At the start of the pandemic, Airbnb’s business declined 80 percent in eight weeks. Brian Chesky, the company’s co-founder and CEO, had to move fast to save the company—and he did.
Just seven months after laying off 25 percent of his staff in May 2020, Airbnb went public with a $47 billion valuation in December of that year. Today, Airbnb is a thriving company with a >$100 billion market cap.
What would you do if your revenue crashed 80 percent in eight weeks?
While that’s unlikely to happen, you can live vicariously through Chesky and use that question as a frame for figuring out what bold moves you could initiate over the next few months that will position your firm for long-term profitable growth.
By making changes now from a position of strength, you increase the resiliency of your company and create the space to respond powerfully when a real emergency arises.
3 Bold Moves
Here are three “bold moves” you can initiate right now.
1. Fire—then rehire—yourself.
As the founder of the company, it can be hard to get a “detached” perspective on what you can/should do in your business. Your identity might be tied up in what you’ve done up to this point to get your company where it is, and to make bold changes might mean you have to admit that what got you here won’t get you there. And that could also mean WHO got you here won’t get you there.
Changing direction and changing people is never easy, especially if your business is performing well and you’re not in an emergency situation.
One way to jumpstart change is to do what former Intel CEO Andy Grove did. He’s famous for “firing” himself when the company faced a “bet the company” decision on whether or not to stay in the memory chip business.
To answer that question, he asked Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do?” Moore said the new CEO would get them out of the memory chip business. Cleverly, Grove responded, “Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back and do it ourselves?”
Using this metaphorical “fire yourself,” Grove was able to detach and free himself from the baggage of past decisions that no longer made sense. With this new sense of freedom, he could start a new strategy with a clean slate.
Elliot Weisbluth, the founder of Hightower Advisors, shared on my podcast how he fires himself every year using this strategy.
Think of this in terms of trajectory. Map out what would happen if you continue on your current course for the next five years. Maybe you’re growing 10 percent per year so in 5 years, you’ll be 1.6x bigger.
Now, fire yourself and develop a new strategy as if you were a new CEO coming in cold from the outside. What would your strategy be if you felt no constraint from “that’s the way we’ve always done it?”
Let’s say your new strategy leads to 30 percent growth over the next five years, now you’re looking at being 3.7x bigger.
The gap between your current 1.6x trajectory and your 3.7x possibility is your visible opportunity. Develop your plan, execute the plan, and start closing that gap.
2. Go for the triple double.
A triple double is doubling your business…three times. In other words, it’s an 8x increase in your business. Whoa.
Imagine for a moment that your business is 8x its current size. What’s your immediate, visceral reaction?
Excitement? Fear? Challenge? Not worth the effort?
Achieving a triple double goal is not nearly as important as what you and your company become along the way. Done in good faith, here are a couple benefits of this stretch goal.
First, growing 8x can increase your impact 8x. And even if you fall short, you will likely be much further ahead than if you set a more conservative goal.
Now, some coaches will bust your chops and hold you accountable for hitting the goal even if you’re miserable in the process. I do it differently. I help my clients set inspiring goals–loosely held. Why loosely? Because I’ve found that the harder you press on your goals, the more elusive they become. You start acting from a place of need and scarcity which constricts your ability to operate from a position of expansion, flow, and possibility.
I love this old Zen Buddhist teaching story…
A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master, “If I work very hard and diligently how long will it take for me to find Zen.”
The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast? How long then?”
“Twenty years,” said the Master.
“But, if I really, really work at it? How long then?” asked the student.
“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “Each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”
“When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path,” replied the Master.
Be inspired by the goal, but not so fixated on it that you lose sight of an unfolding path that might lead to an even better outcome.
Second, going for a triple double requires you to shift from incremental thinking to exponential thinking. Incremental thinkers focus on incremental growth. They look for ways to grow 10 – 15 percent per year. Sure, that’s nice growth, but you’re simply not going to hit a triple double by growing 10 – 15 percent per year so you need a new framework for thinking about growth.
My old business partner Ron Carson used incremental thinking and it took him more than 25 years to go from $0 to $1 billion in AUM. When he switched to exponential thinking, he went from $1 billion to $20 billion in just 10 years.
What was the difference? He used leverage. Not financial leverage but people leverage. Instead of trying to grow by building his own team—which was effective but still incremental—he became an acquirer of other firms and a money management platform for advisors who wanted to outsource investment management.
By breaking out of incremental thinking, Ron was forced to come up with a new strategy that would give him the possibility of growing 8x, or in his case, 20x.
It works the same way if you decide that you want to shift from prospecting for $500,000 clients to $5 million households. The strategies and marketing plan to attract $5 million households will look very different than the mass market $500,000 folks.
A key benefit of the triple double is it requires you to elevate your thinking. It requires you to breakout of living in the highly probable and predictable world to moving into the realm of aspirational possibility.
3. Make yourself irrelevant to your business.
This might seem a little strange but the more valuable you are to the business, the less valuable the business is. If you can’t step away from the business for a material amount of time and have it still fire on all cylinders while you’re gone, then you don’t have a business, you have a job.
My favorite example here is Jon Jones of Brighton Jones. On my podcast, Jon told me:
“I created a framework to say, ‘I’m not going to leave our business until I know we have at least one person that I’ve hired that is just thinking about the strategy around getting people, keeping people, getting clients and keeping clients.’ As long as I had a really solid COO who was overseeing all of operations, I felt fine about taking off for a year. But from the strategic standpoint, I felt like having somebody in charge of ‘get keep’ was super important, and still is.”
During the time Jon and his family were off for a year visiting 35 countries, his business continued to hum and it grew significantly while he was gone.
Now imagine for a moment if you could take material time away from your business to just…think. Or explore. Or recharge. Or get fit. Or meditate. Or travel the world and pay attention to what’s going on. Do you think you’d come back from that time away with a renewed sense of purpose and energy?
Traveling the world and not checking in with the office is not the only measure of how irrelevant you are to your business.
Reid Hastings, co-founder of Netflix, said, “A perfect quarter for me would be a quarter where I’ve made no decisions. I’ve only influenced people, I’ve advocated, I’ve inspired, I’ve learned.” Think about that. How many days could you go without someone on the team needing you to make a decision? The more you can empower your team, equip your team, and create a culture of values and principles that make it easier for your team to make great decisions without you, the more value you’ve created in your business.
The measure of your business is how little you’re needed in the day-to-day running of it. When you are free from the constraints of always being “on,” you become free to explore the edges of your opportunities. You become free to sense the next wave that your business can ride and you start to envision what your business could become in its next iteration.
Mechanical vs. Mental
When most people think about their business, they focus on the mechanical aspects. They focus on the day-to-day strategies, tactics, and execution that “makes the trains run on time.” And that’s critical because without the mechanical, you have no business.
What I’m talking about with these bold moves is mental. It’s about changing how you think. It’s about helping you move from thinking linearly like 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10, to thinking exponentially like 1¹ + 2² + 3³ + 4⁴ = 288.
You are only limited by your imagination so don’t limit it!
Those of you who read this article and “go deep” with these three bold moves, who embed them into your very fiber and act on them, will be the same advisors who 5 years from now will have grown their business and improved their quality of life by an order of magnitude.
It’s lonely at the top because few people reach it. It’s human nature for people to reach a level of comfort and then settle at that level; a level which is often well below their intrinsic potential. People get to a point of viability and then stop challenging themselves. They stop thinking bigger. They stop focusing on the fundamentals. And they stop filling their knowledge bucket.
By contrast, those at the top keep stretching and not only do they reap the financial rewards, but they also reap the emotional rewards of reaching their full potential.
Reaching your full potential is not limited to your success as an advisor. You have multiple dimensions to your life that include your relationships, your spirituality, your legacy, and your health. Settling in any one of these dimensions means you’re depriving the world of the gifts you have the capability to give.
And one more thing…have fun! Making bold moves can be scary but when you do them from a place of fun, you release the negative energy and make room for the energy that fuels you and gives you a sense of confidence.
At the end of your life, if you look back and lament on a life that fell short, then we’ve all lost. French writer Andre Gide wrote, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Folks, now is the time to leave the shore and make bold moves.