Cameron Herold | Growing 2 $100-Million Companies, Bipolar Disorder, and Raising Kids to Be Entrepreneurs

John Corcoran 6:21

That’s pretty funny. They probably because a lawyer sued him

Cameron Herold 6:25

Yeah, exactly. Right.

John Corcoran 6:28

You know, what’s, what I think is so interesting about you is that you started this this company, not a new company has been around for a while now CEO Alliance and you help other CEOs other second and commands who you know, help the the visionary entrepreneur, but you’re kind of both like you’ve been a successful CEO, and you’ve been the visionary in the founder. Do you think that you’re unusual?

Cameron Herold 6:55

Yes, I think I am unusual because I have a lot of the entrepreneurial traits. I was also growing As an entrepreneur by my dad, he groomed my brother and sister and I to all own our own companies, which we all do today. So I was definitely groomed and nurtured that way. I definitely have all the entrepreneurial traits. But I think because of college pro painters, a company that I got got involved in when I was 20. And I ran a franchise for three years. And then I coached franchisees for four years, including I coached Kimball Musk, back in 1993. And then I also hired and coached his cousin Peter Reid, who built Solar City. They were both franchisees, for me, I think, because I grew up in a franchise system where I had to learn systems and follow processes and we couldn’t screw up we only had you know, so I think I learned those things. And I think maybe those those little OCD traits or those systems that I learned, allowed me to be operational in the entrepreneurial world. I would be a terrible CEO for a billion dollar company. But I would be a very great CEO for the kind of 1,000,200 million dollar range,

John Corcoran 7:54

and that’s where you thrived when it came to one. 800 got junk. Now you joined you were in employee number 14, a $2 million company and rode that rocket or helped to actually guide that rocket to over 100 million. It did you get to a point where it wasn’t fun anymore is that, you know, you get that point where like this is not my strength and I would rather work with companies that are in that growth stage.

Cameron Herold 8:19

Kind of except the my best friend and founder of the company CEO, the company told me that it was time for me to move on when we hit the hundred and 6 million mark because I was no longer the fit. And he was right. I couldn’t make the transition to deal with corporate politics matrix decision making slowing things down and being more detail oriented. He and I were like nature nitroglycerin we were kind of both quick starts both entrepreneurial, both able to see everything and pull people together and rally the team and grow but we needed to slow it down and be a little bit more methodical. You know, we when I left we were operating in 330 cities 46 states nine provinces, four countries, like we had 13 different operating companies. It was just big, right? And I was running everything except it and finance. We had 248 employees at the head office alone. So it was just yeah, we just got big.

John Corcoran 9:12

Yeah. And what do you think is the key that got it from to 206 million? I realized that that is a question that you could spend the next two days answering. But you’ve written a couple of books on the topic. So I imagine it has something to do with your books.

Cameron Herold 9:29

Well, it does. But it also when I went in on day one, or in the first week, I said to Brian, there’s three things we have to do. The first is we have to turn the company into slightly more than a business slightly less than a religion. We have to build a cult. And we have to create this culture that is so strong become a magnet for great people because we’re going to need them as we scale and we can’t afford to pay them a lot. We have to attract them. And this was way before culture was really talked about much. I guess it was starting to because the world was talking a lot about it. Because this was October of 2000. And then the second thing was we needed to raise our prices by about 40 to 45%. They were pricing so low that no one was making money the franchise or wasn’t doing well, the franchisees weren’t doing great. We couldn’t pay our employees lot. So we really positioned ourselves as kind of the FedEx of junk removal or the Starbucks of junk removal, and we raised our prices up 45%. And then this The third thing was to leverage free PR. And it was how could we get the media to talk about us, knowing that the more that they spoke about us, the more that we would be able to amplify that message, and the more that people would learn our story. Unfortunately, you know, we landed 5200 stories about our company in six years, with an in house PR team that had never done PR, but social media hadn’t been around yet. Facebook was starting right as I left the company. So imagine if we’d landed those 5200 stories and could have amplified them on you know, Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter.

John Corcoran 10:55

So would you if you’re doing things today and you have the social media engine that exists Today, would you have pursued the same strategy and just amplified it further using social media?

Cameron Herold 11:05

Yeah, I actually talked about that in my newest book, free PR, I talked about what we call the digital trifecta. And you have your earned media, which is like getting press coverage about you. And then you have your own media, which is your website, your social media platforms. And then you have your paid media, which is driving advertising and boosting traffic to those ads. So if you get all the social proof, you put it on your social platforms and you drive traffic towards it. Everybody sees these articles you know, we were on Oprah back in 2003 a huge piece on Oprah but we had nowhere to share it we no one did. And we couldn’t you couldn’t even email links out to people back then. Yeah, so yeah, we couldn’t really have leverage that and that’s that’s a key part of the platform today is being able to leverage that those three parts the digital trifecta,

John Corcoran 11:52

now I’ve seen you talk about your topic of the vivid vision which are also wrote a book on tell was a little bit about that, because I think that’s such a powerful idea.

Cameron Herold 12:04

Yeah, this is a concept that I learned from an Olympic coach. And by the way, I don’t think there’s really anything that is my idea. Over the years, what I’ve tried to do is take the best ideas from people in r&d, you know, rip off and duplicate. I, Olympic coach back in 1998, taught our EO chapter in Vancouver about the power of vision that athletes used. And if we could use that the same process of visualization inside of our companies, we could kind of scale so we created this idea of what we used to call a painted picture. And I’ve now called a vivid vision, where you write a four or five page written description of your company, you know, describing what your company looks like, acts like and feels like three years from today, so that everyone, all your employees, your customers, and shareholders can see the vision of the CEO, and then they can all figure out how to make it happen. Yeah, such a fascinating idea and how it’s like a home They’re building a house, the homeowner knows what they want the house to look like. The contractor has to figure out their vision so they can create the plans and the blueprints. The homeowner then signs off on the plans. And then they give the blueprints to the employees who have never really met with the CEO. They’ve never met with the homeowner, but the employees can build the dream because they can read the plans that articulate the vision. And this is not good. Yeah, in the business world, we’ve never communicated vision clearly enough to have the proper plans to make it come true.

John Corcoran 13:29

Yeah, and this is a great analogy for your work with CEOs, right? Because oftentimes with CEOs Their job is to implement the vision that the entrepreneur sets and oftentimes it doesn’t get communicated enough at least it isn’t communicated well enough if you don’t have that foundation in place. So and you you gravitated towards working with CEOs At what point did you decide that you needed to create a business around this

Cameron Herold 13:58

I ended up having a few of my coaching clients to have the clients that I coach one is the current number two company to work for in Glassdoor. It’s called the lead sem. And this The second one is called acceleration partners. They’re currently the number 12 company to work for on Glassdoor. I’ve been coaching both of those companies for between two to four years. And their second in command wanted to talk to some of my other coaching clients second and commands. So I pulled 10 of them together for a weekend. And they all wanted to continue meeting. So that really showed me that there was this group of people, I think we’ve been teaching the wrong people how to grow a company. We’re teaching the entrepreneur how to do it. What we should do is teach the entrepreneur what needs to happen, and we should teach their CEO and their executive team how to actually do it. So we created the CEO Alliance is a way to take these companies, minimum 8 million in revenue, teach those second and commands how to actually grow the vision and the companies for their teams and for their CEO. Hmm,

John Corcoran 14:52

fascinating. And it seems like what you’re building these days now is also you’ve kind of got kind of takes you back to your roots. You’ve got local chapters and different cities that you’re building as well.

Cameron Herold 15:06

Yeah, we have what we’re calling the SEO Alliance city forums. And we just saw so much demand for a slightly lower price point and a little bit more localized program. Because the SEO Alliance, we have five events a year. And the members pick three of the five to come to the city forums is a lower price points around 2 million in revenue to get in, they meet six one day events in their local city with the same group of eight to 14 members. Whereas at the National Program, you’re mixing and matching because you’re always getting different people coming through because they only pick three of the five events.

John Corcoran 15:38

Now, this is actually the topic of the book that I’m working on right now, which is about the power of these types of communities, for entrepreneurs, co CEOs to be able to get together in small little groups like this, and bounce off ideas exchange, you know, plan strategies, get feedback, that sort of thing. Do you have any examples to share of results that people have gotten from participating in these types of you know, the forums that you’ve created for for them?

Cameron Herold 16:11

Yeah, we actually started getting them to record videos that all the events we call it bonus time. So what we do is during the two day event, when our members feel like they’ve received 10 times the value of what it costs them to be there, they yellowed bonus time, meaning everything else learned for the rest of the two days is kind of free or bonus, and but we expect them to get a 10 x return and one of our members may from our Gamma Phi identifies about a $30 million supplement company. She said that she received about million dollars in value from just attending one event on ways that she can cut costs and increase revenue. So there’s huge opportunities for them because it’s a shared bait brain trust, there’s no speakers we don’t bring. It’s not about going to a conference and meeting speakers. It’s about all of the members of the SEO Alliance sharing with each other, masterminding with each other. brainstorming with each other, and growing themselves and then also growing their company. So yeah, they get huge take on value.

John Corcoran 17:06

One of the surprises that I experienced from talking to and I’ve interviewed at this point, probably about 60 members of YPO, probably about 30 or so members of EO members of Vistage, all these different similar types of organizations that have a similar structure with with a small group, peer to peer group. And one of the surprising things is that some of the benefits were beyond just business, you know, people told stories about a child who got sick, and they turned to other members and get help, you know, getting the care that they needed a lot faster. Or someone going through a divorce or someone going through health crisis or or someone just, you know, needing to figure out where they wanted to take their life after selling their company. any serious, you know, incidents like that, that you’ve come across, either through CEO Alliance or others that you want to share.

Cameron Herold 17:59

Yeah, we do it Exercise at every event where I just try to get members to realize that every single person there is really personally struggling with at least one thing at that time. And we kind of rattle off some examples. And then I asked them to write down the one thing that they’re struggling with, on a post it note, but to not put their name on the post it note, and then I collect all the post it notes, I shuffle them all, and I read them out loud. And they can instantly see that the 20 or 30 members in the room with them are really struggling with one of the people wrote down, they have a brain tumor. You know, another one wrote that the child is in hospital and they shouldn’t even be at the event today. So it’s really it’s a powerful connection for them to realize they’re all they’re working on themselves. And they’re also really struggling with something personally and then because they’re working with each other in breakout groups. You know, we’re doing activities together, we have lots of kind of conversational time. We really do break through that pure business, focus, and then I’ve also always been one of those vulnerable people as well. You I was in the EO organization for five years, I’ve done speaking events with EO and YPO. Now in 26 countries on six continents. So I’ve been really around the forum type experience, that we really foster that for sure.

John Corcoran 19:13

This kind of circles back to the beginning, we were talking about raising children, the role of education going forward. Any further thoughts on the current state of education and how we can improve it and how we can raise our kids to be successful and to explore things that they’re interested in?

Cameron Herold 19:33

I think the current state of education is really broken. I think everyone knows that the problem is that we can’t really rely on the system to catch up. I think what’s happened is we’ve leaped past that. Right now kids are actually learning more from playing video games together than they are from going to school. You know, they’re learning more about collaborating, working together as a team, communicating quickly, figuring out servers and technology. You know, the problem solving, leveraging each other’s strengths And they’re they’re learning about stuff and watching stuff that they’re excited about, you know, my kids are on YouTube and reading books and joining masterminds to talk about different games that they’re excited about. I think we have to do the same thing with the school system, we’ve got to get rid of grades, where kids no longer get told that they’re shitty, unless they’re in a plus, you know, no one’s ever looked at my university transcript. I don’t have any anyone ever grabbed yours. But no one’s ever asked me Actually, when

John Corcoran 20:23

I was in law school, I stopped checking my grades because it just didn’t do anything for me.

Cameron Herold 20:27

Right? Well, it beats you up, right? Unless you’re getting an A plus, like, exactly.

Unknown Speaker 20:31

That’s exactly it. Yeah.

Cameron Herold 20:32

I wanted to go to law school at one point that I realized I was never going to be strong enough to get past the Elsa. So you know, why grades? Were 2.2.

John Corcoran 20:41

Yeah, I mean, it’s a good thing you didn’t I actually think that there’s a huge amount of disruption for the legal profession because of AI and some of the technologies that are coming along.

Cameron Herold 20:51

Yeah, and I think for the school system as well, you know, you can look at the kids ability to learn online to collaborate to you know, look at the Khan Academy to leverage You know, their network, I want my kids to meet other kids and get to know other kids and communicate with other kids. Because I think that’s more important as who they know, then then what they know. Plus the system. You know, when I went to school, you had to be the smartest person in the room because there was no Google, right? You had to be the one to memorize everything because there was nowhere to look it up. You had to go to a library and get a textbook that was always taken out by somebody else. So So you had to be you had to be able to memorize it all. But now all the information is all there. We shouldn’t be teaching them to memorize we should be teaching them how to find it quickly, how to collaborate, how to work together as a team, how to sift through the information how to how to problem solve and decide what’s relevant, you know, all skills that you didn’t have to decide before because you, you just did what you were told.

John Corcoran 21:46

It makes you wonder if there’s going to be a company like a Khan Academy that is as disruptive as like an Airbnb or an Uber that comes out of nowhere that we don’t even anticipate that will disrupt education and Create new opportunities, new ways of thinking in the same way that Uber has created new means of transportation that we never would have anticipated before.

Cameron Herold 22:08

Yeah, I actually have an entire TED Talk scoped out with the entire vision and the whole mind map of a challenge for credit style program, where you allow kids to get credits from watching online videos, doing some apprenticeship, reading books, submitting book reports, but literally a pure challenge for credits. And when they get a certain number of credits, companies will hire them in lieu of hiring a Bachelor of Arts or in lieu of hiring the commerce degree or in lieu of hiring an MBA. And kids can go out and actually learn on their own independently without coming out with this world of debt, where the ROI just doesn’t make sense. They’re going to have to work for five years and have enough take home income to pay for the four years of education. Basically, they’ve done nine years sideways. What they could be doing is doing a challenge for credit program learning as they go and making money and they’d have they’d be ROI positive in the first month.

John Corcoran 22:57

Right. Before we wrap things up. getting low on time here. I want to ask you about your podcast. So the second a command podcast is the name of it. Why start a podcast? What have you gotten out of it? And by the way, I love that you remain focused. There’s so many podcasts. And I’ve been guilty of this, where you kind of just explore and interview a lot of different people. But I think you’ve interviewed entirely CEOs.

Cameron Herold 23:24

Yeah. So here’s the idea was that we were getting coverage, a lot of coverage at one 800 got junk about how we grew the company. And Brian would get interviewed, and I’d listen to the story. I’m like, Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, that’s true. There’s another side to it. But yeah, that’s true. There’s another side to it. And then I would get interviewed, and it would be totally true. And he’d be listening going. Yeah, that’s true. But there was also this. Yeah, that was true. And I realized we both had very true stories like a husband and wife raising kids if you ask him and her how you raised your children, very true, but very different stories. And all of the media coverage I was listening to on like how I built this or mixed up or any great podcast, seemed to be the entrepreneur and I was always curious, having been a CEO, what was the rest of the story? And so I actually called Harley Finkelstein from Shopify, and asked him what the story was as being the COO for Shopify. And it was a very different story from what I’ve been reading. And that was kind of the impetus to start it.

John Corcoran 24:18

Yeah, that’s great. And what have you gotten out of it? Is it what you expected? unexpected?

Cameron Herold 24:24

Yeah, it’s been great. I mean, I my my affiliation is definitely in the entrepreneurial world and helping entrepreneurs make their dreams happen. And if I can share information of how CEOs have helped them do that, I’m learning and getting inspired and also getting to share that story. And then it’s also been really good for our members and for leadership teams, because they’re getting insights into, you know, some of the deeper conversations like if you interview listen to the second in command of Bumble, they’re doing some really cool stuff, and you get kind of or I had the CEO from YPO young presidents organization, I interviewed Shawn Magennis their CEO on episode 40. It was amazing to listen to second in command of an entrepreneurial organization.

John Corcoran 25:02

Yeah. And they have 27,000 members or something internationally. Amazing. Yeah. Well, this has been great Cameron, I’m going to wrap things up with the final question I was asked, which is, let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, much like the Oscars, the Emmys. You’ve been awarded a lifetime, Lifetime Achievement Award for everything up until this point. And what we all want to know is who do you think, you know, what are the relationships who are the peers, the colleagues, the friends, the business mentors, the CEOs, the other executives who have been instrumental in your career so far, you would acknowledge?

Cameron Herold 25:33

Wow, I’d say there’s three or 411 is Greg Clark, who was the founder of college pro painters, because he really created an organization and a culture and I was fortunate to work around him for a year of my seven years, the company but he created such an amazing real world MBA for me. The second was Tim Ferriss. Tim was at my home in Vancouver years ago for the weekend with his brother, and we were talking and he mentioned this guy, Yannick silver, and I didn’t know what a Yannick silver was turned out, Yannick then great friends, you know became one of my first clients that I ever coached. He introduced me to the mastermind world which is how I met Jason Gaynor from mastermind talks and how I met Joe Polish from the Genius Network. You know, organizations that I’ve joined that gone to five mastermind talks events. I’ve been in the Genius Network for four years. So because of Tim Ferriss interviewing or introducing me to Yannick silver, and Yannick introducing me to the others, my entrepreneurial world is just exploded. And I think it’s it goes back to that old adage, it’s not it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And then it you know, if you’re in this, if you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room. So I think for me, my learning has been really supercharged because of those relationships.

John Corcoran 26:37

That’s great. CEO, Alliance. com is the website double double meeting suck, vivid vision, Miracle Morning for entrepreneurs and free PR the books, check out the second command podcast anywhere else that people should go to learn more about you and your work, Cameron.

Cameron Herold 26:51

Now go hang out with your kids and go hang out with your friends and have fun because none of this actually matters. We’re just doing this to make money. I think it’s it’s like 240 Right, I’m gonna go hang out with my kids. That sounds good. Alright. Thanks, Gary. All right, john. Thanks for having me.