January 23, 2019
Known as “The CEO Whisperer,” Cameron Herold has years of experience in entrepreneurship, CEO coaching, business development and more. Today, in Part One of The 19: Entrepreneur Edition, he shares insights on how to lay the foundation and create alignment for long-term brand success.
Hello, this is Rochelle Reiter, Agency Principal at Orange Label. So, if you’ve been tuning in for the past couple of years, you know that here on The 19 our topics cover response marketing in two very specific industries: healthcare and retail. However, to kick of 2019, we decided to make an exception because our guest has insights on leadership and vision that are so powerful, they apply to all industries. Joining us on the podcast today is Cameron Herold. Cameron is a business coach, business mentor, and CEO coach, who has helped grow companies into hundred million dollar brands through practical yet powerful insights. He is the mastermind behind the junk removal services 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and by the age of 42, he helped increase the company’s revenue from two million to 106 million. He has also penned several successful guides to growing your business, including Double Double and Meetings Suck. And he has a brand new book coming out this month called Free PR.
Rochelle: Cameron, welcome to the show. We’re thrilled to have you.
Cameron: Hey Rochelle, thanks for having me.
Rochelle: I first saw you speak at a Vistage conference back in 2014 and I was really floored by your bold leadership style that you shared. It was also there that I was introduced to your book called Double Double, and the concept of “vivid vision.” Fast-forward to now, and you’re known as the CEO whisperer. What life and career events have led you to this place?
Cameron: Well I guess what got me here was I was groomed as an entrepreneur. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, had my first business when I was twenty-one, had twelve employees. So while I was in second year university I was already running my own company. And really that’s all I’ve ever done is either run my own company or be second in command of companies. I’ve built a couple of brands, one was called Gerber Auto Collision. It ended up becoming the largest collision repair chain in North America. I also built the consumer brand called 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Where we would go and pick up people’s junk all over the world. I took that company from fourteen employees to 3,000 in six years. And then eleven years ago left there, and started coaching and mentoring CEOs. So I’ve known been coaching and mentoring CEOs all over the world, and I’ve got my fifth book coming out in January.
Rochelle: Oh, wow. Have you released the title yet of that?
Cameron: Yeah, the one that’s coming out in January is called Free PR.
Rochelle: Okay. Very good.
Cameron: It’s all the PR secrets of how behind the scenes I’ve been able to generate so much free publicity for all the different brands.
Rochelle: Oh my gosh.
Cameron: Well you know what we do is we just pick up the phone. We get thousands of emails and requests that you have to sort through, but if you actually just pick up the phone and call the media and say, “Hey, I think I have a good story for you, do you have two minutes?” They almost always say, “Yes, what’s your pitch?”
Rochelle: Are you doing that yourself or do people do that for you?
Cameron: I’ve done lots of it, but I tend to hire very early age, just got out of university. you know, twenty three or twenty-four-year olds. And they always are sales people. So I hire a very young salesperson who loves to cold call, and they’re great at handling rejection. And they’re good at just picking up the phone.
Rochelle: That’s awesome. I’ll have to get the book. At OrangeLabel, we’ve really found our stride working with brands that have an entrepreneurial mindset. Since you are an entrepreneur and you’ve interviewed a ton of entrepreneurs on your podcast, what are the common traits that you see in successful entrepreneurs?
Cameron: So my podcast is called The Second in Command, and I actually only interviewed the COO. So I’ll give you from their perspective of what we’re finding makes a successful entrepreneur and what makes a successful CEO. I just wanted the rest of the story. So I think what makes a successful entrepreneur are the vision people. The people that don’t take no for an answer. They’re so stubborn and so narcissistic in a way that they refuse to be told that it can’t be done. In fact, they’ll take that as a challenge. I think the behavioural traits are something you’re born with, the skillsets are something that you actually can hone.
Rochelle: In terms of talking to the second in command or the COO, what type of person works best with an entrepreneurial CEO?
Cameron: So the entrepreneur has to find someone that they really trust that loves to do all the stuff that they don’t like, that is really good at delivering the bad news to make the CEO iconic, and often the COO’s job is to really be there to operationalize and systemize and build out the team to make the vision of the entrepreneur come true. So you really need that COO to complement the entrepreneur.
Rochelle: In the concept of “vivid vision,” I want to dig deep into that, can you explain to the listeners what a “vivid vision” is, a painted picture is, for brands and companies?
Cameron: Yeah, so it’s a concept I was taught twenty years ago by an Olympic coach, and I’ll start with what it’s not. You know, most entrepreneurial companies, and in fact, most companies today have a vision statement. And so they have that one sentence statement that they probably pulled their leadership team together and put all their favorite words up on a whiteboard and then they voted on the words and they took the six words that were left over, and they mashed them up into one sentence. And that was their vision statement, right? Go team. And that was supposed to align everybody. But it doesn’t talk enough about what we’re building. So the vivid vision is effectively the CEO beaming out into the feature, almost as if they were going into a time machine, three years out. So they were leaning out three years from today, you know, December 31st, three years out, and describing every aspect of their company as if it had already come true. Not describing how it happened. But because they’re travelled into that future they can describe what it looks and what it feels like. So they describe the meetings. They describe the culture. They describe what the media is writing about them, what the customers are saying about them, what the employees are saying about them. They write three or four bullet points down around every functional area. So they describe engineering and marketing and IT and operations. So they’re describing their whole company as if they’re walking around it, in the future. And then they take that – all those bullet points get pulled into a document. It ends up being about a four or five page written document, that you get a professional writer to make it pop off the page and you add some of your design elements to it so it looks and feels like your brand. And what it becomes is the future state of your company. When they share that document with all their employees, customers, suppliers, you know when everyone can read what the future looks like, when everyone can effectively see what the CEO can see, everyone’s on the same page, and they can help reverse engineer it and make it come true. So the best analogy that I’ve found to explain how it works in a practical sense, is if you were building a home. They were really the CEO of that project. They were the ones that decided what the kitchen was going to look like. And they explained it to the contractor in such a way that the contractor could then read their minds. They could see what the house would look like. They could see what the rooms would be like. They understood how the family would live and how you might entertain in the space. And then they would leave and come back two weeks later with the plan, or the blueprint, to make that vision come true.
Cameron: The homeowner would sign off on the blueprints, the contractor would sign off on the vision, and then they would hand the blueprints to the workers, and the workers would make the homeowner’s dream come true, for the most part without ever having to speak with the homeowner. And when you’re doing a construction project, you’re not talking to the person who’s doing the drywall or the electrical or the plumbing. And somehow at the end of the project, it’s exactly what you visualized. Well that’s the power of the vivid vision. Is that it gets everyone on the same page.
Rochelle: Wow. Have you seen it – I know that you talked about 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and how that worked effectively for you there. What was the biggest impact that it had on your team?
Cameron: So at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? or even in all the companies that are using it globally, the biggest impact is that they, first off, are completely aligned with the CEO. They can totally see what the future looks like. They have the same vision of what the CEO wants to build. The second thing is that they see value in their work. They now understand why the project they’re working on or the task that they’re doing, how it aligns into that bigger picture. And that’s the power of it, when customers and your suppliers, even your banker and your accountants and your potential employees, when everybody can see what the future looks like, they’re aligned. They’re also inspired. Your company as it looks today doesn’t inspire, it just is. But when you get the bigger picture and you see what you’re working towards, that becomes exciting.
Rochelle: Yeah. If I was a CEO and working on developing a vivid vision, what would you suggest how to get that started? Is it go alone in the woods and find some quiet time and write down –
Rochelle: Yes, okay,
Cameron: Yeah, and I call it getting out of the box. Where I don’t want you to sit in your office and try to write the vivid vision. I want you to get out of the box, go somewhere where you’re inspired, somewhere around nature, somewhere where you can just disconnect. And I want you to take a notepad. And a pen. Or a notepad and a few different colored pens. And I want you to start doing a mind map, and thinking outside of the box, and describing what it looks like. So no laptop, no iPad, no technology. And the reason you don’t want to do it with technology or do it from your board room is you keep getting stuck in the planning process. You keep getting stuck in the how are we going to make it come true, and it doesn’t matter how. And I think most entrepreneurs get stuck in that how, you know we get stuck in how pies instead of figuring out who.
Rochelle: Yeah. So really working towards the outcome versus being in the micromanaging and being in the day-to-day.
Cameron: Yeah, exactly. And then once you decide what everything looks and feels like, then you can just figure out who can make each sentence come true.
Rochelle: How have you seen marketing come to life in vivid visions? Is there any examples that marketing component of a vivid vision that pops out to you?
Cameron: Oh sure. Yeah, I’ve seen companies use their vivid vision as a way to inspire landlords to give them space, because landlords got excited about the future of the company and they wanted to have them as a tennant. I’ve seen it with companies that, certainly in the .com and technology sector, all of those companies are telling us about their company in the future and we’re getting excited about the dream. Look at what Elon Musk is doing. He’s talking about colonizing mars. That’s explaining a vivid vision. So I’ve seen bankers actually fund a company because they actually understood where a company was going three years out, and they never understood the business plan or the financial statements, but they really understood this four-page vivid vision.
Cameron: I’ve seen customers decide to go with a company for million dollar contracts because they were excited about the future of the company and more excited than any of the competitors that they were considering going with. Right, so there’s all of those things that you just get people excited. And nobody does this. Even though I’ve got clients using this now in twenty-eight countries around the world, and thousands of companies have now written their vivid visions, it’s less than, you know, .1 percent of companies on the planet that have done this. So, it’s so new that it really sets you apart. One other area is marketing for employees. You know, we’re in a war for talent these days. But when a potential employee reads your vivid vision before they come to the first interview, they’re either super excited and want to work for you, or they don’t want to have anything to do with you, which is exactly what you want. Right, Steve Jobs in the early days thirty years ago when he was building the Macintosh company, would show a wooden prototype of the Mac to employees. And he would say that if didn’t see the sparkle in their eyes, he didn’t bring them in to see if they had the skills. Because he didn’t care if they had the skills. But he used that vision as a way to filter out potential employees.
Rochelle: Wow. In terms of the vivid vision and relating it to Simon Sinek’s concept, “The Why,” would you say that within the vivid vision, the “Why” has to come out very clearly?
Cameron: Yeah. That funny, Simon and I have known each other for fifteen years now. Simon flew from Vancouver to meet me, because he had read about myself and Brian in Fortune Magazine. He wanted to find out if what we were building at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was real. How it was five years before he wrote the book Start With Why. Yeah the why, your core purpose, is what kind of starts to resonate. It’s what sets you apart and stands out. So your why, your BHAG, your core values, all of those are described as the components of your vivid vision. I think of every company like a jigsaw puzzle, and that your front of the box, where you see the picture, that’s your vivid vision. You know, it would be impossible to do a jigsaw puzzle without seeing a picture on the front of the box. Well, it’s pretty impossible to build a company without seeing what the picture is. So the picture, your vivid vision is the picture on the front of the box. And then the four corners of the jigsaw puzzle, are the plan to make the vivid vision come true, right, your blueprints. And then it’s your core purpose, which is your why. Your core values, and your BHAG. Those are the four corners of the jigsaw puzzle. And then the sides of the jigsaw puzzle are all the people systems, strategic thinking systems, the meeting rhythms, and the financial systems. So I think core purpose is one of the corners, but if you don’t have a vision of where you’re going, it’s pointless to have a core purpose.
Rochelle: So would you say it starts with the vision or starts with the core purpose?
Cameron: I think they’re all entwined. The core purpose is one small component. But it’s not the picture on the jigsaw puzzle.
Rochelle: So have you found that when you’re working with companies and they’re developing their vivid vision, is it typically a start-up? Or is typically a company that’s like twenty years in, and they’re struggling?
Cameron: No, it’s all companies. It’s a great tool for any size company because it aligns your customers, it aligns your employees, it aligns your suppliers, so everyone can help figure out how to make it come true. And every sentence of that vivid vision becomes a future state. If you can figure out one or two projects to make each sentence come true, just like building a home you start with foundations and floors and walls and electrical and plumbing. You kind of build it out. The vivid vision takes shape over the next three years.
Rochelle: Would you suggest a CEO roll this out to their leadership team first, and then to the rest of the team? How does that typically work?
Cameron: Yeah. Yeah, you really have to roll it out to the leadership team first. Not so much to get their buy-in, but really so they’re clear and so that kind of first team in the building is really very clear on what we’re building. Because they have to kind of explain it and roll it out. If an employee reads the vivid vision, and they’re not excited about what the future holds in store for them, it’s probably the right time for them to quit. Because it is what we’re going to build.
Rochelle: Right. So there’s no negotiation, you know, if somebody on the leadership team says, “I don’t wanna do that,” they’re basically out.
Cameron: Awesome. Yeah, awesome, I’m glad you don’t wanna do it. Go somewhere else and build what you do want, but that’s what we’re building. You know, here’s the perfect example of vivid vision. Remember eleven years ago when the iPhone got rolled out? Back then the de facto standard was BlackBerry or PalmPilot, the trio, and everything had a keyboard. And we couldn’t understand why they would ever roll out a phone without a keyboard. Until we saw it. And heard it. And tried it for the first time and then were like, woah. They’ve just crushed the market.
Cameron: Then all of a sudden they had these entrepreneurial zealots who kept talking about it, and everyone wanted to join the dark side. Well, if Steve Jobs had done what everybody wanted, which is to roll out the keyboard, nobody would have cared. So he did what he knew. He did what his leadership team believed in. A couple people probably quit and went to work for Research in Motion, and they literally decimated the phone market. Right, they own that market now. Because they were so clear on their vision, and the only people they wanted to have as a part of the company were the ones that wanted to make it come true. The ones who were effectively crazy enough to make those dreams happen.
Rochelle: Wow. If you were to sum up why do a vivid vision in one sentence, what would you say to listeners?
Cameron: Alignment. It’s the pure simplicity of aligning every customer, every supplier, every employee, so that everyone is on the same page.
Thank you for listening to part one of The 19: Entrepreneur Edition featuring Cameron Herold. Be sure to listen next week to part two, where Cameron and I will discuss the power of storytelling, PR, and more.
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