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Deep Roots: An Interview with Staci Willson of Sunnyland Farms

Staci Willson and her husband Alex are the 4th generation owners of Sunnyland Farms, a unique pecan farm, processor, manufacturer, and catalog retail business.

Located in what has long been known as the “Pecan Capital of the World” Albany, Georgia, Staci and Alex are continuing to honor their family’s legacy, and build a bright future.

I spoke with Staci to learn more about the company’s history, her personal journey as a business leader, how she and her team have handled the pandemic, and the opportunities she sees for this growing family business.

Knowing that Sunnyland is a 4th generation family business, can you tell us a bit about the history of the company?
Sunnyland has a unique story. It started when my husband’s great-grandfather inherited beautiful pecan groves down here in Southwest Georgia, originally around 5,000 acres. Our groves today are around 1,700 acres, all planted with beautiful pecan trees. Alex’s granddad was a Harvard businessman, and after World War II decided he was gonna come down with his wife Jane from Atlanta and move to the agriculture hub of Albany, Georgia. They were already selling some of the Willson family pecans to college friends, etc., and thought there just might be something to that!

So they moved down here in the late 40s and started to cultivate the farm and started the mail-order business in 1948, just selling Sunnyland pecans. And from there it started to flourish. Then they started to add praline pecans, candies, cakes, and added other mixed nuts to their products. Developing relationships with nut farmers worldwide was crucial for maintaining Sunnyland’s standard of “Only the Best.” We still benefit from these relationships today, purchasing the highest quality almonds from California, Macadamias from South Africa, and gorgeous Cashews from India.

In the seventies, Larry, Alex’s dad, who is the third generation, came back and started to help his dad modernize the growing operation. He was one of the first pecan farmers in the industry to implement irrigation. He planted new and upcoming pecan varieties, which we are bearing the fruit from now. Pecan trees take 15-20 years to mature, so you really have to implement a long-term plan to see it through fruition.

With that long legacy, what are you and Alex doing now to keep it thriving?
Right, so Alex is the fourth generation. We moved back about six years ago and since we have been involved, we’ve been working on really modernizing the catalog business, the online business, the SEO, and all of the digital marketing and sales aspects of the business.

My thumbprint has been on most of the catalog business, recipe development and PR/Marketing. Our catalog is still a huge part of our business, we mail almost 3.2 million catalogs a year nationwide! You would think in the modern age, it might not be, but it is. And we’re really trying to minimize packaging and become greener. We’re working on sustainable energy as well, using some of our pecan shells to fuel our shelling plant.

Is there anything else that is unique about the company and your team?
I know I focused on the Willson men, but a legacy that Sunnyland has always had is a husband and wife partnership. And that started way back with Jane and Harry. They really were ahead of their time and Jane took such an active leadership role in the business. It continued with Larry and Beverly in the seventies, and now it continues with me and Alex, so it’s really a joint partnership and a beautiful legacy to continue.

We’re very, very proud to say that most of our workforce is 80% female. We have had really wonderful lifetime employees across the board as well. We just celebrated 44 years of retirement last week with one of our very best long-term employees. And that’s really something we’re proud of. It’s not an uncommon thing to have multi-generations working here, like we’ll have a mother and a daughter working in a department together.

How did you and Alex decide to come into the family business? Was that an easy decision?
We were living in Nashville at the time when Alex and I met, he was in the financial industry and I was working in the food industry. We were in our late twenties and I remember asking him, as you do in planning for your future, do you ever wanna go back and step into your dad’s/granddad’s footsteps? And I was asking myself, do I want to go back and be a part of this farm, this business, and this family? He never would rule it out and I wouldn’t rule it out either. It took us probably about five more years to make the final move down here from Atlanta.

In the end, the one thing that we wanted to do was make a difference. We love this community, and wanted Sunnyland to grow and thrive as an employer. We decided we can make a bigger difference by moving to Albany than we could by working in our respective industries in Atlanta. We can make a difference and continue a beautiful legacy of giving back.

And I was just fascinated with the farm, and the recipe development is something that I loved. It was really a no-brainer. It was a beautiful lifestyle change from Atlanta down here, and a great place to raise the family, and really put our roots down and give back.

On a personal note, is there someone who you looked up to as a hero growing up?
I would definitely have to say Julia Child. I come from the beverage and food hospitality industry, and she was just such a pioneer and leader. As a female within that industry and gaining the respect she did and continues to have, she is someone that I’ve always looked up to. I’m not a chef, I’m a cook, and I love all of her recipes, and her personality, and just her fearlessness. She had so much courage to lead in the male-driven, culinary world. Man, what I wouldn’t give to have a cup of coffee with her and discuss these things!

What is the biggest leadership lesson you have learned along the way?
Definitely flexibility. Since we’ve moved back, we’ve dealt with devastating weather events, like Hurricane Michael where we lost 5,000 trees, a whole crop. Then we are dealing with the new digital marketing landscape that exists now. And then COVID. So we’ve been in constant crisis management since we moved back.

Now dealing with inflation and production shortages that affect our business from start to finish. So I have really had to work on flexibility. Things are always going to change. The life cycle of the business cycle is going to go up, and it’s going to go down.

And you manage that through embracing leadership within. We are very, very big on individual voices and we appreciate honesty and directness from our management leaders. We couldn’t do it without them.

What do you want your legacy to be?
Wow. I would probably say commitment. Commitment to things that matter. Commitment to quality. Commitment to roots, to people, our team, to family, to Sunnyland. I moved around a lot in my life prior to this, and joining this family and this business and everything… roots mean a lot to me. I want to invest in people’s futures. We’re going to figure out ways to thrive in the middle of these crises. I think that’s something that we’ve done and will continue to do.

This is Women’s History Month, so is there a woman in your life who’s made a big impact on you who you want to acknowledge?
Oh my goodness, there have been so many. I would probably go all the way back to my middle school chorus teacher, Miriam Walton in Richmond Virginia. She was so dynamic and so energetic. She led by example and encouraged my growth as a performer and singer. She had so much energy and passion for what she did. We still keep in touch and I’m proud to know her.

She encouraged me to step out and have courage, and believe in my talent. Getting up and singing a solo was difficult in middle school, but she encouraged me and gave me the opportunity to do that. And I think that honed some amount of leadership, learning to push through fear and knowing what courage looks like. And I know that may sound silly in middle school at a spring concert, but I look back at that and I really appreciate the influence she had on me.

That’s great. I think middle school is one of the most difficult times to stand up yourself, but if you can do it in middle school, you can do it forever.
Right. You know if you can do it in that moment, then you can do it forever, and in many other eras in your life.

***
Staci and Alex Willson are co-owners of Sunnyland Farms, a 1,760 acre farm nestled in the heart of Pecan Country in Albany, Georgia. Since 1948 Sunnyland has been the premier provider of gourmet Georgia Pecans, nuts, chocolates, dried fruits, and assortments of gifts for all occasions. Their incredible gourmet, heart-healthy and Kosher-certified snacks and pecans are the perfect treats. To learn more about Sunnyland Farms, visit their website: sunnylandfarms.com

Photography by David Parks

Brand strategy is the missing link between execution and result

During the past month, I have heard the same situation over and over. It goes something like this:

“We keep trying different things, and some of them seem to work okay, but we just aren’t consistent, and there is definitely no strategy. It feels like we are just throwing stuff at the wall. There is no clarity or consistency in what we are doing.”

Or maybe something like this:

“We just invested in a big new initiative (launched a podcast, redoing our website, updated our packaging, launching a new product), but I am worried it might not be right. We still don’t really have a succinct, compelling message, or any clear plan to get the word out about it or use it to generate sales.”

These are symptoms of the same issue: No brand strategy.

Why is brand strategy fundamental to making marketing execution more effective? And what IS a brand strategy anyway?

Imagine this scenario. You are getting ready to go on vacation to Belize that has been on your bucket list for over a decade, and you are about to pack your suitcase. You stare at your closet, and realize that you don’t even know where to start. What size suitcase do you need? Do you pack long sleeves or just beach gear? Sandals, hiking boots, or swim fins? You start listing all of the things that you could possibly need on your trip. 

So here are some tips to start building a brand strategy that will give you the clarity you need to move forward with confidence:

  1. Ask the question: “If nothing else changed in our business, what is the one initiative that would make the biggest impact to get us to our goals?”

    This is an easy way to start to separate the “must-haves” from the “nice-to-haves.” Instead of framing it as what is most important to the business (which is often difficult to answer), framing it as a creative problem within the framework of “nothing else changes” starts to elicit a different kind of energy and a different response. You can still brainstorm and have heated internal discussions about what the “one thing” is, but chances are, the options won’t be a list of random marketing tasks you can spend time and money on.
  2. Talk directly to your customers or prospects, and find out what matters most to them.

    Anyone who knows me will know that I am a broken record when it comes to this, but that’s because it works so well and companies simply don’t do it. If you aren’t regularly talking to your ideal customers about what their biggest pain points are, where they learn about new products or services, and what brands they couldn’t live without and why, and what they wish you knew about them, building a meaningful strategy is going to be practically impossible. If you are ready to take the plunge, you can download my step-by-step guide on how your team start interviewing your ideal customers today. (for email, this should be a link to the download instead)
     
  3. Talk openly about your fears. Then make a practical plan to mitigate them.

    I see a lot of family businesses spin their wheels because they are afraid of making a critical mistake. They don’t want to offend a critical customer. Or create confusion in the market. Or waste a large, rare opportunity. These are all legitimate fears, but they can all be dealt with, usually through a clear and consistent communication plan. Figure out who needs to know what and when (and then tell them a few more times!), and you’ll be good to go.

  4. Involve an outsider.

    You can’t read the label on your own bottle, and that truth is pretty much our team’s job security. Have someone involved in the process who understands your business but who isn’t in the weeds or emotionally attached to the status quo.  It can really help you get much further, faster. (I have advisors and colleagues who I will involve in my own brand strategy work because I know I simply can’t get there efficiently on my own.)

  5. Be clear about what outcomes you will see, hear, feel, and measure if you are successful.

    It is all too common for growing companies to make an investment that they “feel should be valuable” without taking the time to clarify what success looks like. If you just end up with impressions or awareness, is that enough? I often see sales and marketing teams track metrics like impressions, open rate, or engagement, and then they are disappointed when the activity doesn’t result in any new sales or leads. Not all impacts need to be directly measurable, but at least some of them should be. The desired outcomes need to be clear in everyone’s mind before any new initiative is kicked off. 

If you can identify your “one thing,” talk to your ideal customers, make a plan to mitigate risks, involve an outside perspective, and clearly envision and measure success, you will have the clarity you need to make strategic decisions. You may not have a formal strategy document, but your team will have the guardrails they need to be able to make informed judgment calls. They will never be perfect, but they won’t be far off base.

And if you feel stuck, we do offer a three-session Build Your Brand Strategy workshop that guides your leadership team through the process and decision-making so you walk away with clarity and a road map to execute. Just respond to this email if you want more detail.

How to build strategic brand and marketing skills in your company

Growing family businesses often get stuck at a common tipping point: do I hire marketing talent internally or outsource it to an expert agency? If I hire internally, am I hiring for strategy or for execution? The answer is a third way: engage an experienced mentor to develop your internal marketing team. 

My son, Henry, is in kindergarten, and has all of the sudden gained a new confidence in and love for drawing. He was never interested in it before he went to school (and had to do it every day), so it has been so fun to see a new world open up for him. 

To encourage him, I have been finding new things for us to draw and experiment with, including, most recently, some doodling videos with Mo Willems, a children’s book author/illustrator who Henry adores. If you aren’t familiar with his books, Mo Willems recurring characters include a obstinate pigeon (from “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”) and two odd couple best friends, Gerald (an elephant) and Piggie (a pig).

Henry and I were watching videos of Mo Willems teach us step-by-step how to draw these characters, and then trying it ourselves. There was lots of pausing, rewinding, false starts, angrily crumbled fails, and increasingly competent pigs, elephants, and pigeons. 

When we were done, I looked back at the process we just went through, and started to reflect on it. 

Believe it or not, I think there are some takeaways for family-owned businesses who have been caught between the rock and hard place of needing strategic marketing and positioning expertise, but without the budget to hire an internal marketing team. 

Here is the situation I see all too often.

  • A business has grown organically over the years. The founder or founding team has strategic relationships, grit, and a willingness to try, fail, and quickly learn that allow them to find a loyal customer base and grow it.
  • That strong foundation yields new opportunities. — new markets or new channels or a strategic acquisition — which are high-stakes and need a new level of positioning strategy and marketing support to be successful.
  • They are then faced with a hard choice. Do we pay a price premium for outside experts that leave us dependent on them while we grow? Do we hire a marketing generalist who can get stuff done, but who is looking to us for direction and strategy that we can’t provide? Do we hire an experienced VP or CMO-level strategic thinker who will command a high salary, and who will still need additional budget for execution support? 

What is the right answer? It is a tough situation, and there really is no one “right” answer. That said, I do think there can be a path that allows these growing companies to have the best of all worlds.

Which brings me back to drawing Piggie with Henry. 

Piggie is an extremely simple character to draw. Some ovals, some lines. That’s pretty much it. 

But when I tried on my own to draw some Mo Willems characters from memory for Henry, the results were hilariously bad. Not even close. 

Mo, on the other hand, has the skill to make these super simple shapes become highly engaging characters with a depth of personality and feeling.

In his videos, Mo Willems breaks down the shapes, and their placement. We start drawing “lopsided donuts” and adding elevens for nostrils and for eyes. We learn that you need to beef up the elevens for the eyes so they get a bit fat, since the eyes are the most important part of the character. You get the idea.

Henry and I are far from doing what Mo Willems does in his books, but with some step-by-step videos and about 90 minutes of iteration, you can see the progress in Henry’s artwork. 

Not bad, right? 

He is getting more and more confident with his drawings, experimenting with Piggie’s eyes and mouth to see if he can more closely mimic the expressiveness of the storybook characters he loves.

Okay, so what is my point? The solution for companies stuck with the choice of the agency hamster wheel vs. hiring either strategy or execution internally is this guided development.

Brand and marketing strategy is pretty similar to Piggie. How you successfully enter a new market or reposition a decades old brand for growth is a step-by-step process. The fundamentals are simple. Knowing how you apply them to various real-world scenarios takes more experience and finesse, but it is still just variations on and application of the fundamentals.

This step-by-step process for positioning a brand for new growth is no different than Mo Willems process for drawing Piggie out of simple shapes. Manipulating those simple shapes into a more complexly textured brand and strategy takes practice, but it isn’t impossible to learn.

Here is what a “third way” scenario could look like:

  • The company hires a marketing person who can get stuff done internally who matches their values and really “gets” the brand and the vision.
  • They have an experienced external guide “show their work” to this internal resource. 
  • The two collaborate, giving the emerging marketing talent the opportunity to experiment and learn, but with the guidance they need to not waste years of company growth opportunity and tens of thousands of dollars guessing.

This could be done in a number of different ways. 

An experienced mentor could be found in alumni from some of the goliath brands in your niche. I just talked to a company founder who contracted the former head of global brand marketing of Reebok and the head of global digital advertising of Adidas to support a promising employee who now handles their marketing full-time. He said that her capabilities have blossomed, and he feels great about the investment in her future and in growing that resource internally.

You could also find a “fractional CMO” who could work on a part-time contract basis, and make mentorship part of their scope of work for your marketing team. 

At Six-Point, we have also developed our own solution to support family businesses: a “do-it-with-me” version of our Solve for Y strategy system that provides six-week guided sessions for internal marketing teams. We work with the company leadership to set objectives, and then work with your marketing team of one or more employees to create a strategy and tactical plan to meet those objectives. The employees have understanding, buy-in, and ownership, and they are accountable for executing the plan and tracking agreed upon lead metrics. 

The important thing is to remember that this critical junction in your company’s growth does not have to be an either/or. There is the opportunity to have both. 

Investing in talent can be a bit scary, but not as scary as hiring a great person and setting them up to fail. As the business maxim goes: Don’t ask what happens if I invest in developing my employee and they leave? Do ask what happens if I don’t invest in developing them and they stay?

If you want to talk about how we can help you develop your internal marketing team, send me an email or schedule a call with me.

(Now, was that too much of a stretch to share Henry’s awesome drawings? This proud mama says no way!)

The worker shortage: how to attract great people

The Great Resignation and current worker shortage may seem like a roadblock to getting great talent, but if your company has a strong culture and values, you may actually have a great opportunity. By clarifying your focus, aligning your values with what your employees value, and communicating it clearly, you can attract people who are looking for what your company already does well.

A word of warning: if you have a toxic culture, floods of backchannel internal communication, and values that drive self-interest, you can stop reading now. Nothing in this article will help you address worker shortage until you attend to those deeper issues.

All businesses are feeling it right now. The worker shortage. The Great Resignation. In the last dozen conversations I’ve had with family businesses, it is the same refrain: “We don’t lack opportunity. We lack people.”

Or, more specifically, the right people.

The problem is, when a qualified workforce seems so hard to come by, holding out for just the right fit seems like a luxury from a bygone age.

But like in all challenges, there is an opportunity here for businesses who have been doing hard work on their culture, operations, vision, and values over the years.

It is time to make all of that investment, all of the blood, sweat, and (likely literal) tears pay off.

As I often repeat, your brand is your reputation. You can’t control it, but you can influence it. And in the case of employer branding, the process of influencing it is the same as for a customer-facing brand.

Step 1: Get clear on your focus, and make sure you are solving the right problems in the right order.

I often hear many companies asking the same question: what platform should I be using to attract the right people? Indeed.com? LinkedIn? Zip Recruiter? But it is the wrong question. Or, at least, a question that can’t be answered without raising a number of other questions. (It is comparable to that other question I hear every day: Should we be on TikTok?)

You need to get clear on your audience, your goals, your media, and your message. It may sound basic, but in my experience, these basics are rarely applied to recruiting and employer branding. Our team at Six-Point Creative specializes in providing family-owned businesses with this clarity. If you’re feeling unsure where to start, schedule a discovery call with us to get unstuck.

Some questions to ask that will quickly clarify your focus:

  • What does success look like? What would you be seeing, hearing, and feeling if you had an employer brand that was attracting the right people?
  • Who are you trying to attract? Think about the people in your own organization who are successful, and also what you are trying to accomplish that might require different skills and experience.
  • Where have we seen success attracting great people in the past? Look for patterns in what has worked.
  • Where have we made recruitment mistakes or wasted time and money? Learning from the past can make sure you don’t repeat it.

In our clarity exercise with a client recently, we dug into their recruitment efforts addressing the worker shortage and realized that referrals from employees have been by far their most successful hires, both in terms of skills and cultural alignment. Employees hired out of a slim pool of online candidates have been hit or miss at best. But the number of employee referrals they have been getting has been trending downward over the years.

This line of inquiry surfaced a new initiative: Get the number of employee referrals up.

It gave them laser-like focus on the next steps, and stimulated a lot of creative thinking as to how to get those numbers up: employee referral contests, best place to work awards, reviewing the referral bonus structure, an internal recognition and communication plan, referral templates and training, and more.

If this client had jumped to the solution before digging deeper, they could have wasted more time and money advertising on the already saturated job boards that they knew already would produce only mediocre results.

Step 2: Understand how to align your company values to what your potential employees value.

I know this may sound like a lot of vague nonsense, but this is truly the biggest opportunity staring family businesses in the face right now.

Quit rates right now are at an all-time high, contributing to this large worker shortage. In August 2021, a new record of 2.9% was set, meaning 4.3 million workers quit their jobs. This is the highest rate since quit rates started being tracked in 2000 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when the quit rate was 2.4% or 3.25 million workers.

Why is this Great Resignation happening? Both because people’s values and attitudes have shifted over the past two years, and they now have the ability to do something about it.

Money and perks are no longer the only factors driving employment decisions. Like many things, COVID didn’t create this change, but it did accelerate the worker shortage and amplify it. Flexibility, growth potential, family time, and enjoying one’s colleagues are now front and center, and thanks to pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, and student-loan forgiveness, people have more freedom to quit jobs that they hate and find something else. As Derek Thompson, author of Hit Makers, said: “This level of quitting is really an expression of optimism that says, we can do better.”

So how can you position your company as that better option?

Branding is the alignment of your product’s value to what your customers value. In this case, the career potential and working environment are your product. You need to know what your ideal potential employees value, understand what your company offers in terms of value, and look for connections between the two. Then you need to communicate that overlap in a way that makes the prospective employee the hero, not your company.

I have seen a number of companies take the first part really seriously — they articulate what their internal values are, and what they expect from employees. This is like a marketing campaign that talks all about the product or service from the point of view of the engineers or experts. It might work if the category is not very crowded, but we are in a different level of competition. Now you need to reach that next level of marketing, where you are talking about your business from the “customer’s” point of view. How does it fit into their lives? How does it speak to their hopes or aspirations? How does it connect to their personal values?

One of our manufacturing clients had a slew of retirements of long-tenured employees, and for the first time found themselves with a majority of employees who are under 35, and who are excellent workers with a lot of promise. We are interviewing and surveying these employees to hear what they are looking for in their job, and are going to turn these conversations into both some internal training and retention initiatives as well as an external campaign to attract even more new young talent.

Side note: If you are rolling your eyes at this, you aren’t alone. Yes, it would be nice if providing a steady paycheck was enough, but it isn’t. Not if you want to be a high-performing company with staying power. Is it good enough to provide a mediocre product these days? Of course not. Your competitor would eat your lunch. And in this case, the job is your product.

Step 3: Communicate the heck out of your value, and how it connects with your audience.

The exciting part of all of this is that family-owned businesses have always provided more than just a paycheck. Now it is finally that “more” that people are really looking for.

In the old model, you would need to compete with the deep pockets of larger corporate competitors. Now that people aren’t only considering wages, family businesses who can articulate just what makes them special places to work actually can have a competitive advantage.

80% of employees surveyed by Edelman value and expect wage growth, training, career growth, and work which they find interesting & fulfilling from their employer. Respondents answered you would either need to pay them a lot more (42%) or it would actually be a deal-breaker (32%) to work for a company that does not offer them.

Similarly, 74% of employees expect employers to offer a voice in key decisions and a culture that is values-driven and inclusive.

If your company offers these aspects, make sure you are talking about them in ways that are concrete and easy to understand for your prospective employees, and that your current employees can speak to them as well. And be sure to talk about the family aspects of your business. In the U.S., family businesses enjoy a 24% trust advantage over businesses in general, which is a major leg-up on the playing field right now.

We have seen a marked difference not just in the response rate but also in the candidate quality for job postings that start off speaking to what the employee is looking for and is passionate about (in plain language) vs. the traditional ads that lead with what the employer is looking for or industry jargon.

So, to recap, here is the game plan to find great talent during this worker shortage:

  1. Get clear on where your best opportunities are for attracting right-fit candidates beyond just the job posting platforms and whether or not to use a recruiter.
  2. Find connections between what your company already offers and what your right fit candidates are looking for. (Don’t be afraid to have some conversations about this with both current and potential employees.)
  3. Articulate the value connections in clear language in all job postings, website content, and internal documentation, making the prospective employee the hero. Clarity and consistency is critical.

If this sounds great, but executing it feels overwhelming or impossible with everything else you are juggling…schedule a discovery call to see if our Solve for Y process might be a fit to help you accelerate your employer-of-choice branding efforts.

What branding fears are holding you back?

Bill Black, a high-demand speaker to Business Owners Groups and host of Exit Coach Radio podcast, interviewed Six-Point’s CEO, Meghan Lynch, about the fears holding high-potential companies back from growth.

Hosts & Guests

BIll Black

Meghan Lynch

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podcast transcript

Bill Black:

Thank you for listening. It’s a pleasure to have you with me. And, you know, we interview a wide variety of advisors, as I mentioned earlier. Over 1500 advisors have been on exit coach radio. So if you think about it and you want to listen to 20 minutes of business oriented information, head to wherever you listen to podcasts and look for Exit Coach Radio. My next guest, Meghan Lynch is a CEO of Six Point Creative, a brand strategy agency that helps second stage companies breakthrough growth plateaus. As part of her mission to help small business challenge the goliaths, Meghan has served as an expert advisor to second stage clients in a wide range of industries from fast casual restaurants to industrial manufacturers. And Meghan was named an enterprising woman of the year in 2019 and enjoys testing her limits as an endurance runner. Welcome to the show, Meghan, thanks so much for joining me.

Meghan Lynch:

Thanks so much. I’m glad to be here.

Bill Black:

My pleasure. Wow, you have an interesting background, I’d love to hear more about that. Tell our listeners a little bit more about you and your business and we’ll get into some of the questions.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, sure. So I started Six Point it was around 2007, just as the market was crashing. So I made it through one grade.

Bill Black:

Perfect timing.

Meghan Lynch:

Recession then. Yeah, perfect timing. And basically, when we started, we were a very generic, local, regional full-service marketing agency. And I’ll put full service in air quotes because it was a few of us, a few smart people in a room, just kind of getting stuff done. And over the years, as I started to grow that business and kind of get myself more educated about what it means to grow and lead a company, I started joining more peer round tables, and really educating myself because I don’t have a background in business or anything like that.

And while I was doing that, I just started spending more and more time with a lot of family-owned businesses, second-generation businesses, closely held businesses that people were starting, and kind of growing and trying to sustain. And I just realized these are my people. That I love working with these kinds of businesses that are devoted to their communities and are really trying to make something sustainable for themselves, their families, their employees. And it was also where I started to realize that the brand strategy work that I was doing for other kinds of companies was particularly helpful to these companies. That they didn’t often really know how to build equity in their brand or how to use brand strategy to create business outcomes.

Bill Black:

There’s a lot. There are many facets of what you do that intrigue me. But one question I have before we get into it is what do you … when you say a second-stage company, tell us what you mean by that.

Meghan Lynch:

So second-stage companies are between 10 and a hundred employees. It’s usually around then you start to have this tipping point early on of starting to feel some of these, just pains of oh, we used to just grow with no problem, and now we’re kind of plateauing. Or it’s not as easy to get customers as it used to be, or we need a lot more processes or the people problems are getting out of control. All of those kinds of early-stage pains.

Then later on in the second stage, often the issues are much more about,  now that we have processes and systems in place and we’re really ready to grow, how do we keep alignment? How do we kind of bridge where we came from and who we used to be, with what is going to get us to this next level and not kind of lose the DNA of who we are in the growth and scaling process? So that kind of tends to be what second-stage companies are all about. And it’s sort of both a uniquely painful business life stage, but also kind of a uniquely exciting and just transformational one. If you could make it through second stage, you can do anything.

Bill Black:

Very good. And you know, I’ll use a golf analogy I know a lot of people, when they start, they start tracking their handicap and it’s probably in the twenties or something very high. And it’s fairly easy with some regular practice to get that down to about an 18 or 17. And then you get into the next phase, maybe this is where the second stage comes in, where you have to start changing your game to get better.

Meghan Lynch:

One of the things that we often remind our clients is, what got you here won’t get you there.  Whatever made you a better golfer early on, you have to kind of get into more like nuance finesse work to make that next leap.

Bill Black:

And that’s where you need, that’s where you really need an outsider to help you to maybe … because there are rules of the road and tricks of the trade. So there are things that need to be probably looked at differently and implemented. What are some of the fears that hold high potential companies back from growth?

Meghan Lynch:

I think that that fear of loss is it’s a very strong, human feeling.  I feel like particularly for second-stage companies, for family businesses, it is something that really does strongly hold them back from growing and from even building equity in their company. Because they have a lot to lose, right? They have employees who are counting on them, they have a reputation, they have customers who are counting on them. Oftentimes their identity is very tied up by this point in the business and what they do in their community. Sometimes they are like pillars of the community. So the stakes are not low for them. Sometimes they let themselves get so afraid of, oh well if we change anything, we’re going to lose what we have. And I think that in our experience you can kind of have both, right? You can keep what you built and you can also make the changes needed to position yourself for that next week.

Bill Black:

So it’s a kind of a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but they don’t realize that it is broken or it’s not going to achieve high growth from here on out if they don’t make some changes. And I think one of the areas that might hold back some companies is they’ve always done it this way. And I work with a lot of family businesses and they basically … there’s a new generation coming up saying “things have changed. We need to change up how this business looks, how it looks to the world.” What are some of the brand strategies that you run into that need to be put in place for family businesses?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, it’s such a good question. I think particularly for family businesses and especially that are working, not generational, like conflict or transition, a lot of what they’re dealing with I would say over … of all the family businesses that we work with, I would say most of them when they come to us have 70% or more of their customer concentration in one market, or even in just a few big customers, big relationships. And it’s just super, super common when you’ve had this long track record of success, family businesses are very relationship-oriented. So this idea of doing anything new becomes also sort of like a threat to the stability of the business because it’s like, oh, well if we enter this new market, if we do too much digital, we’re going to lose these customers who got us to where we are.

But at the same time, that level of concentration is so high risk, that it’s really not a sustainable way to be around for the next 20, 30, 50 years. So a lot of the work that we do is around helping them diversify that customer base and really say okay, well, how do we talk to these existing customers, make sure that we are not going to lose them, and create a strong communication plan around whatever’s happening. Look at some of these new opportunities that are on the table and pick the ones that are the strongest and also craft a strategy that opens up some new business, diversifies the business, strengthens the brand. So I think that brand strategy becomes a lot about that diversification piece, especially as a first problem to tackle.

Bill Black:

In the COVID environment and hopefully post COVID environment, things have changed obviously over the last year or so. And is brand … have a lot of people have been forced to change their branding, to appeal to the online marketplace more, into the worldwide market, if you will? The companies that might have been perceived as too regional in the past, as they changed to more of an online footprint, are they … what are some of the things that they’re doing to reflect that?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. I mean, we’ve seen just obviously like an explosion in e-commerce, and even for brands that historically have not dipped their toe into e-commerce or really haven’t paid much attention to it, they really started seeing growth and the business case for like, okay, well we’re getting growth and we’re not even doing anything, so maybe we really need to do this. Or they were seeing their competitors grow while they were staying out of that game. So that’s definitely something. And I think, for a lot of companies one of the things to realize about digital is that it’s really no different. Like the basics are the same, you create good relationships, you’re authentic, you are clear and consistent in your messaging. The same true basics that make other channels effective are the same here.

I think it’s where people get tripped up, they don’t know what they need to pay attention to. They don’t know which channel is right for them,  where their customers are or where their prospective customers are. Again, they kind of get frozen with, we don’t even know where to start. So often the starting point that we use with our clients is to just start serving and interviewing your customers and talking to them and saying, what is your life like? It’s not about satisfaction surveys. How often are you online? What sites do you go to? What devices do you use?

Just kind of understand what their buying behavior is like, in a way that’s relevant to your business. But all you need to do is do 10 or 12 of those interviews and you already start seeing some patterns and it starts to demystify … if a company’s like, oh my gosh, do I have to worry about Tik Tok? Should I be on Instagram or Facebook? Or should I be on LinkedIn? Should I be doing e-commerce? Your customers will tell you that information. We’re just often, for whatever reason, reluctant to ask.

Bill Black:

Yeah, so many platforms, so little time. One of the things I’ve heard from companies is that as they start to think about future generation ownership or whatnot, or passing the baton, that they’ll change from a name-based company to maybe initials instead of the name. Or if they say we’re the Orange County, they’ll pick out that region, so that they’re more … so that they’re not confined in the consumers’ mind to only working in a certain region. What are some of the other common mistakes you see that companies make when they’re contemplating rebranding?

Meghan Lynch:

I think sometimes it’s stressing too much about those details. We think that we put way too much weight in a name and we’re like, Oh, this has got to explain the full scope of what we do and capture it. And I often think that’s wasted energy. You think of all of the most valuable brand names, they’re all nonsense names, Xerox and Apple and Google. It’s like, the name is what you make it, and your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room to quote Jeff Bezos. It is your reputation.

So if you build equity in a brand name, it always hurts me a little bit in the gut when people change their name to initials, because it’s like even it was a person’s name, that name has personality. That name has an emotional connection and you just stripped all that away and became initials. I would rather change the story, Let’s not necessarily jump right to a name change or a logo change or whatever. Sometimes it’s really about communication strategy, not those kinds of superficial elements that I think sometimes we spend a little too much time on.

Bill Black:

Very, very good advice. How about for some of these multi-generational family businesses where it started with the parents. Okay, then they had their few children get involved. Now those children had each had a few children and now the third generation is now 15 potential people getting involved in the business. And pretty soon you have this big kind of mushrooming number of people that want to be involved in the business, whether they’re qualified or not. What about … have you run into situations like that? Where families have said, look, let’s do this. Let’s get involved in the community in another way, maybe with a family foundation, and really get involved with some charitable groups or others. And let’s give some of those family members a job of working with that. How do you figure out how best to show up in the community as a family business?

Meghan Lynch:

I love that question. I think that there is such power, again, oftentimes these family business brands, and once they get to that third-generation stage, they truly are very powerful in their community and their reputation, their name, just their presence at certain events, and things like that are very symbolically powerful and then also, it can be economically powerful for a community. So I always love it when you can create a much wider brand impact and brand story by getting community members or family members involved in different ways. Like you said, setting up a foundation, sponsoring events, creating marquee events in the community. And then oftentimes too they’re leaders in their own industry as well. So I think to think both locally of where can we make an impact and where can we build the brand and the story and the loyalty locally.

If you work nationally or internationally, where could we also expand the value of the story in our industry? How could we as a family get involved in policy, in trade organizations, things like that, where it does really have a connection back to the family, even if you’re not involved in the day-to-day of the business. Getting to know the industry, being influencers in the industry, all of that comes back to the family eventually, and supports the work of the business and supports the equity that you’re building in the brand and therefore in the value of the company. So, yes, it’s such a good question. I think it’s such an overlooked asset that people don’t usually think about spreading out their influence in that way. So I’m really glad you asked that.

Bill Black:

Yeah, it’s branding and it’s really interesting, especially as a lot of our listeners head towards their thinking about exiting their business. Maybe they’re thinking about selling it to a much larger business in their industry as a strategic sale. And so they need to really work with someone to think about, well, how do we start showing up better, differently, in our industry so that we’re not begging them to look at us. They’re begging us to let them look at us. And so it’s really important. What you do is really, really important. And how do our listeners learn more about you and get in touch?

Meghan Lynch:

Sure, our website is sixpointcreative.com. And we set up a landing page for your listeners, so if you just do backslash exit coach, there is a free brand assessment on there. So if people want to take that quiz, you get a customized report based on the answers to see, where is your brand. If you’re thinking about exiting, how much work is there to do and where should you start and focus first? So that’s a helpful tool and there’s a couple of other resources as well about building brand value in your company, right on that site.

Bill Black:

Great information. We went through a lot of information pretty quickly and I hope you’ll come back and share more with us down the road. Because I think again, we just started to scratch the surface, but you really gave our listeners a lot of great tips today, Meghan, I really appreciate it. And thanks so much for joining me today.

Meghan Lynch:

Thanks so much for having me on Bill, appreciate it.

 

 

 

Approach your Business with Radical Courage

Founder and host Scott MacKenzie, of Industrial Talk, lives and breathes his passion for Industrial growth and success. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration. He interviews our CEO, Meghan Lynch, about letting go of your Legacy Thinking and Approach your Business with Radical Courage”.

podcast transcript

 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott Mackenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let’s go.

Scott MacKenzie :

All right, thank you very much for joining the Industrial Talk Podcast where we celebrate you the industry heroes, you are bold, you are brave, you dare greatly, you solve problems, you’re transforming lives and you’re transforming the world that’s why we celebrate you. Thank you very much for what you do to make our lives better.

All right, in the hot seat, her name is Meghan Lynch. She is definitely the President and CEO of Six-Point Creative. And I got to tell ya I was jacked on this particular dog-gone interview because we talk a lot about being bold, brave, and daring greatly. It’s one thing to talk about it she does it. Let’s get cracking.

Yeah, which is really interesting when you get right down to it. I’ll sit there and I’ll talk about the necessity to be bold, to be brave, to dare greatly, specifically in this time of whatever the new normal, next normal, whatever we call it. I got to come up with a better name, however, whatever we’re living through.

You’ve heard me talk over and over again about, yeah, there’s the negative side, but I think there’s the positive side. And I think that there is a desire to be more vulnerable, to be open, to be… Just the necessity to be able to collaborate because we need to educate, collaborate, and of course innovate, especially now.

But it’s all great, and it’s all wonderful, and it’s all just dandy words. However, there’s got to be action to it. And what’s great about Meghan is the simple fact that she does. She recognizes the necessity to be bold, brave, and dare greatly. But what does that mean? How does a business do that? How do we take it today, whatever this world we live in today, and be able to survive, rebuild, and succeed?

And she brings that real-world. That ability to be able to do that, so that… I mean, we need people, we need to constantly be out there and innovating. We need to be out there collaborating, and definitely she brings the tools to be able to do that. Now in line with what she’s doing I just plant the seed again, Industrial Talk 2.0 is really just a neighborhood of industrial professionals.

Yeah, it’s a network, but it’s a neighborhood because we have a desire to make everybody succeed whatever that might be, whatever that level is. But more importantly it is a great location to find where people are truly innovating and truly having a desire to collaborate.

That’s Industrial Talk 2.0. It’s in the works. We’re doing it. It’s a neighborhood because we are bound together. We have ties. And whether we like it or not I think a pandemic has really highlighted the fact that we are. We don’t have all the answers.

But you know what we have out there, incredible professionals that understand what to do and how to do it, and be able to share that knowledge with you so that you can survive, rebuild, and prosper.

That’s my intro. It’s always the same because it doesn’t change. I mean, we just got to collaborate. It’s important to collaborate. All right, Meghan Lynch, President, CEO, Six-Point Creative, we’re going to be talking about real tactical solutions to that point of you got to be bold, brave, and dare greatly. You can’t have that legacy thinking. You got to do it. What does that mean? How do you find that help?

She’s all about that. She’s great. All right, enjoy the interview. Meghan, welcome to the Industrial Talk Podcast. Again, an absolute honor that you made time in your busy schedule to talk to the wonderful and bright listeners of Industrial Talk. That’s what they are.

Meghan Lynch:

Thanks so much, Scott. So excited about it.

Scott MacKenzie :

It’s so cool. Man, I’m going to have a great conversation. I mean, listeners we were having a conversation offline. As you know we do all the time. We do that just because we have to, and we were sort of wrestling with the necessity to educate, and the companies that truly are committed to education will have, no guarantees, don’t go to somebody and say Scott guaranteed if I educate I’m going to be a success. No, that’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying companies that have a greater focus on education have a greater opportunity for success, and that’s all we’re trying to create here. And Meghan brings the lumber in this particular conversation. Before we get into that interview, Meghan, before, give us a little 411 on who you are and why you’re such an incredible professional.

Meghan Lynch:

Absolutely. So I have a company called Six-Point Creative. My background is in brand strategy. But really kind of what Six-Point’s focus is to help companies who are at an inflection point, we call them sec`ond-stage companies.

They’re often family-owned businesses. Companies that have kind of hit this point of a plateau of we’ve kind of tapped out our existing network. We’ve tapped out our growth opportunities, but we’re still looking for more, and we still feel like there’s more opportunity in the market.

Those are the companies that we really honed everything that we do to try to help. And I really did that because I have a second-stage company, and I just realize how different the needs are of companies that are established in the marketplace, who have a reputation, who have something to lose. How different they are from a startup company, and also how very different they are from a large corporation with deep pockets and multiple levels and lots of internal expertise.

These companies are really in this messy middle. And I feel although they’re being served, I don’t know that they’re often being so intentionally served right around that life stage.

Scott MacKenzie :

Isn’t that interesting because I could see if you’re at that position and you talked about second-stage companies, define what that looks like?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, so a second-stage company is a company that has anywhere between 10 and a hundred employees, those are loose cutoffs, but it tends to be the range that you see it happening. And basically, what happens is early on when you’re going into second-stage there’s often these, you start to see just the need for more process. Everything that you’re doing just feels like, oh man, when we were super small this just hummed and now everything’s just so much more difficult.

It’s hard for me to delegate things. People aren’t listening. You have a lot more people problems. People are asking for more process and you can’t give it to them. And then on the later side of the company this is usually when they’ve matured through that cycle and they have some expertise and they have some systems and processes.

And oftentimes, maybe if it’s a family-owned business maybe they’re bringing in a professional or CEO with industry experience for the first time who’s going to kind of lead this company into the next kind of generation.

And oftentimes what you start to see then is this push-pull between the past, which is valuable. And it’s where the relationships are, and it’s all this historical, again, from a brand perspective it’s kind of the reputation that you have and the goodwill that you’ve built up over time.

That track record that’s so important. And then the push-pull between that and then this vision for a future, which might mean doing things differently than we’ve done them or pivoting, taking our existing product line and moving it to a new market where we see opportunity, something that’s coming down the line and that innovation piece.

And there are these tensions between do we stay with what exists or do we do this new thing? And I think often companies look at this as I can only do one or the other. And I think what we’re really there to say is, no, there’s a third path where you keep your reputation. You keep your customers. You keep that strength that you’ve built.

All of that is super valuable and that’s an asset that you need to leverage, and you also have this other thing, which is this innovation, this new market, this maybe new sales strategy, whatever it is, new product, innovation, all of those things.

That’s going to be what’s going to sustain this into the future because it does become a little bit of that grow or die piece of if you’re not growing then you’re probably shrinking if you’re not out there.

Scott MacKenzie:

So this is what I… This is my head and I’m processing this information. All I hear is you need to change and you need to change more.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, exactly.

Scott MacKenzie :

And you need to change, and over here you need to change and change and change and change. And nobody… You figure if a company gets to this particular second-stage they’ve changed, they put a lot of sweat equity in that.

And now you’re saying, “Hey, hey, you still need to change.” I would imagine many of these companies are saying, “I just want to glide on into whatever the future.”

How do you keep them from saying you don’t want to do that?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, well, I mean, I think, again, it does become figuring out what is important to them. If change… If they’re really totally unwilling to change and they have no vision for the future well then that’s not going to be, that’s not really a second-stage company because they don’t have that next stage vision.

They’re not trying to grow into the future. So if really what they want and what they have is where they want to stay then that’s great. I don’t want to… I’m not going to mess when somebody’s vision for their business… Where we really thrive is with the companies that are struggling in this kind of middle area of we want to change, we see opportunity, there’s more people who need our product. They often call themselves we’re a best kept secret in the market.

I often hear that, that they’ll refer to themselves as like, Ooh, we are a best kept secret. And I’m like, okay, well, do you want to let that secret out because that’s not, it’s great that you have the confidence in what you’ve built and also you don’t have to be a secret.

Scott MacKenzie :

Yeah, that’s true. It’s sort of, I’ve heard that same thing, sure, absolutely, we’re the best kept secret. Well then you’re leaving money on the table or you’re not growing, or you’re not doing this, and that’s fantastic, but, but, but, but-

Meghan Lynch:

Exactly, yeah, they’ll say it proudly because they’ve built so much equity in what the product that they built or their service team or whatever it is. And the… But I always look at it as there’s probably more companies, more people. You’re always talking about these people are change makers. They are people who want to help their products get into the right hands of people who can do something amazing with them.

And so for me the question is always, don’t we want to get that into more hands? Don’t we want to increase that innovation in the market? If you have something that’s going to change an industry you need to let those engineers know, you need to let those product managers know, and give them the opportunity to use what you’ve built.

Scott MacKenzie :

Yeah, so okay, listeners, what we have, we’re talking about second-stage companies that’s between 10 and a hundred employees. But I think the key here, what Meghan has pointed out is that these second-stage companies want to definitely focus on growth. They’re willing to deal with the pain of change and go through that process, and that’s a great thing, and don’t be a best kept secret. That is where we’re at.  Now when we start talking about that, outside of all that, I would imagine because of COVID a lot of these companies have been hit pretty hard?

Yet they’re trying to survive, rebuild, and then try to prosper in this next normal, and what does that look like to you?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, so for me again, that one of the things that COVID has done is that a lot of the companies we work with were about to have their best year ever going into COVID. I heard that so much, like we are poised for our best year ever, and then they get the rug ripped out of them.

And that has an emotional, psychological effect on you, well, now I’m going to be a little bit more fearful. I thought I was doing everything right. I thought I had this figured out, and then this thing that I totally couldn’t control takes all that away from me, and we did not have the year that we wanted to have.

So, it becomes this balancing act of making sure that companies stay in some kind of comfort zone and keep some kind of realistic safety net for themselves.

But at the same time, I think, it’s also given companies a sense of like, hey, we were resting on our laurels a little bit. We were a little bit complacent. We didn’t make some of the big decisions that we knew we had to make, whether that was getting a product launched quickly, or whether it was some personnel changes that they needed to make, they’re carrying some dead weight. And I think that one of the good things about COVID is that it created a sense of urgency, right?

All the business owners that I’m talking to are like, hey, we made decisions that I knew I had to make I just didn’t want to make the tough decisions and COVID forced my hand.

Scott MacKenzie :

So this is interesting. Yeah, this is exactly what… I’ve heard the same thing. It’s like, I believe, yeah, there’s the pain of COVID, got it. Everybody knows, yes, yes, yes, yes, and we’re not going to go through that.

But, I think, there’s a silver lining in the COVID conversation, and that is the conversation of resilience and truth. Now we’re having conversations that make sense. I’m not going to sit there and lollygag and be lazy.

I want to build a business of resilience because when this happens again, if it happens again, heaven help us, I’m ready, I got a business of resilience. So I see it as a positive and a conversation in the business of resiliency. Do you agree?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re totally right, Scott. And I think, one of the things that you talk a lot about is collaboration, and I think that that’s been the other silver lining of COVID.

And I’ve seen so many really cool collaborations of companies coming together to solve some really complex problems. I was just talking to somebody the other day who they have a kiosk and cart company and they serve industrial manufacturers of food products and they collaborated with some people doing some work in an electric vehicle technology, and some cold storage people, and they put together these cool mobile vaccine units that are now being used in healthcare.

This is a company that never had anything to do with healthcare. And now all of a sudden they’re in the healthcare industry. And it was through three or four small businesses putting their expertise together and saying, What do we all have that could help solve this problem, and maybe if we do it together we could do something bigger than we might be able to do on our own.

And I think that that’s such a cool opportunity, especially for these smaller players in the market. If we aren’t collaborating with each other then we are missing a huge opportunity to challenge those big guys.

Scott MacKenzie :

Huge, absolutely spot on, huge opportunity. And I think that the other positive associated with COVID is the fact that I can be humble. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t have to be… I go to Scott and he has all the answers, geez, that’s a heavy, heavy thing to carry around.

Now I could be humble and say, “I have this answer, but I don’t have, I need help, I need to help.” And I think it’s just a really, in a weird way a beautiful realities of the marketplace. I just, I don’t know how else to put it because-

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. Well, and it’s stripped away a lot of the pretense because I think people who didn’t have anything of substance to offer people quickly kind of turned away from them and said like, “Okay, well, I don’t have time for any more BS I really need.

 

To be with people of substance. I need people who are problem solvers, people who are humble, people who can collaborate, people who have ideas, not just people who are kind of sitting back going oh shoot what do we do now? But the people who are out there saying like, “I don’t know exactly what to do, but I do know I have this. Does anybody need this?”

And I think that that’s been really valuable too. I’ve seen, again from relationships that I have, I’ve seen kind of who are the people who you can count on, and who are the true experts, and who are the people who are those people who really truly care about what they’re doing and the people that they do it for. And then you’ve seen the other people kind of fall off.

Scott MacKenzie :

So I see this resiliency model including you got to educate businesses. These second, let me look at my notes, second-stage companies, the ones that are going to probably fair okay are committed to education, committed to collaboration, and well as there’s an innovation component there. They want to be more efficient going forward, I would imagine.

Is that sort of the mindset of these second-stage companies that truly want to be successful in the future?

Meghan Lynch:

It is. It is. I think that those are, when they’re at their best that is their mindset. I feel the kind of dark side of this is that these are companies that have put a lot of sweat equity into building what they have, whether it’s their IP, whether it’s their processes, whether it’s their people, whether it’s their relationships with their customers.

I mean, these are companies who have put decades of experience into what they have built. And so I think in their best moments they are innovative, they are collaborative, they are educational. At their worst moments they are fearful that they are going to lose everything that they just built.

They are fearful that the customers that have been so critical to that process are going to leave them. If they see them let’s say talking to another market or skipping a distribution model, or kind of innovating too much.

Scott MacKenzie :

Wow.

Meghan Lynch:

And they’re also afraid of their competitors. Well, we can’t educate people too much because our competitors are going to steal our information or copy us. And so they turn into, which, and all of those things, like what you were talking about are all these things-

Scott MacKenzie :

Legit.

Meghan Lynch:

Open people up and make them bigger than what they are. The things that I sometimes see are things that shut companies down and make them smaller than what they are.

Scott MacKenzie :

Well, that’s fascinating.

Meghan Lynch:

And so those are the types of things that we kind of have to help companies work through. And they’re legitimate. They’re founded on real fears. It’s not like, oh, you shouldn’t be worried about that just do it anyway. These are real fears.

Scott MacKenzie :

No, no, they can’t

Meghan Lynch:

But they can be problem solved.

Scott MacKenzie :

That’s… Boy, that is just a brilliant point. I appreciate that Meghan, because I always think because I’m just going to go out there, that’s me, but these companies that fall into that category who have invested time, energy, effort, money, and all of that over the years that is a difficult thing to stop. But that’s… And we were talking specifically about that fear of what’s holding companies back and that might be part of that, right?

Meghan Lynch:

Exactly, yeah, and I think that one of the things is that you really have to kind of meet those companies where they are and acknowledge that this fear is real because it’s so easy to come in as a consultant and be like, hey, well, you should do this, you should do this, you should change this.

Scott MacKenzie :

You can change this, yeah.

Meghan Lynch:

And they’re… And it’s like, well, you’re playing with other people’s money. These people are playing with their own money with their own team. It’s people that they have to look in the eye, whether it’s their customers, their suppliers, their employees. And so I think that if we as kind of the consultants, the coaches, the strategist, if we don’t take that seriously and really truly listen to those fears and help not just dismiss them, but help them problem solve for them then I think that we are doing them a disservice and we could put their company in jeopardy, which is something I would never want to do.

So for me it’s a lot about kind of like, hey, your fear is your brain telling you something. It’s trying to protect you, right? So let’s do a deep dive into what exactly is this worst case scenario that you’re trying to protect yourself from, and then let’s just come up with a plan to mitigate that risk.

And I think that again, risk mitigation has to be big in the way that we’re thinking about growth post-COVID because we both need to innovate and we need to protect what we’re building. We don’t know when the next pandemic is coming or whatever the next disaster will be, so we need to be smart about that and we do need to mitigate risk.

And I think that that’s important. So helping companies work through that change management in a way that takes those fears seriously and helps them put a very concrete plan together.

Because usually really most of those problems if I’m going to get to the heart of it could be solved by a really good communication strategy. If you’re worried that your customers are going to leave you, you need to talk to those customers. You need to confirm those fears or allay those fears, and that will bring them closer to you. People do business with people. And so have that conversation.

Scott MacKenzie :

That’s right.

Meghan Lynch:

And chances are if they’ve been with you for that long, and you see opportunity in another market and you’re committed to still serving them they are going to be like, hey, go for it, we want you to succeed because when you succeed that means you’re going to be better able to serve us too. So I think oftentimes some of those fears once you actually start putting a plan in place and doing something about them they’re not as big as people feel like they are when it’s just kind of this, ooh, we can’t take this move.

Scott MacKenzie :

See you’re touching on a point of you can be vulnerable, like as a business owner you can be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean that you’re weak. That doesn’t mean that you’ve got flaws. You’re just… It’s as simple as a conversation.

Scott MacKenzie :

You’re not… And when you start talking about… Nobody and I mean nobody had global pandemic in their business continuity plan, not one.

They might’ve had hey, this, that, and the other thing, but not the global pandemic. And so it starts with a conversation. It starts with just recognizing, being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you’re weak you’re just saying, “Hey, I’ve got to figure this out.”

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. Well, and honestly-

Scott MacKenzie :

I like that.

Meghan Lynch:

You’re like everybody else. I mean, that was one of my biggest pain points starting up my business was I’d go to events, a Chamber of Commerce event, an industry event, a trade show, a conference, and you ask all these people like, “Oh, hey, how’s business,” and they’re like, “Oh business is great, duh, duh, duh,” and then you get the same CEOs in a room with just them and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, you’ve got to be kidding me, this is blowing up. This person isn’t doing well. I’m worried about cashflow. I’m worried about supply chain.”

All these things start coming out and you’re like, “Whoa, you just told me everything was great.” And for me it was such a big lesson. Now I start conversations with maybe one win that I’m having and one thing that I’m struggling with because chances are somebody else who’s in your business and in your circle wants to help you.

So if you tell them something that you’re struggling with they might have a solution for it. They might have somewhere for you to go. And so much of that stuff we keep so close to ourselves so unnecessarily. It’s crazy.

Scott MacKenzie :

Meghan, you’re hitting on really, really, great, great points. And I hope the listeners are looking at that. We’re talking about resiliency. We’re talking about collaborating. We’re talking about educating. We’re talking about risk mitigation, change management, and it gets right down to being vulnerable and having a conversation.

A real conversation, not something that is all, hey, I’m the best in the world, and then you go behind closed doors and you’re just, oh my gosh, what am I doing? Oh, I can’t get it.

And do you know what the best part about it is the fact that everybody, if somebody comes and tells me, he goes, “This was a fantastic year and all that stuff,” I’d have to just say, “Buddy, I’m not sure about that.” I think it just opened everything up and just said, “Yeah, my mind can’t handle it I need help.” I hope that’s the case.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. Well, and I think again, COVID even the people who are winning, are in some industries that have the business, have the sales they’re struggling with workforce and labor issues or they’re struggling with supply chain issues. The people who don’t have the sales are struggling with well, we need to get the sales up. We’ve got the people we don’t have the business.

And so, I think again, it’s such an even playing field right now. Even the people who you think like, ooh, they’re so lucky to be in such and such a niche because that niche is doing well right now. We work in a lot of industrial, like construction and things like that, people making knives, blades, things, and those businesses are doing really well right now because everybody’s working on their homes, they’re building. That’s going well, but they have problems too. That creates its own issues that they have to solve for.

Scott MacKenzie :

Isn’t that something.

Meghan Lynch:

So I think, it’s just a big piece of our process. We call our… The process that we created for these second-stage companies Solve for Y because, and Y as in the letter Y, but also kind of like the why are you doing this thing? Why do you want this growth?

Scott MacKenzie :

Why?

Meghan Lynch:

Because I think that everybody has some issue and they have some vision of how they want things to be in kind of a new future. And if we can take a very systematic approach to looking at that and dismantling it and then come up with a plan to address it then they can move forward.

But right now, so many of these companies are caught in this really emotional space of we want to do this, but we don’t know how.

And so we have these very circular conversations internally of like, are we going to launch this product? Are we actually doing this? Are we going into this market? We’re not sure we’re going to position ourselves that way.

Scott MacKenzie :

I like that.

Meghan Lynch:

And the internal teams get so frustrated because they’re just like, “Are we doing this or we not?” They don’t care.

Scott MacKenzie :

Right, right.

Meghan Lynch:

They just want clear direction on what they’re supposed to do.

Scott MacKenzie:

Again, we’re going to have to wrap the conversation up.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah.

Scott MacKenzie :

And I think that the beauty of what you’re just saying is that somebody is just looking for just… I mean, I would imagine I’m wrestling with a lot of ideas and a lot of things, but I don’t know where to go and I think a conversation with you and your company and others will go a long way to sort of lay that path out. It could be incrementally approached.

Meghan Lynch:

Exactly, yeah.

Scott MacKenzie :

Just something. Just something.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, just to get them one step in the right direction. And yeah, so speaking of that… If people are listening to this and they’re like, “Ooh, I relate to some of these pains. I think we might be a second-stage company,” we have a landing page set up. So, my website is sixpointcreative.com

And then if you just go backslash Industrial Talk we have a quiz that they can take, your listeners can take.

And about 10 – 15 minutes of their time they’ll get a not a standardized automatic score, but we’re going to put together a customized report for them on this is what we’re hearing you say and here is some step one, step two, step three. Top one to three recommendations that we would make.

And just again, so that they can have that first step of how do I start to get out of this hole.

So all that’s for free and on our website. And there’s a couple other tools there as well that people can check out that are particularly valuable to second-stage companies.

Scott MacKenzie :

All right, it’s going to be out on Industrial Talk, so don’t fear. If you didn’t get the URL it’s going to all be there and you’re not going, you need to take advantage of this great opportunity. Meghan Lynch, thank you for being on the Industrial Talk Podcast. You are absolutely wonderful.

Meghan Lynch:

Thanks so much, Scott.

Scott MacKenzie:

I love it. Love the points that she was bringing up. Talk about bringing the lumber, man. All right, listeners, we’re going to be wrapping it up on the other side. Stay tuned.

Speaker 1:

You’re listening to the Industrial Talk Podcast Network.

Scott MacKenzie :

All right, again, thank you very much for joining the Industrial Talk Podcast, that’s Meghan Lynch, Six Point Creative. She is the President and CEO of how to get stuff done. You need her. You need what she brings to the table because she is definitely all about your success and being able to do that in a way that expands your market.

As you can tell, boom, in the interview bringing the pepper, absolutely like it. So go out to sixpointcreative.com find out more. I mean, she needs to be in your rolodex. If you’re old enough to remember rolodex she needs to be in it.

All right, we’re all about being bold, brave, and daring greatly. We’re all about the necessity to educate, absolutely collaborate, and of course innovate. We’re all about that. We’re all about taking action. We’re all about making things.

And we’re part of this neighborhood, this industrial neighborhood that is focused on everyone success. We need everyone to be rowing in the same direction. Industry is changing lives and changing the world. That’s what you’re all a part of. Hang out with people that are bold, brave, and daring greatly. All right, thank you, we’re going to have another great interview shortly.

 

 

Hosts & Guests

Scott MacKenzie

Meghan Lynch

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