Josh Fonger coaches entrepreneurs to build systems that grow their business. Today, he shares how to identify systems and make them work for you.
John Meese 0:06
Josh, thank you so much for joining me on this interview. How are you doing today?
Good, I'm glad to hear that. Well, thank you for your time. I appreciate it. And I'm sure our listeners do as well. I would love for you to just start us off by telling us a little bit about who you are and what you do, assuming that anyone listening has not had the pleasure of coming across you on the internet and getting to know you. Can you please just tell us a little about what you do? Sure.
Josh Fonger 0:47
Yeah. So I work at work system, Sam carpenter and I, the author of Working System, started the company about 10 years ago. And what we do is we we set entrepreneurs free, and we do that by building them systems. And so we help organize their companies. And we do that through coaching, consulting, speaking, training, and certifying, and anything else we can to get the message out there to the world.
John Meese 1:09
Well, great. Well, I love that. So tell us a little bit more about that business. Because we have a mix of business owners who listen to this podcast, some people are in sort of internet based consulting, you know, coaching businesses, and some are more traditional brick and mortar businesses. And so this might be a kind of a foreign concept. Could you talk a little bit about just behind the scenes practically speaking, what does that mean in your business in terms of where your revenue comes from, or what your day looks like?
Josh Fonger 1:31
Yeah, so we have a number of ways we help our clients and how we could divide in two different ways. For Business owners, brick and mortar or, or online, we're probably about 60/40, brick and mortar 60, online 40, we're helping them get the systems mindset, get their strategy, get the principles, get the procedures, technology, teams, metrics, everything to organize to grow the business, and that that is through training products and services, and through coaching, consulting. But we also have another part of our business, which is for coaches, and consultants, and people listening to this, everything laid off, who wants to actually learn our method, and get certified, and do what I've done the last 10 years and actually go help companies grow using this method. So this allows them to be their own business owner, and take the method that I've been using, and either fly out or drive out or talk to companies and help them walk through this the same system. So that's a different type of customer that we that we work with. And that's been growing the most right now because of the current situation where,
John Meese 2:37
yes, well, let's talk about that situation. So, you know, in case someone, somewhere far in the future is listening to this, and it's like, What are they talking about? So we're in the midst as we're recording this, of, you know, we're a few months into a pandemic. So the word pandemic has less of a kind of Static Shock attached to it. Now we're like, oh, yeah, yeah, we're still in a pandemic. I mean, that's just kind of like daily life now. And a global pandemic of COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, the novel coronavirus, I think it's the official term. And we're also in the midst of an economic crisis on the, you know, on the flip side of that, where we have unprecedented that words, probably overused right now, we have very, very high very sudden unemployment with 10s of millions of people just overnight, out of out of work, trying to figure out what to do. And we have governments all across the world, including the US most vocally throwing money at the problem to try to do what they can or are doing at least. So here we are. So let's talk about that for a minute. Josh, I know it's not. I think we're far enough in it. I don't know about you, but I'm kind of like tired of talking about it. Like I want to talk about other things. But for the sake of our conversation, for the sake of conversation, let's talk about it just a little bit longer. I would love to know your experience in terms of when, if there was a specific moment or where you were, when you first realized that COVID-19 or the related economic crisis was a real threat or a thing as people say,
Josh Fonger 3:55
Yeah, for me, beforehand, it hasn't really changed my lifestyle much. We homeschool our three kids at work from home, my team works from home. And so you know, hearing about the news, it was like, Okay, yeah, that sounds like a pretty bad flu or whatever, whatever it might be. And of course, it was much more than that. And I had a big meeting with a new business Strategic Coach, and I paid a lot of money to meet with this particular coach, and we rented out space in hotel, and we were going to do a full day workshop. And I was really excited about change our business. And this is, you know, the COVID-19 things are happening and happening. And I'm an Arizona so it's not hit very hard in Arizona. And he and I were like, well, should we still meet? I'm like, Oh, yeah, of course we're gonna meet and they got closer and closer and closer. And I was like, well, should we still meet? And I was like, yeah, we're gonna be like, I really want to do this. You come in. Yeah. So we get to the hotel. And this is this is a large five star hotel. Maybe be like 20 stories. There's no one the hotel. It's me. It's him. And it's the person at the front desk and one security guard and they let us know We are in we are the only ones in the entire hotel.
John Meese 5:03
Entire building. Wow.
Josh Fonger 5:04
And so yeah, it was it was kind of eerie, like to be in a hotel like this, but no one there. So, so we, so we get there, you know, we go down to the conference room, we have this huge conference room, there's no one there and we, you know, spend the whole day there. And, you know, sit across the table six feet apart, and, and then we go back, but I was like, wow, this is this is really gonna have, it's gonna change the world, because it's happening everywhere, simultaneously. And the other thing that got me kind of prepped for this that people didn't know, is I've got a number of clients in China. Right. So I, I already heard what's happening there. So I was like, Okay, I wonder how we're going to respond. But it's going to be similar. I mean, different government structure, different way to handle it. But I already knew it was coming based on working with him and seeing how they were handling it there.
John Meese 5:52
That's interesting. Thank you for sharing that story. I appreciate that. And I'm just imagining this giant 20 story empty hotel with no, that's all over the place. I know in Nashville, I was just talking to an owner of several restaurants in our area, and some of them are in Nashville, Tennessee, and the State Capitol, which is, you know, the I don't know if you know this, but it's the, it is the bachelorette party capital of the world. So anyways, she told me that right now that one of the reasons why their restaurants are still suffering is because even now in mid June, hotels are at 4%. capacity, and Nashville. So yeah, it's just it's crazy to imagine, I guess you were probably the 4% that day or less?
Josh Fonger 6:29
Yeah, yeah. 1%. I mean, it was it was weird, though. Yeah, we were there.
John Meese 6:34
Well, so as a business owner, and it's helpful to know that you had a little bit of a heads up just with that connection to China, as a business owner, how did you respond? What was your reaction to that information? And that experience?
Josh Fonger 6:46
Yeah, I think you you reassess everything. And then you try to look at the future. And I've got another business mentor, and we were talking about it a few months back. And I told him I had this plans for this year, and I had all these things I was going to do and be giving strategic advice to a lot of clients. And now I just don't know. And he said, Josh, when did you know the future? Like, was there a time in your life when you didn't know the future? And so, you know, and just to kind of put it in perspective, like, in terms of like, what we actually have control over and what we don't, and we can obviously make estimates, we should be planning goals. But you know, whenever we presuppose, we know, these black swan events are going to happen. We're kidding ourselves, right? We're going beyond our own electrical capacity. And it's better to stick with what we do have control over, like, what am I going to do during this hour? What am I going to do during the next hour? What am I going to do with my team during the meeting? And what are we doing right here right now, and be hyper focus on making wins and having success with each moment. And so that gave me some real perspective. And then at that point, as I was leading my team, I wanted them to know, first off, just because it's happening, everyone's still working, like we've got plenty of work to do. And I would say we probably worked harder to last few months than before. And that hasn't resulted in more sales. But the work is still really good. Because what what companies do is not just see the patient, or work with the client, or there's, there's a lot of other things to a business. And often those things get neglected when you're just face to face client client focused. And this is the the huge opportunity. That's what I tell my team to work on all those other things as other systems of our business, and get those stronger and better and tighter, so that we're getting ready to come back to the marketplace so that we can be ready when those opportunities come. Instead of just kind of wallow in this. Well, maybe it'll get better, but maybe not. And what are we going to do? Well, we already know we can do we can get there's plenty of things to do it. This is different than what we were doing before. And I really wanted to make sure that we knew, hey, these things. And I tell my clients to like these things you can't do right now. Like if you're a chiropractor, like you're not adjusting backs right now. Or maybe you are now but you weren't back then. So there's a lot of things to your business you can be doing. So work on those.
John Meese 9:09
Yeah, I know, the first thing I did was was get caught up in QuickBooks. I mean, it's a boring thing. But like it needed to happen to be like, Okay, if I want an accurate up to date financial picture of where I'm at, then I need an accurate financial picture of where I'm at. So, but yes, there are a lot of other things that are probably a little more exciting than getting caught up in QuickBooks, but a little less exciting than talking to the patient. So or the customer. So how did you respond on your business and publicly did that change kind of your how you communicate with your customers or potential customers?
Josh Fonger 9:35
Yeah, definitely. So you know, part of our the work we do is to put things out like podcasts and live streams and content. And we wanted to make it relevant and speak to what is going on in our customers minds so they can relate to material. So change the messaging on top of the products and services that were already there. Right. So we didn't say well, we used to do this kind of business napkin or something totally different. Well, that's not true. We're still the same business, but making sure that the messaging fits with the times that we're in. so that people can relate so that they're interested in also so that they can get connected into our business of the messaging was tweaked. And also the products, right. So we didn't change the products, the core functionality of them, because what we do is timeless. But we would add additional bonuses or additional features or additional add ons, that would be specific to what they're going through right now. Right. So like, we just just did a launch last week. And we we added in a bonus, you know, the quick cash plan. So how do you find the hidden cash in your business? Right now, immediately, quickly. And that's what I used to do a lot of clients before. And so that is something people care about right now. So we're going to add that onto our product suite. So that anyone who's hesitant because the situation, they can feel comfortable. Okay, this is gonna help me because of what is happening right now.
John Meese 11:02
That's good. And it's just meeting a real need. So well, let's talk about the economic crisis. Specifically, I want to know how it's impacted your business. And I think because you actually work with business owners, there's probably a twofold nature to this. There's probably how this affects your business, and then your business, his business, his business, but I'd love to know how it's impacted your business. Because you mentioned earlier, it you've worked harder, but haven't seen that a one to one ratio with sales and that you're okay with that, because as other important things, your business, but what has the economic impact look like for you?
Josh Fonger 11:31
Pretty bad? Yeah, pretty bad financially, really, because we work with small biz owners, and they're struggling, right? And most of our brick and mortar right, so 60%. So if they're not open, they are immediately thinking how can they save money? Right? Oh, I know, less training, like less. These are some things that they're gonna pay themselves, they're gonna pay their employees, right. And so, but I'm not too concerned about dips in cash flow, like I work with seasonal businesses, they have pretty dramatic dips in cash flow for six months, every year. Right. And they're fine. Right? So the business fundamentals, I don't tie to, you know, last two months cash flow, because I don't think that's a good representation, I think that you can really lose perspective if you live in that world. So I'm focused more on the things that actually matter in terms of getting leads our managing those leads, how we're warming those leads, you know, in terms of giving them good content, letting them know so more about awareness in the front end, and less about let's close that sale right now. Because this might be the worst time to try to close that sale. And then also, with our current clients, what can we do that to keep them right to keep them by providing value, but providing support by providing additional ways like we got a guest speaker coming in a half hour to to speak to our group. And so that is the other place that we're focused. So it's kind of like everything before the sale, and then everything after the sale. But the sale itself, we're not hyper focused on because we feel like we're gonna burn up a lot of energy and time and advertising on things that it's just the wrong time. And it also a backup house. You mentioned QuickBooks. So so let's let's get our financial systems in order and accounts receivable systems in order and HR. And we've we've actually hired more in the last three months we've ever hired. So building up a team training them orientation, that is a huge focus.
John Meese 13:25
We're hiring two people right now. Kind of the same boat.
Josh Fonger 13:27
Yeah, yeah. So I think there's plenty of good work to do. And that's why I'm not I'm not concerned about it. Now, if you're listening to this, you're like, what, Josh, I only have 2000 bucks in my account, and I'm going fast, well, then you have to get creative, right? There are ways that you can prune, there's also ways that you can find strategic partners financial partners is ways you can get people to pay in advance for your particular services. So there are some creative hacks you can do. But again, those are just temporary to tide you over. And it's a good reminder, hey, next time, I want to have, you know, maybe six months or whatever the amount of cash you want to have on hand. I want to have that available. So when a downturn happens, I can still think strategically I can still work smartly, and not have to be frantic about cash flow because that you can burn up a lot of energy if you're frantic about that.
John Meese 14:17
Yeah, that's good. That's helpful. Well, why don't you talk about the systems for a minute? Because I mean, it's obviously work the system is your thing. And you've been talking about the business systems that you have been applying in your own business. Is there anything specific you can share in terms of the what we should be thinking about? I mean, you mentioned don't you mentioned the to create some space between us in the cash flow. Right. So that takes some pressure off. But what other things should we as business owners be doing ourselves to, to prepare for any economic crisis?
Josh Fonger 15:28
Well, I think that it goes back to my initial point, which is control what you can control. And so if the crisis is are coming and going, which as long as there's news media, there's always going to be crisis 100% of time, like we did a video to get people to buy one of our products seven years ago, and it started off, you know, is, you know, have you noticed the uncertainty in the market? And have you noticed that global concerns and this and that, and that video has applied? We've replayed that video for years and years and years? Because the video is always made sense. It's always like, yeah, I guess it is kind of uncertain right now, I guess there is a calamity going on right now. It's always made sense. So when I watched that video recently, I was like, Okay, well, to think there's going to be time when there's not a calamity, at least not a calamity, the news is gonna report on is untrue, there always will. So I just think it should be hyper focused in on the systems you control. And so for us, it starts with the mindset, I'll briefly go through it. So the mindset, which is to see your world as composed of separate systems, and right now, they're, they're unmanaged, they're undocumented, they're not controlled, and therefore your life is out of control. So you want to see them, first identify them, so that you can then get control them by documenting them by refining them by, you know, delegating, automating all that you want to do, but first, you have to see them as the first piece. The second piece is, you need to know, what do you actually corralling the systems to do? And so we always, you know, guide people into writing what we call a strategic objective. So they need to actually know where they're going and how they're going to get there. seems very simple. But instead of doing the the standard, traditional, you know, one line sentence for your vision statement and one line sentence for your mission statement, we want to make it more robust. So you're actually describing here is who we are, here's what we do, here's what we're going, here's how we're going to get there. And so we like to make it concise, like one page, but a powerful page that every sentence matters. And it tells you, here's your guide. Now, then, everybody on your team who's working with you understands whether they're designer, a copywriter, a surgeon, whatever, whatever they do, they know where all of our efforts are leading towards this one thing that makes you hyper focused cuts a lot of waste out, you can refine all ideas based on this. It's incredibly useful for companies in terms of efficiency and scalability. So we do that the third component is the operating principles. So instead of every idea being based on you, and you, you trying to handle every idea, you want everyone to be enabled, empowered with the principles that are going to guide their decision making. So we actually want to make sure that whether it has to do with time management, or reviewing products, or speed, or innovation or customer service, we want people to all be thinking on the same wavelength, so that there's less friction, less conflict. And again, more speed and more enabling your team. And the last piece is working procedures. So again, these are these are the four things that we work on. And we work on up markets down markets we've been working on for decades, when working procedures are those tasks, those repeatable tasks, those repeatable, systems in your business, do you want to have control over them, and you want to know, okay, if I'm going to handle a customer complaint, here is the checklist to go through, if I'm going to present to a client here is the process I go through. And the more you can control each piece, the better each piece will be. And the accumulation of really good pieces means that you have a really good company. And it's a company that's not based on you. So our whole premise is, we don't want the company to be based on the owner or anyone person, we want to be building an asset. And so it really doesn't change. I had this question before, like, Hey, what about in a downturn, then what do you do? Well, the same thing? Well, what about an upturn? Well, the same thing. So it's, it's still focused on what you can control. And that's the systems of your life. And the more you control those, the more broader the impact and influence and that you can have in the world in your business. So it starts small with what's really in your two hands. And then the impact gets greater and greater and greater if you as long as you really focus on that small stuff first.
John Meese 19:28
Well, I love that I'd love to dig in a little bit deeper in terms of what that looks like, practically speaking, because I know you both practices yourself, and then also do this with clients. So in the midst of a downturn, a big downturn, like the one we're in right now, what does that look like practically speaking, there's there and maybe there maybe you're not rewriting everything. But is there any way that you're either adapting how you approach your system and your business or how you think about which which parts of the system are more important? Or just maybe revisiting the system and reminding everyone about it? I mean, how do you adapt your business to survive the crisis? And to thrive in the midst of it.
Josh Fonger 20:01
Yeah, it's not that exciting, really, what will we do is the same thing we're doing. So we have a company meeting this Wednesday. And so we're going to talk about the values talk about the strategy, and how this current situation fits into that strategy and fits into the values. And so we have a chance to do that, we're going to be doing a post mortem on an event that we did yesterday, same thing after every event, we do a post mortem talk about what we learned or to do next time. So it's a lot of the same systems, the same habits. I'm really trying to protect my team from thinking that they have to change the business based on what's going on right now. So you know, me personally, as the leader, visionary, I'm trying to, you know, set up new strategic partnerships, new products, trying to get myself in the different doors, but I don't want them to be disoriented by that, right. I don't want that kind of chaos, owners, leaders, entrepreneurs, they thrive on uncertainty, change, problem solving. But teams working in a systematic way is the opposite. It's a disaster, right? So I would rather say, hey, look, let them know, I'm gonna deal with that. It's all okay. You guys can can continue to refine the things that are going to be the same. Now. If we were in a situation where the world changed, and there's no more internet, well, then we would have to change our business model dramatic shirt, but we're not in that situation. So
John Meese 21:29
let's, let's pause there feel like that's actually a great example of where to you internet is sort of like the like, it's the base commodity that your whole business is built on. For like a restaurant up until a few months ago, that may have been the foot traffic, you know, that that sort of base could happen to somebody turn the internet off for these brick and mortar businesses. So I see what you're saying is that there are things that you do need to adapt to in the face of it just in your situation. This wasn't one of them, right?
Josh Fonger 21:54
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So my clients, whether they're a dentist, a podiatrist, you know, hair salons, then we had to adapt and tweak and change dramatically. And in some cases, they hadn't taken a vacation in a year, I said, Hey, this is a great time, this might be a staycation. But you want to go anywhere. But you know, sometimes getting a little bit of time, a little space is a really good thing. But yeah, so restaurant, of course, you're going to tweak so you can start delivering food, things like that. But if you are a dentist, you're you're just not going to be able to see patients. And so if you need cash flow, you'll be buying or selling memberships for a year in advance. And what we do is what we do with seasonal businesses you got you have to cut the bleeding and the biggest bleeding. Those kind of businesses that are bricks and mortar are typically payroll. So you have to do that you can't just be a nice person, and then just this eat that for three months, it doesn't work, right, they're gonna come back to a business that doesn't exist. And so
John Meese 22:50
well, and let's talk more about that. Because I know what you I think I know what you mean, when you say you can't be a nice person. But let's just expound upon that. Because we let's let's not equate be nice person with keeping your staff indefinitely.
Josh Fonger 23:02
Thank you. Yeah, I think that everyone wants to keep their team, no matter how smart and that's good. And I do too, and you should do everything you can. But the reality is, if there's like I used to be a waiter, or table or wait tables, if there are no tables to wait, then then there is no work. There's no value transfer, and you can't be doing that. Now you can get innovative and have them start delivering food or cooking food and wherever else, and you should. But if that goes from 100% capacity to now you need 30% of your staff, well, then you're going to have to make some cuts and possibly hours possibly pay, let's do some real tough decisions. But they're necessary. Most people understand that, they're not going to be like, well, I should get paid full time for not working. No one's gonna think that. And so. And also you just so you can do the best you can. But you have to do the pruning, you have to do the trimming during those times, just to stay in business. And I don't think that, yeah, I've been laid off more. So I know, it's like,
John Meese 23:57
Yeah, well, I know, I will, let's talk about the trade off for a second, too, which is we just have to, like the Paycheck Protection Program, I think, is this really well intentioned idea. But that is causing many other business owners to basically kick the can down the road about the decision about when they're gonna have to lay out, they're just like, they're like, cool, I don't have to make the decision right now. But it means there's a lot of businesses that are walking around with a lot of financial burden, they could they can actually justify keeping, it's just they have a stimulus that makes it possible to do so. But I worry about as as this program is expiring right now, in many different areas, people are getting to the end of it. A lot of these businesses are now they've sort of been, you know, they've been blinding themselves and their staff to this idea that like, everything's fine. The reality is it's not it's just been distorted financially. And so they're gonna have to be faced in really hard decisions really quickly when people aren't expecting it, or go out of business. And then that then you that's like laying off everybody, including yourself. That's not good. So, yeah, I worry about that a little bit.
Josh Fonger 24:52
Yeah, I totally agree. I think that a lot of governments are, they're doing what they think is right. And typically what they think is right is what will get them reelected in a lot of cases, and not necessarily what's right for people long term. And so I think a lot of short term decisions have been made... worldwide. And they don't understand the long term consequences, because in politics, and our leaders, they think next week, next election cycle next month, they don't think anything beyond that. And the amount of damage that's been done long term is, I don't know if it's quantifiable, but it is going to be really, really, really bad.
John Meese 25:35
By the way, before I got into commercial, my backgrounds, economic so I know just enough to look at what's going on and be like, what have you done?
Josh Fonger 25:42
Well, and I think that also people need to realize is that the people who are telling you things on the news, you can't expect the truth from those Talking Heads. I mean, when I was in the real estate industry, 15 years ago, every single person said, Oh, it's great. And as things were toppling, like, Don't worry, so just a little bump, and as things were continuing to topple, we're gonna ride this out, no problem, no problem, we're gonna keep investing, until like, the day, everyone gets laid off, like, no one's gonna tell you until it's too late, right after they've already developed their plans to get out of it, and you get left hand holding the bag. So I do think that Be really careful you trust and you need to be rational about it. As opposed to trusting. I guess every resource you get information from,
John Meese 26:32
Let's, uh, let's get on a positive note if we can, and trust no one, you know. So how are you pivoting? And you mentioned the cash. What was it called the quick cash product that you're creating right now?
Josh Fonger 26:44
Yeah, that's a bonus video.
John Meese 26:45
Yeah, sure. Okay, so let's talk about how are you pivoting to pursue opportunity and thrive in this current economic reality, and attach that what advice you have for other business owners about how to make their own choices to build or rebuild a profitable business in any economy?
Josh Fonger 27:00
Yeah, a great question. There is a new a new market. And I know what this market is like, because I was unemployed, when I laid off in the real estate industry, you know, over a decade ago. And it's, it's the quantity of people who are unemployed, there's a significant, probably more now than there ever has been worldwide, ever. Right. And they're not just unemployed, 18 year olds, right. This is people 40, 50, 60. And they still need to work and they want to work. And they have skills. And so our newest service that we're just touching up to fit this market better, is anybody who wants to actually help companies, as a consultant, this is a great time to get in. And a lot of companies need help. And you don't have any work. And this is when I became a consultant. Right as I was laid off, and I was unemployable in the real estate industry, because there was no work there. And I just started doing consulting that fell in love with it. And so that's, that's our big thing is, we want to give people a chance where they can work, they can build a future, they can actually provide value on a day to day basis. And there's a lot of people need help. And so we're trying to really package it up for so someone who's never been a consult before they can get into the game and do do what I've done that that's how I started. I started off with no skills, no experience and a list of phone numbers and just calling and say, Hey, I can help I help you with your budget, and started from there. And it's been a great career. And so that's, that's one of our big, big things is, I guess, for everyone else is look at the market, how it's changed. And make sure that your services, your new services fit that that reality. I think the reality is people who need help financially and or they are out of work. And this is a little side note about what it's like 13 years ago, oh, no, not that long ago, maybe 10 years ago, I had a client who was in the insurance industry, he was struggling struggling selling insurance. And this is when Obamacare was, you know, we're just discussing Obamacare who hadn't passed this law yet. And we were brainstorming, and he said, You know what, everyone's just talking about Obamacare. And he's like, you know, actually just do presentations on what Obamacare means for their insurance portfolio. And he said, I know just about is what everyone else does. All we can do is read, read the legislation. It's not law yet. And I'll just read it and study it. And I'll just do presentations. That's all it is. Your presence is that he became the Obamacare expert, before Obamacare became law. And his business like quadrupled during those six months selling all of his Insurance Services, because he couldn't sell Obamacare wasn't even available to sell. But he just did presentations on when we're thinking about, and then that everyone liked him and they trusted him. They bought all of those services. And during that time, because of what he did, so I think there's there's some some truth in that.
John Meese 29:41
Well, this has been super helpful. Josh, I appreciate perspective and you sharing your time and expertise with us. Where can we go to learn more about you what you're up to and how you can help us?
Josh Fonger 29:51
Yeah, so I go to workthesystem.com all the products and services are there also, if you want a copy of the book, Work the System we give that away for free, unless you want to upgrade buy on Amazon, but certainly go to workthesystem.com
John Meese 30:02
Great. Thank you, Josh. I appreciate your time. Take care.
Josh Fonger 30:09
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