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Paul Tobey, CEO of Training Business Pros, wasn’t always an entrepreneur–in fact, he “fell out of the music industry” after years as a professional jazz musician. He and his family lost 22 years of hard work and had to rebuild, starting out with him and his family living in his parents’ house. Paul talks with Clate Mask and David Bonney about making it after years of hard work and trying to find employees who weren’t just punching a clock. As Clate says, if you have employee problems pulling you back, it’s not the employee, it’s you.
What to do? Your purpose, values, and mission will really help you attract the right people who match your values and fit their role. Plus, David shares his 5 C’s for hiring right.
Paul Toby: Well, I learned from Brian Klemmer that you have to have a very clear focus on what it is that you want. Yes, if you help enough people to get what they want, you can have want, but if you don't what that is, it's very hard to get. I really think that people just don't know enough about what it is they truly want.
Clate Mask: That's Paul Toby talking about the fact that most people don't know what they want, how he got clear on what he wanted, and how you can do the same. To learn how to do it, listen to this episode of the Small Business Success Podcast.
Welcome, everybody, to this addition of the Small Business Success Podcast. We've got an awesome episode for you today, and I'm Clate Mask, Co-Founder of Infusionsoft, and I've got a stand-in for Scott Martineau today, so David, why don't you introduce yourself.
David Bonnie: Yup, my name is David Bonnie. I am the leader of our Small Business Success Initiatives here at Infusionsoft, where we distill down the common patterns of our successful customers, and try to get them out to as many of our entrepreneurial followers as we possibly can.
Clate Mask: Yup, David's been with us for a long time. He knows small business success, so it made sense for him to jump in and be on the Small Business Success Podcast. Let me introduce to you our guest today. Paul Toby is on with us today. Paul, great to be with you. Why don't you share a little bit about you, your business, and where you are in your entrepreneurial journey?
Paul Toby: Great, thanks for having me, Clate. I appreciate the opportunity. So, I am the CEO and Founder of a company called Training Business Pros, and more recently, in the last couple of years, we've also built a marketing agency called Business Pros Marketing. And so, initially ten years ago, when we I kind of fell out of the music business for many reasons, I'm not sure if you guys want to talk about that [chuckling]
But sometimes, life throws you a curveball when you're – at the time, I was in my 40s, and I really didn't know what to do with the rest of my life, so I took a couple of years off, and did some really crazy things, like walk across Spain a couple of times, and just have –
Clate Mask: Okay, so we'll definitely get a little bit of the transition from the falling out of the music industry into entrepreneurship. Tell us first though, where are you right now? Just give us a lay of the land of what your business looks like today in terms of number of employees, years in business, that sort of thing.
Paul Toby: Right, so about ten years with the training company. We're heading into almost our third year with the marketing company, with the marketing agency. We are eight full-time employees. We consider ourselves a Stage 4 business, although, we're running a bit lean on employees to be in Stage 4. I do recognize that everybody here in the office is super, super busy. We've never been more slammed than ever.
Clate Mask: That's a good thing. Good for you guys.
Paul Toby: Pardon me?
Clate Mask: That's a good thing. Good for you guys.
Paul Toby: Well, we're keeping very busy. We're on a massive hiring binge right now, so I expect to be 10 to 12 by the end of the year, if not the first quarter of next year.
Clate Mask: Okay.
Paul Toby: So, it's been an interesting journey. When we first started out as a training company, it really didn't take a lot of people to run that. You fill a room full of 50 people, or 100 people, or sometimes 500 people, and I don't know if you know this, but I started out with Infusionsoft as a trusted advisor.
Clate Mask: Okay, yeah.
Paul Toby: So, people would come to my presentations and sell Infusionsoft, and when the clients, for one reason or another, didn't get the service that they needed with Infusionsoft, that's when we said, "Okay, we're going to really have to understand it, and we're going to have to build an agency that actually helps these people implement it," and that's when we became certified partners. Now, I have four of them on my team.
Clate Mask: Awesome, awesome, that's great. Thanks for giving us the lay of the land. So, you've got a training company. You've got a marketing agency.
You've got eight employees now, heading to ten soon, and you've been doing this for ten years generally in the entrepreneurial realm. So, tell us – I think, David, I want to understand a little better from Paul how he fell out of the music industry.
David Bonnie: Yes.
Clate Mask: So, tell us about that, because it sounds like that was a life – you started to say life dealt you a certain curveball or set of cards, however you want to say it, and you ended up in entrepreneurship.
Paul Toby: Well, I think entrepreneurship was a natural extension because that's what a musician is. So, I started off playing music at the age of eight, went through all seven years of post-secondary school, and then, just became a pro. And I, in my career, made eight albums played in 17 different countries, and I had earlier, in 2001, signed a new eight-record contract with a fairly large label called Arcadia out of New York City.
Clate Mask: Okay.
Paul Toby: And Arcadia had a guy at the helm named Bob Carcey, who was a real jazz fan, and he had a lot of jazz people on his label. I was the first Canadian to be signed to that label, so it was a real coup for me. Unfortunately, 9/11 happened.
Clate Mask: [Chuckles] Yeah.
Paul Toby: And the home office for Arcadia Records is like right next-door to the World Trade Centers.
Clate Mask: Oh, wow.
Paul Toby: And when they went down, the label kind of lost a lot of momentum and interest in its members and recording artists. And that, essentially, disintegrated my recording contract. It took about a year, but my wife and my family, we went broke –
Clate Mask: Oh, wow.
Paul Toby: -- like literally lost 22 years of hard work, and I had to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
Clate Mask: I love hearing about that – I mean I don't love hearing about the hard times that push people into entrepreneurship. It's not that I love hearing that, but I appreciate it.
I think it's so common. I think about my story, and how I got into Infusionsoft, and had a similar experience. By the way, 9/11 was a huge part – it was a huge driving force of me getting into entrepreneurship, leaving the software company that I was working for. But I hear, over and over again from entrepreneurs, that story where life deals them a certain set of cards. They're looking at each other at home saying, "All right, what are we going to do? Maybe we're going to go try to make this thing work," and suddenly, they're entrepreneurship.
David Bonnie: Yeah, and I love the twist that happens where you reached that certain point in your life where there is no choice. You have to go make it work, so all the noise in your head that can keep you out of going and doing the things that you truly love, all that goes away when you reach that point in your life where we have to go do this, and there is no other option.
Clate Mask: Yeah, necessity wakes you up as the entrepreneur, right?
David Bonnie: Exactly, it breathes out –
Clate Mask: Now, you have to do this.
David Bonnie: Yeah.
Clate Mask: All of the excuses, all the reasons, all the – why you didn't do it, now, those go away.
Paul Toby: When you're living in your parents' spare bedroom in your 40s with your family, that's kind of like a sign from God –
David Bonnie: Oh, yeah.
Paul Toby: -- that says, "You've got to straighten some things out."
David Bonnie: Yeah.
Paul Toby: Fortunately, Nancy had found, literally by accident, a mentor in Toronto, and this lady was this tiny little Jewish lady, and one day, she took me into the library of her house. Now, I don't come from a wealthy background. My father was a United Church minister, and I remember going into her house for this meeting, and it was a Gary Zukav meeting. I don't know if you've ever read of Gary Zukav's books –
Clate Mask: Hm-hmm.
Paul Toby: The Seat of the Soul, and all those things. So, she takes me into the library, and she basically says, "What's your problem? You seem to have a lot going for you, but you're absolutely getting nowhere." She scans the shelves of this library, and she pulls out this tiny little book, and she puts it in my hand, and she goes, "Okay, here's the deal. I like you and your wife, and you're welcome to come – she's welcome to come back any time. You, I'm not so sure about."
"I want you to take this book home and read it, and you can come back when you've read it." And she goes, "I know you're coming back," and I go, "Well, how do you know that?" She goes, "Because I want my book back."
That was The Alchemist.
Clate Mask: Oh.
Paul Toby: I don't know if you've ever read the book by Paulo Coelho.
Clate Mask: Yup.
Paul Toby: So I took it back the next week, and literally, for the next 30, 35 weeks, she just gave me a new book every week.
Clate Mask: Wow. Now who was this?
Paul Toby: And eventually, I stumbled across this called The Pilgrimage, which was also by Paulo Coelho, which made me go walk across Spain to find out, okay, if I'm going to do something with the rest of my life, what is it I truly want?
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: And I didn't know anything about the Elite Forum stuff, mission, purpose, values, all that.
Clate Mask: Yeah, yeah.
Paul Toby: I was kind of learning it, but at the time, I didn't even know what I wanted to do.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: The only discernible skill I had was playing the piano, and quite frankly, I don't know a lot of companies that need that.
Clate Mask: Right. Well, that's a heck of a gift. That's a really cool thing to get that kind of mentorship.
But good on you for taking it, and running with it, and then, finding your path to entrepreneurship. I love – it's funny. I'm thinking of the different podcast episodes we've done, and whether we talked about it on the podcast or in a side conversation, it's really remarkable how frequently folks get pushed into entrepreneurship, where they just hit rock bottom, and then that just fuels them and drives them to success. It's a common thing to hear that, so very cool to hear that, Paul. Thanks for sharing it.
Paul Toby: Well, it's like you just don't have any choice.
Clate Mask: Right, like David said, yeah.
Paul Toby: I didn't have, like I said, any discernible skills, so for me, to start reading about how other people were creating success – and I'd never read a non-fiction book since university, to be honest.
She was just spoon-feeding me this information, and I read everything from James Redfield, to Conversations with God, to all this spiritual stuff, and that's also a slippery slope too because you start feeling good about yourself, yet you're still broke and not contributing.
So, it's a very strange place, and I still remember the day I picked up the book. I don't know if you've ever heard of a speaker named T. Harv Eker.
David Bonnie: Sure, of course.
Paul Toby: Basically, I picked up his book one day. It was given to me by somebody else actually. It was called Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, and I'm like, "What? What does that mean?" I had no idea what millionaire even means, and it basically was a book about how millionaires think differently than poor people.
Clate Mask: Yup, yup.
Paul Toby: And I started reading that, and I thought – you know, he doesn't pull any punches, right?
Clate Mask: Right.
Paul Toby: He just comes out of the book, grabs you by the neck, and says, "Hey, you're broke. It's your fault."
Clate Mask: [Chuckling] Right.
Paul Toby: "It's nobody else's fault but your own, and here's a way to think differently about it so you can change your personal and professional outcome."
Clate Mask: Yup.
Paul Toby: So I read the book, ended up going to the seminar, and that was the first course that I took actually. It was a course called "Train the Trainer."
Clate Mask: Of course, yeah.
Paul Toby: It was given by a guy by the name of Rob Riopel out of – where was he from – Red Deer, Alberta. The course was in New York, I think, at the time.
Clate Mask: Okay, yeah, so I know Harv well, and I know the course you took. I know the book you read, and it was a – that was an important book for me. Actually, I read it before I came to Infusionsoft. It's a great book. Tell us about your ongoing reading. Do you continue to – was that mentorship that you got from the woman who saw your situation and helped you out, has that – have those lessons of learning – because it's the ongoing learning that happens as you read – has that continued to be an important part of your success as you built your business?
Paul Toby: Well, I became a learn-it-all versus know-it-all.
I don't know if you know much about jazz musicians, but they consider themselves to be fairly affluent in the language of jazz, which takes a long time to learn that, but the problem is, there's no room left over to learn. It's like if you're focused on one thing, then that's okay, but how does it have an impact on the lives of other people? In order to have a positive and professional impact on people, because if you help enough people get what they want, you can kind of have what you want.
Clate Mask: Right, yup.
Paul Toby: And that's what I learned in these books, and so, from that perspective, I essentially, became a learn-it-all.
Clate Mask: That's great.
Paul Toby: And so, I'm continuously learning. I spend – I picked up on a strategy by another author named Dolf De Roos, who's a very famous real estate author. I picked up an audio CD by him one time, and on this CD, he basically said, "If you spend three-percent a year of what you want to earn next year, so take three-percent of next year's revenue, and spend it on learning," he said, "that's the best investment you could ever make."
Most people take three-percent and they put it into their 401(k) or –
Clate Mask: Or Starbucks.
Paul Toby: -- in Canada, it's called ROSP, whatever, to get a what, a one, two-percent maximum return?
Clate Mask: Right. But those are actually the fairly smart folks, right? The unfortunate thing – at least they're investing. The sad thing is that most people are spending it on – whether it's their daily coffee or their lottery tickets, or whatever it is, right?
David Bonnie: Yeah. So there's two things that are coming to my mind, Paul, with what you're talking about. First of all, have you guys seen that Venn diagram of it's what I'm passionate about, it's what I love to do, it's what I'm good at, and then, people need it.
Clate Mask: Yup.
David Bonnie: It's that sweet spot in the middle. So as you're talking about that journey across Spain that you went on to go really find out, "What do I want to do? I'm going to go do this. What am I really passionate about? What am I good at?" also finding out that people do need it, that's what actually creates the business, and then that passion, that's really then the key differentiator.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
David Bonnie: Because when you're really passionate about it, you're not – learning isn't hard work.
Clate Mask: Totally.
David Bonnie: Actually, it's something that you thirst for. You hunger for it. You want to become the best in that particular area because you actually love it.
Clate Mask: Right.
David Bonnie: That's where you start to separate yourself, so I just love hearing this journey that you're on, and how it just aligns up to those guiding principles.
Clate Mask: Yeah, and I'll add something to that. As you were talking, Paul, I was thinking about just the – I heard the appetite for learning, and there's no doubt that when you talk to successful entrepreneurs, they are learners. They are constantly learning, but it's super interesting because frequently, they wouldn't have called themselves readers –
David Bonnie: Right, yup.
Clate Mask: It wasn't until their passion got ignited that then they become voracious learners around that area. It was the same thing for me when I was growing up. I was like, "I hate books. I don't want to read." That's not how I was growing up.
Now, I read like crazy because when I was starting a small business, I began reading, and I found how it just ignited my mind and it got my – it's not even necessarily what you're learning in the book. It's just that it gets you in a habit of thinking differently, and learning, and picking up everything that you can. So, yeah, a couple things coming out here, the passion that drives the learning, but also the investment that you're talking about, Paul. And by the way, for our listeners, that principle of three-percent is a commonly taught principle among consultants and business leaders. I've heard it probably three times in the last year from different people that I'm working with, and these are folks that have built billion-dollar companies in Silicon Valley. If you don't allocate a certain percentage, and it typically is – three-percent is what I've heard the most – if you don't allocate that to your learning and development, you're going to stagnate in growth, so great points to Paul. Thanks for bringing those out.
Paul Toby: Well, I think it's important to mention because I think most people don't typically invest in themselves to that level.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: They consider the amount of time they spend working in their business as an investment. They consider the amount of time they spend working on their business as an investment, and that's a good learning experience. It's really only a mistake if you make it twice. People stack them up, but they tend to make the same mistakes over and over. The only way that you can replace that is with the knowledge and experience that somebody's been – that's been through that stage, that's made the same mistakes.
Clate Mask: Yup.
Paul Toby: I always find it a lot quicker to get to the destination if you ask somebody who's already been there.
Clate Mask: Yeah, so let's apply what you're saying.
David Bonnie: Can I ask you a question there?
Clate Mask: Yeah, go for it.
David Bonnie: So the destination, so you mentioned something earlier about the mission and purpose, that work that you had gone through. There's something about having that vision of where you want to be that fuels the justification or the need for the investment that you're talking about, so that you can become what you need to be able to achieve that, how has that played out for you in terms of how you guys got clear on, what you guys were out to achieve, what you wanted the business to accomplish for the community it serves?
Paul Toby: Well, it was actually Elite Forum that helped us craft the mission, purpose, values for our company, and I'm super appreciate to Infusionsoft for helping us with that.
Clate Mask: Shameless plug.
Paul Toby: [Laughing] Thank you. My first sort of realization that if you pick a destination, and you're deeply committed and deeply invested to achieving it, then, no matter what happens, no matter what you're faced with along the way, the challenges, the mistakes, whatever, you're eventually going to get there. It may take longer than you had initially anticipated, but the reality is, any kind of deeply committed act, knowing full well where you're headed, you'll eventually get there. That's what I learned in Spain. I only wanted to walk across Spain to get to Santiago de Compostela. It's like 850 kilometers through the mountains and through the plains, and whatever, and I didn't really realize how hard that was going to be until I broke my ankle walking down the side of a mountain into Burgos.
And I didn't even have any money to go to a doctor to fix it, so I laid over in three days in Burgos, and basically, iced it, and taped it up, and basically, walked out, and then walked the rest of the journey. What I realized from that experience was, whether I got lost seven times, or whether I couldn't find food to eat, or I didn't have a place to stay for the night, eventually, I ended up in the very place that I was committed to getting to. Since then, I've always picked the next level, the next destination, and I've always made it a little bit bigger than most people would do because nothing every big got created with a small idea.
Clate Mask: Yup.
Let me draw out some lessons here for the listeners, and then, I'd love to have you comment on a mistake or two that you've made that you feel like our listeners can benefit from. As you said earlier, that's really – the shortcuts to success are learning from other peoples' failures. If we can draw out one or two of those, that'd be great. But I think what I heard you say was you kind of got forced into entrepreneurship, or strongly led into it, but you found your passion of what you wanted to do, began training, then you pivoted your business, or created another business off of that training company, to help small businesses do sales and marketing automation, and that's just been in the last few years. You've had some successes along the way, but as you've made some of those pivots, whether it was your initial foray into entrepreneurship, or the training company that you built up, then moving into more of the agency work for your clientele –
-- what are one or two of the mistakes that you made along the way that you felt like slowed you down, or created a ton of brain drain, or just was emotionally taxing on you? Share a couple of things for the listeners so they can learn from it and, hopefully, avoid the pitfalls.
Paul Toby: Easily, number one was hiring, which was one of the reasons why we came to Elite because we didn't really have a system and a process. We would hire people based on skills, but they weren't necessarily a fit for us based on core values.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: And essentially, people would take from us instead of giving to the clients.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: They would not adhere to what we believe is important from a core value standpoint. I mean I can read them off the wall, "We add value to people's lives," and, "We honor our commitments," and all those things. We didn't have that, so people would come in, and they would work for us nine to five, like punching a clock, which most entrepreneurs don't know what that is.
I certainly didn't know what that was. It's a very – it caused a lot of heartache, because you really want to look after people. You really want to – you take them under your wing. The biggest mistake, I think, we made was we let them almost get too close to us. We let them come to parties, and to our home, and things like that, and we kind of had to put an end to that because they would see the transition that we had made from poverty to –
Clate Mask: Prosperity, yeah.
Paul Toby: -- affluence, I guess, is the best way to say that. I'm not saying that to impress anybody. I'm just saying that to impress upon them that anybody can do that. You just need the right rulebook. So hiring and letting the employees kind of dictate the scenario of how things were going to unfold, just didn't work for us.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: We had to figure something out there for sure.
Clate Mask: You touched on hiring and core values, and I know this is a topic that's super – that David is super passionate about. We've practiced this at Infusionsoft for years. We've had the struggles of doing it when we were small, doing it when we were big, this was super tough. I'm going to have David comment on this, and just the importance of core values, and how you see the successful small businesses doing that. But I want to obviously, just point out here that what you shared, Paul, this is the challenge of the early growing small business. It is how do you get the right employees? I'm going to be really blunt. I've said this before. I've said it to large audiences. I've been criticized for it at times, but – and I hope you don't take offense at this, Paul, but it's not – the business owner is so frustrated by the things that they see their employees do that are off, that don't fit what they – how they want to run the business –
-- that they get to a place that they say things like, "I can't find any good help. I've just got to do it myself. There's nobody out there that really does the operations of the business the way that I want them to," and they begin to convince themselves that the employees are the problem. I'm just going to say it as clear as Harv Eker would say it [chuckles]. No, no, the entrepreneur is the problem. Let's all be clear about that. I'm the problem when that's happening, Paul, you were the problem when that was happening, and I'm sorry, dear listeners out there, if this is happening in your business, it's you. So David, how do we solve that? How did Paul solve it, because I know what Paul did, but you've got some passion around this? Share, for a moment, what it is. How do you get out of this trap, when you're trying to grow your business, and you keep running into employee problems that feel like they're pulling you back and hamstringing the progress of the company?
David Bonnie: Yeah, yeah. So at least, and how I look at it, it breaks down into two components first. First, it's who are you hiring, is part one, and then from there, how are you leading them, because even if you hire the best people in the world, and your leadership is falling short, there's still going to be problems. But focusing first on the hiring part, that is – Paul, you already referenced, in terms of the things that you were looking to get from Elite Forum specifically. I talk about it as the three C's. First, we've got to make sure that we're getting people who are committed, and you really identify commitment by identifying the purpose of the business. If you can articulate that, and you can breathe, and speak, and have testimony to that during the process, in your recruiting messages, you'll start to attract, like a magnet, people that are committed to that type of cause in the world, that type of service to that community. Secondly, the second C is core values, or character alignment, and not good person/bad person, but just what are the values? What are our core values? What do we live by?
All of this goes into the word "fit." The three strongest letters in my vocabulary, "fit." When you things that fit, they work very well. I'm a big team guy, and team chemistry is a big thing. It's not about – a lot of times, we'll hire people that – we go through the day-to-day, and we go home, and to our significant other we go, "Can you believe that this person did this, this, and that?" They're like, "I am so sorry you're dealing with that." And the employee actually goes home, and they go to their significant other, and they say the same thing, "Can you believe that he/she did this, this, and that?" and their significant other is saying, "I am so sorry that you're dealing with that," because in terms of what's actually going on, it's a lack of understanding, or it's a lack of alignment on how the work should be done. That's where the core values come into play. This is how I see the world. This is how I think things need to be done, and I want to be like a tribe around other people that want to do work the same way.
When we can engage people into a hiring process that really allows us to understand who they are from a core value perspective, and really see the alignment there, that's where we bring on people that are like us. When we're all doing the work the same way, trust levels increase.
Clate Mask: Totally. So you've got commitment, and core values, and the third C –
David Bonnie: And the third one is the big one, which you talked to Paul – and everybody puts this one first, and I actually have it third – it's competency. That's the skill set side. It's still important, but you can have the most skilled people in the world, but if they don't care about the work, and the cause that you're doing, and they don't do it in the way that you do, and trust levels are breaking down, you're not going to get the performance that you could.
Clate Mask: Yeah, yeah, totally. Yeah, thanks for sharing that. Obviously, at Infusionsoft, we're big believers in this. We teach this to many companies in Elite Forum, and Paul, you came to Elite Forum. How has the process of hiring to core values, finding the committed people that are also competent, as David pointed out, how has that helped you work through some of those hiring mistakes early on?
Paul Toby: Well, I've learned that people don't necessarily do as you say. They do as you do. So, if you want – for example, when I brought up my son, I would have little rituals that we would do every night. I had things that we would share together, and things that were unique to him and I, and he's grown into such a – he actually works full-time for our company and goes to school full-time.
Clate Mask: Oh, cool.
Paul Toby: So that's an interesting thing, and he's a great programmer, and he's in the Computer Science program at Toronto, but the only credit that I can take for him is that he was smart enough to kind of see how – what kind of person he'd want to become. As we set examples for our people in our company, I think that's the most important thing. The way that I behave, and the way that I handle clients, and the way that I speak to people, and the way that I handle customer service, that rubs off on everyone.
You can still make mistakes on hiring, but what I found is, the company owner, or the person who's ultimately in charge, you can't really tell people what to do and how to act and how to behave, but they'll do as you do. And so, actually, Elite Forum helped me behave better. It helped me understand what are my core values, what are the things that I'm passionate about. My favorite core value is one that I find is the biggest problem in society, and the biggest problem in business, and that's we honor our commitments. And so often, I find that people in business, they make amazingly lofty claims, but yet, under-deliver to the Nth degree and don't really care. That's not the way that I want to do business. I want people – if I say I'm going to do something, and my company is going to do something, we'll do it until it's done, until the customer is happy.
Clate Mask: And if you find – so you've got a core value, so let's just bring this to what David is sharing around "fit." Yeah, you've got to get people that are totally committed to your purpose. Then, you've got to hire people who are aligned to your core values, and as you're saying, you've got to lead to that. You've got to demonstrate that so people are leading to it. But let's call out this specific issue. So, you've got a core value around honoring your commitments. If you hire a person who's very capable in the role, who actually is very passionate about your purpose, but doesn't have that core value, you are going to run into problems, they're going to run into problems, and you're going to be pulling your hair out. And so, the articulation of that core value now becomes a magnet that attracts the right people and repels the wrong people. You have the ability now to enjoy the way you go about doing your work.
If you stop and think about it, for our listeners, if you think about the issues you have with your employees, so many times it comes down to a lack of articulated core value that you hold dear, that you feel like these are inviolate principles, like we have to follow these things because that's who we are, versus you get – now, you have someone like that, who shares that view, and things just go so much more smoothly, and you don't have those constant philosophical conflicts that are causing a lot of problems beneath the surface of a day-to-day conversation with a customer or with an employee, a partner, a vendor, you name it.
David Bonnie: Yup, absolutely. And then like Paul's talking about on that leadership side, you do that and then you model it, you're practicing what you preach at the front, and the level of traction or momentum you can get with a team, that's where you start to really build world-class teams.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
David Bonnie: I know that might sound cheesy, but that actually is what you end up building, and you grow your business at a level that you can't imagine when people are coming together with that much synergy and harmony.
Clate Mask: Yeah. What I find over and over, you called out, Paul, one of the biggest challenges and the biggest mistakes, those things that hold back so many entrepreneurs from growing to the next level, is that ability to attract talent to the team that fits, and that contributes, and really moves the purpose and the mission forward. What ends up happening is entrepreneurs get stuck trying to get to that million-dollar level, but in order to get to that level and break through it, you've got to have team members, like David's talking about, who are aligned.
Paul Toby: But you've got to pay for them too, and I think that's where people get a little stuck.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: They're thinking, "Well, what percentage of my revenue do I need to share with somebody else in order to attract the person that's supposed to take over the duties and responsibilities?" That inherently is what we call risk.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: That's why most companies don't grow. They're just too risk-averse to take the chances on investment, not just in HR, but in software, in learning, in everything that you do.
There's always that little thing called money, which gnaws at you constantly. Are you making the right financial decisions? And personally, I don't think there's right or wrong in that situation. There's only results and no results. What I've found, at least in my short ten years in the business world, is that the more I let go of the need to feel secure, and embrace that most uncertain thing on planet Earth called uncertainty, that's when things move quickly, because you just get so immune to risk. You get immune to making financial decisions. You get immune. Nancy came to me the other day. We had another couple people coming on, and I had to go buy computers.
The first thing I did was I hopped on Dell.com and I'm ordering computers, and I'm thinking to myself, "What kind of computers would I want to have," not, "What kind of computers can I afford," "What kind of computer would I want to have?" As I'm watching you on my screen, I'm sitting behind a couple of monitors that have curved screens. What would I want? How would I want to come to work? Well, what's the equipment that I would want to use? That's when leading by example, I think it's a really important thing. But again, you just – the money part is always there, but I've learned – I always think people try to judge their successes based on where they want to get. That's impossible. If you continue to judge your success based on getting to a million dollars or two million, or ten million, you're never – that's never going to happen. That's like trying to walk to the horizon. If you judge your successes based on how far you've come, then you're in more of a place of gratitude. You're in more of a place of openness to change.
You're in more of a place of – well, it's easier to take the risk because not that long ago, I had nothing.
Clate Mask: You see where you were. That's a great point, and thanks for providing that perspective. I want to just draw out a couple things and then ask you question about what's helped you be successful. So, when you talked about the hiring mistakes, sometimes we compound the hiring mistakes by an unwillingness to spend, like you said. We also can compound the hiring mistake by going the other way and saying, "You know what? I'm just going to throw money at it. I'm going to spend on this. I'm going to go get somebody super qualified," and so, for listeners, I think the thing that I would say is there's two lessons. Once you get past the "fit" issue, when you get to the point where you're like, "I've got my values clear. I know who I'm after. I'm going to find someone who's committed to our purpose, and that has these core values, and has the competency to do the job," when you find that person, and you're ready to make that move, there's two little "gotcha's."
One is that you're not willing to pay enough to get the right person. The other one is that you actually go after that person that is super competent, and super capable, and super experienced, and fits all the things that you want, but you haven't fully vetted it, and so, you end up with an expense that you regret down the road. And so, I just encourage people to get to – be willing to spend, but "try before you buy" wherever possible when it comes to those key hires. I'm talking about the ones – not just the ones where you're trying to get a certain thing accomplished here or there, but where it's really a key hire, and you're going to make a significant investment on this person. As much as you've vetted it, you want to try to "try before you buy" as much as possible.
Paul Toby: Perhaps, if I may just quickly, perhaps the happy medium between just spending and getting what you think you need, versus saving a little bit and getting somebody just to fill the role, somewhere in there, you might find some room for incentives –
Clate Mask: Yeah, yeah.
Paul Toby: -- some kind of performance-based activity that puts the onus on that employee to perform at a much higher level than they normally would if you didn't have that.
Clate Mask: Yeah, and it keeps them aligned. Yeah, and anybody that's listening out there going, "What do you mean 'try before you buy'?" well, you can do that through a contract, you can do that through a consulting engagement, through a part-time arrangement. There are lots of different ways that you can do that.
Paul Toby: Yeah, I don't know necessarily how it works in the US, but here, we have three month probation, so you can actually hire them for three months, and during that three months, it's just basically probation. If you decide on the last day of the third month that you don't want that person anymore, you don't have to pay them any severance. There's no –
Clate Mask: Yeah. We don't officially have that program, but I would sure advocate for it.
Paul Toby: Yeah.
Clate Mask: If we don't officially have it, you should practice wherever possible.
Paul Toby: Well, it allows us to – and this happened very recently. We had somebody in the office and she was great. She did an awesome job, but when it came – the end of the three months, and we sat down, and we did a performance review, we realized it just wasn't the best fit for her or for us.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: So, we happily parted ways, and financially, we're okay because we didn't really owe anything at that point. We had been paying her a weekly salary, which we thought was fairly – it was okay for starters. I think it's important to do some type of "try before you buy" for sure.
Clate Mask: Yeah, great. Well, thanks for sharing those thoughts around hiring and the mistakes, but also some of the ways to avoid those mistakes. I would just – two quick questions. One, I'd love to hear the number one characteristic that you think has helped us be successful, but before you share that, I'd love to hear what has a successful business meant for you? What's a highlight that you've really enjoyed, or something that you get to do as a result of that success?
Paul Toby: Well, I learned from Brian Klemmer that you have to have a very clear focus on what it is that you want. Yes, if you help enough people get what they want, you can have what you want, but if you don't know what that is, it's very hard to get.
Clate Mask: Yup.
Paul Toby: I really think that people just don't know enough about what it is they truly want. So after doing the Spain thing and reading a lot, I kind of zeroed on something that I had grown up with. I spent a lot of time on the water as a kid, and we did waterskiing and things like that, and we had to fund that ourselves. My brother, fortunately, had a good job, and we would be waterskiing every weekend on the Grand River, and I really liked that. When I decided – and we had a nice home and things like that and cars, and none of that was really important to me. What I really wanted was to be on the water. And I know that people have dream boards, and I'm going to tell them just to kind of light a match to that, cut it up in a million pieces because it's divided focus. Pick one thing, and then, when you have that one thing, whatever you want to do, be, or have in life that you don't have right now, get very clear on what that is, and then, get a mental image, or in my case, it was a physical image. So, I went and I found what I really wanted, and I put it on my mirror.
Clate Mask: That's great.
Paul Toby: I didn't put it on a dream board, or in a book, or in a drawer, or anything. I put it on my mirror where I could look at it every day while shaving, and brushing my teeth, and whatever. I just stuck it there, and it was literally from broke to four-and-a-half years where I could purchase that and feel really, really good about that purchase. Why did I want that? Well, number one, it was a symbol to me that nobody in my family has ever had anything like that. Nobody in the history of the Toby Family had anybody ever achieved that kind of affluence.
Clate Mask: Yeah, those symbols of success are powerful. Those are powerful drivers.
Paul Toby: And two, it was like I could just – I could be on the water, and if I needed to get away, I could get away.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: If I needed to do work while I'm away. I can do work while I'm away. I can literally get on it with my family, and go away for a month, and not have to stay in a hotel, and not have to whatever.
And I remember the first time we took that, and we went to Brockville, Ontario. Well, to Brockville, Ontario from Toronto, it's about a four-hour drive. I got back from my holiday and people said, "Oh, what did you do on your holiday?" I said, "I went to Brockville," and they're like, "Oh, why would you go to Brockville?" And I said, "It's not the destination that matters, it's how you get there."
So the Trent canal system was 41 locks each way.
Clate Mask: Oh, wow.
Paul Toby: It was just an adventure that I'll never forget.
Clate Mask: That's really cool.
Paul Toby: Does that answer your question?
Clate Mask: You answered the question. You answered a bunch of things in there. First, you shared something you love that you're able to do as a result of the success, but I think, actually, how you clarified what it was that you wanted, was probably the more valuable thing that came out of that because that's so – I really appreciate your point about the focus of one, getting really clear about one thing that you want, and going after that.
It's a very powerful driver and motivator, and I appreciate you sharing that. I agree that people don't usually know what they want, and I agree that they don't get clear and focused on it once they have an idea of what it is. They tend to have many different things, and they don't stay focused the way you need to.
Paul Toby: Well, the answers tend to be vague, so I've often been in a position of seeing entrepreneurs be right at the doorstep of success, knowing that it's just around the corner, and I say, "Well, what are you going to do? How is that going to affect your life?" "Oh, I'm going to spend more time with the family, and I'm going to travel." "Where are you going to go?" "Oh, I don't know, someplace nice."
Clate Mask: Yup, yeah.
Paul Toby: If you don't know where you're going, you're going to end up somewhere else, and I think that's one of the most important lessons I've ever learned.
Clate Mask: Yeah, thanks for sharing it. Well, let's wrap up with – this one's a one-word answer. What characteristic do you feel like has been most important, meaningful, critical in your success?
Paul Toby: Well, that's the easiest question. You saved the easiest one for last. It's self-discipline.
Clate Mask: Great.
Paul Toby: I'm sure that people have enough common sense to know that if you plant a seed in your backyard today, and you run out tomorrow and dig it out of the ground demanding to see immediate results, it's not going to work very well. And so, the concept of self-discipline – and the best definition I've ever heard actually, and I don't know who said it, but this is the definition of self-discipline. It's the deep commitment to being able to focus on what you really want versus on what you want right now.
Clate Mask: That's great. That's really great. Thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it. I appreciate it so much. David, and I think you know this, and many others that are listening know that we're huge believers in Jim Collins, and one of the reasons why I follow his stuff so closely is that he studies greatness, and that's really what he does is he studies greatness.
When you look at Built to Last, and Great by Choice, and even his early work –
Paul Toby: Good to Great, yup.
Clate Mask: -- with Beyond Entrepreneurship, and certainly Good to Great, How the Mighty Fall, he's really studying greatness. I had a golden opportunity to spend two days with him a couple of years ago in his office with my team, and we talked about a bunch of different things. But one of the things I asked him about was related to discipline, because what he says about greatness is that in all of his studies – and for those who haven't read his books, he really makes a deep academic empirical study of companies and how they go about in achieving greatness, and by the way, he was inspired by a mentor, who had really taught this, and didn't talk about greatness, he talked about in search of excellence, and the book, In Search of Excellence, was written by a mentor of Jim Collins, and he worked on that project, but Jim ended up pursuing greatness.
Here's what he said, "When you boil it all down, it is disciplined people engaged in disciplined thought taking disciplined action." It's all about that self-discipline first with the individual, and then as a team and an organization. I totally appreciate that. I noticed when we're off on different things, the discipline has slipped. I noticed that when we're on, the discipline is tight, and we're doing really well.
Paul Toby: Well, I was very fortunate because that's the one thing I already had.
Clate Mask: Yeah, yeah, which is –
Paul Toby: If you think about it, you can't reach a professional level of musicianship –
Clate Mask: That's right. That's right.
Paul Toby: -- without putting the time in.
Clate Mask: That's right.
Paul Toby: So, all I – the difference was, I just had the wrong rulebook.
Clate Mask: Apply that discipline –
Paul Toby: So the rulebook on success, financial success, was not written by a jazz musician.
Clate Mask: Right [chuckles], yeah, that's great. I know David's a big believer in this as well, and I can see you're chomping at the bit to say something [chuckles].
David Bonnie: Oh, no, no, no.
Clate Mask: Okay, great. Well, I really appreciate you sharing that. It's funny because that discipline is critical to our success. It's something that I admire when I see it in people because I know great things are in store for them, whatever it is that they're – once discipline and focus combine, wow, it gets crazy fun to see the results.
Paul Toby: Well, the unfortunate part is, most people will tend to equate discipline with negativity. Being disciplined by somebody else and actually having self-discipline are two different things.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Paul Toby: And so, the word maybe has gotten skewed a little bit in its meaning, and I remember being disciplined with a strap in grade school when I first came to Ontario thinking, "Man, I want to go back to Nova Scotia. This place is horrible."
That doesn't have any lasting effect other than negativity, but the concept of self-discipline, again, you just really need to be super focused and committed.
Brian Klemmer says, "Look, if you want to be deeply committed, get deeply invested."
Clate Mask: Yeah, that's great. I'm glad you mentioned that. I didn't even – I don't even think of any negative connotations whatsoever around discipline [chuckles].
Paul Toby: Yeah, neither do I [chuckles].
Clate Mask: But I can totally see how many would. I hadn't even thought about that, so thanks for drawing that out and calling out self-discipline. Well, Paul, this has been awesome. Thank you for spending some time with us and talking about small business success, your success, how you got into business, and thanks for sharing some of your secrets of success, particularly around self-discipline. I think that was awesome, and I know our listeners got a lot out of that. This has been a fun episode of the Small Business Success Podcast. We thank you for joining us, and Paul, thanks for being our guest. For everybody else out there, we look forward to the next one. Make sure you join us, and until then, success in your small business, go get it.
Don't forget to rate on iTunes and share and subscribe. We look forward to the next podcast. Make sure you tune in.
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