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Interview with Todd Wheeler – Does a Business Win Without Discovery, Priorities, & Focus? – Episode #37

“KPIs are soulless numbers and a lot of people focus on KPIs…”

My guest today is Todd Wheeler. Todd makes the complicated understandable, to help companies not only grow but to thrive. With almost 50 years of business building experience, from startup companies to Fortune 500 giants, Todd has taught business leaders how to understand the causes of critical issues in the business environment.

Todd was engaged by 25-year-old marketing agency to help them identify issues that kept them stuck. He was able to identify that the team had the right people but, they were in the wrong positions. This is just one of many examples of how he was able to change a company for the better, by helping them to discover and reveal their own hidden wisdom, creating a path to success.

He would summarize his job as, “helping people become the best versions of themselves.”


Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto  0:02  

We are now recording and 54321. Hey, Todd, how are you? I’m great. I’m great. All right. So I wanted to start this podcast by quickly just asking a very straightforward question. How would you describe what you do?


Todd Wheeler  0:25  

What I do now, as an organizational and business coach is I help in a single statement, I help people become the best version of themselves, both personally and professionally.


Kenny Soto  0:40  

Now was that, like the end goal or, or like, a focus point for your career, like when you started out as professional was that like something you had in mind as your Northstar to become an organizational coach?


Todd Wheeler  0:55  

I wouldn’t say that, that is how I started out. I was, when I was very young, I had many of my friends, families, when I was a teenager, when I was 1617 years old, they would often ask me how I had such a good relationship with and was so communicative and connected with my mom, my folks were divorced. And when they first asked me that, I, of course, could not articulate a response, I had no idea what it was. So I started researching it. And learned from research and talking to family, I had a very communicative connected family. 


And what we found was just communicate, try to get out of your head, tried to get rid of the head, trash, all the things, all the shows, all the woods, all the cars, all the I have to choose and be who you are, I find one of the greatest challenges for people is to be sincere and to be who they are, without listening to the voices in their head, without listening to all these other things out there that can in fact, influence who you are, I have to behave this way. Because my parents thought this church thought this school of thought this friends thought this peers thought this people I admired thought this Be who you are. So what I did then is I went back to my friends, families after a while. And I asked them a couple of very simple questions. 


First question I would ask, which might have only been the only question quite a few times was have you ever just had a conversation with your kids? Nothing specific, just be there. You know, ROM das always said Be here now. And the whole idea about be here now is don’t think about the past. Don’t think about the future. If you focus on the past, you tend to lead toward depression. If you focus on the future, you live in anxiety, be here now.


Kenny Soto  3:11  

Very low words.


Todd Wheeler  3:13  

Many of my friends families did that. And by the end of high school, they were having me over for parties with with their friends, saying you gotta meet this kid. So as a North Star, no, I’ve been in and out of, oh, I don’t know, I probably started six or seven companies. Some I sold, some I closed some I ran away from


Kenny Soto  3:42  

would you say that being a good communicator requires the Smith the one skill of communication? Or would you say that there are other skills involved in communication would just be like a parent label, if you will? Are there like other skills that comprise


Todd Wheeler  4:01  

label kami? It’s it’s absolutely apparent label. One of the things that we’ve learned over the years is you can’t define or you can’t answer a question by using the same words in the answer. So communication is based on a number of things. First and foremost, Be your Self. Don’t pretend, don’t seek in an answer. Don’t seek an impression. Don’t try to make a change at somebody. 


Now, of course, if you’re coaching and you’re consulting, giving an answer is going to involve telling the people what you may think they want to hear. The difference to me and coaching and consulting is very simple. I tend to simplify everything. If you’ve looked at my website, it says it’s simple, but it’s not easy. The simplest, most direct answer the most honest response you can give is typically the best and honestly, the first thing that comes to your mind is something like 80% of the time, the most honest response that you can give


Kenny Soto  5:06  

I hate assuming, but I will assume that being a good communicator as a person is different from being a good communicator as a brand. And you’ve started, and as you’ve said, sold some of your companies, how do you communicate to the world, when you start a company, that you are here and you’re ready to serve?


Todd Wheeler  5:31  

Well, you know, buddy, I started out way before cell phones, the internet, any of that stuff. I’m gonna say it again, good, honest communication, know who you are, know what you’re trying to do? Figure out how you’re trying to do it. I have a process for business and business development, and for human and human development. And it starts with what I call discovery. 


I don’t have the graphic pulled up, if you want me to pull it up, I can pull it up. But I start with what I call discovery. Typically, what you do is you say, I have a great idea, then what people have been told for hundreds of years, hundreds of years, is put a plan together, let me see the plan. That to me, is 100%. Bad, it doesn’t work. 60% of all businesses fail in the first three to five years 60% of the ones that survive fail in the next three to five years. 


And the reason that happens? My humble opinion, the reason that happens is because people skip two steps between discovery and plan. My methodology is goes from discovery, which means go deep, understand the issues, if it’s organizationally, what’s the culture you’re trying to correct? What’s the strategy you want to build? What is the structure you’re trying to develop? What type of leadership is important? People understand leadership? It says, I’ve got to go out there and get it done. Entrepreneurial Leadership is very different than leadership for a mature organization. Very, very, very different. The guy that takes a company from a concept to a multimillion dollar business are different people. 


Yes, we’ve got the Elon Musk’s the Bill Gates, the Steve Jobs. All of those guys have been successful. And jobs was a terrible leader. But he was an incredible marketer and entrepreneur, but he wasn’t a good leader. He did not like working for it.


Kenny Soto  7:48  

There are rare cases you would say.


Todd Wheeler  7:52  

Absolutely. That’s my point. That’s my point. So when you go from discovery, those key issues I told you a culture, strategy, structure, leadership style, of course, based on your stage of development, you have to have different types of people for each role. And want to build an idea. Step two, after discovery, and if it’s human potential, what are we want to be financially? Where are we emotionally? Where are we physically? Where are we culturally? Where do we want to sit within our social structure? Where are we emotionally have that physical conditioning, all of this kind of stuff is important. The next step is what I call prioritization. 


Now that you have all of these things, all of these issues at least clarified, then you have to take all of them and prioritize without prioritization. You can’t go to the next step, which I’ll tell you about. So prioritization is determining what’s the one thing what’s most important. I have dealt with a lot of millennials I don’t know if you’ve looked at my my hyper website called the millennial I put the millennial project together for my baby boomer friends to understand how to work with and how to relate to millennials. Millennials. I’ve done a lot of inter generation starts out by saying how to get the best from by giving the best to your millennial partners, friends, etc. 


Not how do you manage them? How do you make them work for you, you need to give with millennials you need what I call a map ma P. First thing everybody says Millennials change jobs all the time. Millennials have no attention span. They want to get out of there. They don’t follow up but that’s bullshit by the way. I hope you don’t have to edit that out.


Kenny Soto  9:55  

No need to edit. First thing


Todd Wheeler  9:57  

is the map. The map is Ma Key, first of all mastery, provide the opportunity for millennials to master something to be the best to get totally great at it. You need to do that through understanding what the individual wants, how they learn what their desires are. Second thing is autonomy. When we grew up, we had no choice. We had people in front of the room throwing stuff at us teaching that way. 


It wasn’t autonomous. It was very direct, it gives you the ability to be autonomous and to learn internet, Google, Facebook, blah, blah, blah, I use Facebook, mostly to learn to hear how people are, what they’re thinking, when I’m in the States, I use it to communicate and stay in touch with my friends in other places around around the world. So mastery, and autonomy. 


The third thing, which never came up until probably 25 years ago, is purpose, not just my purpose as a human, what do I want to do? But what’s the purpose of our organization? What are we trying to do? You have to make that a moving computer, you have to make that compelling, or you’re gonna lose the attention, mastery, autonomy and purpose.


Kenny Soto  11:17  

And that, and that is part of the step two of your process, discovery, prioritization.


Todd Wheeler  11:25  

Right? Well prioritization, the mastery, autonomy and purpose pieces very, very honed and focused on millennials. I see. Okay, that’s my key to getting a millennial to upgrade. The third step, now that you have things prioritized. Now that you know, what’s most important? What’s secondary? What’s also on the backburner? The challenge with most organizations, again, is that they all focus on everything. I just gave away the third step. So what do you think that third step is?


Kenny Soto  11:57  

Like? Well, focusing in honing in on like the right actions, ding, ding,


Todd Wheeler  12:01  

ding, ding, ding, Arias, period, discovery, priority focus, now you are focused on the right thing at the right time, then you have to think about getting the right people. That’s when you go into the plan. What do we do first? How do we make sure it works? What I say I do in the most simple of always, is I help organizations understand who needs to be talking to who, about what, and when. 


Most companies don’t do that. I gotta go do this. So let’s just figure out a way to do it. No, you’ve got to find the people to talk to who needs to be talking to who about what and when. I also have worked with him with a concept called Okay, ours, which is objectives and key results. OKRs are what’s the big objective? Now that we’ve got the purpose now, I’m sorry, now that we’ve got the priority, and the focus, that’s the objective. Okay, ours are the key results. That’s the focus. 


Now we have the focus, let’s see what we’re focusing on to determine and develop what. Okay, underneath that comes the whole thing that people call, what are they called? I can’t think of it right now. But it’s the thing where you, I’ve got this one goal, I have to do this, I have this one number, I have to do this. I have this. And this and this. I can’t think of it, but they’re just soulless numbers. You’ve got to have a purpose behind.


Kenny Soto  13:46  

Are you are you talking about key performance indicators? Or KPIs? Thank you. Yeah. I was thinking about,


Todd Wheeler  13:53  

you guys are soulless numbers. And a lot of people focus on KPIs. But if you don’t know the purpose behind the KPI, how much of your heart do you think is going to be in it? How much do you think if it’s going to really work?


Kenny Soto  14:03  

There won’t be any my numbers?


Todd Wheeler  14:06  

I hit my number. So what? What drove me to that number? Why did I need to hit that number? So thank you for that. So yeah, KPIs, your end you put the put the, you put the plan together. Then what you do is you execute, now you’ve got priority, focus plan. Now you can execute. And I’m not saying that it’s going to give you success 100% of the time, but I would tell you that will increase your odds of success. Yeah. 80%. So that works in your career and your life. So many people are thinking about what are those steps I need to do? That’s the plan step. They’ve gone right to the plan. They’ve skipped priority and they skip focus


Kenny Soto  14:57  

your background you Is, is very extensive. And I want to hone in on one particular example where we can like really see these theories applied in practice. In your, in your introduction, I mentioned that you were engaged with a 25 year old marketing agency, and you help them basically prioritize and reach the right cadence of growth. And I was wondering if you can tell the audience, one, what was their issue prior to hiring you? And how did you help them?


Todd Wheeler  15:36  

That’s what you call a softball question. This was a husband and wife who have been in the marketing field. Legitimately for over 25 years, it’s probably been five years ago, it did this. They were based out of Tempe, Arizona, right outside Phoenix. And they had worked with everything from product brands, to service businesses, to large real estate developers. 


They had reached a point where their communications had started to suffer. They had the right people, but the people weren’t engaged anymore in what they were doing. They were just kind of going along. They the checks were coming in, and they were getting paid. But they had really lost their Oh, purpose, while we’re in a marketing agency, and I said, Okay, what does that mean? They had no answer. And you’re a marketing guy. Let me let me turn this around on you. How would you define marketing?


Kenny Soto  16:51  

Means of starting a conversation, a conversation that matters to the person you’re selling to?


Todd Wheeler  16:57  

Okay, I’ll give you a B plus on that. Okay. The challenge with marketing is that most people who are marketers don’t know how to define marketing. I define marketing saying by saying, marketing is a means by which you present your ideas, your company, your service, or your business creatively, productively, financially, to your new and existing customers.


Kenny Soto  17:26  

Why did you mention financially,


Todd Wheeler  17:29  

because it has to make sense from a money perspective. If you go to somebody and you tell them, I’ve got the greatest idea to give you the absolute best clothes in the world, and they’re gonna cost $100,000 For a suit, people might not pay attention to you. So the finances have to make sense. If it comes at a certain point in the conversation, of course, but finances have to make sense. 


If I told you that. Well, I’ll give you an example. When I was in the concierge business, I put concierge offices in hospitals, corporations, high rise office buildings, residential communities, they had 12,000 residential customers, you want to talk about a pain in the ass, let me tell you, they were a pain in the ass. The challenge was, I would go to organizations and I would say, this is the most incredible thing for your people, they will love it, they will do better work, they will feel better at work, they will be and perform better, they will be happier. And the chief financial officer or the chief operating officer, we typically go great. 


But if I went to them, and I said, tell me how many people you have, how much you pay them per hour, and how much time you think is spent on non work related activities a day. And I will come back to you with what I called a work loss calculator. And I would show them in a typical hospital. Based on they would normally say the number you always hear is about 20 to 25% of the time is focused on non work related activities. I said okay, I’m gonna say I am going to consider just 10% of the time is wasted. So I would then say, Okay, here’s what you’re expecting, and what you think is being wasted. I’m gonna bring this down to here. And I would show them numbers in a typical hospital with 1000 employees. It was between 30 and $40 million a year in wasted time. A 30 to $40 million is substantial. Your average hospital with two to 300 beds and 1012 100 employees has an annual budget of about or around or a little over a billion with a B dollars a year. Hospitals are expensive. 


And if you can go to them and say okay, you’re spending a billion bucks to operate. And what do you think The largest cost for a hospitalist. Any any business actually paperwork, staffing, the people paying the people paying the bill, I just I effort to reduce their overhead costs by 30 to 40 million bucks. Now they’re interested. Does that answer your question about why you say financially?


Kenny Soto  20:25  

Yes. Now let’s let’s tie all of this back into that the agency in Tempe, Arizona, how did how did how are they wasting their time,


Todd Wheeler  20:34  

because they were doing things that they didn’t need to be doing? Prioritization, they were spending time on things they shouldn’t have been focusing on focus. They were remember, A, they were a marketing firm, every company is also a sales organization, they had to sell and keep people satisfied. They weren’t growing, they had flattened out, they still had enough money coming in from recurring revenues and client monies, and ongoing monthly revenues that they had stopped. 


Plus the creative director, the husband in the marriage, there was about a 1215 person company at the time, the husband and the company. To run a marketing firm, he had lost it. So I took him aside privately. And I said, I think you need to figure out what you want to do. That’s when the whole life coaching piece comes in. He wanted to be a photographer, and he has turned into an extraordinary photographer. But he didn’t want to do it anymore. He’d lost his mojo, it just wasn’t there. He was just going through the paces every day. And interestingly enough, he was the human side of the business that people went to when they had issues. 


They’re the ones with whom they had the relationship. His wife, who was darling and wonderful, was a little bit more business centric, you got to do this because you got to do this. Not what do you feel like doing? what’s your what’s your mastery? Where are you really good? You know, there’s a lot of discussion these days about genius. Genius being what are your individual geniuses? What are you not only the best at? But what are you the best that when and why are you the best at doing it? And why do you like to do it? Understanding these things? Pat Lencioni has come out with some new genius work. 


But it’s always something that I’ve thought about, what do you want people to do? What kind of people do want to do it? Now who are those people? Organizationally, oftentimes you start out I don’t care if you’re a poodle clipper, a dog washer, or a brain surgeon, people go off on their own, and they don’t go off on their own necessarily, because they think they can do it better. 


But they think they can run the business and create a business better than the person they’re working for. So they leave. People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. So now they’ve gone off and they’re trying to do it themselves. And they’ve built up a business. They’re a solopreneur. They’ve built things up. Now, who do you think they hire?


Kenny Soto  23:23  

I don’t know.


Todd Wheeler  23:25  

Okay, what you typically do is, let’s say you’re a, you’re a dog groomer, and you’ve got so much business, you don’t know what to do, you typically hire another dog groomer. Right?


Kenny Soto  23:37  

Yeah. That seems to make logical sense.


Todd Wheeler  23:41  

But right. But it’s totally illogical. Well, first thing you should hire next is somebody who can do some grooming, but is a manager who can manage the time you can work with the customers who can help you with schedules, who can do ordering.


Kenny Soto  23:57  

Someone with a different set of


Todd Wheeler  23:59  

questions we can have, we can have in much more depth. But the challenge is, is that most people start off as Let’s call a technician. So now they’re a technician. And there’s nobody to manage it. So that’s when you start to go crazy. What I like to say as an entrepreneur has got to master many, many, many, many things. You’ve got to be at or need a name the things you met, you need a master. But what happens is you then got a lunatic for a boss, you You’re crazy. You don’t know how to do this. 


You don’t know how to manage these things. You don’t know how to coordinate these things. You don’t know how to set yourself up correctly. And what happens is, you’ve got all of this work you have to do. You haven’t hoping the power doesn’t go out. You haven’t created your you’ve got discovery, you know all this stuff, but you need to look at it more deeply. The Oh, prioritization, what a concept. What’s more important? You don’t need somebody to help you watch dogs, you need somebody to help you manage schedules. Look at purchasing, figuring out how to market go ahead.


Kenny Soto  25:19  

Aye, aye, I know that the best way to provide value to the audience is definitely to have a second interview of you. And I think the best way to close this is normally I would ask you a question I asked all my all my audience members, but I’m gonna save that for using all my all my guests. But I’m gonna say that for the second interview, right now, what I’m really interested in is, what is your idea? Or your I want to say picture of mastery, when it comes to like things that a young professional such as myself should focus on. And this is not just in the context of our audience, who are entry level marketers, but more so just in general, if you were 27 years old today, how would you focus? How would you? How would you focus on achieving mastery in any skill?


Todd Wheeler  26:16  

Okay, if if, given I know what I know now, if I was 27? Yes, yes. Okay. First of all, I buy Apple, I buy Microsoft,


Kenny Soto  26:28  

okay, got it.


Todd Wheeler  26:32  

Here’s the deal, buddy. You’ve got to stop acting like a rabbit in an open field. You have to go down into a burrow, you have to take time for you, I’m not going to use, I’m not going to say you need to meditate or you need to focus like that. But you need to understand your priority, you need to understand what is important to you. That is the most powerful question I have ever asked. I’ll tell you a story. My mom died about 10 years ago, out of nowhere, and my mom and I were two sides of the same piece of paper. We talked every day up until I was almost 60 years old. And we were friends. 


We were really, really, really, really, really friends. But I realized at a young age that this was a woman who was a lot older than me, knew a lot more than me had a lot more experience than I did. Oh, and by the way, love to me. Most people think are your parents? And that’s your answer that, yes, there’s the rare time when your parents aren’t really interested in your well being. It’s rare. But I think that that does happen. So I listened to my mom, and then we became friends. So to create mastery, you have to understand what’s the word, your priorities, to understand your priorities, Kenny, you need to take the time and stop and think about it. There’s there’s another exercise I do call the wheel of life. 


And in it, you’ve got a circle with a circle in the center, zero to 10. And the question and the areas of focus are things like finances, family, spiritual pursuit, physical health, condition of your surroundings, you know, all of this stuff. If in fact, you take the time to understand what these are, then you can go about mastery. I can’t tell you how to do it. Until I understand more about you and know what’s important to you. I can tell you how to master something. But if it’s the wrong focus, and it’s not a priority, guess what?


Kenny Soto  28:48  

you master the wrong thing


Todd Wheeler  28:49  

anyway. Does it is is it all coming like full circle for you? You kind of hear what I’m saying? 


Kenny Soto  28:54  

Yeah, I do. I think Todd This is a perfect way to end the podcast. We’re definitely going to have a second interview because I feel like there’s way more that you can talk about that can’t be captured in just one episode. But for anyone who wants to learn more about you after listening to this interview, where can they find you online?


Todd Wheeler  29:14  

The best place to find me is at management insight. CO not .com You’ll go to some English company. CO stands for Colorado or just CO,


Kenny Soto  29:27


Todd Wheeler  29:30  

my email is the same Todd.


Kenny Soto  29:42  

Perfect. This This has been an amazing interview. Thank you for your time. Thank you to you listener for listening to another episode of Kenny Soto Digital Marketing podcast. You have just listened to Todd Wheeler and his wisdom. And I hope everyone has a great week. Bye.

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