If you’re barely surviving from day to day, you’re probably not being what an entrepreneur should be. Entrepreneurs should thrive. They must have a clear idea of what they want to achieve and what process they are going to use to achieve it. They must keep their eye on the prize and derive joy from the journey of getting there. There is probably no person who can better elucidate how this plays out in practice than Joe Rojas, a respected business coach, bestselling author and CEO of RedSapiens, who joins Jeffrey Edwards in this fun and value-packed conversation. Make sure to take notes for this one as you’re not going to want to miss every single piece of advice that Joe has to impart from his rich leadership and coaching experience.
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How Entrepreneurs Thrive: Actionable Business Building Tips With Joe Rojas
It’s always wonderful to reflect on the times with people who I’ve come across over my career. Now is one of those opportunities to check in with someone who I had the pleasure of working. He is not only one of the most passionate and dedicated people I’ve ever met. He is very skilled and talented in what he does. He brings a lot of value to the clients that he serves and also to the community in which he lives. Without further ado, let me introduce our guest, Joe Rojas. Before I even get into his bio, let me say this. He gave me his bio and I was like, “Do I have to read this?” I feel like I need to because I want to honor what he has done. I can go on probably the whole show talking about this guy. I’ll stick to what you gave me here, Joe. We’ll move on from there.
Joe Rojas is on a mission to create a world where all entrepreneurs can thrive. He is passionate about business building and business builders. He is the Founder and CEO of Red Sapiens. He has helped dozens of entrepreneurs create million-dollar businesses and see their explosive growth go on from there. He is a Coach and Technology Evangelist. He is also an author of the book, How Entrepreneurs Thrive. He is a well-renowned speaker at the SAGE Summit. He’s also been on other stages within the PTI in the technical area on the national level. Welcome to our show. Sitting in the Leader’s Chair is our guest, Mr. Joe Rojas.
How are you? It’s so good to see you and get to spend time with you.
Joe, I feel the same way. I remember all those times that we were in the early days when you were going to start on some new ventures. It was a lot of different elements that you were dealing with at that time. It wasn’t just the business, but there was also working with clients and customers. There was family. There was personal. There were all these different layers that made up that whole journey for you. When you look back on what you have accomplished to date, what are some of the highlights during that time that stand out for you in regards to lessons learned and what you were able to pull from them that have contributed to your success now?
I always have a coach. I remember you were my coach back then. The success that I was able to get for myself, I attribute it a lot to you. I love you so much because you were such an instrumental part of my growth as a leader. That has been profound and moving. When I look at the things that I’ve been able to accomplish that are amazing, those are spending time with my family, being able to take off three months to be with my son when he was born, to be with my daughter when she was born and being able to right the wrongs of the past and reach back.How do we stop grinding and start living a great life? That’s the game now. Click To Tweet
I have an older daughter and I needed to reconnect and build that relationship that I have. It’s been great. She spent a week with me. At the end of the day, it’s about the life that we’re living and that we get to produce amazing results inside of our own lives and with the people in them, which is why I’m so committed to helping entrepreneurs because it’s time to stop hustling, grinding and start living. That’s the game now is, “How do we stop grinding and start living a great life?” To do that, you have to build enough infrastructure so that you can live a great life without having to work 100 hours a week.
It was how you were saying that I felt that evangelist coming out in you. I was about to raise my hands and say, “Amen, brother. Testify.” It’s required that entrepreneurs, on average, work anywhere from 55 up to 70 hours a week. It’s interesting because part of the reason that people had to go into business is that they say, “I want a better life for my family. I want to accomplish more for my family,” but the pursuit of that leads to spending less time with family. For you, when you were in that period of your life, what were the things that you saw that you needed to change in order to gain more time and leverage with your family and other things you do?
The one thing that we help our entrepreneurs, whether they’re in our platinum program, where we’re working with them one-on-one, or they’re in our Thrivers 360 program, where we’re working with them in groups, is to build a leadership team. If you’re a solopreneur, being in our peer group helps you because they become your leadership team. They help you make the decisions that you need to make inside of your business. If you’re going to be effective at what you do, you have to have a team, or it’s you running 24/7. The big mistake that I see is that, “I have to make more money to have a team.” Sometimes you got to take a pay cut, build a team and then that team is going to help you leverage yourself so that you can expand.
When did you figure that out for yourself?
When you told me.
I said, “You got to have a coach.” As you all can tell, we did not rehearse this beforehand. You’re sitting in that seat now as a coach to other people in providing advisory services. It’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing to do it. What was it for you that puts you at that point, “I got to do this?”
I was cranking between 100 to 120 hours a week. We were producing great results, but I didn’t know who my family was. I had a bunch of employees. I had 10, 12 employees, whatever it was, but I still don’t know who anybody in my family was because all I did was grind and work all the time. Now, I get to spend time, like I spent some time with my daughter. She’s an artist. She’s doing this amazing painting on glass now extraordinarily. She’s ten and her stuff is like a professional artwork. It’s cool stuff. To answer your question, when I looked at, “What is it that I want to have in my life?” I kept saying that I wanted to have this family, but what I kept doing was not spending time with them. That was the moment where I was like, “Wake up buddy.”
I noticed that time was passing and that I wasn’t doing those things. If I was going to do those things, I had to level up. Part of leveling up is you have to build a leadership team that is proficient enough to be able to run the business in your absence. If you don’t have that, then you’re in trouble. It takes time. It takes figuring out what you want the culture to be inside of the organization. You have to put the time in. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.
What were some of the actions or thoughts that you had around how to build your team? Like you said, it’s finding the right people. What were the criteria that you’re using to select the people who you want to work with and work around?
If I look back at that team, it was about integrity, delivery, execution, friendliness and accountability. I put those initial values and then later I found that some of those values needed to be permission-to-play core values. They needed to be more fundamental. We needed differentiators. When I was first starting, I just needed a group of people who can deliver. It’s about putting the values together and then creating your interview process and everything that you’re going to do around those values so that when you’re looking for people, you’re finding people who are consistent and congruent with your vision of where the business is going. What I say is that, “As long as you’re under 50 employees, you need everybody rowing in the same direction. You don’t need people who are pulling strong in a different direction.” At some point, you need dissent. Dissent is important for growth, but you need a positive dissent.
It’s those positive disagreements. It’s okay to butt heads from time to time as long as it’s leading to something that’s fruitful versus something that drives things down to the ground.
In the beginning, you want everybody rowing in the same direction and nobody pulling the business down. Later on, you’re going to want to get some minds in there that are challenging the status quo as you get bigger. The biggest challenge that I see for entrepreneurs is they don’t build a culture. They just hire people for skills. If you hire people for skills, you end up with a group of disparate people. I would rather hire somebody for values and train them in the skills because you can train skills. You can’t train values.
What are the values that underlie the Red Sapiens and the people who would come into your organization?
For us, we finished redefining what they are. The first one we call, “Defining the future that we are.” It’s about inventing from out there, not from over here. It’s creating from that future and then working our way back to now. It’s almost like you’re a wizard. You create the future the way you wanted to look and then you work your way back to the present and see, “What are the actions that I need to take now to be able to fulfill that future?” The second one and I think this one is at the core of everything we do is ruthlessly loving.
The way you say that, I’m supposed to feel warm and fuzzy inside. At the same time, I feel nervous and threatened. Ruthlessly loving, what does that mean?
It means that we’re going to love you, even when you don’t want to be loved. It means that we are going to stand for your greatness, even when you can’t stand for your greatness. It means that we’re going to hold you to a standard that you may not be ready to hold yourself to yet. You should be a little scared when I say it. When you’re ruthlessly loving with somebody, you tell them their zipper is open. You tell them they got toilet paper on their shoe. You tell them they got spinach in their teeth. You tell them all the bad things. You tell them the things that are not working. You tell them what it’s going to take to do it. You push them when they don’t want to be pushed. You argue with them for their own growth. You bring it.
It’s like going to a gym and you’re that personal trainer who is saying, “I’m not putting up any excuses. This is what I see for you get done.”
You got to get it done. That’s what we mean by ruthlessly loving. The next one is igniting the fire over and over. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to get excited about something and then some other shiny thing is going to come. That pilot light for that first thing is going to go. Somebody has got to come back and light that fire again and say, “Do you remember that first thing, that new shiny thing? That’s not it. That first thing, that’s what we’re doing.”Define the future and then work your way back to the present. Click To Tweet
They’re not the twenty different projects you have on the shelf that are pending. It’s, “What’s the one thing we’re going to get done here?”
Two weeks, you’re going to say, “All right, I’m good.” Two weeks later, you’re going to do it again and then we’re going to go, “Remember that?” It’s about igniting that fire over and over. The other piece for us is unafraid of saying it like it is because sometimes you got to say it the way it is. “This idea is not going to work. This business thing you want to do is not a business thing. It’s a nice hobby, but it’s not a business thing.” Sometimes you got to say the thing that needs to get said when it needs to get said.
It sounds like that couples with that ruthless love. They got, “I’m saying this to you not to hurt you, but I’m saying this because I care about you and I want you to be successful. Let’s not spend and invest time in something that’s going to take you nowhere. Let’s take a step back and re-assess what is going to be a winning formula for you.”
The last one is dogged about the results. You got to be like a pit bull about it. Sometimes when you don’t see results, you have a tendency to want to change gears, do something different or fix it. Sometimes you got to stick in there before the results start to get produced. Because we merged with Engage and StoryBrand, we’re doing a lot of marketing. People think that they start marketing and in two months, they’re supposed to see results.
Isn’t that the case? I set up a website and then everyone should see me in the world.
Yes, everybody wants to see you and they should all come and start throwing some money at you. It takes time. You have to build a presence. You have to have the right content. You have to figure out what your avatar is. You have to do all that stuff. Being dogged about the result speaks to doing what it takes. It’s doing what’s necessary, not what’s possible.
Joe, it sounds like a part of it will also include knowing what you’re measuring and keeping track of that too, will be a part of that, would come into accountability with it. Can you say more on that?
Can you say that again?
Dogging people on results means that there’s somewhere you have to know what you’re achieving. What are you measuring? What are the metrics that we’re looking at so that we know what’s going well, where to improve and what to adjust?
I’ll go back to the first one, defining the future that we are. The first piece is creating what it looks like when it’s finished, so you know what you’re measuring against. Most entrepreneurs show up to work every day and they’re just working on whatever the hell is in front of them. It’s not heading in a particular direction. If you’re going to be dogged about the results, you need to know what the results are, what they’re meant to be and what the outcome looks like. There are only 4 or 5 North Star KPIs, Key Performance Indicators, that your company needs for you to know if you’re heading in the right direction. If you have those 4 or 5 North Star key performance indicators, you can say, “As long as this is on track, I’m good.”
The second that KPI goes down, one of them could be customer satisfaction. If you use something like the NPS score, the Net Promoter Score, I don’t know if everybody is familiar with it, but you can Google it. If you use something like the NPS score, if you can see your NPS score drops below eight, you know you’re in trouble. Something broke in your process somewhere. Now, you need to go find where that happened, but you don’t need every measure of every little thing that happens between that eight and the end result that you’re giving your client. You just need that number. You can go look and say, “Where in the process of the breakdown it happened?” To know where in the process, the other piece you have to do is have defined the process. In order to be dogged about the results, you have to be able to articulate the results and articulate the process that leads you to the result.
When you’re looking at, “What makes that difference between a hobby and a business?” that seems to be a major differentiator. With a hobby, there is no measurement. You do it. Whatever happens, happens versus a business.
You’re having a good time.
It makes money great. If not, I get to sell some things on eBay. That’s wonderful, but it hasn’t been sustainable over time. You got to have those important pieces in place to measure and adjust as you go. Like you said, it sounds simple. Many people who read this are very savvy in the business, having business experience. They would say, “Yes, that makes perfect sense.” What is it that you find is holding people back from actually doing it?
It’s shiny things. I finished a book, Staying Focused in a World of Shiny Things. What are those distractions that keep us from living the life that we want? What keeps you from producing those results are all these shiny things. What do I mean by that? Shiny things come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. One shiny thing might be, you go out and do a project for a client. You get an award for that project because it’s the best. Now, all you’re talking about is that project, all the awards and all the, “Look at all the accolades we’re getting for this project and look at all this stuff,” but you know what you’re not doing? You’re not focusing on the next project.
That success inside of your business can become a shiny thing the same way that any other outside influence can become a shiny thing. What happens is you take your eye off the goal for 4 or 5 months while you’re enjoying the success that you had. Now, your sales go down, everything goes down, your NPS goes down and you’re like, “What happened?” What happened was the shiny thing, but you didn’t see it as a shiny thing. You thought it was the natural progression of a business. You get a result and then you’re supposed to enjoy it for about five minutes.
I had to push back on that. I think there’s something that can be said about, “You recognize. You acknowledge it. You celebrate because it’s not just you who lead to that result. There are other people you want to recognize for their contribution.” What I’m hearing is, “Don’t sit on the laurels of what you’ve done. This is great. It’s a milestone. Celebrate, recognize and posterize it wherever.”
Acknowledge it, post it on the website, do everything that you need to do with it but then stop. A month in, you’re good. You’ve celebrated enough. Now, you need to start looking at, “What are the next projects? What are we doing next?” That’s one shiny thing that could happen. Another shiny thing that could happen is you decided you’re going to focus on a new hobby or on a new thing. There’s nothing wrong with having hobbies, things that you’re going to do, going on trips or doing any of that stuff. If you don’t prepare your team and you take your eye off the outcome that you created, the future that you created and you’re not delivering on that, that’s one thing that I find. To answer your question specifically about small businesses, companies that are under $500,000 in annual revenue that are 1 to 3 employees, the biggest thing that I see missing by far, every single time, is a plan. There is zero plan. Nothing. No values, no vision, no mission, no quarterly planning, no five-year plan, no six-month plan, no two-week plan, no plan. As cliché as that sucker is, “Fail to plan,” everybody knows the rest.
What you’re saying brings back a lot of memories with some of the discussions that you and I have had over the years. At the same time, you see it now. You’ve helped businesses achieve million-dollar successes. What is it that Red Sapiens is doing well that is allowing your company to help people?
We’re following our own process and it took us a while. One of the things that we weren’t doing from 2018 to 2019 was not following our process. We were training our process to other people, but we were now following our own process. One of the things that we did in 2020 effectively is to follow our process. We’re stepping it up and that is what’s driving the growth. I don’t care whose process you follow. If you follow a process and you set up some good objectives, you’re going to be effective. It doesn’t matter if you do it from my book, from Gino Wickman’s book, from Patrick Lencioni’s book or Think and Grow Rich from Napoleon Hill’s book.It doesn’t matter where you get your process from. Pick one and stick to it. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t matter who you do it from, whose book you do it from and whose training you do it from. If you do it from Jim Rohn’s training or from Tony Robbins’ training, it doesn’t matter. Pick a process, stick to it and follow it. If you pick a process, stick to it and follow it, then you’re going to produce results. That sounds simple, but that’s where it falls apart. People pick a process and then three weeks later, they change it to a different process. Two weeks after that, they change it to another process. You got to pick one process to follow.
I would think that some of the reasons why people would do that is simply expectations. It’s the patience thing, “I want to get results in the shortest time possible.” How did you deal with that when you were getting started?
One of the things that I had to do, I remember some coach I had taught me that I had to create short-term goals. It was some guy. I don’t know. I think that guy now does a show called The Leader’s Chair. I had to create short-term gains. What we help our clients do is the short-term results so they could see something. You set goals every week that you’re out to accomplish without taking your eye off the outcome. The goals have to serve the outcome because you can’t get the methodology confused with the outcome. What I mean by that is that you have to always keep your eye on the outcome and the methodology sometimes will change. Sometimes your process for producing a result might vary a little, but it’s all inside of your intended outcome.
You always have to keep your eye on the prize. If you keep your eye on the prize, you’re focused on that intended outcome and you’re using a process, you may vary that process, but don’t change processes in the middle of it. You have to stick to your guns. If you can do that, you’re going to see long-term results every single time. Like I said, it’s simple, but it’s not easy because people want those short-term results. You have to have a good series of short-term goals. In the face of them, some of them won’t even occur like that. You shouldn’t celebrate that much, “You finished that report. Yay.” That report, that piece of content or that thing is the thing that’s going to drive the next step. You have to celebrate those short wins but not for a long time.
What is that next win for you that you would celebrate?
We started a program called Thrivers360. We’ve been doing the groups now. We started in March of 2020. We’ve been perfecting the process and we’re now ready to launch it as a product. We have our group that’s going to be launching. For me, having that group with 15 or 20 people in it, that’s the next short-term one. That would have me be excited and celebrating for about a week and then I got to look at the next.
Ultimately, when everything is up and running, you’ve got things moving forward. Let me ask you this. What is the ultimate goal for you with everything you’re working with?
It’s to create an ecosystem inside of which if you’re an entrepreneur. If you want to build a $100 million company, I’m not your guy. If you’re a solopreneur and you’re making somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 a year and you would like to have a $4 million or $5 million company that produces consistent results and lets you employ 15, 20 people, enjoy yourself, give charity to where you want to give charity and have a good life, I’m your guy. I want to build an ecosystem where when an entrepreneur enters that ecosystem, that’s what’s going to happen for them. They’re going to build a $4 million or $5 million company. It may take them 2, 3 or 4 years. It depends on when they enter, what their product is and what they’re doing. They’re going to have that life. That’s what I’m up to is having people live great lives because they can employ people. They’re doing the thing that they’re passionate about. They’re happy in their life. They’re making sure that the people who are in their business are happy in their life.
Why is that important to you?
Because I remember how much it sucked when I wasn’t. I had a job where I made a ton of money. I worked a ton of hours, but I was unhappy. It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Now, I do exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it and I love it. I want everybody to have that experience of loving what they do, getting up in the morning excited, looking forward to what’s the day going to be like, to the type of day that you’re going to have because it’s exactly what you wanted to do your whole life. That’s amazing. That’s the kind of life that I want people to live. They get up in the morning. They’re super excited about going to work because they know they’re going to make the difference that they were put on this planet to make because they said so.
Joe, as always, you bring all sorts of passion. It rings true. I don’t think I misrepresented you at the start. I said, “He’s a passionate guy.” You have definitely proven that now. For the aspiring and emerging entrepreneur, even the business owner executive who is looking at moving their company forward, what wisdom or experience can you share that you feel would be helpful for them in taking that next step forward?
If you’re under $1 million, find a peer group. Have a group of peers, whether you put it together yourself or join a peer organization like what we’re doing. Get around people who are like-minded who are looking to head in the same direction that you’re headed. As an individual, you’re the sum of the network of conversations that you’re in. I know that sometimes we don’t think that, but that is the way it is. Those ten people who are around you who are constantly talking to you, you’re the sum of that. Sometimes you have to upgrade those ten people.
Sometimes you can’t upgrade them, so you have to upgrade them. It doesn’t mean you cut them out of your life. It just means you have to have other people who are up to something different. That’s the first thing. If you’re over that threshold, have a plan, have a clear-cut destination where you’re going in 5, 10, 15, 20 years. We try to stay out fifteen years in front of it. That’s how we plan around here because it makes you think like fifteen years is so far that you’re like, “It hurts a little bit.” If you don’t have a plan, you’re in trouble. Those are the two things that I think, have good peers and have a plan.
Thank you so much, Joe, for sharing your time and allowing us to catch up. It’s wonderful to see the success that you’ve enjoyed. It’s great to hear all the new things going on with Red Sapiens. I’m looking forward to staying in touch and then catching up on your progress going forward.
I love you. I thank you for being in my life. Here at the end, we’ll tell everybody out there, “Remember, you are loved.”
Thank you again, Joe. Thank you for being a part of our show. You can check out this show and other episodes on The Leader’s Chair Podcast page. We look forward to bringing you the information, resources and people to help you on your leadership journey. It’s wonderful to spend this time with you. Until next time. Remember, be good and lead well.
About Joe Rojas
Joe Rojas is on a mission to create a world where all entrepreneurs can thrive. He is passionate about business building, and business builders. Founder and CEO of Red Sapiens he has helped dozens of entrepreneurs create million-dollar businesses and then see explosive growth from there.
A coach and technology evangelist he will help you design a business that will succeed for you and help you run it. He is always in your corner and always finding solutions. Joe is the author of “How Entrepreneurs Thrive” and has been a speaker at the SAGE summit and on PTI stages nationally.
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