In this article, we look at how to avoid becoming a desperate business owner, with the help of Shannon Susko. Shannon is the author of the book The Metronome Effect, which is based around her real-life experiences as a successful entrepreneur.
“I built two Fintech companies; the first we started before Fintech was even really a thing,” Shannon jokes. “When we started up in 1995, we were very keen. We were young, there were four of us and we really did just want to knock it out of the park – and we honestly thought, ‘no problem’.” However, Shannon and her team soon found that in practice, it just wasn’t that simple. “When we started the payment company, we pivoted three times,” Shannon admits. “You can imagine that in pivoting three times, we had no idea what we were doing; it was chaotic.”
Rather than look back on that turbulent time with disdain, however, Shannon has turned it into something positive. “I wouldn’t trade that time in for anything because of how much it taught me,” she explains. “I don’t, however, want another entrepreneur to have to go through what we did, which is why I wrote The Metronome Effect. I was just so desperate to grow the company and I don’t want anyone to be as desperate as I was.”
Shannon’s first company was ultimately a success, even if it took a little longer to get there than expected.
“When you’re first starting out, you’re ‘swinging for the fence’. We were hungry for that big exit, but with our first company getting there took us ten years,” Shannon recalls. “We hit many inflectionpoints from 1995 to 2005; it was a rollercoaster, but it was a good exit in the end.”
With experience on their side, their second company had a much smoother ride.
“We really did hit it out of the park,” Shannon says, matterof fact. “Out of the park for most people means that they have the liquidity to do what they want in life. With our second company, we went from zero to three years and out.”
To help them to achieve growth at this rate, they drew upon the knowledge and experience of some the best thought leaders in the world.
“We pulled from businessguru’s on strategy, execution, cash and also people, but we had to design a system to put it all into; we had to design a system that worked.”
Shannon believes that it was the framework they designed whilst building company number one, that allowed them to achieve such expedient growth in company number two.
“The second time, we were really able to show that if you start with the system – a growth framework – and really understand the pieces you need to put together, you can grow so much faster.”
Most people go into business with this big ‘romance’. They think, ‘I’m going to grow this big company’, like an Apple or a Facebook, but the reality is, most entrepreneurs don’t come anywhere close.
There sometimes comes a point where a business owner just can’t do anymore. They hit a brick wall and rather than continue in growth mode, they find themselves in photocopy mode; they end up doing the same stupid s**t over and over again, hoping that time, by itself, will help them to grow their business.
“I definitely learned that the hard way,” Shannon agrees. “When I think of our first four years of business, we were very romantic about the whole thing. We were in the internet bubble years and everybody was coming in with a nice idea, raising a lot of money and then selling it for a huge valuation – without executing anything.”
Shannon believes it was having to push beyond those internet bubble years, that really challenged them as a company to up their game.
“When the ‘romance’ goes away or the bubble bursts, one of the things you have to lay down clearly if you want to continue to growis your tenure; what are your one-yeargoals, your three-year goals etc.”
Believe it or not, most companies don’t even have a one-yeargoal; it’s madness. It’s as if they’re just blindly going from one day to the next with no sense of direction whatsoever.
“When I’m working with companies and coaching my framework, I’m always very respectful for how well they execute day to day, month to month – but I do tell them if they’re just driving around the block. You don’t get in a car and drive with no purpose; you’re always going somewhere, so treat your business the same. Get on the road knowing what the next stop is. Sure, you might need to stop for supplies and gas, but then it’s on to the next stop and so on.”
However, not everyone is receptive to the idea of long-term plans.
“Sometimes I get pushbacks. If I ask, ‘where do you want to be in ten years?’ A lot of people say ‘I don’t even want to be here in ten years’. That’s fair enough, however with my companies, even though it took me ten years to sell one and three years to sell the other, we always had a ten-yeargoal in place; that’s what created the value of the organisation to others looking in on it. What made the ten-yeargoal really believable, however, was also having a three year highly achievable goal.”
This is what Shannon refers to as the ‘Three Hack’.
“I love the Three-Hack. When we were building our companies, as the owner/entrepreneur, I had already told people where I believed we were going to go. However, if I couldn’t figure out how to get us there and be confident in my prediction, the value would be gone.”
A lot of business owners get lost with Jim’s (Jim Collins) Speed Hack because it took twenty years. Many business owners can’t see twenty years ahead, and in fact, many entrepreneurs don’t even have twenty years.
“It’s overwhelming for them,” Shannon agrees. “I was speaking with 140 CEOs last week and I asked a question: Who has a ten to thirty-yeargoal? They all laughed; I think there were only a few people who actually raised their hands. When I then asked who was confident in their strategy, those few raised hands went straight down.”
Shannon believes that the attendees were not confident in their strategy, because they hadn’t adequately mapped out how to get to where they wanted to be. It’s in doing this, that The Metronome Effect comes in.
“I wrote down the framework that we created and executed along the way,” Shannon explains. “The framework takes you from your cultural system, your human system, your cohesive system, to your strategic system, your execution system and your cash system.”
The thing I like about Shannon’s book and framework is that it is written for the everyday business owner; it’s very ‘real’ in the way that it’s written.
“It comes from where everybody is living and it’s written in a way that if you’re stuck in one particular area, you can flip it open and go straight there. I also use a lot of pictures as 88% of the population learn best that way,” Shannon adds. “It’s so simple and there’s an audio version as well (with reference to images of the systems on the website) because not everybody likes to read books.”
In trying to learn everything that is contained within The Metronome Effect, Shannon read four books a week for two years.
“This book is one of my give-backs,” Shannon states. “We reference all of the thought leaders that we used. We picked the best theory, which we thought could be put to practical use. I make it really easy for someone to pick up the book, find what they need and make it actionable.”
For more information, head on over to www.shannonsusko.com.
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Remember, failing to learn is learning to fail.