Find your motivator. Someone on the team must be the one who quantifies the progress of the team and motivates the members to continue to strive towards where you want to be. This person is essential in your team’s accountability. This person is creating the atmosphere that allows the team to flourish.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin A. Goodbread, CFP®, CEPA®, CVGA®, owner of Heritage Investors and Heritage Business Advisors, and owner of FinanciallySimple.com.
Justin is a nationally recognized financial planner, financial educator, wealth manager, author, speaker, and entrepreneur. Armed with 20+ years of experience starting, buying, selling, and owning businesses, Justin spends most of his time helping fellow business owners across the country increase and manage the value of their businesses and personal assets so that they can live the life of their dreams now and in the future.
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 am a southern guy from the Brunswick, Georgia. I started working as an entrepreneur at the age of 15 with my own landscaping business. I operated it while earning a degree in horticulture from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. After meeting and marrying the love of my life, I was able to sell that business for profit and move to Knoxville, Tennessee where I live today.
After the move, I earned a business degree and worked in a large wealth management firm for many years, but in 2009, one of my business partners and myself ventured out to open Heritage Investors. Heritage is a boutique-style wealth management and financial planning company in West Knoxville. As I gained more and more experience in the world of business and financial planning, I discovered my passion for helping small business owners and for breaking complex financial concepts into financially simple terms. In the simplest terms, I want to help business owners understand how they can grow the value of their business and plan for a future that does not consist of an business entity running their lives, but the owner’s life running the company.
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?
I guess there was a summer day, I was about 16 years old at the time and about one-quarter mile from where I lived was a lake my brother and I would go fishing and swimming at.
It was a hot summer day in Georgia which meant it was about 400 degrees outside and so we decided we wanted to venture out on the lake. About the same time, we realized our dad had taken the truck my brother and I shared away from the house. In the back of that truck is where we had left a trolling motor we used to power and steer our fishing boat. Once my brother and I realized we didn’t have the truck to get the boat to the water or the motor to power the boat, I went inside and told my mom that we couldn’t go fishing.
What she said to me has profoundly impacted my life since. She said, “Figure it out, there has got to be a way.” So, my brother and I hooked the boat up to the four-wheeler and drug it down the sandy road to put it in the water. Inside that boat were two shovels. We spent that afternoon paddling the boat around the lake with those shovels.
That experience taught me that you never give up, there is always got to be a way. There is not a human being alive in business that does not want to throw in the towel. But there is always a way to accomplish what you want to accomplish. This does not mean it is easy- if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. But if you have the gumption and tenacity to see it through, there is always a way. This is the same principle in business and one that continues to push me through difficult circumstances.
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?
When I set out to create a blog for business owners, I came up with a name I was sure would easily capture others. I called it Planning is Fun. However, it turned out planning was fun for those searching to find an architect. In fact, there were several looking to secure that domain name as well. My takeaway from that debacle was to make sure my words better described what I was doing.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Heritage Investors and Heritage Business Advisors stands out because of our team members. I have the privilege to work with highly qualified individuals, each with unique backgrounds. Many have owned or currently own businesses. We understand the pains, common pitfalls and driving desires that are often voiced by our entrepreneurial clients. This insight into our client’s allows us to address concerns head-on and build processes for their company’s success. We provide strategic business planning for small businesses- by experienced small business owners.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I would give them the same advice we share with our clients; do you know specifically what you are trying to accomplish with your career? Are you able to articulate the goal or direction in a crystal-clear way? This is the foundation. Dealing with financial advisors there is a lot of “burnout”. Many think it is a technical industry, and there is a good bit of technical information we have to know, but what I have found is those individuals who stay the course are the ones who are willing to forsake everything to make their dreams happen. “We help others reach their dreams and by doing so we are able to reach our own.” This Zig Ziglar quote is one I use to shift my own mindset.
None of us can 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?
First, I would say my parents. My parents instilled the value of hard work and a work ethic. My dad used to tell me “You never let another person outwork you. Son, you are a Goodbread. There are not many of us, so people remember your name- if you tell someone you are going to do something, you do it.”
My youth leader growing up taught me that no matter my size, I am a short fellow compared to a lot of people, that no matter my intellect that God had something big for my life.
My wife, she is the biggest cheerleader out of anyone. She always says that if I want to do it, figure it out- make it happen, you can do it! Those are the people in my life I would give credit to.
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?
A good company is one that fulfills its obligations, providing the goods and services; doing what it has told its customers that it would do. This company is average, they are not separated apart from anybody else in their industry. They look familiar- but a great company is one that every facet of the company can be replicated or placed on a pedestal at a national convention.
For example, if you looked at the auto manufacturing or auto repair industry. A good company is one that provides good service to their clients, they are meeting the payroll requirements, they can stand behind the product or service. But a great company is one where every division, every person in that organization is unified and they can go to the national sales convention and are the envy of their peers, earning the title” best in class”.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know your current status: do a self-assessment of where you are right now (ex: SWOT)
- Do you know, crystal clearly- defined, where you want to be? Can you state exactly where each department within the company needs to be within an allotted timeframe.
- Can you align your team to the vision? Are all the team members committed to that core value when they are at work? (everyone from the janitor to the CEO need to be aligned to a common purpose)
- Outline what each person’s specific area of authority, responsibility, and accountability is to your vision. What specifically is each member responsible for, who are they accountable to and what authority do they have to make it happen?
- Find your motivator. Someone on the team must be the one who quantifies the progress of the team and motivates the members to continue to strive towards where you want to be. This person is essential in your team’s accountability. This person is creating the atmosphere that allows the team to flourish.
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?
My personal belief is there is more to life than clocking in & out to do a specific job, and it is a core reason I started Heritage. Having a purpose larger than a profit margin or bottom line I believe is instrumental in the longevity of an organization’s success. Our purpose at Heritage is to impact the lives of as many business owners everyday by providing education, and measurable ways they can grow the value of their business while creating a proactive exit plan.
Not only should you create a purpose or an overarching vision for your business, to affect the most change that purpose needs to be a motivator of your whole team. The iceberg effect says that only 4% of the front-line information hits the c-suite, this shows us just how disjointed organizations can, but in order to motivate and unify everyone you must have the same value committed across the team.
We are Marshall, a famous movie was about a football team who, by all odds should not have been successful, but because they were rallied around a common cause become unstoppable. There are so many examples of this. If you look at tragic events in life, I physically witnessed a woman almost lift a car off her husband after a car accident. There is no way I could have done that- but she was motivated beyond belief and through that motivation she accomplished something supernatural.
These goals are not money, they are not prestige- these are not core motivators that will move mountains. A vision to motivate a whole team needs to be a well communicated purpose.
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”?
My first piece of advice is to stop and clearly define where your company is and where you want it to be- this is key in understanding how you will see growth and refocusing. Especially at this time in history, so many industries and organizations are being forced to refocus their goals and operations, this is the first step. I would say you need to have key performance indicators defined and implemented to ensure you are consistently tracking your progress. This also allows you to retarget when your processes may not be working. Lastly, I would advise them to do a deep inventory of their company. With the clients we work with at Heritage, we look at 8 key areas that impact the value growth of a company and we create actionable plans to improve those areas one at a time. Through the KPIs that we define, we can focus in on each area and measure the change that impacts the overall growth of the company.
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?
During the turbulence that businesses have experienced in 2020, I had a business owner comment to me “Man, COVID has rocked my business” and this struck me because I had to share with him the reality, COVID didn’t rock your business, it revealed where your business was not prepared for the unexpected. The best strategies I can share is to create simple process to follow and reevaluate these processes regularly — adjusting and correcting when needed. Having emergency plans in place, educating your team on those plans are essential in preparing your business for future turbulence. This is a perfect time to ensure these are in place because without clearly outlined plans, your business will be in difficult positions again.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
I do not believe it is a particular action, it has to be the emotional toll it takes on the owner and management individuals. During COVID I watched strong, determined men and women break down crying over if they could afford to pay their team. Leaders, whoever they may be owners, managers or department heads- they don’t quit work and they don’t carry home work in the sense of a task but often times it’s in the form of emotional toil. They wake up, and don’t get sleep at night over a team member that is struggling. The most underestimated is the responsibility of leadership. Making decisions knowing that they are going to harm people is unbelievable.
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?
The questions of increasing a conversion rate leads me to anticipate that we are quantifying all the steps in between a lead and a client. The problem with the question is most businesses are not truly measuring all the steps from the initial visit or top of the funnel, to the sale or the bottom of the funnel. Step one is to measure and quantify all the steps in between the initial visit and the final sale. The question assumes that that is happening. If that is happening, do a client inventory with your already existing, ideal clients. What messaging speaks to them? You can do this as easy as creating a survey from colors, shapes, numbers, pictures: a marketing survey. The beginning is tracking the data points this is your road map to increasing success
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
In simplest and often most frustrating terms, this comes only with time. As a company you can do random acts of kindness to help your status as beloved, but trust is given and earned by both parties and it takes time for that to happen.
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 to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Simplicity, the simpler you can create your process, the more WOW there is. We are in an ultra-complex world; WOWs today are delivering the simple thing you told the client you are going to do. That in it of itself is unbelievable even today, but it is the simplest things that matter.
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.
You must live an authentic life and your social media for your brand has to be authentic. There is always a risk to the simplest decision on if you are going to get out of bed in the morning or not. In business there is always a risk to social media, but my best advice is to be authentic in who they are and to showcase personality. “People work with companies they know, love, and trust”- a popular statement by Jim Collins. Companies on social media just need to create authenticity. My mind immediately goes to Wendy’s on social media- they were doing Jib-Jabs and interacting with Taco Bell and Burger King; and it was just fun, and people want to know fun.
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?
Lack of focus on marketing. People do not focus on marketing enough, they tend to believe if you build it they will come- the way you can address this and avoid the error is hire a top notch marketing firm, spend a little bit more money, or borrow some money. Create a marketing program from the top up that creates every single step inside the funnel. Marketing is the fundamental point or purpose of business. Most businesses are sales businesses, they are in the business of selling their service or product. For example, A plumbing company is in the business of selling plumbing and they have got to learn how to market.
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. 🙂
For the owners of companies to have their businesses prepared for exit. This does not mean that they are going to sell but they are prepared to be the top, best in class business. If the company is striving to do this, it helps the shareholders, the employees, the employees’ families, the customers, the customers’ families. It helps the entire society. If you look at the impact during the pandemic, in the US we had 5.3 million American small businesses which took PPP money- that the heartbeat of our country. 40% of our population at the time was employed by small businesses that nearly 170 million Americans who were directly affected by small businesses. If businesses are not healthy, that causes problems at home. If businesses are healthy and people enjoy where they are at and where they are going, the Homefront is better.
How can our readers further follow you online?
You can also connect and follow me on social media
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!