FTC Leo | Profitability And Happiness

From Zero Clients To A Life Of Profitablity And Happiness With Leo Popik

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FTC Leo | Profitability And Happiness

 

If you want to be free and own your time, you have to work on your business. In this episode, you’ll discover the journey of a CEO to life, profitability and happiness. Host Mitch Russo’s guest is Leo Popik, the founder & CEO of Leading Peers. Leo shares with Mitch how he went from influential politician to successful CEO. But it didn’t start out smooth. Leo struggled getting his first clients in the first few months. Join in the conversation to discover how Leo created an efficient client creation process. You wouldn’t want to miss this episode.

Listen to the podcast here:

From Zero Clients To A Life Of Profitablity And Happiness With Leo Popik

 

Welcome to this moment in time when you get to chill out, tune in and extract wisdom that you can use to grow your business with Your First Thousand Clients. I have something special for all my coaches in the audience. I’ve been a coach for many years, and I realized that I had been spending about 30 minutes between sessions trying to get the paperwork done to send off homework, and notes, and accountability questions, all this stuff to my clients. I started looking for a solution to that problem. I couldn’t find one that worked for me. I couldn’t find one that was under $100 a month for use. I did what all great entrepreneurs should do when they find problems that haven’t been solved. I decided to solve it and built my own.

It’s called ClientFolio. I want to offer you a $1, 14-day trial where you could give it a test drive. It takes fourteen minutes to learn and $1 to try. I guarantee you will fall in love because it will make your life easier. It will up-level your sessions. It will help you get more from your clients, help them achieve more and love you even more than they do now. Go to GetClientFolio.com and check it out.

Now onto my guest and his incredible story. From Argentina at 10 and then back again at 15, my guests discovered that people were his most passionate focus. Back in the US again for a Harvard education. He graduated with a PhD in Political Science and then a Master’s in Arts degree. Back to Argentina with the goal of improving the state economy, he joined the national government in a prominent position and went on to form a political party.

Despite the loss, he disputed that loss in his own country and became a little bit famous in the process. He discovered his real place in passion is in creating great experiences for visitors in his country. He started a city tour bus business and surpassed $2 million in revenue. He also realized that experience was no longer fulfilling in the way he thought it would be.

Time after time, business after business, my guest had discovered that his true power had to do with leading others. That led him to create a new company called Leading Peers. He brings us the gift of mastering the art of addressing critical challenges, building trust, and getting through them. Welcome, Leo Popik, to the show.

I’m thrilled to be here with you.

I’m thrilled to have you. I don’t think I’ve had anybody come back and forth to America so many times, and I hope you’re still happy to be here.

It is my third stint. I’ve never been happier not only in the States, but I’ve never been happier in my life, but it was challenging the first few years in this third stint. After I progressively got through this pandemic, which was extremely challenging, things got better. I’m happy to be here. This time it’s indefinitely. The plan is to stay here. We love South Florida with my wife and our children. No plans to leave.

I’m a fan as well of the Florida experience. For everyone reading, Florida is our happy place for Leo and me. You’re welcome to join us. Let’s go back to the beginning. How this all started for you? Why don’t you tell us the story?

My journey is that I grew up in Brazil. I didn’t even move to Argentina until I was seven, but my parents were Argentinian. We were raised in Spanish at home and then Portuguese in the playground, and no word of English ever came to my ears until my parents knew at the age of 8 or 9 that we were going to move to the States. They got us a tutor, but we didn’t pay any attention to her. At the age of ten, we moved to the States. We went to live in a city in the United States we had never heard of in St. Louis, Missouri. We did make a stop at Disney. My parents were very strategic about selling the move to the States. Here we were in the Midwest growing up, and we stayed there for over five years, and I became a full-fledged American.

My first great friend for life, girlfriend, sporting competition, my first everything happened in America. I was halfway through high school when my parents broke my heart and said we were moving back to Argentina. I didn’t want that to happen at all. By then, I was dreaming of college and life in the States, but it was something that just had to happen. We moved back. I finished high school there. My parents said, “You couldn’t go to college in the States.”

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I resigned myself to go through college in Argentina but just kept aspiring to come back. I knew if I aspired high enough, they would eventually help me pay or somehow make it work for graduate school education in the States. I did work extremely hard through my college years. Academically, I was a great student. At that point, I was very focused.

I even took a trip to the States to visit all the top universities I ever dreamt of. I spent a couple of weeks going around and talking to professors, and putting my sight on a PhD at Harvard was the way to get my parents onboard, “This kid wants to do this.” I didn’t know if I would ever come back to Argentina, but sure enough, I did get into the PhD at Harvard. I did leave Argentina to go to Boston. I was only 22 when that happened.

Not much life experienced. I had always been entrepreneurial. I’d started every activity a kid can start to make some money. I had also started a nonprofit and done a lot of work in that area for about 5 or 6 years, helping the other kids my age become very active participants in their own life. I had no streetwise experience building a business or having employment of any kind.

All of a sudden, I was in the Ivory Tower at Harvard, freezing as those long winters came by, feeling very alone. I started to miss Argentina. Very much counter to what I thought would happen. Finally, it got to where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be there. I did get through the program, graduated in 1998. I eventually went back to Argentina.

The only thing worthwhile for me to do in this country, which was so behind the United States in so many ways, but it’s where my family was, the friends that I had made in high school and college, was to give myself to help other people. To give myself to public life, become a public servant, whether a political office or a high governmental office of some sort.

I try to pursue that track. I put my whole mind and soul into that life. That life gave me some pretty nice highs to my twenties. I got to report to the chief cabinet minister in the government. I got to meet with the president on more than one occasion. I felt great about starting a political party and having followers, but the more the years progressed, the lowlier I felt.

The less I felt that I could reconcile that life with having a great family and personal life, which are things that I had enjoyed as a kid growing up, being the son of a man in Corporate America who had an international career and was always able to make time for family and personal life. I was being squeezed out of everything I enjoyed. I spend my weekends and evenings working away in politics. Something was just in a state of crisis.

When I hit 30, I just knew I couldn’t take this anymore. I had to do something different. I had to make a big change in my life. The only thing that occurred to me is, “I needed to start a business. I need to make money so that I can have a better quality of life. Maybe I won’t need to work as hard in politics, but I’ll continue to give myself to the country, to the people.” I thought it was going to be easy. After you dream of being president of your country, you think of starting a small business. It’s something that’s going to be a breeze, a walk in the park. I had all those thoughts. I was coming from Harvard, a great education in my great university.

I thought this has going to be a breeze. A few months into it, I was so frustrated. We didn’t have a client. Nobody was ringing our phone or knocking on our office door. I kept going out every week to visit every one of the people that I thought would bring us business, literally visit them face to face, hand out a flyer, and explain to them why we were the best city tour company in Buenos Aires and nothing was happening. We were running out of money. I was about to fail in the first venture I had ever failed. Not only that, it was a horrible failure. We hadn’t even come close. We didn’t even have one client.

One day, one of the craziest ideas came. We were thinking of a way to get the concierge of the five-star hotels to step outside the hotel because they were always busy talking to their guests. They were always speaking to 2 or 3 different guests at any given time. When we stepped in, we didn’t know how long we would have their attention. We had to give them the spiel quickly in the wrong order. They were looking away while we were talking to them.

They were looking at who was behind us going through because those guests were the people they were supposed to serve. We thought, “What can we do to get them out of here and have a conversation?” We came up with the idea of bringing them on a sailboat and saying, “How would you like to have an afternoon in a sailboat? We will treat you for everything. The reason we want you to do this is that we want your guests to be able to do this. Why not? You try it first.”

FTC Leo | Profitability And Happiness
Profitability And Happiness: Build a business you can scale and use to have a more significant impact and a sense of pride and fulfillment.

 

When we got them out on the sailboat, in the middle of the Plata River, and there was nobody around, and all we had to do was just talk and have some wine and cheese. We got to listen to what they needed from us. They just basically spelled it out. They said, “You’ve been talking about all the great reasons why our guests are going to love your city tourists, but you haven’t said what’s in it for me.”

I learned one of the most fundamental lessons in business. If you want to have people serving you, bringing you clients, you have to identify, “What is it that I can do for those who are going to refer me to clients. What is it for them?” The world doesn’t revolve around us, the entrepreneurs. It revolves around the people we’re trying to serve and everybody involved in the client creation process.

If you don’t have a great client creation process, you don’t have a business. You’ll never get off the ground. We asked them, “What do you need?” They said, “We get commissions.” We thought, “How does that work?” We started to listen to what they had to say. Before we knew it, we said, “We agree to that. Let’s do it.” A week later, we had our first city tours.

We knocked it out of the park because we’d been waiting for that moment desperately. It’s against everything I thought would happen. I thought it was going to be this politician with a side business. I was just going to sit as president of the side business. My business partner said, “You have to go and be the tour guide.” I learned another very important lesson in business, which is when you start your bootstrapping, you’ve got to do whatever it takes.

I went out as a city tour guide. I’d only read a few books on how to explain the city, but I had been a politician in the city. I knew the city pretty well. By showing it around to some American tourists staying at the Four Seasons Buenos Aires, they came back and said, “This kid is amazing. He is passionate about his city and everything in his country’s history,” which I was, “We had a great time with him. I highly recommend him.” I was now stuck as the city tour guide in the company. My partner said, “Nobody’s going to do it better than you. You’ve got so much at stake as the president of the company. You’re going to put it all on the line every time you go out there.”

I was stuck in this role for like a year and a half, just going out and guiding city tours. I would take them to the governmental palace that I had been in charge of at the age of 26. I was now in my early 30s as a city tour guide showing them the building from the outside. It was crazy. I ended up leaving politics all together because I couldn’t do both. I couldn’t until I met my wife. When I met my wife, I said, “If I want to take this woman out on dates every night and not lose the woman of my dreams, I have to let go of 1 of the 2 things.”

Politics was not going to pay the bills, the dinners, or the dates. That’s why I quit politics and did the business. When I finally had that relationship, the business, and everything was flourishing, I said, “This is it. This is the dream.” I now only need to find a way to serve people because my idealistic self wanted to serve society and the planet. I said, “That’s the only challenge left. If I find a way to do that, then I’m going to have a great life.” The rest is history.

I have to make come to some comments about this because it’s so parallel to what we all go through as entrepreneurs. When I started my first software company back in 1985, we sold software, but we didn’t even know how to sell software. We didn’t have any mechanism for getting the word out. We stumbled around for months trying to figure it out. We went to trade shows. We ran ads.

We spent 60% of our entire budget on two ads that completely failed. Similar to your story, this is where it’s somewhat the parallel components of what our two experiences are very interesting, I hope to readers as well, what it came down to is when I finally found out that my $6,000 worth of magazine ads had failed, the salesperson brought me a big envelope full of punch cards.

The punch cards used to be what stuck in every magazine where you would encircle the number you wanted more information on from any of the ads in the magazine. He said to me, “I’m sorry. I know it didn’t work. We let you down, but I have to give these to you anyway. They’re probably worthless.” I had no choice. What I did was I called every single one of them and asked them, “Why did you circle the number? What was in our ad that was interesting to you?”

Like you, I found out what was important to them. Once I understood that I was able to reposition the marketing and the product that allowed us to skyrocket the company almost from that point forward. These are great lessons. I want to start by thanking you for sharing them. More importantly, let’s talk a little bit before we go into what Leading Peers is about. Let’s talk a little about this position of being stuck in success and what that feels like. Maybe even how you found your way out, because many of us are in that same position. We start a business. What we end up with is a glorified job.

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I was in this glorified job now as a city tour guide, carrying this big title of president of the company. At the same time, we started having so many tours that our staff of guides that I had helped put together, interview, and so on was starting to get work as well. The more time progressed, the more I wanted to do less guiding and more of building a business that would be able to scale and that I would be able to enjoy having greater impact and just a greater sense of pride and fulfillment in what I was doing in my life. It’s nothing against being a city tour guide. It’s just not what I had envisioned for myself. I’d always thought of myself as an entrepreneur, somebody who would create a great organization or change a society somehow. It wasn’t what I aspired to.

The way I started to think of how do I remove myself from this is finding different services that we could offer that would allow us to start to get the wheel going on the sales on things that I could do that would be able to scale. I started randomly with a corporate client. Randomly because a woman who did a city tour like a normal client said, “I’m here from South Africa. I’m bringing a group of people from my company in South Africa to Argentina, will you organize the trip for us?” By saying yes and trying it out, we realized that it was a much more scalable type of service and business division if we did incentive trips for corporations. My first venture out of that cage doing the city tours was starting to find incentive travel clients.

That became the focus. The second thing is trying to remove myself from having to do all of the city tours, which I did. The third thing was starting to connect with people that could bring us the incentive travel clients. I traveled to the States in 2006. I came here with my fiancé at that time, now my wife. I started to see where the trade shows were.

I was starting to research with my business partner, who could represent us here, like a sales rep that could bring us the leads. Finding the right partnerships to bring in the right types of leads in the right type of service for your company, recalibrating what you originally thought your business was going to do and allowing your business to pivot, change in a direction that allows you to be the company’s owner and CEO, and not just have a job in a company.

When we finally were able to start to get that wheel going, business just started to take off. That’s when we could see a big future in corporate events. In 2008, I left my partnership with my good friend, Eduardo, to launch this business with my wife. I was the only executive in the ownership tandem, the married tandem, so that my wife could support us at home.

We had three kids and moved from Argentina to Brazil. That business was fully dedicated to international corporate events. From the get-go, I was very dedicated to finding people that could lead the events in different places, so I wouldn’t have to travel around all the time. By 2013, I had stopped running events. I was never again in charge of running in international corporate events, which by the way, if you’ve never done it, you don’t sleep much at all.

You probably sleep an average of 3 or 4 hours a night. They go on for a week. Stuff happens every day that you don’t expect. It’s an all-encompassing thing where you can’t take your focus off of what you’re doing ever. I was a dad of three. I was a husband. I had stuff happening in my life, just like every human being. I was now in my 40s, and that wasn’t a comfortable life for me to be in.

In 2013, I stopped doing that and just started to lead a team. That was fine and dandy until the business started to have growing fixed costs. We started hiring people in more countries and cities. At one point, we had full-time employees in ten countries. We had employees in more than one city in many countries like Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil.

Managing full-time employees in twelve different cities throughout 2010 where remote work was not the common norm, it’s certainly not in our industry, which was a people industry where everybody liked to be together in an office, was very complicated. To add to my challenge, we moved to the States. When that happened, we thought it was going to be an easy-breezy immigration process. Little did we know that the change of political climate in America would make that green card process a very painstaking three-year-long after we arrived process where we couldn’t travel out of the country for any given moment.

Our lawyer, at times, came in and said, “You now have a window. If you want to travel, do it because a month from now, I need you back. I don’t know when you’ll be able to get out.” That was a very challenging process to get through, but that’s where you learn that you have to always be working on your business if you want to be free and own your time. At that point, that’s when I was most challenged. That’s what led me to the organization. I’ve now started Leading Peers.

The parallels are incredible because we’ve all been through this. I bet many people reading this episode have been through this too. You don’t have an accent, no hint of an accent. I’m curious. How did that happen? How did you accomplish that?

FTC Leo | Profitability And Happiness
Profitability And Happiness: Keep your employees aligned with the company’s mission, values, and strategy.

 

A part of it is that I grew up with two languages right off the gate. I was raised with Spanish at home and played in the playground in Portuguese. That gave me a lot of practice of just doing different accents from birth. The other thing that happened when I moved in 2010, I didn’t come to South Florida, which is full of Hispanics. I went to a suburb in Western St. Louis that had no Hispanics in my school. I was the only Hispanic in the entire school. When I mentioned the people that I had come from Argentina, my friends would sometimes ask about Australia. They never heard of the country. I had to work hard to assimilate, to not be the odd kid out.

This has been the story of my life, which I’ve always been that odd kid out, trying to fit in. At the age of four, I moved within Brazil and started in a new city at seven. I moved to Argentina, and I was seen as Brazilian. At the age of ten, I was seen as the Argentinian. When I went back to Argentina at the age of fifteen, they said, “Here’s the American kid.” I had the look of the American kid. It’s been the story of my life always to be the outsider coming in. I’ve always been inspired by people who try to include the outsider because of my personal story.

Let’s get into what I think of as your true superpower, which is mastering the art of addressing critical challenges, building trust, and getting through them. For historical purposes, did your First Thousand Clients come with your tour company, or did it come later?

It came with the tour company. This was a business-to-consumer company, and all of the guests staying at these hotels were just there on vacation. They have free time. They would sign up to do the tours. We ended up having 40,000 individual customers. Since most of the parties had 2 or 3 people, we ended up serving as end-users, over 100,000 individuals over the years I had that city to our company. All these people would try to keep my email, or they’d try to keep the company’s information. They would sometimes say, “I have a friend going into your city.” It was crazy with the number of different clients whose business could come once we got it off the ground.

Let’s go back to Leading Peers. What is the purpose of the organization, and why did you start this company?

I’d like to tell it from the standpoint of my story because I’ve built my story up to the moment where I’m already living in the States, having trouble getting my green card. I realize that managing my remote team requires me to step it up and learn a lot of stuff I didn’t know. I was challenged during this period. I have never been as challenged as a professional as between 2017 and 2019. I had to run full-time employees in ten countries remotely, who are in different places, keep them aligned with the company’s mission and values and our strategy and everything. I couldn’t go and visit them. Even the new employees I had never seen them face to face. I’m being challenged like never before.

Our clients are saying, “You’re coming to my big event in Mexico or Brazil.” I’m saying, “I can’t go, but you’ll be taken care of very well.” I’m starting to lose all the joy out of what I do, which is being close to the people and stakeholders. I love my team, my clients, vendors and I couldn’t see any of them. I started to feel that loneliness and isolation. What did I do? I run out of books to read on how to create a company. I’ve run out of anything that has ever helped me get to this point. I decided to join Vistage International.

I ended up in a great group of entrepreneurs, all of them in South Florida. I started to realize they’ve all got some interesting challenges themselves. I was not alone. That was a great feeling. To be able to share with them, “My biggest issue right now is cashflow.” I’m a Latin-American kid who doesn’t even have a green card. Nobody’s going to give me a bank loan. The SBAs can’t even do it. I’m not even a permanent resident.

How do I get funding? I’ve been funding the growth of my business in two ways, reinvesting profits and increasingly through vendor arrangements where they allow me to have an increasing amount of money in an account with them that they’re funding me. This is getting extremely, increasingly uncomfortable on both counts, particularly the vendor payments, because what happens if the business has a bad run.

What happens if they all say, “I won’t do another service unless you pay up the balance of what you owe us?” Where does that put us from a reputational standpoint? Where does that put us with the team? I’m starting to feel the stress and the anxiety of all that. I’m able to open up and confide, which I had never done because all of my conversations had been in the industry that I was in. Within the industry, I didn’t want to be completely vulnerable.

I didn’t want to share the things that I was worried about because if I did, I would have to say, “I’m losing sleep at night, quite literally. I’m having trouble getting back to sleep, thinking about these worst-case scenarios of what could happen.” The more you go through business, the bigger the stakes are because you’ve dedicated more time to building it.

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You’ve dedicated more effort, blood, sweat and tears. You have more people that depend on you. The feeling that you can’t let everybody down in yourself, in your family, keeps mounting. Having this group became very valuable to me, and then the pandemic came. I knew a lot of businesses were affected, but none were more affected than international travel businesses, particularly corporate ones and event-related ones. Those were shut down 100%, so much so that international corporate events are still down to this day, November 2021, by over 99%. The business was completely wiped off the face of the Earth. We had to lay off everybody, and we had to shut down all the offices we were renting, and it was gut-wrenching.

The only saving grace was that the entire industry was going through the same thing, and the entire world knew about it. People were going through much more life-threatening things than we were having to just suffer as business owners and workers. At that moment, where I felt most vulnerable, I didn’t have the income to provide for my family.

I had reinvested all the profits in my business to keep it growing. The business had grown. We started from nothing, and the business went from $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, $5 million, $7 million, $9 million, $11 million to $12 million of revenue. I was the only owner. That was a lot for me to handle and to wrap my head around. All of a sudden, that was zero.

There was no coming back to what it had been before in the foreseeable future. There was no certainty about how this pandemic would work out. We still don’t know how the pandemic is going to finish work itself out. Although it’s increasingly looking positive and everybody’s increasingly optimistic that it’ll happen soon. When the pandemic came, how could I continue to pay for any of the advisory services we were getting, like Vistage in the situation of not having any money to put food on the table? How could I do that? At that moment, it hit me. Like with your software for coaches, through your pain, you said, “What is the solution I wish was out there, and you created your solution.”

I said, “What is the business community? What is that CEO and business owner space? I wish I could join, but I can’t find it.” I know that YPO, the Young President’s Organization, is there, but you have to do millions of revenue, which I didn’t anymore. You have to be young. I’m 48. You have to be 44 or younger. I knew EO was out there, but you have to do a million of revenue or more, and I had zero revenue.

You had to pay up the $4,000 enrollment, chapter and national fee. When you added all those up, it had to be $10,000-plus before you even walked into a meeting, training, event or anything at a moment where I didn’t have a single dollar that was superfluous in my bank account. I had everything accounted for. It still needed funding to get through the following few months.

Your vision then was, where someone like me can go under these circumstances at this time? Like you said, “Nowhere, so I’m going to create it.” That is the beginning of your company. Tell us what it is that you do. What do the people who pay you now get from this company and share that with the readers? They can maybe practice a little bit more about what it is that you teach.

The number one thing that I had found invaluable I wanted to recreate this is having a peer board. That’s a board of people who are peers of yours as a business owner and CEO that you can get together with on a monthly basis and have a conversation about what is happening. What are your critical issues and challenges so that they can weigh in and say, “This is what I would do. This is what I’ve gone through. I don’t have a solution for you, but call me, and we’ll have lunch. I’m here for you just to listen to you and something might come up? We could come up with ideas of what you could do. I could go through my Rolodex and see if I know somebody who could help you?”

I wanted to recreate the peer board idea. In the middle of that pandemic, it had to start with a virtual Zoom meeting. I knew how powerful in person was for these kinds of communities because you want it to be able to connect in between monthly meetings and have lunch, or build a personal relationship and have your spouses meet and just create a friendship. I was reconciling that we would start with that monthly virtual Zoom meeting but would eventually grow into a community where these peer boards would meet in person.

If people couldn’t attend in person, we needed to create a way for them to participate through Zoom. That’s the central pillar of what we are about. It’s creating that safe space where you can be completely vulnerable. You can trust that these people around the room, which are never more than a few, we never have more than eight members in a group, are all in different industries, you can truly open up.

There’s a lot of industry-specific forums and communities out there, but you’re never going to have the same level of trust and vulnerability when you’re talking to people who don’t know any of your employees, clients and vendors. You can share what’s going on. That was the central thing, getting the dynamics within that group to help people bring out what was truly happening with them. I learned a lot from my own Vistage experience as a member and what it took.

FTC Leo | Profitability And Happiness
Profitability And Happiness: You need a board of people who are your peers as a business owner and CEO you can get together with monthly.

 

It was hard to get me to open up, and I’m a person who loves interacting with other people, but I had a hard time taking off that armor of things are going great. That was the game face I had to put on for several years I was growing my business. We were selling the large corporations, Fortune 500, organizing the international corporate events for Pfizer, Bank of America and American Express.

We were the preferred supplier of many of these companies. Being in the billions and being some of the largest corporations in the world, they expected us to have everything figured out. Not just the compliance bits, but also to have unlimited money so that they would never have to worry about that. It wasn’t our reality coming from South America and building it from the ground up and not having any endowment or inheritance to build it with, but just having to build it as we go.

A lot of what I had to do was not posturing, but keeping the reality of what was happening away from the surface and talking about what was great. McCann Erickson says, “The truth well told.” We would always tell the client the truth, but we would always tell it well, so if there were something that would make us look bad, we would leave that bit out.

If they said, “Have you done events in this country before? If we were new?” If our team had, we would say, “Our team has done events in this country.” We were telling the truth, but we were telling it well told. It was always a question of how do I phrase it? How do I put it? When I walked into the Vistage, the thought of opening up and saying, “This is what I’m scared about. This is what’s keeping me up at night. This is what is not allowing me to fall back asleep when I got up in the middle of the night, that was very difficult for me to do.” I eventually learned from the example of some of the members of my group.

I realized, “This is the only way this is going to have any value to me.” When I thought of designing Leading Peers, that was the thing I needed to bring in, create that level of safety for people to be themselves. We all know business owners are very resourceful people. Many of them have alpha personalities. Many of them are used to show how successful they are or they’re perceived as very successful.

How do you get them to change that, be very human and realize that they don’t know everything? They do feel scared, threatened by different things and that there are a lot of things that they don’t grasp and are not good at. How do you get them talking about those things? By addressing those challenges, they will be able to reach the next level of impact of success and growth.

The 1st thing that we do is create that peer board experience. The 2nd thing that we do is provide one-on-one business mentoring for these business owners. Everything we do is done by people who have been entrepreneurs themselves. We don’t just provide a coach. We provide a coach who’s been a business owner to work one-on-one with you as a mentor. We don’t just provide a group facilitator for the peer boards. We provide a facilitator who’s been a business owner and a CEO.

When you interact with our staff in these two different spaces, you know that our staff has walked in your shoes and gets you. That was a departure that I wanted to bring to leading peers from what I witnessed in Vistage. Vistage had a lot of people who had had successful corporate careers, but had never owned a business, had never been CEOs. I wanted to be very faithful to our members and to say, “We are all equals. We are all peers.” Even in our staff, “We are all on this journey of growth together. We, the staff learning from you as much as you’re going to be learning from us.”

There are some great lessons here. What I understand is that you’re providing a space that is peer group-wise to others in leadership positions. The goal is to get them to feel safe because they’re on common ground. They’re with others that have been where they are, maybe even worse and more. That is an incredible and important key. The lesson I’m getting from this is that you can do this on your own. You can utilize the idea of helping people feel safe in your presence as a coach by simply opening up, being real and honest.

What you’re doing is very valuable. You have an opportunity here to take what you’ve done and turn it into something very large in the future because we all need that. It is now time to move on to the next part of this show, which I’m excited about because I’d love to hear your answers. I know that you did take a peek at the questions beforehand.

Some do, some don’t. I’m expecting some great answers from you. Here we go. We use this question to get to know you a little bit better. Feel free to be completely honest, real and share with us what you think. Who in all of the space in time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?

There is a sense of real significance in our existence. Life has a purpose. Click To Tweet

My answer was not easy because the two people I’ve respected most throughout my life have been Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. These people gave all of their lives and sacrificed for the inclusion of the people in their society, India and South Africa, respectively, who were completely left out and disenfranchised. They couldn’t vote. They weren’t respected. They could be held as slaves. There was no dignity in the way that they were treated. Having been the outsider my whole life, I felt like those who fight for those excluded are the real heroes of our lives. They’re the ones that remind humanity that we’re all brothers and sisters.

If I have to pick one person, I’m going to go with Jesus, even though I’m not a very active religious person. For most of my life, I haven’t been religious at all. I was raised by a Jewish dad and a Catholic mom, and I was allowed to pick. I ended up being Catholic. My older brother never picked a religion. That’s how free we were. I haven’t been an active, practicing Catholic for most of my life. Having found at a very young age the teachings of Jesus, it doesn’t matter what religion you have, but the teachings of loving one another as we love ourselves, to love God, to think that we are all brothers and sisters in this world, and serving a greater good, that affected me, big time.

You have no idea. As I was growing up, the sense that there was something we needed to do, that there was a sense of real significance in our existence. It wasn’t some random thing that just happened out of evolution. There was some design in our being here, in this planet, in sharing this planet. That idea and the thought that life had a purpose, also that it didn’t end in a sad way, but that there was an eternal life afterward if you had been a great person in this life, gave me so much meaning and a sense of comfort that it changed my life completely.

That’s a great illustration. I appreciate you sharing that. It fulfills the goal of the question. We get to know you a little bit better here, and you are a person who cares about others. I can see that both in the way you made your pathway to Florida, the family and business that you’ve built. Here is the grand finale, the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to change the world literally?

What I am doing, and I want to continue to do it for the foreseeable future, is helping the leaders of the free world. I think the business leaders as the people who create the most freedom. They choose the life of freedom. They are their own bosses. They choose to create things that are new and are different and solve societal problems. They choose to earn the love and loyalty of clients by doing great work that serves society.

They choose to compete, which means putting themselves out there to a high standard of excellence in everything that they do. They choose to create jobs because there’s no other way to grow their businesses unless they just want to work for themselves. They choose all of these things, and they have to choose personal growth and professional growth. If not, they just cannot achieve what they set out to do.

In doing that, they remind us all that we are all free. We can all leave our jobs and do that. We can all choose to work at different companies because we don’t live in a world of limited competition or oligopolies. We have a lot of choices. We can pick the right company and culture in which to work, work, and the right boss and the right environment to do that.

If I can serve those people powerfully, I can allow them to find more clarity on what they’re trying to achieve and give meaning to what they’re trying to achieve by aligning that with their purpose and giving them resources. By that, I mean tools, ideas, strategies, connections, relationships and all of these resources that can take them forward on this journey so that they never feel completely alone, which I did.

They never feel discouraged, which I did. They never feel like it starts to be pointless and meaningless, which I did. If I give them everything, I lacked when I was down and out. The only thing that kept me going was the love of my family, my great and very supporting wife, and just the belief that challenges are part of the journey. It was grueling, at times, very sad. I cried many times as I got through it.

If I can give them that safety net, that best in class support system, and be that go-to community for those growth-seeking business owners and CEOs, I will throw them, through their leadership, to be helping the change. First, we are in this beautiful place of South Florida and Florida in general, the country, and then hopefully have an impact beyond this country and throughout the world. That’s what I most want to do.

You are changing the world with your work and the things you’re doing. I know that everyone reading this episode so far has realized that there’s a lot to this process, which you have unpacked and codified, and which people will probably want to find out more. Tell us how people can get something from your organization that will assist them in this process. I know you have an incredible giveaway. You called it Five Blind Spots. Tell us a little bit about what that is and where they can go to get it.

FTC Leo | Profitability And Happiness
Profitability And Happiness: There are ways to avoid blind spots and to be able to see past them.

 

When I look back at the things that I got wrong, and I was able to codify them into Five Blind Spots that I had as a CEO. Those blind spots I’m not going to mention it here because I want people to read the piece, but my work is how do you avoid them? The good news is there are ways to avoid those blind spots and to be able to see past them.

What I found working with other CEOs in Vistage and now in Leading Peers is these are very common to most small business owners and entrepreneurs, and even midsize business owners and entrepreneurs. If we’re able to see them for what they are and equip ourselves to get through them, we will be able to lead better companies, and we will have more satisfaction in the process.

That’s what I created. I created an eBook called The Five Most Dangerous CEO Blind Spots and How to Avoid Them. To get this giveaway, all you have to do is go to our website, www.LeadingPeers.com. As soon as you go into the website, you’re going to get this pop-up that says, “Do you want that piece?” All you have to do is download it from there and you have it right away. It’s a free giveaway. It’s available to anybody.

This is going to stay there for quite some time because it’s the flagship thing that we have for our members as they join. It’s something for them to realize that these are common. When people hear my presentation on the topic, I’ve had so many CEOs reach out and say, “This is what I’m going through.” I’m like, “You’re going through it because we all are.” It’s like being new to a job when you’re 22. There are things that are common to everyone and everybody who’s been in the position.

Since you’ve been talking about it, I did go and sign it up, download this. It’s interesting because this is everything we talked about on the show. This is a summary of what your life has been in tackling the major obstacles that you and all of us as entrepreneurs have gone through. If you’re under 40 or 30 and in business, you need to see this because this potentially could save you. What took Leo and I may be a decade or more to figure out. Go down and grab that. You could also go to YourFirstThousandClients.com go to the Leo Popik’s show page.

They’re at the bottom of that show page will be a link directly to this as well. Leo, it has been such a pleasure getting to know you. I appreciate the time and conversation. Readers, I hope it brought you some of the wisdom that has certainly brought to me. Please let us know if you enjoyed this episode and reach back out and let us know what it was that you got from it. That’s always useful to me. Thank you again, Leo. We will talk again soon, I’m sure.

I want to acknowledge you for the work that you do have. I’ve listened to your show for some time now since we got to know each other. It’s amazing how there are bits of wisdom in every single one of those episodes, which is why I felt honored to be a part of it. Thank you for the work that you’re doing.

My pleasure.

 

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About Leo Popik

I serve an innovative community of CEOs working together to overcome challenges, seize opportunities, and test ideas and strategies to achieve goals and grow as leaders.

Over the past 20 years, I have served as the CEO of four companies, growing them from zero to seven or even eight figures in revenue. My experience has taught me what works and the pitfalls to avoid as the Chief Executive.

If you’ve never been in that role, it’s hard to understand. The gap between upside and downside is so enormous that the pull to focus on the job nonstop can be relentless.

Many CEOs feel they’re alone and are battling a loss of inspiration. They are in a rut and want out.

Many CEOs have hit a wall and are struggling to grow their business. They’re frustrated and confused.

Most CEOs struggle to have the relationships they long for with their spouses, children, and loved ones.

CEOs must stay ahead of a rapidly changing business landscape, face stiff competition, and balance their personal and professional lives.

The consequences of whether a CEO succeeds or fails affects everyone: the officeholder, the people in their inner circle, and every employee, customer, and supplier. Failure as CEO crushes the hopes and dreams of many. That burden is always heavy and can make hard times excruciatingly difficult.

Leading Peers is a community of CEOs. We provide peer advisory boards, one-on-one mentoring, expert training, collaboration forums, and more. We are a safe space for each member to bring their entire self, share challenges and opportunities, and work with other members to achieve goals and grow personally and professionally.

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