Links Mentioned in Episode
[00:00:00] Kevin Dieny: Hello and welcome to the Close The Loop podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. His name is Martin Strong, and we’re going to be talking about Conquering Growing Pains from Your Business. Martin is a retired Navy Seal Officer and combat veteran. He is a novelist, really awesome making that transition, a practicing CEO and Chief Strategy Officer.
[00:00:22] Kevin Dieny: And he’s the author of the book called Be Nimble, How The Creative Navy Seal mindset wins on the battlefield and in business. And the second book Be Visionary, Strategic Leadership in the Age of Optimization, set for release in December 22 of this year. Marty spent a lifetime meeting challenges head on, succeeding in three professions, anticipating crisis and leading through crisis and chaos.
[00:00:46] Kevin Dieny: He’s an amazing person to dive into, how do you conquer growing pains here. So welcome Martin, welcome to the podcast.
[00:00:54] Marty Strong: Thanks for having me, Kevin, I’ll try to be amazing.
[00:00:58] Kevin Dieny: Haha we’d love to pick your brain on a lot of these subjects, but the one that we’re really here for that we really want to get into is on growing pains. Just To ground us here, what do you think of when we say growing pains and why do businesses struggle when they’re trying to grow?
[00:01:15] Marty Strong: Well, I think it, I think it would print up to two tracks. One is personal individual, you know, professional. And the second one is organizational and they’re intertwined obviously because organizations are, are contrived and populated by individuals. So can’t really study or try to influence one without affecting the other.
[00:01:35] Marty Strong: So. I spent a lot of time focusing on ways to motivate individuals, help them see the future, their own future. And sometimes their future. Once they see it, doesn’t align with the organizations are in, which is okay. If it’s healthy for them to understand what they want to be, where they want to go, what kind of, what defines success for them, then they’re going to go, you know, where that path leads them and they may leave the organization, or they may find that an organization.
[00:02:02] Marty Strong: I don’t care what it is. It can be a profit, a nonprofit, it could be a church, could be the military could be anything. Then they’re going to be better aligned with the organization. The second part of that is if you’re interacting with leaders, organizations, and they’re trying to figure out why the organization is, is staggering or, or it’s failing to pivot or, or anticipate, usually you’re, you’re going to sit down and point to the same kind of introspection.
[00:02:28] Marty Strong: What do you think the organization looks like in the future? Have you ever defined that path? Have you ever kind of sat down on paper on a whiteboard and put the profile of what you are, what you want to be, and then draw, draw the line between those two and say, are we on that path? So that’s kind of how I look at, you know, the growing pains is not knowing where, where you want to be, what you are, who you are, or where you want to go as a person in his organization.
[00:02:54] Marty Strong: That’s part of it. That’s experiencing it when there’s a disconnect and then recognizing the disconnect and figuring out a way to align yourself with your own universe and with the organization.
[00:03:06] Kevin Dieny: Yeah, I liked how there’s two parts to that. You’ve, you’ve laid out there. At its core, a lot of times there’s maybe a way of doing business up to that point or a way of thriving up to that point that maybe has worked, but all of a sudden, You know, to keep growing or to continue growing near the pace you had or to grow at a higher or more accelerated pace.
[00:03:26] Kevin Dieny: There’s some sort of hindrance to that. As a small business emerging and getting bigger and bigger, it might be you did everything yourself. A small group of people did everything. And I think in a lot of cases that ends up as, well, a few people can’t do everything as the company scales up.
[00:03:42] Kevin Dieny: At some point, something has to change. And that changes that point where it’s like, can they handle the change? What got them there, that process, the people, everything that got them to that point is what they want to hold onto. But something about that has to change and that visionary aspect you’ve described, where do we want to go?
[00:04:03] Kevin Dieny: Do we want to be a huge company, but everything running on just a few people’s shoulders? I don’t think that that’s necessarily sustainable. So when you’re trying to grow your company, you’re looking at it like, what is the least amount I have to change to get that to happen.
[00:04:17] Kevin Dieny: So do you have any thoughts on change itself, like transformative? If you realize your vision has to pivot, has to change, how do you do that? I think that is a struggle.
[00:04:29] Marty Strong: Well, staying with your theme of small business and you know, the different class of individuals, one class is the leadership class and a founder business owner. Finds themselves a lot of times facing the fact that, or the, or the truth that they can’t, whatever got them there. It’s not going to get them there.
[00:04:49] Marty Strong: And as you stated, and what you’re asking them to do, if you’re an outside advisor consultant or a fear, somebody writes a book, you’re asking them to basically dismantle what they. And it’s completely contrary to human nature. You, you may have struggled, you know, in a garage or in a, in a bedroom assigned to the, to the new business in home business.
[00:05:11] Marty Strong: And now you’ve got a building and now you’ve got some employees and everything, but you’re stagnated. Or you’re doing great, but you realize when you look out on the horizon that your competition is, has made some move shifted in some way, that’s going to make you your products, your way of doing business obsolete.
[00:05:28] Marty Strong: And you come to that cold, hard reality that if I do nothing, this is all gonna fade. And if I don’t do something smart, I’ll miss the opportunity. And if I don’t do anything at all, well, I’m just going, gonna fail. So. Facing that fact is, is that’s one of your growing pains facing that back to, as a leader, especially a founder leader, who’s got, you know, sweat equity and a lot of pride and self-esteem baked in to the organization.
[00:05:59] Marty Strong: The second thing is when you’re small, You don’t want to add a lot of people cause it’s expensive. So maybe part of your growing is, is a reluctant to, to scale. And if you don’t scale, let’s say you’re doing great. Let’s say that there’s so much opportunity. You know, the world’s beating a path to your door, but you got where you are right now by being in very tight.
[00:06:22] Marty Strong: So now you’re not going to delegate any responsibility to anybody else. You don’t want to increase your labor costs. You don’t want to maybe, maybe change the hours of your, of your workplace. You want to open up another store. You want to stay contained and controlled and safe. Even when people are coming to you and saying, I want to buy whatever you’re selling.
[00:06:41] Marty Strong: And that’s a really odd situation, but actually happens a lot because people become less and less risk tolerance. The more they succeed. And, and that’s usually when you have to open your eyes a little bit and, and take some bigger calculated risks to continue and to scale up.
[00:06:58] Kevin Dieny: I think you’ve definitely hit home on that last statement there too. The identifying of risk, because in some ways, and I know that this is something you’ve said in your books or in your website, there’s a balance of risk and reward a lot of times. And how strategically managing your risk is definitely a part of business.
[00:07:15] Kevin Dieny: The risk represents both the financial risk, but there could also be an identity change too. Cause I know that as businesses sometimes grow, they may go from well, the CEO, the owner talks to every client, every customer that walks in the door.
[00:07:31] Kevin Dieny: And then, you know, if they grow to a point where they can’t do that, then maybe who are they? I thought we were the company where, you know, you can reach out to the owner at any time, any time anywhere you’re always have us, like on a, on a direct dial.
[00:07:43] Kevin Dieny: And so you have this great relationship, but as the company grows, does that mean you have to let go of that identity of, you know, you can always reach the owner. So there’s the financial, maybe the risk of, not growing as well, but there’s also maybe the risk of like our values having to change as well.
[00:08:02] Kevin Dieny: When you need to overcome a growing pain. Do you have any thoughts on that?
[00:08:08] Marty Strong: Sure, if, if that culture, if that focus on the personal touches that important to the owner, then stay the size you are. Be happy. That’s where you want to be. That’s what makes you happy. You can’t stay that way and scale. You can’t grow you and you can’t clone yourself. And it’s very difficult for most leaders that have started companies and taking great risks.
[00:08:33] Marty Strong: They’ve, you know, they’ve hawked their house. They did all kinds of things. And now an advisor comes in and says, what you need to do is bring in somebody else and split the leadership work. And they’re thinking, well, this person doesn’t have any skin in the game. They’re coming in for a paycheck. They’re not going to care as much as I do when that phone rings.
[00:08:47] Marty Strong: And they’re at home where I would pick it up in a second because it’s part of my, the culture I created. They may not pick it up. I that’s, it so many anticipates anticipatory scenarios where anybody they bring in, isn’t going to be either as worked as hard as them, or be as committed as them. And so, okay.
[00:09:07] Marty Strong: So basically you’re going to be miserable if you bring somebody in. So, so you have two choices, keep it where it is and be happy with the size. Yeah. Or sell it and let somebody else scale it and it go start something new. Maybe what you’re really good at is creating, you know, the, the platform in the initial, you know, genius of getting something out on the street, getting a product or service developed and, and creating that, that, that brand awareness and that brand commitment in the marketplace.
[00:09:36] Marty Strong: And then at that point, you can’t exploit it because you’re not willing to do the things you have to do to scale. And expand. So sell it, move on, do something else. So, so it doesn’t always an either or, or it’s, it’s lots of choices back to what I said before about individuals. You know, you have to sit even as a, as a founder, you have to sit down and say, am I happy doing this?
[00:09:56] Marty Strong: And will I be happy if I do all the things I need to do to go to the next level? And many, many times the answer to that second question is no.
[00:10:05] Kevin Dieny: Yeah, so what’s really fascinating there is you laid out a scenario where it’s like, What is the purpose of this business and does it have to strive for like the craziest growth possible, which may mean changing who it is and what it looks like. And you’ve laid out a possibility of someone being like, you know, this business has a purpose.
[00:10:26] Kevin Dieny: It’s not necessarily to grow beyond the reach of the capabilities I am. And being okay with that. This is the kind of business I want to have. Maybe we sell it. Maybe the way I set it up as the way I want it to thrive day in and day out. Another part of this is being able to identify the growing pain itself.
[00:10:44] Kevin Dieny: If you don’t, I guess find the true symptom, right. You might be spending a lot of your time spinning your wheels, so to speak. You’re not really finding the problem that you’re actually facing. So do you have any ideas, for a business who’s like, I’ve been trying to grow. But I’ve been unable to get past a certain growth rate or growth number.
[00:11:05] Kevin Dieny: So how do I figure out what’s really holding me back?
[00:11:09] Marty Strong: Well, the first thing is to have that honest conversation with yourself that we’ve been talking about so far, because you may be the problem you may want on one hand. To grow. And you think that that’s some symbol of success that, you know, the size, the revenue number, the number of sales per month, whatever it is that your metric is, you want to make that bigger because you think that’s, that’s the scoreboard, right?
[00:11:35] Marty Strong: But in your heart of hearts, that’s never mattered to you. What’s it mattered to you is delivering a great product or a great service and getting the accolades from satisfied customer. And knowing that you’ve made a difference in people’s lives and knowing that, you know, what you put together a solid it’s sound and that the people working for you are happy and you’re happy being where you are.
[00:11:54] Marty Strong: So if you, if you believe that second piece, then stop looking for the other answers. However, if you’re miserable, because you really, really believe that this is something you want to take, you know, you want to take it to the, to the New York stock exchange someday. And that’s, that’s where you’re heading.
[00:12:12] Marty Strong: All right. So then, you know, Th you need to find out whatever you don’t know, you have taken inventory and say, I don’t know how to hire people wisely. I don’t know how to create organizational structures wisely beyond one or two people. I don’t understand everything about say remote work. I don’t understand exactly how you control people at remote work.
[00:12:32] Marty Strong: Anything that you’re not doing, that you understand, you have to find people, they don’t have to be paid advisors. They can also be, you know, people in, in a network that you know, are doing. You know, Hey, fail. Hey Suzy. I know you’re using all these people that are knowledge workers and you have how many, oh, you have 60 employees.
[00:12:50] Marty Strong: How many actually sit with you in an office? Oh five. Well, how do you control all these other people? And then you just, listen, you take notes. I mean, It’s out there. The answers are there. It’s not, you don’t have to pay any money. You have to go to college to learn this stuff. I don’t think they teach it in college right now, by the way.
[00:13:05] Marty Strong: So you sit there and you all right. I just did it. I just did it recently for myself, or we’re going to move into a different space. We’re looking at how to use the floor space or do we want to do it, you know, circa 2005 and, and have the landlord build walls and rooms and everything. And so it’s dead on, on a Lark.
[00:13:23] Marty Strong: I said, okay. On a shark tank. I saw this weird phone booth thing. These guys were selling. It’s a three-year-old shark tank episode. And this phone booth was to set up basically calls inside of an office. They had these really nice phone booths with a little baffled doors. And so I, this is three days ago, I just Googled zoom room.
[00:13:45] Marty Strong: Figured maybe there’s something like that. Anybody that Googles that you’ll be stunned, there’s hundreds and hundreds of companies now making these things. And then. They’ve got little tables coming out of the wall with a screen there and four little bar stools and all acoustically protected. There’s a podcast versions of them with super acoustics.
[00:14:04] Marty Strong: Yeah. So instead of having walls, We’re going to, we’re getting an, a large and a medium size, then they don’t call it zoom rooms. They’re called all kinds of other things, but that’s the way I Google it. And that’s the decision we made, plus a bunch of mobile walls that are two-sided white whiteboard walls and walls that let sunlight through, but you can’t kind of frost it and we can reconfigure and shift and do all kinds of things.
[00:14:27] Marty Strong: And if we move from that space, it all goes with us. As opposed to having a landlord build all the, the walls in the rooms we pay for it. And then couple of years later, we leave and either it’s demolished by the next tenant or they use the stuff we built, you know? And when, when I, when I Googled zoom room, I had no clue what we were going to do.
[00:14:49] Marty Strong: And three days later we had a finished plan. So you can get your inspiration from anywhere and you should. Tasks. What, what the kind of leading edge thinking is. And a lot of these business topics, and, you know, none of this is gonna be found in a business book that’s based on history. So you got to keep them open-minded and be very, uh, nimble, which is why I named the book being nimble.
[00:15:14] Marty Strong: You have to, you have to think that way you have to ask people open-ended questions and then shut up and start writing or taking notes or recording, whatever you have to do. And then think about it. It’s it’s. It’s all out there. The answers are out there. You just have to be willing to ask the questions.
[00:15:30] Kevin Dieny: Yeah, that’s really cool. And because you’ve brought up the title of your book, Be Nimble there. It kind of relates to another question I had, which was a business has been around for a long time. An old dog can, that can, that business. Can a business that’s been around for a long time?
[00:15:44] Kevin Dieny: Can it, can it change? Can it learn new tricks? Can, can it learn to be nimble? Is this just for entrepreneurs in the early part, who everything is sort of fluid anyway, or does this apply to businesses at all stages?
[00:15:58] Marty Strong: When you say business, I think of business models and platforms. I don’t think of products and services. I think there’s a lot of products and services that are stuck in the. There are a lot of places in the economy. One of the companies I’m I’m that I lead is a healthcare company.
[00:16:13] Marty Strong: So healthcare, it, you know, in general as much like the U S government or state government or the DMV it’s it’s, it doesn’t have a whole lot of competition. Doesn’t have a whole lot of reason to change. And so it doesn’t, you know, the, so the business model isn’t that radically different than it was five years ago or 10 years ago, they just kind of tweak and do incremental adjustments.
[00:16:31] Marty Strong: The technology sounds like they’re changing. Not really, if you’re still, if you can’t just barge into your doctor’s office to say, Hey, I’m Fred, you know, see me right now. And they go, okay, then nothing’s changed. So it could be that the product and the service or what’s. And stale. And what you really have to do is say, do I have a, an old and stale business model for delivering the product or developing the product or designing the product or manufacturing the product and then delivering it, and distributing it and, and is my service complete?
[00:17:04] Marty Strong: Does it cover everything it could cover? Is there somebody else out there with a similar product that provides a service attached to the product and they’re doing something way above and beyond what I’m doing? And then can we do that? So I would, I would address the way to rejuvenate a company is to first look at the business model, which is the way you design develop, build, and then deliver.
[00:17:29] Marty Strong: And then also look at the market and whether the market cares about your product or service, whether they’re there’s a demand still out there or demand shifted. I mean, Henry Ford built, the same color of black, model T for years. And nobody complained until somebody else came along, came over, it was general motors or people that worked for him quit and went and started another company and had a colored vehicle.
[00:17:52] Marty Strong: Next thing you know, I was like, Hey, I didn’t even know they came in different colors. So that’s sometimes is all it takes. You just have to look around and pay attention, see what models are working and see which ones aren’t and then look at yours. And again, like I said before, you don’t have to do this.
[00:18:10] Marty Strong: You know, in a vacuum, you should ask everybody that works with you and for you. Cause a lot of those people probably have great ideas. They’re just afraid to upset you by bringing them up. I mean, I mean, if you’re not open to those ideas and you don’t make yourself available and, and approachable as a founder or a leader at any level, those ideas level will never bubble up.
[00:18:32] Marty Strong: They’ll never percolate because the fear either a failure or ridicule or, or worse. Invoicing those ideas will prevent those ideas from ever coming up internally. And if you can’t get that environmental culture established, then do it. I said before, go outside, open your mind and ask every network contact.
[00:18:55] Marty Strong: You have open-ended questions and try to discover where you are in relation to the rest of the world. Size pace, quality, speed of speed of, a business, all those things.
[00:19:08] Kevin Dieny: Yeah, yeah wow. So then you, you’ve put a couple of questions in my head and already two of them flew out of my head. So one of them that’s still in there was… one growing pain I’ve found that seems to be pretty common out there is people saying, well, I have a talent shortage. I have people leaving my company. I bring in people, I train them, I get them great. And then they leave and I feel like I’m just always hiring.
[00:19:30] Kevin Dieny: There’s always this problem. The talent shortage growing pain is out there. It’s been out there for the last, I think year or two since, the pandemic hit. People are still figuring out what kind of companies they want to come back to. So in terms of the talent shortage growing pain, how do you assess that and how do you navigate that?
[00:19:48] Kevin Dieny: Cause a little bit of that is retention and a lot of that is also attracting the right talent, making sure there’s a good process for hiring. So there’s a lot there, but was there anything you could speak of in regards to the talent shortage growing pain?
[00:20:04] Marty Strong: You first have to establish a profile for the kind of participant you would like to have in your business model. I’ll give you a quick idea. I think I talk about this in Be Nimble. I use some simplicity in explaining this. There’s 50 mile an hour people and a 100 mile an hour people. If you have a business model, that’s a hundred mile an hour business.
[00:20:27] Marty Strong: Everything’s moving volume, velocity, complexity, boom, boom, boom, every day. You can’t hire 50 mile an hour people. I don’t care if their resume is exactly the same as a 100 mile, an hour expert technical expert leader, whatever. By personality, by level of energy, you’re just going to have a problem.
[00:20:47] Marty Strong: Now think of this. Let’s say you have a 50 mile an hour organization because it has to be. Because there’s a safe safety related or something, or the way the quality is maintained. Bringing in a bunch of 100 mile an hour employees, it’s just going to cause a bunch of they’re going to be, they’re going to be constantly frustrated.
[00:21:03] Marty Strong: They’re going to be banging their heads against the wall. Wondering why we’re going so slow, why we’re not, why we’re not doing things differently. So that’s a disconnect. So you have to figure out what kind of organization do I have or if it’s too slow and I want to ramp this thing up, maybe the reason it’s too slow is what I’ve done over time.
[00:21:18] Marty Strong: I’ve just hired people in based on their resume, their technical quals. And I never thought about the other part of the. I mean, could you imagine if you were professional basketball team and you said, okay, all I want on the resume is their ability to dribble. And then HR tells you, yeah, I’ve hired five people and you go in the room and they’re all five foot one, but they can all dribble, you know?
[00:21:39] Marty Strong: Oh man, there was another dimension there you forgot to put down on your set of requirements. So one of those other things you can, you can note in the profile is creativity, imagination. Uh, the willingness to share ideas a little bit of self-confidence because if you don’t have self-confidence they’ll, they’ll clam up.
[00:21:59] Marty Strong: The second you hire them, it’ll all be about job, you know, job safety. So you don’t want that. And here’s another thing you have to be willing to. One, you have to be willing to overpay for the, for that kind of person. If you’re going to, if you’re going to get a a hundred mile an hour person that’s open, imaginative and is willing to communicate and has self-confidence this isn’t the, you don’t, you don’t go to, Salesforce or any place else and say, what’s the median.
[00:22:24] Marty Strong: And then go back 10 to 10% and, and hire at that level because you’re never going to be one, you’ll have a hard time attracting them, then you’ll never retain them. So you have to figure out what’s the premium for. Those kinds of people are also very trainable and cross trainable. So you can start building, I talk about this and Be Nimble more than Be Visionary, but you can build bench strength.
[00:22:44] Marty Strong: You can build redundancy, you can build competencies in a lot of different areas. You can attract people in by saying, we’re going to cross train you. And then once you’re cross train, we’re going to cross project utilize you. And that’s exciting for a 100 mile an hour people that’s exciting for people with imagination and creativity.
[00:23:00] Marty Strong: So that’s. That’s one big disconnect. I was with a company one time where we had all that and it was all going great. And as soon as all of us got senior removing up and the organization got bigger and bigger went from like 175 to 900 people, we hired in human resources professionals, and they just started hiring people based on the resume.
[00:23:21] Marty Strong: The interview was a confirmation of what was in the resume. It wasn’t anything about how to, how could they work in the business model and the business model was dynamic. I mean, it was really dynamic. So we had people being hired, and their doing, all skill sets, accountants. There are, um, people that are by technical skill, meticulously focused on details, and they don’t want to interact with a lot of other things. Again, their focus is important to them.
[00:23:48] Marty Strong: But you, if you need an accountant that can work on three different projects. They have to have at least that flexibility. Right? And these HR people were hiring in accountants that were, this is my stack. This is my cubicle. Don’t come near me. And I’m talking about like 10, 20, 30 accountants. And then we realized, uh oh we lost control of the culture.
[00:24:10] Marty Strong: And then we said, we never defined the culture and handed the HR department. We all live the culture in our heads because we are all very entrepreneurial. And that’s where we screwed up. So we had to sit down and redefine the culture, redefined the profile of the perfect fill in the blank, senior leader, middle leader, supervisor, technical expert. Reissue that guidance and then try training with who we had.
[00:24:31] Marty Strong: And yeah, so, you know, you learn this stuff by, by making mistakes. I made lots of mistakes. I’ve been, I’ve been there and watched lots of mistakes made and I’ve, I’ve chimed in and raised my hand. Yeah, that’s a good plan. And then watch it fall apart. With all good intentions, I mean, it’s not like a bunch of people sat in the room and say, let’s do something stupid today.
[00:24:52] Marty Strong: You know, everybody thinks they’re making a good, a good decision, but that all that experience and all those, those failures and the successes I tried to bake into Be Nimble because it’s all. The mechanics of leading and hiring and talent selection across training, and a lot of the normal blocking and tackling in businesses Be Visionary is more about dreaming and trying to figure out how to turn a dream into a strategy.
[00:25:18] Kevin Dieny: So then here’s a question for you that I think may fit more into your second book, your Be Visionary book. This was another growing pain I found that was very popular. The one that I, in fact, I have experienced and part of the production side of marketing, which is. Everyone every day feels like you’re putting out fires.
[00:25:36] Kevin Dieny: You really don’t feel like you’re being very strategic. In fact, you don’t really feel like you’re doing anything of any visionary value. Because you just day after day, tactically, just putting out a fire here next day, putting out a fire there, you don’t really get to feel like you’re looking beyond a few days ahead of time.
[00:25:50] Kevin Dieny: You’re just trying to thinking. You know, in a few days, works out. And then in other times, I’ve, I’ve come out of that or been on different roles and been like, wow, this role is so much more strategic than it was before, because before I was just putting out fires, uh, it felt like everything’s an emergency.
[00:26:06] Kevin Dieny: Everything has to roll up to me. Everything has to be solved by me. Everything has to be in my decision. We didn’t really plan, and then we solve it, but then it feels like more problems are just right behind it. And so nothing ever feels like it gets to that point of, I get to be strategic and I get to improve what I’m doing.
[00:26:22] Kevin Dieny: I’m just literally making sure the water isn’t going through the cracks. So that was one pain, one growing pain that I found that I was like, Ooh, that’s an interesting one. How do you move from a firefighter, putting out the fires and plugging the holes, to getting back to being more strategic in a leadership role?
[00:26:42] Marty Strong: That’s a great question, Kevin. It really is it’s so the subtitle of be visionary is strategic leadership in the age of optimization. And what you described is actually always been around, but it’s getting worse because business schools and corporations that are first technology enabled and now AI enabled.
[00:27:07] Marty Strong: Are starting to get really comfortable, demanding a high granularity of short range measurement KPIs, which causes everybody to focus on the grains of sand and the tips of their toes. Every day. I guarantee you, if you are that focused on every single thing that happens every hour of every day, you know, one, you know, it’s frantic.
[00:27:33] Marty Strong: So it’s going to feel frantic. You won’t be able to solve everything because things don’t get solved in a day. Somethings actually go away in three days and some things get better once in a while they get worse. So not everything is solvable in a day. And your to-do list of, of houses that are on fire, you know, to put out never will never, ever, ever be resolved.
[00:27:58] Marty Strong: You’ll just keep adding. But now that, unfortunately, there’s this kind of mantra out there that because you can measure and because you can measure so frequently and so intimately, and so tightly that’s, that’s now expected of leadership. That’s now strategy, you know, what did you do last week? What did you do last Tuesday?
[00:28:20] Marty Strong: What did you do yesterday? Thank you. I’ll call you tomorrow and you can tell me how you did today, you know, and then nobody wants to talk about not even next week. Let alone six months from now or whatever. So I’ll tell you the only thing I’ve been able to do. And I started, I read someplace probably a decade ago.
[00:28:41] Marty Strong: Somebody in a book took Sunday and they would get up, they set their alarm and get up really early in the morning on a Sunday. And they would sit down with a blank piece of paper and a cup of coffee and all they would do is think big thoughts. They wouldn’t let one single short range to do problem that they’re trying to solve.
[00:29:00] Marty Strong: Be entertained. They only said, what do I think the world’s going to look like a year from now? Where do I want to be? What do I want to have? You know, personally, what do I want professionally? What do I want if I’m running an organization, what I want that organization to be doing to look like a year from now two years from now, what’s going to prevent me from doing that.
[00:29:18] Marty Strong: Is there anything out there that could help me? Is there a target of opportunity that I should start looking at and start steering the ship in that direction? So to speak over time, if you do it as a discipline, Every Sunday morning before you get interrupted with kids or life or whatever, you find that you’ve, it’s like a muscle, you start to exercise it and pretty soon it’s okay.
[00:29:38] Marty Strong: You start to think that way. Even during the week after about two or three months, I found myself seeing an immediate problem. And then most of my brain jumped to, is this going to be a problem? If I want to go down this path of starting to connect current issues with future, you know, opportunities or, or future threat.
[00:29:59] Marty Strong: What I do now is I do it for about 20 minutes every day. And I do that because I like that idea and I like doing it, but the second I go into the office and I’m the CEO and I put that hat on. I’m basically, it’s a lot like when I was a seal officer, we S we used to joke that in modern, in the modern days of seals, the officers were just telephone poles.
[00:30:24] Marty Strong: We had. Well, you know, radios and headsets and little, little switches to switch between different frequencies. You’re talking to planes and helicopters and our killery and Naval gunships, and the sniper team off to the left and the guys inside the house. That’s what you were and your, your like whole place, you’re shifting all these little switches around, well, that’s kind of how it is being a CEO.
[00:30:43] Marty Strong: You, you walk in. And the sun comes up and boom, your phone lights up, your, your computer lights up, your cell phone, lights up, people start, start, dive, bombing you, it random. These are leaders for the most part and they just swing by and they have sometimes a fairly shallow question, but that’s rare in my experience.
[00:31:04] Marty Strong: So they combine, they give you a deep question and then you’re like, wow. Okay. You either start talking about it right in the moment with me Elvis, grab him and go into a room with a dry erase board and we’ll try to diagram out what they say the problem is or think the problem is, or the opportunity.
[00:31:21] Marty Strong: And we’ll think about, is there anything we can do right now or do we need to get some smarter people involved in it? But that’s what I do for the next eight hours, but I I’m comfortable doing that. Cause I spent 20 minutes of that morning thinking about the strategy of the company. But I manage thinking about the individuals, thinking about the professional development of my senior leaders, thinking about the way things are being communicated, thinking about the relationship and the communication with my board and the outside, outside investors and things.
[00:31:50] Marty Strong: Yeah. It’s only 20 minutes is more than enough. It’s not meditation. I just sit there and, you know, I have a piece of paper if I want to write on it, but that’s something anybody can do. You just have to commit a block of time. I would suggest either Sunday morning, if you just want to do it once a week to try it out or early in the morning, I get up at 5:15 to write, but you know, usually by around 6:15, I’m done writing and that’s when I do my 20 minutes.
[00:32:16] Kevin Dieny: Wow that is some really good advice. I’ve heard this from a couple different books and leaders and conferences and people talking about the concept of, block your schedule. You have to make time for your priorities. And priorities is just something that you’ve heard a million times, but equating it to like, okay, In my business or I’m running my team and managing whatever it is I’m doing, what is a priority?
[00:32:44] Kevin Dieny: And is it always going, obviously the emergencies are, they, they inherently feel like they’re the most, the highest priority at any given moment, but there’s things that you kind of have to step back for and plan like, okay, I’m going to put half hour or hour or whatever it is like you’ve discussed. And because the strategic element of my business is a big priority to me, like amidst all the other things that are going on and figuring out your priorities in your business or in how you want to organize your time.
[00:33:13] Kevin Dieny: Even it is something I’ve equated with. As you a matured thing, a matured leadership concept, because you’re, you’re, you’re not necessarily like blocking out and telling people no, never talk to me, but you’re just like making special time for certain things to happen. And if you organize your day in a certain way, You do get your time.
[00:33:34] Kevin Dieny: You do set priorities for things that are important for strategic wise. And then there’s other times for obviously, open office hours or whatever it is like you’ve worked, you’ve talked about. I think that’s really important. I think that’s a really cool answer for someone who is in the midst of being a firefighter all the time and a really fascinating take on it and how you’ve described, you know, the CEO, the owner is basically, it’s like a.
[00:33:57] Kevin Dieny: Joked about it. The person in charge and the seal team is like a telephone pole. Cause I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that where it’s like, man, that office door is just like swinging and moving all the time and that, you know, leader’s office. And do they have any time for anything else? So I think it’s, yeah, it’s crazy.
[00:34:14] Kevin Dieny: So going off that you did your part of your book. Your first book was how the creative Navy seal mindset wins on the battlefield, right? When I saw that, I was like, I got to ask you, right. I haven’t read the book, but obviously the book is about that. But in its essence, what is the creative Navy Seal mindset?
[00:34:37] Marty Strong: So the, the book really is about business leadership, organizational leadership, but I can’t help, but give a nod to the, to where I learned a lot of the creative leadership that I exercise and I talk about in the book. And the seal teams are, are probably misunderstood because of the, the media and in Hollywood.
[00:34:58] Marty Strong: So one way of answering it, just to give you a short description of what a seal is. So a seal is from the beginning is, is, probably a college level. Then Munich played college level sports, but that’s how good an athlete they are. And they’re screened for high intelligence. And that’s my opinion.
[00:35:17] Marty Strong: They actually do that during the screening process and for creativity and resilience. So when you get through the first basic course and you show up at an actual seal team, you’ve already been selected on a couple of different levels. And one of them is your imagination and creativity, your drive, and your willingness to both lead in.
[00:35:38] Marty Strong: A room full of seals is a very difficult thing to lead in my experience. Because you walk in there and I used to joke with somebody, you know, when you want to say hi to everybody, when you walk in to talk to the seal, platoon, you start. Good morning to pull in the Polian Alexander, the great Napoleon deployed everywhere.
[00:35:58] Marty Strong: Everybody knows that they’re smart. Everybody knows their, they know their, their job and they know your job and they know your job better than you do. And, and so it’s an interesting dynamic, but if you don’t. Inhibited by that as an officer and you figured out a way to tap into all of all that brain power, all that imagination, break it up.
[00:36:18] Marty Strong: I used to break people up into little think tank groups and going imagine four different ways to do the mission. Four different ways to get to the, to the target site, four different ways to do it, where we had to do on the target. And they thrived on that. They loved that and they’d come back and we have to pick something.
[00:36:33] Marty Strong: And at some point I’d have to say. This is what we’re going to do. And it might, it might be a hybrid, but it was never a compromise. It was never, it was never like consensus or compromise. It was what was the best element generated from that process, that creative process. And as an officer, you do a lot of bigger picture, mission planning besides leading people every day.
[00:36:56] Marty Strong: So what I found out when I got out of the Navy was the first thing is nobody was pre-screening spending millions of dollars to pre-screen. This, this type of person to show up at my company. So that was a shock because, you know, we just went down the hallway and asked the operations officer for an extra guy when one of our guys got hurt and they give us exactly the fully qualified, super motivated creative guy, same, same guy.
[00:37:21] Marty Strong: You know, here you go. This guy’s name is Bob. He’s just like, he’s just like Tony, but Bob’s gonna take Tony’s place. Ping, just like a Pez dispenser. They go in there. You don’t even miss a beat. And the outside world, that’s not the way it is. So I found that I really liked leading that way. And I think organizations could be very powerful that way.
[00:37:40] Marty Strong: And with a few number of people applying their brain cells, their imagination and being cross-trained the way we were always cross-trained you had so much redundancy and so much cross understanding of everybody else’s technical area of expertise. Which allowed us to collaborate collectively even more and into a deeper level.
[00:37:59] Marty Strong: I said, well, how hard is that to do in the commercial world? How hard is that to do in a civilian company? You just have to, beside that, that’s what you want to build. And so you’ll get whatever you get coming in through, human resources. You try to set the profile. Like I said before, to get people to come in with at least the DNA.
[00:38:16] Marty Strong: And then you have to try to forge and create that kind of idea of creative team. And, and also show them that you’re, you’re okay with everybody throwing ideas out. Even if those ideas are either contrary to yours or maybe ideas that lead to the destruction of something you built personally.
[00:38:36] Kevin Dieny: Right, yeah. I’ve, I’ve found that too. Sometimes a new process makes the new tasks, the new things you’re working on way better, the way your direction you want to go. But it also, everything has like a give and take, right? This new process may make what we did before a lot harder to do, or may destroy things that we were used to doing make that, old process or task irrelevant.
[00:38:55] Kevin Dieny: It’s really fascinating. Some of the things I figured a lot of your experience and learned wisdom from being in the seals would come across, into the business world. And it was just a curiosity thing that I’d had was like, well, other things you’ve gotten in the business world, you would take back to the, the, the seal side.
[00:39:12] Kevin Dieny: I don’t know if you’ve ever been asked that, but I was just curious, I thought, well, what about the other direction? Which if you went back there with anything, is there anything you would you found out in the business world that you’d be like, wow, this is interesting, you know?
[00:39:22] Marty Strong: No.
[00:39:25] Kevin Dieny: No.
[00:39:27] Kevin Dieny: It’s very honed.
[00:39:28] Marty Strong: No, because almost every, almost everything in the business world is so restrictive and it’s so well here, here’s the, here’s an example. Why, why it’s in. Again, misconception about seals, green Berets Marine Raiders. These are special units that are supposed to go into a special task. Now special doesn’t mean better.
[00:39:52] Marty Strong: It just means different than conventional. So the conventional forces you wouldn’t send. 15 or 20 seals to go take a hill or a fortress. You’d send the Marines or army Rangers. You sent 200 bad-ass is not, you know, and maybe prepare, prepare the target with artillery and airstrikes and then send the bad-ass.
[00:40:10] Marty Strong: As in you wouldn’t send a little handful of guys in that could do a lot of pushups and you’d get wiped out. So what you’re really looking at is every time a job comes up, every time a mission comes up and they do this in training on purpose to constantly keep you on your toes. Look at and plan for the same scenarios.
[00:40:28] Marty Strong: They’re all unique. They’re all special. They’re all different. So that idea of a business model, you basically build the business. When you’re building the mission plan, it’s unique, it’s different. You may configure differently. You may not have used people the same way. You may not have got in the same way.
[00:40:44] Marty Strong: I’ve gone into places in the back of dump trucks and, and jumped out into dumpsters and waited until it got dark. I mean, you could think of all kinds of crazy ways to do it, and you may never use again in business, in the commercial business. It’s, that’s almost impossible to do you have a point. You’re selling widgets.
[00:41:01] Marty Strong: You can’t come in everyday and go, now let’s sell shoes today. Yeah, you know, heck with that, we’re giving swim lessons for a week. You know, you can’t keep flipping around. So I would not want that lock into one conventional task business model in business and the commercial side, in the seal teams. Because then that would erase the whole value of having a special, special unit.
[00:41:23] Kevin Dieny: Wow, that is so fascinating and so interesting and absolutely answers what I was curious about. Maybe it’s just the way I, I think of it. A good amount that involves the armed forces to be sort of static. And then, a small piece of it, which is really, really important.
[00:41:39] Kevin Dieny: To be highly dynamic, but it’s such a cool idea that you’ve brought up. That no, every single mission we’re doing we’re coming up with a totally new company, a totally new business objective, new business thing.
[00:41:50] Marty Strong: How many times did we go after Bin Laden. One time, there was one Bin Laden.
[00:41:56] Kevin Dieny: Right, that’s so interesting. Wow.
[00:41:59] Marty Strong: I’ll tell you the conventional forces train to take certain kinds of targets, beaches, whatever it is in, in big ways, big forces. And it has to be set up and structured everything.
[00:42:11] Marty Strong: Cause there’s a lot of complex parts. A lot of people involved, a lot of different machines involved and the time is all those things is a different job then than what it’s like a factory it’s like pumping out cars at a factory, as opposed to a seal team is probably more like a group of creatives at a, at a advertising company that, you know, every, every couple of weeks somebody comes in and says, Hey, we just got this, request for proposal.
[00:42:41] Marty Strong: And then they want to figure out a way to make Apple sexy? Can you guys figure out a way? And then all of a sudden that’s what you’re doing, you know.
[00:42:46] Kevin Dieny: Yeah, that’s cool. I love that. I love that metaphor. I love that way of describing it.
[00:42:50] Marty Strong: What sexy, sexy, Apple?
[00:42:54] Kevin Dieny: In the advertising group, yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So let’s say a business is really on the precipice right now today. It would be like one of the main, last questions here for you. Uh, Their right now thinking….
[00:43:04] Kevin Dieny: Okay, we’ve had a growing pain we’re facing, and we’re going to do something about it. They have a plan, they’re on the precipice of going through their plan to make a change, to grow. In a way that they haven’t before.
[00:43:14] Kevin Dieny: So is there any, let’s say in the next 90 days that they’re looking at here, any tips or suggestions you’d have for managing that pivot? The next couple of steps they are going to take of unfolding their plan and making it real. Any sort of, I don’t know, things to look out for or, or things to remember as they enter that, conquering their growing pains plan as it unfolds?
[00:43:39] Marty Strong: Well, I can either assume that you’ve already thought through the strategic visionary aspects of this. And Be Visionary actually, there’s, there’s some mechanical advice for, I think, two or three chapters. And what I put in there is, there are people that are very visionary and very open to all kinds of crazy ideas.
[00:43:57] Marty Strong: And there are people that are very good at cross checking other people’s work. There are two different kinds of human beings and you’re going to have both. So I said in the book, go ahead and deputize both groups. Create a dream, have them work on the vision and turn it into some professional strategic concept.
[00:44:19] Marty Strong: And then when you get it down to where you think it’s solid, hand it to the other group. And let them try to blow holes in it. Let them try to figure out what, what could be possibly wrong with it. And the friction between those two groups, one you’re taking in human behavior and the fact that there are different kinds of people in organizations, but the friction of those two groups, if you do that upfront, should create a strategy for that pivot.
[00:44:42] Marty Strong: With, timelines and resource demands, expectations, milestones, you know, that are reasonable and you’ve kind of battled back between two different kinds of advocates until it came out to be a practical, achievable plan. Now that’s not necessarily a hyper detailed operational plan, but if everybody in the leadership team on day one, sees it, hears it, and says, got it, conceptually.
[00:45:12] Marty Strong: Then the next thing is to, to create the, the smaller hyper detail operational plans, assign people project leads, people to the project teams. And try to do as much as possible in parallel, because that way you can take advantage of the time you have. You’ve got 90 days. One team is going to work for 90 days.
[00:45:28] Marty Strong: If you have 90 days and you have seven teams, you’re going to have seven times 90 days worth of, brainpower working in parallel. So as much as you can try to work it in parallel with multiple groups, even if the group has only a group of one, you know, try to break it up. So that it’s achievable. The other thing is if you run into snags, you’ll need that extra time and, and you can also kind of dogpile and resource focus, which parallel team project team is running into a problem.
[00:45:58] Marty Strong: So they’ve actually found something that. Was glossed over or argued over and the dream team won and all of a sudden it turns out now that for practical purposes, this really can’t happen. So as a leader, you might have to jump in and, and decide, is this a showstopper? Is this something that is a resource problem?
[00:46:15] Marty Strong: We need to get an expert from out of town to come in and, and figure it out. But yeah, that’s what I would do. I mean, 90 days, 90 days, a 100 days. If you had a year, I would do the same approach. And from time to time to revisit the original concept to keep everybody, on track because if you don’t do that, if especially if it’s a longer one, like a years project, if you don’t bring them in about every month, the reset, the concept, um, just like strategy.
[00:46:40] Marty Strong: We have a five-year strategy and I heard it five years ago in a conference room. But after that, I mean, so we’ve been wandering all over the desert since then. Doing what we think might kind of be aiming towards the strategic goals, but we’re not sure because nobody’s said anything about the strategy since five years ago.
[00:46:55] Marty Strong: And here’s the dusty document. You know, from five years ago. Yeah, you have to kind of re reinvigorate that, that long, long view, big picture, strategic conceptual point of view and plan with your leaders and have them do it with the people that are in the projects. Because, you know, people are people that need to focus and they need to see what the course in bearing is they can’t just be left to wander.
[00:47:21] Kevin Dieny: Wow, you’ve given some amazing insights here, Martin, and to kind of recap a little bit, we’ve talked about, what growing pains are for businesses. We’ve talked about a few examples of growing pains. You’ve given some really great insights and how to overcome some of the talent ones. Some of the emergencies, visionary, strategic parts of it.
[00:47:38] Kevin Dieny: How to, open up and involve more team members in the creative side of it. How to organize different teams for accomplishing projects when they are accomplishing a strategic growth initiative. These are all really great things, did we miss anything?
[00:47:53] Kevin Dieny: And is there anything else in this topic that you’ve wanted to add?
[00:47:56] Marty Strong: Only that I’m a big believer in intellectual humility and that’s something you should start with every day, whether you’re a leader or not because the world’s changing too fast for you to do. Stick to your guns and believe whatever you were taught yesterday a year ago in college is still valid.
[00:48:18] Marty Strong: Test that validity every day with an open mind. And that intellectual humility will protect you from taking old ideas and, and then stepping into bear traps because you didn’t keep your eyes and ears open as you’re moving forward.
[00:48:30] Kevin Dieny: Yeah, that is a great lesson to take away. And as far as let’s say, someone wants to reach out to you, connect with you, find you, uh, check out your books. Is there a resource? Is there a website? Is there any way people can find you and connect with you?
[00:48:46] Marty Strong: Sure, I write my novels all written under M L strong. And that website is mlstrongauthor.com. All my novels, uh, all the proceeds go to the Seal Veterans Foundation. There’s a program there for PTSD and traumatic brain injury. My business books are all on my website. martystrongbenimble.com along with all my articles and the books.
[00:49:10] Marty Strong: And I write under Marty Strong for my business books. And there’s a way to reach me through that website. And of course the books are all on Amazon.com.
[00:49:19] Kevin Dieny: Awesome, yeah. I didn’t know about your, charitable part of what you’re doing. That’s great, I didn’t know about that. So that’s really awesome. If anyone wants to check that out. And again, Martin, thank you for coming on. Thank you for tagging in and giving us these amazing wisdom and knowledge and some of your experience in the Seals and in business.
[00:49:37] Kevin Dieny: And it’s been fantastic, for anyone who’s learning to conquer their growing pains. So really appreciate you coming on!
[00:49:42] Marty Strong: Thanks for having me, Kevin. I’ve had fun.