Listen to the podcast here:
You Just Never Know
It has been one exact month since I’ve made a new episode and there is a very good reason for that. I have gone almost three full years not missing a week. I think I missed one time. We found out that we had an opportunity to talk to a fine young man about becoming the CEO of Income Store. I’ll say that my wife, Kerri and I, our lives turned upside down because a few years ago, we had been doubling pretty much four years in a row prior to that hitting the Inc. 5000 list, four times. We knew a few years ago that we might be bumping into our level of incompetence as owners and managers. We set a goal a few years ago that we wanted to go after a CEO that our people would immediately respect.
They had to work in some capacity for a technical company. They had to have some experience as a CIO, COO, something to do with programming, but our key was they had to lead a company that was at least ten times bigger than us. That puts them at a $500 million company and they had to have done it successfully for years. Most importantly, it had to be some type of website software. We were going to get somebody from Ford that manufactured something like that. They had to be in a fast-paced environment. About a month ago, we had to come up with an idea to build a hub for our 300 plus Shopify stores. It was going to cost anywhere from $8 million to $12 million to do it.
I wanted to do it in-house. I didn’t have enough collateral in our buildings to leverage against them so I had to get a loan somehow some way or split it into pieces and do it over time or something. I called a mentor of mine, David Corbin, and I said, “Here’s what I want to build. This is probably what’s going to cost. What do you think?” We created a quick packet, showed it to a few people and he goes, “Let me call a buddy of mine. I went to school with a gentleman from Rider University and he has a lot of experience in the money field.” I didn’t know what that meant but I found out later that a gentleman named David M. Kelley had twenty years at Merrill Lynch on the retail side, on the money side that is, but he also had five years, ironically, as CIO. He left Merrill Lynch and went to TD Ameritrade for three years as the CIO. They moved him up to COO to run the company. He did that for three years and then he retired.
You will always hit a point in your business where you are going to bump into your level of incompetence. Click To Tweet
We started talking, David Kelley and I and David Corbin, about this packet. We are building this hub, doing this and doing that. He’s like, “Maybe we should do this.” After a couple of weeks of talking to him, he had all these great ideas. He started to understand our core business. He and David had done a small business where he did a turnaround already with that business and he was consulting a couple of companies. Finally, I said to him, “David, you’ve got to give me a legitimate reason where I don’t talk you out of retirement to come in and run Income Store.” He said something like, “It’s funny, I’ve been thinking about that for a week.” We began talks in earnest and he accepted his offer letter. He’s going to begin and away we go. He’s already sent a ten point-punch list of the things he wants to work on day one.
I want to tell everybody a little bit about this person for reasons that set the stage that you never know until you ask. This gentleman ran a multibillion-dollar operation. I would have never called upon this person with this big of a resume, but you never know until you ask. I want to share one incredible story about this man. Again, it sets the table. You just don’t know what stage people are in life and what they might want to do next for their life. When 9/11 happened, David was supposed to be doing a presentation on the third floor and two days prior to that, he had a different opportunity to do a presentation in Orlando, Florida. He called the gentleman and said, “Could you do this one? I have to go to Orlando. It’s a different presentation that more fits where we’re going with Merrill Lynch.” They swapped and it turns out they never found that other gentleman. Right at I think around noon of 9/11, Mr. Merrill called David and said, “David, we need you to get back to New York as soon as possible. As you’re aware, our network operating center is probably completely destroyed. It was in one of the two buildings. We have a police escort waiting for you to go up one of the buildings and look down and see what you see.”
He drove 105 miles an hour the whole way. He got from Florida to New York in twelve and a half hours. The police escorted him to the 34th floor of a nearby building. He looked down to get the firsthand visual that everything that he had built over three years is destroyed. He went to Mr. Merrill and another group, each for a $100 million and with 600 people. $200 million in less than a year, he rebuilt all of Merrill Lynch’s data center security as CIO and CTO during that time. The point I’m trying to make as I’m about to cut a different podcast moving forward is people versus systems. You will always hit a point in your business, whether it’s year one, year three or year ten. Technically, we’re in year 25 where you are going to bump into your level of incompetence, which means you know what you know.
Kerri and I are going to Pepperdine for the Executive Master’s Program and what is being exposed to us in the organizational behavior sections, strategy sections and finance sections, we really thought we knew business until we didn’t. There’s a phrase by David Corbin, “You’re going to suck until you don’t.” You never know who should be leading your operation until you ask. My ask for everybody reading this is the following, “Should you be leading the current division you lead, the company you lead or the people you lead? Is there possibly a better person?”
I’m now the Chairman of the board. My wife was moved from Vice President to President. She and David are going to be lockstep for the next, X amount of years. I’m out. I’m going to be the face of the company and I’m going to still be one of the major, if not the major strategic thinker of where we go. I’m the S-curve specialist. Clearly, David Kelley is a daily systems operator. I never was. It’s going to be a wild ride the next few years that is for sure. We just put the turbojets on Income Store through one David M. Kelley, and we are glad to have him. For episode 432, I’m going to title this, You Just Never Know Until You Ask. Take care.