As an entrepreneur or business leader, you don’t have to go it alone, says Rob Dube, owner and co-CEO of imageOne, a document services and printing company.
Let your team have your back and help you come up with solutions, figure out company goals, how to hit them, and more.
The strongest leaders don’t solve all the problems or make all the decisions. By empowering your team, says Rob, you’ll have more effective and engaged employees – who can help you take the company to the next level.
We also discuss unexpected ways your physical health and anxiety can impact your work – and what you can do about it, as well as…
- How to use the Simple Six method for personal and professional improvement
- Avoiding the danger of business FOMO
- The “operating system” that transformed their business
- A little ritual for more productive meetings
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Ryan Englin: Welcome back to another episode of the Blue Collar Culture Podcast. I’m your co-host, Ryan Englin. And I’m here with Jeremy today.
Jeremy Macliver: Welcome back, everybody.
Ryan: So today’s guest has a wealth of knowledge about leading effective teams, about how to get into the nitty-gritty of your business, and how to actually get results out of it. In fact, we’re gonna dig deep into the traction methodology today. He was featured on the back cover of the book, he’s been involved with EOS since almost the beginning. And I am just super excited to welcome today’s guest Rob Dube. Rob, welcome to the show.
Rob Dube: Thank you for having me, guys. This is so fun. I’m really appreciative that you’re taking the time to have me on.
Ryan: Absolutely. So one of the questions I like to ask to get the conversation kicked off is around the myths of business. And you’ve been doing this for a long time. So I’m sure there’s a myth or two that you’ve come across, whether it’s in your business with image one, whether it has to do with leadership, I’m gonna let you choose. What is one of the biggest myths you want to address today on today’s episode?
Less Controlling, More Empowering
Rob: The first thing that comes to my mind with that question has to do with leadership. I think a lot about having all the answers and leaders oftentimes feel that they need to be the strong person that everyone comes to and they get to solve all the problems and, you know, sometimes even as leaders or entrepreneurs, business owners, it’s kind of what drives us to be in that position. We like it in a way.
But the strongest leaders I think, are much less command and control, and much more empowering. And they’ll spend the time to teach as opposed to giving answers. And that requires a lot of patience and a lot of presence more than anything. Sitting with a team member who has a challenge and being there fully for them, listening without solving. It’s not an easy thing to do. But I think for those of your listeners that have done this, they find that the team member usually has the answer as they talk through it.
How many times have we heard at the end of a conversation like that where we gave our full presence, a team member says I guess I figured it out while I was talking to you. Thanks. And that’s a really, it’s a really great feeling both as a leader, but, you know, as a team member to know that the answer was there and really, all you had to do was talk it out. And that gives you a certain level of confidence as a team member in the future when you need to make a decision.
Jeremy: That’s great. I think of that, quote, you know, you know, you’re a leader when the people you’re leading are becoming leaders and leading people to become leaders.
Rob: Hmm, that’s great.
Jeremy: And that’s what you’re saying there. So one of the myths of leadership is that you don’t have to have the answer. And to do that, you know, you use that word empower. And I love how you brought that down because we hear that word sometimes and it’s kind of a lofty word. But want to dig into it a little bit more and pull that apart.
So you said to empower was to really teach them and have some patience and presence and listen without solving which sounds impossible. So give us some tips or maybe a story that you have that would show us and help us to understand how do we have presence? How do we listen without solving? How do we transfer that?
The Simple Six
Rob: Well, it’s a skill that I have found to take a lifetime. I think we’re always working on it, and some days are going to be better than others. Some moments during a day are going to be better than others. At my company, imageOne we regularly talk about and we have an imageOne university which is called the Simple Six, and these are the six things in our lives that we all know we want to do a little bit better with but for some reason, it’s not that simple. And so, you know, we start by talking about the first of the Simple Six, which is a strong mindfulness meditation practice. And that’s the foundation to awareness of the other five.
And we need to be aware of these other five, which are sleep, nutrition, movement, connection, and gratitude. So when we can do our best with those on a regular basis and be aware of each of those on a regular basis, knowing that we’ll never be perfect with all or any of them but just always having that awareness, we’ll show up better for each other because we’ll be well-rested. We’ll be focused on proper nutrition. We’ll be making sure we’re making movement a priority. And by the way, movement, when we define it doesn’t mean going to the gym and having a huge workout.
It just means moving yourself around, taking a walk, which is completely underrated. We’ll be better when we’re connecting with our family members, with our friends, with our peers. And a simple practice of gratitude every day, which doesn’t take long, a minute, maybe two, whether you do it in your mind or you jot a few things down. It’s extremely powerful. And so I think that’s how we are able to be more present with our team members, is making sure that we’re having that balance in our lives.
Jeremy: That spark something that Gino said at the EOS conference this year, was that we have to fill our cups before we can fill their cups. It feels like we’re, you know, we started the business, we got the answers were or going and growing or doing all this stuff and to stop and worry about us, not the company for a second, not the direct reports and to get this mindfulness and begin to focus on okay, how are we going to do that fills us up. That’s kind of what I’m hearing here.
Rob: Yes, yes. It’s great, you know, we have to show up as our best each day to the best of our ability. And it’s true, we do need to start by taking care of ourselves. It’s hard, you know, where some of us are hard drivers, you know? We, there’s so much we want to accomplish and believe that we can, and that’s one of the things oftentimes that is a driver. And many times we go fast. And so we just start to forget about some of those simple things.
And then we find ourselves exhausted, you know, and it just sort of starts to take on equality with our team members where they feel that energy and it’s not the sort of energy that they’re really looking for and more importantly needing. You know, so how can we enter into our day and be, have the mindset of what we say at imageOne, how can we be lifter-uppers today and not dragger-downers?
So, you know, practical things that I feel that we do is we start meetings with a minute to arrive. And what that means is we before we jump into the agenda, we actually stop and we set a timer for one minute and we just sit quietly and anybody’s welcome to do whatever they want, as long as they’re sitting quietly during that minute off of electronics and all that sort of thing.
And just sort of think about for a minute where you just came from, and then where you are at this moment. And so it’s coming to the present moment, full awareness right here right now with this new group of people, with a new set of discussion items and a new agenda. And so that’s one of the things that we do. Another practical way that you can go about ensuring this is actually, at the beginning of a meeting during a segue, dow did you sleep?
When you understand first how you slept, when you actually have to think about it for a second. Now we rank it on a scale from one to five. So if I slept to three, I know I just got that awareness at that moment. You know what, Wow, I didn’t sleep that well last night and so I’m probably not going to be on my A-plus game today. Maybe not even my A-minus game. It also says to your team members, wow, Rob had a tough sleep last night. He’s probably not going to be on his a game today. And so I’ll cut some slack there. And so it’s a great way to understand each other better at a different level. And of course to understand yourself at a different level.
Jeremy: So I know you’ve grown businesses from, I think you started in high school selling on Blow Pops, didn’t you? And going to, grown all the way to one of the fours best small companies. Have you always been a driver? Or is this just pace that you’re talking about here your natural state?
Rob: I definitely have had FOMO before I think that was ever a term. I feel like coming out of college, you know, in starting this business with my best friend, you know, within six months, I didn’t understand why we weren’t a multimillion-dollar company already. And so this has been something that, you know, I’ve had to personally work on for many years. And, you know, understand how I was going to get from where I am today to the next place was really to slow down. You know, there’s a saying, you have to slow down to speed up. And I truly believe that has been the case for me.
Jeremy: So give us the definition of FOMO, just so that our audience knows that. And then I want to follow up with another question.
Rob: Sure, fear of missing out. And so how I relate that to business is looking around at our peers, our fellow business owners, entrepreneurs, people, companies within our industry and saying, why aren’t we doing what they’re doing? They’re growing it, you know, 10 x or whatever. How come we’re not? Instead of focusing on your business, not that you have your head in the sand to what’s happening around you, that’s an important thing to do. And there are ways to identify those things. But they can’t take your energy over. And that’s the important designation.
Jeremy: Yeah. So though, the owner goes to one conference and the guy has grown 37%. So why are we not doing that? Then another one’s double net profit. Why aren’t we doing that one? And another one started a new line. Why aren’t we doing that one? Like, stop. Can we just do what we’re supposed to be doing? So you were a hard charger, a driver, you were on this course and ready to have these multimillion-dollar companies. What got you to focus on your ability to lead, your ability to come to grips with this?
Rob: Well, I noticed it was uncomfortable. It was just a consistently uncomfortable feeling, being anxious and stressed all the time about the state of the business and why we weren’t where I thought we should be or could be. And I don’t think when I was in that, I know, when I was in that mindset, I wasn’t a great leader to the people around me because obviously, we, most of us know that people pick up on your energy.
And, you know, they sense say, in my case, maybe an edge, and it’s not a healthy edge. And so that’s no good for me. And it’s no good for them. It isn’t a desirable way to go through your work life or your life in general. And so for me, I’d seek out, you know, sort of how can I manage my anxiety? What are the things that I could do? And so over a number of years, I tried different things. But one that seemed to be really effective for me was a meditation practice. And so back in 2005, Joel and I had sold our business to a public company and we were working for the first time for another company.
We were in executive roles in running imageOne as a wholly-owned subsidiary. It was the first time we couldn’t call the shots and that didn’t seem to be clicking well with us, and myself in particular. And so I did sort of have a moment quite frankly, where I had read about meditation and I was at a high state of anxiety and stress and I just kind of just said, I got to go try this and I just stopped what I was doing and I sat in a chair for five minutes and set a timer and just focused on my breath like I had read, I’d never been taught.
And I found that it really calmed me down. And, you know, my problems didn’t go away. my frustrations were still ever-present, but I did feel calmer and more capable. And I recognized that this could be valuable. So I continued down the path of learning more about meditation, both the studies around it, the science around it, and then just the practical way of doing it. And I’ve been a practitioner ever since.
Jeremy: So you’ve obviously, you got your Simple Six that you talk about your company, you run a successful company. So this isn’t theory to you. This is actual executable results. I know your story, but share a little bit of the story. Obviously, the company went public, and then I know a little bit of what happened after that. And so you’re now leading the company again, or well, I don’t want to, I just gave a spoiler alert there.
So I apologize. But I wanted to tee up the question that you’re that driver, you’re that results-focused guy that’s learned to take a break. I want to share with the audience what has happened to the company when you’ve been able to take that break. So sorry for such a long-winded thing. if you could share the story so everybody knows where you’re back at. And then what’s the result?
Acquisition Into Reacquisition
Rob: Yeah, so in 06 about 18 months after we sold the company, we had a unique opportunity to buy it back. And we did. And at that time, we thought about some things that we might want to do different. And one of those things was to bring our culture to another level, a culture that cares, for genuinely cares for the totality of each and every team members’ lives in a very deep sense. And so we just started chipping away at that time in 2006. And certainly, my meditation practice was helping that mindset then in helping us see things in a different way.
EOS was very important to our company, had been all throughout, made us more valuable as a company when we sold and made it much easier to, when we had the company back. We also practice open book finance, which has been extremely impactful because your team all of a sudden understands how to read an income statement and a balance sheet. And so because they understand the financials and how they work, they just make better decisions. And so you become less of a boss, you know, and more of a true leader.
And so we’ve been fortunate to, you know, grow since the time we purchased it back and keep the company in a healthy position throughout that time, through many of the ebbs and flows that we all know happen in business. You know, EOS, I know Gino Wickman, often he taught me early on, I think it was seven years I always have in my head, you know, you’re gonna have a few years of, you know, good results, one, maybe one or two really strong results and then get ready because you’re gonna have one or two kind of blips.
And that’s like a seven-year cycle. You know, some say it’s a 10-year economic cycle. So prepare yourself for that. And be healthy as a company. And when your team members, when your employees understand what healthy means, because they can actually read a balance sheet and understand things like why having a lot of inventory affects how much cash you have in the bank, they may not carry as much inventory.
You know, they may make better decisions. And so, and when they’re tied in through our open-book program, they are tied into the performance of the company. And so when they have a stake in the game, that makes a big difference, because, you know, they’re not just doing it for the shareholders, which in our case, happens to be Joel, my partner, and myself.
So Joel and I are the only shareholders of the company. And so the team, you know, your team ends up working for you and a paycheck. Well, I don’t know, for myself, that that really works. I want them working for themselves. I want them to feel like they have a piece of this and be motivated to have strong results and not feel like well, the strong results just end up, you know, floating on over to the shareholders. And I always referred to Joel and myself as shareholders because we have jobs at the company, and we get paid for those jobs. But we’re separately shareholders and so you can fire me.
Like, I didn’t start a business to create a job for myself. If I’m no good at the job, I should be fired. Like, as a shareholder, I don’t want me running the company. I want to maximize my value in the company as a shareholder. That’s where I really make my money. So an example of this is I’ve been president integrator for, you know, since the outset, and I recognize that I had hit a ceiling a few years ago, and I said to Joel, we need to replace me. We need to find somebody to take this company to the next level because I’m just not that person.
I’ve taken it to where I believe I can get it, but I just don’t have the skillset and the intrinsic desire to push it over the edge, but we do need somebody to do that. And so we went on a journey and, you know, we were able to recruit somebody and identify somebody and get them into that role over, we did some succession planning, brought the person and did some succession planning and he took over at the beginning of January of this year. And he’s going to take us to the next level.
Jeremy: Amazing. You have just given us I mean, I think we could go on for hours with some of the stuff here and just unpack what you’ve given us. Open book financing, the EOS journey, behind the scenes with Gino Wickman.I’d love to dive into that a little bit. And then understanding the limits of your own leadership abilities and when to step out of the way when you have maximized your time there.
So, wow, from here, let’s, what I would like to learn a little bit more about is this world, the business is just chaotic and we have all of this stuff going on and we’re feeling at all and we want to go from this chaos to clarity. And, you know, there’s open book financing, there’s EOS, understanding items, all these things. But where did, how do we get out of all the craziness and just start taking that journey? What’s the first step look like for us?
Being Okay With Not Knowing
Rob: Well, first of all, I’m glad you brought that up, Jeremy. You know, there’s so many questions and no answers right now. And what we want to work on during this is not knowing and being okay with that. And this is a very difficult thing for business owners and entrepreneurs because we like to think that we can control the future even though we know darn well we can’t. But we like to think it.
Now, even for myself, I’m a planner. I have a vision. It’s written out. You know, it’s vivid. I read it constantly. I see it. And I know what I’m doing each year. I know I have things lined up, I’m ready. I can’t plan three weeks from now. And so this is a practice for all of us right now is to be okay with not knowing and really come to the present moment and do our best with what we do know at this moment.
It’s the best thing that we could do for ourselves and for our team who is looking for the answers and they’re scared about the health of your business if you happen to be one of those that are affected. Others, they’re scared because their business is going through the roof. It’s boom time. But it’s so counter to what’s happening. And so some people are just absolutely overworked and stress beyond belief and don’t know when the end is coming for that. So you have two sides of the continuum. And so, and there’s no answers for either.
And so being okay with not knowing is the first step that I would recommend. And then if you don’t have these foundational tools in place like EOS, now is a great time to do that because for many of us, we have some time. For many of us, we are working remotely, although many of the states are open now and offices, you know, people are starting to slowly go into offices and things of that nature, but we do have time and depending on where the economy goes, we might continue to have some.
And, you know, sort of start chipping away at it knowing that with EOS or open-book finance or any of the things that one might be looking at is this is a journey. And I would say this at any time. With the EOS, plan on like a two or three-year journey depending if you have an implementer that you’re working with or not. But just plan on taking it one step at a time and not getting overwhelmed by all of it. And anyway, so that’s where I would start.
Jeremy: That’s great. So we only have a few more minutes. I can’t believe that I’ve enjoyed this. Can we just jump in for just maybe five minutes here and we want to hear some fun behind the scenes. I know that you had a great implementer, Gino Wickman you had them when it was raw and real. And I actually believe, maybe correct me if I’m wrong, did you have them before the book Traction was even written?
Jeremy: You did. So share some of what that was like. We’d love to hear some stories there.
Rob: Yeah, I mean, Gino is consistent. So if any of you have met him or seen him speak or, you know, any of that nature, anything like that, He’s very consistent and very, you know, as he says, stay focused, he’s very focused. He knows exactly what he wants and how he’s going to go about getting it. And so he was kind of creating this process in SEO Stay With Us, we were one of the early guinea pigs. I loved our very first interaction with him. Literally, he was actually helping us because we had purchased an IT company, and we thought it was the perfect complement to our business. And while it might have been or might not have been, it wasn’t working for us at the time.
And so somebody introduced us to him. And he came in and we kind of gave him the lowdown. And without, you know, having to give it too much thought, he said, the best companies are focused on their core competency and making sure they’re the world-class at that first. And then if they want to go off and try something different, you know, then maybe that’s a separate company or a separate division or something like that. And that part’s really focused. And then he said, and I highly recommend you read a book called Focus by Al Reese. And so we did that. We got it and then we called him and said, Let’s work together.
And so in our very first session, we got together and I brought, I remember, I had a notepad at the time and I had listed out like, every single issue that we were doing. It was like a laundry list of them. I was so excited to be off-site with a facilitator and we were going to get all these issues talked through. And at the very outset, he said, Okay, so what we’re going to do to start this off is we’re going to determine what your core values are. And I said, Whoa, whoa, whoa, I have this laundry list of issues. Let’s do that and then we can talk about core values later or whatever, another time.
He said, would you have a little blind faith? We’ll do the core values for a couple of hours and if it’s not going the right direction, then let’s pause and let’s talk about it and see what’s not going well. And I relented after a little bit of back and forth. And it was the best decision we ever made. It was the best recommendation. And, you know, getting clear on our core values, which we never had before we met Gino. Just that simple exercise was moving us in the direction of where we sit today. It’s so, you know, but you might hear some of those kind of things he says often, like stay focused and have some blind faith.
Jeremy: I don’t know what you’re talking about with any of those.
Rob: So he was saying that all those years ago.
Jeremy: I had to laugh when you wanted to argue with him. I mean, I know he is, when he’s got his mind made up, the blind faith is a nice way of saying I’m getting ready to shut you down. We’re getting ready to go my way. Or the other one that we always love to watch out is Rob, I love you, man. But with all due respect,
Rob: When that comes. It’s so true.
Jeremy: When he says I love you, man. It’s all in.
Rob: it is.
Jeremy: The next statements gonna be so far from that you get ready to get knocked to the ground. So it’s fun hearing that you started with core values because you know the EOS process now. That’s the second session that we do that and it’s fairly upfront in the second session, but it’s not the first one. You started off with him. There wasn’t the proven process of the time. You know, I mean, now I think there’s over 80,000 teams running on EOS.
It’s worldwide. I mean, was it last year I got to see the model written out and, you know, I believe it was Japanese, I don’t want to say Chinese. But written out and all of the little symbols and everything is pretty cool because, you know, you got to see the exact same thing translated into another language were an implementer had gone into it and explained, this is how you run your company.
This is the six fundamental components of an organization. And we’re not in America. So, obviously, you were there for a lot of the iterations and the changes and I understand that the model didn’t come to a full circle, and that’s not a pun, but the circle, until the actual book was written. So how was it? I mean, maybe give us another story about the first session, second session. When did you begin to build out, I’ll just ask this, when did you begin to build out your accountability chart and build the structure for the organization?
Put Yourself in the Right Boxes
Rob: Hmm. Honestly, I wish I could remember. It was that long ago. I think it’s been over 20 years since we started with him. So I don’t remember every, you know, step of when we did things. I do remember things felt clunky at times because we were working through language and questions and, you know, can we skip that? And, you know, can we not do it this way? And, you know, can you make the VTO look different, you know? All kinds of things like that, you know? And to Geno’s credit, he just stayed, he stayed true.
And as we know what the VTO today, and it’s one of my favorites, we actually teach a class, an imageOne university class EOS. And it’s one of my favorite parts of the class because I like to show the VTO to new people and explain the simplicity of it and the beauty of it because today things, you know, have gotten so high tech and so, you know, sometimes complex. And when you can kind of break it down into this simple format where you have this page, you know, there’s just real beauty in it today more than ever. And so, yeah, I mean, I just think that there was sort of that evolution over a period of time.
Jeremy: Yeah, that’s, those are great to share. I only asked the accountability chart because now that is the first tool we teach when we launch and so I was just curious to how far it was an engagement. Now, I said the first tool we teach because before that, we actually do a little exercise around names and verbiage and all that stuff. So you said it’s kind of clunky. That’s all in the first hour of engagement. Let’s get the clunky out of it. So it’s kind of cool hearing the backstory of that and Geno going through it.
Rob: My experience now is there’s not the clunkiness. You know, I’m speaking early on before the book. Gino had, you know, a handful of clients. I don’t feel, you know, my experience now with EOS is the furthest thing from clunky and it actually makes a lot of sense that you start with the accountability chart, I’m thinking back to a decision that Joel and I had to make early on. So I’ll bet you it was in one of the very early sessions.
And that was simply what hats are you wearing? You know, where are you in these boxes? And Joel and I had to decide who’s integrator, who’s visionary. And his, you know, Gino did such a great job breaking down the barriers, just by utilizing those terms instead of CEO and president and, you know, for two young guys with egos and, you know, equal shareholders. You know, I want to be CEO. I want to be CEO. Why? Why do you want to be CEO?
Jeremy: I want to print it on the business card.
Rob: Yeah, right. So you have to like, you know, you had to kind of come to terms like, Hey, who holds, who has these traits? And who has these traits? And put yourself in the right boxes. And then how do you get yourself out of certain boxes down the line? I mean, the process is so masterful. I could go on for hours about EOS.
Jeremy: And it’s cool hearing. And I loved hearing some of those stories of the beginning of it. And I remember Gino sharing with me the first original model and it had squares and lines. And it was harder to, you know, to put it all together. But after 80,000 companies, I would definitely say that it’s a, or 80,000 teams, it’s definitely refined. And I love how people are like why are we doing this right now? When we get to the next step, you’re gonna be so thankful you had the last step.
And like it’s building momentum and it goes faster and faster and faster. And actually, ironically, I’ll share this story. I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this story openly, but, and then we’ll wrap it up. But when I started out, so, I ran a structural steel company that we’re running on EOS and I left and began coaching. And I would do EOS if you want it and I would do Jeremy 101, all my wealth of knowledge, everything that I was a superstar for. That’s a joke. It’s bad when I say to laugh, but just, so I would do whatever way you wanted. You know, I could, you can do either one.
And I took on two companies. There were about $5 million in revenue and they both had about 55, 60 employees. There are different trades, different but they were both blue collar. And we set out on a journey and we started like four weeks apart from each other, like boom, boom. And I literally watched the, one chose EOS one chose Jeremy 101. And I watched the EOS one just like pass the other company. The other company was working harder. We were putting more nuts and bolts. I wish I could brag on me but I can’t. I look at that and say well, we’ll throw that out the window.
And let’s just do what we know works. And it’s like it’s just systematic and so consistent. I get to see it over and over and over, teams really drive those results. And it really doesn’t matter what their vision is. The same process works. They’re able to harness their vision, their goals, and just watch it build so systematically. Rob, I have enjoyed this with you. We’ve had so much fun interviewing you, hearing some behind the scenes stories, hearing your views of leadership. This has been great. I know you have a podcast of your own that really dives into this. Would you mind sharing that with the audience?
Rob: Sure. My podcast is the Do Nothing Podcast. We started that after my book came out, and I interview mindful leaders. I have a series coming out in June and through the summer on compassionate leadership. I’m working with, I’m speaking with people from all over the world. People like Dr. Tau, who is the person who helped the country of Bhutan create the gross national happiness metric and is helping countries like Switzerland and huge companies around the world, large energy companies in Europe, and in Asia, and large companies in Vietnam, the largest shoe company.
People like him who have a formula for happiness. And now more than ever, I think many of us are looking for maybe what that is and what that means. And so you’ll learn about how leaders around the world are going about being lifter-uppers for their team and helping them have a life full of happiness within their organizations.
Jeremy: That’s great. I love how you can take some of these abstract big concepts and, you know, I know you and run at imageOne and bring it down to real tangible results. And definitely recommend our audience. Take a look. Listen to it. And thank you so much, Rob, for being here and sharing your wealth of knowledge with us. We greatly appreciate it.
Rob: Thank you, Jeremy and Ryan. Thank you for all you guys are doing. I greatly appreciate you having me on.