How can you become a marketing expert? Ben Baker and Michael Cirillo, host of The Dealer Playbook Podcast, talk about creating your own definition of success and becoming successful entrepreneurs by simply taking action towards achieving what it is you need for your dreams and desires. Having interviewed the biggest names in marketing, sales, leadership, and business, Michael shares some tips on creating a business that takes the right people on board. He also shares his humble family journey - from creating phone directories to combining old marketing acumen with modern marketing.
I’ve gotten lots of comments back, lots of questions, answering questions and I love hearing from my readers. Get attached to me via LinkedIn, Spotify, iHeart, iTunes, whatever is your passion, you'll get in touch with me. I love hearing from you. Thanks for being amazing. This is a back-to-back. I was honored to be on The Dealer Playbook podcast and I finally got Michael Cirillo and return the favor. We had a phenomenal time. Michael, thank you for being here and welcome.
I am excited to be here. This is going to be a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.
As we were talking, he says, “You have certain guests that you know it's going to be a good interview.” Two guys that love to have the microphone in front of their face. How bad can this be?
What did you say, we both have a face for radio?
Yes, we do.
That's what you’ve got to do. When the microphone is in your face, you’ve got to use the tools that work for you.
You've got to embrace it. The Dealer Playbook podcast is an amazing thing. You guys are coming up on your tenth year and we'll get in on that because you're doing some incredible things. You've got some amazing guests, but I want to find out more about what got you here. Where did you come from? You're a BC boy that's headed east. I want to find out what got you there because The Dealer Playbook is all about the car industry and that's what you are. You're a car guy. What was the passion that brought you to where you are now? Once we get there, we're going to talk about where you're going.
It's funny. I think it's the same thing that happened to all retail auto professionals. When you were three years old, they woke up and they said, “When I grow up, I'm going to work in the car industry.” It didn't happen that way at all.The reality in which you are living and participating now is the result of a compounding ripple effect of choices you've been making. Click To Tweet
The matchbox toys, we always had matchbox cars.
They open their box of Cracker Jacks. There was a little toy car in there and they were like, “I'm going to be in the car business. I'm going to sell cars. I'm going to be one of the lowest-rated trustworthy professions on the planet according to Gallup. That's my ambition.” It wasn't that I aspired to be in the car industry. I aspired to have a car dealer podcast or a marketing agency that services dealers. We stemmed from a family business. As much as I'd love to say I had one of this Pursuit of Happyness type of upbringings where it was super rough and this and that. I'm the child of two European immigrants. That makes me first or second-gen Canadian. My parents both got their citizenship, but they both immigrated to Canada and they were both raised by World War II-era parents.
My grandfather on my dad's side was from Italy. He served on the front lines of World War II for the entire duration of the war. My mom's father is from Portugal, so they were neutral, but he was a military police. They were raised in a certain way. As we often do, we hopefully take the things that resonated with us the way our parents raised us and then we get rid of all those stuff that we thought was crap. My parents had a certain way of raising us, but it was work hard, work smart, all these things. We were raised with those values. How I got here is my dad's always been an entrepreneur as long as I know. I was raised in the home of an immigrant entrepreneur. Not to go all Gary Vee, but a lot of the things that Gary Vaynerchuk talks about being raised by entrepreneur immigrant parents, I totally get it because it was almost like a DNA thing.
The outlook is a little bit different. Like, “We had to sell everything, give up everything, and leave everything behind. Hop on a boat with a trunk full of dried meat, stale bread, and travel for four months not knowing what would happen.” They landed in Nova Scotia, Pier 34 or 52 or whatever it was called. Them getting here, not speaking a lick of English and going, “My grandfather was already here.” He'd come a few years prior, so it's my grandmother and five children at the time going, “What do we do?” They hop on a train, travel across the country and my grandfather who owned land and was in the military and all these things in Italy is now pushing a broom at a sawmill. He was working there in New Westminster in the Queensborough area.
I think he did that type of work until the day he retired. In fact, he was part of the custodial staff at BC Hydro head office. My father was always raised with, “If you want something, work with it. Work to get it.” That was instilled in me. As long as I’ve known my parents, my dad's always been working as a self-employed individual. It's cool because there are a couple of things here. There's a testament to the importance of adapting to the times and the importance of evolution and the fact that evolution is possible. We published telephone directories as a family business. Back in 1983, ‘84, my dad founded the first community-centric telephone directory. It was called Info Pages. His idea was to go head to head against the Yellow Pages, but instead of having a massive greater Vancouver area 7,000-page book, he would go to Maple Ridge, New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey or Coquitlam and he would create individual telephone directories for each of those. He ended up doing that, spending his last dime to buy a typewriter.
He worked as a dump truck driver for the city during the day and then would come home and copy over names from the Yellow Pages manually by night, taught himself how to sell. He would go out and sell advertising. He didn't even have a mockup or anything to share. He would just say, “The book is going to be about this big and it's community-centric and this and that. Your business needs to be in it.” He put everything on the line and created this telephone directory and that expanded and eventually, we changed the name of that from Info Pages to InfoTel.
In my household, I have four siblings. The culture of our house was if you want something, you work for it. Here I am as a 7, 8, 9, 10-year-old scrubbing toilets. I'm vacuuming. I'm not doing a very good job and they all joke about it now how if you want it done right, don't ask a seven-year-old. They knew the value though was he's going to learn how to scrub toilets. He's going to learn how to do all of this entry-level or whatever you want to call it type of work. I moved up and I'm going to proof the book. Here's a 10, 12, 13-year-old who's going from the Yellow Pages, reading names, Baker, Ben. I went over to our book, Baker, Ben. The phone number is 604, whatever it is. I would do that work.
In 1995, we sold all franchises of InfoTel directories because one thing both my dad and I have been good at is seeing what's coming or anticipating what's coming, which I think is something that you don't have to be good at naturally. It's something you can develop if you're paying attention. The key to it is that you have to pay attention to what's going on out there. You have to pay attention to consumer behavior and consumer trends. That's something we were always good at. What we saw that the internet would kill telephone directories as we know them or make them certainly not as lucrative. We still have telephone directories. I’ve got a telephone directory in my office. It's propping up my computer monitor.
At least we still get them to the house. The first thing that happens to it is that it goes right in the recycle bin. It doesn't even make it into the house at the end of the day.
Throw it in your 72-hour kit if you need toilet paper in the event of an evacuation. They have all these other MacGyver-type of utility purposes now. They keep recycling plants open. They give those people jobs to recycle them, they prop up computer monitors and they work great as toilet paper in the event of an evacuation. We saw around the curve and we said, “The internet, this is a thing we need to pay attention to. This is going to change the way these things look. This isn't going to be as lucrative a business,” so we sold off franchises. My dad took a couple of years off and then I believe he was on a motorcycle trip in Washington State and he saw this little penny rag. He spent $0.01 on it and it was an automotive magazine, like advertising, retail dealerships inventory. He went, “There's no competition to this in British Columbia. Let's see what we can do.” We came back. At this point, I was probably 16 or 17, and it was just him and I. No mock-up, nothing. Here we are splitting the Okanagan Valley in half. He would go south towards Penticton.
We were in Vernon at the time. I would go north to Kamloops and we would go into every dealership we could possibly find and say, “Here's the concept. It's going to be 7x6 inches wide,” or whatever the magazine dimensions were. “It's going to be glossy and high quality. If you sign up now, we'll give you a double-page spread in the magazine and this is the way it's going to look.” Dealers jumped on that because they wanted something different than Auto Trader or maybe a different type of reach. I remember as a 16, 17, 18-year-old going in and out of every store I could find. What seventeen-year-old do you know that's going to the regional head office of Canadian Tire to work a distribution deal and have them talk to me? It's funny, as I look back in retrospect, I realize there were probably a lot of things about me as a 16 and 17-year-old that were not typical of 16 and 17-year-olds back then.
I don't have anything to compare it against other than what I saw some of my friends doing. I knew from a young age that if I wanted something I could either create the business that would get it to me or I would have to take some level of action that would bring me one step closer to the things that I wanted. It was instilled in me. We knew if I want to get into Walmart as a distribution deal, I need to, the first step, get buy-in from local management. Next step, who's your regional manager? Send them a message. Intro, follow-up, get discouraged, and keep following up. Get even more discouraged, keep following up.
It’s resilience, persistence, diligence. We ended up working distribution deals for this new magazine that didn't even exist yet to be in all the Canadian Tires, Walmarts and all of the whatever existed. We were in mom and pop shop corner stores that were still doing their treats and renting out VHS. We were everywhere we could get. We did that successfully for over a decade. In around 2006, we started picking up on the trend again. Consumers are picking up less and less of these magazines and they're going online more and more. We could do then what a lot of businesses are still doing and clinging for dear life to this business that they've fallen in love with. We can say, “Time to start adapting.”
That's exactly what we did. We said, “What's it going to take for us to take all of this marketing acumen that we've developed over the last 40 years combined of doing this type of business and transfer that to the web in a way that can reach consumers more effectively where they are and when they want it?” What we did as a way of transition and the reason I'm telling you this is because I think there are too many absolutes in human nature. “This isn't working. I have to kill this business and start from scratch.” No. In fact, you can take small transitionary steps that keep food on your table.
There are two things. One is understanding, what's not working? What is working? How do you adapt? The other thing is that five-year vision, that horizon vision that sits there and says, “Times are changing. Our market is changing. How people consume is changing. The world wants to hear about whatever I'm talking about is changing. How do I adapt?” Many people sit there and go, “We've always done it this way.” How we've always done it this way is the kiss of death because that's how you become irrelevant and a commodity quickly.
People have to understand the power and the speed of choice. This is something I reflect on. My commute home, my unwind is thinking about choosing your own adventure. Do you remember those books in grade school? Our life is to choose your own adventure. In fact, the reality in which you are living, experiencing and participating now is the result of a compounding ripple effect of choices you've been making for who knows how long. “I'm going out of business.” “Okay. We'll pause.” To your point, what decisions, what choices did I make along the way that has led me to this outcome? We've always done it this way. That's a kiss of death decision. You need to understand, to your point, where does that decision lead me?You can take actions that, when assembled properly, will create something that didn't exist. Click To Tweet
It's not just, “We've made a bad decision.” It’s, “We've made a bad decision. What do we do now?” That's an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is, “That didn't work. That was a wrong move. We went left when we should've gone right. What can we learn from this? What are the valuable takeaways from this? How do we move forward from this point forward?” Anybody who thinks that entrepreneurship is a straight road to success is kidding themselves. Every entrepreneur has failed. Every entrepreneur has sat in the bottom of a deep dark hole and said, “How am I going to get out of this hole?” My father did it. I’ve done it. I'm sure any entrepreneur that I'd been with my entire life has done it. The more we can sit there as business owners, entrepreneurs, CEOs of companies and leaders and say, “What do we do now?” Not blame, not point fingers, not wring our hands and sit there and go, “Woe is me.” We need to sit there as people. Your story has eloquently said this. Where do we go next?
I love your choice of words. You're focusing on what action, intent. What are we going to do? Strategic, tactical, where a lot of people, and I know this of myself in the past for sure, I needed to rewire my thinking from how to what. I needed to go from philosophy, “but how” to “no.” What is the next closest thing? What's the step that's going to take me closer to the thing that I need to do? It’s also not being burdened. By the way, this is like a day in and day out things sometimes for me. I have to constantly get my mind straight so that I am not losing focus because of how big or small that step feels. Someday, the steps feel small. I have to remember as I would encourage anybody that struggles with this, that small steps are still steps.
Treading water is not drowning.
We've gone through this phase of entrepreneurial people out there, and I'm not going to suppose that I'm wealthy like Grant Cardone or Gary Vaynerchuk or any of these things. However, there hasn't been a time in my family's history where we've been without income and growth for the last 48 years, to each of their own. Trust me. I'm cutting out the parts. I’ve redacted the parts of this story where the markets and the economies crashed and my dad and I are sitting outside of an office of mine that's the size of your average pantry in a house these days, this 6x5.5-foot wide office. We're sitting in the hallway on the verge of tears. That's why I love your choice of words. What do we do now? We decided to go all in to carry the costs of printing America magazine, which at that time, our publishing, our printing cost alone was $80,000, $90,000 bi-weekly. To say, “We're also going to stretch ourselves even thinner by opening up a digital agency so that we can meet the demands of this book of business that we already have.” What I'm not sharing with you and I'm not going into detail, is at that time I was selling, I was account managing, I was technical support. I was designing the ads in the magazine.
Think about when they say 14, 16, 18-hour days, there were a solid 7 or 8 years where if I went to bed before I could say good morning to my contemporaries on the East Coast of Canada or the United States, I knew I had not put in enough hours. We're talking 6:45 in the morning to 3:30 in the morning. You go bonkers, but it was a necessity at the time as we were trying to figure these things out. It's all about what are you willing to do now? I'm not suggesting you have to do those things. There are much smarter ways to do things. In fact, I would submit that while wise people learn from experience, super wise people learn from other's experiences. It’s why I love podcasting and I love individuals such as yourself that put this information out there and make it readily available for people to learn from you and learn from your breadth of experience. Those are all the things that we had to do and we were doing that. We did that manageably until 2012 when again we said, “It's time to take a risk here again and say goodbye to print.” It scared the crap out of us. What I’ve learned about myself, Ben, is that I'm motivated. One of the things that motivate me is fear of my definition of mediocrity. Mediocrity to me is this idea of sitting there and being like, “I could have done that, but I chose not to. Now, I'm living this experience knowing what I could have done.”
Let's stop and explore that because that's important. We all need to sit there and say our own hopes, wants, fears. The vision of success is what's important. You mentioned Gary Vaynerchuk and Grant Cardone. Their vision success is completely different from mine and mine may be completely different from yours. What's important is you need to succeed on your terms. You need to be motivated on your terms. You need to move forward because it's the right move for you, not because it's the right move for Grant Cardone, Gary Vaynerchuk or Ben Baker. It's got to be something that's right for you and it's something that makes sense for you at that time, at that moment. It’s to be able to jump that chasm to go to the next step. There are too many people out there that sit there and say, “I need to be liked. I need to emulate this. I need to do this.” Take the best parts from what you see from them and make it your own. Too many people don't do that. Too many people think they're a failure because they're not exactly like Gary Vaynerchuk. What you were saying is critical in that respect.
Getting to the point of clarity where you realize, “I don't want what Gary Vee has. I want what I want.” Maybe some of those things are similar. I sure do not want to live in an apartment in Manhattan. I don't want any element of that. I don't want any element of not being able to come home and do activities with my wife and children. That's the power of the choice thing that we were exploring a little bit, which is you need to make the choice of what you define success to be. By the way, the thing I love about success and I love Merriam-Webster's definition. It's definition B, which is a favorable or desired outcome, which maps perfectly to what you said, which is my definition of success is completely different than Gary Vee's or Grant’s or Ben's or Michael’s or whoever or anybody that's reading this. The biggest fundamental challenge I see with the speed at which things fly at us, whether it's Facebook or social platforms or the news or whatever. If you don't have clarity on what brings you happiness or what your definition of success is, it's easy for you to see what's being forced upon you and believe that unless you have that, you won't be successful.
My friend Mike Milia used to run Staples for Las Vegas, for Nevada. When he was hiring salespeople, he basically said, “If you don't love yourself, if you're not comfortable in your own skin, don't come and work for me.” It’s the people that are out there that can sit there and say, “I'm happy with who I am regardless, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I know what my warts look like and I'm going to embrace them and I'm going to sit there and say, ‘I'm going to be the best that I can be regardless.’” Those are the truly successful people in the world. I don't think success has a dollar amount. I truly don't. We all need money to survive. We all need to buy a house. We all need to take care of our kids. We all need to take care of our aging parents, pay for universities, whatever. We all need money. If all you're doing is measuring your success based on a stack of $100 bills, I think you've missed the point.
Think about this. One of the most valuable lessons that I think as far as money goes in the context of money, that one of the most valuable lessons my father ever taught me, not to get all metaphysical or philosophical. He said, “You can make money.” I said, “Of course, I can make money.” He says, “Listen to what I'm saying. You can make money.” Teenage Michael, “I know dad, I'm going to go to my job at the Future Shop right now and make money.” He says, “No. Look over at the counter over there. Is there a cake on the counter?” I said, “There's no cake on the counter.” He says, “You can make a cake.” In other words, you can take actions that when assembled properly, will create something that didn't exist. You can make money if you do the right thing. Money in our household was never an issue. I'm extremely grateful for that because it has never been the strongest focus. There have been times in my life, I remember being able to put $0.75 of gas in my car. There might be people going, “That's all fine and dandy, Michael. That's still privileged of you that you even had a car.” Totally, I get it. A car I scrimped and saved to pay for myself because we weren't given everything. Paying for college out of my pocket, paying for all of these things.
I remember having to work 3, 4 or 5 jobs and people go, “No, that seems physically impossible.” What sucks is when you're living in Southern Alberta, going to college that you've paid for out of your pocket for yourself because your credit is so bad you couldn't even get a student loan. Your parents aren't in a position to help you out like a lot of parents are out there. You're driving in this car that you scrimped and saved to earn from one job, changing your uniform while you go to the next job that you're going to deliver pizzas until 3:00 in the morning. I'm grateful for those experiences. Did they suck at the moment? In retrospect, I'm grateful for those things because they taught me the value of putting in your time, paying your dues, learning lessons, building the calluses that encourage you, that shaped the resilience that you're going to need to make a go of it for whatever you want in your life. Isn’t nothing of value came to somebody that was soft that you get some critique back from your boss and all of a sudden, you want to quit your job? If that's where your brain is at, you're screwed.
Let's get into that. A lot of people here reading see that eighteen-month revolving door on their businesses. They sit there and say, “It's the employee's fault. If they can't hack it, they just leave.” I'm not a big proponent of that. A lot of companies are not doing what it takes to listen to, understand and value employees. I would say the car industry is probably one of them. It's the old Glengarry Glen Ross. The first person gets a Cadillac, the second person gets steak knives, the third person gets fired. That mentality of, do the people have value within the corporation?
As the leader of my business and I didn't connect the dots on how we got to where we're at now, but needless to say, we developed that agency. We built it out based on a sequence of what actions. What are we going to do next? We were able to see triple-digit growth during the recession during the crash of ‘08, ‘09. We were able to grow our business bigger than we thought, not just employee-wise, revenue-wise, all those things through that time. As we got deeper into digital, my dad was like, “I don't know anything about this and I don't have a passion for this.” Now, continuing to grow. We're going to go for triple-digit growth again, but why is that? There are some fundamental differences that I’ll attribute it to. My father, as a model of an entrepreneur, taught me the value of smart and hard work, but because he was primarily a sole proprietor for most of his career, there were certain lessons that I could not learn from him or observe from him. What you brought up, the value of people. This is not to discredit my dad in any way, shape or form. His relationship with employees is you show up, you do your job and I pay you. That's how our relationship works. Much to what you said was, “This guy is not doing it. I don't understand. Why do I still have to do everything? They're not doing it.”
I’ve learned the value of screaming into my pillow at night. There's something built into me and there's a lot of experience that has led me to this point, almost a decade long struggle with suicidal depression and having to unlearn everything that I thought was truthful. It’s a lot of fixed beliefs, a lot of dealing with mental illness and things of those natures. Once I was able to flip that on its head, all of these things have helped shape me into who I am now and realizing that if I am valuable, then that also means everyone around me is valuable. Everyone around me ought to be and feel loved and appreciated.
This is backward from the Mad Men era of how businesses work. I love my people and I scream into my pillow because yes, business owner reading, it can be frustrating. If you feel that, it's okay. That's normal. You're a human being too. You deserve to feel loved and appreciated. Maybe this has turned into support, I don't know, but it’s like I get it. Have I seen the residual building and compounding effect in all facets of my business by flipping a switch in my brain where I gave myself permission to break maybe down some barriers of what a traditional business looks like? Conservatively, I spend about 90% of my time focused on the well-being of my people. A lot of people reading might go, “That's all fine and dandy, but it's not my responsibility as the CEO or as the leader or manager to make my people happy.”
I would agree with that. They have to make certain choices that make them happy. However, it is your responsibility to create an empowering context in which they can be happy and fulfilled. I can do that as much as I possibly can. They could go home and make poor choices in their personal life that are going to bring them different measures of misery, but when they are here and this is an atmosphere and an environment I control, there are going to be certain things. The first thing I realized, a hard lesson was that everyone's resume is a lie. Every cover letter I’ve read in my years of managing the business and operating the business, every single cover letter says, “I have impeccable interpersonal communication skills.” They get in here and they don't know how to have a conversation or talk about anything meaningful with anybody. They're a recluse. They sit in a closet and they want to be a hermit, and they sit with their headphones on. It's like, “How is that interpersonal communication skills?” When I look at resumes now, I immediately redact certain information. I don't care where they went to school, so I get rid of all of that. I care about maybe where they're coming from because I want to get some context about why they're leaving perhaps.
That's going to help me understand their mindset. “It’s a super toxic environment. I couldn't do anything there.” That gives me a gauge on where they're at and what their mindset is like and things of that nature. I hear them out. I try and understand that, but I don't care about the job they had seventeen years ago. Why is that on here? Seventeen years ago, I wasn't even doing the same thing I'm doing now. I redact a lot of information from the resume and I get it out of my head that somebody is going to be coming into my organization automatically knowing how. My leadership team has now built our culture and the way we do things. That’s great. Maybe you hire a designer. Let's say you hired a graphic designer. I want to make sure that they have the knack for design. I want to make sure that I see some promise of it upholding the standards of what we produce for our clients. I want to make sure they know how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and they're familiar with royalty-free image libraries. I cannot expect them right out of the gate to know certain things like how to manage your time properly or how to be a self-starter because I don't know how they were raised.Taking action that takes you closer to your definition of success allows you to feel more empowered and enriched. Click To Tweet
I don't know the context of any of that. It's incumbent upon me to at least provide some guidance. The interesting thing about that is everybody comes from a different walk of life. Everybody's had varying degrees of experience, but by the time they get into my organization, what I need to train them on is how we do things here. I need to plant them into the culture that we've established here. These are their words, not mine. That's why I'm sharing them with you. I'm self-deprecating in humor. I don't like reading about myself or anything like that, but they would lay down on train tracks for me. That took a decade to achieve, to get to.
It's also the fact that it's the culture that you've built, the onboarding that you do and the story that you've built of the company. This is who we are, this is where we are, this is who we serve, this is why we serve them and this is where we're going. I understand that. You were talking about the graphic designer. A graphic designer may have a certain skill, but if they don't understand the nuance of the customer, if they don't understand what the customer needs and how to design specifically for that particular customer's needs and to make it successful for them, they won't. They don't have the skillset for it.
They may have the physical skills, but do they have the communication skills to listen, to understand, to probe, to make sure that they're successful and the client successful? All that is team building and it comes down to onboarding. It all comes down to those first 90 to 120 days of the employees there because if the new employee understands what they're coming into and what's expected of them and where the company's going, we're going to be a lot more successful as organizations. You said something about assuming that a person knows your culture. No person comes into a company knowing your culture. Nobody comes into the company knowing how you do things. Too many companies assume that.
There are certain things that you can do. What are we talking about here? The foundation of everything we talk about what you and I believe in, which is why I think we click and we resonate, is be a good person. If I have to sit here and tell you what it means to be a good person, here's your nugget. Let's start with The Golden Rule. If you don't know what it is, Google it. Let's start with that. Let's start with the foundation of The Golden Rule. If you're in a position or in a place in your mind where you doubt The Golden Rule, then that means you have not implemented it to the degree that you see it bears fruit. At the turn of a new year, if you haven't figured out what a resolution should be for yourself, perhaps it should be your thesis that The Golden Rule bears positive fruit. See what happens.
How do we onboard people quickly? There are the logistical sides of onboarding people into our culture. They need to understand how they need to function within the organization. They need to understand our cycle and how we work with clients and what we believe and all of these things. However, we are able to sift through. We let the cream rise to the top much faster than a lot of people because we hire first based on compatibility with our core beliefs and our mission, like to your point about where we are going. Our job postings, explain all of that stuff first and then it's easy.
If this resonates with you, submit a 60-second intro video of yourself. I don't want your resume yet. We're not there yet, but I feel like that's entirely acceptable in the world of Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. We're all keen to show ourselves anyways. Hold up a phone, selfie video. “My name's Michael. I'm applying for the position of junior account manager within the organization. I read your post and I loved it and it resonated with me because those are a lot of the things that I believe in as well. I believe I would be compatible.” That's the fastest way for you to go to that next phase. By hiring based on compatibility to the core values, because that is an indication of who you are as a person.
I need people that have discipline and high moral standards because whether we agree, believe it or not, these people are ambassadors for the business, the brand, and for the other people with whom they serve 24/7. It's not something that goes on the shelf when you leave the office. We see that with politicians all the time. They can't escape being politicians. You cannot escape being the leader of your organization. You cannot escape being a junior account manager at your organization or whatever it is. You play in and take role. I have my operations director who's phenomenal. She takes care of a lot of the onboard stuff that I would've had to take care of back when it was just me hiring my first round.
She does an incredible job. There's a little logistical side, but I made sure that I touched them in a certain way. An example of that is their first indication of who I am as the senior leader of the organization is that they see how I interact with the team. Now, we have some team members locally, but we're spread out. We have team members in Utah. We have team members in Toronto, Vancouver. We're all over the place, some in the Republic of Georgia like a lot of our tech team. We're spread out, but they get to see how I interact. They get to see that I am present and that I am there for them.
They get a personal note from me, welcoming them, letting them know how excited I am that they're here. Some might call this narcissism, but it isn't in this context. I make sure that on Friday, I have the last word to our groups out there. The last words are, “This was a phenomenal week. I am grateful for your efforts and your contributions. They are recognized. Thank you. Have an incredible weekend.” They go, “This is entirely different than anywhere else I’ve ever worked in my entire life.” It's because I believe it. To my point, that doesn't mean there will be some Fridays where I want to scream into a pillow and binge-eat a whole bag of Ruffles All Dressed chips.
That's normal. Nobody's perfect. If you are making strides in that direction and you are investing in the account of people and human equity, there's a reason it's called human resources. They are not a resource to you if they are torn down to the dust, low morale, don't think you care about them and all these and then you're sitting here going, “How come I'm not making any money? How come my profit margin was low?” Because there are certain figures that don't show up on your profit and loss statement. You're sitting here going, “They make $40,000 a year. How much does that $40,000 a year in salary cost for an employee that doesn't want to be there?”
The quote that I love to use is that your brand is only as valuable as your unhappiest employee on their worst day. That's probably the best way to put it for any leader, any business owner, any entrepreneur is to realize that unhappy people are toxic to your organization and they need to be dealt with. Every employee that you lose costs you $100,000 to replace. It is a statistic. It's not about us to be the ice cream vendor for our employees. We can't make them happy all the time. What we can do is make them feel valued. If people feel valued, they are going to be harder workers within our organization. They're going to be better representatives of our brand. They're going to be better champions of our brand. They're going to provide a better customer experience. It all comes down to leadership. It all comes down to, do the leaders lead or do the leaders manage? We’ve got to get rid of managers and we need better leaders throughout the world.
That is the crux of all of it. My passion is learning and implementing as much as I possibly can on the front of leadership. One thing that makes people happy is having a leader. I would rather be a well-respected leader than a good friend in this context because people are happy when they are led. Servant Leadership, that's a book that everybody should read if they haven't read it yet. If I'm led, then that means I'm growing. If I can see the growth in myself, then I am happy with myself and I am happy and I have a positive outlook, and so now everybody's contributing to the whole. Sadly, a lot of businesses think that this concept of happiness and culture is too pie in the sky. It's like, “Here's another guy saying he's going to lasso the sun, the moon and the stars for me.” We are seeing now more and more with evolved education and observation and learning that these things do have a positive or a negative impact on business. Negative if you're not focused on it and doing anything about it, positive for those businesses that are doing something about it. I love how you've formatted the discussion. I’ve redacted huge parts of my story and how I got to here and where I'm going.
It goes without saying that I love the way that's formatted. It should be assumed that in those periods of evolving, adapting, growing, questioning, fearing, doubting and persistence that I was learning the lessons for me. I needed to learn that in order to have the staying power that I have now. Those things many people want to skip over. We don't even have helicopter leadership anymore. We have snowplow leadership. They want to get rid of all the obstacles completely. I look back now and I want everyone to know in those moments there were times where I'm like, “Why isn't this happening faster?” I look back now and I go, “That needed to happen. I needed to feel how bumpy the runway can get before I lift off the ground.” Without that knowledge and without that experience and feeling the pain and the doubt of wilderness liftoff and then to finally experience it lifting off you, you learn what's necessary in order to keep the plane flying at altitude, not spiraling towards the ground, which is a way a lot of people feel.
I’ve got two questions that I want to ask you. Number one is, what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?
You can check out my website, TheRealMC.com. If you want to check out my podcasts, I have a couple of different podcasts. The Dealer Playbook, which is geared towards retail auto dealers. We talk a lot about business, life, happiness, all those sorts of things. A podcast that we launched prior to the 2019 Christmas holidays called After the Grind, which is not industry-specific, but it's about exploring what it means to live a happy, fulfilled life through personal life, family life, career life, spiritual life, etc. We have a lot of fun with those. After the Grind and The Dealer Playbook or you can check on my website.
The last question I ask everybody is when you leave a meeting, when you sign off, when you get off stage, you get in your car and you drive away, what's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
I want them to think about how enriched and empowered they feel to take action that brings them closer to their definition of success. In other words and it sounds super cliché, I hope they forget all about me, but I hope they remember how they felt.
When people feel that they've been valued, they've been listened to and they've been understood, amazing things happen. Michael, thank you for being an amazing guest. We've had an incredible conversation. I knew this was not going to disappoint, so thanks for being an amazing guest.
You're the man. I love what you're doing here. Thanks, Ben.
Michael has traveled the world consulting and keynote speaking for companies both small and large. He’s worked with brands such as Kijiji, eBay, GumTree, Peugeot, and BMW to help create businesses that thrive thanks to his experienced business insights.
On his podcasts, (The Dealer Playbook / After The Grind) Michael has had the unique opportunity to interview some of the biggest names in marketing, sales, leadership, and business. These engaging conversations and thought-provoking insights have solidified his role as an influencer in the marketing sphere.
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