Stephen King: Thinking He Could Sell His Way to Profitability

Stephen King: Thinking He Could Sell His Way to Profitability

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My guest for Episode #36 of “My Favorite Mistake” is Stephen King… no, not that Stephen King… but the Stephen King who is founder, President, CEO of GrowthForce, one of the nation’s largest outsourced bookkeeping, accounting and controller service for companies and non profits that use QuickBooks. He is also the host of the “Path to Profits” podcast.

Today, Stephen talks about his favorite mistake of not billing what he was worth and thinking he could “sell your way to profitability.” What good is more volume if the margin isn't good? He talks about the valuable lessons he has learned — how a small pricing change can lead to a huge profitability boost, while still making the customer feel good about it.

Stephen also shares how the “most important part of the culture” at GrowthWorks is “learning from mistakes” and being a “learning organization” as a core value. You'll hear how Stephen once had a “best mistake of the month” award and how they now use a Slack channel to share mistakes, even if there's no longer a prize.

You can listen to or watch the episode below. A transcript also follows lower on this page.

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Quotes:

"...that's the biggest mistake that I see that business owners make. They think they can sell their way to profitability."

"I've been doing this for 40 years and it wasn't until the last decade or so that I really started to understand how to bill what I'm worth and how to get the client to feel good about that."

"I created an award for the best mistake of the month. And what is the best mistake of the month mean? It's the one that we can fix and have the biggest impact on the business."

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Automated Transcript (May Contain Mistakes)

Mark Graban (0s):

Episode 36, Stephen King.

Stephen King (4s):

And you know, I started this, so I left Ernst & Young, I started my own CPA firm. I hated it!

Mark Graban (12s):

I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In this podcast, you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes, but what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at myfavoritemistakepodcast.com and now on with the show. Hi, everybody. Welcome to My Favorite Mistake. I'm Mark Graban. I'm joined today by Stephen King and he probably gets this a lot. And before the audience gets too excited, I'm sorry, not that Stephen King, but this Stephen King is really interesting and has a great perspective for us.

Mark Graban (1m 0s):

I'll introduce him in a second, but Stephen, thank you for being here. How are you?

Stephen King (1m 6s):

I'm wonderful. Thanks for having me.

Mark Graban (1m 8s):

So Stephen King is the founder, president and CEO of a company called GrowthForce. They are one of the nation's largest outsource bookkeeping, accounting and controller services for companies and nonprofits that use QuickBooks. So Stephen has quite a background as a entrepreneur. He has a degree in accounting and one thing I thought was really interesting. Steven, before we get to your story, looking at your background real early in your career, you were CFO of Amnesty International.

Stephen King (1m 39s):

Yeah, yeah, that was fun. I got to do that for seven years. I was a volunteer first for three years, and then this is a God thing. God, I was at Ernst and Young where I was a manager of accounting system design. I had just given a two months notice to go start my own CPA firm and they hired Ernst to be the auditor and Ernst didn't have a lot of non-profits didn't really want the account so passed on the audit, but I ended up doing some freelance work and I ended up and then they asked me to run the fall, everything that was not related to human rights. So I was in charge of fundraising and finance. And that was really great. And I did it two weeks after Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel and U2, Sting all did the worldwide human rights now tour.

Stephen King (2m 25s):

And we grew amnesty grew from 6 million in revenue in the United States to 18 million in a year and a half. I came in two weeks later and had to design all the systems. So it was a great labor of love.

Mark Graban (2m 37s):

So, even though as a nonprofit there was experience and lessons, we learned about high growth situations that I'm guessing served you well.

Stephen King (2m 46s):

Sure. Yeah. I mean, you're, you're, you gotta be able to make sure you're get, you're measuring the outcomes that are furthering your mission. And I learned a lot about nonprofit financial management. How do you use the data to show the donors the tangible results of your gift? Because if you can do that, you'll raise a lot more money. So, you know, that's, that's really what we do more non-profit work than anything else. It's about 20% of our business.

Mark Graban (3m 16s):

Cool. So we'll talk a little bit more about GrowthForce and, and some of the things that you do within the company, but thinking personally, Steven, you know, thinking back over your career and your different experiences, what's your favorite mistake?

Stephen King (3m 30s):

Well, you know, I I've been doing this for 40 years and what I, it wasn't until the last decade or so that I really started to understand how to bill, what I'm worth and how to, how to get the client to feel good about that, right? To have our long-term relationships with people where you're really making a difference and your you're you're contributing in a way that allows you to live a lifestyle that justifies all the hard work and hours of being an entrepreneur. And, you know, I started this, so I left her and so young, I started my own CPA firm and I hated it.

Stephen King (4m 12s):

I was billing $45 an hour. I thought, you know, that's, I was $175 an hour a month before I had Ernst and Young back. And this is back in the eighties and I just couldn't justify in my mind charging anybody more than that because I didn't understand the value. And I also didn't understand how a small change in pricing has a profound impact on your profitability, on your bank account. And I used to think, you know, I still do. So, you know, this is over a couple of decades, had my own CPA firm, hated it. Amnesty became one of my clients. I went over there full-time for seven years, built out that system and then Netscape One, you know, came out in 1995.

Stephen King (4m 58s):

And I, and I started a company called Virtual Growth. We ended up raising $43 million in venture capital funding. But the, the, the big question here was how do you price your services in such a way that you can make the margins that you need to make in order to cover your overhead and then generate profit and some cashflow? And what in the early days, you know, especially when I was just me, your whole relationship with money comes into play, right? It's like, you know, yourself, where and how, you know, what you think those things really expensive may not be what the other person thinks is expensive or vice versa.

Stephen King (5m 39s):

Yeah. That, that lesson to start was hard because you're, you're the widget, right? You're doing the work. But most I see with most of our clients is as they get bigger, you know, we get to a million dollars in revenue. And if you're not making 15% profit, you've struggled to sit there and say, if I get to, to, in order to get to the profitability I need, I've got to sell more. And that's the biggest mistake that I see that business owners make. They think they can sell their way to profitability. And that's only true if you're pricing right? Yeah.

Mark Graban (6m 18s):

You've got, if you, if you don't have good margin, why do you want to do more poor margin work, basically.

Stephen King (6m 25s):

Exactly. And it comes from a fear of, well, first I think it comes from not understanding how profound an impact a small change in pricing has on the bottom line. You know, I just did an exercise this morning with a $2 million business they're average clients, you know, about a hundred thousand dollars and they are, they think they're getting, you know, 40% margins. But the reality is that a third of the time the sales reps come in and say, I'm in a competitive situation here. I gotta be able to offer this 10% discount and I'll close this deal and we'll make it up down the road with services or parts or warranties or referrals, or I'm keeping a competitor from taking the business.

Stephen King (7m 7s):

Or I got people sitting on the bench, let's get them busy. You know, all these things that make you think like, just close the deal. Sure. I used to always say yes to that sales person. Yes. I got people sitting around on the beach. And what happens is that destroys your business. Yeah. You know, we have a CA an impact of discounts calculator that shows, if you give a, if you have a 40% margin and you give a 10% discount, you got to sell 25% more sales just to make up the discount. Wow. Yeah. Your profit, all that discount comes out of profit. All of it comes out of your bank account. Conversely, if you can increase your prices by 10%, now you can sell 20% less.

Stephen King (7m 51s):

You can take Fridays off. And that's the secret. I found that, that simple thing. Now it's hard. You know, a lot of people were accountants. Everybody says they do what we do now. GrowthForce. We do management accounting. Right. So we're trying to give you data. That's actionable to make decisions. But when you're, before we figured out that value that we had, you know, we were accountants 20 years ago, we were just doing bookkeeping and accounting and back taxes. I'm a CPA for 35 years. That's a commodity now. Yeah. And so it was hard for me to go in and say, I got to increase prices. But what we did was we created this methodology of, and I learned it from a value seller, the consultant who said, well, you need to do is first really understand the value that you're delivering.

Stephen King (8m 46s):

Right. And so what we do is we, we set up automation, we use QuickBooks is our core product. What's a reason QuickBooks has 88 market shares because it's so powerful. But most people only use it. Like they use Excel, right. To add, subtract, multiply, and divide guilty. Yeah. Yeah. Right. It's easy. But you have the ability to allocate your labor costs, which we do service businesses and nonprofits. That's all we serve. And in both cases, payroll is the biggest expense labor cost is by far your biggest expense. And so once you know how to allocate your labor costs and track the direct labor, the labor that the customer was directly paying for the real cost to deliver your services and move those direct labor costs above the line into cost of goods sold.

Stephen King (9m 38s):

So you, you know, what cost to goods sold is the direct cost to serve the customer. There's only two parts. There's direct labor and direct materials, the stuff you have to buy to serve the customer. Yeah. Then you can subtract your revenue minus your costs of sold and see gross profit percentage. And that's the most important number on any P&L any management report because gross profit creates net profit. And if you can take the bottom 15% of your clients, and this is where the value consultant came in, he said, give them an option, give them three choices, show them the real value and the costs of what they're getting and give them a fee and say, I have to increase my fees in order to keep you as a client to X dollars so that you get them from the bottom 15% to the top 15%, or here's a list of all the things that we're doing for you.

Stephen King (10m 33s):

Right? You can see it. You guys want to stay within your own budget. What we currently have, you can pick and choose, and we can afford to do 80% of this or whatever the ratio is, or third choices. I need to transition you to another service provider. And that's hard. That's hard to fear. What if I lose this account? What's happened is I've got literally decades of experience showing business owners that I've got one company right now to $30 million business. It's making 2% profit. We're going to help them get to a 20, become a $20 million business with 15% profit.

Stephen King (11m 14s):

And he's like, I'll take that all day long. Right?

Mark Graban (11m 17s):

Well, so that's demonstrating value. And that's what, what I hear you saying, Stephen is, you know, demonstrating how GrowthForce is differentiated. It's not just a commodity while you could leave us and get the exact same service from someone else, right. A little cheaper. You don't want to compete that, you know, based off of being a little cheaper.

Stephen King (11m 36s):

And that's the bit my favorite lesson, right? Once you understand what your real value is, and you can see it, if you do that job costing, if you could, if you take the labor costs, instead of, you know, most businesses, their, their income statement has got an alphabetical list of their expenses, right? Advertising and accounting and bank charges. And then three quarters of the way around all the peas are together. And it just says, payroll, payroll taxes, maybe officer's salary or bonuses, but if that's your biggest expense and you've got it all lumped into like two or three accounts, you can't make data-driven decisions. You've got to allocate that based on the work that they do.

Stephen King (12m 17s):

And what's great about QuickBooks is they own a time tracking system called T Sheets. That it's magic. If you, you know, it has geo-fences. So when you're, you know, we do project based service businesses, our specialty, when somebody shows up at an onsite, it automatically says, Oh, you're at the, the, the, you know, dream account. Are you ready to start your time sheet now? And it tracks it. Then when you run the payroll, yeah. It's either Intuit payroll or Insperity payroll, have it automated where you can allocate that labor cost based on how they filled out their time sheets. Now you have that data to show the value to make the pricing decision. It's pretty cool.

Mark Graban (12m 56s):

So it seems like, you know, at this point you've got the benefit of all this experience. It seems really clear to you about, you know, some of these mistakes you've made or things you've learned to do better. When did it really start to kick in, like when did, was, was there a single epiphany or was it gradual where you started to realize you needed to take a different approach to pricing?

Stephen King (13m 17s):

When I really started to focus on profits and not sales, when I realized you can't just sell your way to profits, you know, we have 62 people. And when we were, you know, 15 or 20, and I was trying to increase the bottom line, all we did was focus on how many leads can I get in how many new proposals can I get out the door and how many closed sales can I get? And I got to give a 10% discount to close that deal, go for it. And when I started to study the unit economics unit economics is the profitability of whatever.

Stephen King (13m 57s):

So is up on your income statement. Your unit is what you, I'm sorry, whatever shows up on an invoice, the, the, the unit is what you put on the, on the invoice, right? What's the profitability of that. Not what's the sales, what's the gross profit gross profit percentage is the most important number because it tells you, it allows you to compare all your different services, all your different clients. I look at gross profit by sales rep. I want to see which of my sales reps are selling me as a commodity and trying to offer the 10% discount, which sells. That's really understand the value that we're delivering and can get that extra value. Now, once I started seeing that, I lost my fear of having that difficult conversation.

Stephen King (14m 43s):

I lost that fear that I wasn't worth it, that value of my own services. I could see the data and I got some clients here that are, did all the highest margin and these ones at the bottom, if I can swap them out for more like the top, all the extra cash goes right to the bottom line. That was the epiphany. Right?

Mark Graban (15m 5s):

And that, that whole idea of what you're talking about, salespeople wanting the discount, let me close the sale is something that's probably in their short-term incentives. If they've got a quota and they want, or they're, they're, they're getting compensation directly based off of sales one way or another versus the long-term good of the company, right? So one company I've been fascinated by and have studied for a long time is Toyota. And, you know, they have a set of 14 management principles, principle, number one of those 14, I think you'd be interested in Steven. I'm paraphrasing it, but it basically says make decisions based on the long-term, even at the expense of the short term and for all the companies that try to copy or emulate Toyota at that principle, number one is probably the most difficult to copy.

Stephen King (15m 58s):

Yeah. Yeah. And I Mark, you really hit on something. This is another common mistake. I do a lot of speaking. And what I often say is, you know, one of the mistakes people make is they measure the success of their salespeople based on sale profitability instead of gross profit. Right? Yeah. And so, and so if your incentive comp is designed to be able to give your sales rep a higher commission for that enhanced bonus, you go in there and you say, okay, this is the minimum. This is the floor. You can't sell below this, but if you can increase it above the floor, if you can identify the values that we can deliver to this prospect, then you'll make more money on the extra piece.

Stephen King (16m 39s):

Then everybody wins, including the prospect, because that sales rep is now incentivized, not just, it's like, you know, there's a famous study. I read the book. It's about big data. The, the realtors are not designed to help you sell the house with the highest amount of money it's to sell the house as fast as possible.

Mark Graban (17m 3s):

I think that study said realtors, when they're selling their own homes, get a certain percentage higher price than when they're selling something.

Stephen King (17m 10s):

And if you yourself sell your own home, you beat the realtor all the time because your incentives are different. So that's yeah. It's, it's Freakonomics. It's in Freakonomics. Yeah. It's been a while, but yeah, so, yeah, you're right. Yeah. So if you inset the sales reps based on a gross profit percentage, then you get everybody in the company focusing on the most important measure, what management monitors gets done. You know, Wickman wrote that in traction, what management monitors gets done, what do you want to get done? If you want to increase net profit, start by focusing on increasing gross profit.

Mark Graban (17m 47s):

And it sounds like, you know, trying to grow the company by selling more, probably it just speeds up the hamster wheel. Yeah,

Stephen King (17m 54s):

GYeah, exactly. Right. You, you create, that's why often you see high growth companies have cashflow problems. It's not just, you know, fueling the, the, the, you know, the, the investment to handle all that work. It's it's, if you don't really understand your, you know, pricing is the most important to say, if you've got, if you'd really don't understand your, your above the line costs and what your overhead is, what is your nut? You know, how, how much do you have to does each? This is what we suggest you take your overhead for the whole year. Let's say you got a million bucks, right? And you, you, you look at how many, w w w units, how many jobs, how many customers, how many widgets, whatever you are, you're going to have per her widget per job, per customer, let's say it's 10,000.

Stephen King (18m 48s):

That means each job has to cover a hundred bucks, a hundred bucks worth of overhead. And if you, your gross profit doesn't have that percentage of overhead in it. You'll never going to be able to get to your profitability. And then you say, how much profit do I want to make? If I want to make a million dollars in profit. And I got $10,000, 10,000 jobs, I need a hundred dollars worth of profit in the bottom line, in each job. Yeah. Yeah.

Mark Graban (19m 17s):

So again, our guest is Stephen King. He is the CEO of GrowthForce. And one of the things I wanted to touch on, you talked earlier about having the client feel good about the price increase and you know, how you make that happen. Cause I, I can think of times this is the time of year. We're recording this in January, where all sorts of businesses that you may have an ongoing relationship with will hit you with an email or a sign. And a lot of like, what, what bothers me is when it's stated in terms of something like, well, we're in the new year, it's time for our annual price increase, hate that cursing under my breath.

Mark Graban (19m 57s):

Or, you know, when, when it, when it's just framed as like w you know, because of such and such, we are forced to increase prices. And I, I tend to question that and I'm like, well, that's, that's your choice, but I wonder if you know, that that ends up, like, in the short term, curious what your experience is or what your recommendation is, how to make that palatable so that the customer doesn't find an alternative as soon as they can.

Stephen King (20m 22s):

Yeah. I think first is transparency. When you, if you really understand those above the line costs, and you can actually show them how much time it takes and explain to them, you know, what the things are that you're doing, you know, where, when you're in a service business, you hire servants. People who like to serve. I'm a servant. I love serving my clients nothing more than I'd love that call today, to talk about that mid business, about how to help make more money, your staff often think, okay, I'm going to do a really good job. When my client calls up and asked me for extra stuff, I'm going to say, sure, and I'm going to do it for them. Because if I make my client happy, I'll make my boss happy. Now my boss is happy. My life is happy.

Stephen King (21m 3s):

And that time leakage kills you. When you over serve the client, it kills you because it erodes your margins. And that comes right out of your bank account. Yeah. And so if you go to a client, he said, look, I just, here's what the deal is in order to make this account make economic sense for both of us, here's what we need to do. Let me show you what we're doing. That's out of scope or that I, I honestly, I missed it on the proposal. You know, it's the kind of things like how much time do we spend on emails, phone calls, you know, client interaction. Sure. Project management, quality control. It's the hidden cost of an account.

Stephen King (21m 43s):

We see typically it's around 20%. And so if you're able to say to a client, look, here's the reality we have. I have this pricing model that we're implemented, that we have to implement in order for us, for the business to make sense, because we can't continue to do it as is, or we were not going to be here for you, but it's not a take it or leave it situation, give them three options. The second option is we can stay in your budget, but 20% of this list has to go because we're spending a lot of time on emails, phone calls, project management, quality control, that we'd never, we're not getting, it's not included in the value you're getting.

Stephen King (22m 24s):

And most of the time, over 80% of the time, and I've been doing this a long time, I've got an it company. I've got an it company in New York who has one of the, one of the top technology companies. That's one of those S&P companies that are lifting up the SMP right now in the last year brand name that everybody knows top 20 worldwide company as their biggest client, 40% of their business, that client was not covering its share of it. The overhead. Yeah. And definitely not generating profit. It was dragging down all the other profits. And usually it's the largest account that you have. Why? Because they have buying power.

Stephen King (23m 4s):

They get the most expensive people in the company management. The founders are working on their biggest account. And the, the company says, jump. You say, how high, what happened is we see this rarely. We have to go to the clients and say, if you want to increase profits, we have to give them those three options. And they're like, Oh my God, what if I lose giant technology client? It's on our website. It's how we, you know, it's our, it's our identity. And if the clients are happy with you, if you're doing good work and you can be transparent and show them what they're buying over 80% of the time, the clients will say, of course, we'd like you because you have such good project managers.

Stephen King (23m 47s):

We like you guys because you do quality control. Yeah, no problem. And what we found is when we do that with clients, this particular client, they try to sell their way to profit. They got to 6 million in revenue, barely breaking. Even we repriced the giant technology company. They were like, Oh my God. They said, yes, we showed them. I said, look, even if you lose them, you'll actually make more profit. As a smaller company. You're better off being a $4 million business making 15% profit, then a $6 million business breaking. Even that's what convinced them. I was like, okay. Yes, you're right now. I'm not afraid to lose them. Yeah. And they, and they said, yes.

Stephen King (24m 28s):

And then they went to every one of their clients and says, look, I got to increase fees by 20% because I got emails that were our cost of project management travel time. And we showed the details. All 100% of the clients said, yes, because they've given those three options. They either lower the scope or they increase the fees and they made $1.5 million in revenue at the end of that first year on 6 million in top line. Yeah. So

Mark Graban (24m 55s):

Yeah, 1.5 million in profit on $6 million revenue. Yeah.

Stephen King (25m 0s):

Twenty-five percent because they just value price to everybody. And they were, they, they realized that it's not how much you earn. It's how much you keep that matters. And when they shifted that focus to looking at gross profit percentage and everybody in the company, focusing on it, the whole business model changed. Yeah.

Mark Graban (25m 19s):

Well, that's great that you and the team at growth works get to help companies like that. And I, I can see where you're, you're coaching them through something that seems really risky, really scary. So to have somebody with experience and examples to point to, to say, I feel pretty confident. This will work that I'm sure that means a lot

Stephen King (25m 39s):

It's data. You're making a data-driven decision and, and there's no hiding from the facts except in politics.

Mark Graban (25m 49s):

So let's talk about one other question about growth works. So I'm, I'm, I'm curious to hear you talk a little bit about, you know, company culture and values and what are our big theme here on the podcast of course, is you've talked about, is learning from mistakes. Well, how has, how's that an important part of your culture? What have you learned about that?

Stephen King (26m 9s):

Yeah, I mean, it is the most single most important part of our culture. When we, we, we, we have, we're an Insperity client. So we learned a lot about eight, nine years ago, they came in and they helped us with the human capital strategy. And that basically meant with, they helped figure out what are the behaviors that are successful in your business? They actually asked me to point to the employee that is the most like the kind of employee you want to point to. And I pointed to Marsha. She was a bookkeeper. She was going to school at night at Lone Star College and working for us full-time during the day. But she was accountable. She was a problem solver and she loved her work. And we came up with our core values, which is we have snap for w it's a smart SMA RT.

Stephen King (26m 49s):

We have snap. We are problem solvers. We have meaning, meaning our employees. We hire them because they love serving small businesses and nonprofits. Yeah. They are accountable. They do what they say. They will do what they do and they're resourceful. So they'll find problems. And they like working in a team. That accountability piece is really the most important over the wall. And it's not just, you do what you say. You say, what you'll do is that you embrace the idea of open honest communications, especially around difficult issues, right? I'm a new Yorker from an Irish Catholic family where you knew exactly. My mother at a young age said to me is like, if your friends don't tell you, your breath stinks, nobody will — go brush your teeth.

Stephen King (27m 36s):

And so, so by having that kind of open, honest communication, one of the things we kind of brand ourselves as is a learning organization. And what that means fo us is we want to celebrate and learn from every mistake we just made a 22 thought. We just made a 22,000 toddler mistake and have a lot of lessons about not going into a new vertical industry, because it's like, you know what, that's not going to be good for us, but we pulled the trigger on the first account. I was like, you know what, let's not expand there. But what we do is, and I used to do it in the early days of growth for us. When, you know, we were 10, 12, 15 people, and I was no longer able to see every account. And every job what I did was I created an award, which was the best mistake of the month.

Stephen King (28m 21s):

And what is the best mistake of the month mean? It's the one that we can fix and, and have the biggest impact on the business. Yeah. And I remember Jenifer Brown, who's still with me and Marsha Gibbs, 12 years, eight years later is now our director of onboarding Mark. Jennifer was like, I've never been in a place that's celebrated. I got, I got a gift card for 50 bucks for making a mistake. And I said, it's because I want everybody to feel like, okay, Hey guys, I just learned something here. And I want everybody to know about it. And what we did was, you know, she, she fat fingered a sales tax payment into the, into the tax software and they don't come back to you and say, Oh, you entered the bank account number wrong.

Stephen King (29m 5s):

They just tell you the next day that the payment didn't go through. And therefore now you owe $2,500 sales tax penalty. And so by learning that after the first mistake, you avoid that, all that down the road. I mean, you put a process in place. You know, we have a sec, a second set of eyes, always check sales, tax payments every single time now. But having that, that celebration almost of the mistakes, you know, we're implementing some, some sales processes right now. And I'm, I'm when I go on sales calls, I'm literally like, okay guys, what did I do wrong? How, how do we make that better? I mean, you know, we, this felt good, but I stumbled here and not being afraid to be vulnerable.

Mark Graban (29m 48s):

Yeah, yeah. That, that's powerful. I think when you, as the founder and president and CEO set that example, that, that, that, that I'm sure ends up trickling down through everybody else. They're going to tend to follow that lead. Right.

Stephen King (30m 3s):

Well, when the, when the boss makes a lot of dumb mistakes, you better learn from them.

Mark Graban (30m 9s):

This best mistake award. That's a different way of saying in a way, a favorite mistake.

Stephen King (30m 14s):

Yeah. Yeah. We stopped doing it after about six months because my managers were like, you're incenting the wrong behavior. Let's do it another way. So we set up a Slack channel or some kind of, you know, thing to, to, you know, lessons learned. And we, we built it into the culture and we have another thing Insperity taught us was kudos. I GrowthForce that kind of way. When you learn from somebody from somebody or, or a client says something, right. Or somebody does anything that's furthers our core values, they help a teammate that they didn't have to, or they go above and beyond. They're accountable. You send an email out to everybody that just to the management team, kudos@growthforce.com. And then we celebrate those at the company meeting. And we have the teams go up and talk about, you know, the lessons that they learned or the, you know, so that's a, that's a really cheap, easy way to get some employee validation and, and, and recognition.

Stephen King (31m 8s):

That's really valuable.

Mark Graban (31m 10s):

Yeah. Even without the award, that communication, like you said, open, honest communication. That's still a great habit. And one of my other guests in the series, Bob rush, who has a background in manufacturing, like I did originally, he also talked about a similar thing. He worked for an organization that had a award for, for the best mistake. And they had that same discussion like you're talking about. And he convinced them to keep the award going because he said, well, what, what the award does is it, it doesn't increase the number of mistakes. It increases the honesty about the mistakes that are already there. So that, that, you know, that's, that's something that could be debated and discussed.

Mark Graban (31m 50s):

But I think to me, what, what sounds like the important thing is that you kept the communication going. That was probably more important than having a prize probably. Yes. So really appreciate you sharing that story and that reflection, even on top of everything else that you've shared today. So, you know, as we wrap up again, we've been joined by Stephen King, president founder, CEO of growth force. Steven, if people want to learn more about your company and, and what you do, especially if they fall in that profile of companies you serve, how can they learn more?

Stephen King (32m 24s):

Sure. Email is the best way to reach me@stephenstephenatgrowthforce.com. Or you can reach us at grow. DubDubDub on the website is DubDubDub growth force.com. That's G R O w T H force.com. And I've got a podcast called path to profits. So, you know, we kind of talk to people and share their secrets on how they increase their profitability. And I'm Stephen King CPA on litter sunlit, or under LinkedIn and a and S King G-Force at Twitter. And there's no litter account that I know of. Yes.

Mark Graban (32m 56s):

Other, you just invented a new social media, exactly what we don't need, but Steven, thank you. This has been a lot of fun and I hope people check out, I'll go check out path to profit podcast. So when you you're reaching podcast listeners here, that's a good way to not convert them, but to have them also listen to your podcast.

Stephen King (33m 19s):

Thanks Mark. Thank you, Stephen.

Mark Graban (33m 21s):

Thanks for listening. I hope this podcast inspires you to pause and think about your own favorite mistake and how learning from mistakes shapes you personally and professionally. If you're a leader, what can you do to create a culture where it's safe for colleagues to talk openly about mistakes in the spirit of learning, please subscribe, rate, and review the podcast. Our website is myfavoritemistakepodcast.com. See you next time.


Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.