This is the ninth in a series of podcasts where Judy interviews people who have a track record of successful collaboration.

This series is for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of real-life collaboration, especially collaboration among creative, intelligent, free-thinking individuals who are geographically dispersed. The interviews go well beyond the obvious, as metaphor master Judy Rees explores the hidden thinking that inspires collaboration that works.

In this episode Judy interviews Russell Brunson, well known internet marketer, as he outlines how to orchestrate a virtual business team.

Judy:     Hello, and welcome to Collaboration Dynamics. With me today I have Russell Brunson. Would you like to introduce yourself?Russell: Sure, I love to, thanks so much for having me here. My name is Russell Brunson, I live in Boise, Idaho. We’ve spent the last 12 years building up multiple different companies. That’s kind of what we do.

Judy:     When it comes to collaboration, what kind of collaborations do you get involved in?

Russell: I’ve been trying to figure the best way to share what we do, we’ve obviously tried a lot of different things, some successfully, some that were horrible flops. With our team, we’ve got eight who work in an office here in Boise and then we got about 15 or so that work all around the globe. We have to find different tools to do that, because it’s not always easy not having everyone in one spot.

A couple of the things we do, one of them is an app that I use, I know that you’re familiar with it, it’s called Voxer. I have a short commute to my office every day, and everyone on our team is on this Voxer app.

A couple of times a week I send out a broadcast saying this is the direction things are happening. I just tried to steer momentum and focus. I send those out just to make sure that everyone’s on the same page and were all moving in the same direction.

Then when we get in the office we have a couple of different teams. We have a support team that does customer support and things like that, and they are 100% virtual all around the world. For those guys to collaborate we use a tool called Flowdoc, it’s a tool for them to all get together.

It’s kind of like a water cooler chat thing, they’re all in there chatting, sharing things. Within that software you can break off with someone individually and have private conversations with them or with a group of people.

I open up the App on my computer and I see all these people sharing. If they have a random question that they can’t answer from a customer, they put a post in there and other people come to help. It’s the office equivalent of water cooler talk. And if it comes down to a specific question they break off into a separate chat room and they figure out and solve the issue.

For them it’s been really effective and efficient because it gives people the ability to feel that they are part of a culture that is close together, even though they’re not. They’ve never even met each other, but they have that feeling as if they’re in an office together and they have a chance to share that.

For us here inside the office, I’m not a big proponent of meetings, they seem to waste a lot of time for me, we’ll do quick meetings in the mornings where everyone gets together. The meetings are like five minutes long. Everyone says this is my number one project or number one priority but I’m working on today and here’s the one tool or the one thing that’s keeping me from getting my goals that I need help with.

It gives everyone the chance to see where everyone is at, what they’re focusing on, what their sticking points are and how they can each help. So we do those meetings a couple of times a week to get a quick grasp of where we are at, where Russell’s focus is, where he wants us all going, here’s my individual thing, my priorities. It’s been really efficient for us to get people moving forward quickly in the right direction.

Judy:     For you, when all that’s happening in your collaborating and working at your best, that’s like what?

Russell:     For me, when it’s working, my wife and I went to a musical play a while ago, there is a conductor standing up front and is conducting the music and he is waving his arms and everyone is doing their piece, the brass is doing what they’re doing, the percussion.

And he’s standing up there orchestrating that. So my role in the company, I’m obviously the owner, but more so, I’m the glue that’s holding all these pieces together. I feel like I’m leading music and I’m getting people to do their pieces and everything is coming together. To me that’s what it feels like.

In my office I have this computer and everyone can be seen from where I’m at, so it’s like orchestrating a musical and watch all these pieces come back together into a beautiful piece that we create. That’s what it feels like for me.

Judy:     And when you’re orchestrating like that and you can see the pieces come together, is there anything else about how those pieces come together? How do you feel and how does it appear to you?

Russell: Whenever you start a project there’s so much stuff at first, it’s kind of hard to see the finish line sometimes. The one thing that I’m really good at is that I can see all the pieces and how they fit together. For a lot of people they understand their piece that they don’t see how they fit together.

So a lot of times it’s like, just trust me, I need these four or five things, just do them. So they do theirs, and suddenly, I’ve got all the pieces now. So I say now let me show you how all the pieces come together. See, this piece goes here and that piece goes there, and everyone goes wow, so that’s how all these things we’ve been working on all fit together into one whole. It’s exciting to see that, the creation of it. Like you’ve created this thing out all the pieces are together and it just works. It’s exciting.

Judy:     I’m very curious about what you just said, because from what little I know of you, I know that that’s a recurring pattern that I’ve seen you do several times. You invite several people to do their pieces, and then you can show them how the pieces fit together.

Russell: There’s this movie from the 80s, The Karate Kid. There’s this kid that wants to learn karate, and he goes to this teacher who says I’ll teach you karate, so come over here and wax these cars. So he has this kid wax these cars for like three days.

Then he says now come over here and paint this fence. So after two or three weeks the kids says I want to learn karate, I don’t want to do these chores for you. But what he doesn’t know is that the master is teaching him the movements, like doing a car has a certain movement that you used to block a punch, and the way you paint a fence is the way you do another movement.

So the teacher comes over and starts throwing punches at him, and the kid instinctively is able to block everything. He says this is why I had to do everything, to get them in your brain.

That’s how I feel sometimes, just trust me. There’s a reason behind all this, we’ve just got to do it. So when we get to the end we see how it all works.

Judy:     So when you’re orchestrating something and it’s like you’re the conductor, how do you know what the different parts should do?

Russell:     When I first started the business I didn’t have money to hire people. I had to do all the pieces. Because of that, it’s like I tell any entrepreneur, whenever you start something it’s good for you to do everything so you’ll know all the pieces.

For the first two or three years I had to do everything, every single piece. So I got a really clear picture of all the pieces. And as I started to build a team, I knew strategically the pieces of the puzzle. Maybe I’m not that good at it, I know how to do it, but I’m not that good at it, let me find someone with the skill set who can be amazing at that, and then give that piece to them.

And the next person, and the next. So eventually we have a team, everyone is really good at that aspect of it. And so they’ve replaced a part of me. I still know what the pieces are and what order they go in, and each of the people are in charge of one of those pieces and really become a master at it.

For me, that’s how we’ve been able to scale and grow quickly. Individually, each one of these guys are way better than me at each of the pieces. But as a whole, it’s just amazing how much you can accomplish that way.

Judy:     So each of them has replaced the part of you? And that’s how you know what each of them should be doing, when you’re orchestrating like that.

Russell:     Yes, I’ve consulted at other businesses and a lot of times they’ve grown so far that the owner forgets about the parts. So one thing that I do, I have people that go back and tell them that you should probably do this part just so you’ll understand what all the pieces are.

Because at one time you did know, or initially you found a rock star who was able to do that but then later on that person disappeared. Whatever the circumstances are, it’s always good for whoever’s in charge to know what the pieces are. They don’t have to be an expert, just know them so they can orchestrate it and move the process forward.

Judy:      I’m very curious about the process of replacing a part of you. As a metaphor that sounds a bit uncomfortable. But what happens when you’re replacing a part of you?

Russell:     As an entrepreneur it gets really hard because you take so much pride and it’s scary to hand over a piece of you to someone else. The first time I really learned about that and started trying to do it, I read a book called The E Myth by Michael Gerber, he was talking about systems like McDonald’s for example, and how McDonald’s doesn’t have the best hamburgers in the world, but they’ve got the best system.

So that’s why somebody spends a couple of million dollars on a McDonald’s franchise, not because they’ve got better tasting hamburgers but because they’ve got these systems where you can plug in any kid off the street and the thing just works.

And I was thinking about that for my business. What are some of the things that I can systemise? I started looking at all these pieces that I had, and at first I said “which of these things do I really hate?” For me it was customer support, this is really stressful for me.

So I had to figure out how we can systemise this, what are the commonly asked questions, where can I plug someone else in. That was the first person I hired, someone to do support for me. I said, here’s the frequently asked questions, and then train them. At first it feels like you’re stepping back because you have to slow down when you have to get this person caught up and trained in everything.

But after they are working, you can double your speed going forward. So then I look at the next thing, what’s the next thing that I have. So I’m really struggling with this piece of it or that piece of it. So I create a system around that that goes through what the process is and bring someone in and say this is the system as it is, your job is to now make it better and add things that you see and really take ownership of it.

So over 10 years of doing this I replaced most of what I can do. Sometimes they tease me and say, man, you really can’t do anything anymore.

Judy:     So when they tease you and you are being the conductor and you’re orchestrating and they say you can’t do that anymore, what happens to be orchestrating? The conductor?

Russell:     For me, that’s my goal. Because now I know that I can trust them with this piece of it. Like the conductor, he knows that he can trust them to hit their things. So all he has to do is just point at them every once in a while and make sure that it is happening.

So for the most part they can just run with it. That’s the key for me. As you can see from our organisation, I’ve got amazing people who are all better than me at what they do and I can trust them. That’s been my goal for ever, and were there, and it’s so great to have those people in place so they can run things and you can sleep at night knowing that it’s all working.

Judy:     The tubas are just going to happen. You say you started with the things you hated.

Russell:     Exactly. In fact I read a really cool book called Re-work and in the book he talked about hiring. A lot of people go and hire just because they have a lot of cash. He says you don’t hire until you have a lot of pain. As soon as there is pain, that’s when you bring someone in, and that’s when you start hiring people.

That’s how I was. In the morning, if I don’t want to get out of bed, what’s causing that pain? We have to build a system and find someone to run that so that I don’t feel that anymore. Because if I don’t want to get out of bed, nothing good is going to happen.

Judy:     And so you’ve got that pretty well organised, and you’ve got so much stuff going on, astonishing amounts of stuff. Then what happens to the conductor? As you’re orchestrating now, what kind of a conductor is that conductor?

Russell:     Obviously the long-term goal is to be able to replace the conductor as well, have him step out and have someone else do 100% of it. The problem is, I have so much fun with this, I don’t want to step out of it. I got so many of my needs met from it.

For me, it’s fun to be involved. But in the long term, the objective is to step out completely and replace that last piece of it. That way if you do want to retire, if you want to go on a year-long vacation, even that last piece can be run by people. I’m sure that someday I’ll get to that point where I’m looking for my replacement. But that won’t happen until I stop having so much fun.

Judy:     So that’s the ultimate goal and not a goal for now?

Russell:     Exactly. Sometimes that happens when they sell the company, that’s when they step out. Other people, if it’s a cash cow, they’ll just find a replacement and step out. It just depends on what makes the most sense for you.

Judy:     Just to check in on the scale of this thing, when you’re orchestrating, and when you’re being that kind of conductor, we’ve talked about the immediate members of your team, the people who are in your office with you and also the people who are connected over the Internet. When you’re orchestrating like that, whereabouts are your clients, your coaching clients, your consulting clients and the customers of your various enterprises. Are they part of the orchestra?

Russell:     Yes, definitely. We’re very big on the kinds of results we want to get for people, that’s our mission. That is something instilled in every one from the top of the company down to the bottom. Our goal is to get results. Our clients are everywhere. Almost every country on planet Earth. Buying our products, or other software, or our supplements, or our coaching, things like that. So a big piece is how do you collaborate at that level. For us, that’s something we’re still learning and evolving with.

Recently we started adding Facebook Groups in what we’re doing to collaborate with customers as they come in, which has been really neat, because we’re able to bring in customers from around the world.

For example, for Click Funnel which is one of our software companies, we launched a peer to peer support group. Basically, we do all of our customer support, but every once in a while these are the same questions being asked, not really support questions but things they just want opinions on. So we launched this peer to peer support group and invited everyone in, and it’s turned into this thriving community.

We critiqued each other stuff, coach each other. It’s the neatest thing. We did the same thing with our coaching company. We’ve got a couple of hundred people in our Facebook Support Group. They are all coaching each other, motivating each other, doing calls with each other. It’s been a cool extension of what we tried to do here.

It’s not perfect yet, we’re still working on and evolve it. But it’s in the forefront of our minds, how do we make the process better and facilitate those relationships among our customers.

Judy:     I’m curious about how much the customers are part of your orchestra. Are they a part, or are they external to that?

Russell:     I have never thought about it that way before. To me, the customers are the music. It’s like the orchestra is doing all this stuff, and the fruits of it are the customers. And you’re going to either make pretty music that everyone likes, or it’s going to be really nasty music. So the goal is, the better we get internally the better the results we get for our customers, the better music we can create.

Judy:    Thank you very much indeed for all of that. If people want to find out more about you, your business and what you do, where should they look?

Russell:     Our main website is DotComSecrets.com. If they go there, they can get a free copy of my new book that teaches how we grow and scale companies online.

Judy:     Lovely. Thank you very much indeed, it’s been absolutely fascinating, as these interviews often are.

I couldn’t help but be fascinated by that interview. In particular, finding out how Russell did his delegating and the fact that he delegated first the things that he hated. After all, if he’s giving away a part of him, that’s got to be a big deal. So, give away the bits you hate first.

And he doesn’t want to give away the bits he loves, the orchestration, making beautiful music, and pinpointing where the customers were in his organisation. He told me after the interview that it was really useful to him, because he hadn’t thought about it in that kind of depth before. That gave him some insights.

And that’s one of the great things about this process, exploring your own metaphor for how you do great collaboration. We can all talk about the software and systems, but when you think about how you are when you’re collaborating at your best, then you start to get to the nitty-gritty, the real deal. I think that’s what we got from Russell.

In next week’s podcast, I’ll be checking back in with someone I last interviewed about her metaphors years ago and finding out how they’ve changed as her work is changed, and the way she has collaborated has changed.

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