Ron is co-founder and managing partner at Navalent, pursuing transformational change for their organizations, leaders, and industries. He is the best-selling author of 8 books, including the recent Amazon #1 Rising to Power.
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Crossing the Unknown Sea – Ron’s Top Business Book
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3 Value Bombs
1) Don’t get defensive when you are blamed for something in business; instead, be curious to know why it happened and try to understand it.
2) Entrepreneurs often grow their businesses before they can scale, and this creates a problem.
3) Never waste your mistakes and failures – learn from them!
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(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
[00:53] – Navalent works with leaders of all kinds who are in the process of transforming their organizations
[01:30] – Ron is married and has two kids
[02:21] – Strategy and scaling up are Ron’s areas of expertise
[03:31] – “Until you can tell me what you say no to, you have no strategy”
[04:03] – List 3 or 4 things you’re the best at and the capabilities you’re building to do these things better
[04:09] – Think about how you’ll discipline yourself to add scalable processes to your organization
[05:07] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Ron was on a transformational journey with a company and there was a young man who distinguished himself as one who was ready to hit higher altitudes. After nine months, Ron saw this person’s number on his caller id. He found out this young man had been fired. Two hours later, the CEO of the company called and blamed Ron for not preparing this man to take on the responsibility needed to fill the position
[06:28] – Ron didn’t know what to say, but he wanted to know the details of why his favorite employee failed
[07:12] – “You are going to screw up”
[07:18] – Don’t get defensive if you’re being blamed, be curious as to why you failed
[09:01] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: The investigation into what happened to this promising gentleman led to a 10-year study of 2700 leaders. Ron learned that 50-60% of all leaders fail in their first year and a half. The other half of leaders who succeed were discovered to have four patterns that set them apart.
[11:49] – Don’t waste mistakes and failures
[12:11] – Sometimes glory comes buried, so DIG DEEP
[12:46] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “I began a journey of my own with coaching. I hired a coach and she has been so phenomenal… in the next 2 months, I’ll be doing 2 TED talks”
[13:28] – Ron invested in himself by getting a coach
[16:58] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “I’m not even sure I intentionally set-out to be an entrepreneur”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Nothing is irrevocable except death”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “I say thank you”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Huddle
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Crossing the Unknown Sea – “it is a beautiful book, especially for entrepreneurs who don’t understand that it’s a messy dance we do in our work”
[20:31] – If you are passionate, don’t underestimate how hard it’s going to be to get noticed
[20:55] – The level of persistence that is required of you is HUGE; don’t give up
Ron Carucci: John, I’m so ready.
John Lee Dumas: Yes! Ron is a cofounder at Navalent and is a bestselling author of eight books, including the recent Amazon No. 1 release of Rising to Power. Ron, take a minute and fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Ron Carucci: Great to be with you and your Nation. At Navalent, we spend our days roaming the planet, working with leaders of all kinds and sorts who are in the process of trying to transform their organizations, whether it’s the startup-to-grow-up journey or the grow-up-again journey. They’re usually in some kind of a mess or ditch, where they’ve gotta strategically or organizationally, culturally, do something massively different that’s pretty messy, and we go on that journey with them. Usually, that’s a couple of years of our life that we spend attached to those leaders and their babies, but it’s an awesome job to wake up every morning and think about how we’re gonna leave the world better than we found it.
John Lee Dumas: And what’s the little glimpse of your personal life?
Ron Carucci: I’m a dad. I have two kids who have launched or about to launch. I have one daughter in college in LA, one son about to head to New York City for college, a wonderful wife, and we live in the Greater Seattle area.
John Lee Dumas: Are you ready to become an empty nester?
Ron Carucci: Well, we’ve been practicing for a couple years because my son had a fulltime job. It’s funny because we both fly out next week, literally, I to New York and her to LA, to help our kids move into their own homes or apartments or whatever. I arranged for us both to land back in Seattle within ten minutes of each other next Thursday, and we are heading out of the country.
John Lee Dumas: Never to be seen or heard from again. I love it! Just kidding. So, Ron, let’s talk, right now, about your area of expertise, brother. What do you specialize in in the business/entrepreneurial sector?
Ron Carucci: Strategy and scale-up is what we spend our lives doing in the startup or early organizational phases. We spend our time helping organizations, especially entrepreneurs, who we all know hate the word no, understanding how to really focus in their swim lanes and how to answer the questions, especially if they’re at MBP or Series B or some major milestone where they have not answered the questions they have to answer.
So many entrepreneurs get in the trap of growing without scaling, and they bolt on costs, and they bolt on stuff, and they get impulsive. And when you ask them, “Tell me what is your strategy,” you get the business plan, you get the financial goals, you get the MBP specs, you get –
John Lee Dumas: You get the, “Well, we’re the Uber of blank, blank, blank.”
Ron Carucci: Yeah, right. Or, “Well, nobody else is like us. There’s nothing out there like us.” That’s just what funders wanna hear. And so, we sort of put their head to the grind and say, “You have got to be able to tell a credible story about who you are and who you are not. Until you can tell me what you’re saying no to, you have no strategy.”
So, we get real clear on helping them understand you’re never too small to have a strategy. It’s not for-big-company stuff. And if you wanna avoid that horrible phenomenon of getting to be the $80 million company trapped in the body of a $10 million organization, you have to start the process of what true scaling means now, which means adding growth without cost.
John Lee Dumas: Until you know who you are saying no to, Fire Nation, you have no strategy. I love that quote. Ron, bring it home for us.
Ron Carucci: Tell me the three or four things you have to be better at than anybody else and what capabilities you’re building to do it, tell me what swim lane you’re gonna stay in, and tell me how you’re gonna discipline yourself to add scalable processes when your organization, like a baby inside of its mom, goes through mitosis. You’re not just gonna bolt on bodies. You’re gonna be thoughtful about how you scale your organization, and you’re not gonna have to [inaudible] [00:03:52] your startup team by preparing people to lead in broader assignments. So, when you go from 20 people to 100 people, everybody’s ready.
Tell me what you’re good at, tell me what you’re not, tell me what differentiates you, and tell me how you’re gonna mitosis the organization to get there.
John Lee Dumas: Wow, that was great! That was simply phenomenal, Fire Nation. Now, Ron, I just kind of gave you this softball because that was your area of expertise, and frankly, you just hit it out of the park, but I expected you to. That’s why you’re a guest on EOFire. Let’s talk about a time where maybe you weren’t such an all-star, in fact, when you were really at the lowest of the low. I wanna hear, Ron, your worst entrepreneurial moment. Take us to that moment. Tell us that story.
Ron Carucci: It was so dark. There were so many, but this one was particularly dark. We had been on this wonderful transformational journey with this company. After several years, private equity was about to spin it off. And this one particular young man who had distinguished himself to the organization, everybody saw him as bright, smart, high potential, going places, gonna rise up, and, by all accounts, was ready to hit the higher altitudes.
And about nine months after we had finished our two and a half years there, I saw him in my caller ID, and I thought, “Oh, how nice. He’s calling to check in and say hi. I’m gonna get to hear all of the great things he’s been up to since we finished the work.” But unfortunately, what he was calling to do was tell me that he’d been fired and wanted help networking and to find another job. I was devastated, but I had barely time to catch my breath when, two hours later, the CEO of the company called, quite irritated, letting us know that they had to let this gentleman go, and indicating that he felt some of the failure was mine for not preparing him for that job sufficiently.
So, if one punch in the stomach wasn’t enough, two were worse. Nothing more devastating to somebody who has a passion for leaders and organizations to hear that one of your favorites had failed and the CEO was blaming you.
And so, I didn’t quite know what to say, but I asked if I could come in and investigate. I asked, “Can we come in and find out what happened? If I am responsible, I wanna understand how to never be in this ditch again, so can I at least learn how we might have done a better job with him?” And the CEO agreed to let us come in and sniff around to understand what had happened, and why it had happened, and how it could have gone differently.
But I tell you, there’s nothing more like a kick in the gut than a leader you admire and respect, a CEO that’s been your client for years, calling and laying the responsibility of failure at your feet.
John Lee Dumas: So, there’s a lot that I think we can take away from this, Ron, a lot of lessons, but what’s the one that you think would be most impactful for Fire Nation, our listeners?
Ron Carucci: You are gonna screw up. You’re gonna do things that you may not feel are your fault. Don’t get defensive. When somebody calls you and puts a finger in your face, be curious. Don’t necessarily take the bait and get defensive and dismiss them. Wonder. Wonder, “Okay, I didn’t wanna be here, but neither did they,” so ask the question, “How did I get here? There must be some contribution I made. Even if I can’t fathom that what they’re saying is true, I must have done something to get here. What can I learn, and how can I make the relationship with this person even better as a result of us both being here?”
If you start with those two questions, chances are you can find a way through.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, getting defensive is such a natural human emotion, so guess what? It’s okay when you feel defensive when somebody comes out and attacks you or says something. It’s a natural, natural human emotion. But I’ll tell you what, there’s few things in this world that I respect more when I hear somebody come back in a non-defensive manner. Instead, you say, “Listen, I hear you. I understand what you’re saying. I’m catching what you’re kicking out here. Let’s talk about this. What can I learn from this? How can I improve?” And you’re able to be above that defensiveness.
It’s not easy. You have to get there. That’s why I respect so much when I see people act that way, and I try myself to do that, and I’m proud of myself when I do, and I identify when I fail in doing that. When I do get defensive, I’m like, “Why was I defensive in that situation? How could I maybe not in a similar one going forward?”
So, great, great takeaway. Listen to those two points that Ron made as well, both great ones. And, Ron, let’s now shift to what you consider one of the greatest ideas that you’ve had to date. You’ve had a lot, so take us to one, one aha moment. Take us to that moment. Tell us that story.
Ron Carucci: So, let’s pick up where we left off, in a dark ditch investigating why somebody with such promise could have derailed. So, that investigation in that organization of what had happened to that promising gentleman led to a ten-year study of 2,700 leaders. What we began to uncover was that he sadly was another statistic. It turns out that 50 to 60 percent of all leaders, upon assuming broader positions in organizations, fail in the first year and a half, and that felt even more devastating. How could we continue to accumulate such carnage with all these incredible careers and talent? How could we continue to waste them?
Of course, the recruiters love it because it’s an annuity for them, but for everybody else, it’s a train wreck for the organization, for the families, for the leaders themselves. And so, we thought, “We can do better. We can surely not waste this much promising talent by crossing our fingers and hoping for a 50-50 outcome.”
So, I went back to that CEO, and I said, “I will take full responsibility for not seeing all the landmines that could have been in his way. I need you to take responsibility for putting them there.” And we began a journey together, across hundreds of organizations, to find out how is it we can eliminate the unnecessary disasters we set up when we take promising talent and raise it up.
The best part about the research, though, was finding out, “What were the 50 percent doing that succeeded?” So, what were the ones who were thriving at the top of an organization, having an impact, sustaining their influence, transforming their startups and their grow-ups? Well, the fun part was we were able to isolate four recurring patterns in those leaders that consistently set them apart, helped them elevate through the landmines and the precarious rise of an organization, and set them apart to do phenomenal things.
And that, for us, was so glorious, to know that we can do better. We can teach people on their way up how to avoid those ditches and how to have all the impact they dream of having on their way up to bigger jobs.
John Lee Dumas: I think that word “glorious” is underused. And, Fire Nation, if you’re listening to me right now, I wanna make a point over these next couple months to use the word glorious a little more often because it’s such an amazing word. I just love it. I’m kind of seeing in my mind angels with trumpets every time I hear that word glorious, and I want a little bit more about that in my life.
So, Ron, take us to the lesson learned from this. What do you wanna make sure our listeners get, if there’s just one thing? Sum it up for us in one sentence from that aha moment.
Ron Carucci: Don’t waste your mistakes. Don’t waste your failures. There could be golden nuggets lying for you, awaiting. And to build on the word glorious, your own glory may be buried under those ashes, and if you walk past them, you’re gonna miss it. Go dig. Be an anthropologist and go dig. Sometimes, glory doesn’t come in the most obvious forms. Sometimes, it comes buried.
John Lee Dumas: And I’m actually gonna correct you, Ron. I don’t think that there’s gold “could” be there. I think gold is absolutely there, in every failure and in every mistake. So, get out that pickax. Get out that shovel. Find that gold. It is in the rubble. It is in those ashes. And rise like that glorious phoenix.
Now, Ron, what are you most fired up about today? You have a lot of things to get you out of bed in the morning, but business-wise, what are you most excited about?
Ron Carucci: Well, you mean aside from talking with you, right?
John Lee Dumas: Aw, you’re the best.
Ron Carucci: So, a couple of years ago, I began a journey of my own coaching. So, I thought, “I gotta take my own medicine here.” I hired a coach, and she has been just phenomenal. And so, in the next two months, I’m gonna be doing two TED Talks in something I sort of aspire to wanna wonder about doing. After a bunch of interesting work and pitching some of the organizers, I’m gonna be at the wonderful TEDxBeaconStreet in November and one of the TEDxSeattle events in November. So, I’m very excited about that.
John Lee Dumas: Rightfully so. And, Fire Nation, this is actually a learning point that I jump on here. Ron invested in himself. He’s already a successful entrepreneur, he’s a great coach, he’s doing all the right things, but he invested in himself. And I remember, a couple years ago, I was thinking, “Why don’t I have a mentor? I talk about mentors all the time.” And I’ve had them in the past, plenty – Jaime Masters for podcasting, Lewis Howes for webinars. I’ve always invested in myself.
And I was thinking about taking up this one mentor, and it was $12,000.00. It was not a cheap investment, and I was thinking, “I can afford this, technically, but that’s a lot of money.” And I remember the piece of feedback I got from one of my peers was, “Do you ever wanna be able to charge $12,000.00 for coaching?” and I said, “Well, yeah, that’d be great.” “Well, how can you, as an individual, ever charge that if you’re not even willing to pay that for your own self, for your own education, for your own mentorship?” and I was like, “That’s so true.”
And, Fire Nation, that’s why you need to be able and willing to invest in yourself if you want to have these people invest in you down the line. So, great piece of feedback on that, Ron. Glad you’re excited about that.
And, Fire Nation, value bombs have been dropped. More are coming in the Lightning Round, which we’ll be getting to when we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Ron, are you ready to rock the Lightning Round?
Ron Carucci: Ready to rock the Lightning Round, John.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Ron Carucci: It’s such a funny question because I’m not even sure I ever intentionally set out to be an entrepreneur. When we started our firm 13 years ago, I think it was because we loved what we did. We didn’t love doing it for a larger company. So, our small firm had been acquired by a larger company, and we all know that when you get bought, you get to feed the dinosaur, and that wasn’t fun anymore. And so, we thought, “We’re now at a place in our lives where we can keep this dream alive. We love what we do. We don’t need to do it for a larger enterprise. We can do it for the reasons we love to do it,” so we just, probably very naively, did that.
Well, fast-forward ten years, John, and the ability to attract the kinds of clients we wanna work with and not the sociopaths was limited. I was still getting the phone calls from the people I just didn’t wanna work with, and I didn’t know what to do. I thought I’d done everything I was supposed to be doing to create demand – become a thought leader, do digital marketing, do all the things, and through social media, that you were supposed to do.
Well, when I hired my coach, that was my low point of, “I need help. This is beyond me,” and I was happy to take my own medicine. She came back with a brilliant diagnostic that revealed that not only was I not doing anything I was supposed to do, I had no clue. The things that I eventually learned to do would have never occurred to me in a million years.
So, we don’t all come out with the right skill sets. When you want to start and grow a business, when you want to set yourself apart, it’s a crowded world out there, and learning how to distinguish your voice – just because you have a great voice doesn’t mean people are gonna find you. And so, I needed help, and asking for the right help, gosh, there’s just no price tag to put on that.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Ron Carucci: Nothing is irrevocable except death. My mentor, she gave me that advice a long time ago, and it helped me make far less fear-based choices, to remember that you do get do-overs in life, not all the time but a lot more than we think.
John Lee Dumas: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Ron Carucci: I say “thank you.” I remind myself every day that there are so many people in my life for whom I’m grateful, who help me do what I do every day, who love me well, who care for me, who allow me to participate in their worlds, and I make sure I’m constantly thanking them.
John Lee Dumas: Recommend one Internet resource.
Ron Carucci: Huddle. It’s an online collaboration tool, and it’s a great app. Intermedia is also another great online app. It helps sync up email and sync up a bunch of your productivity tools in one easy place to get them.
John Lee Dumas: Recommend one book to join Rising to Power on our bookshelves and share why.
Ron Carucci: David Whyte wrote a book called Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, and it is a beautiful book, especially for entrepreneurs who don’t understand that it’s a messy dance we do with our work. It is a reflection of who we are, and it’s not entirely defining of who we are. And what is the relationship between who I am and what I do, and when does that relationship become dark? It’s a great book, and I think it should be required reading for the planet.
John Lee Dumas: Ron, let’s end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Ron Carucci: If you are passionate about your idea as an entrepreneur, if you’re passionate about your product, if you’re passionate about the impact you wanna make, don’t underestimate how hard it’s gonna be to get noticed out there. It’s a crowded world, and everybody has the delusions of grandeur that we’re gonna go viral on YouTube and the whole world is gonna come to our doorstep. It’s just not how it works.
And so, don’t be the one that dies on Heartbreak Hill halfway up. The level of persistence that are gonna be required of you – we’ve all heard the stories of depression and anxiety and the dark days of, “I almost had to close my door before the funding came in.” Know what you’re signing up for, but don’t, don’t stop. When everybody else is falling off of Heartbreak Hill, stay the course.
I’d love for your listeners to come join us at www.Navalent.com. We’d love to give you our free eBook on Leading Transformation at www.Navalent.com/Transformation. I’m on Twitter at @RonCarucci, and I’m also on LinkedIn, so come find me, and I’d love to keep chatting.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you have been hanging out with RC and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type “Ron” in the search bar, and his Show Notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz – timestamps, links galore. And, of course, head directly over to Navalent.com/Transformation for that nice little giveaway.
And, Ron, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, brother, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Ron Carucci: John, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
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