Don’t Ask For Permission and Go Faster, with Jeffrey Hayzlett – Episode 442 of The Action Catalyst Podcast
- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On October 3, 2023
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- Adam Outland, author, Business, C-Suite networking, CEO, crisis, entrepreneur, executive, leadership, media, Podcast, radio, success, TV
TV/radio/podcast host, and Chairman of the C-Suite Network, Jeffrey Hayzlett, talks about why every company needs to think like a media company, how content > community > commerce, dealing with coffee-throwing CEOs, why to never waste a good crisis, being a “business first responder”, the upside of weathering a recession, inspiration from Hamilton, and why rule #1 is “don’t work with a**holes”.
Jeffrey Hayzlett is a primetime television host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett and Executive Perspectives on C-Suite TV, and business podcast host of All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett on C-Suite Radio. He is a global business celebrity, speaker, best-selling author, and Chairman of C-Suite Network, home of the world’s most trusted network of C-Suite leaders. Hayzlett is a well-traveled public speaker, the author of four bestselling business books, The Mirror Test, Running the Gauntlet, Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless. and The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures. Hayzlett is one of the most compelling figures in business today and Hall of Fame keynote speaker.
Jeffrey is a leading business expert, cited in Forbes, SUCCESS, Mashable, Marketing Week and Chief Executive, among many others. He shares his executive insight and commentary on television networks like Bloomberg, MSNBC, Fox Business, and C-Suite TV. Hayzlett is a former Bloomberg contributing editor and primetime host, and has appeared as a guest celebrity judge on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump for three seasons. He is a turnaround architect of the highest order, a maverick marketer and C-Suite executive who delivers scalable campaigns, embraces traditional modes of customer engagement, and possesses a remarkable cachet of mentorship, corporate governance, and brand building.
The Action Catalyst is presented by the Southwestern Family of Companies. With each episode, the podcast features some of the nation’s top thought leaders and experts, sharing meaningful tips and advice. Learn more at TheActionCatalyst.com, subscribe below or wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to leave a rating and review!
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(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
Adam Outland: Welcome back to The Action Catalyst. This is Adam Outland. And our guest today is Jeffrey Hayzlett, an author, primetime television and radio host, and the chairman of the C Suite Network, a network of leaders with a focus on providing growth, development, and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and business execs around the world. Jeffrey has joined us before for episode 137 all the way back in 2016, but a lot has changed since then. So we’re looking forward to catching up. Jeffrey, thanks for, uh, carving out the time to be on here.
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Absolutely.
Adam Outland: Where are you? What part of the country are you in?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: I’m in South Dakota today. We have a place here in South Dakota. We have, uh, we’re based out of, uh, New York mostly and Miami got offices there and now, uh, LA and Pittsburgh.
Adam Outland: Why South Dakota? What was, what attracted you?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Everybody always says that. That’s home. That’s my home.
Adam Outland: So is it really?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, because I always, I painted up over my wall. It says in our office, you leave the door. It says, because we can’t, uh, somebody who says why, if you look at our website, it’ll say, and we’re in New York, LA, San Francisco, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And it says, because we can’t get everybody’s asked that one question. Why are you there? Why not. Why not?
Adam Outland: Yeah. Well, thanks for for jumping on. I wanted to, I know you’ve been on our podcast before, but I thought today it would be great to just kind of hear you speak to some of the things you’ve had going on since 2016, and I know C-Suite has been a big part of that. Be great to just actually unpack a little bit of what C-Suite, how that came about, what it really is, and how you kind of visualized it.
Jeffrey Hayzlett: You got it. Well, you know, it got started because back in 2013, I did a television show, uh, called the C suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett on Bloomberg. It was the number one primetime television show on Bloomberg. And I basically took people into the C suite where, you know, 99% of the people who work at a company never get to go. And it was a exclusive look inside the inner workings of, uh, the leadership team around various problems that might pop up, you know, like one time I watched a commercial that said our pizza tastes like cardboard and that was about dominoes. And I thought, who would run a commercial? That says your pizza sucks, you know, and why would you do that? And what was the meeting like? You know, what, what would prompt that? And what was the conversation like? So I, that’s the, that was the essence of the show. I had all these people watching me on TV. And really, when I started looking at it, they were really watching me digitally. I had more people watching me digitally than were watching through broadcast. And I said to the team, we’ve got to go do this digital thing, which led us to create C Suite TV, C Suite Radio. But before we did that, let’s build on the popularity of the show. And we said, let’s go ahead and create a network, a CEO network. And that’s really what we started to do was create a CEO network. And I said, why are we just limiting this to the CEO? Why aren’t we talking back to the entire C suite? It’s a team. And that’s really how we got started. And so since that time period in 2014, we created a trusted network of people and said, Hey, how can we best serve this group? And we’ve been building on it ever since. And we’re, you know, quite frankly, Here we are almost 10 years later and we’re just getting it figured out, right? And, and it’s soaring, 350,000 executives, 50 million downloads.
Adam Outland: And it feels really risky to go, Hey, I’m going to come off of someone else’s network and go do my own thing.
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Yeah, it’s a scary thing. We stepped off into the abyss of creating our own network, creating our own TV and doing that. So we were really not cutting edge. We were bleeding edge.
Adam Outland: Yeah, I mean it’s amazing. And I kind of wanted to ask too, because between that experience, you also had bought and sold, I think over 250 businesses over your career. Do you ever get surprised?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: That’s a great question. Thank you for asking it. Am I surprised? No, I’m never surprised because I, I’m, I kind of live in this state of, uh, I don’t know what I don’t know. Okay. And, you know, there’s certain things I kind of know, but I, I know that they’re not always absolute and in business they never are, but there’s some general guidelines. You’ve seen it before and I’ll see it again. You can walk in, you could feel it, you smell it. It takes you seconds to hone in on it because of that experience that you’ve done. If I’m surprised by anything, it’s usually by behavior. It’s usually by the things that, that are instilled in us when we were little, and we’re still these young kids. If I’m surprised, it’s that, it’s that kind of stuff sometimes, because when you peel back the veneer of the people, Oh man, you see the inner child come out. And usually they’re not in good ways, they’re always, always in bad ways.
Adam Outland: Yeah you know, I think coming into the industry, I always thought, gosh, they had some measure of success, they just must, you know, just be really well developed people in every regard, right?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Oh, God. No. Are you kidding me? It, uh, you know, I’ve been in so many C suites, you know, you know, sold over 250 companies, 200, you know, 25 billion in transactions, you know, Adam, I’ve watched a CEO throw a cup of coffee at a guy, you know. Now had he done that to me, I mean, he would never throw another cup of coffee in his life, right? But it’s human. It’s human. And where you see flaws in human, you see flaws in the C suite. When you see flaws, because we’re, it’s, it’s us that’s running it. Now, what’s cool about some of the structures inside of some of the companies is that you can create some policies, procedures, some values, some ethics, some mores. For us to follow and that usually will help, but let me tell you, I mean, I have been in C suite where it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s doggy dog. What’s most important though, as I’ve found over the years is, is to stick with your value set and then hopefully you can work inside of a company that also has an equal value set that, that honors those things. Or that will follow them, or you can have an impact on those values and valued, by the way, value driven companies are so much better than any other company that are out there. They, they make more money. They gross more money. They have employees are more engaged. They have customers that are happier, greater retention. They have vendors that want to do with them and it pays off, you know?
Adam Outland: You actually said some interesting things that I wanted to unpack that I thought might have some value to a lot of our listeners. You said every company needs to act like a media company, especially right now. That’s really relevant, but could you speak to that?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: So when those chief marketing efforts at Kodak back in 2010, I left in 2010, I was spending $20 million a year with Google just to push Kodak.com. Dude, we own Kodak.com. Why should I have to spend $20 million a year to push Kodak.com to the top of the rankings. That’s ridiculous. Now, this same thing applies for any business, no matter what you do, it’s, it’s a high cost, but what if, if you build content? You can be found organically and you could be real. And what is more real than a brand that delivers? That’s the definition of red, you know, a promise delivered. So in essence, if you’re going to be the best at what you are and you want to prove it, then show it by content. If you’re a dry cleaner in St. Louis, Missouri, you should be doing content to show people that you’re the “doctor of spots”, right? So you’re being organic in the way in which you represent yourself. You’re being true, you’re being a representation of, of a promise delivered. That’s what you are. The “doctor of spots”, whether you’re a coach, a trainer, or speaker, an author, or you are a real brand, meaning a company of any size. You should be, sell you, sell the company, sell the company, sell you, and the people are interchangeable. This, what you’re doing right now, you know, shock, shock, is doing the same thing. That’s right. Yeah. And you’re using a podcast to do that. And I would tell everybody in the world, we’re going to see millions more podcasts. Every realtor is going to have one. Attorneys are going to have one. Uh, doctors should have them, you know, everybody, if you want, or you certainly got to be doing a blog, a book, or any kind of. What I would call customer engagement tool in order for you to, you know, to monetize your IP or what you are as an expert. And if you want to be the best in the category, you have to be at the top. You want to be the lead dog. You don’t want to be the last dog because the last dog, the view is not too pretty. Right. All right. I did this, help do this with DocuSign. I was on their board and, and help them early on and, and you know, we were competing against uh, EchoSign, but we had to be more than a signature company. Okay. And so we created the category document transactional management. So we’re more about just the signature about the keeping of all the documents and keeping track of them and security of the documents, integrity of the documents to be able to search and find the documents because everybody goes, where’s that contract, you know, or whatever. And so DocuSign became bigger. And so that’s the category.
Adam Outland: Maybe a tag on to that that I wanted to ask about is where you say content is king. Activation is queen, and context…
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Context is the kingdom, baby. Well, so you got content, so you create content, put it out there. No one sees it. Who, who cares, right? So you have to activate it. So you have to activate it and put it into the channels of which people are gonna see. Now you might say, oh geez, I love Facebook, or I love LinkedIn, or I love this, I love YouTube. I love this. You have to go put the content. Into the streams where people will find it. And more importantly, the right kind of people, which becomes the context. So you have to make it in package it in such a way that it’s contextually available for the people that want to get it. It’s about reach discovery. But with discovery, you got to have conversion. So that’s what I mean by the context, right? And the activation is how to get that out.
Adam Outland: Now, Tim Ferriss has a podcast as well that he’s kind of had that as a destination. And one of the things that I’ve always appreciated about him is the community component. He’s got Ferris advocates. When I looked at what you’re building with kind of the C suite network, it’s, it’s, you almost need it today to cut through some of the noise that people are really, I feel like starving for that community.
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Content leads to community and community leads to commerce, right? So again, go back to go, let’s go back to my friend, the “doctor of spots”, right? Uh, the dry cleaner, he’s doing the same thing or she’s doing the same thing. If you, it contextually, this is what they’re doing. He’s creating great content to tell you how to go out and create this. There’s a guy on, he’s a TV show that cleans spots. That’s all he does. He takes blood out of a shirt. First of all, you gotta be questioning why he’s taking blood out of a, you know, a shirt or something like that. Yeah, maybe that should be the NCIS show or something. I don’t know. But then you start getting these raving fans or people who associate with your community and love you and, you know, love the brand, identify with the brand, want to dress like the brand, want to eat the brand, want to, you know, drink the brand. And then they buy. So you have to have the engagement around that brand, the engagement around the community and the, you know, to get people excited to want to do the things they want to do.
Adam Outland: Yeah, I love that. I’ve been doing coaching for a decade. And in the early years, it was like, yeah, I’ll just coach whoever wants coaching. And, you know, sometimes it was like you said, you worked with a CEO that was still a little bit childlike and something. But you know, in these last, especially these last few years, that community has introduced me to, I think very similar value people and it makes me love my work even more because I’m working with people that I truly enjoy. And I’m just kind of curious, like when you built this community and you’re working, number one, have you seen that impact? And number two, who are those people? How would you describe your ideal person for your community?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Oh, that’s, that’s awesome. You know, I have one of my big, strong rules and the whole team follows it. We just don’t work with a**holes, you know, that’s the biggest rule. And, you know, you know, and so you, now you got to go define what that means. Right. And so, you know, so you got to have some code. That you follow along, you know, what makes that up and, you know, do we kick people out? Absolutely, you know, because they don’t adhere to things or they, you know, you know, just, you get, you know, cause they’re people. So, so you go through those, you know, every person that joins, we, we vet, we run them through it, you know, they have a criminal record, they have this, they have that, they have that. We want to know because you want to make sure cause one bad apple could ruin the whole bunch, right? And so, but at the same time, how do you do that with 350,000 opt in members? You know, you have to put some parameters around that. You have to think it through. So first of all, just in the C suite alone, you have to be a VP or higher, you have to be a vice president or higher. But that’s just what you have to start to think about is like, you know, what do I want my family to look like? You know, you just don’t want your daughter to show up with the, you know, the biker dude that with all the tats, you know, you, you want to say to, you know, Hey, this is who we’re recruiting with.
Adam Outland: And so your messaging is going to attract the right type of person to that.
Jeffrey Hayzlett: And you have to, you know, how do you define a hero business? How do you find, you know, somebody does the right things for the right reason. I came up with 10 items and called my son on the phone and said, Hey, Tyler is our chief marketing officer. I said, write these things down. And we created a pledge, you know, that says, this is, you know, what you do, this is what you have to do. And, and before we even agree to let you in the, in the club or the council or the mastermind, which we’ve got a hundred of, um, You know, of CEOs in that we, we say, Hey, you have to sign this, you know, you have to sign this. And if you don’t agree with it, if you don’t adhere to it, we’re going to kick you out and, well, wait, I’m paying you $10,000 to belong. Well, now I got it. Thank you very much. We appreciate that. But you’re, you know, you got to adhere to that. And so, and so we built this great group of people and, you know, and then, and then we show them, you know, uh, we work together to say, how can we just do a better job of it? Cause we’re not perfect. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, I can’t wait to be a hero. You know, or I am a hero. No, you run hero businesses made up of people who are heroes every day. And, and it’s always about the values of the things that you do. And so it’s great to see these kinds of things and, and then bring all of them together, look at other companies that have the same effect, LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon, where they’ve grilled, they made these great marketplaces or platforms. Ecosystems where all of this business, billions of business of dollars thrive under, you know, under this canopy. Yeah. You know, and, and that’s all we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to bring everybody together. And it’s not the Jeff Hazlitt network, it’s the C suite and that’s the way we operate is that ecosystem that we all need to operate and we’re connected. We’re all connected. That is super helpful.
Adam Outland: I think one of the things I wanted to, uh, investigate too, is, what I think about content today, something you mentioned is that there’s, there’s a lot of it. And, uh, part of it is figuring out how to cut through the noise a little bit. Something, and I don’t know if this is related, you stated why you should never waste a good crisis. What did you mean by that?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Well, you think about the COVID, you know, like in the middle of COVID, you know, listen, COVID happened, started Friday, March the 13th. I’m in Orlando. I’m about to go out on that cruise ship that got stuck out in the water for a while because I was invited to go speak at some conference on that thing. And I, yeah, I chose not to get on it on that day because yeah, good decision. It Disney world shut down and you know, when they shut down Disney world, s**t just got real. So it was like, Holy crap. I got to get home. And my wife was with me cause we’re going to go on a cruise because I was speaking. So I said, Hey, why don’t you come spend a, you know, spend a week on the cruise. And so we jumped on a plane as fast as we could and flew home. And, and then over the weekend, I’m going, Oh, this is going to be bad. This is not going to be good. But, and I’m thinking, geez, I got to get a mask. I got to get this. I got to do this. And, and then I was remembering, you know, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nurse. I didn’t even know how to sew a mask. So I ended up writing a, uh, you know, a thing for, and I submitted in the New York times editorial. And it says, you know, be a business first responder, because while I know this is gonna be a health crisis is also going to be a bad thing for business. And, and so what we did was everybody was talking about now, like over the next couple of months or whatever, how do we survive? It’s not about surviving, it’s about how to thrive. And so even during the darkest crisis, think back in, you know, again, our job is to not be the smartest, the most strategic in the room. That’s our job. So we have to be relentless. And I remember sitting in a boardroom in 2007 and my CFO walked in at Kodak. Now we traded silver. We trade silver at Kodak or we did, or I did not that the business did. And when you trade silver, we were one of the biggest traders in the world. So when we bought silver or didn’t buy silver, we moved the market. Okay. And the, and the CFO walks in the room. He looks like he’s having a heart attack. Uh, Frank, are you okay, man? Dude, are you all right? And by the way, and I liked him because he’s one of the few CFOs I’ve ever liked in my life. Cause you know, most CFOs are captains of no, champions of no, you know, no, you can, no, you can’t do this. No, you can’t spend it. And, and he and I worked real well together, but when we, when we had to cut, we had to do things. I mean, that’s what we’re, we, he and I were the only new officers brought in to help. And, uh, he said, we’re in bad, we’re in bad. It’s going to be bad. It’s going to be bad. And so he started telling me about what was coming with this panic and the, uh, the downturn, and he was smart enough to know this stuff. So, so, and then we got ready and we, you know, we laid off 80, 8,500 people and we did some bad, some real tough stuff, bad decisions. But think about what history teaches us, even during the darkest times and the recession in 1907, general motor support recession in 1939. Hewitt Packard was born in 1953, Burger King, 1958, Hyatt hotels, 1973, Trader Joe’s, 1975, Apple, 1980, CNN, 2002, MailChimp. And during 2008, you think about it was a bad, bad time. We all know how bad it was. Listen, who prospered? I mean, the Dollar Tree grew by, Dollar Tree grew by 60%, H& R Block by 26%, Walmart grew by 20%, Alaskan Air, who flies Alaskan Air? 17%, Hasbro? 17%. Growth categories were children’s goods, truckings, healthcare, grocers, restaurants, do it yourselfers, financial advisors, cyber security, I mean. This is what we saw. And then, if you think about unicorns, go look at unicorns during the darkest times of financial history in the United States, in the world, 1975, global energy crisis, Microsoft, 1982, electronic arts, um, 1990 iRobot. Thank goodness. I mean, I love the little robot that sweeps and all this stuff. How about 2009? Listen, this is the biggest unicorns you’ve ever seen. Slack. WhatsApp. Square. Uber. Instagram. Airbnb. Who would have thought? Back in 2009 during the housing crisis that, that you would let someone into your house set naked on your couch and they, and you, and they pay you for it. I mean, this is the kind of stuff that came out of it. So, you know, a recession’s inevitable, you know, you just need to figure out how to get your team aligned, where you want to go, identify the common enemies, you know, change the mood so that I’m not going to just take it. I’m going to step into it and I’m going to fight for it. And that’s. You know, that’s what that’s what guys like we do. That’s what That’s what I think most, what I call business first responders do. We help lead people through that mire. And I’m here to tell you that, you know, you just, you gotta find a pony. You gotta go find a pony out there.
Adam Outland: Well this is just an awesome interview. Leave our listeners with two last things and we’ll tie it up. I think one would be a quick fire question. You’ve written a number of books, but what are you reading? Like I know a lot of the people we interview are always students of the game. Is there anything right now that’s top of mind that you’ve read?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: I read a ton of stuff. I mean, I’m reading all the time and the book I’m reading right now is Dinner with the President. And if you haven’t had a chance to read it, it just came out in 2023 in the spring of 2023. And it’s all about influential dinners that were ever held at the White House. And, uh, just the other night at my scotch event, I hold a scotch event, scotch, uh, tasting thing every Sunday night, uh, called scotch gun Sundays and where we get together and talk and the dinner that, that I can’t remember it was a dinner between Thomas Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. And it’s actually, it’s, there’s a song in the play Hamilton, where they talk about the dinner that never was. And it was a dinner, which decided where the nation’s capital was going to go. And it was set up by Jefferson. And I actually recited that in our Scott Sunday as a result, but that’s what, you know, I read things like that. And then, you know, how is that done? How were those dinners set up? Imagine that you could do that in business every single day. And, and of course that does happen all the time, a business dinner, you know, and, and by the way, some of that’s lost art right now because of course with COVID. So there’s other ways to invent those kinds of things. That buddy of mine, Brandon Steiner. Uh, Lundsteiner Sports, uh, who he bought the Yankee stadium, tore it down and sold it off, uh, brick by brick, dirt by dirt, bag by bag, seat by seat. You know, one of the ways that he would stay connected with clients is he would deliver dinner during COVID. He’d have it delivered for their entire family, like a lobster dinner or this or that. And of course, then while they’re fixing it, they’re talking and they’re doing it. I mean, how, how ingenious was that, right? Um, just like at the C Suite Network, we started hosting wine tasting, uh, events, and now they’re virtual wine tastings being done all over the, all over the country. Wow. You know, things like that. Any thing you could do to gather people together. And so that, the book, that’s what I was reading. I love history books. I love real, real things that happen, and I like books on tape too.
Adam Outland: And something I always ask every guest on top of that is, we didn’t talk a lot about the early life on this episode, but if you could go back knowing everything, you know, today and get with the 21 year old, uh, Jeffrey, any advice you just find that you would give yourself when you’re just at the beginning of your journey.
Jeffrey Hayzlett: So stop listening to everybody else. You know, and, and little voices in your head because you know, you’ve, by then you’ve pretty much got it and instilled. And so, and don’t ask for permission and go faster. I like that. You know, um, because I think we, we, we believe it’s done a certain way and you wait for somebody to give you permission. And I can remember my days, you know, I was 40. It’s a 42 years old chief marketing officer, one of the biggest brands in the world. And I’d be sitting around the table going, man, this place is screwed up. And then I’d be going, somebody ought to do something about this. And then I realized, Hey, it’s me. And, uh, and so sometimes you’d wait for, you know, does somebody need to give me permission? I realized, no, no, that’s what I’m here for. Right. And so outline your conditions of satisfaction of where you need to go and what you want to do. Mutual conditions wherever possible between you and whoever or whatever. And then go, go as fast as you possibly can and as big as you can. That’s what my last book, my, my fourth book before the hero factor was think big, act bigger. And I wish I’d have done that a lot sooner. Now, that, that being said, when I was 21, my first million was by the time I was 26, I’d already run for Lieutenant governor. I’ve done a, you know, did a lot of old things by that time period, but you know, I would have done a better and bigger.
Adam Outland: Love that. This is super helpful. I think our listeners are going to enjoy that a lot.
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Well, thank you, my friend. It’s a pleasure.
Adam Outland: Awesome. Yeah. And I think we uncovered the name of your future book today too. It’s called, uh, don’t work with a**holes.
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Hahaha