Ed Robinson | How to Thrive as a CEO During Chaotic Times

Ed Robinson is the Founder and President of Capacity Building Solutions Inc., a consulting firm he started in June 2002 which focuses on business management and organizational development for small and medium sized businesses and community-based nonprofits. He is also a Master Chair, which means he is one of the top performing Chairs in the Vistage International Organization, an invitation-only CEO/business owner peer leadership development organization. 

Ed is also an executive coach, management consultant, speaker, trainer, and author who strives to change the world for the better – one leader at a time. He holds an MBA from Penn State University and BA in Politics from The Catholic University of America.

In this week’s episode of Smart Business Revolution, John Corcoran interviews Ed Robinson, Founder and President of Capacity Building Solutions, about thriving as a CEO during tough economic times. Ed talks about his own experience of starting and building a business during an economic downturn, the benefits of peer to peer CEO groups, and how he has been helping fellow CEOs deal with the current health crisis affecting their businesses.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • The work Ed Robinson did at Community Wealth Ventures which aimed to help non-profits start for-profit ventures
  • Ed talks about starting his own business during the 2000-2003 economic downturn, where he got his first clients, and how he came to join Vistage 
  • Success stories of CEOs and business owners who’ve gone through Ed‘s Vistage peer groups
  • Why the peer-to-peer format of Vistage leads to business growth
  • Why some people don’t get maximum results from peer-to-peer groups
  • How Ed has been helping businesses tackle challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Why many businesses reacted out of fear after the COVID-19 pandemic hit
  • The people Ed acknowledges for his achievements
  • Where to learn more about Ed Robinson

Resources Mentioned:

Sponsor: Rise25

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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, the host of the Smart Business Revolution podcast. And as you know, I talk with all kinds of interesting CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs of companies and organizations like YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, Lendingtree, Opentable, X Software and many more. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25 where we help to connect and need to be better business owners to their ideal prospects. And we’ve done a number of interviews now with different Vistage chairs. Those of you who haven’t heard of this before it is a peer to peer group. Our guests will explain more about what it does, but it helps CEOs and top executives to gather in small groups and get feedback and swap ideas in a small group format. 

And so today I’m really excited because we have Ed Robinson. Ed is the president and founder of Capacity Building Solutions, Inc, a consulting firm he started in June 2002, focusing on business management, organizational development for small and medium sized businesses and community based nonprofits. He also is a master chair, which means one of the top performing chairs in the Vistage international organization. He heads up five different business leaders here groups. It’s an invitation only for CEO business owner peer leadership development organizations as I mentioned a moment ago. So we’re going to get into that in In a second but first before we do, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media. Rise25 helps b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. And if you’re listening to this and you’re curious about starting a podcast, I’d say it’s one of the best things that I’ve done in 10 years in the past 10 years of doing it, and I tell everyone, they should do it. We specialize in helping b2b businesses with a high client lifetime value. So if you are interested in learning more, you can go to a rise25media.com, you can also email us at support at rise25media.com. Alright, so Ed, it’s a pleasure having you here today. And you got this interesting story because you went and you get your business degree, got your MBA, and then you joined an entity called Community wealth ventures, which was helping nonprofits to start for profit initiatives or endeavors or separate businesses in support of their larger mission. I’d never heard of them. type of focus before that. So talk a little bit about what you did with that organization.

 

Ed Robinson  3:06  

Yeah, it’s the field of social enterprise. So it’s a term of art and nonprofit space, which is, you know, nonprofits always looking for ways to diversify their revenue. And the founder of CW vs used to call it, Phil shore. They’ve done a really good job doing cause related marketing, and helping folks, business ventures. So he turned it into a business and it still exists today, where they help nonprofits on partnerships and corporations, help them start business ventures and also help them do organizational capacity building. So that was about 20 years ago. I wanted to get back, I wanted to make a difference. An NGO wrote this wonderful book called Revolution of the Heart that really intrigued me. And I said, Wow, I can take my business skills and bring it to the nonprofit space and help them start businesses and diversify their revenues. So of course, what inevitably happens is you help enough people start businesses and you get the business by yourself inside you want to go out on your own. So that’s what happened to me back in 2002.

 

John Corcoran  4:07  

And how was it in the early days when you decided to go out on your own, you know, you’ve gotten your MBA, so you had the academic background in it. But of course, it’s always different when you’re doing it yourself. So what was it like when you first started?

 

Ed Robinson  4:22  

Well, one of the best things I think, now I’m very helpful to my clients was before I did consulting, and I came out of business school, and I worked for Manhattan for eBay. Before that, and for Gallup, a lot of it was very theoretical, right? You’re in professional services, and you’re supposed to be objective, and you step back and help other people start businesses. The best thing I could have done to be a consultant of a coach is to start my own business literally from scratch, and understand exactly what folks went through at the time when I launched my business. And my son was about two and a half years old, and I had a daughter coming in two months. It was a very critical juncture in my life, and I just felt that Passion, this yearning for starting my own thing and working specifically around leadership. And so I just rolled the dice and that up working out.

 

John Corcoran  5:10  

Yeah, I remember when I started my first business, my oldest son was one years old. So he had a one year old at home. And yeah, it was a little bit of a crazy time to do that when you have a youngster at home, that people think you’re nuts at the time and say, Why are you leaving this organization when you’ve got one kid a second one on the way?

 

Ed Robinson  5:32  

Well, I always think that sometimes you look back in retrospect, if I take the me of today, and I go back, wait a second, you have a young son, you have another baby on the way. You just bought your first real house a few years ago, and you’ve got a great job working for a great organization with good benefits, and you decide to start a business. logical sense right now. So I wonder if a lot of people think to go back. could do it again, would they actually with their current perspective, but you know what, there’s something in life I think happens to every entrepreneur, every business person where you just feel like you have to bet on yourself. You have to give it a try. And I felt at that point, I’d been working out of business school for about seven, eight years. And I had worked before that. So I had about 10 years of professional services under my belt, and business school father was as good a time as any. And I also looked around and I saw other people who were doing it. And I’d been at conferences representing the other organization saying, I just clearly can do that as well. 

 

John Corcoran  6:36  

Do you remember where your original clients came from?

 

Ed Robinson  6:42  

Oh, yeah. Well, I started since I had moved from community wealth ventures and started my own thing. I had started a pure based group of nonprofit leaders in the DC metro area.

 

Ed Robinson  6:57  

So this is not with Vistage, something different, like I just found out about Vistage because I had started my own peer group model. But nonprofit leaders, we got funded by several foundations. I didn’t know Vistage even existed. So I still don’t remember how I met this Vistage chair at the time. But I had him come speak to my group. And he spoke to my group. And I was figuring this all out on the fly. I didn’t know anybody else was doing this. He said, hey, we’ve been doing this since 1957. Got this down. And the more I learned about what he did, and what some of his colleagues did, I got really intrigued saying, Wow, there’s this organization, this international organization that does this all the time. And quite frankly, it was a great bolt on to starting my business to be able to become a Vistage share, which is a subcontractor to this national organization, which gave me a national brand international brand to work with right away and training in those connections.

 

John Corcoran  7:52  

Right. And as because I was gonna ask you about that because you start your Capacity Building Solutions you start your company into 2002 and you’ve been a Vistage chair since 2003. So it wasn’t that much later that you joined Vistage or you became part of Vistage? 

 

Ed Robinson  8:09  

Well, I like to believe, pay attention and try to make good decisions. So I’m going, Okay, I can start this thing from scratch on my own. Or I can partner with this organization and make this a part of my practice. And with this is you get so much you get an international network of speakers, you get some of the best trainers in the world, right? You get this is marketing and advertising. Plus, you get a peer group of local professionals who are kind of a support group for you. So it’s kind of the best of both worlds to me, I still had the freedom to do my own thing and my own gigs. But I also had this sub contracting model, so I figured it made sense for somebody starting a business, because what I’ll tell everybody in business, there’s nothing more important than recurring revenue. If you can get recurring revenue models in your business, if you can build that on an ongoing basis. It makes the other stuff and taking risks much easier.

 

John Corcoran  9:01  

So from a business perspective for you, that’s what the Vistage provided for you, you have consulting coaching projects, which are non recurring or that can go up and down that sort of thing. But the Vistage side or the peer to peer group side for your business from the get go was the recurring side. Yeah, I

 

Ed Robinson  9:20  

mean, they say the typical Vistage member stays in about six or seven years. Okay, so that’s not many consultants, have clients and CEO clients just stick around for six to seven years, let alone dozens or more of them. Yeah, so it was pretty good. If you went in there and you did your job, you would have this recurring revenue stream plus you are making those connections, which potentially could help your business on the outside as well.

 

John Corcoran  9:45  

Right, right. So you know, we’re recording this in July of 2020. And and, you know, the coronavirus pandemic is still continuing to unfold. But back then when you started 2000 to 2003, we were Kind of emerging from the.com meltdown, not post 911 time period. What was it like to start a business at that time?

 

Ed Robinson  10:07  

Well see, I’ve always believed that in some way, I’m going to counter cyclical business and that this is the time people need advice and counsel the most. So actually, now, what was interesting back in 2002, compared to today, you know, the field of executive coaching was still somewhat emerging, I would say, in the late 90s and early 2000s. Now, it’s pretty much accepted. I mean, every day you get an inquiry from somebody looking for a coach, but that back then it wasn’t so standard. So leaders had this sense that they needed something. And VISTAs gave me a platform to connect them with other leaders and expert speakers. So the smart leaders, and this is the deal with Vistage in my work. I’m not trying to work with every CEO or business owner, really, I’m not interested in that. I’m trying to work with those folks who really see the benefits of their own. Development and the development of their people, and they want to push the envelope on growth. They don’t see investment in professional services or leadership development as an expense. They see it as an investment, they want to see a return on their investment. So the smart leaders, that small percentage who tend to do well during a recession, and in every recession, and every downturn, there is a small group of business owners who grow their market share, who grow the top line who grow their bottom line, who acquired talent that wasn’t available before. Those are the ones who lean into their challenges, and that’s who we’re looking for. So, in some strange way, I like to believe that I’m in a business where there is more pain, externally for business owners to navigate. They need someone to help them work through it. And I’m just one part of that puzzle for them.

 

John Corcoran  11:46  

Tell me some stories. You know, it’s been 18 1718 years since you’ve been doing these peer to peer groups. Give me some stories that are some examples of you don’t having to obviously violate confidentiality or anything but Some businesses or CEOs that have come through your groups and, and what you’ve seen them get out of being part of a peer to peer group like that. Just being part of the mix with, you know, meeting with their peers on a regular basis and how you’ve seen it contribute to their bottom line or their top line. 

 

Ed Robinson  12:18  

You know, I tell all the members of my groups and I’m not gonna make the claim for other people. But when someone joins my group, I tell them look, you will double your top line and you will triple your bottom line in the first five to seven years. And minimum, I have had members go from three $4 million in revenue 250 million dollars in revenue. I’ve had members go from 10 $15 million of revenue to 100 million dollars of revenue. I’ve had people who were living in their house with roommates running their businesses to sell their business for 10s of millions of dollars now in multiple houses. So I like to believe in the standard metrics of business success. We outperform all the major indices if you look at how business members perform, for example, 98% of our folks got their PPP funding first time around against all the major stock indices, we outperformed them. So there’s something about this VISTAs model where, you know, a small percentage of business owners invested in their own development, who work with or want to work with a peer group and share best practices tend to do very well in business. So those success stories, I have loads of those. I’ve had six people sell their business in the last couple of years in excess of 100 and $50 million. Okay, it does happen. But I think success is relative. I’m just as happy when the entrepreneur just started the business. He’s trying to push through the million dollar mark, and we get them two and a half $3 million places they’ve been struggling to get through the whole life. And quite frankly, I’m very happy when I’m part of a family transition from one generation to the next. We all know the failure rate family business. transitions. But if I can be part of that and make that work, helping folks, buy businesses, look at opportunities and acquire businesses and grow market share and enter new markets, that excites me. Then on the personal end, we always say investors and I believe in my, in my work overall, that I’m trying to change the world for the better one leader at a time. And you don’t like to draw a line between your home life and your personal life, right? What happens is, there’s a lot of talk about balance in life. And I do believe that balance is a little bit of an illusion. What we’re looking for is being in the moment and having quality time with the metalwork at that time. So what I want to try and show my members is you can be successful, you can hit your top line and bottom line targets, and you can have a happy marriage, and you can have a good relationship with your peers. And you can have friendships that are long lasting and enduring, right, that you can, I don’t like to say have it all, but you don’t have to settle. So I’m quite frankly just as happy about helping that business owner keep his marriage going when it went through a difficult time. So I am somebody selling their business for $10 million. I’m just as happy when someone hands a business off to their son, and makes sure that successful transition and that son can pay for that person’s retirement as I am with somebody making an acquisition for 610 million dollars, right? I’ve seen folks literally change their life and change the life of others. I happen to work with the money sock, that’s awesome getting to see an employee owned company, and how that can benefit employees. And I, that CEO, just takes extreme pride in the fact that he’s procuring retirement for literally hundreds of people who probably wouldn’t have another vehicle for doing that. So I try to meet people where they’re at. And yes, very, very successful stories. I work with some companies who have over a billion dollars in revenue, and that’s great and the dominating markets over places I get thrilled and excited by that. But I also like the person who can never get past that work, one person couldn’t get past the $5 million ceiling. And now they’re at $10 million, or the person who didn’t realize they could sell their business for 10 times multiple, and turn around and see other business owners, those proceeds. Right? It’s about doing good through business, through leaders, because my belief always has been, you want to have a vibrant community, you want to solve a lot of the social problems in life, and have a vibrant entrepreneurial class. 85% of employees in this country are hired by small businesses, not corporations, corporations shift their jobs overseas, right? So not really growing the net number in place. In fact, we can see in newspapers, they quickly downsize. But if you have a healthy entrepreneurial class, if you have healthy small business owners, they’re hiring people. The hiring people who can buy that first car can make the mortgage you can send their kids to school. They take great pride in that. The best entrepreneurs, the best small business owners, they define success in many different ways. It’s not just about money, although money isn’t an important scorecard, they make a difference. And that’s what I do to help people make a difference, I’d say help the few who helped me.

 

John Corcoran  17:19  

It seems like that’s kind of what you were originally attracted to about the original job that you went into after you got your MBA. I want to ask you, so, you know, a skeptic might say that. Well, yeah, you know, the CEOs that are drawn to join a group like Vistage, you know, they would have done it anyways. Or maybe it’s the types of people that are gonna drive a business forward that are drawn originally to a group like Vistage. So what is it about you think, the peer to peer format that leads these businesses to grow? Is it the discipline of just meeting with a bunch of peers? Is it the ability to take a challenge to the group and get feedback on it? Is it the fact that, you know, you’ve got this peer pressure and everyone else is improving? Or is it all of these different things? What is it practically you think that the, you know, going to a I think it’s a monthly meeting, going to a monthly meeting having these educational trainings, what is it about the nature of doing that on a consistent basis? over six years, 10 years, whatever, that leads these businesses to grow? Or is it all of the above?

 

Ed Robinson  18:29  

Well, I think they’re doing a pretty good job answering the question, but let me start with what you said. First and foremost, let me ask you a question. The fact that Harvard attracts the best and the brightest students to its campus, does that make their teachers any less effective? I suppose, I suppose not. Right. So I make no apologies. In fact, as I said before, I only want to work with the top five to 10% of business owners, the people who want to push the envelope, the people who would probably be somewhat successful already, I believe Vistage is a catalyst that propels people forward. It accelerates, do I think, am I under some kind of belief that it’s only through involvement? If this doesn’t work with me that has made them successful? No, I work with special people. They are, by their very definition, special people. They are people who want to share the best practices and be vulnerable with your peers, and every month commit to getting better. Those are special people. Those are the people who lead societies, not just businesses, but do we accelerate their success? Well, what is the best evidence of whether they’re getting value or not? They would walk, right, so if the average member is sticking around six or seven years and of this group, I have some members who predate me. In my group. I have many members who have been investing for over 10 years. I have colleagues who got many members in Vistage over 20 years, they stick around for a reason. and business owners don’t make dumb decisions, right? Especially the good ones. They think through their investments, they’re sticking around because they see the value. So maybe if I They’re getting where they are with 85 990 percent of the raw talent and ability and what they’re doing. Maybe this just gives them that extra five, or 10%. And I’m hoping that’s what happens, right? But I want to work with the best and the brightest. And I want to work with people who want to become the best and the brightest, in terms of the skeptics who think they got it all figured out. Good. How about it? I’m happy for you. I wish you the best of success.

 

John Corcoran  20:26  

Related to that, I want to ask you about that. I’m sure over 17 years, you’ve seen some people who come into the community, but they’re not a good fit, for whatever reason, maybe they won’t let their guard down. Maybe they’re not vulnerable enough. What are some things that you’ve seen where people don’t get results out of it due to whatever reason that causes people to not thrive in that kind of environment?

 

Ed Robinson  20:52  

Well, I can tell you that if you don’t have this to share, because you have some good answers in your question.

 

John Corcoran  20:58  

I hope I’m not feeding the answer. It’s

 

Ed Robinson  21:02  

really great. Well, I would say that Vistage is a very specific experience. So I would never speak on behalf of other colleagues. They run the group, so they run the group. So I’ll just talk about my experience and where I find that someone doesn’t really at least get the maximum benefit, nor does the group get the maximum benefit from the participation. First is you have to do the work. Okay, you have to show up and do the work. So we have a one on one coaching model, you need to prepare for your coaching sessions, you need to know what you want to work on. Secondly, you got to tell the truth. You know, a lot of entrepreneurs spend a lot of their time spinning. They’re spinning their bank, they’re spinning their investors, sometimes they’re spinning their spouses. Right. Okay. Because your desert by nature optimists, they believe it’s all going to work out. You have to be real honest. I’m very proud that in the last major recession that we didn’t lose a member, my guys went out of business one person sold his business. But you know why? Because there were no surprises. You need to be transparent. And I’ve had some people say, you know, I’m not comfortable sharing my numbers, I said, Well, I can understand that and I respect that. But if you’re going to be in my group, or you’re going to work with me individually, I need to see your numbers, I need to see your information because I know how you guys kind of massage the truth sometimes, okay, so they have to be willing to be vulnerable, be transparent, be honest. And here’s the thing about a peer group, which is really important. You get what you give. So there are a lot of people and they show up with kind of what are you gonna give me what am I going to get? What am I going to get right and look at their colleagues? And you know, the best way to get in life is to get so cultural anthropology would say that groups want everybody in a group to perform to the level of the slowest member. So groups by the very nature people want to associate with like minded and absorb successful. So if you show up to a group and you genuinely care about, and you’re interested in the success of other people, right, and you want to be useful, Peter Drucker talks about if you do one thing in life be useful. So if you show up to these meetings, and you want to be useful, right, and you want to see your peers Excel, guess what, by the very nature of that, that rubs off on you, and they want you to excel. So there’s a lot of people who don’t realize this is a two way relationship. Right? And I tell them all the time, I have a lot of tools in my pocket. But I can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat every single month, right? So if you show up and you don’t know what you want to talk about, or you don’t want to use the group, as an asset, I really can’t help you. This isn’t a spectator sport, right? And if I look at my consulting work, it’s the same thing. I’ll come there ready to work. You can count on me giving my A plus game when I showed my meeting with you, you got my full attention, and I’m prepared but I think expect the same. And I think a lot of people just expect consultants or coaches to show up and work magic. And that’s not the way it works. And then they get frustrated, you don’t have this fairy dust that you can sprinkle on them and make everything okay. know, what’s really going on? What’s happening? How can we help? What have you tried? The other thing that people get frustrated is they confuse coaching with consulting. And I do both. So it can be consult, it can be confusing for me sometimes. What I’m trying to do as a coach is ask the tough questions. So you come up with the answers. I’m trying to develop that muscle for you. Because I want you to develop that muscle because if you do develop that muscle, you get better at it. So inevitably more challenges will come your way, work on that skill, you’ll be able to handle it better. When you hire me as a consultant. I come and typically you’re hiring me because I bring answers or some skills to the table which you need to rent for a period of time. Right? So sometimes folks get frustrated and they say, Can you just tell me the answer, tell me what to do?” No, I’m here to help you think through what you should do. And by the way, your situation, your context may be completely different than that over here. So we got to really think it through. And by the way, here’s the thing about coaching, consulting, right? If you do what I tell you to do, it fails, it’s my fault, regardless of how you implement. Right? Right. But if you do what you designed to do, right, then you own it. And people typically own what they design and engineer, right? So that’s what I’m trying to get buy in from them. If they’re honest, if they want to do work, if they want to help other people, and guess what they have to like to learn.

 

You know, you know, I sometimes annoy my members because I sent them lots of articles and I recommend lots of books, but you’re never done learning. You know, I have some people who speak with pride when I’ve never read a business book. I don’t need to read a business book. Once again, good for you. I’m happy for you, God bless you. But you know what? There’s so much to learn only so much time, and you need to sharpen your pencil and as a business owner that should be brought. So you need to constantly be committed to learning new things and applying new things and experimenting, right? You don’t want to solve tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. Now, sometimes they may apply, but not always. You want to stay on top of everything. So I tell my members, read the Wall Street Journal every day. Read the Harvard Business Review. Read McKinsey quarterly. Right? Make sure you’re constantly feeding your brain with new information. Sloan review from MIT is another one. Right? That comes out. I mean, there’s lots of stuff you can be doing. So you gotta want to learn. And it doesn’t have to be reading, it could be a podcast, but are you developing yourself? Are you developing your people? Are you putting forth the work? Are you prepared? You know what you take, we step out of a business context. You say the same thing. athletes, high performing athletes, you’d say the same thing about high performing musicians, right? The same thing about high performing nonprofit leaders. Right? The best people do the work. They’re always prepared. They’re always learning. They are willing to be vulnerable. They’re willing to help and ask for help. I tell my clients, two things, the two most important things you can say as a leader is, I don’t know. And I need help. There’s a lot of guys who think that the approach to this should be like John Wayne, if you admit you don’t know. And if you ask for extra help, you’re weak. now know that you only get so far in life. That’s the way you think. And I’m not interested in hitting my ceiling. I’m still too young yet.

 

John Corcoran  27:43  

And John Wayne was a cowboy, right? So we don’t need cowboys. So we’re, as we record this, you know, we’re in July 2020, that, you know, a pandemic has been continuing to unfold. What are you seeing in businesses that are pivoting that are adapting to the new reality, how are they tackling the changes that are happening? And how are you helping them to navigate those, this new reality that we’re in?

 

Ed Robinson  28:14  

Well, my job is to try and simplify the complex. So I start with some very basic premises, because this is about math, and business is about people. So quite frankly, the people get through this, okay? They understand the business math, though, proactively managing that business math. And they’ve done the job to assemble and motivate and lead the right group of people. So for example, I was telling my folks not too long ago, it was actually in the early fall, right that we knew something was coming and there was talk of a slight bump in a recession. So I give them an annual goal planning document in October and as part of the planning this year, I haven’t done contingency planning. What if analysis what If your revenues dropped, what if your best person left? I didn’t know if that was going to be prescient, I had no idea where you’re going to hit this test. But what I want folks to realize is that they need to understand the numbers and their math because they create triggers for decision making. So you don’t want to go into a crisis with no money left on your line of credit. Right? You don’t want to go into a crisis, that inefficiency in your business model, which makes your profit margins subpar industry-wide, right? Want to have some margin for error. You want to have working capital, right? So you want to have all those things. So you want to make proactive decisions. I’ve been through several recessions. Now. Here’s what you want to do. Right before the downturn, you want to start making cuts and sometimes aggressive cuts before the downturn, right when the downturn starts to hit before everybody else, right, you want to strengthen your position that buys you time. So you can actually make infinite before everybody else can on the way out, because a lot of people wait too late to make difficult financial decisions. And as soon as that they exhaust their access to capital and maximize their debt load. So what do they do? And they’re having compressed margins, they’re generating less money to pay more debt, and they have less discretionary investment capital, as opposed to letting me keep some powder. Let me think this through. And right now, those business owners, what are they seeing on the people side of the equation? You know, it’s pretty hard to find certain positions not too long ago. Right now, if you’re looking for certain skill positions, she’ll get 100 resumes in the next week. Right now talent is here. And guess what supply and demand. The market corrects that HR director you had to pay 115,000 for just four or five months ago, you might be able to get 95,000 now, right? So what they do is they make investments in people and here’s the deal. I did a lot of turnaround work. You know, when I was there, real estate Talk about you having to be able to fertilize the tree as well as permanently. So even in difficult periods, you have to make investments, right and people don’t get down. And one of the biggest knee jerk reactions that people make in a downturn is they cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut. They just cut because they’re scared. No, you reduce and you invest. Right? You look at your business model, you get some flexibility, right? you outsource, you get three ways you get capacity, you build it, you buy it, or you rent it, leverage all three. So that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get my people to be smart. Make good financial decisions proactively. And then make investments when you see opportunity. And guess what, we’re probably over the next five to 10 years going to see more businesses for sale by baby boomer business owners than we’ve seen in the last 25 to 30 years. Why because of demographics and because of the economy? What’s gonna happen to what’s going to happen, then you’re going to see the prices of those businesses go down. So integrated growth becomes less expensive. At the same time, if you’re smart and making investments in talent, you will increase your probability for organic growth. Right. But leadership is an intentional activity. It’s a reflective, intentional, thoughtful activity, you have to step back, anticipate what’s going on, and then make proactive positive moves. And you have to make those moves quickly and decisively. And guess what? This is not a popularity contest. Sometimes you have to make some difficult decisions. But by making those difficult decisions sooner, you don’t have to make worse decisions later. And there’s nothing sadder than a business owner who has exhausted their resources in a difficult environment, trying to protect the jobs of people and then has to go out of business. Yeah,

 

John Corcoran  32:54  

everybody loses. I don’t know if you know, maybe it’s my circumstances around me, but I feel like this time, a lot of business owners made really quick decisions compared to 2008. Did you get that feeling? Or perhaps it’s just my own subjective opinion.

 

Ed Robinson  33:08  

Well, I have one of the most dangerous things we can do as human beings is fear. Right. And so we’ve had this unknown fear. Well, first off, I hate general terms. Business out, there were sexual business owners and non essential, right. This is ours as defined by our governor, right. So guess what? You’re running a restaurant and we have a sad story here in town of a guy who just bought a beautiful restaurant, young guy, I was so excited for him. And all of a sudden you could have customers awful. I mean, that is difficult, but there were some essential businesses that didn’t skip a beat. Right? So I think people got afraid. And there were all sorts of types of resources stoking that fear, right? Because this great unknown virus was it gonna hit How big was it going to be? You know where they’re going to be millions of people dying around us? Where are our customers going to go away? Well, the banks are gonna freeze credit. So the worst thing to do is to make knee jerk fear based decisions, right? In an economic downturn. I tell all of my clients, your job is to be the lighthouse. In the midst of the storm and the choppy, Rocky waters. You’re there to be the lighthouse, you’re there as a sense of security and stability. Despite the choppy seas, right? People can see right and a business owner is the worst thing to do unless of course your life is in jeopardy and it’s a life or death situation at that moment. The worst thing to do is react quickly out of fear and out of emotion. And I felt a lot of people do that. There’s also some other things which I think, which is a different conversation. But because of that fear, I think our government reaction is fear. Right? So they further Stoke that fear. Oh my god, everybody can be at a job. We got to stop start business owner service employment office, we’ve got to tell people, they got to pay their mortgage to pay their car loan, the sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling, you know, and the sky wasn’t falling, and it hasn’t fallen. That’s not gonna fall. It’s just a difficult period of time in our country’s history that we have to work through.

 

John Corcoran  35:26  

Right, right. Well, I hope that all business owners have listened to your words that were really, really reassuring in the way that you encapsulated it. So thank you so much for that ad. I’m gonna wrap things up with a question I was asked which is, let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, much like the Oscars or the Emmys and you’re receiving the award for lifetime achievement for everything you’ve done up to this point. What we all want to know is who do you think in addition to family and friends, who are the people you would acknowledge in your remarks?

 

Ed Robinson  35:53  

Well, there are several people, a person I look to as my mentor where I learned so much from the life gentleman called Gary Mulhair. Gary’s out in Pacific Northwest and I had the good fortune to work with him for a number of years and everything Gary touches turns to gold. And he was just, I mean, he’s one of those business guys. He created a whole business model wrapped around ex offenders that became self sustaining. It was the social enterprise model, multiple businesses that were self sustaining, helping people who others deemed as unemployable. And Gary, just as this guy is that there’s no problem you can’t solve if you think it through, right? And he just has this amazing belief in his own capability to solve problems and the power of people to step up if given the opportunity. So when I sit back and I think about business leaders, I think about Gary all the time, and I have to be honest as the Vistage share, I feel like I have this front row seat to some amazing people. Yes, I’m a coach. And when I started, I was only 37. So I was younger than a lot of them. Now I’m sorry. Getting into that kind of mid 50s range where maybe I’m getting to the average right? Or the high average anyway. But I gotta watch these people in action. I’m going to the learning laboratory. I got to watch so many of them deal with difficult challenges, make big bets. Turn around their companies. So I have so many Vistage members I’ve learned from Vistage colleagues. I mean, my goodness, you know, there’s that same stand on the shoulder of giants. I can’t believe I’m plugged into this organization and have access to these people, that they just have done such remarkable things for so long with so many people. They provide me with data and information selfishly. So I’d say my Vistage chair colleagues, the Vistage community have been amazing and supportive of me, my individual clients and I’m not going to name individual clients because I love them all equally, but some of them Through the years have greatly affected me in positive ways. Although one wing coffee is now a Vistage chair, and he was one of my best members, and just everything he did was first class and Ollie professional. And Wayne was just a model for that to me. And I always look up to Gary. And I guess if if I go back to the very beginning, I’ve always had an affinity for leaders and local leaders. And you know, the guy who ran the corner, grocery at the at the end of our street. You know, how when people didn’t have money, he helped him out. You know how when the kids he knew the kids who were struggling a little bit hey, here’s a hot chocolate you have to stand out in the snow to the person in the pizza parlor. You watched it free slices, two people, somebody who was down in our luck, but also the softball team that they went so I’ve been inspired by so many small business owners. And then I go back to business schools and professors are great professors like Alistair. He was just a Amazing business school they bought was this amazing business school Professor got me I think differently. And then my work at Ernst and Young, I was on a deep bed in Manhattan, working with the CEOs of academic medical centers dealing with very difficult challenges. And they were just amazing. And some of the partners there, which is amazing. I’ve just been blessed. every step along the way to be surrounded by a community of people who just where did amazing things were incredibly helpful to me. But I will always have a soft spot for Gary, because he’s someone I aspire to be like, one day,

 

John Corcoran  39:36  

Ed Robinson, Capacity Building Solutions, Inc, www.capacity-building.com. Where else can people go to connect with you or learn more about you?

 

Ed Robinson  39:47  

So I’m on LinkedIn. So hopefully, you’ll see my content coming through LinkedIn. And by the way, I just redid my website, some videos and there’s a lot of content. I pride myself on the content there. I am on Twitter. And I am on Facebook. So on all the social media, they can find me there. Hopefully now I see that if you type me into Google, it’s pretty easy for me to pop up these days. But I’m there. I’m out there. I’m ready to help.

 

John Corcoran  40:13  

Great. Thanks so much. Thank you.

 

Outro  40:16  

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com and while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the Revolution Revolution Revolution Revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution podcast.