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Mike Calhoun: “Give Your Team the Proper Resources”

Give Your Team the Proper Resources. As entrepreneurs, we’re always trying to cut costs, but I see a lot of people take this too far. For example, does it make sense to pay an employee to research and compile a particular set of data, or might it make more sense to simply buy that data, […]

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Give Your Team the Proper Resources. As entrepreneurs, we’re always trying to cut costs, but I see a lot of people take this too far. For example, does it make sense to pay an employee to research and compile a particular set of data, or might it make more sense to simply buy that data, freeing your team up to focus on more important tasks?

When we provide the proper tools and resources, it demonstrates to our team that we care about and value them. It also helps them to perform at a higher level, which increases job satisfaction and creates that snowball effect I mentioned earlier.


As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Calhoun, an entrepreneur, investor, and the founder of Board of Advisors, an elite mastermind group made up of the nation’s most disruptive business owners, real estate investors, technology providers and marketers.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I was very driven from a young age.

I moved out in my junior year with my high school friend, John Cristadoro. He later became one of the original members of Board of Advisors, the mastermind group I run today.

Right out of the gate, I got a job and started a business at same time because I wanted stability, but also wanted growth. So while working at Home Depot in Atlanta, I launched a small tile business on the side. Even today I’m blown away by the numbers I was cracking off.

It didn’t take long for a girl I was seeing to convince me that I needed to get an education. I gave in, but I quickly realized that traditional education wasn’t for me.

It’s not that I don’t like education — I’m a huge advocate of it, but for me, the path of traditional college was not necessarily correct.

I didn’t have the patience, but a bigger factor was that I was disgusted seeing students who didn’t seem to care, lazily feeding off their parents.

I thought to myself, “Man, I just want to go create some success!”

This was right around Y2K, and I ended up doing a fast track for certifications in Microsoft, Cisco, HP, Adobe, and other technology products.

I just knew in my gut that the internet, which was brand new at the time, would be the future.

This ended up working out well for me because I came in right as all of these companies were updating their certifications for the new versions of their software and hardware.

But at the time, I didn’t even know how to type!

When I showed up for my first class, they had already begun and I was two months late into the curriculum.

I finished the thirty-six-week program two months early and ended up taking my exams for the new certifications even before my teachers did. It was crazy because they were asking me what was on the exam!

Once I was done, I did what most people do — I went out to try to get a job.

I thought I should have been a shoo-in because I had all these brand new certifications that no one else had yet. Instead, I got blown off because I had no experience.

Fortunately, the guy who was supposed to interview me said “Hey, you don’t have any experience, but if you want to go to lunch, let’s go to lunch.”

I thought “This is my opportunity!”

After we talked for a bit, he said “You know what? I like you. I’m going to give you a shot. I’ll probably have to fire you. But I’ll give you a shot. Let’s see what you can do.”

My business partner Matt Andrews always says, “Never pass up an opportunity to eat a meal with someone you can learn from. It’s amazing what happens sometimes when we break bread with each other.”

That was intensely applicable here.

Another human being that has the power to make an exception and give you a shot.

That job got me stable income and great credit, which helped me get my first home. I purchased it for $63,500, flipped it for a $92,000 profit, and then leveraged that into over 200 properties over a three year period.

I started to outline my process and automate certain aspects of it, which then became a website, and eventually became a software platform for running my business.

Then as I then began to take this platform to the market, promoting it to bankers, servicers, foreclosure attorneys, etc., the market began to crash, so I shifted my focus to investors who were trying to thrive in a chaotic market.

I was able to survive during this period of time because I understood that the market is always in a cycle. More importantly, I understood where we were in that cycle and I adapted to thrive in it.

I eventually sold that business, and from there, I flirted with the idea of building a mastermind group for a while, before eventually jumping all in on that.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I think one of the more interesting stories was how my mastermind group, Board of Advisors, started. It was an idea I had been thinking about for a while, but when I made the decision, I went all in, investing a large sum of money to acquire the perfect domain name — which someone else already owned. We go it up and running very quickly, had phenomenal results, and haven’t looked back since.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

N/A — there have been mistakes, but none were particularly funny, or even interesting.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?

I wholeheartedly believe that people who quit, don’t quit their job, they quit their managers.

I think most of us intuitively know this because we’ve all seen our share of good managers and bad managers, and the environments they’ve created for their teams.

We’ve also seen good managers produce amazing results despite the circumstances they faced, while bad managers produce an average, or even terrible results, despite having everything in their favor.

Ultimately, it’s up to the manager to create a positive environment where their team can thrive and succeed. An environment where they want to stick around for the long term.

The ones who do that understand their role.

The difference between the successful and the unsuccessful managers is that the successful ones understand their role is to serve both the company and their team, while the unsuccessful ones worry only about themselves and the company.

When you approach leadership with the heart of a servant, you’ll start to see your team become significantly more receptive, eager, and proactive. Equally important, you’ll create the kind of environment where people want to work.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

Synchronizing large teams comes down to process and communication because your team has to understand what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.

This is especially important today with so many teams working remotely.

When I set my mind on a particularly large goal recently, I was forced to go all in on this concept.

I already had a fairly large team.

This new goal required a completely new approach to them because my own team was now working with several new partners for marketing, technology, and other facets of our business — and each of these companies had their own teams behind them.

This meant that we had increased the size of our team exponentially, virtually overnight.

The solution to this was to follow a documented process and to communicate clearly and frequently in a way that kept everyone in the loop.

The processes came from our internal team and from the teams that we had partnered with, and we communicated primarily through a project management system, with less frequent meetings over Zoom.

This maximized productivity because instead of wasting time in frequent meetings, everyone could get all of the information, files, data, etc., they needed, when they needed it, while remaining focused on their work.

We found that this was a great way to keep the entire team in sync while remaining agile.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

I’m going to outline five factors in successfully managing a team.

The insights I’m going to share come from my own experiences as well as the experiences of the members of Board of Advisors.

I feel that this approach demonstrates the principles I’m going to share, because successfully managing a team is not about you as the leader.

It’s about the team as a whole.

I credit a lot of the success I’ve achieved to the people I choose to surround myself with, so I believe it’s my responsibility to highlight them as well, and to share their valuable insight.

So let’s get started.

Build a Team That Shares Your Vision

The first and most important part is building a team that shares your vision.

If someone is just there because of the money or convenience, they won’t have the level of commitment needed to propel the team to massive success — especially when things become difficult.

When people share a common vision and are aligned in working towards a shared goal, they will almost always outperform teams who are there for other reasons.

That’s why you see organizations like the US Navy SEALs regularly achieve objectives and overcome hardships together that an ordinary person would never even consider trying.

Larry Yatch, who served as a SEAL, shared his thoughts, which I think illustrates this point perfectly.

“As Navy SEALs, we were often operating in high-risk, dynamic environments where one mistake could easily result in the death of friendly forces.

My responsibility as an officer was to be perfectly clear on the mission from my commanders and convey that to my men.

Our commanders never told us WHAT to do on a mission — they told us WHY we were executing the mission. They gave us what we called the Desired End State and left it up to us to determine how to best achieve that.

So when you’re creating the vision for your team, spend more of your time crafting the WHY than you do the WHAT or the HOW.”

I also want to make something clear — while it’s important to build your team going forward with people who share your vision, I don’t want you to get the impression that you can’t help some existing members develop a greater level of commitment.

It’s just that if you start with the right people from the beginning, you’ll achieve far more, in a shorter time period, with less effort.

The really cool thing is that when your team aligns with your vision, they’ll stick by you through most anything.

I say this speaking from experience because several of the people who were with me in one of my first companies are still with me today, several companies later.

Put People Where They’ll Thrive

People are more than interchangeable cogs in a machine.

It’s critical to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each member of your team, and then place them in the ideal role based on these criteria.

Real estate investor, Matt Andrews, has hired thousands of contractors and consultants in his business over the years and states “If you place a highly talented person in a role where their talent is not fully utilized, they will be unfulfilled and ultimately ineffective.”

This was an important lesson for me, especially as I’ve grown my current business.

Sometimes you’ll find someone who may be average in some ways, but they’re particularly gifted in one skillset. Successfully managing a team requires us as leaders to identify that skillset, and put that team member in a role that effectively leverages it.

Carrie Charles, who is a Marine Veteran, and today, runs a successful staffing firm, offered great insight on this.

“Companies too often place people in roles, and then forget about them. Employees could have talents that are underutilized or hidden skills that could be an asset to the organization.

To increase productivity, you should periodically perform a human capital audit.

Not only will you maximize the efficiency of your team, but you will gather valuable data that will increase retention rates and overall happiness.”

Far too often, though, entrepreneurs faced with financial or manpower shortages force people into roles they don’t perform well in.

This leads to subpar performance, employee dissatisfaction, burnout, and eventually, turnover, so we need to avoid that whenever possible.

But when people are placed in a role that is well suited for them, they tend to perform better. This gives them a much greater level of job satisfaction, which encourages them to work harder and continue to improve, creating a powerful snowball effect.

It’s also important to understand that over time, the ideal role for some people will change as they grow and develop as individuals, and others may hit a limit in their growth.

If you remember that you’re always managing a dynamic situation in regards to people’s roles, you’ll manage your team more effectively and they’ll enjoy their work more.

Give Your Team the Proper Resources

As entrepreneurs, we’re always trying to cut costs, but I see a lot of people take this too far.

For example, does it make sense to pay an employee to research and compile a particular set of data, or might it make more sense to simply buy that data, freeing your team up to focus on more important tasks?

When we provide the proper tools and resources, it demonstrates to our team that we care about and value them. It also helps them to perform at a higher level, which increases job satisfaction and creates that snowball effect I mentioned earlier.

Demonstrate Appreciation

It’s not just about the paycheck.

You need to demonstrate that you care about and value your team beyond simply paying them for their time.

This is important because when employees feel valued, they tend to perform better. They’re willing to go the extra mile and chip in help even when it’s not required. These are the people who serve as ambassadors for the organizations they’re a part of, providing far more value beyond the job they perform.

The opportunities created by these types of people are incalculable.

So it might surprise you to learn that, despite the massive value this produces, demonstrating your appreciation for your team is surprisingly simple.

Bonuses are one approach, but usually the least effective, because it’s just money, so it’s typically viewed as just an extension of their paycheck.

A better approach is publicly praising your team, individually and/or as a group, for specific performance. The more detail you can share about what they did and how it impacted the organization.

Matt Andrews shared his take on this, saying, “In my experience, people crave recognition. Acknowledgment is a special tool an effective business leader can employ to bring out the best in their people. People will do things for recognition that they would never do simply for financial compensation.”

Nurture Your Team

We’ve all hear the story about the two managers discussing training for employees…

Manager one: “What happens if we train our employees and they decide to leave?”

Manager two: “What happens if we don’t train them and they decide to stay?”

Nurturing your team is critical for two reasons.

First, it helps them to perform at a higher level because they’ll be better prepared and equipped to do their job. And second, by investing the time and resources in nurturing your team, you’re again demonstrating that you appreciate and value them, which builds a stronger culture within your organization.

So how exactly do we nurture our team?

Mentorship plays a huge role in this. Everyone from the CEO down to the ground-level manager should actively mentor the people they’re responsible for.

This requires extra work, but the return on funding is tremendous.

You can also provide educational resources and training. This might include formal education like college, trade school, and other classroom training, as well as less-formal options like consultants, trainers, and online courses.

Another approach is to give your team opportunities to forge stronger relationships. When they view each other as more than just coworkers, it creates a more cohesive team.

When you think of teams that have these kinds of relationships, it’s hard to find a better example than the United States Marine Corps.

Part of the reason for that is their culture, which is different than most organizations, including other branches of the military.

Patch Baker, who served as a Marine before building a successful marketing agency in the civilian world, shared why the Marines are so effective at this.

“One of the fastest and easiest ways to build a cohesive team is in the planning process. Give them clearly defined goals individually and as a group. Encourage friendly competition but the team ultimately wins and fails together.

A “team” by definition is a collection of members operating together to accomplish the same outcome. If all of those members don’t have the same end goal, the team will never reach its potential and division among the ranks is inevitable. Give them a clearly defined way forward, success is almost a certainty and the byproduct is unit cohesion.”

Personally, I was surprised to learn that operations in the Marine Corps are nothing like what you see in movies. They don’t just stand around waiting for their commanding officer to bark out orders.

Everyone from the highest-ranking officer all the way down to the lowest ranking Private is expected to clearly understand all aspects of a mission so that when things go wrong, as they often do in the war, everyone can step up and continue working to achieve the mission.

That kind of capability is a game-changer in successfully managing a team.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

You alone are responsible for the culture within your organization.

The actions you take, how you treat people, and the behavior you either accept or overlook will create the culture within your organization.

All of these factors need to align with your vision in order for your team to feel aligned and work as a cohesive unit.

When you focus on the team rather than yourself, your organization, your team, and you will thrive.

I talked a lot about this during an interview on The Culture Matters Podcast, with Jay Doran and I believe it’s the foundation of a successful business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I believe I have done exactly that when I created the mastermind group, Board of Advisors.

That’s because when I created the group, it wasn’t about me at all. It still isn’t and it never will be.

Board of Advisors is 100 percent about the members connecting with each other to brainstorm ideas, leverage connections and resources, and create new opportunities between each other. And I think I’ve been very successful at that based on the feedback from our members and the results it has produced for them.

A majority of our members have experienced exponential grow in a short period of time because of the mindset within the group.

Even though Board of Advisors is a group of individual entrepreneurs, investors, creators, and inventors, they work together as a team because of the culture we’ve built within the organization.

I’m really blown away by what I see in the group.

Members will frequently partner up on new opportunities, but just as often, they will jump in and freely share advice, connections, and resources to help each other with no expectation of anything in return.

As much as I’m proud of the group and what it’s produced for the members, I also have to say that I can’t take full credit for it.

The reality is that we have a lot of awesome people who poses a both a servant and a leader mindset, and I have been blessed with the opportunity to bring about one hundred and sixty of them into one place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Never underestimate the power of a relationship.

Thank you for these great insights!

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