67. Karl Sakas, Sakas and Company Going from Mandatory to Optional and Empowering Your Staff to Level-Up Your Firm

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Karl Sakas is an agency consultant, executive coach and the founder of Sakas & Company. Karl and his company are dedicated to helping digital agency owners grow their businesses through the techniques and practices Karl has learned and developed over his years as a business owner and as a high-level digital marketing agency executive.

Join us as Karl tells us how he got into the consultancy game, what his best advice for law firm owners is to level-up their business, and how some lessons from a submariner could help empower your team and free up your time.

Transcript

Karl Sakas:

The opportunity for professional services firms is, you know, you want to be as competent as possible. That is important. But warmth is an opportunity to help you stand out from others.

Chris Dreyer:

If you need a consultant to help your firm overcome the bottlenecks associated with growth, I can’t think of many people more qualified to do so than today’s guest. Not only does he know the ins and outs of running agencies, but he’s got his finger on the pulse when it comes to what clients want. And that’s exactly why I chose him to be my coach.

Karl Sakas:

As a coach and as a consultant, I can’t make a decision for my clients, but I can help them narrow the decision. And ultimately the question, after I get the background info about the particular situation, what is your ideal outcome and what is your minimum acceptable outcome? What is the minimum acceptable here?

Chris Dreyer:

You’re listening to The Rankings Podcast, the show where top marketers and elite personal injury attorneys share their stories about getting to the top and what keeps them there. My guest today is Karl Sakas of Sakas and Company, a digital agency consultant, and one of the geniuses that helped Rankings take it to the next level for legal SEO. He does for agencies what we do for clients’ search engine results. I’m your host, Chris Dreyer, founder and CEO of Rankings.io. We help elite personal injury attorneys dominate first page rankings with search engine optimization. SEO is all about the first page and that’s also where we like to start our show. Here’s Karl Sakas, founder of Sakas and Company.

Karl Sakas:

I’ve been doing been consulting for a long time. Really going back to high school, starting as a web designer, back in the days of dial up, found clients were asking for advice about marketing, about optimizing their business. Uh, so in a sense, I’ve been doing forms of this for, for decades since I was a teenager. And coaching is somewhat newer. That was certainly something that’s fit into a lot of my work in different ways through volunteer activities, through different agency leadership roles. Um, but I’m in a sense it’s almost the, the family business. My parents were both career army officers – around, you know, leading leading teams, and one of my grandfathers was a business professor and management consultant. I hear stories about consulting with big companies, getting, you know, helping them get better results, better relationships with their employees. So I feel like it’s a, a long time coming.

Chris Dreyer:

So you’ve worked in all kinds of different organizations around marketing growth operations. How did that multi field experience really hone your expertise?

Karl Sakas:

Definitely helpful in identifying different best practices, different opportunities from different industries. One of my past roles was as, as an investment research analyst at a mutual fund company. So I was doing equity research for our one and a half billion dollar North American fund, looking at companies in every industry. And so I could say, you know, what was, what was notable in one industry, what was notable in another, this and that. And, and although today I focus exclusively within professional services specifically with digital agency, is it helps to have had that broad experience.

Chris Dreyer:

Yeah. And one of the things I find interesting is do you find that teaching helps you expand your own skillset? You know, about 15 years ago I was a teacher. I was always terrified of teaching my students something that was incorrect. So it forced me to like over-prepare. Do you find that teaching, you know, being a mentor has that same type of effect on yourself?

Karl Sakas:

For sure in the sense that, you know, if you can explain things to others, it means you have to get better at understanding it yourself. Uh, whether that’s fully understanding it or maybe, you know, getting one chapter ahead of the students in the, in the textbook. Uh, you know, so it definitely helps. And I found that, you know, as I review certain situations with clients over and over again, it helps me refine my understanding and also identify new frameworks around organizing your services or around how to structure your team, things like that. So for sure, it’s a great opportunity to develop, develop things through teaching others.

Chris Dreyer:

Yeah. And I love that. And you probably, you get to see maybe if something’s on the edge, you went one direction with one piece of advice, you get to see the outcome and you take maybe a different approach or you reanalyze you’ll do those re retrospectives. I’m sure that that really helps as well.

Karl Sakas:

Yes. And indeed, that’s probably a mindset. You know, I’ll do a debrief with my team after every single event, after working with new clients, things like that. Three simple questions, debrief what worked, what didn’t, what to do differently next time. It comes from the military after action review of what worked, what didn’t, what you do differently. Three simple yet very powerful questions.

Chris Dreyer:

Yeah, and that’s great. And that, I think that’s a foundational component of continuous improvement is just constantly being flexible and willing to adapt.

Karl Sakas:

Yes.

Chris Dreyer:

So let’s talk about Sakas and Company. Why did you start this business? What are, what are your founding principles?

Karl Sakas:

Well, I started with Sakas and Company in 2013, based on my experience as an agency operations leader. So as a project manager, as a director of client services, as a director of operations, basically, you know, taking care of clients and running the business side of the business for the owners at one agency and then another. And I noticed an opportunity – people start agencies because they love the work. They maybe they love doing strategy. Maybe they love design, maybe development, PR, maybe something else, but they don’t necessarily love running a business. A lot of the people, you know, and I imagine this is true for many PI attorneys, right? You know, you, you love negotiating settlements or you love litigating. You know, you love, you love the law, but you may not love running a law practice and that’s okay. You know, you can structure things to focus on what you like doing, but there are some things that need to get done. And I realized that was an opportunity for me, where I like doing the things that a lot of business owners don’t love doing, and I can make life easier for them. So put, put all that together – my consulting and digital experience going back to high school and college, uh, you know, more recent experience around doing analysis experience in agency operations – put it all together. And since then I’ve worked with hundreds of clients all over the world.

Chris Dreyer:

That’s incredible. And what you’re saying reminds me of the E-Myth it’s most of us to start businesses or the technician, and we’re all trying to transition into the manager and ultimately the entrepreneur and the owner. And I think that what, you know, we see tremendous value from your expertise, because sometimes we get a little burnout doing those technician types of roles.

Karl Sakas:

Yes. Yes. Uh, and sometimes, you know, it’s getting a reminder from someone outside about, Hey, have you thought about this? Because doing that now makes it easier for the future. You know, thinking for instance, sales pipeline for any firm or PI firm, you know, if you’re not keeping your marketing pipeline full now, eventually your sales pipeline will dry up. And eventually that creates all kinds of problems. So it’s the things you’re doing today, impact what your firm will be doing six months from now. Yet it’s so easy when you, when you’re in the middle of day to day firefighting, not to pay attention to those longer term things.

Chris Dreyer:

We all need a little nudge in the right direction every now and then to make sure we’re focusing on the right tasks. I know I do. But aside from being a guiding light to keep agency owners on track, Karl Sakas of Sakas and Company build an implement growth strategies. So I wanted to find out how they do this and what some of the pitfalls are that agency owners tend to stumble into.

Karl Sakas:

One is to get clear on the services you choose to offer. Uh, I think of the model as think teach, do. Think a strategy – were your clients asking, what should I do that might be, you know, for the client at your firm is asking for advice about what to do. Maybe they want to handle it from there, but they’re like, I need a legal opinion on what to do. You know, so that’s think. Teach is about training and empowerment, where people want to do things themselves. They want to do things internally, uh, you know, maybe that’s guidance on how they can manage risk or build their pipeline, and so that their internal team can do things. And then, you know, think teach do – do is that implementation. Do it for me. And what I find is that sometimes people get sucked into doing types of work that they don’t want to do. And that actually leads to the second point, which is around being intentional about your services. So I know for instance, Chris, we’ve talked about, you know, PI firms are often litigation oriented or settlement oriented, you know, pick the one you want. And say no to the opportunities you don’t want, or, you know, refer them elsewhere as appropriate. Uh, just because your business is doing things a certain way now doesn’t mean you’re stuck doing that for the rest of your career.

Chris Dreyer:

Yeah, and I completely agree. And there’s all different benefits, you know, benefits, pros, and cons of the different types of positioning. Whether you want to be the heavy hitting trial attorney or you want to be the settlement firm you know, that that has more, you know, cashflow more predictable cashflow, quicker cashflow. There’s all different types of ways to approach this. You know, so in terms of measuring, measuring the strategies progress, you’ve said that there’s just one KPI that owners need to be looking at. You know, what is that magic KPI?

Karl Sakas:

It’s going to vary by firm, but if we were to narrow it to just one, I would start with your per capita billings. What I think of as revenue per FTE or FTE is someone working 40 hours. So that’s one full-time person. If you’ve got someone who’s working 20 hours a week, that’s one half of an FTE. If you have contractors or of council team members, you know, you’d be, prorating what their FTE equivalent was. And then ultimately you’d look at, you know, looking at your total billables, dividing it by the FTE count. That’ll give you per capita. Billables are what I call revenue per FTE. And that’s important because if you’ve got a bunch of part-time people, you’re not expecting them to contribute a full-time workload billably. And then look at that number. So indeed, take a look for past years. How do your revenue per FTE compare this year versus previous years? The nice thing about having that single per capita billables figure is that as your head count may have gone up or may have gone down, it gives you a consistent number that you can use to compare regardless of the firm’s size.

Chris Dreyer:

I think that’s tremendous because that could help with forecasting it can help with utilization – all these different components of running a business that you know, are, are basically complementing the business. And in terms of like a general rule, is this correct? Or, you know, this is something we haven’t talked about is it is kind of a general rule of $200,000 per FTE. Is that kind of a general number that people throw out?

Karl Sakas:

That’s a good target. When it comes to agencies, you know, create a specialist agency like rankings.io. You know, specifically focused on PI attorneys, a generalist agency that does, you know, a range of things for anyone is going to be lower. Uh, but you know, it, it is worth considering how is that changing over time? Uh, ideally you’re finding ways to increase per capita billables cause that’s the way for, you know, owners of the firm to make more money without having to work quite as many hours themselves. I mean, there’s the joke about making partner at a law firm. You know, it’s like, you know, where you’re working tons of hours hoping to make partner. And it’s like winning a hot dog eating contest where the prize is more hotdogs.

Chris Dreyer:

That’s funny know. So another thing that we talk a lot about is making yourself optional and how involved you are in the day-to-day running your company is something that a lot of leaders really struggle with. So first up, can you give us just a two minute version of what are the four stages of leading a business or an agency, basically, whatever you want, wherever you want to…

Karl Sakas:

So thinking of yourself as a business owner, and thinking about your day-to-day involvement in your business, there are four stages. And if you think of a fuel gauge, you know, imagine you’ve got, you know, an arrow moving along. So in the early days you were going to be mandatory, you are needed for everything. Your team can handle things without you. Then you can move up to necessary stage two, you know, your team is handling stuff sometimes poorly. Maybe you could take a vacation for, you know, take a day off for a day or two, but things are probably gonna blow up. When you move from necessary to needed. Things are a lot better. Things are going relatively smoothly. You can go on vacation for a week or two, uh, you know, and all that life is much easier. And then if you want, you can pursue what I would call. You know, in stage four optional when you’re optional, imagine the, the fuel gauge is now totally full and, you know, in a good way, you are optional to your firm’s day-to-day functioning. And it is worth considering you can be in multiple stages at once. Maybe if you’re the rainmaker for your firm, you might be mandatory or necessary. On the other hand, maybe you are optional when it comes to some of the administrative work and running your firm. The key is, you want to get clear on what is your stage and where do you want to be? Because then you can take steps to move on up toward where you want to go.

Chris Dreyer:

You equate that to, you know, you’re wearing multiple hats, you need to shed some of those hats. You need to delegate. You need to find your high value activities and really stick to those. And, and also, you know, so, so how does someone audit, you know, where they’re at on, on the, at that scale or on that scale?

Karl Sakas:

I would start by looking at, you know, how many hours or days or weeks do you feel like you can be away from your business without things blowing up. If you can’t go out to lunch without knowing something will be broken by the time you get back, you’re probably in stage one, right? Mandatory. If you can get away for a day or two and things are okay, maybe you’re in stage two – you’re in necessary. If you could take a week or even two weeks off, you’re probably in stage three. You know, you’re, you’re, you’re now needed not necessary. And if you can confidently take, say one month sabbatical, you’re probably optional. Uh, so that that’s sort of a thumbnail.

Chris Dreyer:

I think that’s the goal, right? To be optional because then you can apply your efforts wherever you want. And I think anyone looking to sell their business, they need to be optional. Otherwise, see, you know, if it depends upon the owner, then, you know, maybe it’s more difficult to sell.

Karl Sakas:

Most people I found choose to either seek stage three and many seek optional, but you know, for people who are listening, you know, if you’re like, I love litigation. If my job were such that I’d never get to go to court and battle it out, you know, with the companies that are, that are hurting and trying to hurt my clients. You can keep doing litigation. You may not want to become totally optional, or if you’re more settled than oriented, you know, if you want to be involved in negotiating the deals, you can make that happen. But maybe a way to think of it would be you are optional in the sense that you are choosing to do it, not you are forced to do it because there’s no one else does. Does that make sense?

Chris Dreyer:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I think that’s really powerful. And, and yeah, that, that makes total sense, you know, so, so, you know, continuing on this conversation, you know, a lot of entrepreneurs have trouble with relinquishing control. How can they overcome that feeling?

Karl Sakas:

I would start by looking at what has you stuck? You know, do you not want to delegate to your team because maybe you don’t have people you could delegate to. You know, maybe you don’t have people on the team or maybe you have people, but you can’t totally rely on them. Then in that case, you’re going to need to get the right people in, get them trained up and things like that. But let’s say you’ve got a great team. They’re competent. They want to do the work. They have the time to do it. I think of that as desire, competence capacity, right? You need all three of those, the Venn diagram. If you’ve got desire, competence capacity with your team in that case, then I would, I would look within. It’s probably more about you than about them. I have some of my clients call me their agency therapist. I clarify I’m not an actual therapist, but I have been to therapy myself on and off for over 20 years. There are some things where if you just keep getting stuck and you keep repeating the same patterns, it may make sense to work with the therapist to figure out what is going on there and how can you get unstuck? There’s that saying of the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, uh, which I would say, you know, if you do the same thing over and over again, and your circumstances change, you probably will get different results, but you know, day to day, it may be similar.

Chris Dreyer:

Whether you’re dealing with clients, referral partners, or even coworkers, managing expectations is essential. And while many of us know that we should do it. Few of us know how to do it. But Karl has a framework for managing relationships that can boost people’s perception of you and even keep clients happy. If you fall short on your promises.

Karl Sakas:

Warmth and competence is a concept from the book, The Human Brand by Chris Malone and Susan Fisk. Susan Fiske is a psychology professor at Princeton. Chris Malone is a former fortune 500 CMO. So like they understand the psychology of people and psychology within marketing. And the idea of warmth and competence is that it’s a way of thinking how you interact with your clients and prospective clients and with your employees. And if we think about warmth and competence from The Human Brand, you know, you could be high warmth, medium or low warmth. And you could be high competence, medium or low competence. Now, ideally, if we think about, say the companies that, that you work with, or the team members you work with, ideally you’d have high warmth and high competence. And what are those? Well, competence is, do you get the job done? Right. Did you do what you said you would do? Hopefully, you know, did you win the case? You know, that would be competent high competence. A warmth though, is, is interesting where that’s, how do people feel when they interact with you, whether that’s, how your employees feel, how your clients feel and so that you can have different combinations, ideally your high, warmth and competence, but you know, maybe you’re in a situation where, um, you know, uh, you’re highly competent, you know, you’re getting things done, but people don’t feel special. Right. So it might be high competence, low warmth. They’re like, what’s going on? You know, I, I like to say that if you’ve done something, but you haven’t told the client, you’ve done it from their perspective, you haven’t done it. Right. The opposite could be true as well. You know, maybe you don’t get the, uh, you know, the, the payouts that you expected for the clients that you were hoping for, but your client loved working with you. They felt like you did the best you could. Right? That’s a case where maybe competence was, you know, in the middle, but they felt the warmth and they they’re happy with the outcome. You know, based on, you know, you’re doing the best you could. And I think the opportunity for professional services firms is, you know, you want to be as competent as possible. That is important, but warmth is an opportunity to help you stand out from others, right? Where if you’re able to deliver a high warmth experience by taking that extra time to ask, you know, ask how things are going and give them an extra update, even if it’s good sharing bad news, right? You know, it’s like getting some sort of news on how things are going. You know, this is really important to them. They want to know, that’ll give you a potentially give you a pass on if you stumble on competence or things are taking longer than you expected or things like that. And that’s powerful. And you can do that with your team as well. For instance, I recently was at the doctor for an annual physical, and I asked him, you know, how is his family doing? As I recall, he had just had his second child. He seemed surprised that I remember that. But, I mean, that’s, I knew it was important to him. Right. You know, so, um, and, and the good news is, you know, his family, including his two sons, you know, everyone’s, everyone’s doing well. Um, but you know, keep in mind asking one of your employees, like, you know, How is their family doing? Uh, you know, how, how are their pets doing? You know, that, that kind of thing, uh, it’s a small thing, but it shows that you care about them as a person, not just as an employee. And you know what I mentioned, my grandfather was a business professor. He was at Cornell for 40 some years and a longtime management consultant with big companies. I, I came across some of his research from the 1950s in what we would now call organizational behavior, how companies work with their teams. And one of the things he found was in his surveys of employees at large corporations. Employees wished that their managers treated them as people, rather than just as workers. We’ve known that for decades and decades yet how many large companies treat their employees as just workers and not people? So, if you manage people, you have an opportunity to create a better experience. And you know what, if you’re worried about team turnover, if you can adopt a warmth and competence mindset, trying to create a high warmth, high competence experience for your clients and also for your employees, you’re going to keep good people longer. And that makes everything in your life easier.

Chris Dreyer:

I think that’s a masterclass on its own. I relate this a lot to the firms that ask me about how, how to obtain more reviews. It seems like some firms do a tremendous job and others don’t. And I think it comes down to because there’s, you know, you can implement tools. There’s definitely technology that can help there’s different tactical approaches. But I think that the warp component, when they have this great experience, that expectations are set. They, they are communicated through the entire journey. And then the competence where, you know, the, let’s say the warmth and competence is there we’ll then that’s probably gonna the outcome or the likelihood of that individual being an evangelist. And, and that, that our willingness to leave a review is probably a much higher than if the competence was there and the work was missing, or if the warp was there and the competence was missing.

Karl Sakas:

They could at least say, you know, in that case of like, I feel like they did the best they could, they were fighting for me.

Chris Dreyer:

Right, right. Yeah. So I think that’s powerful. I relate that to just so many things. And I think about that, like I said, from a team standpoint, a client standpoint, it’s, it’s a really simple exercise to kind of run through your head. And I wanted to talk about another one and this one impacted me more from a stress, uh, from a stress level. It lowers my stress when I, when I do this exercise. So I was wondering if you could kind of share with our audience the ideal outcome versus minimum acceptable.

Karl Sakas:

Whenever one of my clients is struggling with a big decision. They’ll often ask me for help, sorting through what to do. And a key thing is as a coach and as a consultant, I can’t make a decision for my clients, but I can help them narrow the decision. And ultimately the question after I get the background info about the particular situation, what is your ideal outcome and what is your minimum acceptable outcome? What is the minimum acceptable here? And this going to be different for each person. It’s going to be different depending on where you are in your business. For instance, this will often come up where, well, I can give some examples, but, uh, you know, what’s your reaction to that, Chris?

Chris Dreyer:

So for me, I related to an actual example that I can share with our audience. So we were experimenting, potentially offering pay-per-click as a service, and we had a couple clients and I was worried that if I told them we weren’t going to do pay-per-click that they would just leave and, and quit being a client in entirely. And I started thinking about, you know, what’s the ideal outcome. We have a candid conversation. They understand, they appreciate the transparency. What’s the minimum acceptable. Now I love working with this client, but, the minimum acceptable was, you know, if they chose to go a different direction, that was okay. So once I understood that my stress just went away immediately because I knew that, you know, even if, if I had this candid conversation that they chose to go a different direction. Yeah. That that would be okay.

Karl Sakas:

Perfect. And for people listening, if you’re like, huh? Um, I feel like, you know, my, my firm’s marketing pipeline, isn’t strong enough to do that, well, one, you should talk to Chris because that will strengthen your pipeline. And then you can feel more confident about saying no to poor fit options. Uh, but you know, within that context, if you’re feeling a little shaky, uh, you know, uh, about where you are, maybe in that case, your minimum acceptable outcome is you need to keep the client no matter what, rather than you’re willing to lose them. Yeah. Okay. You may make some different decisions. You may not push quite as far. You may not give an ultimatum or things like that. So it helps to get clear on your ideal because then you can manage toward that. And your minimum acceptable, because that gives you the parameters for where you’re trying to land and identifies, you know, don’t push too far if you’re trying to get things that you don’t even care about. And also, you know, where might you need to compromise. Uh, in order to achieve the outcome you you want. I mean, running a business is stressful enough as is you don’t need to make it harder than it already is.

Chris Dreyer:

Absolutely. And I’ve heard other individuals, they talk about, you know, when you’re laying in bed and you can’t sleep and you’re just running something through your mind over and over, they stayed a journal it down, you know, create a plan. And I think what’s helped me is like, you know, I don’t sleep with a journal next to my bed. I do have my phone, but I like to kind of keep that separate when I’m getting ready to relax. And I kind of run this exercise through my head of the ideal outcome versus minimal acceptable. And once I have clarity there, then it just seems the stress kind of fades away. I, I understand what the outcomes could potentially be in. And then I’m okay with those outcomes.

Karl Sakas:

And, you know, for everyone, listening, uh, within your PI firm, you know, maybe you’ve got a client who is stuck and you’ve recommended something, but they’re having trouble making a decision. Right. You could ask them what is their ideal outcome, what is their minimum acceptable? Maybe they’re like, well, you know, ideally we get $2 million. Minimum. If we get at least a hundred thousand, we’ll be okay, obviously adjusting for your fee accordingly. That gives you a lot of flexibility. On the other hand, if they tell you, you know, our minimum is we need 2 million and our ideal is 10 million. And, you know, from your experience that is highly unlikely, you can try to manage their expectations, or you may decide if this is part of your intake process, you may decline the case. Right. I mean, you can’t afford to work on a contingency basis for a client who would never accept a reasonable settlement. This could save you a ton of time and stress in your plan process.

Chris Dreyer:

I like to call that teach your clients not to be crazy… internally. So you’re setting those expectations and you have those conversations up front and then, you know, then it’s okay. You know, you set the expectations up front, so you teach them not to be crazy.

Karl Sakas:

Yes.

Chris Dreyer:

So, if we transition over to personal. You know, I have noticed that you do a ton of volunteering. You’re also a bartender for an old timey, 1930s railroad car, you know, how did you get involved with that?

Karl Sakas:

Well, I’ve always been into trains, you know, since I was growing up. And, uh, back when I lived in New Jersey, uh, friends were like, hey, there’s a restored Pullman railroad car that takes people on trips all over the US and into Canada. Uh, you know, we think you’d like it, you know, you travel for free. You’re working behind the scenes. There’s great food. You meet some interesting people. Uh, and so I checked it out. I I’ve been doing this now. Uh, you know, I’ve done at least one trip, sometimes a few trips every year, uh, for over a decade. And, and it, it, it is fun. It’s hard work too, right. You know, long days and this and that and demanding passengers, but because I’m doing it as a volunteer, you know, I can have fun with creating the best experience possible for people who are joining us. And indeed, because we’re run, you know… it’s a nonprofit, I’m volunteering with them. I know that the work we’re doing is helping preserve history and, you know, create an experience for people that most people alive today have never seen before in terms of what the passenger experience is, plus visit some, you know, fun trips to some interesting places. Uh, so it’s, you know, sort of that perfect combination of, of, of interests.

Chris Dreyer:

I love that. And I, me and my wife talk about, you know, when we have our future child, one of the things that we’re going to do is have them be a server or a bartender, because I think that you really level up your customer… you know, your customer satisfaction skills, your EQ, your empathy when you work in that field.

Karl Sakas:

Absolutely. Um, you know, I mean, thinking, and again, this is all on a volunteer basis, but, you know, certainly we’ve had some difficult passengers, demanding passengers. Uh, and so it’s, you know, how do I, what can I do to make them as happy as possible within reason? Right. Kind of ideal versus minimum acceptable outcome. If someone wants to like, hang off the back of the train as we’re going along, that’s, you know, that’s not an option. But otherwise it’s like, what can I do, uh, you know, kind of, kind of thing. Uh, and, and indeed, as you know, I think for anyone who’s thinking of sending their kids to, to work in a restaurant, uh, certainly my experience is that the most demanding, uh, passengers or clients are also the ones who tip the least or not at all. Funny, funny how that works out.

Chris Dreyer:

Yeah. And I I’ve seen that myself being a bartender back in the past.

Karl Sakas:

Yes.

Chris Dreyer:

Yes. As we, Carl has been closed up to, we have a final three for three segments. It’s just a quick hitter, a quick fire round. So starting out which habit contributes the most to your success?

Karl Sakas:

I would say follow through. You know, I’ll join a call, a zoom call and more than once people will be like, Wow, you, you showed up on right on time. It, it’s kind of a sad state of affairs that showing up on time for a meeting is worth commenting on. Uh, you know, and, and certainly for anyone listening, if you’re like, Oh, I’ve got too much going on, I can barely keep up, get someone who is detail oriented and can help you stay on track. I mean, even though I am detail oriented, I have people on my team to help me, uh, which is certainly helpful. So. You know that follow through it, basically, if you commit to doing it, do it. And, and if you decide you can’t commit to it say no, rather than, you know, dragging things out.

Chris Dreyer:

You know, I, I think of the word integrity there, right? You say you’re going to do something. Yeah. I’d love that. And which entrepreneur do you admire the most?

Karl Sakas:

So this is the family connection. Uh, my grandfather, the business professor and, and, uh, and business consultant. Uh, you know, I, I actually connected with one of his students from the 1960s to hear about, you know, what was he like as a professor? Cause I, you know, he’s since passed on and I didn’t see him. You know, in, in his teaching. Uh, and so in spite of his, you know, international travel, he would say, you know, on a Thursday to a students that he was, you know, flying to the Netherlands to consult with Nestle, uh, and he would be back in time – he apparently never missed a class. You know, he was, always there. Um, and also he was able to create an experience so that everyone who was working with, you know, could make it so that they felt special. Right. So that, you know, there was powerful. Um, and you know, ultimately was able to build a business that supported him and his family. And, uh, you know, I, you know, and certainly I feel lucky to be following in his footsteps in helping companies work better with their team and taking care of taking care of getting things done. Uh, so yeah, that’s my answer though.

Chris Dreyer:

That’s incredible. And, and being an avid reader, this one might be tough for you at the end here, but if you had to recommend one business book, which would it be and why?

Karl Sakas:

Well, you know, my parents are both career army officers. Uh, dad went to West point. They’re both in, you know, for their, their full career. Uh, but I do have a Navy related book. So the Navy related book is called Turn the Ship Around, uh, by a former us Navy submarine captain who took his sub from worst to first in his, in his group. And the key to doing that. And this is an important book about leadership. You know, even if you’re not overseeing a submarine, it still applies to you, whether you’re running an agency, running your law firm, or, you know, leading a volunteer activity as part of your, you know, your outside of work things. The idea that he espouses is that so often we focus on leader, follower relationships. The leader tells people what to do and the follower asks what to do. And that means that you as the leader or a huge bottleneck, right. You know, everyone’s asking you, what do I do? If you’re listening this right now, maybe you’ve gotten interrupted amidst listening to this episode by one of your employees wanting to know what to do. There’s a solution. Instead of doing leader follower shift to what in the book, Turn the Ship Around what they call leader leader. When it’s leader leader, your team is thinking through what to do before they come to you before they ask for help. And so indeed your team can say, I intend to. XYZ instead of saying, what do I do? They’re like, here’s the situation I intend to do this, this and this as the manager, you can now add, you can now say either proceed. You could ask some clarifying questions and then say proceed. Or maybe you have some concerns based on things your employee, maybe isn’t aware of. You can ask them to regroup based on that. Imagine if you only had to make 90% of the decisions you make now because they have pre-organized most of them and you can just say proceed or ask some clarifying questions. It worked in my volunteering as well with the American marketing association. And I assigned that book at the beginning of my term, as president as a core way of how we were going to run things without honoring the crazy hours. And in spite of cutting back on the time commitment out of 75 chapters across North America, we managed to place number two in all of North America by adopting that Turn the Ship Around leader, leader model. So check it out.

Chris Dreyer:

I love that. So would you say that leader leader is, is another word for it is empowerment. Is that basically what it’s, what it’s about is empowering those individuals to lead on their own.

Karl Sakas:

That is a good way to think about it. And, um, I had a client years ago, it was like, my team keeps interrupting me and I’m like, Oh, well, that that’s bad. Uh, have you tracked, like, what are the types of interruptions and the people who were interrupting? He’s like, no, I said, okay, do that for a week. And let’s review. And when I reviewed the data, uh, there was, there was some themes and ultimately it turned out some of the questions were reasonable and there were some other situations where he’d actually created his, uh, problem for himself where the team could in theory decide, but then he would come back later and interfere. And so they stopped deciding they didn’t feel empowered because they knew he was going to, you know, suddenly show up, deposit some negative feedback and fly away. The technical term for that, by the way, is swoop and poop. So for him, the setup was create opportunities for the team to make decisions where he wouldn’t question their decision. But if it was within their swim lanes, he would back them up. And you know what it reduced his stress. Ultimately, he was able to make himself optional. Right? We were talking about the stages. He was able to go from an early, earlier stages to stage four, and he ultimately was able to sell this business. That would never have happened if he hadn’t empowered and otherwise set up his team for success.

Chris Dreyer:

That’s incredible. Karl, thank you so much for coming on the show. Where can people go to learn more about you?

Karl Sakas:

You can learn more at sakasandcompany.com. That’s S A K A S A N D the word company.com. If you’re active on Twitter, I am @Karlsakas that’s K A R L S A K A S on Twitter, all kinds of free advice, hundreds of articles with a focus on helping marketing agencies. But if you’re running any kind of professional services firm, including a PI firm, odds are many of the tips will apply as well.

Chris Dreyer:

Karl has an immense amount of knowledge in this area. I don’t think there was a single piece of advice there that I haven’t used here at rankings. And for me, his thoughts on ideal outcomes and minimum acceptable outcomes have prevented many nights of lost sleep. I’d like to thank Karl from Sakas and Company for sharing his story with us. I hope you gained some valuable insights from the conversation. You’ve been listening to the Rankings Podcast, I’m Chris Dreyer. If you liked this episode or have an idea for another for a future guest whose story you’d like to hear, leave me a review and tell me more. I’ll catch you next week with another inspiring story and some SEO tips and tricks all with page one in mind.

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