SPP: All right Cameron I wanted to thank you first of all for being on this show. I wanted to ask you just to go into your background a little bit. Explain to us how you got to where you are, what it is you do. There’s a lot of our listeners that either may not have heard of you or only heard a little bit about you, and I want to give you an opportunity just to give them your spill.
Cameron: Maybe a couple of minutes or two of my past. And so really got my formal business training with a company called College Pro Painters. I don’t know if you know the brand but it’s the world’s largest residential house painting company. We had 8000 painters and I was in the Top 30 or 40 people running a company in North America. So that was where I got a lot of my real business training. I also had run businesses through high school and even little entrepreneur ventures as a child as well, so I knew I was always hardwired to be entrepreneurial.
After College Pro I joined the family friend that we built at a chain of auto body collision repair shops and I headed up the franchising wing for him. I left right as we were taking the company public and was hired on as President of the private currency company. We built up that barter exchange and sold that barter exchange to a US public company. And I left there and joined my best friend who had started a little business called The Rubbish Boys and he was turning the brand from the Rubbish Boys to 1800 Got Junk.
And he wanted to franchise but because I’d already built two franchisors and I’d been very, very successful at it I decided I would coach him behind the scenes for three months. It turned out six and a half years later I was still there as the Chief Operating Officer and I helped take the company from about 12 franchises when I joined to 330 when I left. And we grew it from $2 million to $26 million. We had no debt, no outside shareholders. We were profitable every year and we ranked with the Number 2 in Canada to work for and twice ranked Number 1 in British Columbia.
So that started to get me some I guess building three or four companies and doing quite well with those. And started to get me a little bit face time with the press and I started to being asked to these speaking events. I’ve since become one of the Top rated lecturers at MIT’s Entrepreneurial Masters Program. I’ve done paid speaking events in 18 countries. In fact I leave tomorrow to do a seven city speaking tour in India. So I’ve been doing speaking to groups of entrepreneurs and coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs. As a matter of fact a year ago I launched my first book called “Double Double”, which is effectively the tools to help entrepreneurial companies double their revenue in profits in three years and less.
SPP: Awesome. Now I wanted to jump into your book “Double Double”, but before we do so I had a couple of questions real quick. For those of us that go to work every day, it might be a mundane consulting job that may or may not be somebody who’s sitting here right now talking to you. What advice do you have for these people that want to be creative but not do so in a day-to-day basis?
Cameron: Wow! I guess I would really start going back to what you love doing as a kid and what you hated doing as a kid and start to move yourself toward that, either into a less mundane job and a more exciting job, or a company that gives you more free time and more freedom to either be creative or to lead or to kind of express yourself.
For instance, as a child when I was about seven or eight years I was doing public speaking and wining public speaking competitions as a young child and amazing nobody said “Wow this guy’s a good speaker.” Well they told me to get a tutor in French and a tutor in Science. And sure enough I’m still terrible in French and Science. But I think if you can identify what you love doing as a kid you can start building out some great strength in adults.
So I think if people want to be creative and want to have more fun on their jobs start looking at the stuff that you really did as a team and start eliminating those things, the other things to your day to day. I’ve always hated small group networking. I’ve always been very nervous about it. I would rather stand in front of a thousand people than go talk to a party of 20. So I just built the business that involves no going to cocktail parties with 20 people. I kind of built it around what you’ve always want.
SPP: Now you mentioned when you were a kid that you were a great public speaker and you were looked at as being oh he needs tutoring in Math and Science and the other stuff and they weren’t focusing on what you did well. We’ve talked to a couple of people on the podcast that have spoken about the education system and how the education system really needs to evolve now in terms of the way that it is structured and being less of that military discipline where you go from elementary, middle school, high school, college, get your job, try to become a director, that kind of thing. Where people that want to be entrepreneurs even at a young age there really is no focus in the current education system with the way that it’s structured. What would your suggestions be for the current education system and getting it structured so that kids like yourself can thrive?
Cameron: Yes I actually do the talk that’s on www.ted.com. So I go to Ted Talk on raising kids to be entrepreneurs instead of lawyers. I guess the thing that I would say to people listening is I don’t think we can change the school system, or certainly nothing that I’m going to try to spend time with. I’m more about trying to hack my education outside in spite of the school system. So I don’t think that it’s that smart for other students to go to high school and university and try to get straight A’s, because at the end of the day no one gives a shit. There’s not a single employer out there who no banker or no lawyer is ever going to ask you what your transcript looked like. So after you turn 22, 23 years old your grades never matter. What does matter is what clubs were you involved in? Did you read other people? Can you work with and deal with other projects? And so I would tell people in their education is to get involved in everything. Get involved in the clubs, the fraternities, the student government. Try to learn how to learn but don’t worry about trying to memorizes stuff, because the reality is by the time you need it it’s either going to be a) outdated or just Google the heck out of it and you’ll figure it out.
By why did we spend all this time memorizing textbooks on marketing when it’s all available? You just open the entire textbook and read it when you need to know that information. What was the point of memorizing it all? I’m less of a fan of the current system and more of a fan of kind of hacking out education. I think students today would learn a lot more, unless you’re trying to become an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer, something very specific. If you’re just trying to be a generalist I think you should go out and work for some great companies that are best companies to work for, best managed companies, best culture, just go and work there. Take jobs that are less than you want to get paid, but make that your education instead of going with some university and coming out with massive student debts and a transcript that no one’s ever going to ask for.
SPP: What would you say to those listeners who are in that time period of their life right now where they’re getting a lot of pressure to make those grades? Would you just say “Hey go out there, get involved, and show those results over what can happen when you are so involved/
Cameron: Well I would tell them to ask the people who are pressuring them to get the grades why the pressure. Is it either because you didn’t get good grades or is it because this is what employers are looking for. Because I can tell you having been an employer we never look, we never ask. In fact if somebody walked into try to get a job with me and had a 4.0 grade point average and was involved in nothing at university I wouldn’t hire them. Because the reality of it is I need somebody who’s more social, who’s more able to be part of the team, the more able to get along with other people. I don’t want somebody who’s going t sit at home all day long working. I need someone who’s going to be out and kind of be part of the rest of the company.
And again I’m talking about less general education. So if you have to go and become a scientist or a doctor then I imagine you got to study a little bit more. If somebody’s out there taking sociology and general business courses no one’s going to care.
SPP: On the tail end of some of those notes, what would you say are some top hints you’re utilizing right now for personal productivity for those people who are in the workplace and trying to get some quick nuggets of information to take to heart and really utilize.
Cameron: One of them is that it’s not about getting everything done it’s about getting the critical few things done. I think too often people are so worried about getting through every email and having a zero Inbox and the reality is what you should be doing is waking up every morning and thinking to yourself, what are the Top 5 things I need to get done today. What are the Top 5 really impactful things I need to get done?
In whatever role whatever your job is, even in your personal life, what Top 5 things you need to do. And then start working on Item 1 and then when you get it done start working on Number 2. And maybe at 11:00 or 12:00 go check your email. So I think around personal productivity it’s really more about focus than anything else. As Jim Collins said it’s about a critical few things versus the importance of many things.
SPP: I mean this is going to be a very personal thing. Like I mentioned going to a mundane job and there’s other things that I do, especially with this podcast where I can be creative and have my creative outlet. And I enjoy doing the audio editing the image editing for the Web site and all that kind of stuff. What I’m looking for is advice or maybe even that push to go out and figure out what to do, because I really don’t know exactly what I want to do. I have an idea I don’t know if I can build an income around it. But what would your advice be for people who are looking to take risks and just go ahead and jump.
Cameron: If you love your but you just don’t love the company, or you love certain aspects of your job it’s very easy to start freelancing around the stuff that you love. And it’s very easy to sell yourself when you love those certain key roles. Even though at the end of the day there’s lots of things I’d like about business, but the two things that I love about business I love speaking to groups of entrepreneurs and I love coaching CEOs. Outside of that I like a lot of things in business.
So what I’ve done is I’ve built revenue streams that only are attached to the things that I love to do and I’ve eliminated, I just don’t do the stuff that I like to do. I either outsource it or I don’t do it or I hire an assistant to do it or I hire an assistant to do it for me. But at the end of the day it’s not about loving everything it’s about trying to build something around the key things that you love. And that tends to be what those hyper successful people are is they’re just doing the two or three things that they’re amazing at and they love doing. Frankly, they’d do it for free except their kids like to eat.
SPP: You know that’s the position that I’m in right now where I don’t have that responsibility of family and children and there’s a lot of things that I would want to do for free, because I love to do them, but also at the same time I realize that I have to pay my rent. Have to pay to eat and all that kind of stuff. So I’ve just been trying to slowly figure out how to go through this process and actually make the transition from a job that I enjoy parts of but don’t truly love.
Cameron: Yes I’ll tell you I went through this process a few years ago, about four years ago and what I did was I actually started making a list and I still have a little book today. And it was a series of about five or six lists. One list was what do I love and what do I hate. Another one was what am I passionate about, what drives me crazy. Another one was what am I really good at and what do I suck at? And I made a list of every business area I’d ever led. So Marketing, Sales, PR, Accounting, all that. A list of all these business areas. And then for every business area I listed ever single project I could remember being involved with or having led. And from that I started to realize some of my strengths.
Then I did a timeline of my entire business career year-by-year a series of the high points and low points. And then some of the taking a series of high points and the stuff that I’d really love doing and the projects that I was really good at and engaged in I started being able to craft the next stage of my career. I think if people would spend time on that they’d realize that they often end up in jobs that involve them doing stuff they hate. Like if you don’t like going to meetings start crafting a role for yourself that involves you never going to meetings. It is possible.
SPP: What would you say to those people who are enjoying the work that they do and very consumed in it? And so consumed at some points where they’re getting out of balance between work and life. And you talk a little bit about it in your book. Could you expand upon strategies that are helpful to really create that work/life balance?
Cameron: Sure. One thing that I realized years ago again was that you’ll never get it all done. At the end of the day to say to yourself I’ll take more free time for myself when I get this done. The reality is you’ll never get it all done because you’ll keep adding stuff to your list. It’s kind of like trying to get to the horizon the closer you get to it keeps moving further and further away. So I think people have to live a little bit for today and enjoy the time that we’ve got today, and enjoy time with our friends today. And start scheduling with them so putting those big rocks in your calendar first.
So as an example, I have two children and those are eight and ten and I love spending time with them, but I have to work. So what I do is I put all of my kids’ activities for the year in my calendar. I put their swimming and their cubs, and their baseball and their ski lessons, I put their school activities and their personal development days at school. I put everything in my calendar a year in advance and then I organize my year around that. If it’s my days to have the kids and I’m taking them to school in the morning or picking them up at school I block that time in my calendar and I book my business stuff around that.
So I think that’s something that even people who don’t have kids should be doing is start blocking time off to go and have fun. I have a friend who if it’s skis at Wistler more than 12” inches he cancels everything and goes. And he literally set his business up that way. But he’s told his clients “Look, if I’ve got a call with you and I wake up in the morning and there’s been 12” inches of snow at Wistler, trust me I’m going to be to be driving to Wistler and I will call you and cancel it or you can give me a phone call, but I’m going skiing. So as long as you set those expectations up with people everybody kind of cheering them on going Right on I wish I was you.
SPP: That’s awesome.
Cameron: Maybe its vacation time and you really do have to schedule a vacation time and take it and honor the fact that you’re taking that time. I read a statistic the other day that there’s more information in the one year of the New York Times than was created over the last 1000 years in total.
Cameron: Well think about all the other information on the internet that’s out there. People trying to keep up with it all with bloggers and Twitters and Facebook and the reality is you’re getting sucked into this vortex of busy instead of being sucked into a vortex of having a good time and enjoying your life. Frankly, I’m getting tired of people going how are you doing? Oh I’m doing okay. Like where do you set the…
SPP: I wanted to ask you about that. What are your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter? Are you involved with reaching out to people on that or do you see it as a complete timesuck?
Cameron: I’m very active in both for very strategic reasons. I’m proactively building my brand as an expert in helping businesses grow and I’m then very, very comfortable with people knowing the real Cameron. Like there’s no game face for me. I swear a little bit more than I should and I’m trying to work on that. I think I’ve swear on one side of the internet call. I’m comfortable with people knowing when I’m getting to work. I’m comfortable with people knowing who I am. So I’m using Facebook and Twitter as a very proactive way to connect with all of these entrepreneurs around the world who I’d met that hire me and buy my product.
SPP: And that’s one thing I absolutely love about you is the fact that you are real. And I think the old style of management was you have to come to work and put on a different face and you’re a different person than you are at home. And even though we hear from Jack Welch and other big business minds that use candor in their work environment, it’s still the old style management was it was really to put on that different face. And I see with a lot of the things that you talk about and just your speaking in general is that you are real. And I think that really captures the audiences of this generation.
Cameron: Yes I think Gen Y especially just sees through all the crap. And partially they see through it because their parents told them it was crap. You have the Baby Boomers who had to endure these years at that corner office and dress for success and all the protocols and the hierarchy, basically said to their kids “Don’t follow the shit. Like we were to go right into that CEOs office and tell them what you think, and if you don’t go I’m going to call them for you.
So Gen Y has kind of grown up with not respecting authority because their parents told them not to. And it’s kind of intriguing and then they’ve also realized that just putting your core values on paper is crap unless you live them. Unless you’re willing to fire somebody for your core values those aren’t core values they’re aspirational values. So you’re right the whole way of doing business in the way of approaching business today has completely changed. And I think there is something to be said for just being ourselves. Trying to always work on being our best selves but just being ourselves.
SPP: Okay I want to touch on a little bit of information that you talk about in the book, and we don’t want to give away too much of it, but I definitely want to touch on the “Painted Picture”. Can you just give a high level view of what that concept is to our listeners?
Cameron: Sure the idea of the “Painted Picture” was something that I learned from an Olympic coach. He’s a high performance sports psychologist who worked with athletes to get them to visualize themselves in the moment of their events. So they could literally see and feel themselves performing the event at that time. And then what would happen is when they were actually performing the event they were able to act completely on instinct because they could see and feel it so vividly.
So they asked us to try to figure out that in business. Effectively what you do is you kind of go into a virtual time machine three years out from now. So let’s say it’s December 31st, 2014 and describe every aspect of your business or describe every aspect of your life, describe every aspect of what you see yourself doing and feeling like. So when you describe it in this vivid detail in a three or four page description then you can take that description and come back to today and say “Okay well that’s what the future looks like , how does it happen? What do I do to make each of those sentences come true?” That’s effectively how I’ve built every business get a very, very strong vision of the future, share that with everyone, share it to suppliers, your customers, employers, your potential employees, get everybody visualizing and seeing the same end result that you can see, and then sit down and figure out the strategic plan as to how you’re going to make it happen.
SPP: How do you advice getting those, I like to call them like wise dogs in the organization, or those that have been there for 10, 15, 20, years. How do you get them to buy into the new vision or the new Pained Picture that you’re painting for the organization?
Cameron: Yes they either buy in or they have to leave. And it’s better that people know what the future look like and decide if that feels something exciting for them or if it repulse them. If it repulse them it’s great, let’s go get a job somewhere else it’s okay. Steve Jobs used to show the wooden prototype of the Macintosh to potential employees and he said “If he couldn’t see the sparkle in their eyes he didn’t bring them in for an interview to see if they skills because he didn’t care if they had the skills. So if they weren’t passionate and vibrating about the future he didn’t care if they had the skill set to help make it happen.
SPP: You talk a lot about the structure of meetings. And one problem that I’m trying to tackle with my firm right now is you have a structure management meeting. So we have a bunch of highly paid executive level people in a room for an hour and a half, two hours every week. How do we structure those meetings so that there’s actionable items that come out of it and it’s worth the time that’s spent?
Cameron: Let me answer that question second because I just had a quick thought that I want to share. If anyone wants the information on the “Painted Picture” they can actually get a copy of it Chapter 1 of my book on my Web site for free. So if anybody wants to grab a copy of that the Web site address is www.thebook.com and they can get Chapter 1, which really does cover the idea of the “Painted Picture” in detail.
Related to your question about meetings I cover that in a fair amount of detail in the book as well, but I walk you through the core parts of it. You really need to establish a set of meeting rhythms that cover the specific parts of your business that you need to be focusing on. It starts off with strategy and really putting time on your calendar to be strategic. And then you need time to actually look at your metrics and look at your dashboard and your KPIs so that becomes part of your weekly meeting.
You need time to have all the business areas update everybody else as to what they’re working on so that again becomes part of your weekly management meeting. You need time to be coaching your employees so you put a system in place to spend time coaching each of your direct reports one-on-one on a weekly basis. And then I’m a huge fan of the Daily Huddle where you learn those concepts from a guy named Vern Harnish. The Daily Huddle is an employee stand up meeting. It happens for seven minutes, some of them in the middle of the day when we’re sharing good news and missing systems and key numbers. And that daily pulse is something that really helps drive the business forward.
SPP: You just mentioned Vern Harnish and it’s a shame that Chris can’t be here right now he’s actually at work. But Chris actually worked for Vern. I think he lived about seven houses down from him or currently still does. Yes he lives in the same neighborhood as Vern.
Cameron: Vern’s had a huge impact on businesses that I’ve helped built.
￼SPP: In my firm we have fully adopted the Rockefeller Habits, the Daily Huddles, that stuff. So definitely agree with having that pulse and that rhythm of the organization to make sure that you have affective communication.
Cameron: Yes. I’m not sure if I answered your question though on the meetings again, so maybe just recap for me.
SPP: Sure. So I mean what I’m finding out is that we get our team of executive managers in a room for an hour and a half every week and it becomes this brainstorming session. And what I have been tasked with is to figure out a better way to structure that meeting. And I know you can read a whole bunch of information out that about how to structure these meetings, but I really want to get something that’s inspiring. We’re a very small company about $4 million dollars. I want to get something that’s palpable and actionable as a structure.
Cameron: So the weekly meeting is a group of your key people and it’s basically brainstorming and coming up with ideas.
SPP: It’s become that yes. We used to have structure and then it’s really become this rock busting to brainstorm different ideas. And my point is that you have a group of highly paid individuals who are extremely smart, that if we had the appropriate structure we could accomplish a lot of things, if we had that time much more focused.
Cameron: So the way that our weekly meetings would always work, and this has worked in three different companies, is you take your key team, you get them all together for 90 minutes. The first 30 minutes you look at the dashboard and all you do is review the numbers as a team. You look at the key numbers, you discuss the key numbers, you debate the key numbers, you talk about what you can do to make those key numbers better. Or if you’ve got a couple of key numbers that you’re doing great on what can you do to leverage those two improve even more?
So that’s really the first part. The second part of that is each of the people on the leadership team update each other on what they’re working on so everybody kind of shares their Top 5 for the week so everybody knows what everybody is doing and how it all relates together. And that’s just a huge way for everybody in the business to be on the same page.
And then the third part of it is brainstorming to help unstuck areas that people are stuck. So that may be where you guys are spending a lot of your time now, but I’d say you’re probably spending three times at much time more than you need to. I think one of my basic rules around businesses meetings is book every minute for 50% of the time that first comes to mind. So if you’re getting together and you’re going hey let’s get together for two hours, do it in an hour because you’ll always be able to get it done in less time. So that might be something that’s happening is you might just be spending too much time on their brainstorming instead of spending enough time on a couple of the other core areas.
SPP: Another thing that’s happening in our company is fast growth. And I know you’ve worked with a lot of different companies in the same scenario in trying to figure out how to balance multiple different facets within the organization during fast growth. When do you know when to kind of pull the reigns up and balance that growth when you have new opportunities come in and you feel like you’re getting a point where you might be spreading yourself too thin as a firm and creating unnecessary risks? How do you judge that?
Cameron: I kind of like the whole strategy from Michael Andretti the racecar driver. And he said “When you feel like you’re going too fast step on the gas.” And basically what happens as you start to accelerate and go even faster, even when you feel like you’re going too quickly and you start going even faster, it’ll start showing you the systems and processes that are actually broken, if it’s really broken, and you’ll start to focus on fixing those.
The second thing is that it will open up other opportunities for you. It just will get everybody more hyper focused. So that’s may approach is that I would just continually try to go faster.
SPP: I guess that ties into your concept of the fly wheel as well.
Cameron: Yeah the idea with the fly wheel is really picking in two or three core areas that you’re really, really good at and then spending time working on those, working on those, working on those. So as an example, at 1800 Got Junk we really good at two areas. We were really good at doving an amazing culture with this team of people that just worked great together and would do everything. They’ve treated the company like it was their own and we were great at building that. So we just kept working on that because we knew that it would propel the company faster and make it more profitable.
The second thing we were really good at was we were great at getting free press. We had this amazing knack of people to write about us and cover us. So we just kept talking to the press and we talked to them about anything we were focusing on. And they would cover us and that would make us grow faster. So instead of always trying to find something new it was just take the two or three things that you’re great at and just keep getting better.
Tiger Woods is Number 1 in the world in hitting fairways and regulations and he’s Number 1 in the world in greens and regulation. He’s Number 76 in the world in getting out of the sandbox. So what he’s realized is he does not spend anytime anymore on trying to get out of sand traps. He doesn’t practice his sand trap shot at all because he’s terrible at it. What he realized was he’s really, really good at those two things so that’s where he continue to spend his time.
So if people can do the same thing. If you’re in a job find the two or three things that you love, find the two or three things that you’re great at, and just keep reading about that. Instead of reading all these darn business books that people are reading, this is where Vern and I completely disagree, he wants people reading a business book every week. I said that’s insanity. I think what you should be doing is taking a look at what’s on your calendar for the next 90 days and then reading some stuff that is related to the core projects you’re working on. But to read just a business book because it’s on the bestseller list I think is ludicrous. This focuses people, it gets them excited about the new big shiny object, and it distracts them. And it also ways on their conscious a little bit and makes them feel like they’re not doing a good enough job because they’re hearing all these new things they should be doing.
SPP: Yes it’s the problem with having too much information in that sense. As we mentioned your book is called “Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in Three Years or Less”. It’s an awesome book. I absolutely recommend all our listeners to check it out. You’ve got a couple of videos up on Ted Talks. Is there anything else that you want to plug Web sites, any books coming up, just anything that you want to get out to our listeners?
Cameron: Sure I guess the book “Double Double” is available on iTunes so it’s there both in audio book and as an eBook.
Cameron: It’s available on audible, it’s off the Web site, and also the theory of DVD that a lot of entrepreneurial companies are buying in. You can get those from www.backpocketcoo.com.
SPP: Awesome. Well again thank you so much. We really appreciate it.
Cameron: You’re welcome. Thank so much for having me. I really appreciate it. I had fun.