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How to Transform Your Processes for Sustained Growth, with Greg Head [Episode 439]

Greg Head, CEO of Greg Head Consulting, and former CMO of Infusionsoft, joins me to unearth the meaning of personal productivity in ways that most sales reps have not considered.

Key Takeaways

  • Greg details his software sales career since 1987, starting at Egghead. He grew two companies to over $100 million, and then founded Greg Head Consulting in 2016. He likes helping grow companies that look crazy, before they look obvious.
  • Helping companies grow is not easy, and there are treacherous obstacles. Greg discusses signs that show your growth strategy needs updating.
  • The recipe for growth changes as a company grows. Rather than charting a smooth curve, it grows by steps, and each step is different.
  • Greg explains the inflection points of growth from a sole proprietorship to a large company. He compares it to transitioning from ADD to OCD.
  • When Greg was at Infusionsoft, they decided to stop being all things to all customers. When they focused on a particular customer need, and narrowed the product, they went from no growth to 50% growth in six years.
  • To maintain growth in a high-growth company, you must reset the process about every 18 months. The first rule of the game is to know what game you’re playing, and the game is always changing.
  • The sport of growth is like playing in the Pros. You will not play the same role in the same game for many years.
  • A small company that starts off by “making stuff up” as they go, soon has to transition to a business plan. Things change in the maturing process. Amazon started by just selling books, and gradually shifted to a variety of merchandise.
  • Greg talks about assessing past, present, and plans for the future, and suggests pulling your mind like taffy. Block the possibility of failure. Greg discusses a real estate growth firm.
  • The big challenges still need addressing, and we need more entrepreneurs, companies, and people to aim high and go after them, like they cannot fail.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul  0:35  

Hello and welcome to the Sales Enablement Podcast. I’m excited to talk with my guest today. Joining me on the show is Greg Head. He’s the CEO of Greg Head Consulting. And not too long ago, the CMO of Infusionsoft, Greg, welcome to the Sales Enablement Podcast.


Greg Head  1:11  

Great to be here, Andy.


Andy Paul  1:12  

So take a minute to fill them in on your background a little bit. You know, how’d you end up where you are today?


Greg Head  1:19  

Well, I’ve been in the software business for 30 years, starting way back in the late 80s, when a friend of mine said, Why are you looking for a real job out of college? Come work with me at Egghead Software.They were based in Seattle, but it was one of the fastest growing companies in America. And it was the beginning of the package software business, when it was just coming out of the hobbyist into the mainstream and of course, software was a massive industry back then. But back then it was misfits and the early thing so it was all the new stuff every week pagemaker and WordPerfect, and all that kind of stuff. And I would sell my brains out and learn and all this software, managing retail stores, and I just had a ton of fun with that. 


Andy Paul  2:21  

Yeah, very interesting.


Greg Head  2:37  

Yeah. And there I discovered the one of the first software programs for salespeople to actually use computers which they didn’t back then they didn’t know how to type and use computers that might well act. Yeah, active goldmine, a few others, but it was the early days and salespeople weren’t using it, but the first time People ever sold act two at my retail store came back and were raving and I helped them start using it. And I joined a little company of 10 people in Dallas, and started taking that around the country and being the national Rep. And I helped grow that company as the product manager, one of the first product managers in the software business. And we sold that to Symantec, so I made my way through Dallas and Cupertino at Symantec. And with the founder of the act in 1996. When sales teams were starting to use computers, and imagine that that would be useful, right, which was a new thing. I helped start a company here in Phoenix called sales logics, which was CRM for companies that have outgrown individual user acts and smaller acts and couldn’t afford the complexities of the high end enterprise software.


Andy Paul  5:47  

Well, that’s our lead into the topic I want to talk about because you’ve written an article about seven telltale signs that you have strategic problems, don’t limit your growth, as you just talked about. So the first one that I thought would be fun to go through is the first one is that you say that you have mediocre revenue growth, despite lots of energy and attention.


Greg Head  6:09  

Well, as you know, helping companies that are ambitious and trying to grow, it’s, you know, it’s like climbing Everest, it’s not easy. It’s full of treacherous obstacles. And usually companies, they get onto something and they start moving and something works and that team works and there’s a market opportunity, and they just go great guns, you know, hundred percent straight forward, we’re learning and so forth. But they’re in tactical execution mode, run fast, right? And eventually, those magic tricks don’t work. Whatever tactic worked a couple years ago, doesn’t work as well. But every team you had when you were smaller doesn’t work as well, whatever approach you had, whatever, you know, the markets changed a little bit. So that’s a sign when you pedal faster, but the things don’t move that you actually need to look deeper. And it’s not just another VP of sales or pushing the Email button Harder, harder, you know, yes. You know, there’s a time for that, where you just gotta, work hard and you but there’s a time in the stair stepping growth of any company that you have to strategically dig down and move things around to get through the next phase. And that’s really a telltale sign of growth companies. It’s not that it was a straight line to get there, or random luck is when they recognize when they were stuck, things started to slow down, they realize the things that work don’t work as well anymore, and we gotta start digging deeper.


Andy Paul  7:45  

Yeah, I think if you look at sort of the growth curve, I think it doesn’t really look like much of a curve. You see, with high growth companies, there’s oftentimes slower growth and there’s big step function growth and then you have slower growth and big steps. So the start comes in bunches. And I think part of the problem seems to be that, as I’ve experienced, and this is something for listeners, you know, listening to the serve realizes two points you made before as you grow, the recipe changes. And you have to be conscious of the fact that the recipe changes. And sometimes you need to, sometimes you lose that recipe and you need to go find it again.


Greg Head  8:22  

I mean, I’m a kid from Chicago, who got, fortunately, you know, started in a retail store at the beginning of the package software business, and literally was selling 12 years later, I was running the company and it’s not because I’m a Stanford MBA, or, you know, the smartest person is because I figured out what the game was. And by the way, in the growth game, it keeps changing what you do when you’re starting out and nobody’s doing it and you’re firing people and you know, is very different  when you’re funded and gaps are more credibility, and you have VPs of everything, and there’s more competition is very different than when it’s big and established. 


Andy Paul  9:13  

A lot of stuff in between.


Greg Head  9:14  

There’s probably five or six steps in and dozens of landmines that all CEOs who are trying to solve big problems and grow companies have to deal with. And it’s such an extreme sport. I mean, it’s not impossible. It’s just hard. But it’s so unusual that normal people don’t really know what that’s like I lived in companies that bumped their heads and figured it out and grew 100% a year for 15 years and I didn’t know the world didn’t look like that.


Andy Paul  10:00  

What do you dislike most about companies? Right?


Greg Head  10:02  

Correct. And I can’t do anything else right now.


Andy Paul  10:04  

But the lessons are the same for either the high growth or the slower growth company is right. Even if you’re making that transition, I’ve had clients make the transition from, 10 to 15 million or 10 to 12 million. They’re these inflection points in there. And they have to be really conscious of the fact that yeah, this recipe has to be different at 10 million then 12 or 15.


Greg Head  10:26  

Well, there are normal inflection points that are very recognizable for small businesses. Once you look at I’ve spent a lot of time with small businesses and startups and you know, that move from a sole proprietor to having employees is a huge step function and so forth. 


Andy Paul  10:42  

When you talk about that, and one of the telltale signs of growth, which is our problems, in the growth is you come into a small business and you find out the CEO is doing most of the selling.


Greg Head  10:54  

Yeah, well that’s a sign that that works in the beginning. You have to do that and some CEOs are surprised they have to do as much selling as they do to make their airplane get off the ground. But when the magician CEO who knows all the details in the industry and has all the credibility is the only one who can sell the product with confidence and at a reasonable rate, then you realize you haven’t packaged it up for, you know, the rest of the team and mere mortals to be able to sell the same product and growth is actually a transition from being many things to many people a lot of add, right? And complexity because it’s inside a few people’s heads, right? Do something that is more systematic and simpler, more OCD and disciplined. 


Andy Paul  11:55  

That’s interesting.


Greg Head  11:57  

So most people are surprised by that. And, I find most entrepreneurs who are moving their companies forward and dealing with all the normal struggles. They’re like great business athletes, but nobody told them that that first sport you play is like tennis. And then when you grow and have a team and maybe funding that it’s probably a lot less like tennis and it’s more like football, right? And you have to put down the racket and say, here’s what a pass is. And here’s what a run is and a kick and then find the plays.


Andy Paul  12:33  

You know, a wide example of a client I worked with who,was very self aware, entrepreneurial. This was like a third or fourth company but you know, that things just sort of flattened out and it wasn’t really sure why. And it was to your point, exactly what you made about the CEO is I got to examine it. It wasn’t like he was leading the effort on every sale, but on at least 50% of the sales that they’d had in the previous year, the deal wouldn’t have closed without his participation at one level or another. And it wasn’t that they needed him to do it. That was the crazy thing. It wasn’t the people who needed him to do it. It was just they’ve gotten into the habit of involving him. And it wasn’t that he needed, felt the need to be in it. He just this is how they had done it. And so yeah, that was our first thing that I changed to say, Look, you’re no longer in sales to a CEO, and if they have a problem, call you but otherwise they’re gonna finish the deals themselves. And it was pretty transformative. Even within the first year, sales started taking off again because he had become a choke point.


Greg Head  13:42  

Right. When I joined we had just over 100 employees and it looked kind of like an ad company selling to everybody and not saying no and adding any feature if somebody wanted it and you know, kind of moving in directions which works when you’re a smaller company. And then we created more focus in the business for a certain kind of customer that has a certain kind of need. And we narrowed the product and tried to contain it. And our growth started picking up and literally went from 0% growth six years ago to 40% 50%, which means doubling every two years, right? So what we would find as fanatics, smart, energetic, very connected leaders and the entire team is that we would figure something out, we’d get it down, okay, we did the work and it would start to work and then there’d be the whooshing, the tactical payoff. And then as the company grew more people, more customers, the level of complexity in the business grew that about every 18 months, there would start to be frustration and raising of voices and the thing that worked 18 months ago, you know, didn’t get the same results. Sure. literally had to stop everything, examine it, do the hard work to let go of something and grab on to something else. And, that’s how companies do it and there isn’t a company that goes from 0 to 100 million and skips all those steps. times you move it faster and sometimes with a little less anchor, but either you’re getting stopped there at any step along the way, or you’re dealing with hard stuff and getting through it.


Andy Paul  15:33  

Yeah, I think one of the things that you just said those relays are interesting to me is that and I think for people, you know, listening to this, it’s really important to pay attention is that what I heard you say is a high growth company about every 18 months and you basically have to serve hit the reset button. I mean, that’s not a sign of weakness. That’s a sign of strength is that you have the discipline to say, look, yeah, things have changed enough that we need to serve. Unless I’ve put our finger on the reset button, and we’re sort of, we’re sort of doing a little bit of a turnaround here. Because I get that question all the time from clients. It’s like, well, you know, I don’t need a sales turnaround because you know, we’re doing okay, I haven’t hired a new VP of sales. It’s like, No, no, you don’t wait to hire a new VP of sales to hit the reset button is something you should be doing yourself.


Greg Head  16:21  

Yeah. And that’s because, you know, the first rule of the game is to know what game you’re playing. And the game continually moves as your company grows. And, the old saying that if you’re a founder, and then you get VCs, that if you grow to a certain point, then the VCs are going to replace the founder, right? That’s kind of the reputation that’s out there. But they don’t want to do that. They want the CEO to keep growing through the phases, which means that they need to stop saying that I’m the best sales guy in the company, right, and reward other best salespeople right? They have to stop being that and give it up and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and other founders that are doing massive things have done the same thing that we were just talking about an organization where you have to shed your skin and figure out what game you’re playing and master that and give up the old one. And, it’s a continual game. And so founders have to do that. And leaders have to do that. And the faster you grow, the higher the velocity of your role, then the faster you need to move. So most people think it’s just about adding new knowledge and skills and capabilities, but you have to stop doing the things you did before. 


Andy Paul  17:44  

Right, I think, sort of aligned with the point you’re making for entrepreneurs and so on, is that it turns out entrepreneurs, but for companies that are growing, and executives coming in, or people coming in, is increasing and I think that’s a smart thing. You hear this more and more as people say, Okay, well I think it was a CEO of LinkedIn that wrote this book, and you’re talking about tours of duty. Right? So when you’re hiring people is sort of like in the military, you’re there for two, three years. You know, that may be the role that’s optimum for you, you know, that rage of a company’s growth, and it’s not like everybody has to grow with the company at all times. 


Greg Head  18:27  

Yeah. And so the sport of growth is a different kind of game. It’s kind of like playing in the pros. It’s not like you’re entitled to be the same person and act the same way. Five years later, the company transformed and you either decide you want to keep going and play that game, or, you know, do something else. And for founders, they can replace leaders like Pony Express. That’ll get me from this stop to that stop, and a little bit of that knowledge and transformation, stepwise change comes from leaders who’ve been to the next level and they just bring that in. But they actually have to Pony Express themselves as they get through it. Otherwise, they don’t get to play. So that is one of the major reasons that companies get stuck. It’s not that they can’t figure out how to set up CRM and ship their product and an email correctly. It’s because something deeper and less visible is keeping them at that stepwise function. And that’s the natural state of things. Because most companies don’t grow up to be LinkedIn or Microsoft or Infusionsoft.


Andy Paul  19:45  

One of the cardinal sins you talk about is the offer. I can say this explicit rating on my podcast is yeah, companies are making crap up.


Greg Head  19:59  

Yeah, yeah. Making stuff up.


Andy Paul  20:01  

Yeah, I I worked at Apple in sort of the early days, and it was a fairly good sized corporation at that time. And there were no business plans, you know, at the brain level. I mean, money was coming in, any budget I wanted, I got for what I was doing at the time, which was, it was crazy how much money I was getting. And they change that eventually, but they still operate that way.


Greg Head  20:40  

Well, and to be honest, that makes sense when you’re early and playing with a market and seeing what sticks and trying things and aligning. But the more people you add to the system, the more the customer expectations go up. At first, we didn’t really care if the feature didn’t work or whatever. But now if the image doesn’t happen in a second, we’re frustrated, right? You know, all things change in the maturing process. So that’s why I talk about adding to OCD, right. I like that. Well, most entrepreneurs think the game of starting is what the game is like when you grow a big company. So it’s kind of like the chef that says, well, I’m a really great cook, I love to cook, I can cook any kind of food and I love to do different things. And isn’t that fun? Well, that’s completely different than what a chef does when they make a restaurant. Because at a restaurant, you make one kind of thing for one kind of customer in one place, every day. And the more obsessive you are about making it consistently and great, you know, high quality that other people can do, the better your restaurant is. And that’s actually you know, Steve Jobs tried to deny that and then he came back and he said, Oh, no, where it’s all about the discipline, right? And the focus. So you know, there’s a time to go find your focus and then to be focused and, and be that what the world hears on the outside for a scalable company is a company that, you know, went from trying things and being very focused, you know, Jeff Bezos, when he started, Amazon knew that he could sell anything that could fit in a box, right? As e-commerce, he had vision, but he chose just books. And because books weren’t perishable, if you had one warehouse, you could send it around and smart people who would put credit cards in a browser, you know, that was a pretty good thing to sell to them and there was already a database and so forth. But the discipline to say no to everything else, is what defined Amazon.


Andy Paul  24:15  

And so your point is that it’s really important for companies to say no more than they say yes. So yeah, when we had left, I wanted to talk a little bit about some interesting thoughts about how to kind of rethink your strategies and, and you have some questions that people should pose to themselves, which I thought were really interesting. So I think whether you’re an entrepreneur, I think, even if you’re an individual salesperson, these are really interesting questions to ask yourself. And one was, I like to see, you know, going forward, if we’re making a plan, what would we do if we could not fail? Yeah, interesting perspective to have to do planning. If we couldn’t fail, what would we do?


Greg Head  24:57  

And that’s a great one. What would we do if we could not fail? What would you do if you have no fear? Right, creates opportunities. And the fun thing I know you help a lot of you advise a lot of companies we get to come as outsiders get right to the core questions and start wrestling that thing around and ask questions they wouldn’t normally ask themselves, but what I find I was just doing this yesterday with a very fast growing company here in Phoenix, they went from in their first year of business did 100 million dollars in business? Well, they’re close. Yeah, real estate business, it’s going to be one of the biggest things. But even as big as they’re thinking, and they’re thinking massively, in one corner of it, I said, Now just let go of all imagination. If somebody could endorse you to tell your story and move everybody along faster, it’s a new fangled way to do the housing game to buy and sell your house. Who would you imagine would be the best one? We play with that for a while, and then by the, you know, we throw the ball way out there or in that? He wasn’t one of them that came up because he said, you know, last time when the housing market went south, he said, If I had the right vehicle for that I would buy houses all day long. And the housing market changed what he said. So, they thought of other things. So they realized there’s people in the room who knew that person and you know, we’ll start making calls tomorrow. So, sometimes entrepreneurs think so far ahead, they can’t deal with today. And sometimes there’s so much in today, they can’t move these things around. And, and this is really the game that most people don’t play. The reality is this is a made up game. And we’re making things up ourselves. We’re creating products. We’re creating companies, we’re creating categories. We’re creating sales comp plans. The world that we exist in was created by people who made things out and made things up.


Andy Paul  27:41  

Well, not so lucky. Luck plays a big role in that as well. So yeah, if you’re open to succeeding, and you said, What can you do if you can’t fail? Yeah, luck may help you along the way.


Greg Head  27:55  

I mean, all that’s left is the big challenges. The easy stuff we don’t worry about anymore, right? The big stuff is the stuff that needs addressing. And we need more entrepreneurs and companies and people to aim high to solve some big problems, and go after it. Like they couldn’t fail. Just like Steve Jobs always said, we have those that think they can actually change the world are the ones that usually do. And you know, that’s just the fun of all this game. Yeah. Where mortals can do magical things.


Andy Paul  28:36  

That’s exactly right. So Greg, we’re actually in the last segment of the show where I got some standard questions asked of all my guests. And so the first one is one that, I’ve posed well over 400 people right now as is if you were just hired as VP of sales by company whose sales have sort of stalled out, the board are anxious for things to happen quickly, what are two things to do your first week on the job that could have the biggest impact?


Greg Head  29:09  

Well, my simple method through all these years is to jump in and see as quickly as I can, what the current state of things are, and I don’t, I don’t take it at face value, I keep digging until I because it’s, I know, it’s all made up, I’ve just gotta keep digging around and see deeper than the sales team or the comp plans and product and I’m gonna, get through that pretty quickly. And then I’m gonna go straight out and come through at the other side and say, how does the world see us and how do our customers and our prospects see us and jump right out of the building the other way, right? And so that’s, I know, that’s the part of the magic trick I have. It’s not magic, but if I know it’s all data up and somebody hands me a comp plan, and says This the way it is I say, I appreciate that somebody made that up. And I imagine we can move things around. And you go on the other side and you talk to customers and partners, there’s things in their head and beliefs and so forth. And, you know, that’s true. And that can be moved to so it’s assessing all of that from the inside and the outside.


Andy Paul  30:19  

Well, really, it sounds like sir, as you’re talking about really understanding people’s perceptions of what the problem is. And then our perceptions. So you look for consistency. I think. I would say I’m not putting words in your mouth. But after I do that. Same thing. I don’t take anything at face value. 


Greg Head  30:48  

That’s part of the gift that I can give as an outsider when I have a lot of different perspectives. I’m not in the firefight. I mean, that’s the first challenge is that VPS of sales and CEOs who have boards and VP of sales people have quotas. You know,they’re in the firefight. It’s very stressful. You know, they got the blinders on. That’s what happens when our stress goes up. And everybody’s very focused. And for a moment I could say, I’m not in the firefight completely yet, and I’m gonna go look around here and create some possibilities. Eventually, you lose that perspective. And then you need to get help yourself.


Andy Paul  31:30  

Okay, so some rapid fire questions for you. Can give me one word answers or elaborate if you wish. So the first one is, when you Greg are out selling your services, what’s your most powerful sales attribute?

Greg Head  31:45  

Since I’m part entrepreneur and part marketer, I love helping growth companies deal with the non obvious strategic structural challenges for growth and CEOs know they have them So I’ve been through that game for 30 years. And when I talk to CEOs, we can start to put our finger on it pretty quickly. And that’s a magic trick that enables their revenues to grow the valuation of their company to grow into longevity to grow. So I look for the million dollar problems, and they’re, they’re all over the place. So credibility.


Andy Paul  32:24  

Sure. So who’s your business role model?


Greg Head  32:35  

Well, you know, two years ago, I’ll say Jim Collins.Jim Collins is a master from the outside for much bigger companies to come in and put his finger on very intrinsic problems, to reveal it and a narrative that’s useful to everybody. And to create a model for getting through the growth phases. We did some work with him and he really has the magic trick.


Andy Paul  33:10  

Okay. One book you recommend every entrepreneur should read?


Greg Head  33:19  

Say Crossing the Chasm, which is a classic Jeffrey Martin. Especially for companies more and more these days in the growth game, they’re trying to do new things that aren’t familiar to the world anymore yet. And there’s a way to get through that.That hasn’t changed in all these years.


Andy Paul  33:41  

Okay. Yeah, it’s a good book if people don’t read it. So the last question for you is what music is on your playlist these days?


Greg Head  33:51  

I play acoustic guitar so I listen to a lot of singer songwriter so I’ll say Ryan Adams is alright. 


Andy Paul  34:09  

Well, Greg, thanks for joining me today. So tell people how they can find out more about you and connect with you.


Greg Head  34:18  

Well, they can go to my website where some of the topics we talked about are on my blog, sign up for my newsletter at GregHead.com and they can connect with me on LinkedIn, if they want to have a chat about some of their growth challenges.


Andy Paul  34:35  

So thanks again for joining me. Until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling everyone. Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard, and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for more information about today’s guests, visit my website at AndyPaul.com