On April 26, I was participating in a “mastermind call.” My name is Andrew.
I had joined this group because of my young Startup venture – my unique phone app would automatically record the date, time and location of a contact you save. On the next day, the app will ‘push notify’ the user with a reminder to follow up with that new contact.
Ben Larson was on that same call, and he sent a direct message to me, immediately, when I mentioned my new app to the group.
I wanted to know more about this man who seemed to keep an eye out for businesses that might have great potential, but continue to encounter obstacles that prevent results that lead to exponential growth.
As a curious guy, I’m always open to talking, but in my experience, Investors, Venture Capitalists, Angels, & strangers have always talked big without bringing about any results or offering valuable insight.
So I have to say, I was skeptical of Ben when he reached out to chat. He admitted that most chats involve a cup of coffee in a local café. Since I was in Texas and he is in Minnesota, we would have to supply our own coffee mugs!
The following questions and answers came out of that first encounter with someone I have grown to trust and respect.
ANDREW: Ben, what makes you and your consulting management firm different from the sea of consultants who make massive promises ?
Well Andrew, I have become really good at 3 things: “Drinking Coffee,” “Reading People,” and “Putting Together Deals.”
Outside of those activities, I’m really not that great at a lot of things.
I love to cycle and workout.
I’m a family man.
Evidently, some of what I do in my own business is beginning to rub off on my young children. My little girl is becoming one of the best business owners I know.
In addition to playing the piano and being a great homeschooling student, she is becoming adept at earning and managing money. For her age, she has a remarkable ability to understand the fine art of doing deals.
I’ll give you an example,
We have two family dogs, and every dog has to be cleaned up after. Once she does the chores, she sends me an invoice, with a time frame to be paid to avoid any late fees.
There are adults in business who are shy about handling the monetary processes that bring money into the coffers.
ANDREW: Wow, that is quite an entrepreneur you have there. How did you get to where you are? You run a growing firm and you have found some high caliber people for your team. How did you do that?
Too many visionaries stop at meeting for coffee, and that is where my other two talents have carried the day.
I’ve personally consulted with over 250 companies, so starting this firm is not a risky venture for me.
Consulting is a broad term for a set of skills that have developed over time as I have made a few successful exits. I’ve been in so many different industries, and the common denominator in every industry is people.
I found my stride when I focused on creative ways to help people solve all kinds problems.
A business consultant is very creative problem solver. A business, or even a person, will announce “I need help”. During the first encounter, the consultant will ask, “what is happening in your business?”
Most business owners will state what they perceive to be a challenge, but I have found that too many of them are afraid to admit the real problem. Some do not even know that the underlying problem is the business owner.
Listening is the consultant’s most important super power. Without listening past the initial problem statement, you can never assess the real situation and make any progress.
You might be surprised how much people will share when a coffee cup is set on the table and someone who cares is on the other side of the table. Those initial encounters can win a lot of trust that turns into real business.
If everyone could identify the real problem, consultants would fade into obscurity. As you know, experienced consultants can save businesses from a bleak future and make a real difference for people in all industries.
But to answer your question, I got here by starting and successfully exiting my own companies early in my career. All of those experiences bring me to where I am today at the outset of my firm named L.E.S.S., which stands for “Larson Enterprise Strategic Systems.”
In my consulting career, I have followed a strategic approach, which offers so much more than basic advice for individual problems. Systemic answers create a prosperous future for each client. Once our methods have been applied, the business can thrive for many years to come.
Just as great coffee requires great ingredients and the right methods to get the best result, businesses must have the right players and processes to thrive in a very competitive world. That’s why I drink so much coffee.
To answer your other question, anyone who joins my team must bring some skills that will help our clients in some way. Each team member is asked, “what do you want to do?” The ones who can answer that question are able to contribute at a level that surprises me every time.
I look very closely at the character of each individual and my top priorities are integrity and wisdom. I just won’t do business with people who lack integrity.
For every team member who joins my team, I have talked to more than a dozen. I have turned away countless people who promised something that could never be delivered.
Andrew: Zig Ziglar once said “you can’t do a good deal with a bad man”. And that’s always stuck with me. How do you identify potential projects or alliances?
BEN: When you mentioned that you were the founder of a “startup,” I have to admit that I was skeptical, but curious.
Everywhere we look, there are so-called ‘startup’ ventures, but few of these will ever become profitable. I wanted to take some time to explore your app to see if there was a way to tailor its function to businesses of all kinds.
Once you described the concept and the specifically targeted marketplace, I could see the potential for many different applications beyond the original use.
Most of the opportunities that catch my eye have a broad application that will help many different clients with a common challenge.
ANDREW: So, aside from apps and people, what else do you look for as you encounter other entrepreneurs and business owners? Clearly, not everyone can be involved with your firm. Who can?
BEN: Most of the time, I simply talk to people over coffee. As the conversation starts, I want to ask a few safe questions that provide insight into the priorities.
People are a lot like icebergs. You can see the surface, but don’t really know what lies underneath in their talents, challenges and problems. I cannot simply start chipping away at anyone.
Again, the consultant in me starts listening past the words. What does this individual bring to my firm? Is this a client, a venture partner or maybe a strategic alliance?
Sometimes, we find that a friendship will form and that is the extent of the involvement.
There are times when I get so excited about the potential, that I don’t sleep very well for a couple of nights because I want to jump in and get started.
My philosophy is to never burn a bridge because I might want to come back here again. Thankfully, I haven’t had too many instances where I was forced to make that decision.
Applying wisdom from the outset has saved me more than once. Moving ahead after careful consideration has kept me out of some situations that never would have worked.
As I finish sipping my cup of coffee, I realize that business is really all about relationships and knowing Ben Larson, who prioritizes people over money, is an invaluable asset.