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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.

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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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Breaking Through Family Business Growth Plateaus

Nike Anani, award-winning family business strategist and host of The Connected Generation podcast, interviewed Six-Point’s CEO, Meghan Lynch, about the “soft-side” of scaling, growing, and evolving a family business. 

Hosts & Guests

Nike Anani

Meghan Lynch

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podcast transcript

Nike Anani:

Hi and welcome. Welcome to The Connected Generation. My name is Nike Anani, and I’m your host. This week’s episode, I was joined by Meghan Lynch. Meghan is a brand strategist. She helps second-stage businesses breakthrough growth plateaus and challenge the Goliaths in their industries using brand strategy, sounds very serious, right? But no, Meghan has incredible expertise and knowledge as to how to use branding communications to level up businesses, and we had a really interesting conversation. It was the soft side of scaling, a following conversation from that with Kimberly Ofori, where we spoke about scaling businesses in terms of assets, revenues, and growth, et cetera. This conversation is really about how can you scale your trust, scale your influence, and navigate your business so that it’ll be future focused. Really enjoyed it. I encourage you to tune in, share the love, thank you. Hi, Meghan. Welcome to The Connected Generation. It’s awesome to have you today.

Meghan Lynch:

Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Nike Anani:

Yes. So you’re a brand strategist, a speaker and founder and CEO of Six-Point Creative. How did you get to where you are today?

Meghan Lynch:

My journey, I feel like I’m a little bit of the reluctant entrepreneur. I never really wanted to run a business. I was actually in school to be an English professor, my mom’s a teacher, my dad is an Episcopal priest, and so for me, business was just not part of our family’s vocabulary. It’s almost probably the opposite of a lot of the listeners, I did not grow up anywhere near a family business, but basically what happened was I was in graduate school and I was working at the same time, and I just really started liking my day job better than I was liking kind of the world of academia.

Meghan Lynch:

I liked being more hands on, and just like the people I worked with, like the work itself and the more I got into it, the more I realized that, oh, a lot of the skills that I have that I was applying to books and literature apply just as easily to businesses. That seeing patterns and kind of making connections and reading carefully, listening carefully, all of those things serve you really well when you’re trying to help businesses sort out complex problems. So yeah, that was kind of where I made this hard turn to being an entrepreneur myself and then helping other entrepreneurs.

Nike Anani:

Wow. So was that straight out of college? Or did you kind of-

Meghan Lynch:

I worked at a number of different areas of marketing and branding and communications for a while, and then I ended up starting my own business with two partners and really, they were kind of the ones who were starting the business and I just said, “Oh, I would come work for you. You guys are so smart.” I was 27, 28 at the time. And they just finally said, “No, why don’t you come with us and be a partner?” And I was like, “Oh, okay.” And I think when you’re young and you haven’t really been in that world very much, you don’t know really what you’re saying yes to. And I think if I had known how difficult it was going to be, I might have made a different choice, but here I am.

Nike Anani:

So tell us more about the difficulties that you face in entrepreneurship.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. I mean, I think one of the things that I learned after a while, we had kind of what I think a lot of businesses have, which are these kind of… The hustle of startup is difficult, but if you love the work and love what you do, and you’re good at what you do, you just have some initial success that says like, “Yes. Okay, I’m doing the right thing and this is working.” And then as you start to grow and the business becomes more complex and you need more work to feed the machine and you also have more people in your system that make it more complex, then you just start to plateau and kind of what made you successful as a startup entrepreneur is not going to be what makes you successful as a second stage or scale up entrepreneur.

 And I look back on like the few years where I was just like, “Oh my gosh, I thought I was decent at this, but now it seems like I am terrible at this. I’m doing all the same things, but I’m not getting the same results.” And it is just fundamentally frustrating and feels like failure, and it was only after doing a lot of pure conversations and learning that I realized, “Oh no, this is actually growing pains.” It’s a sign of being successful is having these kind of level up moments in the business, and I think once I realized that, it just gave me this whole new perspective that I found really exciting. I was like, “Oh, the second stage scale-up phase of companies is a thing and it is predictable. And nobody told me about it.”

Maybe I could help other companies going through these same growing pains and help them skip some of the pain that I felt, or at least help them navigate the pain with a little bit more intention and let them know that they are not failing. That in fact, they are this thing called a second stage company, called a scale up company. And again, kind of like the what got you here, won’t get you there, so help them kind of go through just some of the best practices that help you navigate that. And then also for me, a big piece of it is also we deal in brand and marketing, right? So it’s kind of the softer side of scale-up.

I heard one of your conversations with Kimberly Ofori and she was really talking about the operations of scale up, and as she was talking, I was like, “Yes, absolutely spot on.” And I think what we do is kind of the compliment to that kind of scale of operations, where it’s almost like the softer side of scaling. How do you scale trust? How do you scale relationships? How do you scale a founder’s influence on a company? And that’s where we often are working with probably 80% of the companies we work with are family businesses, because it’s often that next gen that needs to be the connection between the past and the future.

And respect the past, but have a vision for the future and help that company navigate change, and change leadership is extremely difficult and fraught, and so helping companies navigate that for me is just, again because I’ve been there, I’ve had to navigate change with my partners. They were almost kind of the parents of my business, and when they retired, I was like, “Oh no, now it’s me. And I’ve got to run this thing and just don’t mess it up.” So I feel like even though I’m not part of a family business, I feel like I relate to some of the feelings if not all the dynamics that go into it.

Nike Anani:

Wow, whilst you’re speaking really reminded me of a metaphor I often use for businesses, so when you’re starting a business, it’s like you’re pregnant and you get to a point where you have to go into labor and just push this damn thing out. And the doctor that you needed during your pregnancy is different from the doctor that you need once you’ve given birth. The lifestyle that you have during your pregnancy is very different from the lifestyle that you have once you’ve given birth. And what you need to focus on during those stages are completely different. So can you school us a little bit on the distinction between first stage and second stage? And you mentioned that there’s some growing pains. What are those growing pains? What are those indicators that it might be time to switch what one is doing?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, so second stage is usually anytime a company gets beyond about 10 employees, that is when you start to see some of the growing pains. And a big thing is just the need for more systems and processes. Again, when you have an owner-founder who’s great at what they do, and they’ll often surround themselves with a few people who just get it and can execute really easily and you have that nice flow between this visionary founder and then a bunch of people who just go out there and just get shit done. And that’s a really comfortable place to be. And then at some point you start bringing in people who are more like, “Okay, well I need more framework. I need more processes.”

You need to delegate a little bit further and you can’t watch every single thing that they’re doing. It’s just the degrees of separation become larger and the business becomes more complex. So again, where you used to be able to delegate really easily, now all of a sudden it’s like sometimes it takes the format of just individuals pushing back and saying, “I don’t know what you want, you’re not being clear.” All those kinds of things. And you’re like, “Well, I don’t know. So-and-so got it. They used to get it. Why can’t you get it?” And it’s really just that, again, the skill sets that you’re hiring for are different than what you needed.

You start to need more expertise, more subject matter expertise, and then as you bring in some of those process people, the business kind of slows down and you go through this pain of like, “Oh my gosh, okay, now we’re implementing all these processes, and it feels like we’re becoming a process company. We’re getting away from the work that I loved.” And again, speaking from the business leader standpoint, there’s just this feeling of like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going in every day and I’m getting nothing done. This is not as satisfying as it used to be.” And from kind of everybody else’s viewpoint. They’re like, “Why doesn’t this person trust me? Why won’t they let this go?”

And then from the market standpoint, it can just be a very uncomfortable customer experience where it’s uneven, and oftentimes, one of the things that happens is when the owner-founder is more involved, things will go better. The customer will be happier because they’re like, “Oh, I used to have direct access to this person and now we get that back.” And that reinforces this narrative in your head that, “See, I told you I couldn’t let this go. “I told you, this is really all about me.” And this happens from generation to generation too, of as the next generation steps up every time dad or mom is like, “Oh yeah, sure. You go try it.” And then something goes wrong.

They’re like, “Oh, see, see, you’re not ready. I told you I couldn’t trust you with this.” And so there’s this back and forth that happens that’s really uncomfortable. And so a lot of what our work is, is trying to understand at a very granular, specific level. What is the DNA of this company? The do not alter of what makes them successful? Where is their value created? And then what are the things that are just there because they’re there?

They’re not really connected to that value. And really help companies understand at a deep level where their value is created, because it’s not with one human. It’s with the value that that human has created, whether it’s their experience, whether it’s the relationships, whether it’s their empathy, whether it’s their problem solving ability. And once you kind of hone in on what that is, you can then start to problem solve how to scale it. But oftentimes, people don’t even quite understand what they’re scaling for from a brand or positioning or relationship standpoint if that makes sense.

Nike Anani:

Completely makes sense. My brain is going off in 80 different directions and I’m going to start here. You mentioned the DNA. How do you determine what that is when it’s not measurable? When it’s not quantitative? What’s your process of, I guess this is your genius IP, but how do you determine that when you walk into a family business?

Meghan Lynch:

What’s kind of funny about it is that it’s really not genius IP. I wish it was, but really, it’s more about when you’re in a company, you cannot read the label that’s on the outside of your own bottle because you are inside the bottle. So you can’t read what’s on the outside. And so oftentimes, what we do, and again, this goes back to why I love literature. It’s about reading and listening deeply and looking for patterns. So what we do is we will do intake with the company, so we’ll do internal surveys and interviews, and start to really listen to how individuals within the company at all different levels, from the front lines, in customer service and sales, and operations, to the leadership team. How are they talking about the company and the value that they create?

Then we also do the same thing with our customers, where we will listen really deeply to their customers and how they talk about the value that the company creates? And really, all that we’re looking for is what are the places of overlap? Where are they using all of a sudden the same words? At leadership, on the ground, from the customer. That starts to point us in a direction of, oh, this is where the magic is happening. This is something that’s super consistent, the way everybody’s talking. And then we also listen for the outliers, like where some people saying, “Oh, this is what we’re doing.” And then you hear a real disconnect from some other segment where they’re clearly not aligned, and so a lot of what we do is just again, deep listening and then mirroring back to them, “This is what we’re hearing, and this is what we’re seeing. And does this sound true to you?”

And because it’s come from them, it does sound true to them. And it becomes the starting point, this common ground, that we can then use that as the place to constantly come back to, to say, “This is what we don’t want to lose, because if we lose this, we could create all the systems and processes and scalability that we want, but if we lose this fundamental value, something important in the company is going to be lost.” And so our work is not really about new logos, new colors. That is not the work of this positioning work, this change leadership. It’s really about identifying what can’t we lose, and then also, what do we need to change to be successful? And then combining those two things so that it stretches the company without breaking them.

Nike Anani:

It’s about culture, right? It’s company culture.

Meghan Lynch:

It is. It’s very interrelated to culture and very interrelated to, I mean at the end of the day, business, as much as we think it’s about money or it’s about systems or it’s about economics, it really is fundamentally about people in relationships, right? The people who get things done, the leaders who helped them do their work, and the relationships that exist between companies and the problems that they’re solving with the people who they’re serving. And that’s true regardless of what industry you’re in, what continent you’re on. That is just the fundamental piece of business that I think is really important to understand.

And we try to really bring that humanity back to it because oftentimes, I think the next gens will know intellectually, this is what we need to do. I’ve seen the data, the market is all pointing this way. We just need to march in this direction. And what’s really missing is that change management skills of how do we get people aligned? How do we get everybody pointed in the same direction? How do we communicate really well with our customers who got us to where we are so that if we pivot, we’re not going to lose those customers or lose those relationships.

Because that’s often what the older generations are worried about is like, “Hey, we worked really hard to build this thing. Don’t take for granted these relationships that we have, don’t take for granted what it took to build it to this point.” So it’s this real fine balance of respecting that past, and also still pushing towards a bigger future. And especially with family companies, as the family gets bigger, as the impact of the company gets bigger, the company has to scale. Because you can’t continue to support more people and build that next generation wealth if the company stays the same size. So there’s a real need for this company to grow and scale in a meaningful way in order to make that impact happen.

Nike Anani:

I love what you’re saying, and as you mentioned, Kimberly’s episode was very much from the operational side, the considerations for a scale-up and this conversation is on the soft side, and I would presume that most next gens would overlook the soft side. Has that been your experience?

Meghan Lynch:

It has been. Yeah. And I think that it’s often the piece that also seems it’s the hardest part, and because it’s not concrete, it feels impossible to fix. It just feels like this is the way it is and we have to live with it. I believe that that’s fundamentally not true, that there is always a third way. We don’t have to stay the way we are, and we don’t have to throw out everything that has made this company great to where it is, that there is a third way that respects the past and pushes us towards the future. And that our team has really adopted this saying of slow is smooth and smooth as fast. And so that’s also a lot of what our process is about, is just helping companies slowly make these changes, make sure that there’s alignment at every level, because that’s what’s going to create this acceleration out the other.

And if you just speed, I think we all have this kind of bias towards action, especially entrepreneurs. We just like to get it done. We have this idea, let’s do it today. Let’s implement it. But that’s again, often where the wheels start to come off the car. Is like you don’t have that solid foundation that you’re building from. And I think that that’s why that generational transition is really hard. I think at one point, you had mentioned that in Nigeria, only 2% of family businesses make the leap from first generation to second generation. And I’m sure again, you could speak to it better than I could, but I would imagine that it’s this combination of infrastructure and technology and know-how in the operations, but also there is this softer skill side that roadblocks that transition. 

What I get excited about is, oh, if somebody else can solve for the operations part and I can solve for this, then all of a sudden, we have this huge explosion of growth that gets unleashed, which is a huge explosion of impact. And family businesses are businesses that are devoted to their communities, that are devoted to their employees, that are devoted to being around for the long term. It’s much different than having a large global corporation who has no roots in the community, no long-term stake in is the successful? Do these jobs stay here? To me, keeping growth in family businesses is a huge opportunity for just growth and fundamental change and opportunity for not just the business themselves, but for the communities that they live in.

Nike Anani:

I love that. I love that. And what are the common mistakes you observe family businesses making in the soft side?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, I think a big one, as I said, is kind of the action bias. So the rush to just get things done, which then causes the people who are kind of invested in the status quo to then undermine any change that’s being made, so you make a lot of change, and then slowly that changes dismantled behind you. So I think that that’s a huge mistake. I think another one is really not talking to your customers or your clients, and asking them where the value of the company is and how they would react to change and engaging them. And it’s both amazing how often companies don’t do this simple thing, and then also the great ripple effects that it has when you do. One of the things that we often hear when we’re doing these interviews on behalf of these businesses with their customers, is that one of the questions that we’ll ask is like, “Why do you do business with these people, with this company?”

And the answer is often, “Because they do things like this. Because they ask me questions and they care about my answers. They listen,” and so I think where oftentimes we don’t ask, because we’re worried or fearful that we’re going to hear something negative. Instead, people love to talk about themselves and why they care and they love to feel valued. And it has the opposite effect that brings customers and businesses closer together and reinforces those relationships. When I think we’re often worried that if we ask what’s not going right, or what they’re worried about, then it’s going to hurt those relationships. And I think that oftentimes, we get held back by some of those fears of that unknown.

Nike Anani:

No, completely agree with you, and so you’ve spoken about the importance of customer-centricity and having conversations with your customers. Are there any other kind of brand strategies our family businesses should be seeking to employ?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. I think that the other mistake is, again, sometimes to also err on, we need to position ourselves in a way that just scribes and captures who we are right now at this moment, and I think that that is often where I see businesses waste a lot of resources. And again, as a mom, I often will bring it back to sort of some similar metaphors that you were using in the beginning of this is like, you have two sons, right? When you know that when you’re buying clothes for them, you need to buy clothes a little bit bigger than where they fit because they grow so fast.

Nike Anani:

They grow super-duper fast.

Meghan Lynch:

So if they need some more formal clothes, you might get them a suit jacket or something, you’re going to buy it so it’s a little bit long so when they’re trying it on, you’re like, “Oh, it doesn’t look great, but I know that in six months it’s going to look perfect.” And that’s often what we try to really coach them through with the brand is if you’re waiting for something that you’re like, “Oh, that’s us, that’s perfect.” You are going to outgrow that thing in six months to a year. You want something that is a little bit too big for who you are, that you can grow into it.

That helps to articulate the vision of who you want to be, and not only does that help to level up your team who is now like, “Oh, yes, you’ve been talking about it or you’ve shown us the business plan.” It also makes it real and concrete and emotional to them of, “Oh, yes. I see this vision. I see this future in front of me, and now I’m clear on how I can be a part of it or I can help to brainstorm how I could be a part of it.” And the other cool thing that happens is it will start to automatically attract the next level talent who says, “I see where you’re going, and I fit into that vision, and I can help you get there.” Whereas if you’re just describing who you are now, you’re going to attract people, both customers and potential employees, who fit in with who you are now, but you don’t want to be who you are now.

You want to be bigger, better, more impactful than that, and so you need to be attracting the people who want to go where you’re going, and who can help you get to where you’re going. So it’s true on the employee side and the talent side, and it’s true on the customer side. And I think that that’s a big piece of brand and positioning that people often overlook that sometimes making it concrete and real in the brand and positioning, and clearly articulating in visuals, in words, where you are going, where you want to be, is just extremely powerful in helping you level up. As long as it’s authentic and it’s realistic. It can’t be so out there that people are like, “That it’s insincere.”

Nike Anani:

Yeah. I love that. I love that you brought in the piece on attracting talent. Can you speak more about that maybe from your previous work, the impacts that your positioning and branding work has done with companies and talent?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, absolutely. I think in a couple ways I can speak to it specifically myself, where again, all of our processes were developed kind of on our own company, so we really created this to problem solve what we were experiencing at Six-Point as we were growing. And one of the things that I found was we had a brand that positioned us very broadly, it was kind of one of those, “We do everything for anyone.”

Nike Anani:

And you attract no one when you do that.

Meghan Lynch:

You attract no one, yeah. And again, we’re a branding and marketing company, you would think that we would be able to avoid that trap, but it’s hard for an owner-founder to let that go of like “No, everybody wants this. This is useful to every single person.” So anyway, as soon as I started to say second stage scale-up companies in these industries with these pain points, all of a sudden, I posted for this director of client services position that we were hiring for. And I had posted for that position pre rebrand, and then post rebrand, and I could not believe the difference in resumes that I was getting.

I was getting major former agency owners who I knew and looked up to, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, no, I want to be you. You want to work for me? What? No.” So it was again, it’s not something that I usually promise as being an outcome because the talent acquisition is its own discipline, that’s not what we do, but I’ve just seen, even in my own business, that it’s this unexpected outcome that happens. That people get that vision and they say, “Oh, yes, I understand what you’re talking about, I get it, I’m excited about it, I want to be a part of it, and I think that my skills can help you get there.”

So I was having all these conversations and all of a sudden I had this choice of people who I was like, “Oh my gosh, these people are way overqualified for this position, but they’re the people who can catapult me to this next level, as opposed to if I was trying to do it with the team that I had who didn’t have that kind of next level experience these folks had.” So yeah, I think it’s just really cool the way I can open up this new channel when you’re communicating clearly. And it comes back down to, again, communicating the vision that’s in our heads that’s so hard to translate to the world in a concrete way.

Nike Anani:

And what are the other implications or results of clients working with you, and getting their positioning tied to the culture kind of better to find them more attractive, so to speak?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, so some of the real world benefits of this are these companies usually experience about a doubling of their sales volume, and then at the same time, you’re reducing customer price sensitivity. So people are willing to pay more for the same thing, because you’re clearly identifying how it creates value for them. And so it allows you to value price your offerings, regardless of what you’re offering, because you’re connecting with them with something that even if it’s an intangible value, you’re clearly articulating and connecting with this value, with what they want in a clear and meaningful way. Then you also, again, if you’re listening to somebody like Kimberly, you also have the backend systems to execute on that in an efficient way.

So, you see up to a 10 times reduction in price sensitivity so that you can charge more for the same thing, you also have these streamlined operations, hopefully, which is why timing is really important. You don’t want to brand and market before you have that back of the house operations really fine-tuned and that scalable infrastructure in place, so that you can also see, you’re not only just seeing the increased revenue, which is great for adding head count, but if you’re also not seeing the bottom-line profit and the cash flow and all of those things, then what’s it all for? So this allows you to kind of both get the sales up, but also get your profit margins higher, so that you can reinvest in that scalable infrastructure.

You can reinvest in the company going forward. And you can also, again, start to create that more generational wealth opportunity because there’s more left at the end of the day, that can start to build the ability to diversify and reinvest. And I think the long term implications of it are huge and very sweeping, but I think some of the short-term things are just seeing that interest in customers who you’ve been trying to reach for a while, an increase in responsiveness. Sales teams love it because they’re finally like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have to work so hard to open a door. Customers are actually coming to us, they’re the right customers, and they’re pre-qualified because we’re clear about who we want to serve and how we can serve them.”

Nike Anani:

Amazing. So I think you’ve done very well in articulating the destination where folks would get to work on their branding positioning and whatnot, but where do they start their journeys, so for those that are like, “This sounds amazing and we need to do this in our family business, but where do we start?” I’m a bit confused. What are the simple steps you recommend?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. So I think the simple steps, I do think that it is really hard to do internally with a company. Even when I’m working on my own brand, I have a couple of brand strategists and friends who I really trust who I’m like, “I’m saying this, does that make any sense? Is this resonating? Is this working?” Because on my own business, I can’t tell. I’m too close to it. I need my team to do it, I need external experts to do it, so I do think that it is finding an expert who can be that sounding board for you and can mirror back to you the value that you’re creating. And I think it’s also about really doing that deep listening to your internal team.

Again, even if you think you know what people think, asking them questions and really giving them time to answer and not just jumping to conclusions, but truly asking and deeply listening. I think oftentimes companies are surprised at some of the patterns and articulations that come out. It’s like, “Oh, yes, we’ve been trying to say that for so long, and you just said it so perfectly.” And you can capture that. Oftentimes, we’re not writing their positioning, their customers are writing their positioning, or their internal team is writing their positioning.

We’re just listening and kind of going, “Oh, yes, that thing that you just said, that’s good. That’s the clearest we’ve heard.” And then working from there, so it’s not even that you need to be a great writer or a great designer. It’s really that you have to be a really great listener and be patient at that, because often hearing where people are disconnected is also important, and just being open to that, which it means being vulnerable, which is really difficult. You have to be vulnerable to hear the things that maybe aren’t so good or that might hurt a little bit. Again, we’re using the child metaphor. I mean, it is true. There was some study that hooked up business owners’ brains to a brain scan machine.

Nike Anani:

MRI? Is it MRI?

Meghan Lynch:

MRI, I think, yeah. It’s MRI. And they were watching what parts of their brains lit up, and so they would show them a picture of their child, and they would show them a picture of their business or their business logo. And the same part of their brain lit up when they looked at those two things.

Nike Anani:

Wow.

Meghan Lynch:

So when we talk about a metaphor of child, this is why I feel like this is literally your child.

Nike Anani:

Literally your child. Oh my God.

Meghan Lynch:

And so if you could imagine going out and just surveying people about what they think about your boys, you only want them to say good things, and as soon as they say something bad, you have to work to put that mama tiger like, “Calm down. It’s okay. It’s probably true, but they’re perfect.” And so it’s the same thing with a business, and that’s why it’s easier to have a third party do it because it stops you from shutting those conversations down emotionally because you’re like, “No, that’s not true. That hurts me. Don’t talk about my baby that way.” So, I mean, honestly, I do think that starting with listening and openness is the best place that people can get started for sure.

Nike Anani:

Excellent advice. And my last question for you, how has COVID impacted family businesses’ appetite to look at this work or-

Meghan Lynch:

I think it’s both accelerated the need for it. I think people are feeling like, “Oh, yeah. The whole what got you here won’t get you there, is hitting more and more true now.” I think the biggest roadblock to it is that resources are scarce, and the future is extra uncertain, and that it makes people even more concerned about loss, so this idea of, “Oh, if I change, am I going to lose more than I’m going to gain?” And so I think the fear roadblock is very, very strong right now, but also the view toward the potential opportunity is also really strong. So I think it becomes for most companies, what’s going to win out is the fear or this sense of optimism and opportunity, and it’s where we’ve really tried to also kind of be responsive to that.

We’re offering and do more workshops where we’re teaching companies more about the opportunities and more about how to take advantage of those, versus saying, “Well, we have to execute everything,” so that the investment of maybe their time and kind of sweat equity is larger, but that the price tag is shorter, so that if they’re worried about conserving cash or things like that, that they could start to implement some of these things internally with their team with some support. It’s more of a DIY. If you’re working on your house and you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to fix this myself. I’m going to watch some YouTube videos and figure it out and maybe have somebody I can call if it goes really wrong.”

We kind of are offering more of a DIY version versus what we used to do, which was more the do it for me version, of its only companies who have the resources and the ability to invest in a future. I feel like some of the companies who need us the most are in that place of fear and uncertainty, which I think that there is some cool is that we can problem solve for that to help that not be a barrier to capitalizing on some of this opportunity and change, because I think it’s really real. I think there’s lots of opportunities to reinvent right now in exciting and meaningful and truly scalable ways, and I think a lot of the roadblocks that people were feeling like, “Oh, we could never have a virtual office”.

All that stuff is kind of going away. People had to do it, they had to do it. And so now I think it’s opened the door, taken off some of those barriers in people’s minds of what’s possible, and it’s been an exciting time to watch small businesses because companies I was talking to this time last year were like, “I don’t know that we’re going to survive,” and then now they’re talking about, “Hey, we’ve got so much growth. We see so much opportunity.” It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur because it serves you well, we’re great at solving problems and there’s plenty of problems to solve right now.

Nike Anani:

Plenty of problems, indeed. Thank you so much, Meghan. If anyone wants to get ahold of you, how best can they reach you?

Meghan Lynch:

Probably the best way to do it is just on LinkedIn. I’m pretty active there and responsive, so reach out and connect. Shoot me a message with questions. I’m happy to do that, so I’m Meghan Lynch of Six-Point Creative on LinkedIn, and then our website is sixpointcreative.com, we’re on some social media, pretty sure.

Nike Anani:

Some Facebook, some Instagram, some something.

Meghan Lynch:

Exactly. Exactly.

Nike Anani:

Awesome. It’s been great having you today and thank you so much.

Meghan Lynch:

Thank you so much for the conversation. I appreciate it.

Nike Anani:

Awesome. Oh, I love that conversation. I love that Meghan’s life work has nothing to do with what she went to university for. For me, it just represents so much possibility and I find it so freeing and just so inspiring. I also love what Meghan said about how businesses go into different stages. And at different stages, they require different focuses, and I love when she spoke about growing pains, that as businesses are transitioning, it’s different seasons. They may be growing through some pains, and these pains are not necessarily a bad thing, they’re not necessarily indicating that something’s going wrong.

Sometimes they’re signs of being successful, and they’re just your indication that we need to level up, and I find that’s just powerful life advice. Sometimes in life, we go through seasons of immense difficulty where it’s very arduous. It feels like we’re pushing a boulder, a huge boulder up the hill, and it’s not necessarily that things are wrong about our life. It’s actually a result of immense capacity building as a result of transitioning into a new season, and we just need to level up. We need to level up our endurance, we need to level up our strength, we need to level up our capacity, because growth is coming. So thank you so much for tuning in, take good care and God bless you.