In this episode, I had a discussion with Dr. J.C. Baker, founder of J.C. Baker and Associates, which is management and strategy consulting group located in Sharonville, OH. J.C. and I had a far ranging discussion of the problems facing entrepreneurs in the realms of finance, operations, sales and marketing, and some of the technologies J.C. is involved with bringing to market. You can learn more about J.C. and his team at https://jcbaker.org.
Sam Schutte: In today’s show, we have Dr. J.C. Baker. He is the founder and strategist from J.C. Baker and Associates. I met J.C by networking in Cincinnati. And we’re going to talk today about how companies are innovating and creating new approaches for leadership and change management. J.C, welcome to the show.
J.C. Baker: Thank you so much Sam. I appreciate it.
Sam Schutte: Absolutely. So maybe a good place to start is tell us a little bit how you got into this and how you got started.
J.C. Baker: Well, growing up it was always told to us that you should not switch jobs frequently. And I did that thing once I left college and became really good in a number of industries, mortgages, pharmaceuticals, automotive industry. And what I found is that I had a talent to not only spot issues but also to be able to create solutions for those issues. And so I decided to be able to program around there, hence the reason why I have a PhD now. And so I went and studied and did a lot of research and worked with a lot of companies all over the country. And I decided to use my skillset to be able to create solutions for other companies.
Sam Schutte: Tell me a little bit about what the solutions are.
J.C. Baker: Well, the solutions vary in the way that we operate today. And I know it may seem kind of cliche because I do have a doctorate in business that I call myself a business doctor. But that’s in fact how we operate. We take assessments of companies, we do a holistic approach to how we assess them. And then we offer them a prescription, if you will, on what they need to have done. And so it looks different every time. It could be a retail operation, it could be a restaurant, it can be a nonprofit organization, it could be a sports franchise. And we’re going in there with very open goggles, if you will, and transparency to be able to see where their solutions or where solutions exist and where their problems and pain points exist.
Sam Schutte: Right. And it’s really kind of a management consulting role, I suppose, where you’re working with that CEO side by side on any number of problems from financial to process or anything.
J.C. Baker: Correct. And that’s actually who we assess. Initially it’s the CEO to make sure that we understand their worldviews, how they’re thinking about growing their company or running their company or preventing their company from going in reverse. And then from there we look at the rest of the operations. So it very well could be finances, it could be commercialization, it could be new technology, it can be a host of factors.
Sam Schutte: Okay. And your office is located in Sharonville, Ohio.
J.C. Baker: Correct. That’s our main office.
Sam Schutte: It’s the town I live in, near and dear to my heart. In the Northern Lights District, they’re on Chester Road.
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: Tell me a little bit about when you first started, what was kind of your first big break that helped you take off? What point did you really start kind of gaining momentum?
J.C. Baker: Absolutely. Initially we thought about helping automotive companies and dealerships. Then I thought that I would go and train dealerships nationwide. And to this day I still have not trained a dealership only because our model changed pretty much instantaneously when people found out that I was no longer in corporate. So the demand became really high. The phone rang quite a bit and we went where the work took us. And that’s where the concept of let’s just go where the sick are. As opposed to trying to carve out what that looks like, we allow them to dictate. So the market told us exactly where to be. And we know that there is a host of companies, entrepreneurs, small business owners that just need assistance. Just as a statistic, there’s 134000 new companies created a day and 42% fail within the first six months. And so we knew that there was a niche opportunity there.
Sam Schutte: Awesome. Well, and I should point out, I think you mentioned that you are an actual doctor.
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: And you just received that I believe over the summer.
J.C. Baker: Yeah, a little bit earlier this year and so I gained 30 hours back a week and being able to study that, I did my masters and my doctorate simultaneously. So the last four years has been a whirlwind, but we’re past that point now and I can actually continue to work my practice at a much higher level.
Sam Schutte: What do you think your clients have gained from the knowledge you’ve picked up by working on achieving that doctorate, such, how does that help your clients?
J.C. Baker: Well, it helps a host of ways. The best thing that I have or the gift that I’ve been given is that I know how to remove a lot of the noise and a lot of the ancillary lights that I typically call it. So if you can think about Las Vegas and how everything is in lights, you don’t even know what restaurant to go to because they’re all in lights. We remove all of that noise and all of the lights. And so because of that, we’re able to show a much more clear picture of how a company or an entrepreneur should operate. And what I’ve been able to do from my studies is be able to corroborate and confirm those positions. So not only is it coming from a place of intuition and skill, but it’s also coming from research and proven facts.
Sam Schutte: When you talk about those bright lights, is that sort of… you hear folks talk about the entrepreneurs getting distracted by shiny objects.
J.C. Baker: That’s the one part of it absolutely, you’re searching. You know what you know but now you’re looking for the parts that you don’t know and it’s hard to trust that information. I’ll give you an example. We do a lot of research. We do viability reports and many times you have clients that say, “Well, can I just Google this information?” I always tell them, “No, you cannot just Google the information.” Now Google might be mad that I just said that, but they’re not responsible for how much information is pushed there. That comes from ads, that comes from what’s popular in search. Therefore, the information that they have isn’t always accurate. They don’t understand how to look at the sources. They don’t know what the information means or how to synthesize or process or analyze the information. That’s where we come in to be able to remove the things that they’re unsure about and be able to play certainty there.
Sam Schutte: That’s a good point. And certainly a lot of these things you search for on Google, like if you look up how to make a good pricing model, you’re not going to find anything even remotely worthwhile.
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: You have to get so much deeper than a blog article can get-
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: … come up with that.
J.C. Baker: And so now we’re dealing with Google, YouTube, social media, there’s even more light to confuse and conflict the small business owner and even the large business owner for that matter. And because of that, we come in to reduce that noise and point them in the right direction.
Sam Schutte: In general, what are some other key drivers in the markets you work in that are just sort of moving towards in dealing with?
J.C. Baker: Some of the key drivers, a lot of times in the entrepreneur mind, they think that it’s either lack of resources or they need better marketing or how do you understand social media better? Well, what we find is that it’s never those three things. It’s always something else. And most of the time, it generates with the CEO, the owner, the entrepreneur, where they just don’t understand either their market, they don’t understand their path, they don’t understand the trends of where things are going in a very authentic way. And it’s our job to be able to show them that.
Sam Schutte: And when you’re working with clients, what kind of return on investment are they typically getting by going through that process with you? I mean, what are some real successes you’ve had there?
J.C. Baker: Well, the success is varied, and this is probably the biggest issue that we deal with, is the mentality of the client. Because with most consultancies, they want to see a scope of work, if you will. What are you going to do? What does that look like when you’re done doing it? And I always remind them I’m not going to do anything. And then when I tell them that, they don’t know what that means. Every thing we do is predicated upon you and your own ability to be able to execute. My job is to show you or point you into the direction in which you need to go. Now, what’s unique about that is we turn into adults and we believe that, that’s not as important as it should be. But let me give you some examples.
J.C. Baker: That’s what parents do, that’s what coaches do. That’s actually what your physician does. If you’re overweight and you have cholesterol issues and you have high blood pressure, it is not the job of the physician to be able to make you lose the weight. It’s the job of the physician to point you in the right direction so that you can take control of it. That’s exactly what we do. And so if you want to call them our results, they’re going to vary frequently and dramatically because it’s all predicated on the execution of the CEO or the small business owner. And a lot of times they say, “Well, they’re taking your advice.”
J.C. Baker: My response is, but are they? When you go ahead and you give someone a prescription, if you will, once again, they have to take the medication when they get home. If they don’t take the medication, then the medication, what it’s indicated for does not work the way in which you think it should. So we’ve got a lot of really good wins and then we have somewhere it may not look like a win to the outside world, but I cannot tell you how many times people have said, “Well, I was going in the wrong direction and had no idea that two years from now it would have been catastrophic for me if I would not have met your firm.”
Sam Schutte: You’ve talked about coaching and doctors and so forth. You have a background in sports and-
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: You played quite a bit of sports in your past. If you can tell us a little bit about that on standpoint and how you sort of leverage that experience with coaching and like you said, executing because even the best sports coach in the world can’t make you run faster.
J.C. Baker: Correct. Well, you got a scenario where my entire shape of my world views come from, how much athletics that I participated in. I was a high school all state player in the state of Michigan in two different sports, football and track, also played basketball. I played collegiate league football, I also ran collegiate track and then also played a little professionally in the football realm. And in this case what I’ve always been able to notice is the importance of the coach. You might feel really good about your skill level.
J.C. Baker: You might feel great about your ability to perform whatever tasks, but the coach’s job is really there to prepare you, give you information that will make you better, encourage you, motivate you, and to make sure that your best interest is always being taken care of in order to win. And sometimes you might think that, “Why would the coach put me in this position? Don’t they understand what I’m trying to accomplish?”
J.C. Baker: But the coach’s job is to make sure that the game is won in the end. And so because of that world view, that’s how we operated J.C. Baker and Associates. As you might believe, as a business owner, I want to do X, but based upon current trends, substitutes, compliments, other ancillary aspects, we might say, “They’re going to lose.” So what we need to do is point them in this direction so ultimately they have a better chance at winning.
Sam Schutte: How do you have that conversation where we basically have to tell a client they’re wrong or tell them no or whatever essentially?
J.C. Baker: I say no a lot and I say they’re wrong a lot.
Sam Schutte: No.
J.C. Baker: In that case, we’re not doing it in a way to make them feel badly. We’re saying, “You came to us because you knew you needed something, something was missing.” And so because it was missing, it’s our job to find what’s missing and be able to demonstrate why what we found is the actual thing that’s missing. And a lot of times what they find is that it’s not just me saying it, it’s also some of my other consultants that I have in my company in which I have 20 of them that help me in any given fashion. And the research takes us there.
J.C. Baker: But once we’re able to demonstrate where we got our information from, why this is more important than what they may have perceived for it to be and how it’s going to be able to help them individually, many times they say, “Well, I thank you for telling me what it is that I needed to hear.” Because oftentimes CEO, small business owners, they’re being told what they want to hear. People tell them, “Your idea is really good.” Or, “You’re a really good boss.” And really they may not be either one and no one has enough in them or have the authority to be able to tell them that they’re going in the wrong direction.
Sam Schutte: Well, and I think I’ve worked with coaches in the distant past that if they say, “It looks like everything you’re doing is right.” That doesn’t help me, right? Tell me what I’m doing it wrong, right?
J.C. Baker: Well, what’s important, I mean, Tom Brady, greatest football player of all time, arguably, he has a coach. And that coach is telling him what to do and how to do every step of the way. And it’s not as if Tom Brady doesn’t understand football. It’s because you still need a coach. And that’s the difference in businesses is that we might know how to make grandma’s favorite recipe. So therefore we’re going to create a restaurant, but there’s a lot more to it than just knowing grandma’s recipe.
Sam Schutte: Well, and these coaches have coaches and mentors too.
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: It’s kind of goes all the way up the chain. So when you’re working with entrepreneurs and executives in this manner, like you said, you’re doing a lot of research in those projects based work, but are you also doing… When you look at specifically the coaching, how do you kind of execute on that? What does that look like? Is that monthly calls, monthly lunches or is it an ongoing thing that you do over a period of years with them? When you look at that piece…
J.C. Baker: Yeah, we do executive coaching and that can happen with anyone in the C-suites space or it could happen with an entrepreneur. We will break that up differently. Sometimes it’s weekly meetings, sometimes it’s quarterly meetings. We give them a choice based on what they think and then we offer them our opinion on what we see out of them. So I’ll give you an example of what that means. If I see someone that lacks in confidence or lacks in discipline or time management or decision making, or they don’t really understand leadership styles, then I will suggest and recommend the type of relationship we should have based on those behaviors. But ultimately, like anything else, the individual has to crave it, desire it and be committed to that programming. If they don’t, they will not receive anything out of it.
Sam Schutte: And you also do quite a few speaking events, speaking engagements that companies bring you in for, I guess. What are some of the topics you speak on, what do those look like?
J.C. Baker: Yeah. Speaking engagements happen all over the nation and they vary tremendously. Two years ago I spoke down in Orlando at the Digital Dealer Conference and I was the only speaker there that was not currently or actively in the automotive industry. So it was really unique to be on that stage for that week. For others to say, “Well, we thought this was an automotive conference. How was that non-automotive guy here?” But I was there speaking on the future of automotive needs and technology and had the most experience of anyone invited there in that space. But I also speak on leadership. And majority of my teachings are either on leadership or on team work and how to be able to get the most out of your human capital, how to be able to understand the needs of the human capital and then pull it all together to reach a common goal.
Sam Schutte: Okay. So on the topic of leadership and teamwork, what are some of your core values that you institute in your own business and that you sort of teach others that are just like your core values?
J.C. Baker: Well, I’ll point back to my dissertation work, which was transformational leadership in the workplace. Transformational leadership was created in 1978 by two gentlemen, Bass and Avolio. And there’s four constructs that consist or make up of transformational leadership. And that is inspired motivation, idealized influence, individual consideration, and intellectual stimulation. And all four of those together makeup the transformational leader. If you remove one of those constructs, you’re no longer transformational.
J.C. Baker: And so the purpose of me studying that at such a high level is that I sought out to prove that there is a superior leadership style in comparison to the rest. Most people are unaware that there’s actual styles. Though just like in martial arts, you’ve got different styles, Muay Thai, Shotokan, [Valentua 00:15:21], Taekwondo and based on the punch or the movement of the block, you know what that style is and you know what the counter is to that.Leadership is very similar, it’s just that we’ve never taught it. We’ve never went far enough to be able to prove the monetary value of it. We just think that leadership is whatever it is that we think it is and that’s actually a misnomer. So what we prescribed to are those four constructs.
J.C. Baker: But for an example, I have seven junior consultants. They literally do whatever they want to do. I do not govern anything about their behaviors or what their day looks like. Now, some people say, “Well, aren’t you losing no control there?” Or, “How were they able to make their decisions when they’re juniors?” But that’s because of the way that I programmed around them. They work for me because they genuinely want to work. They genuinely want to learn and therefore it allows them to be able to explore their own gifts, their own intellect and to be curious about what business actually looks like. The point of me saying that is, that’s been my style even when I was in corporate running departments. And we always perform better by every metric because of the four constructs of transformational leadership.
Sam Schutte: It’s a very interesting point that there’s these different styles of leadership and absolutely right that most companies just say, “We want to teach you to be a leader.” Well, what does that mean? One of my books that I have long idolized, or my idol’s Joel Spolsky from the software development world. And he has said that there’s some styles of leadership that will make people hide in a bunker and shoot their machine gun out across the field. And there’s other styles that will cause someone to jump out the bunker and run across the field. But then there’s a third style that will cause them to jump out of the bunker, run across the field into machine gun fire, right? And so there are different styles, there’s aspect of transformational leadership. So that’s different than cracking the whip and forcing people to say what you want-
J.C. Baker: What you just mentioned is autocratic. There’s a real name for it. Same with democratic, shared, ethical, transactional, laissez-fair. I mean there are a number of real styles with real characteristics that produce a real yield. And when we don’t know that, we get upset and frustrated when things don’t operate the way in which they should, that’s because we’re unsure about what should come from it because we’re unsure about our own style.
Sam Schutte: Well, and how many employees start a job at a place they don’t understand that leadership approach and ended up dissatisfied because it was never the right fit for them maybe to begin with. But it sounds like with a transformational leadership rather, that is about changing and transforming the folks working for you. Is that a true statement or what does what aspect of [crosstalk 00:17:57].
J.C. Baker: That’s a big part of it, but it’s also transforming the leader themselves. So it’s always fluid and it’s very difficult because the energy and effort it takes in order to be a transformational leadership or a leader, it’s through the roof, if you will. And when I say that, when you talk about individual consideration, if I have 10 people on my team, I have to know all 10 individuals, there’s never a time where I can ignore one or the other. So the effort it takes in order to be transformational has to permeate between all 10 of those individuals. How many no spouses don’t want to listen to their spouse? And that’s just one person. How many parents don’t want to listen to all of the children? That might be two, three or four of them, let alone listening to 22 people in the department. Really understanding their needs, making things equitable, and finding ways to be able to stimulate them in ways that they were unsure about.
Sam Schutte: So how does that sort of spill over into your relationship with your clients? Because you’re trying to transform them as well, so you’re a leader to them.
J.C. Baker: Absolutely. And which our operation is so much different which is why it’s difficult to place a metric on us. So when it says, “Well, show me what you did for some other entity.” Well that other entity had different factors around it. So I’ll give you an example. A lot of apparel companies will call us. It tends to be one of the concepts that my juniors tend to bring in a lot of apparel companies. And I tell them, “If you are a virtual unknown person, and you would like to create an apparel company, that’s different than if a celebrity does it.” In which we know plenty of celebrities.
J.C. Baker: Well, therefore, our program around the celebrity versus the virtual unknown is different. What if you have limited resources and the person that I’m talking to has unlimited resources. Well, there’s a different metric there as well. What if you know somebody in the industry that can assist you with manufacturing and the other one does not? Well, there’s a different set of metrics. So therefore, we look at everything individualized and we demonstrate that to the entrepreneurs and to the CEOs.
Sam Schutte: And you mentioned celebrities, I think on a couple of efforts we’ve worked together on you’ve mentioned folks in your network. How have you sort of built that network up of sports players and other folks that are at that sort of celebrity level?
J.C. Baker: We get hired a lot because our network is vast. We know musicians, we know entertainers, we know actors, we know athletes. And so they’ll see different social media that will have me connected to them and they will believe that, “Well, if I hire Dr. Baker, that gets me such and such.” And that’s not the way that it works. However, that network was built over 25 years of not just ball playing, but also doing really good work in really good spaces and being referred amongst that network of group of people saying, “If you want something done, well J.C. Baker can get that done for you.” And we’ve been protective over that network and we valued that network and we use it to the benefit of the network and for the benefit of our clients.
Sam Schutte: Does that sort of tie into, there’s this, I don’t know if it’s new, but newer concept events influencer marketing, such, is that sort of some of the work that you do with that network?
J.C. Baker: Well, I don’t do any of it, but that’s what people want me to do. And in this instance our approach isn’t so much on the influencer side, even though we do know that it’s a real thing and we know how to leverage and manipulate that if we want to. But what we recognize and we know this personally from being in that space ourselves, is that those in our networks have goals too. So even though they’re known to do one thing, they’re like, “Well, there’s other things I want to do on my life.” And so we’re there to help them with those parts. They don’t want to be exploited all the time to be able to push someone else’s agenda. Therefore, they’re trying to make decisions on, “What do I do after my music career? What do I do after I stop playing? I haven’t had a movie in two years, I’m not sure what to do now.” And you’ve got those scenarios where we’re there for them for those purposes.
Sam Schutte: That’s sort of something that you have to connect if you’re asking them for a favor or presented an opportunity to them, it has to be something related to their purpose and goals. Like maybe if they are an actor and they want to move into working in nonprofits or something that would line up really well. But they’re probably not going to just hawk bubble gum or something.
J.C. Baker: Correct. And a lot of times clients will say, “Well, if you could just get this person to wear my apparel, it would go viral.” Well, the only way that would happen is if one of the members in our network would say, “You know what I would like to do? I would like to learn the apparel aspect of things and do you have a company that you think I might be able to learn from and I’ll be able to help them and you could teach me?”
Sam Schutte: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:22:32].
J.C. Baker: [crosstalk 00:22:32].
Sam Schutte: … and if they really love the product.
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: Which I think is refreshing because there’s so much in that sort of little sector, so much of it is so disingenuous. It’s like they don’t even know the product. They’re just slapping their name on it or something.
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: And being paid to do so.
J.C. Baker: Well, a lot of times you might think that that’s just the celebrity aspect, but I will tell you that investors, politicians, they’re considered celebrities too based on certain circles. There’s times that we get a phone call and say, “Hey, we know that you know this potential investor.” Or, “You know this private equity person, can you get us connected?” And it’s, well, not necessarily. It depends. And it depends on a host of factors based on where they are and the things that they’re looking to do and does it match with what is it you’re looking to do? And if there is a philosophical match there, then we make it. No differently than the agenda of politicians. We know senators and members of the house and we can’t just bring them along just because you would like to be able to meet with them. Those things have to make sense.
Sam Schutte: In that regard, kind of when you’re dealing with folks all over the country, what do you think are some recent changes in the national or global economy that have sort of affected your clients the most?
J.C. Baker: I don’t think there’s been a great deal of change recently. I mean we all know what happened back in 2007, 2008 and it was really tough for entrepreneurs during that time. But I think now what’s happened is more commercialization. I think people have now, and I don’t know the best way to say it, they’ve just gotten punched drunk with, “I could just put a video on YouTube and my company will explode.” Or, “I could file an LLC with the state and now I’m a founder.” And, “You should listen to me because I’m an expert now because I filed a $99 document.” I think that has been the worst thing that we could ever have.
J.C. Baker: There was a time, and maybe I’m telling my age, I’m not sure, but in Detroit, I remember if someone said, “I want to have a tire shop.” They would have to liquidate their entire 401k and they would have to rent out a place, get a point of sales system, have uniforms and employees and they were down 2, 3, $400000 before they sold a tire. Well now it’s, “I’m a founder of a tech company,” and they have no idea how much it takes to build a platform.
J.C. Baker: I had a gentleman tell me that they wanted to be able to create this concept. Obviously, I can’t go into all the details, but they wanted to create something that literally, and I’m not speaking a hyperbole, would have cost $1 billion. And he told me he thought maybe a hundred grand. And just to be that far off, it was incomprehensible to me. But it’s a factor of where we are in our culture, in our society with what we think success is and how easy it is to get certain things that are just images online and in social media.
Sam Schutte: Well, that’s interesting because even your example of the tire shop, for instance, you could start one of those nowadays pretty much for almost nothing because if you do some sort of drop shipping, you don’t have physical locations and you just go get a website tiresonline.com or whatever. That’s probably a real one, but whatever. To some degree that lack of a need for real investment commitment, means it’s too easy. And so then you just see thousand companies starting up every year. You said 134000 a day.
J.C. Baker: Correct. That’s the worldly number.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. And to some degree, a lot of those are going to fail because it was too easy to even get started, right.
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: I’m also reminded of Ross Perot’s story with Perot Systems that he took 500 appointments and got told no 499 times trying to sell this several hundred thousand dollars used mainframe that he got somewhere until finally someone said no. I mean that’s hard.
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: So to some degree when it’s too easy then that kind of upset rate of failure probably.
J.C. Baker: Well, I think in this case is they don’t see enough rejection. They do not see enough failure to really understand what it means to succeed in the business. What I teach my junior consultants, and I’ve come from a heavy sales background, I’ve been in sales since 1993, I’ve been number one in five different industries. And I’ll walk them through how it did not matter if I was doing pharmaceutical sales, if I was doing development, if I was doing mortgages, how many nos you’re going to get, not everyone wants your product.
J.C. Baker: And if they do want the product does not mean they want it from you. And you need to have those nos to be able to callous your skillset and your personality and build up appropriate perseverance to be successful. And now we have instant oatmeal success where I can just pop it in the microwave and I’m a founder and someone should be writing me a check for $1 billion. That literally is in the mindset of entrepreneurs globally. And we do work globally and that’s always the first thing that we have to diffuse.
Sam Schutte: Well it’s interesting because I have a couple of beliefs about startups, especially some recent ones that I read about. And to some degrees, success is not necessarily just raising capital. There’s a lot that raise a lot of capital and perhaps it would have been better if they had struggled more and sort of been on the rocks more. Maybe they’d do well in the long run, more successful. And then you hear about these companies, like you said, there was particular company here I was reading about that the executives went around saying, “We’re going to be the next Google.” That’s like warning signs, right?
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: If that’s your intention, you may want to reassess.
J.C. Baker: Correct. And I would even say from a larger company standpoint, they are the polar opposite. This is going to take 10 years. Well, it doesn’t have to take 10 years. You can apply the appropriate resources, the necessary team, and you can accomplish the goal faster. But they’re still very much in the mindset of let’s do more research, let’s get more information. And by that time, the industry has passed. And they’ve got this R & D that they can’t do anything with because they spent more time asking the exact same questions over and over. And so I’m not saying it’s one versus the other, it’s just a good hybrid or mix of the two.
Sam Schutte: So when you’re working with larger customers like that larger companies, there’s a lot of what you try to instill, you think more of a startup mentality that it doesn’t have to take 10 years to do everything. Is it a more agile approach or how do you-
J.C. Baker: It’s a more agile approach and it typically hovers around three aspects, decision making, innovative ness, teamwork. I look at those three things when I’m going into a large company just to see how those things are structured, how they’re leveraging it for their benefit, and then what do they need to do to be better at it.
Sam Schutte: And typically I guess that those clients and others, what are some of the biggest ways that technology has impacted those customers?
J.C. Baker: Speed, duplication, or the reduction of duplication of work. Those things. Communication has been really good from a technology standpoint. Now where it gets bad is when you have to learn the technology, you don’t really understand it, you don’t use it appropriately. Now you can actually do the opposite, which forces you to do even more work. And so we see both of those aspects, meaning not really understanding how to use the technology or relying on it so much that you forget the human factor in it all.
Sam Schutte: So do you think that kind of the ease of technology adoption in that way sort of creates a lack of strategy to some degree?
J.C. Baker: I would say it’s not so much strategy as it is execution. And what happens is we forget that people still make everything go. You have good people, things will happen, if you have terrible people, things won’t happen. The system itself will be irrelevant and so in this case it’s making sure from a large company standpoint, first let’s make sure your culture is good. And if your culture is good, how are you making your decision on which technology or which direction you’re going from innovation. Once that decision is made, as long as the buying is there, that tool will work fine for you. But when you’re indecisive, I know I have a company right now, they switch tools every year and a half and they blame it on the tools. They never blame themselves for it. And to me it’s laughable that you cannot see that the people are remaining the same, you’re changing the tools. The tool is constructed to do what it’s constructed to do. One cup is the same as another cup.
Sam Schutte: You’re right.
J.C. Baker: And so in that case, they’re not seeing it that way. So whether it’s a CRM tool, whether it’s manufacturing, an emergency stop, it could be anything, but people always make the difference.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, I was going to say, I mean, imagine if you have a sort of dysfunctional sales department just because you’re all a CRM. Then what?
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: It doesn’t necessarily fix everything. You do sometimes hear that new technologies because of that implication of speed, it also can amplify problems.
J.C. Baker: Absolutely.
Sam Schutte: Perhaps, you’re in a worse place than you were before.
J.C. Baker: Absolutely. And that’s where your antennas have to be high to be able to recognize that that is the other side of the coin.
Sam Schutte: And you mentioned communication tools and you’ve mentioned previously as well, some of your juniors and junior consultants you bring to things. So are those folks remote sort of spread around or they’re all here in Cincinnati? And how do you kind of manage them? What kind of tools do you use for that?
J.C. Baker: Our seniors are spread around through different offices throughout the nation. So I’ve got seniors operating out of Columbus, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and we may start another operation in Raleigh, North Carolina about a week or two. We’re working on finalizing some deals there. All the juniors are here in the headquarters here in Cincinnati because I’m teaching them to combine their skill set. But for example, we have a junior his name is Kinney Glenn. His bachelor’s and master’s is in accounting, but he does not necessarily have the life skills and high business to be able to lead a project or consult on a client by himself. However, he’s really smart and around mobile counting. So in this instance, he works out of the home office in order to be able to learn a lot more about business, expedite his experience while also attaching it to his intellect and what he was degreed for. And that’s why they all work out of our headquarters here in Cincinnati.
Sam Schutte: Because they are here in Cincinnati, is there a particular pipeline or group that or some kind of network that you recruit from? All these people, how do you find those folks and what are you looking for?
J.C. Baker: Just like my clients, they’ve all found me. And a part of that has to do with being intentional on what engagements you’re involved in, what business that you do and how you transact that business, making sure that every time you have an engagement with someone it’s meaningful and it’s valuable. So therefore, they can make declarations and say, “You know what? That’s the type of coach where I want to be around.” Or, “That’s the individual I would like to be around.” So literally every junior selected me, I didn’t select any one of them. And so the reason why I take so much pride in that, that means they saw something in me that they wanted to be attached to. And that’s easier for me to teach to that.
Sam Schutte: Absolutely. Do you think also when you’re mentoring and training these junior consultants, I sometimes think that everyone has sort of innate skills and probably can do everything you do but they just don’t have the confidence or they don’t have the background or they don’t know where the pitfalls are maybe.
J.C. Baker: Correct.
Sam Schutte: Which do you think is more important? That’s sort of like a straight experience and knowledge or just the confidence to just get up there in front of a whiteboard and start drawing.
J.C. Baker: I think confidence is number one. And that was a lesson that I learned 1997 working at Back Rack. And one of my college teammates, ended up playing professionally as well, he and I both worked at Back Rack selling men’s suits. And we would tailor the suits and get guys ready for marriages and business interviews. And we would have these Saturday sales meetings where we would have to talk about dressing the mannequin or structuring the store inventory, warehousing, those things. And they asked him one day, they said, “What size shoe does the mannequin wear?” And everyone else was correct from the belt size, to the shirt size, to the height. But my guy and they ask him, he says size 10. And that answer was wrong, it couldn’t have been more wrong.
J.C. Baker: Everyone in the room believed that it was a size 10 but the size was an 8. And when I saw everyone’s face then and I looked around and I said they didn’t even question him, they didn’t even challenge it. And I’d always knew that that existed in sports. You can psych a team out before you even play the game based on how you enter into the stadium, based on how you warm up, based on how you sound. I knew those things were real there. That was the first time I saw it in business where I said they are afraid to challenge him just because of how he said it.
J.C. Baker: So when you think about positions such as the CEO, when you think about parenting, and we talked about the presidential election, this is back during the Obama administration before he won. And he said, “Well, he doesn’t have enough experience.” And then I said, “But no one else cares. Look at how they’re following him.” He may not even be questioning, “Well, do I have enough experience?” He’s just going out there with confidence and they’re believing that. And so that always became the most important thing is be confident in what you know and how you see the world and how you can project that, everything else you can learn.
Sam Schutte: Well, I think be confident like you don’t know too, because that’s when you can draw on partners and say, “Look, I don’t know anything about know X, Y, Z. But I know someone I trust who I can bring in who can fill that gap.”
J.C. Baker: Hence the reason why my consultancy has lawyers and accountants and commercialization specialists because I don’t do all of those different aspects.
Sam Schutte: But what are some sweet spots outside of your standard areas of focus that you’re kind of getting into? If you look at two years from now, what are you getting into that you think that’ll be taking up more of your time and be sort of a hotter demand from clients?
J.C. Baker: We are actually working on something now that I’m really proud of. I would be remised if I didn’t say that I’m in the middle on the confidence side, on if we’re going to be able to pull it off or not. We’re still wading through the waters on that aspect. But any event that we can pull this new thing off, we would affectively create more jobs than any politician would have ever done in the state of Ohio and in the Midwest. So one thing that I tell my entire team and some of these additional members that we’re pulling apart to help us with this project is that we literally could become the stimulus to make sure that we reduce our unemployment rate, that we increase the amount of self employed individuals that are able to sustain their business and being able to do more in the state that we live in and the surrounding states.
J.C. Baker: And so we found a way to do business in a very common way that has never been done before. Now we’re just putting all the pieces together to make sure that we’re not in violation of an aspect here and aspect there. Sometimes when you squeeze the balloon on one side, it pops out on the other side. Well, we’ve squeezed it 7 out of 10 ways right now, and the other three we have to figure out to make sure that we’re still good there. And if we are good on those three, then that means we really figured out something that’s going to change our livelihood.
Sam Schutte: And so you mentioned sort of increasing and encouraging growth in Ohio and jobs here and such, what do you like about being based in Cincinnati and what do you think our strengths are here and why do you stay?
J.C. Baker: I’ve had that argument so many times. Considering when I am a black American and so a lot of times I’m being told I would do better if I was in Atlanta or I would do better if I was in Charlotte. Why do I stay in such a conservative area or an area that may not understand our needs. But quite frankly, there’s a host of reasons why I think Cincinnati’s better than pretty much everywhere else in the nation. Number one, the amount of fortune 500 companies that are based here, it allows you to really understand who the trendsetters are. No matter how you feel Kroger’s a trendsetter, Procter and Gamble’s a trendsetter, Gee’s a trendsetter. But being able to have access to them is really important to learn from them.
J.C. Baker: Number two, the cost of living is far inferior to many places. And the reason why that’s important, because I can invest more into my business versus trying to figure out how to pay for my studio apartment, that kind of a thing. Along with the rest of the individuals that work with me, they can make decisions. I mean, I use Kinney Glenn as an example. Earlier today he got a job right out of college, right out on the West Coast making what we would think is good money. And he turned that job down and stayed here for less money. But the reality is the more money there is still less money, than it would be here because of what his earning power does in this region.
J.C. Baker: And then I think outside of that, is that the opportunity is just so great when you think about just the geographical location of Cincinnati. I can get to Lexington, Louisville, Indianapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh. I mean, you can get anywhere within four to five hours. And that’s just a benefit for being able to do business the way that we do it, we can still reach those out on the West Coast. We still can reach the East Coast, we do business all over the world literally. But a lot of these, Nashville, I can go there and meet and be there today even if I left now. And so that just becomes a benefit for us.
Sam Schutte: And something like 60% of the population lives within six hours or something like that.
J.C. Baker: Yeah, within a day’s drive. That’s a fact.
Sam Schutte: You mentioned being a black business owner in Cincinnati and I think when we very first met, we talked about this a little bit then. When it came time to sort of decide if you wanted to file for being a minority business and such, you struggled with that a little bit. Can you talk a little bit about how you know how you felt about that decision?
J.C. Baker: Yeah, absolutely. When we’re talking about the minority business enterprise certification in which there are a host of factors, why you would want to be a certified minority business. Parts of that allows you to have access to certain contracts and opportunities that maybe you may not have had the opportunity to before because maybe you were unaware, you weren’t in certain circles, but the tax subsidies in the set aside make it more attractive to do so. But on the other side is there’s a big part that says, how can we figure this out organically? So if Sam Schutte wants to go out and do business, and Dr. J.C. Baker wants to go out and do business, can we be judged on the same merit and be able to convert simultaneously?
J.C. Baker: And so that theory was something that I strongly wanted to challenge, especially over the fact that I’m a consultant. And so I don’t want a part of success to be, well, the only way to really be successful is to do this set aside. I want success to be, no, this is how you succeed and this is how you gauge your market. This is how you convert that market and this is how you’re able to remain sustainable. So there is a balance there. And it’s a very delicate balance because it does have very good intentions, but it’s not always used for very good intentions.There’s times in order for you to qualify for certain things, you have to make a number that would mean, why would I even need it if I had already made that number? Minimum has to be $3 million.
J.C. Baker: Well, if you’re a smaller business and you’re saying, “Well, if I had already made 3 million, I kind of don’t care about this opportunity.” Or, “I know how to get the opportunity to on my own.” So those are some factors that play on one side. But there’s always two sides to the coin. I teach my team how to be really good at seeing a full picture. And on the other side, the certification process has been remarkable for companies that just otherwise would not have been able to compete. And now they’ve built very strong businesses. They don’t live on no set aside opportunities and they’ve been able to grow nationally because of that. And so when you’re looking at both sides, there’s pros and cons. But because my job is to teach, I want to be able to do things in a way where I can teach at all levels to it.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Well, and I think you also have to look at it from what you kind of owe the business in a way and the people that work for you, is take advantage of every incentive or opportunity you can, as long as it’s ethical, right? You kind of can’t necessarily turn something down if if it strongly benefits.
J.C. Baker: Correct. And I think in those instances for us, I’m very mindful about how we tread on all opportunity. So I am a certified minority business. I do have a personal issue with the term itself, a root word minor. This means that I can’t make decisions for myself. And so therefore I don’t like the term minority, although I do understand it, but there’s a whole lot, just from a cultural standpoint, African American denotes the fact that this is not my first country in which it is. I’m born and raised in Detroit. I’m not an immigrant, so therefore I’ve been in Africa. And I know that I’m not African. And if you say, “Well your original descendants from there.”
J.C. Baker: Well, I can make the argument that everyone’s is. So therefore, it’s just one of those things where I personally see things differently. I don’t use it as a soapbox to talk about those things. I just operate my business in a way where I have classic American values. I don’t see myself as anything differently. And so therefore when I went to get my PhD or even when I was in my master’s, I didn’t look at that as a, “Well, am I getting an opportunity to do something?” I said there’s a college that offers a program, I’m going to enroll and I’m going to complete it. When I write my books, it’s no different. I’m talking about basic strategy things, just like classic method of doing business. And so I want to be able to convert in the same manner.
Sam Schutte: But I think as long as you’re a positive role model for everybody, any kind of kids that look to you or anything, then it’s kind of win-win really. Because that’s an important part of it too, I think for any of us.
J.C. Baker: Well it is for us here.
Sam Schutte: From Cincinnati or whatever sort of your first tribe of folks are.
J.C. Baker: Absolutely. When you talk about what I do for a living, 1% of the world’s population holds a PhD, 1% of that 1% are black, right? So I know that people are looking at me, my success rate, what do we do? 99% of the businesses in the Cincinnati metro area are non-black. So once again, my business has to succeed because there’s a lot of people saying, “Well heck, if Dr. Baker didn’t make it, what chance do I have?” In those instances, so we carry those burdens and even though it’s 2019, it’s still very real. We don’t lean on those things. We don’t complain. We don’t apologize for anything. We just go out and we do really good business. We know what we’re talking about and we’ll challenge anybody when it comes to our expertise, we know what we bring to the table and we work to do really good business.
Sam Schutte: What’s one of the more personally rewarding that you’ve worked on in the past?
J.C. Baker: We’re not quite done with it yet. We’re going to be launching here within the next 30 to 40 days, which is our ProElite training system. And we wrote a patent on how to train athletes through a metronome of music to increase rhythm, tempo and pace. And the reason why that one is the most rewarding is that this platform here was created by a young man named Ally Barnes who finished his degree in sports management. He’s actually reflected on my site now as he runs our sports management and entertainment department. But the point is he had a concept that was very minor. When he came to us he said, “I got an idea to do something. I just think it’ll be great.” And then we took what he had and we were able to increase that at such a level that we now have worldwide attention attached to it.
J.C. Baker: And to be able to see his mother, his father, excited about what he created, to be able to see the passion. He wakes up every day working on this technology and the people we’ve been able to connect him to that personally has been rewarding for us. And so we’re just excited about the launch that’s eminent. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to do this, but it’s getproelite.com. You can see that there, if you decide to go on there, you can see it on our website, which is jcbaker.org. But we were able to do work with the NFL we’re developmental partner with the pro football hall of fame a Merril Hoge as a spokesperson for us. We were able to add NBA players, MMA fighters. We’ve got one of the top seventh grade basketball players in the nation. That’s highlighted Oni Miye, he has 30000 daily followers. I mean, we just have a really good product and so because we’re going to change how people train, I just think it’s a really cool project.
Sam Schutte: Can you talk a little bit more about how that changes how they train? I mean you talked about the music and whatnot and the synchronization, but how does that impact and improve their training?
J.C. Baker: Well, we learned how to spell and read through rhythm. When you talk about nursery rhymes, Mary had a little lamb, ABCD, you learnt that whole thing through song. Military learns on cadence, through things that they sing, they speak and they say it or they walk and march on the same cadence. Well, we’ve always known that music and athletics have always been connected. I mean they’re peanut butter and jelly, but no one took it to the point where they would say this actual rhythm, this actual tempo, this metronome will train your muscle memory. So we actually can teach you how to dribble a basketball from, never having a ball to being a professional level dribbler through certain sounds and through different cadences within the music. Same with the footwork drills for soccer or football or same with hand speed and coordination in boxing and fighting. And so that’s what we’re able to do to the next level.
Sam Schutte: Do you work in the community at all with youth sports or…
J.C. Baker: No, I don’t. What I do is I teach a lot of adults how to do that. And so I spend my time with the adult mind. What I find out is that a lot of people are concerned about youth, and they want our youth to be taken care of, but we have a lot of crappy adults just from how we think. And so you’ll say, “Well what do you mean by that?” Why would you use such a term? It’s the equivalent of, and we’ve all seen this person who wants to teach you about money but doesn’t have any. I’m a financial guru, and then you check their credit, and their credits are 490 and that’s not okay. Or they don’t own their house outright, or they don’t have assets and their net worth is low, stop teaching people about money. Or you talked to the insurance person and they don’t have insurance themselves. Those people exist everywhere. And so because of that, I spend my time developing the adult mind and they can take the messaging from there.
Sam Schutte: You mentioned earlier that more or less all of your clients have found you. How are you kind of market all this stuff you’re doing? I mean, is it just your websites out there, do people call you? What’s kind of your most successful channel?
J.C. Baker: That’s a really good question because I don’t do anything specific to market. I’m not on social media. My website is there just to tell people that it’s there, but we don’t use it to generate leads from it. We show up to a lot of events. I shake a lot of hands and make a lot of phone calls. I do a lot of deals, and those deals bring us more deals. And the more I teach, the more people say, “We should go listen to this guy.” And so then I work with them individually. And I think what happens unlike others and so if you guys want my secret sauce here it is. You can try to take it if you want, but you’ve got to execute. It’s that I listen to people, I genuinely listen to them. I mean I listen at a level that not only do I hear what they said, I hear what they didn’t say, and I’m able to tell them as if I heard what was in their mind.
J.C. Baker: And they always confirmed like, “How did you know that? I mean, I was just thinking it, but I wasn’t going to tell you that.” Because I was listening. And so in that case, I listen at such a level that when they leave, it’s an experience and they do go tell other people and say, “I don’t know how this guy knew this, but we needed help that needs response. I told him one, he told me the other two and it was dead on. And I don’t know how he figured that out. You need to go talk to him.” And so from that standpoint, that’s what happened. Now, my junior consultants, they’re charged with front line communications. They’re charged with solicitation. But I’d tell you that their behavior is very similar. They do post a little bit, but they’re not out there on social media living their lives there, setting appointments. They’re meeting people where they are, they’re having conversations, they’re listening, and they’re leveraging those conversations.
Sam Schutte: In terms of mindset, another thing I think was interesting that we talked about a week or two ago when we met as you were leaving, you told me that you had 43 things left to do that day. This was at maybe 5:00 PM on a Thursday or something.
J.C. Baker: Right.
Sam Schutte: And you talked a little bit about that sort of drive and how you manage your tasks. Can you talk about that a little bit?
J.C. Baker: Yeah. A big proponent of time management and making sure that I accomplish everything that I set out to accomplish. There are no empty goals. I remember getting into it pretty badly last time I was in the automotive industry with a peer of mine at the management level. And he would always talk about setting goals that are so high that even if you missed it, you’d hit the moon. And I was just like, “Well that’s stupid.” He’s like, “Why is that?” Because I only make goals that I’m going to hit. Then I’ll make a new one after I hit that one. And we never did agree on that. And I know a lot of people that disagree with my logic in that, but here’s my point. The more wins you can rack up, the more things you can accomplish, the better you feel about your efforts.
J.C. Baker: It’s a form of rejection to put goals out there that you don’t hit. So therefore, the way we operate is that we use our CRM tool to the maximum. And from that standpoint, if there’s something on that calendar, we get it done. Why are we getting that done? Because we promised somebody that something needed to get done. So if I had research to do, if I had a phone call to return, if I had a meeting to make, my day doesn’t end until that happens. Now here’s the problem. If I put that ahead of my family, now I’m in violation of doing what I told them. So for an example, today I have a soccer practice to go to with my five-year-old.
J.C. Baker: I will be at that soccer practice. I could care less what’s going on. However, I knew she had it before today, which means that 32 things on my CRM tool task. I would have had to prepare for that this morning. But I also knew I had those tasks to do, which means I should have went to sleep the night before, even though it was Labor Day. We kicked people out of our home. We had a nice barbecue but I said, “If I don’t go to sleep now. I’m going to miss the allotment of sleep, which is going to make me wake up later, which is going to push my tasks back. Which then I’m going to have to tell my five year I won’t be at her soccer practice.” And none of those were negotiable. And so that is a daily behavior that we have. So every single day I’m scrutinizing my work tasks, my family task, and my personal tasks.
Sam Schutte: All about choices.
J.C. Baker: Absolutely.
Sam Schutte: So, for folks out there that are listening? What are some of the top things they should reach out to you for help with?
J.C. Baker: If you’re a larger company and you are having a very difficult time with commitment. And commitment can be broken down three different ways: effective, normative and continuance. I don’t have time to break those down but if you’re not getting your team to do what it is that you think they should be doing or in the way in which it should be done, that is a personal skill set of mine. If you could think of me as one of the members of the Avengers and the rest of my team being the rest of the Avengers, well, you would call me for teamwork at a high level, decision making and along with innovative ness. How do you see what you have and then be able to make it better to continue to compete.
J.C. Baker: If you’re a small business or a small business solution department is what we’ve carved out a strong niche for. We recognize the problems that solo-preneurs, small business owners have. So therefore, that can be anything from financial management to market conversion, to sustainability and scalability, those aspects. So a small business, which is different is that they just need help with so much and they don’t know where to begin or where to start. And so for small businesses, if you are not hitting the mark, you’re not progressing, you’re in danger of going in reverse or even closing, then I’m the doctor that you need to call.
Sam Schutte: If folks want to reach out, what’s your website and phone number?
J.C. Baker: Website is jcbaker.org and the phone number is 1-833-JCBAKER, which is really simple. Email address is email@example.com. And even personal cell because so many people want to work through text message, which is hilarious to me. But a 513-341-3398.
Sam Schutte: Awesome. Well J.C, thanks so much for coming on the show. We always have such in depth conversations and you’re a real deep thinker about these sort of topics of leadership and stuff that really fascinate me, so I appreciate them all.
J.C. Baker: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Sam Schutte: Absolutely. And perhaps someday we’ll have you on again and we can talk more.
J.C. Baker: I’m available whenever you need me, Sam.
Sam Schutte: Thank you.