Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. My guest now is Andy Ray, Principal with the Entrepreneurial Advisory Services Group at PKF Texas and author of Radical Impact; Andy, welcome to the BusinessMakers Show.
Andy: Thank you for having me.
Russ: You bet. Tell us a little bit about your practice here at PKF Texas.
Andy: I work with middle managers in mid-market companies. My business is to help middle managers learn how to run companies so that CEOs don’t have to and it frees CEOs to go up to the next big thing, the next big strategy, and not have to worry about the day to day operations of their company. We also work with mid-market CEOs to help make their companies better. So I came onboard in January, have been doing this kind of consulting and coaching work for probably 6, 7 years.
Russ: Okay and everybody knows PKF Texas is an accounting firm. But you’re not an accountant?
Andy: I am not an accountant and I’m very proud of that.
Russ: And never want to be one, right?
Andy: Never want to be and accountant.
Russ: Okay, so when you described your practice I couldn’t help but think that one of the challenges clearly of a small business growing is taking that step to the point where CEO or the Founder, whoever the leader is, is not making all the decisions. And from my experience a lot of companies fail at that point.
Andy: They do. They fail at that point if they’re family-owned being able to drive a successful succession plan down into the second generation, and they fail being able to extend past the limited capability of that middle management team. If the CEO of a small business has to have all the solutions and creates that solutions apartheid at the top of the org chart then you disempower the whole middle, everybody’s waiting on decisions and you lose the flexibility and the energy as a small business that you can have to beat the big guys.
Russ: What was it about your past and your education in the real world that made you home in on that point?
Andy: Because I worked as a middle manager for so long. I came up through GE and through some mid-market companies and I really came to the realization over the years that the middle is where everything happens. All the vision of the CEO, all the strategy and all the planning that we can lay out is not good for much other than an academic exercise if it doesn’t get executed and flow through the organization. So I made it kind of my mission the last 5 or 6 years to really get a grasp on how do you develop that middle so that a CEO is comfortable empowering that team and it all goes down to developing commitment and capability in that middle management staff.
Russ: Okay, so I assume when you were a middle manager that perhaps you experienced both the inertia of not being able to make decisions and perhaps were you also in an organization where you were empowered?
Andy: I’ve been in both. I’ve been in organizations where I was very empowered and I’ve been in organizations where I wasn’t empowered at all. You know we talk about it in the beginning of the book, the status quo has an enormous influence on businesses of any size and to break through that, to kill that status quo and do anything that matters in a business is a really tough play. So, you know, my middle management experience was if you could break through the status quo and create a sustainable result that matters – radical impact – one, you have a lot of personal sense of achievement and your work means more and you can kind of play out your own career the way you want it to go.
Russ: Okay, well Radical Impact is the book, it’s new out.
Andy: Yep, just out.
Russ: And it really hits your sweet spot, in fact I’m sort of a guy that never has been a fan of business as usual and this is everything but business as usual.
Andy: It’s not business as usual, the title means what it means, it’s radical; it’s about we live in an age of unlimited potential for managers to achieve whatever they want. It’s a wake up call. I go into businesses a lot and I always have that meeting with the middle managers that say we should make more money, we should have more career opportunity and my question, my challenge back to them is what have you done? What have you done to make a difference? What are you doing to line that out? And a lot of middle managers kind of sleep walk through that corporate bureaucracy, so this is a wake up call and it’s not business as usual.
Russ: Okay and everything about this book is kind of the way that you practice your practice, right? I mean it’s kind of the text book for Andy Ray coaching.
Andy: It’s a playbook. A good, self-taught middle manager could take this book and go create a radical impact in their business in the next 8 weeks.
Russ: Okay. We all know that, you know, business doesn’t always just sort of flow the way you want it to, even if you’re a good manager and a good teacher and a good coach, so have you used this on clients where they’ve not accepted it?
Andy: No, it hasn’t happened. Everybody buys into the rigor, they buy into the guidance and the structure of the program. You know, results vary, we can’t control every variable but for the most part I would say it’s been pretty successful.
Russ: Okay, but what happens in tough times? You’ve empowered somebody, they’re growing their business and suddenly their sector is constricting and they’re smaller and they have to cut salaries, or even sometimes go through a reduction in force; I mean, do the benefits of empowering middle management work in that environment as well?
Andy: They have to work in that environment, otherwise you’re not going to be able to respond quickly enough to matter. The great thing about a strong middle management team is in a growth cycle that middle management team is what’s going to make you scalable and able to take advantage of that growth. In a constriction cycle where you’ve got a downturn that middle management team is going to allow you to create the efficiencies and the cost savings in your business where you can come out the other side of that downturn smelling like a rose. So that capability of middle management plays up or plays down.
Russ: Okay, what happens though if you’ve really empowered – small company even –empowered middle management and middle managers are suddenly competing, almost to the detriment of the company?
Andy: That could happen. It doesn’t happen as much if they’re really hitting the gears that we want them to hit in the rigor because good middle managers that create results that matter are collaborators. And they work together, they work in a team environment, they don’t play selfish. Selfish ball at a middle manager level is kind of that entry level game what’s in it for me and when they get to that collaborative level where they’re really working together, they’ve hit top level middle management.
Russ: Okay. So let’s say somebody’s watching right now and they’re interested in the book or interested in Andy Ray, what do they need to do?
Andy: Well the book’s available on Amazon so they can go to Amazon.com, it’s in printed form, hard copy or Kindle. If they want to talk to us some more about middle management development in their company they can reach us here at PKF.
Russ: Andy, I really appreciate it.
Andy: Thank you, thank you for having me.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Andy Ray with PKF Texas. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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