Continuously solve marketplace problems and find ways to make money doing it.
Learn how to create wealth (cash on hand, cash flow and working capital) inside a company by increasing top line without burning money and resources doing it.
Stop pushing products and services and start pulling with value — must work to building and deliver quantifiable value propositions to the market.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kent Billingsley, founder and president of the Revenue Growth® Company, LLC (TRGC). He has become America’s Revenue Growth® Architect by helping thousands of entrepreneurs and CEOs (representing over a million employees) generate several billion in new sales, as well as tens of billions in new revenue and profits for large corporations. He has personally designed, built, transformed, and turbocharged several thousand organizations in 36 countries. Over the last 20 years, his original content and trademarked programs have helped thousands of entrepreneurs and employees become millionaires and multimillionaires. He can be reached at [email protected].
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started my corporate career right out of college in Dallas, Texas at a division of PepsiCo, Frito Lay. After climbing the ranks for five years I went to work for Ross Perot at EDS (bought by GM and then HP). EDS is a technology services company who created the concept of “outsourcing” in the 60’s. During my term, in the mid 90’s I was asked to form an internal management consulting team to analyze the strategic business units to uncover and discover how to optimize their growth and profits. That success with business transformation projects quickly promoted me to chief strategy officer (CSO) and chief marketing officer (CMO) of Asia Pacific. About a billion in sales and 11,000 employees in sixteen countries.
In 2000 I came back to the states to help build out an explosive growth public software firm called Micromuse, Inc. I grew my division from 2M dollars to about 38M dollars in 2 ½ years. My sales teams achieved an astonishing 98% sales close rate for about 3 years. In 2002 I was ready to retire with tens of thousands of share of stock (bought by IBM in ’05).
Many of my CEO friends had asked that I write a book about explosive growth and business optimization. But since I only have about a half dozen cases studies I instead starting helping them with their companies. Almost twenty years later myself and people who work with me have helped thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs, CEOs and employees become embarrassingly wealthy with their companies.
Today I have over a thousand case studies and have put the roadmap, formulas and methods into a book called Entrepreneur To Millionaire — How to Build A Highly Profitable Fast-Growth Company and Become Embarrassingly Rich Doing It. It is a four phase recipe for creating wealth inside a business and not spend a dollar doing it. Mark Cuban has written the forward for the book and said he wish he would have had this roadmap when he first started. He clamed the book a must read.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Starting my management consulting firm right after 911 was quite challenging. I had targeted large tech companies and VPs of sales to offer sales optimization. But after about 9–12 months I had almost no traction. I was burning through money and couldn’t figure why the value proposition wasn’t connecting. During some “authentic” talks with some prospects the VPs of sales shared either they didn’t need help or they were scared of help.
One day I started to call back one of the retained searched firms that had wanted me to interview for some CEO roles and I stopped dialing. I said, I have not sold everything I own, so I will find a way to make this business work. I “ate my own dog food” (used my other methodologies) and went back and worked through becoming Revenue Ready and Market ready and then went back out. In less than a few months I signed several major long-term contracts.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
After a couple of years in business I decided to invest and put on a major public marketing event. A friend owned a wonderful movie theater with the big leather chairs and in aisle dining. He sold me on having the public paid event at his theater as it had the most expensive audio video set up in all of Dallas, Texas. The venue was filled with people who had spent several hundred dollars to be there.
The day before I cracked a tooth in three parts during lunch I but couldn’t go to the dentist or even take any pain medicine that might jeopardize my voice or cloud my thinking. Thank goodness for my friend’s expensive PA system. The day of the public event with the venue packed everything started off great. Then about fifteen minutes into the event I was ready to show my first video to further prove a point. All the lights went out and the PA system shut down.
I went on to deliver almost seven hours of content almost yelling to be heard in the back of the room, while drawing diagrams and figures on flip chart paper. The event turned out great because I signed some new clients. However, the most important thing was one of the attendees was a CMO of a small start-up. Her company only had revenues of a couple hundred thousand. She convinced their CEO they must be in my high intensity revenue growth program. They were in program for about two years and eventually the company generated a yearly run rate of 3OM dollars.
My biggest takeaway was to never count on technology. Since that time in presentations in countries all over the world, crazy things have happened at venues. You must be prepared for anything bad to happen — because it probably will.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Out implementation model is superior as we provide all the templates and tools and then work with the leaders every week for years.
Our “revenue growth” — versus business growth — value proposition is so unique, compelling and proven. We have helped thousands of companies generate explosive sales, massive revenues, and extreme profits — using the resources they already have.
Where there are thousands of speakers, books and internets sites offering to help people growth their businesses if they spend money. Our work, is not only counterintuitive it shows how so many common business growth paradigms are not only flawed but will eat the cash and profits of your company. We show entrepreneurs, CEOs, and leaders of all size and type companies how to achieve no-cost highly profitable growth.
Other approaches to growth actually burn profits to make money, where we show how to “create wealth” inside a business. Over 99% of companies are struggling with cash issues — little cash on hand, inconsistent cash flow, and almost no working capital. They are not running a rich or creating a wealthy business. The way to create wealth inside a company is to generate huge amounts of top line and spend very little in the way of money, time or resources getting. That gap is what creates wealth. And money — a cash rich company get through any major issue — including pandemics.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I think one of the most important things to do is create a personal reward system and tie it to goals or achievement. But be creative in what kinds or types of rewards. Some people need tangible things like cars or houses, where others need time off and sabbaticals. It’s important to work through what “recharges” you. For example, for many business events or trips where I am the keynoter or doing a multi-day workshop, sometimes I stay in the country or town and play a few rounds of golf with the clients or people I know.
Along with the reward system, its important to create the goals or achievement that makes sense too. For example, I have a book coming out and it has been years of work proving the roadmap in the book works in all types of companies. I”ve set some sales goals for the book that if I reach them, I can get a new luxury convertible sports car I’ve had my eye on. Also, my family loves cruises and if my firm hits some milestones or achievements that determines the type and upgrades for the vacation and cruise.
Having said all that I also recommend doing things no matter what you accomplish or achieve. For example, we camp (actually family tent glamp) up to twenty days a year. Sometimes we go for seven days at a time and that is really great to recharge.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ve been so fortunate to have so many mentors and leaders push and challenge me to be better and grow that I wish I could name them all. One of my favorites is Edward Yang who was CEO of Asia Pacific Region for EDS/HP all through the 90’s. I worked for Ed as CSO (Chief Strategy Officer) and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer). Overall, with JV’s we had about 11,000 employees and operating in 16 countries and running about 1B dollars in revenues.
When I first arrived and moved to in Hong Kong I brought with me all the “gung ho” western do it now, just do it, do it again, let’s do it faster, kind of in your face leadership style and approach. I had been through dozens of leadership programs and initiatives and so much focused on time and money.
Ed happened to listened to one of my calls with my country teams and I was excited to get his feedback with how hard I was going to drive things and pushing people to excel. But it was quite the opposite. Ed was Chinese (from Burma) but had an American mother. He truly is an “East meets West” kind of guy.
However, after the call, Ed pulled me aside with no on in the conference room or on the call. He, said Kent, you have really strong leadership to get things done but that is going to hold you back in Asia. Confused I asked, what do you mean and what do you recommend. Ed then added, you must learn how to listen — really listen first. Then after you listen you must make sure you learned what was really said. Then you will be ready to lead. He reiterated — Listen…learn…lead. I thought I was great a listening and learning, but maybe for the States but not the way it needed to be done in the Asian countries.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Good company — offers great products, services and provides a wonderful customer experience. It is a good company for employees, vendors and all stakeholders. The company is respected by the community and the clients love what they do and provide.
Great company — does everything that a good company does but excels at one thing — creates wealth inside the company and for the employees and stakeholders and future proof the business.
By creating wealth, a great company can do four things that good companies can’t:
- Give back to the community and charities huge amounts in the form of monies, time and resources
- Reinvest in research, plants and equipment
- Get through bad times and protect the company and employees from layoffs
- Share the rewards with employees, stakeholders and partners
It’s important to note that money by itself is not the measurement of the company, but what it’s leaders do with the money. During the Covid-19 pandemic tens of thousands of good companies have closed and will never open again. Delivering extreme value to clients, making the world better, and creating business wealth from doing it is the great separator.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Continuously solve marketplace problems and find ways to make money doing it.
- Learn how to create wealth (cash on hand, cash flow and working capital) inside a company by increasing top line without burning money and resources doing it
- Stop pushing products and services and start pulling with value — must work to building and deliver quantifiable value propositions to the market
- Must have at least one strategic transformation initiative going on at all times — more if the company has the “change muscle” to do them — but having one puts a company in the top 1 tenth of 1 percent of companies
- Master competitive dominance to own their space
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Being a “purpose driven company” or being focused on something bigger than their products and services is an important attribute of a great company. Culturally people are all working to be better stewards of the environment, society and the world. Being purpose driven shows a higher level of thought, maturity and value of a company.
There are many benefits of being “purpose driven” providing “give back” or sustainability and here are three of the most important. It can attract new or better clients, 2) attract and retain top talent, and 3) attract investors and stakeholders.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
I spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs, CEOs and leaders helping them become “unstuck”. The first most important thing to do is to understand real root cause for being stuck or stalled. Too many leaders don’t have extensive transformation or change experience and they end up trying to fix symptoms. In most case the cure is worse than the cause.
For example, almost all interventions or “fix it” solutions focus on the people or employees. There are billions (tens of billions worldwide) spent on training, motivation, inspiration, efficiency, teamwork, etc. However, being in the business transformation space for 25 years has proven that only 1% of the time will a “people fix” solve the root cause of flat or stalled performance and growth. In too many cases the company was not, or no longer, Revenue Ready, Market Ready, or Go to Market prepared. Meaning they had the wrong strategies, structures, models, processes, metrics, or reward systems. Which means you can fix, turn, burn or change employees all day long and only see minimal results. Or worse, do all those things and grind employees out so the good ones leave and the great ones never hire on.
Another major issue is most leaders are focused on business growth or incremental success. Or more from more. When they should be focused on “revenue growth” more from less. Growing (generating) more revenue from every asset (clients, contracts, sales pursuits, products, services and locations, etc.) is what creates optimized profitability. Or what I like to call “create business wealth”. In many cases a company doesn’t need to be any bigger and can triple to quadruple the profits being earned.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Yes and let me start where and why financial stability is such a struggle in good and bad times. Over 99% of all companies follow a mantra of “more from more”. Meaning to grow you have to take on more clients, contracts, products and services. This is called “adding”. And every time a company adds a good thing — they will also add a bad thing. When you take on more clients, contracts and offer more products and services, you add more overhead, more infrastructure, more employees, more management, and more costs, etc. Which means even if you get bigger you didn’t make all the money you could. This philosophy is further drive by “to make more you have to spend more”. And there is the problem you burn your money -eat profits — to grow.
This is the major reason that 99% of all businesses have cash struggles — little cash on hand, inconsistent cash flow, and almost no working capital. And they never create wealth inside their company.
And so leaders to make money they go to “more from less”. They cut costs, cut benefits, cut technology investments, and they cut to make money. This doesn’t scale, isn’t highly profitable, turns off employees and isn’t sustainable.
A better approach, especially during tough economies, is to learn the principles of “more from less”. Learn and implement ideas and methodologies that help a company crate more new client demand without spending a dollar doing it. Wake up the sleepy areas of a business that can convert prospect demand into cash, clients and contracts without lifting a finger.
I’m not talking about more technology, I’m taking about the areas of the business such as targeting, packaging, pricing, messaging, marketing, sales, partnering, etc. There are dozens of areas in every company that can be turned on, leveraged and drive cash generation for free.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of marketing and sales. Profit burning.
The broad answer and the theme of most of my answers is the ability to “create wealth” inside a business. Last century the business success model was to “trade” products and services for dollars and make a fair margin. Rinse and repeat as many times and as fast as you can. It was a purely transaction based model.
Two problems with the model is that margins are super thin because every industry is being commoditized. And second, the cost of client acquisition is more than ever. Which means that “trading” or transaction model produces no wealth.
A superior approach is to follow a methodology and have every part of the company and every function be in line to generate “more from less”. For example, how can marketing spend less money generating higher quality leads. How can sales convert larger and higher margin contracts 2–3 times faster? How can operations make fewer deliveries or production with less costs? How can support manage fewer clients to minimize costly hours?
For example, 67% of marketing and sales efforts are a complete waste of time, money and resources. Those two functions are profit shredders. One new salesperson add eight more categories of costs. What if one salesperson could produce the equivalent of ten salespeople? Training and development will never achieve that scale of production. But that is just one example in how you “create wealth” — more top line and bigger bottom line — which is the one aspect of running a company that is a “game changer”.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
By the term visit I assume you mean either a website visit or a in store walk in or any kind of sales conversion? I will answer you question in a counterintuitive way that has helped my clients generate millions (even billions) up to ten times faster.
Strategies to convert and there are a lot of them all fall into the bucket of reactive. What I mean by that is those strategies — whether they are hard are soft approaches — all about converting the demand that is created. To dramatically increase the conversion time, quality and repeatability leaders must focus on how they “create demand”.
Here is a client example using SEO. One of our clients was spending a fortune on SEO and had earned (paid) their way to the number three position for their space. It took time and a lot of money to get there. However, they were getting a lot more leads but their conversion rates weren’t really much improved so they were still getting their fair share.
The big mistake they were making was their SEO phrase was all about who they are and what they do. It wasn’t motivating, differentiating, or compelling. But it did generate more leads — while spending a ton of money to get them. Kind of break even.
After working with them I discovered an interesting statistic. Companies who did a thorough evaluation (not SEO leads), not a price check, chose this company eight out of ten times for this particular service. That became their new SEO phrase. Find out why companies who do a thorough analysis hire this company 8 out of 10 times…
When you clicked the link to their website everything on their site supported that claim and actually taught new prospects the right way to procure these services. Why this is so important is this approach created much higher quality demand by filtering out the “price shoppers”. Now conversion rates off the web not only went up but were of much higher quality.
To optimize conversion rates it all starts with “how” you create demand.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Too many companies are killing themselves to “out do the customer experience”. What happens is they either set expectations way too high or they eat up all their profits trying to satisfy people who might never be satisfied.
I think it’s critical to capture the perfect balance between what the client or customer expects and what you can exceed.
One of the best examples is Southwest Airlines. Year after year in good and bad economies SWA is embarrassingly successful. As a customer you know that you are going to be part of “cattle call” seating based on certain size groups when you arrive. In the past you knew you would be served peanuts as your in flight meal. They had to ban peanuts now because of allergies. But you also knew that SWA would take off and land at almost the highest rates of all the airlines. In addition, the flight attendants wouldn’t put up with any crap, but would smile when they told you “no”. The point being is that everyone who flew SWA knew exactly what to expect and what they would get.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
First of all there really isn’t a choice to be engaged on social media or not. Brands are fighting it out on social media and everyone must play or be left behind.
At one time in my career I was a Chief Marketing Officer of a billion-dollar technology services firm. I had to go through practice and even some certifications for media interviewing, public relations disasters and contingency planning. In addition, because I managed teams in 16 different countries I had to have protocols and procedures in place for any kind of situation — good or bad.
Either those skills must be in house or a company must have access to professionals that manage brand and image recovery. It is critical to go through scenario planning and put in place plans and protocols for how to handle different social media situations.
One last point, I believe it is important to welcome social media engagement and what comes with it. For example, on YouTube channels I own we want to engage with every comment, question or concern that we can as it drives the algorithms. Yet we still block, report, and work manage the idiots that are part and come with every platform. In addition, social media is an area that can provide tremendous feedback loops and identify blind spots that you won’t hear from customers or clients.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
They are on the wrong path. They are so focused on starting, building and growing their business that they never learn how to “create wealth” with their business. What that means is they are so focused on burning time, money and resources to get bigger but they either at some time discover they’re business is not bigger or better.
Creating wealth with a business means you have to start out on a different path. For example the classic evolution of a business is start, grow, mature and decline. And everyone tries to stay in growth mode as long as they can. Instead a set of phases to create embarrassing wealth inside the company and all the stakeholder are these four phases 1) Revenue ready, 2) Market Ready, 3) Go to Market and 4) Own the market.
Each phase is about creating great demand for the offerings while spending the least amount of resources doing it. It’s the difference between incremental success and optimized
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My mission is to dramatically expand on the work my company has done. We have helped over a thousand entrepreneurs and employees become millionaires and multi-millionaires with their businesses. That has created thousands of jobs, brought hundreds of new products and services to markets and has created tremendous wealth that has been shared with communities and causes all over the world.
I personally want to help a
“million entrepreneurs become millionaires”
by helping them learn how to do a lot more than start, build, and grow a business — but learn how to create wealth inside a business to create a fortune for the employees and stakeholders. For the first time in twenty years I’m sharing the formula for creating business wealth in my book Entrepreneur to Millionaire — How To Build A Highly Profitable Fast Growth Company and Become Embarrassingly Rich Doing It. Mark Cuban has helped me by writing the forward and saying, “This is a must-read book.”.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Twitter — https://twitter.com/KentBillingsley
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!