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Business Built Freedom


Joshua is a late 80’s vintage and yet to mature. He is a living case study that you don’t stop at failure and more failures lead to success. The constant learning and listening have led Joshua to the position He is with the energizing approach towards business and relationships. After setting up 4 successful companies over 19 years he decided it was time to give some of his knowledge back. You are likely to catch him on the water on a sunny day with his family and friends or building something new and exciting at home on a rainy one.

May 16, 2021

Becoming a Leader With Tim Stokes

G'day everyone, I'm sure we've all been in a spot that we've thought about how do we become a leader, are we already a leader, what is a leader anyway? And ultimately in being a leader, is that going to be something that's going to leverage your ability to achieve business freedom? Today, we've got Tim Stokes here, and he's going to be talking about exactly that. How do you achieve business freedom and how do you make sure that you are a leader, and you are a developing leader, and you are continuing your skills, etc. He's from a company named Profit Transformations. Tell me, Tim, in your opinion, what is a leader?

 

The Qualities of a Leader

Tim: I've got a great answer to that one. You're a leader when someone is following you because if there's no one following you, then you're just a dictator going for a walk on your own. That's the simple definition for it. It's the effect that you have on other people. If you're inspiring people to follow your words willingly, that's what I would call a leader. If people are regretfully, resentfully, slowly or not very effectively following your words, then that's the sign that the leadership skills could be improved. I think it's as simple as that. It's the difference you're making to other people. I believe leadership is one word: servitude. You're there to serve...serve your followers. It's about redundancy. You're aiming to make yourself redundant through the people that are following you, not rule them, if you like, not dictate to them, but empower them to be like you, to give power to them, to increase their confidence, and to be able to do what it is that you are doing yourself. 
Ultimately, anyone can be a leader, but it's also very field specific. You could be a leader at home, but not necessarily be a leader at work. Do you think that leadership can be taught or is it something that you are or you're not?

We’re All Leaders

Tim: I think we're all leaders. We just probably don't recognise that we are because we all influence other people. As a parent, you're a leader because your children are watching you, scrutinising everything that you do, copying you, mirroring you, following you, saying what you say, doing what you do and copying your body language. I remember watching my daughter look at me when she was about three and she looked at me, saw it on, and then she adjusted her posture and I said, don't do that. She just copied my posture from just watching me without saying a word, and I watched her do it and then I watched her adjust and I was like, 'Oh, don't do that. Have your own, not mine.' We're always being watched. Employees are always watching their bosses. If the bosses aren't punctual, the employees think, 'Oh, punctuality doesn't really matter here. That's great. I don't need to be that punctual.' So we're leading whether we like it or not. I think everything is co-leadership. Sometimes other people lead, sometimes you lead. We probably have a prioritised role of leadership in business, but definitely, leaders are always leaders. I believe selling is leadership because you're leading people from doubt and potentially resistance or a bit of fear into making a confident decision. So when people are in doubt, they need leadership. So selling is leadership to take people from 'I'm not sure what I need to buy,' 'I'm not sure of the price, so I don't have my decision-making criteria,' 'I'm a bit ignorant of what I'm buying. Someone guide me to making a confident decision and buying.' That is a leadership opportunity. Every sales phone call, every sales opportunity is leadership. That's exactly what it is, so I think it's everywhere. Everywhere in business is leadership. At home, you're in leadership mode. Sometimes I say the wife wears the pants, but that's not true all the time. It'd be alternating leadership because that tends to be how relationships work. We call it co-leadership.
I completely agree with everything you've just said. I think it's important to make sure that you are walking your best step forward for everyone else to follow suit. With punctuality, as you said, it is important making sure that you are punctual at work. With situations like remote workforces and even workforces that haven't ever met in person, I guess this is coming more and more common, you're very disciplined, very passionate, and you've got all those traits and the business is going absolutely gangbusters. Maybe you're a solo entrepreneur and you're doing that and you decide I'm going to outsource some of these roles and grow a bit bigger. How do you make sure that some of the good traits that you have when you're not necessarily in the office and they're not seeing everything that you're doing and it's not being completely obvious to them because you might only be seen for a couple of hours in a Zoom meeting a week or something like that.

Support Your Employees

Tim: I believe that the emotions that you share with your employees is what they pass on to their customers. It's about being there for them. It's about supporting them. It's about constantly being in touch to show that you care about them and care about the work they're doing. It's recognising the work they're doing, appreciating the work they're doing. They actually work for you. So even though they might not be in eyesight, they still work for you. I have clients, and their business has grown and grown and they're in other states and have employees in other states and even other countries. I've got a client who took his business into four countries, and it's just a regular contact. Those clients are always talking to their people wherever they are, touching base with them, seeing how they're going, making sure they're happy, making sure their needs are met, etc. It's not assuming that they are okay on their own. It's actually finding out all the time. 'How's it going? How did you go with the job? Do you need any help? Yeah. Great. Could you do this? Fantastic. Great. Sounds like it went great.' So it's just those regular conversations that I think are crucial.
In having those regular conversations, how do you make sure that you come across as someone who's appreciative and not necessarily someone that's micromanaging?
Tim: That's really getting the context of what they went through, not just the content. When you start saying, 'Did you do this? Did you do this? Did you make sure you did this?' That's micromanaging. I love introducing numbers into businesses, the eight ingredients that achieve business freedom for business owners. One of them is KPIs and having numbers for the person to see themselves that they're doing a great job because the numbers don't lie. The numbers help people to see that they're doing a great job. The regular communication is great, but when you back it up with the numbers and say, 'Hey, you did an excellent job. You're on that job for two hours. I estimated it to be two and a half. Well done. That's excellent.' And the number backslap. And I'll find that over time that the numbers can fulfil a person with a couple of other ingredients. Then that way, when an employee's fulfilled, they need far less supervision. But it's getting them to that stage is what takes a lot of work. 

Quit Micromanaging and Being a Business Dictator

You said earlier that everyone's a leader in some way, shape or form. But I'm sure that there is people that we've all worked for or worked with and we've seen that they're not people that would like to follow. You've come across someone that isn't necessarily willing to step away from the dictatorship role. Is that still going to be a successful business or is it just not as successful? I'm sure there's been some famous dictators in that time that have done well.
Tim: Well, Steve Jobs is a bit of a dictator, for example. He's controlling everything in a way because no one in any department knew what they were working on until the launch of the product. And then he went, 'Oh, is that what I was making?' I mean, when it all comes together, they finally figure out what they're making, but it's like everyone's sort of locked in a little area. Don't talk to anyone in any other department. It's all secret stuff.
That's how that business was run, but it became the most successful company in the world, whereas Google is the opposite. It's like I have half a day off with pay. Just mingle here. Here is a community area. Everyone go and play pool and play video games and everyone talks to everyone from every department all the time. Yeah, you can be very successful if you're a dictator. I've had clients that it's like, why did my staff keep leaving? I can't stand staff leaving. I've got to build in some penalties and get better contracts. I'm like, 'Well, maybe you need to improve your leadership skills.' So I'm subtly trying to say, 'Well, they're leaving because of you and how you treat them.' But he's looking for tighter contracts because he's too much of a dictator, not enough of a leader. Still had a successful business, very successful business. However, if he wasn't there, they used to complain. If he's not cracking the whip, then they're not going to do it.
So, yes, businesses can definitely be successful without great leadership. However, I'm about the word optimising and efficiency and taking businesses to an extremely high level. That's a very important ingredient. We're not born leaders. Some people are, but the rest of us are going to figure it out by trial and error of what leadership is by the results that we have and the effect that we have on people. We go 'Oh, okay, let's not say that next time.' You slowly improve your leadership skills from the experience. But we can take a proactive approach to learning this thing called leadership. It's like most people in sales don't know they're in a leadership role. Give them the good news and say, 'You understand you're in the leadership role.' 'What's leadership got to do with sales?' They're in doubt and they need to go from doubt to confidence. There's a leadership opportunity, the leadership journey, to facilitate and take them from their doubt to the confidence of saying to you, 'Oh, this is exactly what I want.' Getting people to that state of mind where they're so confident that they're asking to buy from you is good sales, and it's actually good leadership.

Stopping Your Bad Business Owner Habits

As a generalisation, if there's a problem in your business and it seems to be consistently happening, chances are it's the business owner that's causing that problem. If you find that people are leaving or that people aren't answering the phone or aren't doing things in a suitable amount of time, even if it comes down to people having more sick leave than usual, it can be something that they might not even consciously be doing. But that does boil down to something that needs to be corrected. The ship needs to be steered in the best direction or a better direction to what it's currently going. If that is something that you're wanting to do, this is all about leveraging and achieving business freedom. If you're trying to teach your staff how to be minions of yourself, mini-mes, so to speak, what is the best way to step away from a bad habit and towards something that's going to be closer to leadership can be a gift or a developed skill. What's the best way to make sure that you identify and then correct?
Tim: I think a really good thing to do as a touchstone before is understand that it's about context. It's not about content. As a leader, you want to create the context. And it's like saying there's a soccer field, there's boundaries, here are some rules. Don't play the game. It's defining the rules and the parameters with which to play the game or how an employee can occupy the role in the business by knowing the parameters and knowing what the expectations are, which is sort of KPI can kick in. 'Here's a performance guide. Hit this number and you're doing a great job.'

Run Your Business By The Numbers

It's about getting from Point A to Point B. The road that you follow is not critical, but it's getting to a Point B. Your Point A gets you to Point B, and leadership is about defining Point B so that the person can figure out their way of getting there by using the parameters which you set and that's where policy is. The policy is like a rule or guideline that an employee follows. A simple one is answer the phone two and a half rings. That's a policy. So it's a parameter with which to perform well in your role. So when a business owner gives the clear parameters, which are systems, when you digitise the roll with the parameters and the policies, the procedures are not as important. It's clarifying what the outcome looks like because in the end, that's all that really matters.
I was fortunate in about 1999 to look at the business reports that Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire, wanted from his newspaper every week, sent to him by fax by his general manager. And the guy, the general manager, was showing me this. We got on really well. He said, 'Hey, come and check out the office.' He's got like 50 staff in there. And he said, 'This is all the salespeople over here, the production people over here, all the journalists that are doing all the writing, and then we have the finance people, admin people, etc. These are the reports I have to fax Rupert Murdoch every single week or I don't have a job.' I started to realise that billionaires run their businesses remotely by numbers, straight numbers. He said there are 23 offices faxing the same reports, so 23 separate businesses every Monday seeing the same reports. And he said we don't talk too much because the numbers tell the story. And that insight was great for me to understand that when you set the parameters up, which is a lot of work, and then you introduce the KPIs that show the outcome that they're aiming to hit from that role, and you have the systems in place for them to follow as guidelines, you don't need to micromanage. That's when you achieve business freedom, where you don't have to work in your business, because if you set it up correctly or at a very high level, then that's the outcome that you can achieve.
Well, I can say that I wish I knew you were around when I started business because back in 2007, when Dorks Delivered was in its infancy and I started off as the cowboy who just went around doing everything that he read online once or had the trial and error and worked out that was the best way to do it. And then I went down a path and hand over fist loads of coin, but went to a spot where I thought, 'Okay, this is fantastic. I got to bring someone else on board. Brought David on at the time. He was going really, really well. He was working 80 hours, I was working 80 hours. We're both going gangbusters, loving it. The family wasn't as keen on it, but everyone else says you got to balance these things until they had a stroke and end up in hospital. And then I can't do 160 hours in a week. So I went, 'Okay, what can I do here to make sure this doesn't happen again.' And removing onboarding times and things like that and started systematising and putting in processes, practices, operating procedures, KPIs, I got to get our business running to a spot where I could step away. His heart attack happened in 2012. It took me until 2016 to be pretty confident in my systems. It was 2018 I was able to step away for 3 months and not do anything in the business and I thought, 'Okay, sweet.' but it took time. 
Tim: Oh yeah. It takes a lot of work. I can shortcut that for a lot of businesses but you know what it's like. I was talking to a client yesterday about that exact thing and we were just guesstimating that it's probably at least 500 hours' work on your business that you got to do to get to that level. It's a lot of extra work, and if you can shortcut it, excellent. 
The way I did it I looked at the different things that I do in the business, and I just started writing a list of absolutely everything. I got about 500 different things on a list, and then I was categorising them so you could see was it an accounting role, was it an administration role, was it a technical role, was it on the tools? Where was my time going? That was eye-opening. I saw where my time was going and then speeding up all the different processes, and I love it. You've got to be passionate about it to be able to move it away from a job into an investment.

Remove Repetition  

Tim: Absolutely. I found that one of the reasons business owners go into business is they just want a change from doing the same stuff all the time as an employee. I think it's a mixture of ingredients. One of the most rewarding roles that you can have in a business is being in a non-repetitious space. You set your business up so that you're not dealing with the same customers, which is the production, you're not doing with sales, which is the same stuff. Same problem, same sort of stuff. And you move into that non-repetitious stage and that's where you can occupy different roles. If you're the business development manager for your own business, that could mean a few things. You could be the product innovator, researching to find new products to introduce into your business that can sell them as line extensions, or you could be going in a state meeting people in your same industry that you're not competing with having lunches and dinners with them and sharing ideas and swapping ideas. You can travel around tax deductible and have this great lifestyle and choose when you turn up for work and when you're travelling and having fun and staying home, researching kind of thing. And that's I think a great role to strive for as a business owner, to be in a creative, non-repetitious space, then life's just fun. It's just enjoyable. 
Well, the terrible thing is while most people are being rewarded by being paid per hour, most people aren't looking at faster, more effective ways to do things. That is something that I'm really happy that we step away and help other businesses step away from that and make sure that they and their staff are doing things that are speeding up their processes. We don't charge our customers per hour for the work that we do unless we absolutely have to. We normally try and scope it all out and then have a set rate that we're charging them to achieve certain key objectives, and if we don't, then we don't get that money. It's very important that we set up ourselves like that, and I think other businesses should be doing the same thing. That ultimately has everyone strive towards the same common good. You don't want to have people in monotonous, repetitious work for lots more reasons than just it's boring. If they're doing something that's repetitious, it's something that we'll be able to automate. If it's not us doing it, it'll be someone else doing it. If no one's doing it for them, then it'll be their competitors that are doing it and then they'll be out of business. Any job that is repetitious can be automated.
Tim: Yeah, that time's coming. We'll definitely move in that direction. 
Always be learning, and that's the great thing with the BDM role. You're always learning new things about the industry, new ways to talk to people, new ways to become a better version of you and ultimately I guess become a better leader in doing that sort of research. If you had to pick just three effective leadership qualities, what would you say is the three main things that people should make sure they're doing?

Consider Weekly Meetings

Tim: I think it's really good to set up a weekly team meeting in businesses. When you set up a weekly team meeting, then you get the collective but you also get the individual at the same time. That's an example of something to be doing, is listening to a collective and instructing a collective instead of just instructing people one on one or communicating with people one on one. I think that is a huge ingredient that moves people towards that business freedom stage. And people like getting together and hearing from other people's point of view. That's a method of redundancy. I found that clients that I've set up the weekly team meetings with and then introduce numbers to employees use the word 'love' like say, 'I love working here since these meetings have happened and we're talking about numbers and all that.'
We might think it's a bit scary to do all that sort of stuff initially, and sometimes there is a little bit of resistance from the business owners to do it as well as when trying to get the employees to do it. It takes a few months, but about Month 3, 4 or 5, often employees use the word 'love.' I think that's about as good as it gets kind of thing. 'I love working here. I want to work here until I retire. It's the best job we've ever had.' It's not changing the type of work they do, but just the environment that you create, the culture that you create from that weekly team meeting, getting together. And then I work for the team that doesn't work for you, and that makes a huge difference. They don't care if you're there or not because if a person is happy and fulfilled, they don't care what you're doing. If your employees are not happy and you go, 'I'm taking two months off.' They go, 'Why am I still working here?' They have a grudge about it. If you make your employees happy and fulfilled in their roles, they don't care what you do. You can do whatever you like. You can turn up for work or not, and they really don't care because they're not working for you. They're working because they're a significant part of the team. I think a leader can set that up and then create that redundancy, which I think is an essential ingredient of leadership: to figure out how to make yourself redundant in the role. 
You've got to make sure you're redundant. We do our best to have a weekly team meeting. I have spoken to other people that have daily huddles to talk, and the staff said that they would love a weekly meeting, but it just becomes too much having daily meetings. Can you overdo it?
Tim: Absolutely. Weekly is a magical timeframe. I've had hundreds of businesses that I've introduced team meetings to. Those that strive fortnightly don't make much progress. Those that meet monthly don't make any progress, but the ones that do it more often than weekly doesn't achieve a lot. A week is a magical timeframe. That's what I've found. It's a different day name for every week. And it's just a really good time trying to get your head around so you can say, 'Okay, last Tuesday, remember when this happened.' So they have a good memory for the events of those five days in that week kind of thing. So a week is just a great timeframe. You don't need to be more often because you're trying to review how you went for the week. Reviewing how you went for the day is not going to motivate you, but reviewing how you went for a week, it's a significant amount of effort to review how you went from that week's effort. It averages out some of the bumps as well. You have a great day one day, not so good next day, average day the next day. When you look at the average of the week, 'That's good. I averaged well.'

The Meaning of Business Freedom

What does business freedom mean to you or what should that mean to everyone else? 
Tim: I think business freedom is a state of mind. It can be a physical thing. I like saying to business owners: would you like to have a business where you can go holidaying wherever you like? I got a client who goes surfing in Indonesia in a remote place for two months, sometimes three. That's business for you.
That's great. As you said, it's different things for different people. But I think most people, as you said, 19 out of 20 would relate to that: wanting to be able to spend time on the things that they care about, be it surfing, painting, hanging out with snotty kids or whatever else that you're doing.
Tim: It's the choices to do what you want, when you want, with whoever you want, wherever you want. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The Final Word

That sounds awesome. I'd love to go surfing for that length of time. I think I'd finally learn how to stand on the board properly. One last question before we head off. What is your favourite book on business and leadership and why? 
Tim: The E-Myth Revisited 
I love it. Michael Gerber. He's great.
Tim: Yeah, I discovered that when I've been in business for seven years, and then I read the book. I was actually really absolutely shocked and stunned that there's this subject called business and it has got nothing to do with an industry. And that's what the realisation was. Because I was like the typical person. I've got to be really good at my job. I was in a trade service business. I was a fantastic climber, great at destroying trees and turning them into mulch. However, I didn't know how to run a business, so that's seven years of struggle and then I realised there's this thing called business. You can learn about this topic. Then I did the Michael Gerber two-day workshop and that was just life-changing. It changed my whole philosophy, everything about business, because he'd say, why do you work? That's what your business is meant to do. Business works hard so you don't have to. I think that's the best book. It should be compulsory for business owners to read that book when they start a business.

 

I read it in 2007 and loved it. I've since read it again, and just on 'McDonaldising' your business is a big part of that. I think we'll leave it there unless there's anything else you'd like to add for our listeners? I know that there is one thing that I wanted to go through with you, particularly understand that if you are struggling in business, you have some options for people to have a bit of a review and you've got a book that you have on offer at the moment, is that right?

 

Tim: Yeah, I have a book called Eight Ways to Improve Your Business in Five Days. It's got eight strategies to implement to improve your business in eight different areas like employees, profitability, cash flow, marketing, etc. It gives you eight strategies to implement. They don't cost anything to implement them, but all of them will make a difference to your business. That's my challenge for business owners. If you're willing to put eight new strategies in your business, I challenge you to make a difference in your business within a week.
 
It sounds like something no one can lose with. That sounds awesome. If anyone else out there has any questions for Tim, we'll have him part of our Facebook group so you can jump on there, ask any questions that you have for him. Actually, what is the best website to go to? That's going to be easy to say.

 

Tim: Just go to https://www.profittrans4mations.com.au/ 

 
Thank you for your time, and everyone out there, stay good.