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What if our entrepreneurs who are, let’s say, they’ve now arrived to a certain level, let’s say the company’s already over ten, twenty, thirty million dollars. And they hit kind of that glass ceiling. I’m sure you’ve been through that as well. Where they feel like this is, this is as good as it gets. Or, they are stuck. What advice would you have for them? – You know my advice is when someone gets stuck is trying to understand what’s their vision for themselves. – Do you see the glass ceiling in your career, do you feel like, it’s a certain number like maybe, one million, and then is it a ten million, is it like a hundred million? – Yeah, no I think it was probably very textbook. I hit it at a million and had problems and fired my company and started again. I hit it at ten million and we had some franchise challenges and had to rebuild and restructure a bit.
A hundred million and we almost bankrupted the company. – Oh, talk to us about that. What happened? – Yeah, so we got from two million to a hundred six million. – In what period of time? – In seven years. – Yes, that’s a massive growth. – Massive growth, it’s great. So, I had Cameron Herold who was my COO at the time. – Right. – He was running the business with me. – Right. – And two ADD, very shoot from the hip entrepreneurs running something together. Even though he was a hired gun. We were very ADD, just, we were making big decisions quickly. And I realized, as the business started to grow we needed more rigor and discipline. So, unfortunately I had to get Cameron out. We’re still very close friends today, we talked yesterday. He is somebody, though, that firing my best friend, where I was his best man in his wedding, is a tough decision. – Wow, that’s a tough one. – But I say in the book that the right thing is very rarely the easy thing.
You know you gotta do the hard thing that’s for the business. Cameron and I realized, and he, you know, he’s done TED Talks and books and he’s very successful in the speaking circuit. We realized that we weren’t the two right leaders to take this to the next level. So, we had hit a ceiling. I had to get him out. I then went and shopped for a COO and I found the next Starbucks president to come in and run my little company. – And you thought, Starbucks? No problem! – Jackpot, you know. – Exactly. Perfect. – I love the Starbucks brand, this person that.. – Culture. – But it wasn’t a cultural fit for me. This person hadn’t had experience working with entrepreneurs.
And didn’t quite get me. And so, we drifted apart, the vision wasn’t the right one and I had to get that person out. And we did so much damage in a little over a year. – How could you go, do so so much revenue and to near bankruptcy. I wonder? – So we dropped forty million in revenue in a year. – Wow. – And, so it was a big drop. – Because of just too many initiatives? – Too many initiatives, spending money in the wrong places. Taking risks that I didn’t feel comfortable with. And so we were running the business a little disconnected. – Got it. – And I just said, you know, this isn’t working. And I had to get that person out because I saw the writing on the wall. Forty million drop in revenue. I had to then get in and get rid of that person’s entire leadership team because they were following the Starbucks COO’s vision. And I had to start again and so I elevated middle-level managers to that top position and then said, you know.
– This was how many years ago? – This was 2008. So it was also during the financial meltdown. – Yeah, this is not a good time. 2008 plus this internal problem? – Yeah, it was not a good time. It was a perfect storm. Ah, laid off fifty-two people that year. We had to hunker down, really cut costs and rebuild the business. – Yes. – And it took a few years to rebuild. But, the nice thing is again, we learned from it. And it helped me understand who I was looking for as my integrator; as the right person to work with me. And of course I was so clear on what I was looking for that I found Eric. – During that time, 2008, did it ever cross your mind like, this company could go under. Like, what you’ve spent years building.
– Yeah, I felt like I was going to lose my baby that I’d built for twenty years. – Yes. – So, we were three days away from me selling the company. So, we had run out of money, we overspent, we were seeking private equity to help save us. Now, this was an initiative that my COO was chasing. And, so, trying to raise money, the private equity company actually sat down with me and said, I don’t think you need to raise money. I think you need to hunker down.
And, I think you can fix this company and save it. Without giving up more than fifty percent for a little bit of cash. Five million bucks. – That’s a nice private equity guy. – You know what? He was amazing. I took him for lunch years and years later and just said how heartfelt that moment was that he really believed that what the COO wanted and I wanted weren’t aligned and he felt he needed to let me know. And it was, I’m extremely grateful. – From there, what changes did you make? – So, from there we hunkered down and sort of rightsized the company. – Okay. – And then said, Okay, you know, one person who’s the wrong person in the company. Even though they’re a good person who was doing, who’s done better at their next business. – Correct. – The wrong person for you, the wrong leader for you can just about destroy the company. – Correct. – So, I said my whole, “it’s all about people” philosophy. Finding the right people and treating them right. I need to find that right person at the top. – Right. – And that’s where I got down and I took a sheet of paper and I listed on one side, what am I good at, what do I love to do.
But what does the business require that I’m bad at? And I don’t love to do? And I need to find someone who can do those things. – Yes. – Who it lies within their.. – I would love to see and get a copy of that. – You know, I mean, it was really things like I don’t like looking at financials, I don’t like, um, holding people accountable to goals. I don’t like sitting down and having too many meetings. I don’t like running meetings. I don’t like, um, hiring. – Yes. – But I like the culture, the fun, the building, the inspiring, the dreaming, the strategy. So, I needed somebody, Eric. – Who is very good at that. – Who is great with those things. And that’s, that’s his background. – Perfect, man. It just is awesome. – I mean, I think his favorite part of the day is the 8:00AM leadership team call. – (laughs) – He checks in, what’s going on? How can I help? I don’t have to do that.
– Love that. – But he loves that. – I love that. And then, it’s interesting cause now when you meet with people in the office. When people see you, like, walking around. Do they, what’s that like? Do they walk up, “Hey, Brian I’m working on this?” Or like, what’s that like? Would just like to see what people are like working on? – Yeah, I walk around the office. I don’t have a desk. I just go move around so I can sit and learn. – This is actually fascinating because when we set up this interview, right, with Jennifer. – Yeah. – And we’re saying, okay so, I think we can set up in Brian’s office, right? You know, the CEO’s office. And it’s just like, well, Brian doesn’t have an office. I said what do you mean Brian doesn’t have an office? He doesn’t have an office. He just walks around and works wherever. So, we have to get a room like this in a boardroom to do the interview.
I find it fascinating. – Well, to me.. – I love it, I love it. – Thank you. Why it works for me is my understanding that I work best when I’m connecting with people. – Yes. – I want to connect with different people. I don’t like the fact that as we’re growing, and I don’t know everyone anymore. I don’t know every person. And so, it’s a great way to go sit next to someone and get to know them. – Yes. – To hear what’s going on in the business. I don’t want to be sheltered in a private office where I can’t hear the excitement and the problems we’re solving and what’s going on.
So, I’ve always done that and I’ve never had a desk because I also, I don’t want to be forced to sit in one place. I don’t have files, I don’t have papers. – Entrepreneurs have ADD, it’s true. – Right? And so get rid of distractions. – Yes. And what’s your day to day like? What do you focus on in terms of those highly productive activities? – I think my number one is sharing the vision with people through stories. So, connecting future entrepreneurs.
You know I’ll meet people who go, Wow. This WOW-1DAY! Painting thing is so awesome. How do I get in? How can I grow a business with you? Sharing stories through podcasts, through the press, through interviews. Sharing stories here through Huddle. I think I’m, ah, sort of the chief storyteller. The chief culture builder. – Yeah. – And I’m spending a lot of time doing that. – A kind of Chief Vision Officer. – Yeah! – It is. That’s a good name. Chief Vision Officer. – And writing the book was a great way to get what’s worked in the past, what kind of vision we have for the future out to all of our people. Our truck-team members. We have our franchise partners for all of our brands that buying books that are reading books, who are giving them out. And so that’s my role. I think my day to day, my week to week if you want a rhythm, is Monday I work out of the office. – Yeah. Okay. – So I go walk from a coffee shop or maybe five coffee shops cause I’ll get ADD and move around.
I love being caffeinated. – Let me guess, Starbucks? – Yeah, yeah. Exactly. I love Starbucks but I’ll go to any coffee shop. I’ll put on my headphones, I’ll do some work, I’ll catch up on email. I’ll make plans for the future. I will then also, ah, come back to the office for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday where I’m back to back to back in meetings. And, so that’s when I get to connect with people, help guide any of the activities that we’re working on. – But you meet with, like, not just directors. Anyone? – All sorts of people. It depends on what we’re working on. If we’re working on social media maybe the social media team. – Got it, got it. – And then, Fridays. Fridays are my free day. Now, transparently, ah, the last ninety days have been so busy on a book tour that I have worked some Fridays. But, typically. On a year to year basis I would not be working Fridays. That’s my day to go skiing or hang out with the family, or go to connect with some friends.
Go walk the dog. You know, whatever. And, so, for me, it’s my chance to recharge. I work hard, play hard. – Yes. – And I find as someone who does have strong ADD that I’m better staying focused and getting a bunch done and then having time to recharge and enjoy life. – What about Saturday and Sunday? That’s just a day off? – Family day. No email. I get my assistant when I go away on vacation to change my passcode on my email. – We’re just talking about, eight weeks in a year, go dark. – Yeah, I’ll usually take three, I call it going dark. I’ll take three weeks around the Christmas holidays. Five weeks during the summer. – Okay. – And I’ll go with my family and last year we went to Spain and France and Kenya. And so I will disconnect and I will not check email. Not once, so in that five-week period if the office burns down, call 9-1-1. You know, I can’t do anything.
But it’s, I’m away, I’m unplugged and we want our people to do the same thing. – Yes. – So, we say that everybody needs to have a backup to their role. And once you do and you’ve got somebody doing your role. So, Eric is my backup and I’m his. When you’ve got it covered, go dark and take that time. – How often do you talk to Eric? – Eric and I talk a couple times a week, at least. – Okay. – Yeah, but we’re not talking every single day because he’s doing his thing I’m doing mine. We, you know, we use the term: divide and conquer. And, he’ll be on the road or I’ll be on the road. Or, he’ll be in different meetings. – In the office. – We might not really see each other. We might have a quick little hello. But, sitting down, working together and having a phone call generally a couple times a week. – And to come up with different ideas, “Hey Eric, I’m working on this. I’m thinking about this. What do you think?” Right? – Yeah, just supporting each other.
And Eric is really good at as an implementer of mine being able to say, “Brian, eh, it’s a good idea but let’s park that for a year.” – Yes. – Great idea for another brand, but we’re not ready for another brand. – Maybe hear three or something like that? – Exactly..