Today’s interview is with Louis Tolentino of The Coffee Mill in Tehachapi, Ca.
Welcome to season three of the LeaderQuest Podcast! This season we are focusing on small business leaders who have had to pivot or transition during the 2020 Covid Economy.
Each interview was structured around three main questions:
How did your business pivot during 2020?
What does the future (2021) look like for your business?
What is a current problem or question that your facing?
During each interview, you’ll hear real stories from real business owners. They will share their highs and lows, along with important lessons learned along the way. You’ll be able to take their knowledge and turn it into wisdom.
Today is Louis Tolentino of The Coffee Mill in Tehachapi, California.
Louis is a friend with an extraordinary business mind. I have immensely enjoyed our off-air conversations about life, family, and survival in this business economy.
This interview is a personal favorite and the wealth of information, his passion, and his plans for future growth and service are inspiring.
Throughout this interview, you’ll hear not only how he cares for his staff, but how he is bringing innovation to a crowded coffee market and the larger Tehachapi area. Tune in to get inspired!
We’re continuing our look at Marcus Whitney’s Book Create and Orchestrate and how you as the owner need to spend time growing your business.
If you missed any of the previous posts, don’t worry, links are at the bottom.
Growth is about understanding that change is always happening. You can and should drive and leverage change to realize the vision and live out the values of the company.*
Reinvestment, Anticipation, Innovation
While highlights the need for growth under the three ideas of reinvestment, anticipation, and innovation. His focus on core aspects of your business are helpful, below I’ll use those ideas to talk about how we approach the same topics throughout coaching.
In life and business, reinvestment is primarily about the daily habits and routines we build into your schedule for success.
Reinvestment asks questions like:
Did you give your best effort towards getting better today?
What goals did you accomplish?
What new goals did you set?
How were you successfully able to eliminate distraction and do something of significance?
Throughout coaching, I highlight the need for these basic elements of our own growth. Many of my clients already know I’m going to ask these sorts of questions, even before I do. It becomes ingrained in the way we think during our times together.
Growing your business is about making small daily deposits of success, consistency, and routine. Otherwise, you will never achieve larger breakthroughs.
Anticipation is about your future self as much as it’s about the future market.
When I started coaching, my focus was exclusively on leadership health and burnout. Part of that was my own circumstance at the time. I was in an organization that consistently produced burned out leaders and I wanted to avoid that trend.
But it was also partly cultural. I started coaching as the U.S. economy was still feeling the lingering effects of the 2008 market crash. While in many ways we were ‘out of it’ by the time I started coaching, many individuals were still terrified and afraid. They were still recovering financially and were scared that something else might happen.
This made them extraordinarily open to talks of leadership health and sustainability, especially my focus on all areas of life.
As the economy recovered, I began to focus more on small business and HR needs. Again, both a personal decision and a cultural one.
It wasn’t that the need for leadership health was gone, but for many a strong economy hid the need to talk about it.
The current pandemic and economic collapse (and the resulting questions) have seen a large uptick in conversations around leadership health. People again are afraid and unable to mask their worry and anxiety.
I’ve had a number of individuals reach out to me about leadership health, including one organization who basically said, “We’re all hurting and can’t keep going on for much longer.” The long drawn-out year of 2020 has revealed the deep need for total leadership health.
Anticipation for me was preparing for this months ago and being ready to step in and offer coaching and consulting to these individuals and businesses. Your own anticpation needs might be different, but you can start by asking questions like:
What events, meetings, or opportunities are ahead of me in the next six to twelve months?
Who will I need to be to make those things happen?
How are my current behaviors limiting or enhancing my growth opportunities?
Growing your business starts by growing yourself and addressing your own needs first. Reaching your full potential allows you to serve others more.
In coaching, innovation is finding new ways to meet current needs.
As a business coach, I often tell young entrepreneurs that if people aren’t buying their product, they aren’t meeting people’s needs. Unfortunately, it’s just that simple.
We’ve seen a huge growth in the online education market, and rightfully so. Gone are the days of needing to be present for live or in-class training. Now, the convenience and adaptability of online learning make this decision a no brainer.
But smart entrepreneurs are already asking, “What’s next?” Online learning is the new, current, and necessary trend. But something will be next? Keeping an eye on upcoming methods of delivery, education, product placement, and advertising will keep facilitating steady growth in growing your business.
We’re continuing our series on Marcus Whitney’s book Create and Orchestrate, and his eight core concepts to successfully run your business. In today’s post, we’re examining how to have a strong financial plan.
Financial Planning: An Introduction
It seems self-explanatory that a business needs to have a handle on its finances. Yet most new entrepreneurs don’t understand the importance of finance in their business. In my experience, finance is the aspect of business that most new entrepreneurs are weakest in. Understanding finance is critical to ensuring the sustainability of your business.*
Whitney’s assessment has been true not only of my own entrepreneurial journey but of many of the businesses I have coached and partnered with along the way.
I’ll never forget the first month I “made money” as a coach. Someone had actually written me a check, I was profitable … right?
Not so fast. There were the marketing bills I had to pay, the time spend on social media engagement, the debt collected by getting more education, the operations costs, and other bills to pay. All I had really done was gone slightly less in debt that month.
The next month, more people wrote checks. In the following months, there were a few more. Eventually, I was making more from my part-time hustle than I was from my full-time gig. That was when the profit started to happen.
Whitney highlights six key financial components every entrepreneur needs to be aware of in order to have a strong financial plan. These include:
For us, it’s enough to note them and talk about the implications from a coaching perspective.
The Benefits of a Strong Financial Plan
When I first began coaching, I spent my time focusing on leadership health and burnout. Immersing myself in the material and understanding the causes and symptoms, led me to coach my clients through what I call the “health and integrity pyramid.” We examine seven core aspects of everyone’s life and how they need to address pain points and growth opportunities in each of these areas.
The capstone project of the pyramid is financial freedom. This is important because it not only addresses personal and business financial components but to the ultimate goal of purpose-driven entrepreneurs: generosity.
Leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs are almost always on a mission. The work they do is to give their life meaning, but to extend that meaning and purpose to others. Leaders who are clear on their calling (the what and why of the work they do) almost always come out with a need to give back.
To be generous.
They want to bless others.
The journey they started on is ultimately not about them, it is about the people they get to help.
And along the way, if you’re focused on your debt, your limited finances, or your inability to get out of the red, you will be limited in the effect you can have on others.
First, we get their personal finances in order.
Then we get their business finances in order.
Finally, we get them to live a life of total generosity.
Clients can always tell when it’s about the money. I learned this a long time ago. If I subconsciously bring to a relationship the need for a sale to pay my electric bill this month, my clients can pick up on that. Time and time again, I’ve seen this play out, not only in my own life but in those of my clients. When you have more “month than money” you can only do so much good in the world. However, when my finances are in order, I can multiply the effectiveness of my money and the blessing that I am to others.
If I’m focused on my own needs, I cannot serve those around me. It is only by being financially free that I can ultimately leave a legacy of influence and impact.
That’s why we focus on total generosity. This encompasses a strong financial plan that is free of debt, structured for profit, and able to give back freely.
Today, we’re beginning a new series where we examine eight core concepts to help you grow your business. These eight core concepts come from Marcus Whitney’s book Create and Orchestrate. You can currently pick up a copy on Amazon Kindle for only $.99.
In his book, Whitney outlines eight core concepts that every business owner must track, measure, and invest in in order to grow their business.
In this series, I’m not going to rehash his points (you can read his book to know what he thinks). Instead, I want to use it as an outline as a frame for what I do with business owners and leaders in the context of coaching. I agree with much of what Marcus said and want to springboard off of that to give you some additional insights, pointers, tips, and business tricks on your entrepreneurial journey.
A software engineer by trade, Marcus outlines his eight core concepts in terms of ‘priority’ and ‘inheritance.’
What’s counterintuitive about this framework is that if you get hung up on the “priority,” you’ll miss the importance of inheritance. In computer science, inheritance means that an object has all the capabilities of the object it inherits from, plus its own new capabilities. If you apply this to the Eight Core Concepts framework, it means that while marketing is the least core of the eight concepts, it is the most comprehensive. Marketing has aspects of leadership, finance, operations, growth, product, service, and sales within it. It is the only concept comprehensive of all other business concepts, and that’s why marketers are so elevated in today’s business world.*
Concepts Number One: Leadership
John Maxwell has made famous the line, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Whitney, in his book, agrees. Leadership is a necessity for any business to be successful. Without good leadership, a business is doomed.
I’ve written a lot about leadership, especially in the workplace. The higher up you are in an organization, the more good leadership is expected (and demanded) of you. In order to provide this effectively, you must be rooted in the internal and external aspects of leadership health.
The internal dynamics of coaching include your spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental health. Internally healthy individuals ask questions like, “Am I spending time improving and leading myself well?” Strong morals are a part of internally strong leaders, but so are times of rest, physical activity, mental stimulation through reading, coaching, therapy, and times of quiet mediation.
Externally healthy leaders are focused on the relational and financial dimensions of growth. Their finances are in order so they can live generously and their relationships are strong. These strong relationships are found both inside and outside of work. Well-rounded leaders have close friends, a vibrant relationship with family, and uplifting and positive interactions in the workplace.
Strong leaders also have their finances in order. To lead a business well, they must lead themselves well. To grow a strong financial portfolio at work, they must know how to manage their personal money first.
Growing leaders know that they can only lead others as well as they have first led themselves and they take their own growth seriously.
Grow Your Leadership Capacity
Here are three ways to grow as a leader.
Professionally, seek out good coaching. This should come as no surprise. I’m a huge advocate for coaching. Coaches provide a judgement-free zone to explore serious topics. The higher you rise in an organization, the fewer peers you have to talk to, the more you need a coach. Find a coach who either specializes in your particular niche or area of growth and commit to twelve weeks of intentional investment in yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you can grow in twelve weeks. Reassess and recommit as necessary.
Develop deep relationships. One consistent problem I see with success-minded individuals is that initially, success can be viewed fairly small. Most of the time, success is thought of in relation to our work. We can be tempted to think, “I’m successful because I’ve made XXX amount of money.” This fallacy leaves us in danger not only of burnout but of disconnect in our relationships. If you ever hear a phrase like, “Dad made a lot of money but was absent most of my childhood and a jerk when he was around” you’ve failed as a leader. Success happens one drop at a time, make sure that you spend time putting effort and success into many aspects of your life, including deep and significant personal relationships.
Just yesterday, I spent time talking with my wife about some current frustrations in my business. There are parts of my business that I know are struggling and some that need to be reevaluated. As a solopreneur, finding time to balance everything can be difficult, and I was sharing some of that frustration with her. My failure to hit some of my more significant KPI’s left me frustrated. When I asked her what I should do, she said, “Ride your motorcycle.”
It was genius advice.
For me, more stress equals more I work. That helps no one. Instead, I needed to do the opposite of what my gut told me. Private leadership development is about finding life-giving and enriching hobbies that keep us sane. When stressed, I experience less productivity, decreased creativity, poor results, and increased anger. That’s not at all the type of person I want to be. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do. Privately, find and develop hobbies. Escape your workplace. Find ways to evade work. Unplug. Recharge. Breath. The only way to keep your sanity in the midst of a difficult time is to know when to turn off your work brain and turn on your fun brain.
Make a plan: As we work through the eight core concepts, make a plan for growth. Today, pick one of the “p’s” mentioned above and write out your growth plan. How do you want to grow professionally, personally, or privately in the next twelve weeks. Find someone to hold you accountable. If you need, you can email me your plan and I’ll follow up with you personally.
Eight Core Concepts
This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.
If I ever find my eyes wandering aimlessly over my computer for more than five minutes, I know something is wrong. That’s when I tell myself: create, define, act.
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who wanted to know how I fit so much in. A partial answer is that I use the Full Focus Planner. Over the last several years of use, that continues to be a big reason. I schedule everything meticulously.
But there’s another truth at work. Deeper magic, if you will. I mean deeper magic much in the same way C.S. Lewis does in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the book, after Aslan’s death and resurrection, the lion is explaining to Susan and Lucy how he was able to come back to life. He explains that in many ways, the witch was right. The circumstances dictated that a sacrifice be made. The witch, operating under the belief of how ‘magic’ works in the world knew that the laws had to be accounted for.
But, Aslan explains, there is deeper magic at work. Something that the witch knows nothing about. She doesn’t know about it, because it was created before her. The laws of deeper magic were in place long before the witch arrived on the scene. The magic that the witch knew about (the laws of the universe) were satisfied and yet, a deeper magic freed Aslan from the curse of death.
The Full Focus Planner is great. There’s a reason I’ve used it for the last three years and will continue to use it, but tools are only as good as those using them.
If all I own is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.
If I have a security system but never turn it on, it will fail to protect my home and family when it’s needed.
Having a planner and failing to use it isn’t any better than not having a planner at all.
Over the last several years of using the planner, I’ve noticed that I’m still ineffective at times. To remedy this, I had to set up a new ritual that helped me get back on track.
I noticed that at certain moments of the day, I’d lose efficiency and productivity. This wasn’t failure based on exhaustion or overwork. Instead, it was because I lacked a proper plan. I knew I had things to do, but didn’t know how to go about doing them. Instead, I’d spend time looking at social media, scouring the depths of YouTube, or looking for new dad jokes.
None of which will help me reach my goals.
To change the drift, I created the ritual to create, define, act whenever I feel myself veering off course.
That mantra has helped me get back on track with my goals, accomplish meaningful and significant tasks, and free my mind to focus on my work.
Now, telling myself to create, define, act is more than a mantra, it is a call to arms. A battle cry that gets my body moving. It breaks me free from the monotony of mindless action and issues a challenge to my mind. It is a call to greatness.
I drift when I fail to have a plan. As has often been said, I was then planning on failing.
Whether you use the Full Focus Planner or some other calendar management system, the idea behind create, plan, act can help you too.
Create. Plan. Act.
The first idea is to create. Create a goal. Vision. System. Plan. For me, this means to actually get into the planner and start to outline tasks. I drift when I don’t open my planner and put things into timeslots. My life drifts off course when I don’t intentionally plan my steps. Work fails to get done when I fail to put significance on my time.
Step one is always to create the plan. If you notice that you are having trouble focusing, begin to ask questions of insight: Do I know what I’m working on? What’s next? Who do I need to connect with? What is most important to me? How can I make progress?
Creating your plan of action is what breaks you free from drift. By creating a plan you free your mind up to focus on what it sees in front of you. When you create your goals, you connect the logic of your brain with the emotions of your heart and are inspired to take action.
Once your goals are created, write down the steps to the plan. This can honestly be as simple as first I will…, then I will… For me, it follows this system of progression:
1.) What are my larger goals for the quarter?
2.) What steps did I take to accomplish those goals last week?
3.) As a follow-up, what goals do I need to accomplish this week?
4.) Which of those goals can I accomplish (or make progress on) today?
First, you create your system and belief for success. Write down your goals and visualize your success. Then, write down the plan to accomplish those goals.
Only one step left!
The final step is to act. I’ve discovered that this usually ends up being the easiest step. The irony is that before I began this planning phase, that was the one thing I couldn’t do. The acting was hard because I didn’t have a plan. By creating the vision and building the plan, I gave myself the freedom to act appropriately.
I can cure my aimlessly drifting in just a few minutes by following the simple plan to create, plan, and act. By following this formula, I bring clarity to my projects and eliminate brain fog, confusion, and misguided wastes of time that prohibit me from reaching my goals. Wherever you’re and, and whatever you’re working on, just remember to create your goals, make your plan, and then act with intention.