Joseph Hollak was a founder of Build Success, a small business coaching and consulting company based in Silicon Valley. He’s also an E-Myth Certified Business coach. Before helping small business owners systemize their business operations, Joseph spent nine years as a financial consultant with two of Wall Street’s largest firms, then he moved into a leadership and turnaround role for a Silicon Valley real estate company.
In This Episode
Before starting his own consulting firm in Silicon Valley, Joseph Hollak spent nine years as a financial consultant on Wall Street. Now, he’s broken out of the traditional corporate America career path to pursue his passion of helping small business owners systemize their business operations. In this episode, Joseph shares the common issues he sees among small businesses, the importance of delegating, and tips for where to start.
1:35 Universal Truths in Small Business
Entrepreneurs are phenomenal at what they do but might not have the training to systemize their business.
2:07 Finding the Time to Systemize
Determining the smallest points of change that can make the biggest impact is the best place to start improving your internal business strategy.
4:29 Pulling Back the Covers and Searching for Delegation
When you’re working with businesses, you’ll usually find when you first pull back the covers that CEOs and founders are touching everything in their business. They don’t need to. Delegation is the key.
5:15 The Trust Factor
The first opportunity for delegation begins with trust. The delegatee needs the proper trust, mentoring and training, delegation becomes so much easier.
6:18 A Common Starting Point
It’s usually the technician roles that are the first opportunities for delegation. What are you doing as the CEO, at $500 an hour, that could really be done maybe at a $20 or $50 per hour role?
9:22 Be True to Yourself
Life gets easier and more fun when you stop living it for others and start living it for yourself.
11:15 From Corporate America to Your Own Path
Joseph is skilled at seeing the big picture and his introverted qualities help him use his one mouth and two ears proportionately, making him a great listener.
12:28 Nurturing Big-Picture Thinkers
Learning strategic thinking involves learning a really important lesson — you don’t have it all figured out. You don’t always know where your paths will take you, but don’t be afraid to fail and see what happens along the way.
15:09 Generating Business in Your Business
Results matter. People hire professionals because they want more or less of something in their lives. Making your message stand out, match their needs, and present your results is necessary for bringing in business.
19:05 Self-Promotion — Necessary or Silly?
Joseph is learning to overcome his fear of promoting himself as the face of his business so that he can focus on really communicating with his audience on a personal level and making sure he reaches the people who need his help the most.
– Joseph Hollak
LR: Welcome to Modern Ontrapreneur. Today we have Joseph Hollak, who was a founder of Build Success, a small business coaching and consulting company based in Silicon Valley. He’s also an E-Myth Certified Business coach. Before helping small business owners systemize their business operations, Joseph spent nine years as a financial consultant with two of Wall Street’s largest firms, then he moved into a leadership and turnaround role for a Silicon Valley real estate company. Thanks so much for joining us.
JH: Yeah, thanks for having me. This is an honor. I really respect what you guys are doing at Ontraport. This is going to be a lot of fun.
LR: Yeah. Good. Thanks for being here. So tell us about the kind of businesses that you tend to work with.
JH: I tend to work with small business owners, usually in the neighborhood of $5 million or less in annual revenue. Usually, mom-and-pop businesses that have found a way to scale, and now they’re experiencing some chaos or any of the other problems that comes along with scaling a business to a certain point. They’ve gotten out of that infancy stage and now they’re having real world problems, and they typically are business owners that are phenomenal at what they do. They just don’t have a business background or nobody’s ever really shown them how to professionally run a business. That’s where I come in to help them put some of the pieces in place that they don’t necessarily know how to do or they didn’t go to school for.
LR: And is there a particular type of business that you tend to work with, apart from just the revenue size?
JH: Not necessarily, there are some universal truths in small business and it doesn’t have to take a certain industry or niche in order to coach a small business of that size. So I’m not focused on any one particular niche but just a business, just a small business that has some chaos, and they really need to systematize and figure some things out because they don’t have much of a life outside of the business the way they’re doing things now.
LR: Yeah. So one of the challenges, we obviously worked with lots of businesses in the same space with the same sorts of problems, right? And we certainly pound the table about building systems and processes in your business. Then one of the areas that we get push back is around time, right? Like they say, “I don’t have the time to even keep the wheels on, let alone stop and figure out how to write a process and teach some people how to run the process and then make sure I’ve got management in place to …” So how do you overcome that? How do you get business owners who are already too busy to actually carve out the time it takes to systemize?
JH: That’s a major problem with my clients that I’ve taken on. It really boils down to a couple of things. Number one, you really have to find leverage in their business. What little tiny amount of work or effort or process or system can I implement to give me a big return on time or a big return on money? So we look for leverage points that they might be reinventing the wheel every day or every week or every month.
In addition to leverage points, for me, my philosophy is a lot of these business owners are making the decisions that they’re making and they’re in the predicaments that they’re in because they’re missing some key leadership skills. For me, it’s really about leadership and emotional intelligence. And I cringe when I come in contact with a business owner and they say something like, “If I just had more money or if I had more sales, everything else would be fine.”
And the reason I cringe behind that statement is, if I two X or three X or 10 X your business for you in a very short amount of time, there’s so much else that revolves around your leadership. Why you make the decisions you make, how you make the decisions you make, how you relate to people. What motivates you internally and externally. That just because we something X your business with sales, you’re going to have even more problems and we could ruin the business if you don’t have that leadership component, that nucleus in place for really smart decision making. So leverage and leadership and emotional intelligence is really what we need to work on first because if we get that right, everything else after that usually takes care of itself with a little bit of system or process.
LR: Yeah. And luck. And so let’s talk about leverage. Where do you find that you discover leverage most commonly? Like where are those areas in a small business where you go like, “Every time I pulled back the covers, there’s an opportunity here.”
JH: Yeah, that’s really easy to see when you work with a lot of businesses and because this is an entrepreneurial theme show and podcast, most entrepreneurs think that they have to do everything. They have to touch everything in their business. Nobody can possibly do it better than I can. So delegation is usually a really big weakness for small business owners. They’ve started small and maybe, in the beginning it just was them alone or them and a partner, them and a spouse, so they’re used to doing everything and they’ve got that mentality that they have to do everything.
LR: You’re speaking my language here. We actually teach the same thing and have entrepreneurs start with delegation and just so that I can get you to say it instead of me once…. what do you normally see is the first opportunity for delegation for small business?
JH: Yeah. It’s trust in whoever you’re delegating to. You have to know and you have to give that person that you’re delegating to the proper tools and the proper coaching and mentorship. They need everything that they need in order to take that project off your hands and do a really good job. So if you train that employee and you coach them and you mentor them and you set them up for success, it becomes so much easier. The trust factor is there. And a really close cousin to delegation would be time management. So if both sides of the equation are thinking and working on time management, everything else kind of falls in place and gets a little bit easier. But delegation boils down to trust and in order to trust you have to set that person up for success with what they need.
LR: Sure. And is there a function in the business that you tend to encourage people to delegate first? Like do you tell them, “Hey, just delegate sales or delegate support, or delegate the actual bread baking,” or what is the area that you tend to get people to focus on first?
JH: Well, to put it in those terms, it’s usually the technician work. We look at if you think of yourself as a business owner, if you think of yourself as the CEO of that business, what are you doing as the CEO that could really be done maybe at a $20 or $50 per hour role? You might be charging yourself $500 an hour because you’re doing some of these other tasks that you could delegate. And delegating these other tasks as long as that person is 70, 80, 90% as good as you, things are going to be okay. So I’m always looking for those tasks that don’t have that CEO stamp on them or they’re not necessary for the CEO to be working on — it’s those technician roles that you can delegate and they can get it done as good as or maybe even better than you. And you can focus on the big picture and the vision and the mission and everything else that comes along with running the company at the high level.
LR: As a CEO who went through that process of being certain that I was the best at everything and then discovering that I couldn’t do it all and then having to sort of let go of control, I know personally how kind of painful that process is and scary it is. How do you coach a business owner who may have been doing everything for 20 years that it’s time to, kind of loosen up the reigns a little bit?
JH: Yeah. It’s usually not an overnight process for sure. It takes time for them to realize this. The phone ringing at the front desk has to get answered. The CEO doesn’t have to be the one that answers it, right? So there are tasks that my clients usually make it quite clear to me what’s falling through the cracks. Typically, at that level, what’s falling through the cracks is the company is not growing as fast as they want it to or the company is growing and they can’t handle the growth. There is some major component to their success that isn’t happening because of the opportunity cost of them doing some of these other roles.
So it’s usually really easy to figure out what’s not getting done when you take a look at all the little tiny million things that are getting done by the CEO. And if you point out those opportunity costs, here’s what it’s costing you because you don’t have time to focus over here.
LR: Painting a picture of the pain.
JH: Yeah. Painting a picture of the pain and a lot of that helps. A good coach can really bring out of you what your internal values are and what you’re really trying to accomplish. So if I know where you’re headed and what you really want to accomplish and the values that you want to take with you into the future we can really figure out easily what’s not getting done. And if you tie what’s not getting done to what you’re trying to accomplish, they see the dots. The dots are all connected and they see the path.
LR: Yeah. Awesome. Let’s switch gears to your own business, your own career. You’re a consultant, which is a tough gig. There’s a lot of consultants out there and people are skeptical of spending money on consultants a lot of times. So, just like any entrepreneur, you’ve obviously struggled to build a business. If you could kind of like go back and give yourself a piece of advice about how to have made that process easier, what would it be?
JH: Well, for me, I’ve made a lot of decisions in my past that seemed to have been rooted in or motivated by making other people happy. So if I was going to give a younger version of myself some advice, it’s to be true to yourself and listen to what’s really important for you and try not to live your life based on what you think other people’s expectations are. And since I’ve learned that lesson, life gets so much easier and a lot more fun when you’re not trying to make decisions to live your life maybe to impress a company or a boss or a parent or some other authority figure that you want to see happy. Make decisions for what you really believe in and the direction you want to take your life. And that really changed my life when I learned that lesson.
LR: Interesting. And what is the decision you made that changed the direction for you specifically? Not just be true to yourself. There was a thing like, “I’m not going to fucking do that job, dad, I’m not going to be a doctor.” What was the thing?
JH: Well, the thing for me and, and speaking of dad, dad was, “You need a corporate job. You need a government job, they’re going to take care of you. You’re going to stay there for 40 years. You get the gold watch and the pension and you get retirement.” So dad, in my case, couldn’t understand entrepreneurialism, and small business and taking risks. For him, it was all about safety and security. So when that moment for me was breaking out of that “corporate America is going to take care of me forever” mold and being true to what I want to go after.
LR: Yeah. That’s a tough move.
JH: That’s a very tough move.
LR: Yeah. And what is the skill set that you think you have that allowed you to confidently make that move?
JH: I think it boils down to three things, really. One, I’m really good, for whatever reason, at seeing the big picture. We may not be there yet, and this might be the direction we’re going, but I can really see the big picture of where we’re going and that has really helped me in a lot of different areas of my life. The second thing that has helped me is being an introvert. I’m a natural introvert and so …
LR: So you love these cameras.
JH: I love these cameras pointed at me, right? The thing about being an introvert is I’m a really good, attentive listener and that has really played into strengths. One mouth, two ears, use them proportionally and you can usually get a lot further in life that way. And the third thing is just loving the puzzle, loving to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And for me, the puzzle’s business. I mean, there’re so many different pieces to a successful business and if you love putting that puzzle together and you get up every day with that willingness and that drive to figure out those pieces, that keeps you motivated, or it does for me anyway. So those are probably the three things that I chalk my success up to.
LR: Yeah, interesting. So you talked, the first thing you said is about being able to see the big picture, right? So some kind of strategic thinking and it’s interesting because I was actually just talking to my mom last night who has mentioned that she’s watched a lot of these episodes and that she noticed the people sit here and say that I see the big picture, and kind of like over and over again. So it seems to be a trend from amongst successful entrepreneurs. It makes me wonder how do you train that or how do you generate that skill set? Where do you think that comes from?
JH: That’s a good question. I’m not a parent so I’m not exactly sure how mom feels, but if we’re going to, if we’re going to talk to mom right now, what’s mom’s name?
JH: Lynne. All right, Lynne, this is for you. Lynne probably didn’t know exactly what you were going to do for a living when you grew up, but Lynne definitely saw the big picture of, “I want a functioning person in society. I want somebody who loves other people and is caring and nurturing for other people,” so all along the way, she didn’t know exactly what the final outcome was going to look like, but Lynne was instilling lessons in you, developing values in you, teaching you lessons along the way and she just knew, probably in her heart, that if she does all of these little things correctly, no matter what he ends up doing, whatever is on the horizon for Landon, everything’s going to be okay because I gave him these little lessons and values along the way. So she may not have known exactly what the end-picture looked like, but she was planting those seeds all along the way as a good parent would.
LR: Yeah. Well, thank goodness for my mom. But, what about somebody who’s in their twenties and trying to figure out watching this show. And they’re like, “Man, what is this big picture thing all about? How do I, how do I learn strategic thinking?”
JH: Yeah. At some point, it’s okay not to have the end picture in mind and all figured out. There’s been so many times in my life where I’ve had everything figured out and it’s about the time when I realized that I have everything figured out that I learned a really important lesson — that I don’t. Right out of college, I was a stockbroker for nine years, and I thought that was going to be my career. Right? Don’t pay attention to anything else. This is it. And there’s going to be certain paths and avenues that are going to come in your life that may not be tied to the end picture, and just don’t be afraid to fail. Just go with it and you never know what it’s going to turn into or where it’s going to end up or what lesson or skills you’re going to have because of it. Don’t be afraid to fail, and just take chances and go with it. And you’re headed in a big picture in general. You may not have all the details figured out, but you’ll learn them along the way if you pay attention; there’s going to be road signs along the way.
LR: Yeah, so you have to, like the rest of us, have to go out and get customers. How do you do that? What’s working now in your business to generate business?
JH: A couple of things. If I focus on the big picture, results matter. People don’t hire coaches or consultants because they want a coach or a consultant. They hire these professionals because they typically want less of something in their life. They want less chaos, less stress, less employee turnover, or they want more in their life. They want more revenue or more time off or more profit or whatever the case may be. So they’re hiring a coach or a consultant for results. So if you go into a relationship with that in mind, results-based performance, referrals are so much easier. Yeah, and word-of-mouth and you’re building your reputation. If I drill down a little bit and give you some tactical things, we spoke of leverage earlier in the conversation. Leverage in this day and age is so important. We’re constantly being hit with all kinds of messaging and advertisements and any little technological advancement that you can use like Ontraport, for example, to give you leverage to stay in front of people. That’s very helpful. One thing that has been huge in my life is really not that fancy of a technology at all. It’s opened up so many doors. It’s reinforced so many relationships, and that is just a handwritten note.
LR: Old school.
JH: Old school, blue ink on white paper and a very nice message that would really resonate with the receiver. That has opened so many doors for me and changed so many relationships for me. It’s so unexpected. It’s so rare in this day and age with automation that we have in place on the technology side, just do the complete opposite and write a little, handwritten note and it just, it changes everything. People really appreciate it.
LR: Yeah. Interesting. I totally agree. And which is why we launched a paper and ink magazine because it’s just, it’s so —
JH: I have the initial issue still.
LR: Yeah. It’s so surprising, right? One of the things that you said – and I presume that this particular episode will end up getting viewers who are consultants – and one of the challenges that consultants have around results is obviously word-of-mouth is the thing, right? But you’ve got to get results, and it’s not that consultants aren’t good at what they do but, very often, the gap between expectations and what’s actually possible to deliver tends to be wide. People hire consultants because they want their lives saved. Sometimes it becomes challenging to sort of manage the expectations and make sure that the at the end of the day people feel like they really got what they paid for. So how do you, just as a consultant giving a tip to other consultants, how do you manage those expectations at the outset of a relationship?
JH: It boils down to amazing conversations, transparency, authenticity, and don’t be afraid to deliver, I don’t want to say bad news, but shocking news or just very to the point news to a client. If their expectations are off the chart and they’re not really reasonable, you’re setting everybody up for failure if you don’t address that concern right up front. So if you’re a little bit afraid to have that transparent, honest, authentic conversation in the beginning, everything else after that is just going to go downhill and unravel. It’s just being really honest right up front and some of these expectations might not be met. Let’s see how far we can get and if we hit the moon, great. If we don’t hit the moon, well, we’re still ending up in a really good spot but, for me personally, if I had to give any advice to those consultants or coaches listening it is just to be really authentic and really honest and really upfront in the very beginning of those assignments or those relationships. So everybody’s on the same page. Don’t over promise and under deliver. That’s never served anybody well.
LR: What is your kind of cutting edge right now? What are you learning? What do you want to achieve next in terms of your evolution as a business owner?
JH: Well, for me, the struggle point that I’m having right now is self-promotion. Self-promotion in this day and age seems like, on the one hand, it’s everything, right? Thinking of myself as the brand, that seems like it’s really prevalent in today’s day and age. But on the other hand, there’s parts of me, being an introvert probably, that thinks me being the brand and promoting that is really silly and really hard to do. So I’m really struggling with and learning and trying to master self-promotion and to think of me as a brand. That’s the tough one for me. Right now.
Yeah, especially for introverts, it feels embarrassing.
Yeah. What’s special about me? Anybody can do what I can do. That’s kind of the mentality. What combats that and what I have to continually remind myself of, is if I don’t do the self-promotion, if I don’t put myself out there a little bit, that means there are people or organizations that I’m just not going to help because they don’t know I exist. So that’s the battle for me. That’s that see-saw, or that teeter-totter for me. It’s learning and being comfortable with self-promotion but knowing, on the other hand, if I don’t do this, there’s going to be some people that don’t get the help that they really want. So it’s kind of a necessary evil for me and I’m getting more comfortable with it as I go. That’s struggles.
LR: Yeah. I hear you. You’ve been at this a while. I presume you’ve got years and years left in your career, but if you think about what you would like it to have all been about, what would you like your legacy to end up being?
JH: Well, first of all, I’d love to be known for “this guy makes amazing tacos.”
LR: Oh really?
JH: Yeah. That would be not a bad thing for me to be remembered by. Tacos are the thing for me. Outside of that, on a professional level, if I’m remembered as somebody who made people’s lives better, “he contributed, he helped. I’m better off for knowing him.” That’s about all I can ask. If I changed somebody’s life for the better or multiple people’s lives for the better – it’s a gift to be able to make a difference in somebody’s life in a positive way.
LR: So, lastly, what do you feel like it means to be an entrepreneur in this particular moment? What’s unique about, about entrepreneurship today do you think?
JH: I’m probably not the first person to say this, but there has never been a time in our society where the barriers to entry to becoming an entrepreneur have been this low and this cost-effective. You’ve got your own radio show as a podcast on iTunes. You’ve got your own television show on YouTube. You can write your own book and publish that and host it on your own website. You’ve got your own newspaper or magazine with a blog. So the barrier to entry, time, or technology or cost, it’s never been easier. This crazy notion of “I got to go out and get in my car, I got to spend an hour in traffic or more, to sit in this cubicle to work for somebody else and at the end of the day I got to go back out in my car and spend another hour in traffic before I get home,” it seems like we’re right on the cusp of that not having to be the only option that people have in order to make a healthy contribution to society.
Never before has it been so easy to do it. And the alternative of working for corporate America and traffic and cubicles and bosses and asking permission to take a vacation and all of those things that go along with that corporate lifestyle. Maybe we’re at a point where that doesn’t have to be the only answer for people coming out of high school or college or the military. I think there’s another way and that other way is starting and owning and running your own small business and it’s never been this easy or cost effective before in history.
LR: How exciting.
JH: Yeah, it really is. If you’ve got a message, there is no excuse for not getting it out there unless you’re an introvert and you just don’t know.
LR: And then you’ll find an excuse. Awesome.
JH: Right. Exactly.
LR: Awesome. Hey, thanks so much for joining us today.
JH: It’s a pleasure.
LR: Would you do as the honor of signing our wall?
JH: Oh, absolutely. What a great treat.
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