Leadership + People: Episode 26 - Randy Garn - Part 2 of 2

Randy Garn, Partner at Skipio.com, shares his experience with business from the perspective of a mentor and at the beginning, as a mentee. Garn’s advice on how to have difficult conversations, how to make and keep lasting partnerships and friendships, and why he says great leaders will stretch you.

Show Notes

  • Someone who made Randy Garn want to become a better version of himself [1:05]
  • Learning from Harvey Mackay [2:03]
  • “Who knows you and what they think about you is what matters most in your life.” [3:14]
  • Brandon Steiner, Steiner Sports [5:08]
  • “It’s building those deep, meaningful relationships that drive value.” [6:30] … “If you can drive value for one another and help support one another, then that’s a business partnership and a friendship.” [6:41]
  • Great leaders… “will stretch you and they will push you, and they will not be easy on you.” [8:32]
  • Being In The Flow, “If you’re growing in skills and challenges at the same time — then you’re in the best state of happiness.” [10:27]
  • “It’s just as easy to think small as it is to think big.” [11:40]
  • “‘No, step back. Let them do it.’ But, even if they fail, it’s going to be a better learning lesson than if you step in and do it for them.” [15:31]
  • “You have to think about the long-game and you have to be a really good mentor for your people.” [17:10]
  • “Part of being a really good leader is being willing and able to do the hard things.” [20:25]
  • When you’re a leader and you know that something has to be done, “the longer you wait, the harder it is and the worse it gets.” [24:56]

Show Audio


Randy Garn episode 26-04

This episode of Leadership and People was originally released on: February 27, 2018

Show Transcript

[BEGINS] 00:00

Welcome to Leadership and People. This is a series that pulls back the curtain on leadership by interviewing CEOs, senior executives and entrepreneurs who had large exits. We ask these experts about how they built trusted networks to rapidly grow their companies, and what device they wish they knew if they could do it all again.

00:22 HOST – JESS LARSEN: Today on the show we’ve got part 2 of our episode with Randy Garn.

GUEST – RANDY GARN: I think that what you have to do with your employees is have them literally be part of the strategy and Nick says it’s really, really well. He’s like, “No, step back. Let them do it.” But, even if they fail, it’s going to be a better learning lesson than if you step in and do it for them.

00:45 JL: Randy, when we were ending off there in part 1, we’d cover a number of subjects about teams and and some of your experience growing and leading different teams. Let’s go the other direction for a minute. Let’s talk about some examples of maybe somebody you worked for that just by working for them it made you want to be a better version of yourself.

Becoming a Better Version of Yourself

RANDY GARN: Yeah, that’s a great way to start this segment off. I do think that I’ve tried to model my life after people that I really, really enjoy looking up to and being with. And I’ve been on board with Harvey Mackay. He wrote Swim with the Sharks. You know, he’s had 17 New York Times bestselling books. But I’ve been on his advisory board for the last nine years.

What I’ve learned from him and in knowing him is that, man, to know him is to love him. He’s the most humble, greatest guy. He has a $100+ million envelope company. But, he just gives and gives and gives. If you need anything or if you need an introduction or if you need tickets to the Super Bowl or I mean, and he doesn’t need to do a lot of the stuff he will seriously find a way.

He does it out of his way and you want to give back. You want to give back to him. You want to serve him. And I just — I’ve learned so much from him and in kind of modeling my life after him is that, man, if somebody needs something, I am going to try to do everything that I can to help them and I’ve tried to live the Law of Reciprocity in a big way. Kind of from an example from him. Every Christmas I get a very personalized gift from him. His wife made us jam and a whole bunch of stuff and then they got us a rug from Israel when they visited there and had a whole story on it. The thing that I do know is that he’s not just doing that for me. He’s probably doing it for hundreds if not thousands of people all over the country.

Yet, when he calls – even if it’s 3:00 in the morning and he needs something, guess what, Jess? I’m gonna pick up and I’m going to help him and serve him. He’s lived his whole business career that way and he’s one of the most successful men I know. And he’s the one who shows me, Randy, your network is your net worth and it’s not who knows you. It’s basically who knows you and what they think about you is what matters most in your life. He’s one that I’ve really, really just loved and loved getting to know. He’s just an amazing human being.

03:25 JL: So, when you think about somebody like that — because other people can buy gifts and other people can check in on somebody what do you think it is about the way he goes about it that’s created this kind of reaction in you verses somebody else?

An Example: Harvey Mackay

RANDY GARN: There is a strategy to it. I mean, you really, when you’re doing a referral for somebody or when you’re doing things for other people and I’ve gotten really good at this. I mean, he’s literally — I think his 84th or 85th birthday is coming up here in October. He’ll still use technology today. He’ll do a video introduction for me with, say I need to get in touch with a CEO of a certain company. “Randy, let me call Jim. He’s gonna love Skipio and this is why he’s gonna love it.”

He’ll literally do it right then. He won’t wait. He’ll do it right then. He’ll make it personal. He’ll make it real. And the thing is when he does that, there’s — he has trust, right? So, he can do it because that person trusts him. If somebody’s doing a referral for you or doing an introduction for you that they don’t trust, it’s not gonna happen. So his whole life is with that. And that’s why, you know, I think that it’s successful because the strategy that he has is that everybody loves him. Everybody trusts him and they know that if they’re going to be sending me to them, that he’s already vetted them out and there’s that kind of reciprocity back with him.

04:48 JL: Yeah. It’s interesting that — how you can’t, you can’t fake the two way street, right? Maybe you can promise it up front and skate for a little while. But, you know, people who aren’t worth their word get found out pretty quick, huh?

RANDY GARN: Yeah, and a good example of that is now I’m working closely with Brandon Steiner from Steiner Sports, which was a referral from Harvey, right? And so now Brandon is the most — and I love sports. I’m going out to see him on Monday and Tuesday this coming week. And I would have never met him if it weren’t for Harvey, and now I’ve been to the New York Yankees games with him. We’ve–I met Jeter to you know, played basketball with Carmelo Anthony, to Mike Tyson was out there last year and we took our wives out and just all these amazing people that I’ve been able to help Brandon, and Brandon’s using Skipio — our software technology company — because Harvey’s like, “Randy, you’ve got to introduce this to Brandon.”

So he’s using it to communicate with all of his clients and customers. Every time there’s a World Series or the Eagles just won the Super Bowl — hey, I’ve got signed Eagles posters from this player, make sure you get them. And then just — he uses it accordingly and they feel like they have a personal relationship with Brandon and that was an introduction from Harvey and now me and Brandon have been friends for eight years now and every time I go to New York, I stay at his house. He won’t let me stay anywhere else.

So, it’s building those deep, meaningful relationships that drive value. So you can have a great relationship with somebody — that’s just a friendship. But if you want a partnership, you gotta be able to drive value for each other. And if it’s a one way street, it’s not gonna last, right? But, if you can drive value for one another and help support one another, then that’s a business partnership and a friendship.

06:47 JL: And, just quickly for people who don’t know about his business, can you explain what they do?

An Example: Brandon Steiner, Steiner Sports

RANDY GARN: Yeah, so, Steiner Sports — he’s the guy who built the old Yankee Stadium and bought it for “X” amount of millions of dollars and then he sold it, brick by brick, seat by seat. He’s made a ton of money just out of the dirt from the field. But, he also signs all of the best players and he’s the number one memorabilia company in the nation. And so, if you ever need a player to come speak at your office, you call Steiner Sports and he’ll arrange him to come speak at your events. Or, you want to find a Babe Ruth-signed ball, you do it through Steiner Sports.

And so, he’s built a very, very successful company that he runs and it’s all around sports memorabilia — very, very successful and everyone loves him in New York. Everyone knows who Brandon Steiner is in New York. There’s not one person that doesn’t. And so then, in the sports community, he’s just the most trusted guy. All the athletes trust him and love him because they know that he’s going to take care of them.

07:54 JL: Interesting. So, thinking about both those two that you just spoke about, is there any tangible examples you can think of – of here’s something I’m working on about myself because of time I’ve spent with one of those two?

RANDY GARN: Yeah, I think some really good examples from both Brandon and then also my current business partner, Nick Greer – who’s had some great success and he’s just an amazing man, as well – one of the most giving guys I’ve ever met. I’ll tell ya what I’ve learned from both Brandon and from Nick is that they will stretch you and they will push you, and they will not be easy on you.

Brandon is not easy on his employees because he loves them. He’ll shout from his office, “Hey Roger, where’s that ball at? We got Jeter on the line, I got to get tickets for him.” He’s like, “Where’s that at? You told me you’d have it by Friday?” You know, he’s really, really super good at holding the line in accountability so that they can grow and grow fast.

But, he does it — he pushes them — but, guess what? They all know that he loves them. He’s really good at recognition. But all of his employees know that if they don’t have what he says that he needs at the time they need it, he is going to be holding them accountable and he’s basically, he’s a lot like my dad that I respect a ton.

Great leaders push you and stretch you to be more than you currently are, right? If they just let ya — if you’re working for somebody and they’re okay that you just stay mediocre and they’re not driving you, then 1) the company’s not going to grow, but you’re not going to grow as a person and you’re going to end up leaving.

So, I’ve learned that a ton, is that really, really good leaders — and I’ve learned that from Brandon Steiner — will actually kinda stretch you and sometimes it will be uncomfortable. But, you’ll stay up late at night getting stuff done. You’ll move the company forward, and at the end of the day, you’ll get a bonus, you’ll get gratitude, and things will be more successful and you’ll continue to grow in skillset. I think really good leaders help others be in the flow, and do you know what it means to “be in the flow?”

10:12 JL: Tell me.

Be “In The Flow”

RANDY GARN: Ok, so there’s a really good principle that we study a ton. It’s like, you’re in the flow and you’re the happiest when you know, if you do a Y/X axis, if your skills are being stretched — if you’re growing in skills and challenges at the same time — then you’re in the best state of happiness. Where it’s super hard but you’re accomplishing things and you’re being productive.

If your skill-set is really low, but your challenges are high, then you have anxiety. If your skill-sets are really high and your challenges – low, you have boredom and you’ll soon leave. So, if you move those two together — where your challenges are high and you need to have more skill-set, and continue to grow, that’s where your employees are going to be in a state of flow and excitement. And that’s when you really get some serious momentum going.

11:06 JL: Interesting. Let’s go for one more. Who’s somebody else on your list of they are just such an exceptional person it makes you want to be a better version of yourself?

Rob Ryan: Don’t Play Small Ball, Think Bigger

RANDY GARN: Well, one other person that comes to mind is another guy that I learned a ton from. I worked with him for five years. He was a gentleman named Rob Ryan. Rob is another person that — one of the things that I most learned from him is that it’s just as easy to think small as it is to think big.

So Rob — back in 1994, built a company from scratch and built it up and ended up selling it to Lucent Technologies for $24.3 billion. At the time, it was the largest BC-backed deal that had ever been sold and he did that all on himself. Not only did he do that, he did four other billion-dollar exits after that. And so, what I learned from him is that not to play small ball.

We only have so much time in the day, and I think about it, why has he been able to do that five times over? And there’s others that have only been able to grow a $40 million company or a $4 million company. What is it in his mind that he’s able to say that you know, if something hasn’t been done, I can figure that out. He is the master at a model called the Sunflower Model, which is how to continue to innovate and ideate your product and service. Most people get stale. But I learned from Rob — man, if you’re not continually thinking about how to grow your business and continually ideating and innovating new products and services, then you’re not going to last very long.

13:04 JL: Do you know if he has a website about it or anything?

RANDY GARN: Yeah, if you go… He wrote the book Entrepreneur America. I think if you go to EntrepreneurAmerica.com, I believe that’s it. But, if you just Google “Rob Ryan, Ascend Communications,” you’ll be able to find a ton out about Rob. I mean, he’s just quiet. You know, he doesn’t need anything. He’s just amazing. He’s comfortable with what he’s done, but — I watched him really come in and inspire companies and inspire people to think bigger.

I loved it because one of the things he always said — he said, “The hardest thing that I could ever do is I always hired people that knew how to think.” You think about that, as a CEO of a company, how many of your employees sit there and wait to be told what to do? He wanted to find intrepreneurs, not just entrepreneurs. But he wanted to find intrepreneurs that would innovate and ideate within the company and think of how to make things better — how to make processes better. That was one of the greatest lessons I did learn from him and in working with him.

14:20 JL: You know, there’s so many folks that would like to do bigger numbers or would like to think bigger, or would like to help the people they work with think at that bigger level. When you think about your own staff and  and helping them grow their approach, their perspective on life, any examples of you know — thinking about the way Rob does things, and whether it’s teaching your staff the Sunflower Model or, or what does that actually look like? Helping your team as well as yourself expand what’s possible, in your mind?

14:54 RANDY GARN: Yeah, I mean, like you said it’s always easier said than done. But I think we’re doing an amazing job right now. I mean, we are growing like crazy and you know, I think that we’ve been really working on the technology behind-the-scenes. Now, we’ve really kinda had our foot on the clutch for a little bit as we get product ready to launch and we’re in a sweet space. And so, I think that what you have to do with your employees is have them literally be part of the strategy.

Nick does this really, really well. He’s like, “No, step back. Let them do it.” Even if they fail, it’s going to be a better learning lesson than if you just step in and do it for them. And so, you have to – as a leader – be kind of more of a Shadow Leader because if you’re always jumping in and saving them, you need to let people fail. You need to let them fail fast and then help course-correct. But what happens if you’re always jumping in, then guess what happens, Jess? Then they don’t think. They don’t think like Rob said. They don’t get engaged and they wait to be told what to do.

Leadership Tug-Of-War

16:06 JL: Ok, I want to talk about this because there’s there’s such a tug-of-war inside leaders, inside myself, inside many of our clients. You and I are both part of Corporate Alliance, right? All the CEOs there, right? There’s this — it’s like the parental thing, you know, that’s like you can either teach your four-year-old how to clean up the mess, or you can more quickly do it yourself, right? And, sometimes you don’t always have time for a lesson. But then I also feel like that can become a habit of just always doing, you know, leaders or managers always doing in ourself.

Any guidance of what your own internal trigger is to know whether this is the time to just get it done for the deadline versus this is the time to let the company suffer short-term to help this person take the time to grow and learn?

RANDY GARN: Yeah, I really do. I think you always have to think about the long-game. Well, two things. You have to think about the long-game and you have to be a really good mentor for your people. I still, I mean I know Ken Blanchard really well. We worked with him for years.

One of my favorite books of all time is the One Minute Manager. It still is. If you haven’t read that book, it’s timeless and it teaches this principle really, really well — how to catch people and recognize them quick, or let them fail. Once, if they do fail, how to course-correct and how to be a really good manager and a mentor, and then help grow your people. And so, that book fundamentally has been like a Business Bible for me when I’m growing and teaching other managers how to manage, right?

And so, I think that sometimes if your employees will be able to learn and think, the problem is… what I think happens more than often is that you have to know when you have the right people, right? So, Jess, you and I have both been in the situation where if you can’t change your people, change your people. So, if that behavior keeps happening, you do have to let them go. There’s been too many times where I’ve seen companies keep people on out of loyalty.

Literally, I just had a lunch meeting today with a guy that’s just like, “I need to let my Chief Marketing Officer go. It’s horrible. He’s my best friend and we are not getting stuff done and I’m trying to mentor him. I’ve let him fail too many times.” And so, there does come a place that you’ve got to keep growing your people.

If you can’t change your people, change your people. You gotta coach up or coach out. And I do think as a really good leader, you gotta know when if that person’s just not the right person, you gotta part ways. But if they’re willing to learn and if they’re willing to grow, they’re willing to fail and to be humble enough to continue to increase and grow in skillset and challenges, then you got a winner.

I don’t think it’s so much of — it’s actually more getting the right people and training them. But, if they’re unteachable, you gotta move quick.

19:15 JL: Yeah, so what about for those of us that really like the nice badge — the nice boss badge though, you know? What about that feeling of like, “Man, I don’t like conflict and maybe if I just give them a little more time?” when we’re really kind of lying to ourselves as leaders or managers in that situation? Any advice about the hard right thing of the right thing for the business and the right thing for letting them get on to an opportunity that’s better for them? Versus the easy wrong thing of avoiding the conflict and doing you know that temptation that basically all of us as leaders have given into at some point of, I’ll deal with that later. Anything about the courage to do it now?

RANDY GARN: Yeah, I mean, that’s actually… Jess, I teach a ton on this. Literally, the friend that I met with at lunch, one of the things they said about him is that he was the kinda guy in high school that when he broke up with his girlfriend, she would go home and tell her parents. When they’d ask her how it went, she was like, “Well, I think we’re engaged.” You know? [laughs] So, you have to…

Part of being a really good leader is being willing and able to do the hard things. When you know it’s not right, courage is being able to do it because it’s not… If you keep going home at night and you’re just like, “My Gosh, I don’t know how to do this with Jimmy. I don’t know how to tell him. He’s just not cutting it.” You, as a leader, shame on you because you’re hurting him and you’re hurting the enterprise. You’re hurting the company and everybody around knows it, and that’s not good for culture.

Really good leaders address things quickly, make decisions quickly, and learn to move on. I was not that way at all, Jess. I was the guy that would keep people on way too long and be able to do things and continue to get taken advantage of, and also hurt the company and hurt the person. Where, it would have been the greatest learning lesson for them if I would have been better at holding them accountable and saying, “If you don’t have this done by this time, I need to terminate you.”

It should never, ever, ever be a surprise to somebody when they get fired or terminated though. It should never be a surprise to them, and you need to give appropriate warnings and do it right, and that way you aren’t the jerk. One of the things I learned from Rob Ryan when he had to do it, he’s like, “Is there anything I could do? Is there anything that I have done to not allow you to hit your goals?” I mean, that’s a really good question, right? Uh no, actually, it’s my fault. Ok, so next week, are you going to get this done? And then next week when it comes around, next week if it’s not done, I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to let you go. That person’s either gonna step up, or next week when they come, you have to follow through and you’re going to help them be a better person and you’re going to help your enterprise.

22:21 JL: What I love about that is I think about both myself and a number of our clients over the years and there’s… What I see happen in my own life and others a lot is — instead, I see a quiet resentment of “you should know better.” How come you’re doing this to me? How come you’re doing this to the company? Rather than an upfront conversation, right?


22:43 JL: And it’s really not fair to them – plus it’s like drinking poison yourself, right?

RANDY GARN: Yep, yep. It’s like drinking poison and wishing the other person would die.

22:54 JL: [laughs] Yeah, right.

Good Leaders Have Difficult Conversations

RANDY GARN: But, I have found that when you do do it, they’ve said, “You know what, I’ve figured it’s probably best if I do this…” as long as you communicate well. Good leaders communicate well and there’s never any surprises when you do have to make the tough decisions because you’ve been clear with expectations.

23:12 JL: Yeah. Well, and I think about some of my heroes I look up to — a mentor of mine back home in Canada named Brian. I remember he was the number one individual in the country for his profession and got recruited out to a really large entity. I remember him telling me about letting somebody go and it was interesting. It really changed my paradigm that — he was brutally honest about the needs of the organization and how the individual who he was letting go wasn’t getting things done. But, it didn’t have to be an accusation, right? It was just a conversation about, “Hey, can we talk about your results? Can we talk about what the expectations are here?”

It was like this — it was just a regular conversation about how it’s not working out and you know, Brian ended up helping him find a different job. But, they came to this mutual conclusion that this wasn’t working out. It wasn’t like a — he wasn’t angry at this guy — he could even feel compassion that this guy’s life was going to be worse temporarily, right? And still do the right thing for the business without kind of hardening himself thinking this guy doesn’t matter ’cause he didn’t perform for us, you know? And anyways… I don’t know if you’ve ever seen something like that, but he set an example for me, at least.

RANDY GARN: Oh yeah and to be honest with you, every time — if it’s actually done clear and done right, it actually ends up really having that person that either moves on or even for yourself, you know, have some really deep retrospect and usually ends up being a lot better, you know?

So I think you have to think, when you’re a leader and you know that something has to be done, the longer you wait, the harder it is and the worse it gets. So, I’ve found that doing things quickly — when you know, you know — and do the right things and do the things right, quickly, and it’ll work itself out.

25:12 JL: Well, and I love that question from Rob about the — it sounds like it was a genuine question. It wasn’t a rhetorical question — Is there anything that I — ’cause he, it’s almost acknowledging that he may have a blind spot. The genuine question — is there anything that I’m doing to keep you from being able to perform? It seems like that question could be asked in a rhetorical way, but the way you described it made it sound like he was asking in a genuine way of maybe he needs to take a look in the mirror, maybe he hasn’t had the full picture, and just willing to be alive to the situation. Is that fair?

RANDY GARN: Yep. Exactly right. The One Minute Manager does that really well, too. If you read through that — how to communicate and how to do it. Another great book is — my next door neighbor is one of the authors of Crucial Conversations. That’s another amazing book that, if you haven’t read that as a leader or CEO, or executive team — I know a lot of us will go out to the C4 guys that I know. If you haven’t read Crucial Conversations, that is an amazing book to read, as well.

26:20 JL: Yeah, no kidding. Well listen, I appreciate all the time you’ve spent with us. Obviously, if folks want to see what you working on these days, Skipio.com is the place to go learn about how they can use text messaging to grow their company.

Maybe to close here, what’s either one of the best pieces of advice you ever got, or something you wish you could go back and tell a younger version of yourself?

Final Advice: Never Be Boring, Predictable, or Grumpy

RANDY GARN: [laughs] That’s a good question, Jess. So honestly, one of the things that I really learned in my life is two things: never be boring and never be predictable.

27:01 JL: [laughs] Oh yeah?

RANDY GARN: So, people love to be around people that have fun, that work hard, and that just love life to the fullest. And so, those two principles — even with my kids, my family — is that I try to never be boring and never be predictable, and I’m never grumpy.

So, if I can do those three things well, then life is exciting, people around me love to be around me, and that way I can really foster deep, unforgettable relationships with people. That’s my last word of advice for everyone — especially for all the guys in Corporate Alliance — never be boring, never be predictable, and life’s too short to be grumpy.

27:45 JL: [laughs] I like it. I like it. Ok, well, this is great. Thanks again.

RANDY GARN: Awesome, Jess. Great to be with ya.

27:53 JL: Bye.

[ENDS] 27:54