#7 episode of Helping B2B High Ticket Service Providers Grow – One Lesson at a Time, with Harlan Hammack.
He is a business and leadership coach and the host of his own podcast, “The Courage To Lead”.
Being a management consultant for more than 25 years, Harlan has the experience and the education.
He says that the transition, from being a corporate management consultant to working with small local businesses was tough.
Harlan had to shift his focus, to better work with owners of smaller businesses.
His genuine advice is to charge by your expertise and experience, but not per hour.
Schedule an appointment: iB4e Coaching
Dive into Harlan’s podcast, “The Courage To Lead”
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[00:00:07.670] – Dancho – Well, hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode to Helping B2B High Ticket Service Providers – One Lesson at a Time. By now you should already know, my name is Dancho Dimkov and I’m the host. And for today, I have a special guest. From, actually on the other side of the globe, I think it falls, I have Coach Harlan with me and he’s from Georgia, and Harlan, say hi to everybody.
[00:00:30.770] – Harlan – Hey, how are you? Thanks for the invite. I’m excited to be here.
[00:00:34.910] – Dancho – So for everybody that doesn’t know, Coach Harlem, I even know him personally. So when it comes to Harlem Hammack, I have no idea that was his surname, because everywhere on the online presence, you can find them as Coach Harlan. And he is actually the owner of the company, I have written it down. IB4E coaching.
[00:00:55.190] – Harlan – Right.
[00:00:55.610] – Dancho – So, Harlan, welcome to the show. And to start this question, please tell me, what does this name mean of the company?
[00:01:02.930] – Harlan – IB4e. I get a lot of looks because that’s my license plate on my Jeep. Also, IB4e. Here in school in the US, we were taught, I before E except after C. And if you kept that mnemonic in mind when you go to spell words American English words, anyway. If you remember I before E except after C, you can usually spell that word correctly. 90%, 95% of the time you’ll come out correct. Well, the same thing is true in business. There are certain things you have to do in business consistently in the right order. And as long as you do, 95% of the time, you’ll be successful. So I thought I before E was a great name for the company.
[00:01:41.210] – Dancho – Wow. I need time to digest that. That was really well thought out titles. Whenever someone asks, you’re going to give this answer, they’ll be like, wow. No, but that’s really good, Harlan, it’s really nice that you shared it. Well, to start from somewhere, tell us a bit more about you. How did you became where you are at this point? Because I’m sure everybody wants to know, okay, who is this guy Harlan, coach Harlan, and what he has to say?
[00:02:07.730] – Harlan – Exactly. I started off, I was a management consultant for about 25 years, 27 years in the area of organizational change management. So we would work with companies that were undergoing some major change, either a merger acquisition process, reengineering, a restructuring of the business, a large software implementation, anything that changed the people, the process or the technology, was a change initiative. And we would go in and help the executive team understand the change and all the impacts of that change. We would help them then communicate the change and lead their people through the change so that people were as productive after as they were before.
[00:02:46.070] – Dancho – That sounds like a headache if you ask me. If you’re going into big corporations and try to merge, I think that’s really like clashes between cultures and people. How did you actually do it? I mean, it’s really bold thing to do.
[00:03:00.830] – Harlan – Every initiative was a little bit different, but the mergers were tough because you’re merging two families. The way you do things in your family, the way I do things in my family, we do the same things, but we do them differently. And you can’t have one company’s culture crush the other. You have to find out how to blend them. So take the best of both companies and bring them together to make one strong business. So it was tough.
[00:03:25.850] – Dancho – Wow, I’m sure that many people will love you, but many people will hate you at the same time.
[00:03:30.770] – Harlan – Yes.
[00:03:32.270] – Dancho – Nice. So I just interrupted you, but I just wanted to share.
[00:03:36.530] – Harlan – No, it is a tough situation. You go into a business who maybe they’ve acquired a smaller business and just came in and repainted, put up new logos and almost done away with that company’s history. And you can’t do that to people. History is important. So to try to find some way to try to merge those businesses together, to where you come out as one company, but the best of both worlds. So that was what we would do. And it was fun. But I did not like getting on an airplane every Monday and every Friday. I traveled for 25 years, so I told my wife on the last project I would like to stay home. I would like to start working with local businesses to help them in some of the same ways to understand their business a little bit better, become better, stronger leaders, more courageous leaders and how to communicate to their people.
[00:04:25.790] – Dancho – Wow. No, sounds really exciting, but I don’t know. At the beginning, you want to travel a lot. But then as time flies, you’re like, man, do I need to do another flight?
[00:04:36.230] – Harlan – Right.
[00:04:36.770] – Dancho – And what happened next?
[00:04:38.690] – Harlan – And then I started working with local businesses, and I was working with a couple of clients, and they were brand new to being a boss. So they didn’t understand. I kept telling them, you have to be stronger, more courageous. You have to stand up in front of your people, tell them what needs to be said. Have those difficult conversations. And one of the guys I was working with said, well, what does that look like, exactly? So I started doing some research on courageous leaders, what it takes to be a courageous leader. And I found these different articles and try to help him. But that’s what was the prompt for my podcast, which is called “The Courage To Lead”.
[00:05:11.930] – Dancho – Nice. And I have to add here that I actually was guest. Really nice podcast. Anyone that haven’t seen it, go on actually everywhere because it’s Coach Harley on Spotify and iTunes and everywhere. And I think is the name “The Courage To Lead”. It was really well thoughtful.
[00:05:28.970] – Harlan – Thanks. Yeah, I had a good time talking with you on that episode. It’s good. And your episode is live now. It went live yesterday.
[00:05:37.970] – Dancho – Okay, so everybody go see that. It’s not just you’re going to have an opportunity to see Coach Harlan, but also I’m talking. So, it’s yesterday live. Thank you for letting me know.
[00:05:51.410] – Harlan – Sure.
[00:05:52.370] – Dancho – But Harlan, so how was actually hard transitioning from the corporate, the big guy, toward the little guy? Okay, that’s a bad expression of words. But I think that it’s completely two different words, working in completely two different environments. So how was actually that transitioning successful?
[00:06:08.630] – Harlan – It was tough at first because a lot of the large businesses have a budget set aside to hire consultants to come in and help them with different projects. Working with small to mid sized companies, usually it’s a family owned and operated business. Their budgets are a lot smaller and their focus is a little bit different. Like we were talking before the podcast started, it’s not the culture that they’re concerned with. It’s where do I find good employees? How do I attract higher and retain great employees? Where do I find my ideal customer? How do I sell to them and market to them more efficiently? So I had to shift my focus a little bit more to work with the little guy, the small business owner to help them. And it was a difficult transition at first. But yeah, I’m having a great time.
[00:07:00.710] – Dancho – Nice. And I’m sure that the clients also are utilizing because you had the broad 20+ years of experience in the corporation as a management consultant. So all the vast experience that you actually got from the corporations now, you can actually help the small companies to tap into that market, because otherwise they would probably cannot afford the big top five consultancies. Like, I’m just going to hire Deloitte or PWC, or something. But working with you, they actually can tap that pool of expertise. And I’m sure Harlan that over the years you have so many expertise. I mean, either in the merging in the corporation world or in the small companies. And when we’re looking at expertise, I’m usually trying to focus on what is your strong expertise area? Of course, you had to wear a lot of different hats with different targets and different ICPs. But when you reflect on yourself, where do you see your strength, actually? The one strong expertise?
[00:07:59.930] – Harlan – I think I bring three things to the table. Number one, my perspective, which is totally different from their perspective, because I’ve worked with companies around the globe. I bring the awareness of what’s possible for their business, the education of business best practices from all these different industries, and then the accountability. Have them set a goal, and then I hold them accountable. I hold their feet to the fire. I tell them when they are wrong, which is not always a good conversation, but it has to happen. Sometimes it’s them that’s holding back their employees. It’s not the employees problem. It’s the owner, the manager. So working with them. But those three things, the awareness, education and accountability.
[00:08:44.750] – Dancho – Nice. And how hard is actually to be a consultant for small businesses? I mean, you said it right, they have a bit limited budget, and they have different perspective. And are they open to suggestions because I’m stereotyping now, if it’s a family business, my father had it for 40 years. Now I have it for 30 years. And now this guy consultant from outside, just going to come in and tell me what to do. Is it really that stereotype or it’s just really as it sounds?
[00:09:13.190] – Harlan – It can be. I had one guy actually tell me I’ve gotten to where I am today without you. Why do I need you? But then I’ve had other companies. I work with one lady who is a bookkeeper. She started in her home and started a small bookkeeping practice. But she wouldn’t grow. She couldn’t grow because she was trying to do everything herself. So we talked about delegating. How do you delegate? How do you train your employees to take over and get some of these things off your plate so you can focus more on growing the business. We talked about her pricing structure, how to price her thing. She was looking at an hourly pricing model rather than charging for the 30 years of experience she had, right?
[00:09:52.070] – Dancho – Yeah.
[00:09:53.210] – Harlan – After working with her for about three or four months, I think, her business has now doubled. They’re in a huge office space. She has doubled the number of clients she serves, and she has doubled the number of people she has working for. So it’s bringing that, like I said, the awareness of what’s possible and then teaching them how to do those things and then holding them accountable to make sure they happen.
[00:10:14.450] – Dancho – Yeah. That’s actually, I think a big mistake that all of the small businesses that are doing. And it takes probably with the years of experience. Is that when you’re focused on per hour, you’re actually saying, well, my hourly rate is X, Y and Z. Actually, when you’re focused on a solution, you might be aware how to solve a problem in 15 seconds, if you know the medicine, the right medicine. But it doesn’t mean that you need to charge only for 50 seconds because they are paying you to solve a problem. And I think that actually, Harlan is quite a big problem with SMEs, not just as a consultant, but also with other high ticket service providers that we’ve talked. Every time, if it’s a web development company, they charge per hour. If it’s a software solution, they charge developers per hour. And trying to get out of that hourly mindset is quite tricky, actually.
[00:11:06.230] – Harlan – Yes. And it’s tough for the business owner. When you come in and say my hourly rate is $200 an hour, they think about how much they think their hours worth. And it’s like, why is your hours worth so much more than mine, right? So they get stuck in that hourly rate. It’s the solution, what are you solving? What problem are you solving for them? What is it costing them to stay where they are? What is it costing them to keep this problem going? And how much would it benefit them to get rid of that problem? So you’re looking at the solution. So pricing should always be about the solution, not the hours that it takes to do the solution.
[00:11:40.850] – Dancho – Yeah. I have to tell a small joke here. There was a thing here in Macedonia. You have a pain on your tooth and you’re going to a dentist. And he’s like, don’t move. Five minutes. Done. You’re finished, it’s like, $1,000. They’re like, $1,000. That was for five minutes. And he’s like, well, if you don’t want, you can sit, I can just buzzing you for a whole hour if you want more or if you want the pain to stop, I just solved it in five minutes. So it’s not how much time you’re going to work on, you just solve the problem.
[00:12:10.010] – Harlan – Exactly. And Mary, the bookkeeper that I was working with, I told her a similar story. Cruise ship couldn’t get their engine started. And they tried everything they could think of, they could not get the engine started. So they hired an outside consultant. A little old man came in with his little tool kit. He walked in, he looked at all the engines, looked around, looked at everything, took out a small brass hammer and tapped on a screw. And the engine started up automatically. And so he added a bill, $10,000. And the guy said, $10,000? You were only here for five minutes. Can you itemize this for me? And so the guy said, hitting with the hammer – one dollar. Knowing where to hit $9,999. And that’s really what it is. As a consultant coming in, I’ve had this vast experience. I can see from my perspective something that maybe they can’t see because they’re too involved in the day to day operations of the business. I can point that out to them. I can give them solutions, multiple solutions on how to fix this. And then we put together a plan, and then I hold them accountable for achieving that plan. So it’s all about perspective.
[00:13:13.850] – Dancho – Yeah, nice. And the more I talk with you, you’re going to convince me to join as well, because there is always need from a different perspective. If you ask me. And we are also in the consulting industry, and I understand that. Yeah. You need external help. Not always, but actually, you need to keep external pair of eyes, because when you’re too much dipping the force, you cannot see the whole picture.
[00:13:34.730] – Harlan – Well, a lot of people have, like, a golf coach. A friend of mine just hired a golf coach because he wants to be better at golf. People will hire a fitness coach because they want to be better at fitness. But when you talk about a business coach, a lot of times, they say, I don’t believe in business coaches, but it’s the same thing. It’s our perspective. We’re looking at what you’re doing and telling you how to tweak it just a little bit, not make major changes, just improve on what you’re doing, add something that you should be doing and maybe take away something you should not be doing. And that’s what coaches do. That’s what good coaches do. Like I said, I enjoy it. I have a great time.
[00:14:14.030] – Dancho – Nice. And I’m curious to hear your opinion, because many times we mix the coach and consultant. I’ve seen a lot of management consultants, and I’ve seen management coaches. And from your perspective, is there actually a difference or just same person doing the same job, just the name is different?
[00:14:32.390] – Harlan – No, I definitely think there’s a difference. As a consultant, you’re being hired to produce something based on your expertise. If I’m a communication consultant, I’m coming in and helping a company with their communication plan, how to communicate their email, whatever it happens to be. As a coach, my job is you already know your business. I’m not coming in to tell you how to do your business. I’m coming in and looking at what you’re doing and helping you improve on what you already do. As a consultant, I come in with solutions. I deliver those solutions, and I walk away. As a coach, I’m coming in asking questions. What have you tried so far? How did that work for you? What do you think would help? What have you seen other people do? Have you ever considered trying this?
[00:15:17.090] – Dancho – Like a therapy session.
[00:15:18.770] – Harlan – Exactly. How do you feel about this? What color would this be if? There’s all those questions? But as a coach, I ask more questions than I give answers. Because, you know, inside what you should be doing or what you could do in your business. My job is to help bring that out. Everybody is a superstar, right? I just have to help get rid of some of the clutter to give you the opportunity to shine. And so I come in and I ask a lot of questions. I look at what you’re doing. We talk about what you could do or what you think you might be able to do. And then we put together a plan on how to do that. So my job is to help you be better at what you’re already doing. Where as a consultant, I was brought in because they had no clue what to do. I came in. I worked a couple hundred hours, whatever it was to complete this, delivered my product at the end and left. Which meant if they get into that problem again, they’re going to have to hire another consultant to come in and do the same thing because they never learn how to do it themselves. My job is to educate, to help you understand how to do what you’re doing so that you can do that on your own. And essentially work myself out of a job, if I’m doing things right.
[00:16:32.630] – Dancho – Well, now that I’m listening to you, I think that I’m treating myself as a consultant because you are spot on. We usually get with clients and we solve the problem. It’s not like, let me show you the road so you can discover the road, you know what you’re doing. But because we are technical experts like, we B2B lead generation. So when clients come to and they’re like, I have a pain, please sort it for me. While with the coaches, like, I want to improve myself, then I need a coach. So that’s actually the difference. If I need something fixed, it’s more a consultant or even execution, it can be. But if I want to become better at something, then I need a coach.
[00:17:11.990] – Harlan – Absolutely.
[00:17:13.310] – Dancho – Well, coach Harlan, I usually ask everybody that our guest on the show. When it comes to, like, lessons, I’m sure through your rich experience, you’ve learned so many lessons. But we always say, what is the one key thing? Like when we’re saying, you know what? If you want to be remembered by something, a legacy, it’s like, Harlan, I want to be remembered by this. What would be that one single lesson that you can share here with everybody? Tough one.
[00:17:44.810] – Harlan – Tough one. Just because there’s so much. So I have a program that I’m running called “Ditch the Chaos”. To help you ditch the chaos and the overwhelm so you can get back to a business that you love, right? Part of that is there are three keys that we talk about. Simplify, strategize and systematize. So simplify your business. A lot of times, small business owners get so focused on the shiny objects, they see something new, a new trend. Oh, we should probably do that or their competitor down the street. Oh, we should do what they’re doing. And you start to dilute your zone of genius. Right? You start diluting yourself, your focus, doing too many things instead of focusing on the one thing. Simplify, look at your products and services and focus on just your area of expertise, right? The Pareto principle, the 80-20 rule. 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers, and 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your products and services. If you could focus on just the top customers and just the top products and services, you could almost triple your revenue and your business. Just by focusing, you’re not spending extraneous time doing things that are not adding value that are not needed. A lot of companies spend a lot of money and build their inventory, and that inventory sits on the shelves. It’s just money wasted, right?
[00:19:13.730] – Dancho – Yeah.
[00:19:13.970] – Harlan – So trying to simplify the business, who are you? What do you do, who do you serve and why? Focus on that. Really simplify what you do. As far as strategies, there are different strategies on how to achieve goals, right? There’s multiple strategies, multiple ways you can do things. So we look at what goal is that you want. Is it a revenue goal? Is it a profit target? Is it a customer base? What is it you want to do and then put together a strategy to help them do that. And that strategy is a plan. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? And how do we plan to get there? I’m a private pilot. So whenever I fly outside my local area, I file a flight plan. Here’s where I am, right? Everything about my local airport. Here’s the destination where I want to be and how I plan to get there. And it’s the same thing in business. Take stock of where you are. Look at your finance, look at your employees, look at your customer base, decide what you want that to look like in a year’s time, two years time, three years time, and then make a plan on how to get there. And then finally, the systems. To me, systems are like recipes. If I have a recipe for a chocolate cake and I follow the recipe, I end up with a chocolate cake. If I give you the recipe and you follow it to the letter… Right. But if somebody ends up with cookies or banana bread or something, they either got the wrong recipe or they didn’t follow the recipe they were given. Right? There’s only two things that could be wrong at that point. In business, if you have systems in place, step by step instructions on exactly how to do a certain thing, and you give those instructions to your employees. Any employee should be able to follow it. And if they’re written correctly, you could pull somebody in off the street, hand them the recipe and say, here, do this. If they follow that system, you will end up with a known measurable output to that system. And if something goes wrong, you can go back to the exact step and find out exactly what happened. If everybody in your business is doing things differently, you have no way to know where the system is broken. You don’t know how to make improvements or efficiencies by systematizing that business, everything from the scripts on how to answer the phone all the way through production delivery, how to acquire new customers, how to acquire new employees. If you systematize all that, it will be a lot more efficient. And then you, as a business owner, can walk away. You can take a vacation, take a month off and let the business run. Because if the systems and strategies are in place, that system should run without you. Generate revenue and profit for you without you having to be there.
[00:21:54.530] – Dancho – Interesting. I had another conversation here in house with our project managers on the systematization. And there is always a degree whether to go like, let’s make a system, let’s outline step by step everything that needs to be done, so it could be repeatable, as you said it. But on the other hand, we are also concerned. Well, don’t we need to give the freedom to employees to really think on the spot and have some flexibility in the way that they execute their tasks? And I’m curious. This is a personal question even. To which degree should be the systematization, to which degree should have actually some flexibility so people can express their creativity or their way of working?
[00:22:40.910] – Harlan – Absolutely. We always do, like, a task risk analysis. For this particular task, how critical is it to the business, right? Are there any legal or financial issues that could happen if this was done incorrectly? If it’s something that’s repeated all the time, then that becomes second nature. Logging into your computer for you, you probably don’t even think about it. It just happens magically. Your fingers dance along the keys and you log in. Those type of things are very low risk. If you log in incorrectly, you get a message that says, sorry, your password is incorrect, you log in again. It doesn’t hurt anything, doesn’t impact your business. Nobody is hurt. If you’re doing your taxes at the end of the year or closing financial statements for the quarter or something like that, if that’s not done correctly, you could have financial impacts.
[00:23:36.290] – Dancho – You can go in jail actually.
[00:23:38.210] – Harlan – Absolutely. So what I would do is do a quick risk analysis on each one of the tasks, the things that are of high risk document those as clearly as possible. The things that are of lower risk. I am all for telling the employees. Here’s the result I’m after, here’s the timeline, make it happen. Because a lot of times the employees who have been doing the job, they know what they can do, they know the best way to do it. They know as long as you say this is the result we’re after. And here’s a timeline, because I think everybody needs that timeline. Yeah, let them do it. And if things don’t happen the way you expected them to, you have a conversation. Go back to the process. How can we improve that process? What can we do differently next time? Not tell them, but ask them, right? Exactly, you engage them. And if they fill in some ownership of that process and they’ll want to improve it and they’ll want to show other people how to do it the way that they put it together. So yeah, I’m all for that. But I think there are certain things in your business that, like I said, if there’s risk involved, definitely document those processes.
[00:24:49.490] – Dancho – So that’s why when your name is Ditch The Chaos, it’s really like there is a lot of chaos going on with our entrepreneurs and owners of companies, so try to stabilize a bit in order not to get too much. Well, Harlan, I think what I usually do is as I invite my guest, I actually take notes because it is one lesson at the time, and I need to summarize at the end before I ask actually how people can find you. So if you don’t mind, I just wanted to go. I actually took out six different lessons that I personally took out from you and I wanted to share with everybody. So the first lesson I saw was that the small companies have limited consultancy budget. So if you’re a consultant, you need a completely different mindset. We’re working with small companies rather than working with the corporations. When you’re hiring a consultant or a coach, in this case, you should expect at least a different perspective. Possibilities, awareness possibilities, expect some best practices and accountability. At least that’s what I wrote that I should be expecting from a coach. Then, the third lesson that I got is really useful for me that instead of charging hourly, you should charge based on your years of experience in the field, which is completely different to just slash per hour, some X amount in dollars per hour. That’s really different. And you talk really nice about the difference between coach and consultant. And I think that in some fields you need a consultant. But for example, in internal inside company, when you’re growing your team, you actually need a coach, someone that’s going to drive the people in order for them to grow rather than actually just you do this, you do that. I’m just going to deliver solve problems. That was my fourth lesson. I really love Ditch The Chaos, so the simplicity, the focus, the strategizing, actually, even me from time to time, every six months we need to sit and actually, okay, where do we want to go? Where are we currently? Which route are we going to take? It really gives us some focus. And the last part is the task risk, something that I haven’t done personally, honestly. And now I realized that I’m really into systems and processing standardization of the service. So every time you put input, you know what you’re going to get as an output. But I’ve never considered in actually evaluating each of the tasks against risk assessment in order to see, is it a high risk or is it a low risk? So within this, I don’t know, 15-20 minutes, I actually took six different lessons from you, Harlan, and I really appreciate the insight that I’m getting and for everybody out there that are listening, and if someone catched more lessons, let me know. But if everybody is interested, like, okay, this coach Harlan knows what he’s talking to. Maybe I should reach out and ask, at least for some additional insights, how people can actually find you Harlan? Where they should look for you?
[00:27:40.730] – Harlan – Start off with my website. The website is IB4e-coaching.com. So that’s letter I the letter B, the number four and the letter e, dash coaching.com. I’m on LinkedIn and I’m on Facebook. And yeah, if somebody would like to have a chat, a conversation, I have a website called www.timewithcoach.com. You can schedule a 30 minutes chat and we’ll talk about anything you want to talk about.
[00:28:12.470] – Dancho – Yeah. So everybody, I mean, I’m going to put these links right below the video, so nobody would try to do the spelling stuff, but I will just put the link and everybody that’s actually interested in seeing. I mean, our whole tripe is high ticket service providers, and I’m sure that even me as a business owner, we do need to somehow figure out how to ditch the chaos, with all the things that are happening internally with employees, with finance, with service, with development, but also externally, we have the Corona. We have the competition, we have the market shift. So, yeah, if there is a formal for Ditch The Chaos, Harlan is the right guy for you. Harlan, I would really like to thank you very much for being a guest on this show. I really hope that everybody will find the insights that you shared useful, and at least they’ll try to see how they can apply in their company, because the whole goal is that one lesson at the time, maybe sometimes several lessons at the time, but try to get their business better in order to grow their own businesses.
[00:29:13.790] – Harlan – Exactly. No, I appreciate this. Thanks. This has been a lot of fun for me. And don’t forget, check out “The Courage To Lead” on Apple, iTunes and all the other podcast outlets.
[00:29:22.070] – Dancho – Yeah, well, when you said where they can find you, you should have added that.
[00:29:25.250] – Harlan – I should have added that.
[00:29:26.570] – Dancho – “The Courage To Lead” is the podcast where, in addition to me talking about LinkedIn and outreach, Harlan actually interviews different people again, from the aspect of culture, of leadership, and how to actually get the courage to lead the business. Harlan, thank you very much again for being a guest on the show and for everybody else, thank you for tuning in and we’ll stay in touch.