Stephen Woessner bounced off ten questions to Rick Enrico, CEO of SlideGenius, Inc. These questions got right down to discussing where his company came about and his secret to on how to keep everything running smoothly. Rick discusses his success and failures and shares valuable and actionable advice that entrepreneurs need to hear to get on the path to success. He shares that when running a company, it’s all about the people.
Listen to Rick Enrico’s complete interview at Onward Nation.
- What’s your secret time-saving technique?
- Do you have one or two daily habits you strongly believe contributes to your success?
- Tell us about that challenging time that could’ve ruined your business but now serves as an invaluable learning experience?
- What do you think is the most critical skill business owners need to master in order to thrive today?
- Would you agree that a leader himself can become the only constraint to his business, and him getting out of the way can help the company grow?
- What’s the most influential lesson you learned from one of your mentors?
- What systems would you go back and put into place sooner rather than later and why?
- What one strategy or “recipe” would compound into big wins for business owners?
- Imagine the people you hired today exceeded your highest expectations. What recipe or strategy did they consistently apply to deliver the most value to your business?
- What would be 2 or 3 strategies you would recommend entrepreneurs and new business owners to focus on to ensure success?
Full transcript of the interview after introductions:
Stephen Woessner: Rick, is there a secret? Maybe a time-saving technique that you can share with us right off that bat that helps you focus and prepare to tackle your most vital priorities each day?
Rick Enrico: Yeah. So one of the things I found is telephone efficiency. We’re in San Diego, California, and I also have an office in the Philippines as well. My assistant isn’t located in our San Diego office. She’s actually working the night shift in our office in the Philippines. And on any given day, we all have 15-20 scheduled phone calls, so she’ll call them for an appointment first, and once she’s connected, she’ll then patch me through the call.
And why this is important is this allows me to work right up to the scheduled call and saves time if the caller needs to reschedule, or she gets a voicemail and cannot be reached, and she’ll handle all that rescheduling so it prevents the back and forths, and it optimizes my time throughout the day.
Stephen Woessner: Do you have one or two daily habits you strongly believe contributes to your success?
Rick Enrico: Yeah, there’s two and they’re recent. They’re not something that I’ve had for the past 10-15 years. They’ve come about in the last couple of years, and one of them’s breathing.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve developed a habit of stopping midday to pause and focus on my breath. It can even be for 5 minutes. But this has not only helped me level out, but it’s provided me with making better decisions. The second is a daily meditation routine that’s all focused on breathing. Getting up in the morning and just clearing your mind for 20 minutes. I made that a routine that I follow daily.
Stephen Woessner: The deliberateness in the way that you schedule your day, everything, the initial answer you gave us working right up to that appointment and then if somebody’s not there, the efficiency, the rescheduling so you can continue focusing on your vital priorities, and then again being deliberate with taking a pause to focus on breath.
Then meditation taking a break in the day so you can fight that overwhelm and just be consistent with the priorities. Really great lessons, Rick.
Rick Enrico: Sure, and I’d like to add to that. I have a business coach. It’s not just me manifesting this myself. I definitely would give credit to Eric Kaufmann at Sagatica.
And so doing these exercises, and then also trying to get my staff and directors in the company to be in that same type of mindset and feeling, if you will, has allowed us to pause when businesses can be stressful.
And if we can take time to pause during the day, and realize no one’s going to die here and that we can come up with a solution, it can create a better working environment. It’s created a better calm, if you will. And that’s something that I would recommend to any entrepreneur, is trying to instill that in your organization.
——————–Stephen Woessner: So let’s actually go down this path a little bit of the image of the stress to peace to business. Let’s go down the path of overcoming obstacles, and you mentioned stories. You tell stories visually.
I know that you’re an expert storyteller, and everybody loves stories. It’s part of our DNA. So, Rick, tell us about that challenging time, that situation that could’ve devastated, maybe even ruined your business, but wherein you persisted with the tough decision.
But now, that once painful memory serves more as an invaluable learning experience. Tell us that story.
Rick Enrico: Sure, I’m gonna go back to 2008. I think a lot of businesses went out of business during that time period. And that was by far the most challenging time of my life in that I was heavily leveraged with my own personal capital, and the company and the markets just didn’t look favorably upon the success of the company.
And now, while I was on my knees trying to figure everything out, sometimes the world shifts and the universe has its ways of giving back. And that shift was someone telling me to open a presentation agency.
And so, that challenge and that failure turned to what we’re talking about today. And I think if you’re struggling to find the next thing, or your business is failing, be aware that one call, one door can open and it can change your trajectory. And the eternal optimist in entrepreneurism is always expecting that one door will open.
Stephen Woessner: Well, we have to have the clarity of mind. We have to have the presence of mind to hear it and see it when it actually opens, right, Rick?
Rick Enrico: Absolutely, absolutely.
Stephen Woessner: It’s such a great conversation. You’re doing such a great job illustrating all of these lessons, so let’s now transition into critical skills.
So for your perspective, what do you think is the most critical skill business owners need to master in order to thrive today?
Rick Enrico: Everything requires effort and energy. And too often, business owners and entrepreneurs say yes too often or too soon as they fear losing out on a perceived opportunity. And I think by learning to pause and sometimes say no, the space is created for potentially more rewarding endeavors that that same energy can be applied to.
And this is also something that happened to me in the past couple of years, where opportunities come up for new businesses 4 or 5 years ago and I would just say, “Yeah, let’s go!” And now I’m more methodical about it. I take time to really evaluate all the angles of that opportunity, and it’s allowed for better decisions to be made on what is best not only for myself, but the company.
And that goes downline as well, so I’m now bringing in my directors and asking them, “What is your opinion of this? How does it feel?” And I go with what they say. And that’s turning it over to your employees to allow them to be making the decision controlling the trajectory of the company.
Stephen Woessner: So was that hard for you? Was there a personal struggle that you had to resist the temptation to maybe pursue these other things? But was that really hard for you to recondition yourself to be able to do that well?
Rick Enrico: Absolutely. I was not always this way. I was a control freak. I was very closed. As I started to become more open, the momentum shifted. The momentum for growth happened by just changing a few things, and allowing the “we” instead of “I” within this particular company.
Stephen Woessner: It sounds like you would validate this. But I wanna ask you: I’ve heard so many successful people that have built a small organization, made them large organizations, and that they themselves as the leader of the business, were the only constraint. And as soon as they got out of the way, the business grew. Would you agree with that?
Rick Enrico: Haha! Absolutely. And now when I look at the business, it’s like a train on a moving track, right? And that’s the corporation.
Now I am just a passenger on that train. I may get off at some point, and people will get on and off, but the train will keep going. And so if the business owner, the leader, identifies themselves with the company, I think that’s a mistake. I think putting those people in the train and letting it go and letting it flow, and knowing that the train and its people are more important than I, I think that’s an important piece.
Stephen Woessner: I’m grateful for this really valuable mentorship during this conversation.
So now, let me ask you to think about the most influential lesson you ever learned from one of your mentors. And, Rick, how that lesson helped you become the business owner you are today.
Rick Enrico: Sure, it’s all gonna come full circle. I have two if you don’t mind me sharing.
Stephen Woessner: Of course.
Rick Enrico: First, my father’s a serial entrepreneur. He started 23 businesses in his career. And he has a saying that it’s all about the people. It’s all about the people. And this couldn’t be truer in any business.
Sure, the CEO may be the conductor of the train making all the press, but behind every great CEO is tens, hundreds, or thousands of good people. And without good people, you won’t have a good business. So I try to bring that to my organization and look at people first and think: it’s all about the people because that’s gonna create the growth. That’s gonna get you the train moving down the tracks at a faster rate, and I really subscribe to that.
Secondly, I played Hockey at the University of Wisconsin and one of my coaches was Mark Johnson. Mark infamously scored two goals against the Soviet Union in the 1980 Lake Placid, Miracle on Ice, right? And every day I’d prepare, playing hockey there, and pay all my attention to my hockey stick, ever so meticulously, as if the stick was the only path to my success.
And Mark had a saying he would tell me over and over again, he’d say, “Rick, it’s not the arrow, it’s the Indian. It’s not the arrow, it’s the Indian.” And I’ve carried that with me throughout life when myself or people around me blame focus outside and not within.
And even with SlideGenius, we hear “Death by PowerPoint” and how PowerPoint is such a terrible tool. Well, the same metaphor: “not the arrow, it’s the Indian,” can be used for the PowerPoint user. Of what we learn, 84% is done visually, so of course, people are going to give terrible presentations. But that’s not PowerPoint’s fault.
Stephen Woessner: Thank you for sharing two really, really powerful lessons with us. I suspect that Onward Nation’s reeling a little bit just like I am. I love your coach, go Badgers by the way, shared with you.
That was fantastic, great visual examples. And as you were telling that story I was actually seeing the arrow and the Indian, and it just really cemented that into place. Did you say 84% visual learners?
Rick Enrico: Yeah, of what we learn, 84% is done visually.
Stephen Woessner: Wow, I didn’t know that. That’s a powerful statistic. Okay, so I have four more questions for you.
So if there was a magic reset button, as a way to restart your business, what systems would you go back and put into place sooner rather than later, and why?
Rick Enrico: There’s too many to detail, right?
Stephen Woessner: *Laughs*
Rick Enrico: But to start, I wish I would’ve pursued SlideGenius full-time in 2008 and we hadn’t waited until 2012 to put forward the focused energy in the business. And the first couple of years of SlideGenius, you know businesses and entrepreneurs have ups and downs, right? And we’ve had base hits and we’ve had failures and I was so much of a control freak for fear of failure.
And it really wasn’t until this mid-2014 when I started to let go and hire and promote within to take that divisional delegation off my plate which we talked about earlier. And for example, I personally sold the first 500 clients as our only sales person.
Stephen Woessner: Wow.
Rick Enrico: I was also our accountant and our only marketing person. And once I replaced myself, the company’s growth soon followed, and freed up my time to coach and grow our managers.
So this year, we’re on pace for an annualized growth of 70%. By just being able to let go and focus on each individual step within our process and documenting that process so that we can measure and improve upon.
So we’re very much a metric-focused company, especially within our marketing and our client interactions. And we look at that daily, and we have benchmarks to hit, and we’re focused on those metrics, and those KPIs so that we always keep the metrics first, and we always look to measure and improve upon that.
Stephen Woessner: So let me make sure I’m tracking you correctly. So you gritted it out, you sold the first 500 clients yourself, right? You were the person for sales.
Rick Enrico: Correct.
Stephen Woessner: Okay. And then it sounds like as soon as you either recognized constraints or the process that needed to be improved, maybe just improving your own quality of life and what you’re doing in the business.
It sounds like you have since extracted yourself out of the sales process, am I tracking with you?
Rick Enrico: To some degree, so let’s just say we’re a 100% inbound marketing firm. We have 20 people in marketing. We’re writing content, we’re designing internet-based marketing programs, we’re designing landing pages, and we’re constantly looking at marketing first.
That’s what I would tell any business owner, you know you have to market, or you’ll die. And we put focus on that and the leads that are generated. We have persona-based tricks that we look at when the lead comes in.
There is a scoring that happens automatically within the organization and we also eyeball it right away. But it drops into a category. And we know based on that persona, from a marketing perspective we have 11 personas within the client base that make up 95% of our clients. We know what the potential lifetime value will be within minutes of that lead coming in. So then we assign it accordingly.
If it is a tier 1 type of lead, it will get funneled to me.
Stephen Woessner: That’s perfect. Thank you for illustrating it that way and at that depth. Onward Nation, Rick just gave you the blueprint for inbound marketing and how you can make that an effective tool within your business. That was outstanding, Rick.
Rick Enrico: It takes time too. I would add that we focused on this earlier this year, so when we put forth a huge effort into content. And we have 6 content writers on staff full-time and they’re pushing articles.
We have a full-time PR person on staff, our digital marketing team, and they’re all about trying to drive growth and internet and visits. In the past, I’d say 4 months, we’ve seen even our organic search is growing at 5% per week.
Stephen Woessner: Wow. And when you compound that, Onward Nation, did you say 4 months, Rick?
Rick Enrico: Yup.
Stephen Woessner: That becomes a big snowball in a hurry. Congratulations.
Rick Enrico: Mmhm. Thank you.
Stephen Woessner: It is a lot of hard work. Rick just actually gave you the blueprint and what’s inside his company and the core competencies, the vital functions his team is working on.
And you could literally map that and put into your business in those same functions, those same KPI’s, the same vital priorities, the same rhythm, and experience similar results.
Now, very strategic that they’ve gone down this path, but, wow, kudos, Rick. It is a lot of hard work but obviously the result outcome can be very valuable.
So, Rick, what one strategy, or here in Onward Nation we call them recipes, but what one strategy or recipe that in your opinion if business owners and their teams could consistently apply every day will compound into big wins for them?
Rick Enrico: Sure, number one, we have what we call the 4×4 manifesto that has our core values surrounded by subsequent ancillary values. And in the centerpiece, it’s to have fun. And I think that is something that is these businesses, if you create an environment where your employees are in a fear-based environment, you’re not gonna win.
So if you can create an environment where your employees are appreciated, they’re rewarded, and they can be themselves in a feel-good culture? You’re gonna create the momentum. I mean, who doesn’t wanna feel good at work? And we’ve all been in environments where it’s not the greatest place to be and you can feel that energy. And I guarantee it, you walk into SlideGenius and it’s a fun place to be, it’s creative. Every visitor that comes in goes, “Wow, this is cool.”
And we specifically designed our offices that way so that it’s putting the employee first. It’s not like we have a tremendous amount of people coming into our offices, but it’s all about the employees. Like my father said, it’s all about the people. And that centerpiece of having fun, and having that positive attitude, you’re gonna be able to manifest the growth that you’re seeking.
Stephen Woessner: Great strategy. So let’s take this people topic deeper because it’s such a valuable and critical topic to all of us as business owners.
So let me ask you to fast-forward one year, Rick—and you’re looking back on the higher decisions you’re considering making now, and imagine the people you hired today exceeded your highest expectations—what recipe or strategy did they consistently apply to deliver the most value to your business?
Rick Enrico: Sure. So persistence with hyperfocus on attention to detail. As we scale, our processes are evolving, and like I mentioned earlier, we’re continuously refining these so that we can build supporting technology around presentation design project collaboration.
Our next phase, fast-forward one year from now, is we’re taking our processes and building cloud-based software to actually manage the entire project lifecycle.
Because our business is all about projects, and so, if we can look and identify where the holes are, and how we’re continuously refining those processes, then looking how technology can impact. And we have 9 engineers on staff full time working on these problems.
Stephen Woessner: So what I’m learning from you here too is that not only are you growing methodically and strategically in looking at how to really remain focused on the core of what you do. There also is this outward look at new opportunities. But you have the guts and courage to actually look for holes.
You have guts and courage to look for blind spots in the organization or new opportunities that could currently be gaps, and then how can you fill those and add value to clients in the process.
Would that be correct?
Rick Enrico: Absolutely, and putting clients first. The irony is one of our global clients in 24 countries, and really nice people, they came to us 18 months ago, and they said, “Hey, we know you have a software development background and marketing. Would you be willing to explore developing a product that would help us? We’ll be your first client.”
Now, I have to build it, of course, and I said, “Yeah, let’s talk it through.”
They flew in from Seattle, flew in from London, and we sat for two days and whiteboarded what the product would be. And it was a tremendous creative collaborative experience. And so that product is manifesting called SlideSuite. And SlideSuite is this online library for managing all slides and presentations within your organization globally, and it’s on-demand.
So hopefully, without metrics against us, it’s going to reduce the actual slide design process by 70% because visually, our clients will be able to see all the slides and pop them into decks and go. And, of course, if they need a designer on demand, we’ll be here to help them too. And so that scale and that vision of looking at our client problems and saying, “Hey, how can we help you?”
And that is something we’re constantly looking for in our clients, to provide us that feedback so that we can turn around and not only help them in the presentation design projects which what we do, but help them in other ways around presentations.
Stephen Woessner: That is just brilliant. So there again, Onward Nation: Rick just gave you the blueprint, the recipe for how to ask for feedback, you have to have the guts to ask for feedback and then once your client or clients are willing to give you the feedback, that you actually then follow the roadmap that Rick and his team used to do something with it, to solve a problem but then turn it into a brand new opportunity within the business.
Masterful, masterful. So, Rick, Here’s my last question for you:
Imagine you’re standing in front of a room with brand new business owners, people just like you when you were starting out, so they’re battling their way through the fears, the worries, and the doubts, and the struggles to find their footing.
So what would be 2 or 3 strategies you would recommend that they focus on the best to ensure success?
Rick Enrico: Sure, number one: I should say, carve out a specific niche that your company can excel in, and don’t try to be everything to everybody. For example, of course, we design Web sites, we’re a team of designers, but that’s a commodity. So we stay hyperfocused on our core offering of presentation design so we can be the best at what we do.
Number two: I’d say—and we talked about this earlier—it’s know your customer, or know your target customer. And as I mentioned, in SlideGenius, we have 11 buyer personas. These make up 95% of our client base. So when those leads, or when that prospect comes in, we can immediately score it internally for that delegation. And if you know your customer, you’re gonna be better equipped and able to offer a better service to them when they come through the door, or even if you’re going outward to meet to try to target customers.
Number three: I’d say for any business, I’d say market first, and scale sales second, meaning that the CEO really should be the sales person. Now, this can be a little different if you’re an engineer, and you’re in a technology startup, you’re gonna be focused on the product. But you really gotta find someone with a solid marketing strategy or your business will suffer. That entrepreneur should own marketing, and own sales, and then build out those processes so that they master that skillset in their specific company and then they hire those people to take lead on that.
Too often you’ll see a CEO who has a good skillset and he’ll say, “Oh, I need to hire salespeople” and not put that effort and that money into marketing when it should be the opposite. That CEO, “I’m too busy, or I’m crazy busy.” You’re not crazy busy. You wanna get your business up off the ground? You gotta market, and you gotta sell. Get out and sell, and that’s what I see from.
I know I see a lot of startups obviously that come through the door as well. You gotta have a marketing budget to get out there and to be heard in today’s market place.
Stephen Woessner: When the reality is, Onward Nation, if you hear a CEO or business owner say “I’m too busy. I don’t have time for the sales function” that Rick is explaining to us right now. What that really is, is that’s code for I’m afraid. Right?
Rick Enrico: Yeah! Absolutely.
Stephen Woessner: I’m scared to be out there like Rick is. Right, Rick?
Rick Enrico: Or if they don’t have the confidence, and so a lot of companies that come through the door are trying to raise capital so we do their presentation decks to go out and these guys raising 500,000 dollars. We have clients that are raising 30, 40, 50 million dollars and they’re all in different phases. And it’s all about the confidence in that CEO and that entrepreneur and especially at the early stage these guys, these angel investors are betting on the jockey, not the horse.
Marketing and sales are so important to a young company and it should be. It’s a 24-hour job for that CEO because the momentum to try and go to zero to a million is incredibly difficult. It’s about the same as going from a million to 10 million and then you’re gonna have the same challenges that you do going from ten million to a 100 million and beyond.
Companies will morph and excel, but always put sales and marketing as a targeted focus upfront.
Stephen Woessner: Onward Nation, this was off the charts amazing. And, Rick, what I really loved about these lessons and how you mentored us through each of them is it you gave us really great concrete examples to reinforce and cement into place the lesson.
But then you also told great stories that really illustrated and just gave us a different dynamic or layer to the lesson itself and really helped us visualize. And, Onward Nation, I hope that you’re taking notes. And that you’ll go back and re-listen to these words of wisdom about business building strategies and how to tell effective stories to get your point across because that’s exactly what Rick did here today.
And Rick you’ve given us a ton already, but before we go, before we say goodbye and close out, is there any final advice that you wanna share?
Anything you think we might’ve missed and then please tell the best way to connect with you, my friend.
Rick Enrico: Yeah, I would just say for any entrepreneur out there, don’t ever give up. When fear of failure sets in, and you think you’re failing, just be optimistic. And always know that when you’re running down the corridor, there’s gonna be a ton of doors to open.
And if you stay persistent, you’re gonna open the right door. And something’s gonna emerge and you’re gonna be taking your company and yourself to a whole new level. To get a hold of me, you can visit SlideGenius.com.
Stephen Woessner: Fantastic. And Onward Nation, no matter many notes you took, and I know I encourage you to do that in every single episode, or how often you go back and re-listen to these words of wisdom that Rick so generously shared with you, the key is you have to take action. You have to be proactive and take these valuable lessons and apply them into your business in order to accelerate your results.
And, Rick, we all have the same 86,400 seconds a day, and I am honored and grateful that you would take time out of your compressed schedule to join us here on Onward Nation and to share with Onward Nation these recipes, these strategies for success and moving our businesses onward with gusto.
Thank you so much, my friend.
Rick Enrico: Thank you, Stephen, for having me.
“Episode 128: It’s All about the People, with Rick Enrico.” Onward Nation. December 9, 2015. Accessed January 13, 2016. www.onwardnation.com/rick-enrico