Momentum Podcast: 225
Culture Meeting Part 1
by Alex Charfen
This is a pretty unique podcast because I'm going to let you and everyone else who listens to this podcast in on a vital and foundational element on how I run businesses and how I coach people to run businesses. See, I believe once you start building a team, the most important aspect of running a business is that team.
It's the people, it's the leverage you have, it's what they can accomplish and what they can get done, it's how well can you build a company culture around performance and mutual respect and helping each other so that you build trust with your team and get the outcomes that you want in the world to become a reality. I put a lot of time into culture, in fact, one of the things that we do in our organization is about once a month, and more often if we're hiring a lot of people, we hold a culture meeting.
This is one of our most unique podcasts. Building a company culture around performance and trust is key. We didn’t anticipate sharing this, but I’d like to share with you our recent culture meeting. For our company this is unprecedented. Listen to the real behind the scenes with our incredible team. Come on in.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds, those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how.
While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few, who are filling to hallucinate there could be a better future, and instead of daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution and we always will be. Culture meeting.
This is a pretty unique podcast because I'm going to let you and everyone else who listens to this podcast in on a vital and foundational element on how I run businesses and how I coach people to run businesses. See, I believe once you start building a team, the most important aspect of running a business is that team. It's the people, it's the leverage you have, it's what they can accomplish and what they can get done, it's how well can you build a company culture around performance and mutual respect and helping each other so that you build trust with your team and get the outcomes that you want in the world to become a reality. I put a lot of time into culture, in fact, one of the things that we do in our organization is about once a month, and more often if we're hiring a lot of people, we hold a culture meeting.
The purpose is simple: we want to allow new members to formally introduce themselves, we transparently and congruently share the company's story, we allow team members to ask any questions they have about the company, long terms goals, and where the company is going. Then we share important foundational, company wide policies, the ones that we want everyone to know.
Each culture meeting we ever have is completely and totally choreographed, there's a process to it, and there's a rhythm to it. This week, we had one of the most incredible culture meetings I've ever had in any company I've ever owned. In a step that is pretty major for us a as a company, we're going to invite you in and allow you to hear what it's like to be in a culture meeting with us. So, without any further delay, I'm going to let you listen to our culture meeting. As you'll hear right away, we weren't really expecting to release this as content, or I would not have started with a very noisy and somewhat slurpy sounding hyper hydration, as I led the meeting, but you know what? That's how it happened. So, that's what you're gonna hear.
Okay, thanks Jay. Let me have one sec, guys. Alright, thanks for hitting record, Justin. So, the intention is this meeting is to allow new team members to formally introduce themselves, to transparently and congruently ... but it say's concurrently, which is totally not the right word ... but congruently share the company's story and client-centric mission, to allow team members ... thanks Jay ... to openly ask questions about the company, long term goals, and where the business is going, and to ensure important foundational company-wide policies like no gossip and anti-discrimination. Culture meetings should be scheduled every 30 to 60 days, depending on how many people you are hiring, the more people hired, the more frequently you should ... it says, "The more frequent, or frequently," ... oh shit, I gotta stop correcting ... you should hold culture meetings.
So, just so everybody understanding especially those of you ... like, Isla, you're new to this, and Matt, I don't know that you were in leadership when we used to do these, but ... oh, you weren't, so you never really got the other discussion on these and so ... now I just tell everybody this. So, when we go forward ... I do these once a month ... sometimes we'll go every six weeks and sometimes we do it every two weeks if we're really hiring. If you're in leadership and someone has been hired that you're going to be responsible for, I suggest that you try and be at their culture meeting if you can. Sometimes you won't be able to, but if you can, you should be there. Since they're not that frequent, if you're in leadership, it's just good for you to be there and meet new people in this environment because, especially working remotely, we don't really have a chance to really meet people, and the culture meeting is going to be a place where we can really do that.
So, this is the time we set aside exclusively for the team. Let's jump in. I read the intention, so I'll start. I'm going to give you guys the very abbreviated story of where our company comes from because ... I think it might be confusing to work here because, depending on what you read or listen to, there's like eight company stories. So, there's all kinds of different stuff that gets shared out there, but I just want you to hear it from my perspective. This business was born when ... or created out of when Cadey and I went bankrupt in 2007. It was crazy, we lost everything, and our shot in the dark was what Russel says, "One funnel, one product, one client," no joke. When I think about it, it's so crazy because we had never thought about doing an information product or anything and we created the certified distressed property expert.
At the time when I started it, I did an online survey, and there was 75 competitors for the product, so it was not like we were going blue ocean. But, I'd bought so many of them and I knew they were so full of crap that I couldn't not do something, so we wrote the CDPE and I started teaching it in person. It was like this crusade, I was so upset with what I had figured out with what was going on with foreclosures and how nobody was talking about it ... I started researching foreclosures and at the time where we released the CDPE, which was a designation for realtors that were helping homeowners in foreclosure, the National Association of Realtors and all the major lenders were saying we were in a six month slump in the United States.
I went all Asperger's on those statements and went and did crazy research on all the numbers on home sales and pending and clothes and all the averages and everything else. I was one of the first people in the country to come out and very loudly say that we were in a seven to ten year crisis because all of the experts were saying six months to a year and I was like seven to ten years and there's no argument around it. Then, I built the inconvenient truth presentation called the CDPE, where we had all the data, all the information, all the perspective, and a plan out of it. So, that single product that we started selling for $2.49 and ended up selling for $5.99 with discounts did ... we sold 49,700, I think, or something really close, right Justin? Then, of the 49,700, that's a really cool number, but guys, here's what's the craziest number in the history of information products. 46,500 finished. So, you sold 49 and ... wasn't that the final number, Justin?
Justin: I think Matt might know better than me, I don't entirely remember and I was there for a shorter period of time than him, but it sounds very familiar.
Alex Charfen: We're going to have to look it up because we'll ... we'll just look up how many designated members we have because our completion rate was over 90%. Now, a lot of those were in person classes, but still, over 50% of our business was online. Of the people that bought that product ... so, we did exactly what Russel says, we went one product, one market, one funnel, and that's what we did to finally get out of our slump, it was one product, one market, one funnel, until we hit a million. Only in our case, it was one product, one market, and we just never had time to build a funnel, but we still hit a million, so whatever. But ... we did it kind of the same way, as Russel would say. When we work with clients who are doing information products, I have insane empathy for all of the stuff they're going through. When we're working with coaches and experts and stuff ... the CDPE was the hardest thing I ever did in my life.
When I look at some of the people we have that are in their 20s that have way bigger followings than I ever did and who've gotten way more attention than I ever did, it's crazy, because what our clients do is really incredibly difficult. Running the company like ours is really ... yeah, not as easy as it looks. So, I know just how crucial having the right team is. The CDPE was a crazy accomplishment, but it was our team, it was not me, we did so many things as a company that I just thought of and then the team executed, but in all honesty, it got to a point where there was more innovation coming from the team than I ever could hope to do on my own. So, I'm super conscious and aware of how crucial it is to have the right people on a team, and that's why I run a company like I do, because as the years have gone forward from running businesses, what I've realized ... I've gone from believing that employees had to be driven to do well to having certainty that when you hired true believers, you just have to coach them not to hurt themselves.
I've gone from feeling like everyone on the team should be in a silo to having certainty that if everyone doesn't know with a high level of understanding what everyone else is doing, you're just gonna suck. I've gone from this belief that the team can hear from me when I have time ... seriously, I grew a 250 million dollar company with that attitude ... so horrible. There was so much pain involved, it makes me feel guilty when I say how big it was because that just means I caused more pain ... to now, I have this incredibly high level of certainty that the team needs to be able to count on me in the way that I indicate. I have to fulfill the expectations I set, and what I've learned as a CEO is I very clearly set expectations and I strive to meet them. When I don't, I expect my team to say, "Hey, you set an expectation and missed." So, I want all of you to know, that's sincerely how I run a team, and I think it takes a bit to get used to sometimes at first, but it's not an act and it's not what we say and it's not something I'm saying and then we do something different. This is exactly who we are.
So, there's a high level of transparency with how we do things, we discuss everything with our team ... like I show with our clients, the only thing that we don't openly discuss is salaries because what people make is a very personal thing and whenever that discussion is unleashed in the company it just causes tremendous chaos. I've been in companies where we had to have that discussion because somebody left the salaries on a desk or something, and we recovered from the chaos, but it was weird and friendships got weird and people's relationships got weird. That's the one place we shy away from, but everywhere else, we communicate just exactly what is going on. So, if you ever feel like there's ambiguity around something, it's your job to call that out and say, "Hey, I don't really understand," or, "This is unclear," or, "It hasn't been communicated," because if there's ambiguity, I don't want you to think that that's ever intentional, that's always a place where we missed. There's just a couple, so ... that's it.
That's what's important to me, I think ... oh, and then there's just a couple of things that I want you guys to know. So, what's really important to us as a company is that you guys are successful as well, and so one of the things we're going to do is send you a copy of total money makeover, which is a book on personal finance. It's a requirement, to work here, to read that book. If you don't read ... I've had people who've worked with us that got really upset with me because they didn't read, but they listen to books, you can totally listen to it. But, you really should read that book, it'll change everything for you if you do. Cadey and I are completely debt free and we would love to see all of you do that.
Each year, we give out company awards and each year we give debt free awards to those who have achieved either being debt free forever, or anyone who got it new. So, when you get your first one, it's your first year, and then you start anniversarying being debt free. I think the highest we ever gave someone was somebody who became debt free while they worked with us and I think they earned their fifth debt free award working with us. All of you should be aiming for that, for me, it's an expectation that you all have a debt reduction plan and you know what date you will be out of debt because you will be capable of one thing when you're in debt and then you will be shocked at how much you're capable of when the debt is gone, even though you didn't think it was bothering you. Anyone who questions that has not gotten out of debt because once you have it's just like everything in the world changes. That's it for me, and then I'm going to share a little bit in a little bit ... later on in the outline.
So, is there any questions from anyone?
Justin: Are you planning to go over ... I think on culture meeting meetings, you usually go over gossip?
Alex Charfen: Yeah, it's ... so, I normally have ...
Justin: [crosstalk 00:15:13]
Alex Charfen: Yeah, there's like four ... here's the rest of the outline, Justin, because I sort of shared it earlier. Here, I'll let you check it out. We probably should have handed out an agenda for this, but ... I just go over how it was founded and then there's team introductions, so each person shares a little bit about themselves and why they are here, founders share and explain the client-centric mission and then share and explain company tenants, share no gossip and anti-discrimination policies, and allow team to ask questions.
Justin: Gotcha, thanks Alex.
Alex Charfen: Cool. So, this is the first culture meeting for just about everybody, here is my suggestion. Everybody does an abbreviated introduction and why you're here so that we can have everyone do this, because I think for everybody but Justin ... or maybe the Justins ... you guys have both been to one, but for everybody else, this is the first one, so let's just do everyone. Le Ann, if it's cool can we start with ... or actually, you know what? I'm going to start with somebody who has been here for a while. Justin, you've done this for a while, so I'll let you start.
Justin: Cool. Just intro, who I am, that type of thing?
Alex Charfen: So, it's who you are and why you're here.
Justin: Sweet. All right everybody, my name is Justin, I worked with Alex back in, I think, 2010 for a year, left for a while, came back ... it's going to be three years ago ... I don't even know if you knew this, Alex, but three years next month. So, almost about four years. I've done a lot of different things within the company, the majority of it has been within customer service, so I've done sales and some other stuff too. Now, I'm director of coaching, so, why I'm excited to be here ... I've known Alex for a long time, I've known some of you for a bit ... partly is because of the people that we serve and I'm up close and personal with them every day and I care about them genuinely.
Partly, I have to say, it has to do with Alex and Cadey. I mean, crazy good people, some of the best people I've known in my life, super supportive, great leaders and ... for me, one of the biggest things is personal growth. I'm evolving over time and anybody who has ever been with the company and isn't any longer with the company, because we were at 95 plus people ... everybody is a better person for having been associated with this company and ... yeah, that's my brief story.
Alex Charfen: Thanks Justin. So that everyone understands, each person in the company, there's something you should go to them for, and Justin is running our coaching programs, but also, if any of you ever have trouble understanding part of the cadence or part of the planning process, Justin understands it better than anyone else besides me. He's been using it for longer and he's been coaching it now. So, if you ever have a question that you can't get ahold of me, Justin is about as good.
Justin: Thanks, Alex.
Alex Charfen: Yeah, you got it J. So, Matt can you go next?
Matt: Sure. I'm Matt, one of my first real jobs was back in 2010 when Alex hired me for member services at CDPE. I was really taken by the way he carried himself as a leader, the way he runs his company, and the team and ... So, I knew back then, that I wanted to make an impact any way I could and get into [inaudible 00:18:43] with him, that was my main goal, I want to get in [inaudible 00:18:45] with Alex. At the time, all day, every day was like angry phone calls and emails from members and it took 92 days for me put a plan together that ultimately got his attention and I was able to kind of leverage that and transition from member services into kind of an interesting role, I was doing a lot of things with content, marketing and products ... I think Alex just didn't know what the hell to do with me. But, looking back on it, that was actually really valuable because I've always been able to do a lot of different things quite well, and I really enjoy wearing a lot of different hats and the ability to step into a multitude of roles depending on what we actually need at the time.
I somehow ended up as Alex's sidekick on the webinars. We had a lot of fun. Sometimes it was scary being in front of 100,000 people, knowing that they were all watching me, but ... yeah, just really a lot of different things. After that, from 2013 to 2018, I did consulting for marketing and technology. Worked for a lot of companies in the news, the RedX, Real Estate Negotiation Institute ... Verne Harnish, even Microbe Formula, so ... a lot of companies are out there making money, but there's something missing from just about all of them, and that's what ultimately brought me back here. You guys know I was on the Organifi team for about four and a half years ... built all the backend structure and a lot of marketing for Organifi green juice. When I started, they were making 40k a month, when I left, it was four million a month, so I'm no stranger to faced paced, high growth ... I love thriving in that type of atmosphere.
I think a lot of people kind of just tend to get crushed like cans and the people who thrive are the ones that stick around and ... what I love about this team is that everybody seems very well equipped and ready to be in that sort of situation. Yeah, super excited to be here, the team, the people, the part, the service ... like J said, Alex and Cadey, to me, are some of the best people that I've ever had the privilege to meet and I'm just thrilled to be able to work with them again.
Alex Charfen: Thanks Matt, it's great to have you back man. I want you guys all to know, I used a very scientific way of the order here, it's how you showed up on my zoom screen, so ... that's the order you're going to go so, Isla ... if someone does that thing where you turn off your camera and come back it shuffles it and I'm screwed. But, go ahead.
Isla Brooke: Hi, guys ... sorry, Isla. I met Alex at the end ... well, September last year and I didn't actually know who he was when I met him. I spent the whole of last year going to this crazy of wanting to up-level myself and to learn everything I could in marketing, Russel [inaudible 00:21:32], like Mike Dillard ... I don't know, I went into this crazy mode ... oh, there goes my earring! Yeah, so I went into this big mode of self growth and self-development and that all stemmed from my divorce with my ex-husband. So, I wanted to really grow myself personally and also professionally.
My background has always been in learning and development and marketing, previously I've worked for Virgin Australia and one of Australia's big banks and ... [inaudible 00:22:13] there, and ... yeah, done some amazing things, so I'm very appreciative of that, but I always ... in the corporate environment, I was always that person who had these crazy ideas and ... I guess, people will be like, "No, we can't do that, we can't do this," you'd always get shut down. That's where I started businesses of my own, so I'd always have something on the side. When I had my children, I started a hair accessories business online and grew it, through Instagram, to five figures a month, and that was awesome, being a stay at home mom on maternity leave. I had no sleep and that's what I did at night because I was like, "If I'm gonna not sleep, I might as well grow a business." I had two little girls, so I was like, "I'm gonna do baby stuff."
So, I did that for a bit and then came back from maternity and just did contracting, kinda similar to what you were saying, Matt. I consulted to just different corporate businesses around and ... while I was on my quest of learning all this new stuff and personal development and growth and all of this, I decided I was going to go to Russel's coaching, and so went over in September last year and ... Yeah, that was a pretty big thing to do, leaving my two little girls at home, but I was like, "I'm going to do it because this is something for me and my growth and it will benefit my family." At the coaching program I met Alex and when I saw him I was like, "I need to talk to this person, I know I need to talk to this person," but I had no idea who he was because this group of people that were there ... there's all different people from different backgrounds, so you didn't really know who everybody was and what everybody did, but I knew I wanted to talk to him.
So, I was like, "We're gonna catch up at lunch," and we [inaudible 00:24:11] for lunch and Alex pretty much mapped out my whole plan in two minutes of what was in my head and I was just like, "Holy shit, who is this guy? I need to do something with him," I was just mind blown. My brother came with me and I talked with him and I was like, "Holy crap, I've just met this guy and blah blah," and all he heard was just, "Alex, Alex, Alex," he's probably like, "Who is this guy?" Anyway, I didn't know what capacity I was gonna have anything to do with Alex, but I knew I wanted to do his program, so I did his momentum masterclass and that was awesome ... like, amazing and I was thinking in my mind, "I'd love to work with him," and then when the content writing role came, I was like, "I don't care what I do for you, I'm going to apply for it, I'll do anything." Then, started off in the first week and then ... I guess, from that first week, we realized how I could contribute best to the company
Speaker 5: [inaudible 00:25:12], mommy? Alex Charfen: And that's Lily, and that's Charlotte.
Isla Brooke: And this is Lily and Charlotte, and they're about to go to kindy, their nana is about to pick them up. Yeah, I'm the same as everybody else, I just love Alex and Cadey and I'm so appreciative to be a part of this team and be able to also be a mom as well. I know my girls are here a lot in the morning before they go to kindy, but I'm so lucky that I can jump on a meeting and not have to rush them off to daycare at 6:00 AM in the morning, so that's massive for me and that I can work at night and weekends and around them as well. Also, I love our clients too, but meeting a lot of our clients in September when I came over as well, I've never met a bunch of people like this ... in Australia there are pockets, but it's not as big, so I've never kind of been in a group of amazing influences, like at Brussels's event, there was like 300 influences at that thing at Boise ... Yeah, I love our clients, and I'm so excited to be a part of it and to be able to be a part of your mission Alex, because I truly, wholeheartedly believe in it as well. So, yeah, that's me.
Speaker 5: Mommy ...
Isla Brooke: Yeah ... it's okay.
Alex Charfen: Thanks Isla, that was awesome. I absolutely love Isla Brooke, and as you can hear there at the end of the recording, she was actually on this culture meeting with us in the very early morning hours in Australia, so her daughters, Charlotte and Lily, had actually come in to be with her while we were on our call. In our organization, most of our team works remotely, and a lot of them have kids, so if a kid walks in on a meeting, or if they interrupt something, or if something like that happens, we've all agreed that we're okay with it ... that we're all parents and we all have children and so my team knows that for me, regardless of what type of meeting I'm in, my door is always unlocked, my daughters can walk in, I might hem tell that I'm occupied, but they might interrupt me for 30 seconds to a minute, sometimes as long as two, and because the most important value I have is being a husband and a father, I'm absolutely okay with that, and I have the same policy for my team.
So, that was the first half of our culture meeting, and tomorrow I want to share the second half with you. You'll hear a couple more team introductions, in the next one, coming from one of our writers, Paul, is absolutely hilarious. Then, you'll hear how we wrap up the culture meeting, the exact choreography, what we share with our team members are the most foundational and most important aspects of working with us. I want you to hear how we share with everyone, exactly the same way, so no one in our organization can ever say they weren't told about a key company policy. You'll hear that on tomorrow's episode called culture meeting two. If you're ready to start building a company culture, if you're ready to start building a team, if you're ready to actually go and achieve what you know you're capable of, go to billionairecode.com, answer a few questions from me and my team, and you'll have an option to set up a call with one of my team members. Let us show you how to create an incredible performance culture, how to increase your profitability and company stability, and go out and achieve the accomplishments and the impact you've always known you should have. Billionaircode.com.