CykoMetrix Spotlight is a regular series published by www.CykoMetrix.com, a SaaS-based online assessment company specialized in team effectiveness optimization.
Each show features a prominent personality in the psychometric assessment, human resources, or coaching industries, where we learn about how data can be judiciously used by companies to increase productivity and improve work environments.
In this episode, CykoMetrix CMO Sylvain Rochon meets Pascal St-Jean, Co-founder of STAND Advisors.
Sylvain Rochon: Welcome to Psychometric Spotlight. During the spotlight we interview an amazing person that is in the psychometric space or in a space where a person is helping, training, coaching entrepreneurs and businesses to become better. Sometimes it is in HR, all sorts of areas and in all sorts of industries. I am your host, Sylvain Rochon, the Paradise Engineer, and the Chief Marketing Officer of CykoMetrix, a SaaS-based online assessment company specialized in team effectiveness optimization. I have today with me, Pascal St-Jean, the Co-Founder of STAND Advisors.
Pascal St-Jean: Thank you. I'm so happy to be here with you today. Thanks for the invite.
Sylvain: You’re very welcome. I've been following you. We've been chatting for the last few years on many subjects. I've always wanted to do more with you and this is an opportunity for us to chat about a reasonably new company and concept that you set up with your partner called ‘STAND Advisors. So why don't you tell the audience what STAND does?
Pascal: Yeah, so I'll give you the two-line summary. I'll tell you a bit in terms of how it came to be. Essentially, Sylvain, what we do is we are providing fortune 500 level advisory services accessible to businesses of all sizes. Now, that's in a nutshell, what we do and how we do it, we could talk about that much more, but essentially how it came to be is both myself and my co founder, Rob Rudy, both of us have scaled multiple businesses. Rob actually led a publicly traded company. So, we have experiences of various sizes. We've been blessed to have coaches and advisors in our career that have helped us right. And especially as we grow our business, we add more and more resources, funds and availability to bring in outside experts and advisors to help us get to that next level. When Rob and I met, essentially, both of us were in the advisory space with the goal of helping midsize companies get to that next level. The reality though, was the financial sort of the way the advisory space works today is very much billable hours. And both of us were finding ourselves working with larger and larger companies like most advisors, just because of the way the system works. We came together and said something needs to change because our heart is actually with the small and midsize businesses. They're the ones going from what we call going from founder to CEO, right? When you're building that first leadership team, when you're going beyond just you, you need that help the most. And we looked at the landscape. There's a lot of help for early-stage startups, the large businesses have resources to bring in the help. It's the mid-sized companies. We know they're the ones who employ a lot of people, they make our economy grow. And during this time, we really want to create something to support that level of business, because we've seen so many fantastic ideas and entrepreneurs who are at that level. I think they could be even better, with a little bit of help to scale even faster. So that's who we are. That's what we do. And that's why we developed STAND Advisors.
Sylvain: That's very nice because as you know, the small and medium sized businesses are the ones that actually create new jobs.
Pascal: Exactly. That didn't exist. Exactly.
Sylvain: They eventually get acquired sometimes by the big boys. But that's where the innovation is and that's where the excitement is.
Pascal: I agree. And I know it's a little bit a little off topic. But if you look statistically, in Canada, like you know, we're in Canada, we work with companies across North America, of course, we have advisors across North America, but my hurt of course is in Canada, and we look at, you know, where our economy is right now. It's often gas, the banking sector and technology. And we know, two of those three are being disrupted, the financial sector is being disrupted, oil and gas is being disrupted. So, Canada really needs to rely on that small medium business space. Love Shopify. I have multiple businesses that run on Shopify, but they can't save Canada, we need more of those. And we need more companies in various industries, not just IT, to be able to scale to really make sure our economy is thriving and evolving with the times here in Canada. So that's a bigger mission statement for us.
Sylvain: Absolutely. So, tell me this, how does your business model better serve small and medium businesses? Because that was the core of your message.
Pascal: Yeah, so when we got together, right, basically we used first principles to really look at the entire advisory space. So right now, in this space, there are advisors who are billable hours, right? The McKinsey's of the world and the local companies, of course, in Ottawa, any city, a lot of those and their hourly rates and they work with the larger companies and we have, we have a lot of books out there. They're great systems that I've employed and we use and we love. But basically, you're either left with, do it on your own, read the book and figure it out and hope for the best or spend the big bucks. The reason for that is because no one ever looked at the delivery model, no one, no one has ever tried to innovate in this space. Now, yes, a lot of people have done online courses. But that's still the do it yourself way. It's just a book with videos. It's better but it's still the do it yourself. So, what we looked at is what would a hybrid model look like? In other words, not to the same level of advisor support as hiring someone to come in for two days a week, but way more support than buying a book or an online course. And how you do that is we looked at the entire user journey of an advisor, and we looked at every touchpoint that advisor has with a client. If it's not delivering at least $5,000 an hour of value out of cost, we need to find a better way to approach the problem, whether through automation, through video, through technology. So, we blend the digital online world, we blend the collaborative worlds, we create community, and we blend the advisor, so the advisor is not having to take the brunt of all the work. But the entrepreneur is also not just relying on an online course. So, it's a blend of both. Every advisor interaction is driving minimum $5,000 an hour of value. Then for everything else, we're using technology, community and collaboration to drive value.
Sylvain: So, a hybrid between, you know, do it yourself and consume yourself with resources that are suggested and guided, I guess, by my standards, and a little bit of the traditional, which is like your present day consulting service.
Pascal: Absolutely. A lot of presence and also community. So, you're getting your learning from other entrepreneurs, you get your guidance and support from your advisor, and a lot of materials to guide you along the way. And all that journey is customized by the advisor. So, it's not a A-B-C-D-E-F-G. Right. It's we meet you where you are, because every company is different.
Sylvain: Yeah. Okay, that's, really clear. Now, we've had conversations before not that long ago, about, you know, team dynamics, yes? And about how important that is to successful companies. It's a resilience thing like the virus situation, for example, and also culture. So how are those foundational elements help the growth of any business?
Pascal: Yeah, so the foundation for STAND is around what we call our growth alignment model. Now, there's a lot of models out there, like, you know, the flywheel of sales, and you know, and teams, and then all those kind of things. Those are part of the execution model. So most of the books and models out there really focus on execution, and we'll get to that because execution is very important. But strategy resources, and most importantly, team dynamics, in our opinion, is a huge missing part and a lot of these frameworks that are core to what we focus on are standard, so let's talk about that.
When we say we focus on those going from entrepreneur to CEO, what does that mean? It means you're building your first management team, where you have a management team that you're trying to develop which is beyond just you. So, when I say that you can't scale without a great team, that's a little false, because you can scale if you're very well funded, right? But when you get to be around the C-round, you got to keep that going, right? That can be very difficult. So you could lack culture and lack leadership, if you have a lot of money. You could, on the flip side, if you're more bootstrapped, you could also scale if you have amazing margins, but we know laws of economics is, if there are fat margins to be had in a space, someone's gonna come in and disrupt or compete, and then they compete on price, or they disrupt, so fat margins can only last so long. So, anyone who is in a business with a lot of margins, you need to be ready because someone's coming for you. So again, very hard to scale longer term. So, if the leader, what we call a few, if you studied ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins, level four versus level five leadership, you can also scale if you're a level four leader. Which means you're carrying the whole team on your back, and a very dynamic leader, someone who's just gonna take it all on his or her shoulders could also scale but none of these will last a lifetime, right? The loss is in the extent of your margins, your funding, or until that leader burns out or the leader leaves.
So, for us, we want to build a company that has purpose. In other words, I want to scale because I have a purpose and a mission to fulfill or I want to grow and have impact in my space of what I'm doing. I want to grow beyond me. If that's who you are as an entrepreneur, then culture and team dynamics is flat out the foundation for that and you have to focus on that. So, for us, we focus so much on understanding the team dynamics, training team dynamics and explaining the importance of that because it is the foundation to scale, unless those other three criteria are met, but they're not sustainable.
Sylvain: Right. So, there's a lot of knowledge here, creating these models, absolutely. As you have a lot of experience, and your partner certainly does as well. So, I'm sure you're doing a lot of coaching and I know there's a lot of misconceptions and myths that pop out. People think, you know, a business going from founder to CEO is done a certain way. And they don't know because they haven't gone through it. Or maybe they'd be done. They may have gone through it before, but in a kind of backwards way or sideways. They have had misses, misconceptions, preconceptions. But you've seen it all. So, what are those myths that you see most often? And how can you help them overcome?
Pascal: Yes, so the first one, look, let’s separate strategy and execution. We focus a lot on strategy, true strategic thinking, not just setting goals, there's a difference. We have a lot of materials that we've put out there talking about the difference between strategy and goal setting. They are not the same. So, true strategic thinking and then execution on that. The first myth that we see a lot is when entrepreneurs try to grow, they've established a strategy, they're trying to execute on it, and it's not working. They say, ‘hey, there's a lack of systems between linking our strategy to the execution’. So, we want to go here as a team, and things are just not working. So, there must be something going on between those two. So, we need to add more KPIs, we need to add more processes. And look, documenting processes optimizes things. It is critical to scale but at a certain point, when you're going into your first phase of being a CEO as an entrepreneur, and you run into that first ceiling, most people will try to just add more and more weight and systems. What we found is the solution is to realize it's not a lack of systems and KPIs going from that perspective. There's a lack of cross-functional collaboration, because organizations tend to go from small flat teams working in like, you know, a small office where everyone knows each other. Everyone talks, you could just get up and as you go from like five to 15, to 50, when all of a sudden team dynamics kick in, but there's also organizational structure.
So, your co founders who, you know, your head of marketing, all of a sudden, has a marketing team. Your other co-founder is head of development. He's got a development team. And marketing can't go out and initiate stuff unless they talk with an understand the product roadmap, and the engineers can't develop unless they understand something from marketing, or sales, what does what and what customers want. So, our companies tend to build these silos which isn't important in terms of teams, but they don't learn to cross collaborate. So that's the first solution. It is to learn to cross collaborate, which is something that normally we don't have to learn because we're small. We just check and we just chat it out.
The second myth is, look, when you go from a few people, you are the entrepreneur with a vision and let's just do stuff and let's just grow. At some point everyone tells you need to start building a plan. We're huge believers in plans. We're huge believers in strategy. We talked about three-year plans, and then risk analysis and all those are important, right? But there's this myth that we have to stick to the plan. Like we've picked and we've developed our one-year plan, right, we spent a weekend and we spent a lot of money at our retreat to build the plan. We cannot deviate from the plan. While we know in today's economy, things are moving at lightning speeds. Imagine having done your plan last January 2019, or 2020. And then COVID hits in March. And you're there saying we have to stick to the plan! You have to adapt to what's going on in front of you. That doesn't mean chasing shiny lights, there's a difference between chasing shiny objects and new ideas versus prioritizing, having a macro plan, but being able to adapt. So, when we say our solution is to stay flexible, and be ready to reallocate resources, whether that's people or budgets as you go. So, build a plan, but stay flexible, and don't chase shiny objects. I'd say that's a skill that we helped develop, because it's asking a lot from the leadership team to know the difference between shiny objects and flexibility. That's the second myth.
The third one is as we grow, right, leaders will say, understand the strategy. Clearly I'm reviewing stuff, and they don't get it and then you get frustrated. And then there's turnover, or there's friction that comes in and the reality is it's not that they don't understand that people don't know things. They know what they're allowed to do. The strategy doesn't necessarily gets communicated well enough. So, one town hall, right. So, the leadership team, they're together all the time. You've spent a lot of time building your strategy, and all of a sudden you say its time to announce it to the team. You do a town hall, or a zoom call or whatever, and everything is dumped into one presentation and then you expect your entire team to get it.
So there needs to be simple message, and it needs to be consistent. Often, that's the solution. So, it's not like before when we were used to small teams and talk whenever we'd like. Now we've grown up, we think we and the leadership team still talks a lot. But we start getting into this thinking: we have to operate this way. And then we do a town hall because we heard we need to do a town hall. Town halls are important. But the one town hall doesn't solve the’ they don't get the problem’, right? You need to always be communicating. So, that's the third myth and the third solution.
The fourth myth is we're trying to hit the numbers too much as we mature as a company. Everyone says, ‘What doesn't get measured doesn't get results’. If you want to get results, you have to measure that right? ‘What gets measured gets results’. That's the thing I was trying to say. True, right, we are proponents of KPIs, but you cannot lead the entire company on KPIs. In other words, hey, you hit the numbers, you're rewarded. You don't hit the numbers, you get punished. We need to reward behavior based on culture, right? Because great culture, will lead to execution. If I'm happy where I'm at, if I feel that I have a path forward, if I'm passionate about the purpose of the company, I will work my butt off, right? To fulfill the mission of the company because I believe in it, versus, hey, if you get an A-plus, you get the reward, if you get a B, you get punished, though. You're asking for turnover at that point. So that's the fourth myth. KPIs are important, but they cannot be what takes over the management of the company.
The final myth is, as I'm building structure and leadership structure, there's this belief that middle managers, not the leadership team, are not learning or developing their leadership skills, right? And I can tell you that some, some maybe aren't. But if you're in a company where professional development is part of the culture and you give people opportunity, chances are you have great people who have the desire to learn, right? So, it's not a lack of learning, right? They don't know what they're allowed to do. So, and so Rob, my business partner, has a great saying, ‘Don't delegate without authority’. So, if you delegate to someone, they’re now in charge of all of it. We don't know. We never talked about permission to fail. Here's your budget and your left to make these tough decisions.
If we never have that conversation, all of a sudden, now I just threw you a ball and I left the office. Here's the ball, right? Here’s a hot potato, I'm gonna leave the office, and you deal with this. How are you supposed to be an effective leader, when you don't know the expectations of your leadership team, right? So, the solution to that is to empower them to make the tough call. And again, delegate with authority, so you're delegating the task, and you're done. And you're giving them the authority to make the calls. So, that's really the big myths we see when you're going from entrepreneur to CEO, right, you need to bring in complexity, that's normal. But you know, bad behaviors, where these myths get developed, tend to hinder your progression to the next level.
Sylvain: That does make sense to me, I've encountered many of these situations myself in my own personal growth, and also by coaching other teams and talking to other entrepreneurs. That's pretty critical. I understand. But here's the question, here's something else because there's all these myths that you help alleviate by training people and giving them information and perhaps examples and whatnot. What is the most common missing link? What would most likely prevent a team to really make it?
Pascal: Basically, the final piece that we talked about in our line growth alignment model is resource truth. Now, let me unpack that. Because everyone understands team dynamics, everyone understands, we need to build a solid team. That's the foundation. When I tell you strategy execution, most people also understand that I need to be more strategic, to look at the macro, the big picture, and look at my competitive landscape and make better decisions from that perspective. The execution is straightforward. Let's build KPIs. Let's build all the tools we need for better meetings, better communication. The final thing that gets people tripped up is resource truth. And that is money, people power and knowledge power. So, do we have the knowledge in-house? Do we have the manpower, the time, the cycles to execute, and the budget to make it happen? And essentially, we need to use those as filters as part of our strategic thinking and decision making. And when I say people get stuck, it’s what happens as we go in our strategic weekend or strategic planning, to come up with great ideas. We pick our goals, we pick our targets, and we just start executing. And when we get stuck, then we look at the execution side: more systems, more processes, more measuring, more this, more that, because we think that's the problem, when the real problem is maybe we didn't have enough man cycles. Oh, we have bad performance. No, everyone's working 150%. Everyone's burning out so it's not bad performance. You have the resources to execute, right? Or, wait a second, we're not getting the traction from marketing that we thought we'd get. Well, the idea was right, but there was no budget to execute. You gave 1000 bucks when you needed 10,000 or the knowledge power.
In other words, hey, let's use digital marketing. That what we've been doing. We've been knocking on doors and cold calls for five years, and that's been working well. Now we're going to move into the digital space. So, they figure out Facebook. Well, that's a knowledge issue, right? And maybe we need to bring in external experts. So that is knowledge, cycle time, and money. It's the measure twice, cut once philosophy, right? Everyone thinks, well, that takes too long, we don't have the time, we need to start. I can tell you how much time you'd save in terms of hitting the ceiling or having to adapt or friction you create, just by looking at resource truth. And that's where we really hammer away. After we've developed the team and worked on strategy, it takes a little longer to focus on that. So that's the final chapter.
Sylvain: Right. So, let me recap the three major pieces that you've put together. So, take a little bit more time to really look at what you're trying to do. Figure out your strategy. Figure out your team and team dynamics. Have the right people and so on. Yeah, but also, the lead the final point is make sure you have the proper resources to execute. Those are three legs of the same stool, right? I mean, it is clear when we initiate it. But when we're busy building a business, you kind of lose track of some things, like you said, and so it's good to have advisors like yourself to put people back on track, reorient everybody during the busy times when they are building their business, when they grow the business. They need external help if anything, to see what's really going on.
Pascal: Exactly. And there's this power. So, look, I do coaching. We advise as well, right? So, I also have a coach. I’m a coach. I have a coach. I always will have a coach because I personally know more than before. It's not about necessarily knowing all the answers, right? It's just about that third person perspective, sometimes, like you said, we're so busy. We're in and that's our role, swimming with advisors sometimes. We also at STAND advisors have an advisory board. A lot of companies have an advisory board. You bounce stuff off of people to try to get the best possible answer, or sometimes someone catches you saying something and they say, ‘you guys have your head in the sand because you're so busy, and that's irrelevant to the size of your business’. Everyone needs that support. And then on top of that, systems and processes and methodologies and experience to accelerate, right? You know, in today's world, we don't have time anymore to spend 10 years learning. We got to just bring in someone else to help us accelerate the learn lessons and accelerate our progress. That is a competitive advantage in any space. I don't care if you're IT or construction or services, it's all a competitive advantage.
Sylvain: It is. So, we all need somebody from the outside to force us to look at the forest.
Pascal: Yes. I always joke around with individuals. It's kind of true, because you know, the forest is gonna be calm. It could be ‘Oh, yes, it could be treacherous in the woods’, but I prefer using the wave analogy because small business is being in the ocean. These big waves and you're swimming and you're trying to get to the island, right? So then then tackle the forest when you're bigger and have more resources, but small to midsize, you're in the ocean.
Our role is to lift you above the waves, right? Give you a breather. Also make sure that you're on the right track and then we throw you back in the waves because the waves is the day to day and in every small business you cannot escape the waves. That's the challenge of scaling a business. But yeah, that's where we come in, to elevate you above the waves and make sure you're rested and make sure you're going in the right direction.
Sylvain: You still got to swim to build those muscles. Right?
Pascal: Look, is he still gonna swim? Yeah.
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