Bill Flynn | Connecting with Alan Mulally, Ford’s Success, and Strategies for Focusing on Core Customers
Smart Business Revolution

Bill Flynn is a coach, author, and speaker who has collaborated with Alan Mulally and pitched Steve Jobs. He has worked for and advised hundreds of companies including startups across multiple industries. He has been a VP of Sales eight times, twice a CMO, and once as GM of a division within a $100 million IT services company before he pivoted to becoming a business growth coach about seven years ago.

Prior to that, Bill had five successful outcomes, two IPOs, and seven acquisitions including a turnaround during the 2008 financial crisis. He also has been listed on the Marshall Goldsmith 100 list of some of the best coaches. Bill is the Author of Further, Faster: The Vital Few Steps That Take the Guesswork out of Growth.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by Bill Flynn, a coach, author, and speaker, to talk about how Bill connected with Alan Mulally and what he learned about rebuilding the Ford brand. They also discuss strategies for focusing on a company’s core customers and explain why leaders should fire themselves from day-to-day company responsibilities. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • How Bill Flynn connected with Alan Mulally and became a Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coach
  • The most common mistakes that cause a business to fail
  • How to create big changes in an industry
  • Bill’s strategies for helping companies focus on their core customers
  • Why leaders should fire themselves from day-to-day responsibilities
  • Bill’s experience pitching Steve Jobs, the peers he respects, and where to learn more about him

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:10

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. You know, go check out the resources and the past episodes because there’s lots of great ones, you know with all kinds of smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs check out Netflix, Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, lots of great ones for you. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help to connect b2b business owners with their ideal prospects. And quick shout out to Lisa Vitale of who introduced me to today’s guest. His name is Bill Flynn. He’s a coach, author, speaker he’s collaborated with Alan Mulally. He’s pitched Steve Jobs. As you can tell, both of those stories have been described as a pragmatic Simon Sinek. He’s worked for and advised hundreds of companies including startups across multiple industries, he has been a VP of Sales eight times, twice a CMO, once a GM to have a division of $100 million IT services company before he pivoted to becoming a business growth coach about seven years ago. Prior to that he had five successful outcomes, two IPOs, and seven acquisitions, including a turnaround during the 2008 financial crisis. He also has been listed on the Marshall Goldsmith 100 list of some of the best coaches out there. And he’s the author of Further, Faster: The Vital Few Steps That Take the Guesswork out of Growth

And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing, you can go to our website at or email us at [email protected] if you want to learn about how to start a profitable b2b podcast. And Bill, it’s such a pleasure to have you here today dialing in not from the Maldives, which is where you just got back from but frigid, frozen cold, Massachusetts, I can say that because I grew up partially not a couple of towns over from you. And I and I know what those winters are like hearing in January. But I want to dive in first, with a couple of great stories here involving Steve Jobs. We’ll pause on that one for a second. And Alan Mulally, who was the head of Ford for many years, maybe some people know his name, some, some don’t, but kind of an iconic business leader. And you’ve got a great story about how you ended up connecting with the head of Ford Motor Company, which is insane. Tell us about

Bill Flynn 2:53

Sure. Thanks, John. Appreciate being on. And thanks to Lisa for, for recommending it. Um, yeah, so I’ve been talking about Alan law, I’ve known about Alan Mulally for, I don’t know a decade or longer. He was the head of Boeing commercial aircraft during the 90s. And actually saved the company in the middle of 911. And they’re came out of 911 Better than they went in. Then Bill Ford in 2006, asked him to do the same thing at Ford. And then he did that through 2008. So two existential economic crises aimed at the industry that he was working in. And he not only turned them around, but turned them around under the worst conditions. And so I’ve been talking about Alan because of I’ve known about those two things, at least of the Boeing one. And then of course, the Ford one, which is in the last, what it was eight or nine years since he left. So Alan, and I met because there was a book written about Alan’s journey through Ford, by Bryce Hoffman, it’s called American Icon, as you say, was an iconic story. So that’s sort of fitting. And it talks about how from 2006 to 2014. Alan turned the company around, and I thought it tied in really well to what I do. As a business coach, I have the same principles that he has, he does it he obviously did it slightly different way. But, um, I wrote an article that tied the book to what I do. And Alan read it, somewhere along the line. Alan read there about 10,000 or 12,000 people who read the article in the last three or four years, which is kind of cool for me, because I’m not really known as a writer. And he reached out to me, he went to my website, he clicked on the About Us and contact us and I got this note from Alan Mulally, who now I’ve been talking about Elon for years. So my first reaction is no way. This is someone messing with me. Yeah, right. Right. You know, but he said, Bill, I love what you wrote it was spot on and I want to meet you. Wow. You know, and it said Wow. Now you could certainly spoof that but Boy, that seemed pretty good, right? And yeah,

John Corcoran 5:03

we’ve been a friend you called me like, are you? Are you screwing with me? Yeah,

Bill Flynn 5:07

I kind of said what I said. Um, and I did write back and I said, I’m not. I said, I’m nonplussed. I’m not really sure what to do here, but I’m gonna trust that you are who you say you are. And yes, I would love to meet you. Here’s my calendar link. And let’s get together. He said, No, no, I would like to talk to you right now. So I gave him my phone number. And he called me like five minutes later. So I sat on my back porch in the middle of summer, but a year and a half ago, give or take, I chatted with Mr. Ali, and such a wonderful man I was. Now here I’m talking to Alan Mulally, who’s, you know, he’s been asked to be in the cabinet of two presidents. He gets called all the time to help through COVID. And, and he’s an iconic person. Yeah. And I’m chatting with him. And so I’m trying to get off the phone, because I’m trying to be polite. And like, you know, well, thank you very much. And it’s really great. And I know you’re really busy. And we chatted for 45 minutes. And at the end of the call, he said, Okay, you have my email, here’s my personal cell phone number, whatever you need. Call me.

John Corcoran 6:05

What do you do with that? Because yeah, I said, that’s great.

Bill Flynn 6:09

I’m not going to ask for anything right now, I need to think about that. Because this is like a once in a lifetime kind of thing. Right? I actually took a month. And I thought about all the things that I’ve tried to do, because I’m really trying to make a bigger difference to people and leaders and help them live better lives and run better companies. And Alan can can help me with that. Because, you know, he’s he’s in that world. So I asked for three things. I’ll tell you just sort of the one thing which is I asked, I said, Hey, you’re part of it seems like you’re connected to this Marshall Goldsmith organization, which is, was called the MG 100. Now, it’s called 100 coaches. But it was Marshall Goldsmith, who’s basically invented executive coaching about 4045 years ago. And he’s the number one executive coach has been for years. started this organization because he’s in his 70s. He wants to, he wants to pay it forward. He wants to create a legacy and he wants to help people. So he invited initially 15 people to be part of his organization.

John Corcoran 7:00

And by the way, I should mention Dorie Clark, Lisa Cohen, some really talented people, Erica Dhawan are all involved with that organization. It’s really cool. And Marshall Goldsmith wanted to want these 100 coaches to give back basically, yeah,

Bill Flynn 7:15

now they’re about 300 of us. And so my monkey Michael Bungay Stanier is in there for those of you know, him.

John Corcoran 7:20

Yeah, got it. Right here actually, 

Bill Flynn 7:23

Yeah. Ken Blanchard, the One Minute Manager, which almost everyone’s read, yeah. It’s a really cool, so it’s so it’s like, it’s a little, it’s a little off and inspiring, you know, on a phone call with and I see these faces, and I chatted with them. And, you know, I’ve met Dory, and I’ve met Alyssa and had drinks with them. And so it’s kind of cool. It’s just so nice to see them as people. But anyway, so. So I asked for that I said, if you think it’d be a good fit, let me know. And, uh, three weeks later, I was in the group, which, which I found out later was unusual, because there’s like a, there’s a vetting process. And yet, it takes about a quarter to three to four months to get in, if you get in. And I guess because Alan said, because I didn’t know Alan and Marshall are really, really good friends. And they started 100 coaches together. I didn’t know that either. So I was like, so here I am. It’s great.

John Corcoran 8:14

Having How did you know about their involvement? You just read about it before that they’d

Bill Flynn 8:18

been involved. So I knew that Marshall was starting it because I actually applied for your five years ago, I said, What the heck, I’ll apply. That’ll be fun. And you know, I didn’t even get so 20,000 people have a blog. Wow, only 300 of us. So it’s it’s harder to get into this group than it is to get into Harvard. Yeah, or even southwest, which is even harder than Harvard. Right? It’s

John Corcoran 8:38

getting recommended by Alan Mulally, he doesn’t hurt. That’s for sure. The two other things that you asked him for.

Bill Flynn 8:45

So I said, Look, I’m trying to so my, what I’ve been trying to do the last five or six years is I say I’m trying to bend the curve. So most businesses go out of business, you have about a 50% chance of making it five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Small Business Administration. And that’s been pretty true for many, many, many years. Most of the Fortune 500 companies are new, they’re less than 15 years old. So businesses continue to go out of business, actually, you know, it’s 50% to go five years, and it’s actually 16% last 25 years. So the longer you’re in business, the less likely you are to be in business, which to me is counterintuitive. You think you get smarter, you get better you figure it out. Right. That doesn’t seem to be it. And we could talk a little bit about you know why I think that is because I definitely have some theories on that. So that was the other thing. The other thing I said, Look, you know, I bet you get asked to do speeches all the time, and either you’re not interested or they can’t pay your fee. And since we’re talking about the same thing, I’m not going to tell the same great stories you tell, but I tell some of them and within the third party, I said you know, I’d be happy to do that if you keep me in mind. So the COVID has been a little tough on that one. I haven’t had any of those yet. But the Marshall Goldsmith group is certainly helped me with that. I’m part of their I’m one of their coaches that they put or rent out if you will. Yeah, but that’s sort of my element. Story.

John Corcoran 10:00

That’s, that’s amazing, so hard to you know, as someone of that stature who you’ve admired so much from so far, you know, my natural inclination is what can I do for you, rather than what can you do for me, but if he’s come to you, and he’s offering you saying, I respect what you’re doing, in a sense, you’re taking what he’s done and, and helping the world to implement it. So I’m sure he could see that potential in you. But it’s got to be hard to think like, you know, to turn around and then ask him for a favor.

Bill Flynn 10:30

It was a little it was a little weird, but you know, I just sucked it up, Johnson, you know what this may be, you may never ever get a chance like this again. And who knows what it’s going to lead to? Because, you know, I mean, I like money and all but I’m not doing it for the money. I just, I really mapped on 10 startups, I don’t know, hundreds, if not 1000s of leaders. Most of them are miserable and suffering and struggling. And, and I found that it’s mostly unnecessary. Because they’re just not, no one’s really, no one ever teaches us how to run a company. Yeah, if he’s got to be finance, or marketing, or whatever. But running a company is completely different than doing those things. And totally being a parents like, well just start running it and do it. But there are ways to do it, there is a way to do it. That works. Well, like 90 some odd percent of the time. Yeah, most people don’t do it.

John Corcoran 11:17

And let’s, let’s dive into some of those topics. And then I want to hold on to the job story. We’ll get to that a little bit later. But, you know, I’ve heard those same statistics that you threw out there about businesses that that fail, and you know, you’ve written that we do change wrong, we do vision wrong, we do people wrong, we do change wrong, we do feedback wrong, there’s a lot of different things we’re doing wrong. So talk a little bit about some of those major mistakes that you see businesses do over and over again.