client is in Calgary thinks that he’s very American and quite not aggressive because he’s not, and he’s an amazing human being, but very forthright, compared to what they’re used to. It works in their favor because part of what we do is holding people’s feet to the flame so that they can achieve greatness.

We see all the time. We have clients as well all around the world. That’s one of the things that we love. One of our values is this idea of being worldwide. One of our values is we are worldwide. We see this play out over and over, day after day. I started to understand how different things work in different cultures and geographic regions. You leverage that, use that in how you conduct business and, more importantly, in your relationships.

I want to ask you about your role and how your role has changed. Whether it’s with 2Y3X or your other agencies that you’ve been a part of, moving into that CEO role going from initial concept and idea creator to building a team to then being the CEO, how does your role change? Even take now as an example. What are you spending most of your time doing? Are you creating content? Are you talking with prospective buyers? What does your day-to-day look like?

When I started out, I remember getting my very first business card and printing CEO on it. There were three people in my company. It took me fifteen years before I wasn’t in the weeds. I was working strategically rather than constantly tactically and on the back foot. It was probably fifteen years before I became a real CEO despite having had that long career. I then became a Growth CEO. That was a role which was corralling, leading, and engaging a bunch of founders and CEOs themselves. They will run their successful businesses. My job was to motivate them to grow the group.

Now, my job is extremely strategic. I still work with clients at the beginning of the journey. On the side, I do proposition work, but I still do strategy map days and workshops with a few clients. By and large, it’s M&A. We build groups because most of the companies that come into the program wants to sell at some point. We provide an option for some of them to do that. Building the operational infrastructure behind 2Y3X, we only decided to scale it in March 2020. Before that, we were in the UK, and then COVID hit.

CSP 215 | Consulting Revenue Growth

 

Why did you decide to scale it? Why not keep it in the UK?

I retired when I was 47. I ran the program for people, bespoke as a solo consultant. I earned more money doing that for less time spent than I’d ever seen in my life. I was working 7 or 8 days a month. It was great. I started writing the book because somebody suggested I write it after an interview. People kept saying, “Can we do this in this market or that market, or for this company?” I resisted. I decided a couple of years ago that I’d bring on a business partner so that we’d have redundancy, so that if one of us was sick, then we could still carry it on.

COVID hit. What happened with COVID was Frank and I looked at the business that we had in the clients that we had, and we said, “This is ridiculous. We’re going pro bono.” We went pro bono. We announced that anybody needed help because all of the businesses in the UK and Western Europe, where we were starting to work, were in deep trouble. We’ve had some successes and failures. We know how to deal with a crisis. We said anybody who needs help come to us and we’ll advise for free, no strings.

What happened was that I then had a flood of people who I’ve known of my entire career in the UK, in France, Brussels, North America, Germany, and all over the place, they got in touch and said, “This is amazing. We’re stuck too. Can we help? We’ve got capacity. We were not doing anything else.” We built up this network of amazing, generous people who’ve all been CEOs and founders themselves. They wanted to be trained in 2Y3X and the program and how it works. That became an international network with licensees. Now, we’ve got people in Africa, Italy, Spain, and all over the Middle East. It’s amazing.

I’d like to know if you think about isolate in your day to day, though, maybe 1 or 2 habits that you’re doing consistently, that you feel contribute the most to your performance, mental clarity, the success that you have, and the progress that you make whether it’s a smoothie in the morning or exercise. What are 1 or 2 things that have to happen consistently every day?

I don’t have anything like that at all. I’m very chaotic and strategic. I’m not a doer or a detailed person. I have people around me who do that for me and who create order out of the chaos that I slightly am. I love the strategy stuff. The things that are incredibly important to me and that I do regularly are I make sure that the people I’m around with and working with, even at the extremities of the organization and clients, are the people we share values with.

I fired a client for lying to me, and that lost us $300,000 with revenue. That’s life, but life’s too short to work with people who don’t share your values. That was one thing. The second thing is, I find myself triaging my workload. I’m most effective when I’ve got one thing to do. I’m least effective when I’ve got twenty things to do. I’m vicious about working out what I have to do and figuring out whether it’s necessary or not.

There’s the Eisenhower diagram that I’m sure you’re familiar with. The urgent and important, not urgent, not important. That grid is an amazing thing. If you do that very regularly and make sure you’re not doing stuff that isn’t strictly necessary. I’m the CEO. I’m responsible for the strategy, M&A, making sure that the program works every single time, culture and the people. I don’t need to be organizing meetings, marketing or PR or any of the things that I love doing, and I can do, but other people can do if I’m honest with myself, much better than I can and who will do it in a diligence orderly way.

You're most effective when you've got one thing to do. You're least effective when you've got twenty things to do. Click To Tweet

I spent four hours in my office with the laptop shut with the door shut, thinking through how are we going to deal with a situation that we’ve got with our consultant training and onboarding unit in Lebanon, where the electricity is out, and it has been for weeks. That headspace and ability to focus comes from not being in the weeds. The art of being a CEO is being on the business, not in it.

Two questions before wrapping up. The first is, what’s one book that you’ve either read or listened to that you would recommend? It could be fiction or nonfiction.

It’s the one that’s created the most impact, it’s called Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, and it’s by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. It’s a book about the bandwidth tax that is imposed by not having enough food or water or headspace that we in the West are incredibly privileged. Reading that book made me rethink how we approach the pro bono work that we do because a lot of our businesses are pro bono still. Mo, one of my senior colleagues, is in Zambia. How do we approach Zambia as a market when it’s got pressures that we would find inconceivably harsh?

It sounds very interesting. The last question, for those that want to learn more and I highly encourage people to learn more about your new book, Scale at Speed, your company, and also your new things, where would you direct people to? Where should they go to learn more about you and your work?

The simplest place is if you go to ScaleAtSpeed.com. On the homepage, it’s got links to 2Y3X.com. It’s got links to the Scorecard, which is a self-assessment tool where you can figure out where you sit in your scalability. It’s got recordings and videos and all sorts of stuff. ScaleAtSpeed.com is probably a good place to start.

Felix, thank you again so much for coming on.

It’s my pleasure, Michael. It’s been fun.

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