Run your business like Clockwork, with Mike Michalowicz

Run your business like Clockwork, with Mike Michalowicz

Mike and the Pixie
Mike and the Pixie

Clockwork is the latest book by business author Mike Michalowicz. 

To get the low-​down on the book, on the tweak that the Queen Pixie inspired (seriously, she’s mentioned on pp. 204 – 5), and what it all means for your business, Leticia and Mike got together for a chat.

The audio is above, and the transcript below. Remember to subscribe and rate it if you enjoy it!

Podcast transcript

Mike: I had the belief that my life was designed to support my business and I am happy to say I now have a new realisation that my business is designed to support my life.

Mike: I had the belief that my life was designed to support my business and I am happy to say I now have a new realisation that my business is designed to support my life.

Leticia: Hi, listeners. If you don’t recognise that voice, it’s Mike Michalowicz, who is an American author, entrepreneur and doesn’t say on his Wikipedia page, but Def Leppard fan. He’s the author of such books as the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, The Pumpkin Plan, Profit First, Surge and Clockwork, which is his latest book. Mike’s books have largely been written as he’s developed in his own entrepreneurial journey and his forthcoming book is even more exciting than what Clockwork was. I am a little bit of a fan. I’m lucky to count Mike among my friends, so I wanted to get together with him to have a chat about Clockwork to give you a bit of an insight into the book and also into his life and from that little snippet in just after the intro, you can see from where the impetus came. For this book, Mike now has a lifestyle design that supports his business, but also supports his life. And if you’re one of those business owners that is really looking forward to the time when your business supports your life and not the other way around, this episode is for you. So buckle your seat belts, this is a bit of a longer episode. It’s reminiscent of our very earliest seasons on the Pixie Podcast. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Mike: I don’t aspire to work more. I aspire to be of more service through my business, but for the business to find its own legs, to run on its own and give me the freedom to do the things that I’m most impactful at and get the most joy from.

Leticia: It’s almost like entrepreneurs chase the wrong Holy Grail, don’t they? They want to be busy and they want to be seen as this person who is doing lots of stuff because it kind of validates the reason why they’re in business to other people

Mike: To be really honest, there’s a lot of ego associated with that. The more we’re doing, the outside world, we hope, receives this as more successful because there’s so much demand for us. Now it’s our own demand on ourselves, but the more the business needs us, clearly the more important we are, and so we have this pride in that and it feeds our ego. There’s another kind of insidious thing that happens is when we start a business and when we’re the sole practitioner, we have to work hard. We have to do everything because there’s no one else to depend on. So the beginnings of any business when you’re in the solopreneur phase and the solopreneur phase can last a few months, a few years or it can last a lifetime. But during that phase we have to do everything and we think that is the solution. As we grow our business, if we so decide to bring on employees and stuff, we’ve already been in this kind of mindset of doing all the work, and so we actually retain the work. We don’t bring on employees to actually take on responsibility as much as to take on tasks that we still control. We answer all the things for them. We manage the entire business. In our head, we still become the director. In fact, as we hire more employees for many owners, I noticed that actually we have to work longer hours now because we’re answering all their questions as we do our work after that, later on in the day or at night when no one’s around. And that’s not a successful business. That’s known as task rabbiting, signing tasks to other people, but someone that’s not really delegating and assigning responsibility. So in the beginning we have to do everything and it becomes this belief that that’s the way you grow business. But the reality is you need the transition from doing things to designing outcomes.

Leticia: Yes, yes, that’s true. And we’ll get into that in a minute. The designing of outcomes, because it really is a design process because otherwise you can’t get out of that mode. It just doesn’t. You can try and force yourself, but it doesn’t quite work.

Mike: That’s exactly right.

Leticia: How much do conversations among business owners serve to reinforce this because in my experience the question is always, “How are you? Are you busy?” Not, “How are you? Are you effective?”

Mike: What’s wrong with us? That’s right. That’s exactly right. I remember you and I, when I visited you, you showed me your office. We’re walking around and it’s so funny. There was someone else there that brought me into this space and she asked me as she just walked me over to you. She said, “Oh, what kind of work do you do?” And I explained I’m an author and stuff. She goes, “Oh you must be pretty busy.” It’s so funny because it’s the first conversation, someone I’d never met before, it was in seconds the conversation was, “Oh, you must be pretty busy.” And I felt the only responsible way to respond is, “Of course I’m busy.” If I said I’m not, there’s something wrong with me. So you’re right, it’s in our vernacular. We call ourselves workaholics and even though “aholic” is a negative association, it means an addition, there is this perverted pride in that. Many people say, “I’m a workaholic”, and that’s something to be proud of? I was. It’s not.

Leticia: No, it’s not. It’s not healthy. I have this very interesting way I respond to people is I kind of ask people, “Define busy for me”, because in my estimation of what busy is, busy kind of says that you don’t have control of what’s going on actually. There’s so much stuff.

Mike: I like that response because it does make me think busy means in high demand. That’s one option. Or does it mean that I have no control? That’s another option. Right? Or it could be, busy could even be just filling things that are unimportant and prioritising unimportant over important. It’s a good question. There’s a lot of definitions for that.. 

Leticia: So we’ll get into Clockwork. Clockwork is a much simpler system than just about everything else that I’ve seen, and like most of our busy workaholic entrepreneurs I’ve read all of the productivity things and don’t get me wrong, E‑Myth and similar are excellent, but they also end up being loads of work. And so your seven steps aren’t even really what you expect if you’ve kind of been through all of those books. They’re more about making the commitment to do it, aren’t they?

Mike: Yeah, they are. So what’s interesting I found is that this shift from doing everything to designing the outcomes, that’s that’s what I talk about in this book … actually the subtitle of the book is design your business to run itself so I want us to become designers, is this is a substantial mind set shift. And we have to first … I talk about it in the first step is move out of this doing phase where … I call it a superhero syndrome, where I can do everything for my business, therefore I feel compelled to do everything. But then I have this pride in swooping in and solving things. Like, “Oh, if customers PO’d, they need to be saved, I will do it because I’m the owner of the business and I will swoop in and save it. If there’s an employee that’s struggling, I’m going to help carry them.” And so we have this pride in being the superhero, but there’s a damaging effect of being the superhero. And what it is is when we swoop in and save the business, we are disabling our employees, we have them, our colleagues, our virtual help, our vendors or even the clients themselves from serving the business. Everything becomes dependent upon us. We keep swooping in. So every time you swoop in, it reinforces that next time we’re going to have this swoop in yet again. But also we often leave a wake of damage. Entrepreneurs, myself in particular, are notorious for fixing the 5%, but leaving the 90 damaged in the wake. It’s kind of like when you watch a Wonder Woman or Superman movie and after they had the battle with the evil criminal, the entire city is levelled in the process. They haven’t made the Superman sequel that says, “Here’s New York trying to recover from all the damage left behind”, but that’s the reality. And that’s what we’re doing as entrepreneurs. We leave a wake of damage without even realising we do.

Leticia: It stops people from developing in all sorts of ways, but more critically, it stops us from developing, doesn’t it?

Mike: Yeah. It stops us from stepping up. Right? So when we keep on doing the work, we start getting into what’s called a groove. And the groove at first is a positive definition. You get into a routine, you become more efficient. But grooves become ruts, meaning a certain point you can’t break out of it. And that’s the challenge of being an entrepreneur. When you start something, you’re starting somebody new, you have no experience with it, you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to keep hacking at, working away at until you get into a groove. And now you have a routine that you can deliver efficiently on your own. But then the next step is to actually get out of that groove and hand it off to someone else. If we fail to do that, we’ll fail to grow our business.

Leticia: That’s so true. And if you do it the wrong way, you will find yourself just fielding questions all the time, which is what I found with other productivity tools. You build all of these things. You spend all this time to build manuals or whatever, but you might actually be embedding the wrong stuff and that’s really damaging to the business too.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m thinking about the decision making. It made me laugh out loud because it’s so true and something I struggled with for nearly 15 to 20 years as an entrepreneur. Every book I write, I’m actually honestly trying to resolve challenges I face in the growth of my own businesses to make them run healthfully. And so when I wrote Clockwork, it took me six years to write it. It’s a long project. I started to endeavour to figure out how do I fix my own erroneous ways and one of the challenges, probably one of the biggest challenges was my compulsion to decide for others. So I had grown the business. I mean, I hired employees and revenue was growing, but I realised that I was the sole decision maker. Anytime a question came up, even the most rudimentary stuff like, “Hey, where do I find a piece of paper?”, I blurted it out from the behind my office, “Oh, the paper’s in the supply cabinet, lowest shelf.” Always giving answers and therefore the company became dependent upon me, so much so that I actually stopped doing work. I was just blurting out answers. And then I realised the day I’m sick or the day I go on vacation, which I wasn’t anymore, the business came to an immediate halt because the one brain effectively for the business was gone. So where I realised I’ve got to move out of that phase, what I call the deciding phase where I’m deciding for others, and move to a phase that’s true delegation. Delegation is the assignment of tasks or the assignment of outcomes and the empowerment of my colleagues to make decisions around achieving those outcomes and supporting their decision making and supporting all their decisions, allowing my own colleagues to make mistakes and do things that don’t work out so that they can learn from it and grow forward. But the one thing I know I can’t do and don’t do anymore is decide for them. When I do that, I’m actually pulling my business back now.

Leticia: The interesting thing about that is it just struck me that this is also applicable for people who are leading teams inside other people’s businesses. I’ve had an experience where I was leading a team inside a multinational corporation and I was the answer guy. People would stand at my desk every 30 seconds to ask a question. Oh my God.

Mike: That would drive me nuts. But the funny thing is it also drives my ego.

Leticia: Yes.

Mike: If you’re coming to me, I feel like I’m the powerful guy.

Leticia: Right.

Mike: Yeah, I’m the guru or whatever. And I think that’s one reason we stay trapped in it is if we’re aware of our ego, we get this pride, we get this self satisfaction from people needing us. That’s actually one of the core elements of ego is the desire to be needed. And what I discovered is I can’t squash my ego. I can’t say, “You know what? I don’t want to be needed. I don’t want to be anything important. I’m going to push that down.” I can’t. But what I did find is I can redirect my ego. I used to consider myself the superhero for the business. That would serve my ego. Answering anyone’s questions, that served my ego. I changed my own title. I said, “I’m no longer the superhero. I’m the super visionary.” And what I mean by that is I’m committed to having clarity on where this business can go and helping my colleagues achieve their own personal visions in alignment with the business achieving the corporate vision. That’s what I am good at. And that’s what I am called to do. And by thinking that way, by changing that title, my fat ego still gets served. When we start moving the business forward. I’m like, “Yeah, it’s working.” When one of my colleagues has her dream come true, it actually happened today. These are small dreams in regards to financial but significant in her life. She wants extreme flexibility because her husband works very kind of random travel schedule and sometimes he’ll come home unexpectedly. She wants to have a job where she literally can call out from the job while on the job. She needs ultimate flexibility so that she can be with her family and once I understood what her personal vision was, then I said, “Okay, the corporate vision is X, Y, Z. X dollars million in revenue and I want this. I want that.” Then I said, “Okay, how do we do that and make sure that Amy is experiencing the lifestyle she wants here?” Once I had clarity around that, that’s what a super visionary does. Everyone’s dream is being fulfilled and the business is moving forward faster than ever. Amy is thrilled. She loves the work environment because her needs are being satisfied and by her needs being satisfied it’s satisfying the needs that I’ve set for our organisation as a whole.

Leticia: Yeah, interesting. So it’s a multilayered design process, isn’t it? 

Mike: Yeah, it really is. But the old way would be like, I would come out of the office, I get all jazzed up, you and I speak on the phone. I’m like, “Oh my God. Leticia’s so smart. These are such great ideas.” I’d write it down and come out and say, “Okay everyone, here’s the new plan. We’re going to do $10 million of revenue. We’re going to do this and this. Aren’t you guys excited?” And they do the obligatory one hand clap type thing. And I’m like, “Why isn’t everyone excited?” And then the realisation struck me because they told me. They said, “Mike, that’s your dream. You’re the guy who gets the new car. If we do that, that doesn’t satisfy our dreams. We have our own dreams.” And I started to really invest time in learning what my colleagues want. They don’t want to run a business. That’s why they don’t own a business. They want to work for a company to help support whatever their visions are. And once I got clear on their own individual dreams, I organised their roles in the company and moving us toward what I set as our corporate mission, my dream, to satisfy and serve their dreams. And by the way, focus on theirs as a priority over my dream. Because when I know Amy and Kelsey and Mike and Ron and Jeremy and Paul and all the other people that work here, Jenna and so forth, when their dreams are being addressed, first and foremost, their enthusiasm for the company increases because their enthusiasm for the role, which satisfies their dreams, is increasing and the company starts moving much more fluidly toward its end objective that I’ve set.

Leticia: Yes. So really the structure is much more flexible then because everyone is doing what they need to do as opposed to what they’re told to do.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny, I talk about this in Clockwork too, is historically I had a structure, a traditional organisational chart, I call it the pyramid chart because you have the president or CEO at the top and you have the three layers below that and even if you have a sole proprietor business, you can still draw out this chart and over time as you grow the business, initially you wear all the hats for all the roles you can fit yourself in. Well, that pyramid chart I now am starting to call it pyramid scheme because what it does is it says, “I’ve got to find people with talents that match these titles. I need a, say, receptionist who is great at answering the phone and greeting walk-​ins, but also can do data entry, some light accounting”, and what I was looking for is a person with the talents that met that title.

What I realised is in most cases it’s hard to find someone talented across all these different disconnected abilities. I did find someone who was a wonderful greeter, very pleasant, but just was not strong at data entry and the accounting side. So what I came to realise is don’t match people’s talents to their titles, match their talents to the tasks you have in the organisation. Therefore someone who’s great at greeting people on the phone, maybe great reception, is probably also great at level one sales, at warming up prospects and so forth. And that’s what we did. We started to move people to match their talents to their tasks and it formed a web-​like structure. That pyramid goes away and now it’s a structure of really people that are titleless, their talents play out in different areas. And it was interesting, the parallel I saw recently was there was a supercomputer used and the challenge put in front of the supercomputer was to make a structure that was as strong as a column, but to use as little material as possible. So how do you make a column as light as possible but retain its rigidity, its strength at 100%? And so the supercomputer went plugging away and it came back with a design, which from the human mind, at least from my mind was almost incomprehensible. I was expecting some kind of geometrical pattern, something that’s linear and kind of calculated it out with arches and so forth. But no, the computer came back with a web-​like structure. I can’t even explain how it looks because it made no logical sense to me. But by making this web-​like structure and this kind of twisting and turning elements, the structure was able to keep almost 100% of the strength but use about 20% of the material. Well this is true for organisations too. If we build a web-​like structure because now we’re playing to people’s talents, we can achieve such greater results. We can achieve, I think, five or 10 times results with the same amount of people that we have today. We don’t have to build up this massive heavy structure.

Leticia: And what you’ve really described is a strengths based organisation because everyone’s working to their strengths and then that makes them happier, which makes them more effective, which then makes the organisation stronger. And so really by doing that, you’ve totally shifted not just the structure of the organisation, but the culture and how people think about what work even is.

Mike: Yeah, it does and it’s kind of weird. We’re still planning this out because you have to go titleless now. You’re not the receptionist or the director of First Impressions or the cheesy term of the day. You’re not these titles anymore and I’m not the president or CEO. I happened to be a shareholder in the organisation. I happen to own all the shares, but I’m not necessarily the CEO or president. I play a spokesperson role. I am content production. I serve that role, but so do other people. And so I don’t have a title. It’s very weird not how many title because I think it’s human nature to anchor into that. We put titles in all the other elements of our lives. So I’m a parent, I’m a father, I’m a son to my parents. In college I called myself an athlete because I played sports and it’s very difficult not to have a title to anchor into, but at the same time it gives us the freedom to be much more organic and flow much more with our business and it brings strength to it. So there’s some mental challenges I still need to get through.

Leticia: Speaking of ego, when I read Clockwork, there was this moment where I was blown away by getting a mention in the book, which totally stroked my ego. And in the line it said, you wrote, “I thought of a final tweak to the system after having a conversation with Australian entrepreneur, Leticia Mooney.” So my question is, what was the tweak? What that inspiration?

Mike: Oh my god. Yeah, so now I’ve got to reflect on the book. Oh-​oh. I think it was … So you’re a metalhead, which I freaking adore. I love … Oh, do you know this new band I’m into? It’s called In This Moment. Have you heard-

Leticia: Oh yes. I’ve heard of them.

Mike: Okay. So I’m super into them right now and but one of the most classic bands of all time came out of your mother country, Australia, AC/​DC and I think this is what triggered it. I was studying the flow of business and figured out through interviews, particularly with my one friend who now has become a partner. Her name’s Adrienne Doritsen and I was talking with her, she’s a business efficiency specialists and the tweak I got from you is this. She was explaining that there’s three elements or three phases a business goes through. She calls it the A, C and D, the attract customers, convert them into clients and then deliver the goods. And another component kicked in and is the last C. So it’s AC/​DC, attract customers, convert them into clients, deliver your goods in the final C is collect on payment. And if you achieve all those elements, you have a fluid business and if you have a problem in your business, it’s always going to reside in one of those categories. So as a quick way to say, if my business is kind of stumbling right now, where is the stumbling and you look at is it in the attraction phase, the conversion, the delivery, or is it in cashflow or collections? So it’s a great way to pin this stuff down. I think that was the component, that extra C I attribute to you.

Leticia: Oh, that is so exciting because I was really hoping that was the case.

Mike: Seriously?

Leticia: Yes.

Mike: That’s awesome. We talked about music and business and we walked around Australia. It was like the fantasy life for me.

Leticia: When I was reading Clockwork, I was like, “No way. AC/​DC, that’s not accidental.”

Mike: No, it’s not accidental.

Leticia: And I did wonder if I should pull out my very rare AC/​DC box set as a listening soundtrack.

Mike: You have a box set? That’s awesome.

Leticia: Yes. The original. Actually, it’s not mine. It’s my husband’s. I shouldn’t say it’s mine. It’s the original box set.

Mike: It’s yours. It’s always yours.

Leticia: It’s always mine. Yeah, it’s the original Australian release box set. Can’t get it anywhere in the world anymore. It’s amazing.

Mike: Oh, that’s really cool.

Leticia: Yeah, it’s super cool. So next time you’re here, you’ll come and listen to the AC/​DC box set.

Mike: That would be awesome.

Leticia: One thing I want to mention is that for the listeners of this podcast, if you’ve never read any of Mike’s books, you probably won’t realise that his throwaway lines are rarely throwaway lines. So when you mentioned Mike, a really unlikely, by the way, rap project that you should Google. I did and-

Mike: Oh, did you? 

Leticia: Yes. All the links go back to concepts in Clockwork. And Mike, I have to say, I’m so disappointed you didn’t actually record any rap songs.

Mike: I know. I was actually thinking about it. I mean, it would be such a disaster. Yeah. So yeah, those are goose eggs, right? Or Easter eggs, I think they call them. I will throw things out there that you think are just a nonsensical joke or just kind of weird, but tying back to things. Something I learned … One of my favourite TV shows is The Office. And so there’s the American version, there’s a British version too, but I watched the American version and the American version, some of the characters, like this guy Dwight Schrute, had this thing called Schrute Farms. And you could … I don’t know if it’s still today, but you could actually go onto Yelp and there, sure enough, it was Schrute Farms with I think 3000 reviews of people visiting this fictional farm talking about the beef.

Mike: And I was like, “This is so great.” The story can continue outside of the story. And so I was like, I’ve got to do stuff like this. So in all my books and all my work, I will throw in goose eggs. I’ll never say when and where. But there’s quite a few of them that exist and some people endeavour to find them. And then the story continues on outside of my work.

Leticia: That’s the coolest. I love it. I noticed actually with Clockwork that your promotional process shifted with this book and you were much less present in the process. Was that also part of your Clockworkifying of your own business?

Mike: Yes, good observation. So interestingly Clockwork was my strongest launch of all my books. Now Profit First is my most popular book currently, but Clockwork is a strong second contender and growing, but it became my strongest launch. So the first few weeks of it on the market, it outsold any of my other books on their launch weeks by far. And what I realised is from day one of being an author that I’m really writing for myself, which means everything I teach, I need to be the first guinea pig and see the works for myself. And as I was writing Clockwork, I said, “Listen, if I want a business that can run without me, I need to be able to promote the books without me”, or at least in a reduced set. I mean, I still have to be the spokesperson for it. At least for now, I choose to be and want to be. But I can’t do everything. So I empowered a community for people to help me and just did it in a approach that was a little less me and a lot less manic and it resulted in my greatest launch. My newest book may even have less of me in all these different components, but I may actually go more deeply in a few things. So it may be more intimate in some ways and less manic in others, I’m hoping.

Leticia: Gotcha. And you’re also teaching business owners how to write their own books, which you know, is something close to my heart as an author and publisher too. But reflecting on the trajectory of your own publishing, what are the biggest lessons that you’ve learned? I think one is that TV doesn’t sell books. Is that still the case?

Mike: Oh, yeah. Wow, you’ve got a good memory. Yeah, that’s exactly true. I was blown away. I was on some major networks here in the U.S., a million viewers for this one particular show. And I said, “Wow, if there’s a million people all discovering my book at the same time, a thousand people at least will buy my book”, and the reality was two people bought my book. I may actually have the actual metrics and I was like, “A million people saw it. Only two people bought,” and discovered TV is not something that moves books. Here’s what I discovered that does move books. If you put every ounce of your knowledge in the book, if you leave nothing left for discovery or that still needs to be learned, if you allow the reader to complete the process, the full experience of the book … And this is true for fiction or nonfiction. You put every ounce of what you have into it, the book’s potential success increases by a hundred fold because I think there’s two types of customers that read books. At least now I’m talking about the nonfiction books. And you read a business book, there is either the DIYers, the do it yourselfers, people who are reading the book who have no intention of ever hiring a consulting firm or anything like that, but they just want to learn the process and do it themselves. Well, they’re seeking out the books that teach the entire process and I believe the 80%, the 800 pound gorilla of readers are the do it yourselfers, so you need to educate them. But the do it yourselfers are perhaps the most fabulous marketers because do it yourselfers hang out with other do it yourselfers, so other people will say, “Hey, I’m struggling with, say, profit or business efficiency”, and they’ll go to someone that’s been successful with it and that do it yourselfer will say, “Oh, I did it by reading the script and process that I found in Profit First and doing it verbatim. You should do the same.” Or Clockwork or whatever book it is. So the do it yourselfers are your best marketers. The other 20% are the ones who want to seek the guru or the one with the knowledge. The guide is probably the best term for it and those people read a book not to actually execute on it, but to see does this person know what the hell they’re talking about and they only can gain that trust if you give it all away and when they gain that trust, then they seek out the guide, which could be maybe the author themselves. I don’t endeavour to do any consulting work, so I give people a resource, other people that have mastered the books process to follow and those people are served. So I found out it was both the do it yourselfers and the people seeking guides both have to have the same source. A book that gives it all away, then you’ll win over both those customer sets, that readership and they will carry you the distance.

Leticia: Yeah, that’s true. And we don’t have time to discuss it. This is probably a conversation for another podcast, but it would be good to get you and another friend who is a best selling author who writes fiction on a podcast to talk about-

Mike: Oh, that would be cool.

Leticia: Wouldn’t that be fun? I might do that. I’ll arrange that. That would be awesome.

Mike: Yes, do it. Let’s do it.

Leticia: We’re almost running out of time. So the final question for me for you today, Mike, is when you were running Clockwork in your business, which parts of it were most critical for you and which parts did you struggle with the most?

Mike: So probably the exact same part was most critical and the biggest struggle. So it was the concept of a four week vacation. And so there’s seven stages or seven steps you need to go through in Clockwork. But the significant ones are moving from doing to designing. We talked about that earlier. There is this concept of figuring out the most critical element of your business. I call it the QBR, it’s the heart of the business. Most business owners don’t know what it is and therefore can’t focus on it. But if you let the heart wilt or struggle, the entire body will wilt or struggle or even die if the QBR dies. But the last element is this four week vacation. And the idea is a truly healthy business is a business that is not dependent on the owner. You can leave and the reason four weeks is significant is most businesses are in four week cycles. We attract customers, deliver our services, hire employees, every element, do accounting in four week cycles. So the concept is this, is if the business could survive for four weeks without you, it can survive until perpetuity. It can grow without you. So we’ve got to leave for four weeks. Well, when I left for four weeks, first of all, it was a challenge to my ego to really remove myself and say, “Okay, the business is going to run without me.” There was times where I didn’t check an email. I didn’t hear from anyone and a week into this, I was like, “Oh my God, it’s either dead or it’s working without me, but I’m not needed. This is bruising my ego.” I felt really a strong compulsion to want to come back just to be needed. So that was a major challenge, but it also ended up being the biggest opportunity. After four weeks I returned to the business. No surprise, it wasn’t out of business. In fact, we’d grown slightly, but also it revealed the challenges still in the business. That actually the challenge was with me. What I discovered was there was a few elements of the business that struggled because I hadn’t prepared my team for. One of them actually was brand consistency. Throughout my branding and so forth, they were trying to develop some stuff with a podcast and so forth, and it was just totally incongruent, but they couldn’t tell because up to that point I had just unconsciously been handling branding. It wasn’t like that was even a role or a trait that our tasks assigned to me. I just was doing it and it really became fractured in my absence. So the power of this four week vacation was A, I realised the business could run without me. I realised also what I needed to fix for the next four week vacation. The challenge I had to overcome, and I’ll only know on my next four week vacation was, has my ego been controlled enough that I don’t feel this compulsion to come back in just to be needed?

Leticia: What’s your measure for that?

Mike: Well, I know the solution. I don’t know if the measure’s there because it’s a very subconscious behaviour, but the solution is defining a bigger category. Instead of considering myself a superhero for my own company, I’m seeing myself as a super visionary. And just to be clear, what I mean by that is that I see myself as serving a more important role, the alignment of my team, the empowerment of my colleagues to achieve their goals and vision. And when I feel that I’m not enough, that inadequacy, which for me happens often and I’m like, “Oh, I suck.” When I feel that I now say, “Am I being a super visionary, am I empowering the team?” And I’m satisfying my ego there. So I’m consciously having that discussion in my head. It used to be if I felt inadequate or that I suck, I’d say, “Well, am I saving the day again?” And I would manufacture these things for myself to save. So I just changed my title. And then when that feeling comes, I don’t deny it. I don’t fake that I don’t have an ego. I simply make sure I’m aligned with now what I believe is the greater thing, which is being a visionary as opposed to a superhero.

Leticia: Gotcha. That’s awesome. Well, Mike, we’ll leave it there. I have loads more questions, but that just means we need to have another conversation.

Mike: Yeah, that sounds awesome. Let’s do it again.

Leticia: Thank you so much for joining me.

Mike: Leticia, it’s always a joy to be connected with you. Thanks for having me on.

Mike: I had the belief that my life was designed to support my business and I am happy to say I now have a new realisation that my business is designed to support my life.

Leticia: Hi, listeners. If you don’t recognise that voice, it’s Mike Michalowicz, who is an American author, entrepreneur and doesn’t say on his Wikipedia page, but Def Leppard fan. He’s the author of such books as the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, The Pumpkin Plan, Profit First, Surge and Clockwork, which is his latest book. Mike’s books have largely been written as he’s developed in his own entrepreneurial journey and his forthcoming book is even more exciting than what Clockwork was. I am a little bit of a fan. I’m lucky to count Mike among my friends, so I wanted to get together with him to have a chat about Clockwork to give you a bit of an insight into the book and also into his life and from that little snippet in just after the intro, you can see from where the impetus came. For this book, Mike now has a lifestyle design that supports his business, but also supports his life. And if you’re one of those business owners that is really looking forward to the time when your business supports your life and not the other way around, this episode is for you. So buckle your seat belts, this is a bit of a longer episode. It’s reminiscent of our very earliest seasons on the Pixie Podcast. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Mike: I don’t aspire to work more. I aspire to be of more service through my business, but for the business to find its own legs, to run on its own and give me the freedom to do the things that I’m most impactful at and get the most joy from.

Leticia: It’s almost like entrepreneurs chase the wrong Holy Grail, don’t they? They want to be busy and they want to be seen as this person who is doing lots of stuff because it kind of validates the reason why they’re in business to other people

Mike: To be really honest, there’s a lot of ego associated with that. The more we’re doing, the outside world, we hope, receives this as more successful because there’s so much demand for us. Now it’s our own demand on ourselves, but the more the business needs us, clearly the more important we are, and so we have this pride in that and it feeds our ego. There’s another kind of insidious thing that happens is when we start a business and when we’re the sole practitioner, we have to work hard. We have to do everything because there’s no one else to depend on. So the beginnings of any business when you’re in the solopreneur phase and the solopreneur phase can last a few months, a few years or it can last a lifetime. But during that phase we have to do everything and we think that is the solution. As we grow our business, if we so decide to bring on employees and stuff, we’ve already been in this kind of mindset of doing all the work, and so we actually retain the work. We don’t bring on employees to actually take on responsibility as much as to take on tasks that we still control. We answer all the things for them. We manage the entire business. In our head, we still become the director. In fact, as we hire more employees for many owners, I noticed that actually we have to work longer hours now because we’re answering all their questions as we do our work after that, later on in the day or at night when no one’s around. And that’s not a successful business. That’s known as task rabbiting, signing tasks to other people, but someone that’s not really delegating and assigning responsibility. So in the beginning we have to do everything and it becomes this belief that that’s the way you grow business. But the reality is you need the transition from doing things to designing outcomes.

Leticia: Yes, yes, that’s true. And we’ll get into that in a minute. The designing of outcomes, because it really is a design process because otherwise you can’t get out of that mode. It just doesn’t. You can try and force yourself, but it doesn’t quite work.

Mike: That’s exactly right.

Leticia: How much do conversations among business owners serve to reinforce this because in my experience the question is always, “How are you? Are you busy?” Not, “How are you? Are you effective?”

Mike: What’s wrong with us? That’s right. That’s exactly right. I remember you and I, when I visited you, you showed me your office. We’re walking around and it’s so funny. There was someone else there that brought me into this space and she asked me as she just walked me over to you. She said, “Oh, what kind of work do you do?” And I explained I’m an author and stuff. She goes, “Oh you must be pretty busy.” It’s so funny because it’s the first conversation, someone I’d never met before, it was in seconds the conversation was, “Oh, you must be pretty busy.” And I felt the only responsible way to respond is, “Of course I’m busy.” If I said I’m not, there’s something wrong with me. So you’re right, it’s in our vernacular. We call ourselves workaholics and even though “aholic” is a negative association, it means an addition, there is this perverted pride in that. Many people say, “I’m a workaholic”, and that’s something to be proud of? I was. It’s not.

Leticia: No, it’s not. It’s not healthy. I have this very interesting way I respond to people is I kind of ask people, “Define busy for me”, because in my estimation of what busy is, busy kind of says that you don’t have control of what’s going on actually. There’s so much stuff.

Mike: I like that response because it does make me think busy means in high demand. That’s one option. Or does it mean that I have no control? That’s another option. Right? Or it could be, busy could even be just filling things that are unimportant and prioritising unimportant over important. It’s a good question. There’s a lot of definitions for that.. 

Leticia: So we’ll get into Clockwork. Clockwork is a much simpler system than just about everything else that I’ve seen, and like most of our busy workaholic entrepreneurs I’ve read all of the productivity things and don’t get me wrong, E‑Myth and similar are excellent, but they also end up being loads of work. And so your seven steps aren’t even really what you expect if you’ve kind of been through all of those books. They’re more about making the commitment to do it, aren’t they?

Mike: Yeah, they are. So what’s interesting I found is that this shift from doing everything to designing the outcomes, that’s that’s what I talk about in this book … actually the subtitle of the book is design your business to run itself so I want us to become designers, is this is a substantial mind set shift. And we have to first … I talk about it in the first step is move out of this doing phase where … I call it a superhero syndrome, where I can do everything for my business, therefore I feel compelled to do everything. But then I have this pride in swooping in and solving things. Like, “Oh, if customers PO’d, they need to be saved, I will do it because I’m the owner of the business and I will swoop in and save it. If there’s an employee that’s struggling, I’m going to help carry them.” And so we have this pride in being the superhero, but there’s a damaging effect of being the superhero. And what it is is when we swoop in and save the business, we are disabling our employees, we have them, our colleagues, our virtual help, our vendors or even the clients themselves from serving the business. Everything becomes dependent upon us. We keep swooping in. So every time you swoop in, it reinforces that next time we’re going to have this swoop in yet again. But also we often leave a wake of damage. Entrepreneurs, myself in particular, are notorious for fixing the 5%, but leaving the 90 damaged in the wake. It’s kind of like when you watch a Wonder Woman or Superman movie and after they had the battle with the evil criminal, the entire city is levelled in the process. They haven’t made the Superman sequel that says, “Here’s New York trying to recover from all the damage left behind”, but that’s the reality. And that’s what we’re doing as entrepreneurs. We leave a wake of damage without even realising we do.

Leticia: It stops people from developing in all sorts of ways, but more critically, it stops us from developing, doesn’t it?

Mike: Yeah. It stops us from stepping up. Right? So when we keep on doing the work, we start getting into what’s called a groove. And the groove at first is a positive definition. You get into a routine, you become more efficient. But grooves become ruts, meaning a certain point you can’t break out of it. And that’s the challenge of being an entrepreneur. When you start something, you’re starting somebody new, you have no experience with it, you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to keep hacking at, working away at until you get into a groove. And now you have a routine that you can deliver efficiently on your own. But then the next step is to actually get out of that groove and hand it off to someone else. If we fail to do that, we’ll fail to grow our business.

Leticia: That’s so true. And if you do it the wrong way, you will find yourself just fielding questions all the time, which is what I found with other productivity tools. You build all of these things. You spend all this time to build manuals or whatever, but you might actually be embedding the wrong stuff and that’s really damaging to the business too.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m thinking about the decision making. It made me laugh out loud because it’s so true and something I struggled with for nearly 15 to 20 years as an entrepreneur. Every book I write, I’m actually honestly trying to resolve challenges I face in the growth of my own businesses to make them run healthfully. And so when I wrote Clockwork, it took me six years to write it. It’s a long project. I started to endeavour to figure out how do I fix my own erroneous ways and one of the challenges, probably one of the biggest challenges was my compulsion to decide for others. So I had grown the business. I mean, I hired employees and revenue was growing, but I realised that I was the sole decision maker. Anytime a question came up, even the most rudimentary stuff like, “Hey, where do I find a piece of paper?”, I blurted it out from the behind my office, “Oh, the paper’s in the supply cabinet, lowest shelf.” Always giving answers and therefore the company became dependent upon me, so much so that I actually stopped doing work. I was just blurting out answers. And then I realised the day I’m sick or the day I go on vacation, which I wasn’t anymore, the business came to an immediate halt because the one brain effectively for the business was gone. So where I realised I’ve got to move out of that phase, what I call the deciding phase where I’m deciding for others, and move to a phase that’s true delegation. Delegation is the assignment of tasks or the assignment of outcomes and the empowerment of my colleagues to make decisions around achieving those outcomes and supporting their decision making and supporting all their decisions, allowing my own colleagues to make mistakes and do things that don’t work out so that they can learn from it and grow forward. But the one thing I know I can’t do and don’t do anymore is decide for them. When I do that, I’m actually pulling my business back now.

Leticia: The interesting thing about that is it just struck me that this is also applicable for people who are leading teams inside other people’s businesses. I’ve had an experience where I was leading a team inside a multinational corporation and I was the answer guy. People would stand at my desk every 30 seconds to ask a question. Oh my God.

Mike: That would drive me nuts. But the funny thing is it also drives my ego.

Leticia: Yes.

Mike: If you’re coming to me, I feel like I’m the powerful guy.

Leticia: Right.

Mike: Yeah, I’m the guru or whatever. And I think that’s one reason we stay trapped in it is if we’re aware of our ego, we get this pride, we get this self satisfaction from people needing us. That’s actually one of the core elements of ego is the desire to be needed. And what I discovered is I can’t squash my ego. I can’t say, “You know what? I don’t want to be needed. I don’t want to be anything important. I’m going to push that down.” I can’t. But what I did find is I can redirect my ego. I used to consider myself the superhero for the business. That would serve my ego. Answering anyone’s questions, that served my ego. I changed my own title. I said, “I’m no longer the superhero. I’m the super visionary.” And what I mean by that is I’m committed to having clarity on where this business can go and helping my colleagues achieve their own personal visions in alignment with the business achieving the corporate vision. That’s what I am good at. And that’s what I am called to do. And by thinking that way, by changing that title, my fat ego still gets served. When we start moving the business forward. I’m like, “Yeah, it’s working.” When one of my colleagues has her dream come true, it actually happened today. These are small dreams in regards to financial but significant in her life. She wants extreme flexibility because her husband works very kind of random travel schedule and sometimes he’ll come home unexpectedly. She wants to have a job where she literally can call out from the job while on the job. She needs ultimate flexibility so that she can be with her family and once I understood what her personal vision was, then I said, “Okay, the corporate vision is X, Y, Z. X dollars million in revenue and I want this. I want that.” Then I said, “Okay, how do we do that and make sure that Amy is experiencing the lifestyle she wants here?” Once I had clarity around that, that’s what a super visionary does. Everyone’s dream is being fulfilled and the business is moving forward faster than ever. Amy is thrilled. She loves the work environment because her needs are being satisfied and by her needs being satisfied it’s satisfying the needs that I’ve set for our organisation as a whole.

Leticia: Yeah, interesting. So it’s a multilayered design process, isn’t it? 

Mike: Yeah, it really is. But the old way would be like, I would come out of the office, I get all jazzed up, you and I speak on the phone. I’m like, “Oh my God. Leticia’s so smart. These are such great ideas.” I’d write it down and come out and say, “Okay everyone, here’s the new plan. We’re going to do $10 million of revenue. We’re going to do this and this. Aren’t you guys excited?” And they do the obligatory one hand clap type thing. And I’m like, “Why isn’t everyone excited?” And then the realisation struck me because they told me. They said, “Mike, that’s your dream. You’re the guy who gets the new car. If we do that, that doesn’t satisfy our dreams. We have our own dreams.” And I started to really invest time in learning what my colleagues want. They don’t want to run a business. That’s why they don’t own a business. They want to work for a company to help support whatever their visions are. And once I got clear on their own individual dreams, I organised their roles in the company and moving us toward what I set as our corporate mission, my dream, to satisfy and serve their dreams. And by the way, focus on theirs as a priority over my dream. Because when I know Amy and Kelsey and Mike and Ron and Jeremy and Paul and all the other people that work here, Jenna and so forth, when their dreams are being addressed, first and foremost, their enthusiasm for the company increases because their enthusiasm for the role, which satisfies their dreams, is increasing and the company starts moving much more fluidly toward its end objective that I’ve set.

Leticia: Yes. So really the structure is much more flexible then because everyone is doing what they need to do as opposed to what they’re told to do.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny, I talk about this in Clockwork too, is historically I had a structure, a traditional organisational chart, I call it the pyramid chart because you have the president or CEO at the top and you have the three layers below that and even if you have a sole proprietor business, you can still draw out this chart and over time as you grow the business, initially you wear all the hats for all the roles you can fit yourself in. Well, that pyramid chart I now am starting to call it pyramid scheme because what it does is it says, “I’ve got to find people with talents that match these titles. I need a, say, receptionist who is great at answering the phone and greeting walk-​ins, but also can do data entry, some light accounting”, and what I was looking for is a person with the talents that met that title.

What I realised is in most cases it’s hard to find someone talented across all these different disconnected abilities. I did find someone who was a wonderful greeter, very pleasant, but just was not strong at data entry and the accounting side. So what I came to realise is don’t match people’s talents to their titles, match their talents to the tasks you have in the organisation. Therefore someone who’s great at greeting people on the phone, maybe great reception, is probably also great at level one sales, at warming up prospects and so forth. And that’s what we did. We started to move people to match their talents to their tasks and it formed a web-​like structure. That pyramid goes away and now it’s a structure of really people that are titleless, their talents play out in different areas. And it was interesting, the parallel I saw recently was there was a supercomputer used and the challenge put in front of the supercomputer was to make a structure that was as strong as a column, but to use as little material as possible. So how do you make a column as light as possible but retain its rigidity, its strength at 100%? And so the supercomputer went plugging away and it came back with a design, which from the human mind, at least from my mind was almost incomprehensible. I was expecting some kind of geometrical pattern, something that’s linear and kind of calculated it out with arches and so forth. But no, the computer came back with a web-​like structure. I can’t even explain how it looks because it made no logical sense to me. But by making this web-​like structure and this kind of twisting and turning elements, the structure was able to keep almost 100% of the strength but use about 20% of the material. Well this is true for organisations too. If we build a web-​like structure because now we’re playing to people’s talents, we can achieve such greater results. We can achieve, I think, five or 10 times results with the same amount of people that we have today. We don’t have to build up this massive heavy structure.

Leticia: And what you’ve really described is a strengths based organisation because everyone’s working to their strengths and then that makes them happier, which makes them more effective, which then makes the organisation stronger. And so really by doing that, you’ve totally shifted not just the structure of the organisation, but the culture and how people think about what work even is.

Mike: Yeah, it does and it’s kind of weird. We’re still planning this out because you have to go titleless now. You’re not the receptionist or the director of First Impressions or the cheesy term of the day. You’re not these titles anymore and I’m not the president or CEO. I happened to be a shareholder in the organisation. I happen to own all the shares, but I’m not necessarily the CEO or president. I play a spokesperson role. I am content production. I serve that role, but so do other people. And so I don’t have a title. It’s very weird not how many title because I think it’s human nature to anchor into that. We put titles in all the other elements of our lives. So I’m a parent, I’m a father, I’m a son to my parents. In college I called myself an athlete because I played sports and it’s very difficult not to have a title to anchor into, but at the same time it gives us the freedom to be much more organic and flow much more with our business and it brings strength to it. So there’s some mental challenges I still need to get through.

Leticia: Speaking of ego, when I read Clockwork, there was this moment where I was blown away by getting a mention in the book, which totally stroked my ego. And in the line it said, you wrote, “I thought of a final tweak to the system after having a conversation with Australian entrepreneur, Leticia Mooney.” So my question is, what was the tweak? What that inspiration?

Mike: Oh my god. Yeah, so now I’ve got to reflect on the book. Oh-​oh. I think it was … So you’re a metalhead, which I freaking adore. I love … Oh, do you know this new band I’m into? It’s called In This Moment. Have you heard-

Leticia: Oh yes. I’ve heard of them.

Mike: Okay. So I’m super into them right now and but one of the most classic bands of all time came out of your mother country, Australia, AC/​DC and I think this is what triggered it. I was studying the flow of business and figured out through interviews, particularly with my one friend who now has become a partner. Her name’s Adrienne Doritsen and I was talking with her, she’s a business efficiency specialists and the tweak I got from you is this. She was explaining that there’s three elements or three phases a business goes through. She calls it the A, C and D, the attract customers, convert them into clients and then deliver the goods. And another component kicked in and is the last C. So it’s AC/​DC, attract customers, convert them into clients, deliver your goods in the final C is collect on payment. And if you achieve all those elements, you have a fluid business and if you have a problem in your business, it’s always going to reside in one of those categories. So as a quick way to say, if my business is kind of stumbling right now, where is the stumbling and you look at is it in the attraction phase, the conversion, the delivery, or is it in cashflow or collections? So it’s a great way to pin this stuff down. I think that was the component, that extra C I attribute to you.

Leticia: Oh, that is so exciting because I was really hoping that was the case.

Mike: Seriously?

Leticia: Yes.

Mike: That’s awesome. We talked about music and business and we walked around Australia. It was like the fantasy life for me.

Leticia: When I was reading Clockwork, I was like, “No way. AC/​DC, that’s not accidental.”

Mike: No, it’s not accidental.

Leticia: And I did wonder if I should pull out my very rare AC/​DC box set as a listening soundtrack.

Mike: You have a box set? That’s awesome.

Leticia: Yes. The original. Actually, it’s not mine. It’s my husband’s. I shouldn’t say it’s mine. It’s the original box set.

Mike: It’s yours. It’s always yours.

Leticia: It’s always mine. Yeah, it’s the original Australian release box set. Can’t get it anywhere in the world anymore. It’s amazing.

Mike: Oh, that’s really cool.

Leticia: Yeah, it’s super cool. So next time you’re here, you’ll come and listen to the AC/​DC box set.

Mike: That would be awesome.

Leticia: One thing I want to mention is that for the listeners of this podcast, if you’ve never read any of Mike’s books, you probably won’t realise that his throwaway lines are rarely throwaway lines. So when you mentioned Mike, a really unlikely, by the way, rap project that you should Google. I did and-

Mike: Oh, did you? 

Leticia: Yes. All the links go back to concepts in Clockwork. And Mike, I have to say, I’m so disappointed you didn’t actually record any rap songs.

Mike: I know. I was actually thinking about it. I mean, it would be such a disaster. Yeah. So yeah, those are goose eggs, right? Or Easter eggs, I think they call them. I will throw things out there that you think are just a nonsensical joke or just kind of weird, but tying back to things. Something I learned … One of my favourite TV shows is The Office. And so there’s the American version, there’s a British version too, but I watched the American version and the American version, some of the characters, like this guy Dwight Schrute, had this thing called Schrute Farms. And you could … I don’t know if it’s still today, but you could actually go onto Yelp and there, sure enough, it was Schrute Farms with I think 3000 reviews of people visiting this fictional farm talking about the beef.

Mike: And I was like, “This is so great.” The story can continue outside of the story. And so I was like, I’ve got to do stuff like this. So in all my books and all my work, I will throw in goose eggs. I’ll never say when and where. But there’s quite a few of them that exist and some people endeavour to find them. And then the story continues on outside of my work.

Leticia: That’s the coolest. I love it. I noticed actually with Clockwork that your promotional process shifted with this book and you were much less present in the process. Was that also part of your Clockworkifying of your own business?

Mike: Yes, good observation. So interestingly Clockwork was my strongest launch of all my books. Now Profit First is my most popular book currently, but Clockwork is a strong second contender and growing, but it became my strongest launch. So the first few weeks of it on the market, it outsold any of my other books on their launch weeks by far. And what I realised is from day one of being an author that I’m really writing for myself, which means everything I teach, I need to be the first guinea pig and see the works for myself. And as I was writing Clockwork, I said, “Listen, if I want a business that can run without me, I need to be able to promote the books without me”, or at least in a reduced set. I mean, I still have to be the spokesperson for it. At least for now, I choose to be and want to be. But I can’t do everything. So I empowered a community for people to help me and just did it in a approach that was a little less me and a lot less manic and it resulted in my greatest launch. My newest book may even have less of me in all these different components, but I may actually go more deeply in a few things. So it may be more intimate in some ways and less manic in others, I’m hoping.

Leticia: Gotcha. And you’re also teaching business owners how to write their own books, which you know, is something close to my heart as an author and publisher too. But reflecting on the trajectory of your own publishing, what are the biggest lessons that you’ve learned? I think one is that TV doesn’t sell books. Is that still the case?

Mike: Oh, yeah. Wow, you’ve got a good memory. Yeah, that’s exactly true. I was blown away. I was on some major networks here in the U.S., a million viewers for this one particular show. And I said, “Wow, if there’s a million people all discovering my book at the same time, a thousand people at least will buy my book”, and the reality was two people bought my book. I may actually have the actual metrics and I was like, “A million people saw it. Only two people bought,” and discovered TV is not something that moves books. Here’s what I discovered that does move books. If you put every ounce of your knowledge in the book, if you leave nothing left for discovery or that still needs to be learned, if you allow the reader to complete the process, the full experience of the book … And this is true for fiction or nonfiction. You put every ounce of what you have into it, the book’s potential success increases by a hundred fold because I think there’s two types of customers that read books. At least now I’m talking about the nonfiction books. And you read a business book, there is either the DIYers, the do it yourselfers, people who are reading the book who have no intention of ever hiring a consulting firm or anything like that, but they just want to learn the process and do it themselves. Well, they’re seeking out the books that teach the entire process and I believe the 80%, the 800 pound gorilla of readers are the do it yourselfers, so you need to educate them. But the do it yourselfers are perhaps the most fabulous marketers because do it yourselfers hang out with other do it yourselfers, so other people will say, “Hey, I’m struggling with, say, profit or business efficiency”, and they’ll go to someone that’s been successful with it and that do it yourselfer will say, “Oh, I did it by reading the script and process that I found in Profit First and doing it verbatim. You should do the same.” Or Clockwork or whatever book it is. So the do it yourselfers are your best marketers. The other 20% are the ones who want to seek the guru or the one with the knowledge. The guide is probably the best term for it and those people read a book not to actually execute on it, but to see does this person know what the hell they’re talking about and they only can gain that trust if you give it all away and when they gain that trust, then they seek out the guide, which could be maybe the author themselves. I don’t endeavour to do any consulting work, so I give people a resource, other people that have mastered the books process to follow and those people are served. So I found out it was both the do it yourselfers and the people seeking guides both have to have the same source. A book that gives it all away, then you’ll win over both those customer sets, that readership and they will carry you the distance.

Leticia: Yeah, that’s true. And we don’t have time to discuss it. This is probably a conversation for another podcast, but it would be good to get you and another friend who is a best selling author who writes fiction on a podcast to talk about-

Mike: Oh, that would be cool.

Leticia: Wouldn’t that be fun? I might do that. I’ll arrange that. That would be awesome.

Mike: Yes, do it. Let’s do it.

Leticia: We’re almost running out of time. So the final question for me for you today, Mike, is when you were running Clockwork in your business, which parts of it were most critical for you and which parts did you struggle with the most?

Mike: So probably the exact same part was most critical and the biggest struggle. So it was the concept of a four week vacation. And so there’s seven stages or seven steps you need to go through in Clockwork. But the significant ones are moving from doing to designing. We talked about that earlier. There is this concept of figuring out the most critical element of your business. I call it the QBR, it’s the heart of the business. Most business owners don’t know what it is and therefore can’t focus on it. But if you let the heart wilt or struggle, the entire body will wilt or struggle or even die if the QBR dies. But the last element is this four week vacation. And the idea is a truly healthy business is a business that is not dependent on the owner. You can leave and the reason four weeks is significant is most businesses are in four week cycles. We attract customers, deliver our services, hire employees, every element, do accounting in four week cycles. So the concept is this, is if the business could survive for four weeks without you, it can survive until perpetuity. It can grow without you. So we’ve got to leave for four weeks. Well, when I left for four weeks, first of all, it was a challenge to my ego to really remove myself and say, “Okay, the business is going to run without me.” There was times where I didn’t check an email. I didn’t hear from anyone and a week into this, I was like, “Oh my God, it’s either dead or it’s working without me, but I’m not needed. This is bruising my ego.” I felt really a strong compulsion to want to come back just to be needed. So that was a major challenge, but it also ended up being the biggest opportunity. After four weeks I returned to the business. No surprise, it wasn’t out of business. In fact, we’d grown slightly, but also it revealed the challenges still in the business. That actually the challenge was with me. What I discovered was there was a few elements of the business that struggled because I hadn’t prepared my team for. One of them actually was brand consistency. Throughout my branding and so forth, they were trying to develop some stuff with a podcast and so forth, and it was just totally incongruent, but they couldn’t tell because up to that point I had just unconsciously been handling branding. It wasn’t like that was even a role or a trait that our tasks assigned to me. I just was doing it and it really became fractured in my absence. So the power of this four week vacation was A, I realised the business could run without me. I realised also what I needed to fix for the next four week vacation. The challenge I had to overcome, and I’ll only know on my next four week vacation was, has my ego been controlled enough that I don’t feel this compulsion to come back in just to be needed?

Leticia: What’s your measure for that?

Mike: Well, I know the solution. I don’t know if the measure’s there because it’s a very subconscious behaviour, but the solution is defining a bigger category. Instead of considering myself a superhero for my own company, I’m seeing myself as a super visionary. And just to be clear, what I mean by that is that I see myself as serving a more important role, the alignment of my team, the empowerment of my colleagues to achieve their goals and vision. And when I feel that I’m not enough, that inadequacy, which for me happens often and I’m like, “Oh, I suck.” When I feel that I now say, “Am I being a super visionary, am I empowering the team?” And I’m satisfying my ego there. So I’m consciously having that discussion in my head. It used to be if I felt inadequate or that I suck, I’d say, “Well, am I saving the day again?” And I would manufacture these things for myself to save. So I just changed my title. And then when that feeling comes, I don’t deny it. I don’t fake that I don’t have an ego. I simply make sure I’m aligned with now what I believe is the greater thing, which is being a visionary as opposed to a superhero.

Leticia: Gotcha. That’s awesome. Well, Mike, we’ll leave it there. I have loads more questions, but that just means we need to have another conversation.

Mike: Yeah, that sounds awesome. Let’s do it again.

Leticia: Thank you so much for joining me.

Mike: Leticia, it’s always a joy to be connected with you. Thanks for having me on.

Leticia Mooney

The Brutal Pixie is Leticia Mooney. Race: Eladrin, Class: Publisher. --- Leticia is Australia's foremost authority on publishing in a business context. She ghostwrites for, and advises, entrepreneurial individuals in the professional services.

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