Make Your Business Independent of YOU! (Shawn Johal)
November 5, 2021
Would your business flinch if you were gone for a while? Shawn Johal, CEO at Elevation Leaders, believes that you must design your business so you can walk out at any time. In this episode of Making It, he shares that, to him, “making it” means one word: freedom.
Welcome to Making It! This weekly show explores the lives and stories of entrepreneurs as they share their unique perspectives on their success and the path to making it.
When Shawn's biggest competitor copied 200 of his products and offered them for one dollar less, Shawn could have quit business entirely. Instead, he concluded that his business model wasn’t innovative and disruptive enough, and he needed to change the way he did things.
Fortunately, he shares his hard-earned wisdom with his clients and with us on Making It. He teaches us to look at four main areas and create a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for each of them. He also advises us to ask this question: Will your business flinch if you were gone for a month or even three months? He believes that entrepreneurs should build their businesses to sell, even if they don’t end up selling; they have to separate themselves from their business so they can walk away at any time.
In this episode of Making It, Shawn shares that, to him, “making it”means one word: freedom.
“I could probably be gone for a month, two months, maybe even three months, and the business wouldn't flinch. And to be honest with you, that was the point at which I decided to pursue a new calling. Being able to leave your own business, I think, is the ultimate sign that you've made it.”
– Shawn Johal
Guest bio:Shawn Johal, the CEO and Business Growth Coach at Elevation Leaders, launched his business growth coaching practice to inspire entrepreneurs and their teams to achieve happiness and success. He has spent the last few years expanding his Scaling Up system to help entrepreneurs and business leaders reach their most audacious goals while finding personal balance.
Shawn is a certified implementer of Scaling Up methodology, working with companies from $5M to $200M in revenue in industries as diverse as tech, manufacturing, marketing, services, and beyond. He also leads numerous leadership-focused workshops and gives talks to amazing organizations across Canada.
Shawn is the best-selling author of The Happy Leader: A Leadership Fable about Transformation in Business and in Life. It's a life-changing story about human transformation—from the triumph over grief, despair, and frustration to the powerful healing brought on by forgiveness.
He is obsessed with high performance, the pursuit of happiness, and the power of mindset to fuel a successful life, and he’s committed to bringing his message to the world.
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I'm Sean Johal and you're listening to Making It! I run a business called Elevation Leaders and we help business owners globally 10X their business evaluations.
I think that the only way to have a massive impact in this one life that we get is to have the highest level of energy at all times. If you want to realistically have that high level of energy, you absolutely have to be changing the way you start your days, everything you do throughout the day and how you end your days. Every moment counts. It really does. So it's incredibly, incredibly important along the way that you figure out the right that happens for yourself. What are you going to do specifically to make sure that your level of energy is that it's highest level and that you become somewhat untouchable when it comes to stress, anxiety and you know mental, you know, illness of any type. So there's a lot of things that you can do and they don't have to take hours at a time. You know, I, I hear sometimes stories of people saying you gotta get up at 4:30 in the morning and start doing some crazy things. You know, most human beings don't have that kind of time. I think we're all busy. So I would start by really just trying to put aside 10 minutes in the morning, make sure you start your day the right way. It's scientifically proven that in the first moments when we wake up, we're in the theta brainwave state, that is the brain wave that has the most impact on our subconscious mind. What you do in those 1st 10 minutes when you wake up are going to have a massive, massive impact on the rest of your day. Obviously do not check your phone because that's a stressor. Don't start reading the news or looking at anything negative. You need to have a very specific way of bringing the right type of positive energy to yourself.
My father in law, very very smart businessman along with my mother in law and brother in law started a public lighting company. The crazy thing was that he took a company that was bankrupt and brought on the Toronto Stock Exchange which still today no one understands how he pulled that off. It was pretty crazy. And from 1999 to 2007 he grew that business from 0 to 50 million, in revenue, all through the public markets acquisitions and mergers. I joined that family business in 2004 as a national sales manager. I was more of an employee, I wasn't directly involved in the larger strategic decisions or in acquisitions and mergers. I was really handling the sales for the company. And it went really well for a couple of years until the big economic crash in 2006/7. That started throughout the US there was a company that was purchased in the US that we probably should not have purchased, made things very very challenging. And the whole dynasty came crumbling down. So from 50 million basically down to nothing in the matter of a year. It was absolutely devastating for the family. A very very difficult time. Very challenging. But from, as we talk about the Phoenix that rises from the ashe,s of my brother in law and I had a chance to buy back three divisions and start the company from scratch. So that was in 2008, early 2009. 2012, we start feeling good about ourselves. The bank says they're going to take us on. We started, you know, giving ourselves pats on the back thinking that we've made it. And then our biggest competitor came out and copied our 200 products and launched them in the market a dollar less. Each. Basically coming directly after us. And these were people that were part of our previous business, they were friends. It was the worst backstab you could ever imagine. Terrible feeling. And we thought our business was over, might as well pack up close the doors. And yet it was the best thing that ever happened to us, as business owners, because it made us realize if someone can just copy our products and launch in the market, we really don't have a disruptive or innovative business model and we need to do things differently.
Yeah, I think entrepreneurs a lot of times will let ego get in the way and it is a very dangerous thing to do when you always want to be the one with the answers and you always want to be the one making all the decisions. I truly believe the hallmark of an amazing leader is finding people who will compliment your style, but that will definitely be absolutely smarter than you in what they do. So if you're going to be bringing someone in operations, you better bring in someone who knows operations inside out and who has a much better understanding and grasp than you do of operations because that's what you're hiring them for. If you want to wear all the hats in the business, you should just try to do everything on your own. So I think that's incredibly important.
I think a lot of companies don't spend enough time working on values and when they do work on values, they use them more for marketing and to me that's a huge mistake. Company values are internal. It's actually not important that anyone externally sees those values. There are a ton of things you can give your customers and your suppliers and other people to see, values is not one of them. You need to build your values in a way where you're really looking inward.
I will say that... what making it means to me is one word, which I think we hear a lot and it means different things to people, but for me it's "freedom." So for me, what happens is business owners, I believe have amazing ideas, have a lot of ambition have goals, and they start a business and then they will often become, the business will become their soul. It will become everything that you're living, breathing, doing every single moment of your life. It often takes over your family life, it takes over everything that you're doing. So it's something that's just really, really all intoxicating. But I think that you have to learn to separate yourself from your business. And I always explain to entrepreneurs, you need to be building your business to sell. Even if you're never going to sell it, you need to build your business to sell, and you need to separate the hats between being a shareholder and being an actual president or CFO or CEO or whatever your role is, those are two different hats. And you should be able to do it in a very specific way that you can walk away from your business at any time. And you know that things will be absolutely perfect without you. And I don't think there's a lot of business owners that can say that today. And to me that freedom, that ability means that you've made it because it means that your business is no longer dependent on you.
I don't know if I've ever realized that I really made it. I'm always on a path to go for, you know, to make more of an impact, to help more people along the way. I think the main criteria, I would say was, there was a time in approximately 2017 where we decided to hand over a lot of the, what we call the employee experience, to our team members. So at that time my partner and I were working on everything that was really the culture of the business. We were the ones planning everything, making sure that everyone was really happy. And we decided to hand over that big responsibility to, you know, six other people in the organization. Six people who chose very specifically for their abilities. And that was one of the times that we delegated away something that we held very precious to our hearts with a little nervousness and they just did a phenomenal job. I could probably be gone for a month, two months, maybe even three months and the business wouldn't flinch. And to be honest with you, that was the point at which I decided to pursue a new calling and being able to leave your own business, I think is the ultimate sign that you've made it, personally.
Why is it that so many people want to start businesses and then when they start their businesses a lot of times they're completely unhappy. I think the answer is that we don't take number one the time to celebrate our wins. This is a huge problem in, I would say definitely Western culture where we set goals for ourselves and then when we get to the goal, we think we're going to be happy and satisfied. But instead of celebrating and appreciating having achieved a milestone, we, right away, move on to the next goal. We right away say, okay, you know what... I've achieved this goal. Now I'm going to go and look for the next goal, which is going to be three times bigger, five times bigger. We do that in our personal lives with material goods. You know, you get your car and you already think, okay, what's gonna be the next nicer car that'll get next time? And we see these type of this type of mentality and businesses and it's a very dangerous way of living, thinking that you're always going to be happy when you get to that next milestone. So I think that would be the number one reason is this idea that you're always chasing but never celebrating the wins and when you live that way, it's almost impossible to be happy because you're never getting to a point of satisfaction. What we need to be doing instead is really focusing on the journey itself and realizing that the journey to that goal is actually what we need to be appreciating every single day.
You do have to make sure that you're at the top of your game, both mentally, physically emotionally and spiritually before you can help others. And so what does that mean? That means you need to do a lot of introspection. Are you using your energy the right way. Are you treating your loved ones how they should be treated? Do you meditate? You exercise, you eat properly? You have an amazing morning and evening routine? We hear a lot about morning routines, but not enough about evening routines. Are you really taking care of your body? Your mind, your soul the best way possible and living your best life? But being at the highest level of yourself, the highest version of yourself that you can possibly be... that has to come first. If you can't do that, it will be almost impossible for you to go out and help others. And you know, we talk about concepts, one of which I think is incredibly important called the time anger gap. This was something that I figured out why seeing an interview with the Dalai Lama and someone was asking him, how is it that you're never upset? You know, you have such a control on your emotions that you're able to be even kill all the time and always seem joyous and happy. And he started laughing cause he laughs at a tremendous amount of if you've ever seen in an interview with him and what he was saying was that how can you think that I'm always happy I spend my life are meeting people who are poor, you know, seeing Children and I can't eat any food. I'm seeing sickness, disease, war? He says "I'm angry all the time. But what I've learned is that I can't stay angry to help people. I have to get over my anger as quickly as possible and when you get over those things it's your responsibility as quickly as possible to reduce that time anger gap and ensure that you can move on to other things and why take it a week, a day or even an hour being angry, Why couldn't that be just one minute or one second?"
You have to define happiness for yourself. So as an individual, whether you're a business leader, whether you're an executive doesn't matter. We all have different definitions of happiness. I encourage every single person to definitely look deep within to understand what it is that makes you happy. There's different things for everyone, but I think you need to be very careful as an individual not to necessarily only look at material things. Not only looking at that next promotion, only looking at when you're going to have that next object, it's a very dangerous way of living and unfortunately in this day and age we all do too much of it myself included. So define what happiness means for you.
The best way to do that is to look at the four main buckets in our lives. My mentor Warren Reston has always taught me you want to look at personal first, then family, then business and then your community and the best way to look at it is to take what we like to call a BHAG. So a big hairy audacious goal for each of those categories. And then once you've built that big hairy, audacious long term goal then you break it down. Okay then what would I need to do in three years for that to happen? What are the key actions over the next year and what I need to start stop, continue doing over the next 90 days. If you do that simple exercise for those four buckets, personal family, business and community and don't forget community, a lot of people forget the community, the community one is very important. Because when we give is proven gratitude and giving will actually bring you back so many incredible things.
I'm Shawn Johal and you've been listening to Making It! You can find me at elevationleaders.com or on Linkedin at Shawn Johal.