Every team has to work at forming better as a team. Executive leadership teams are not immune. Today we look at how to increase alignment with the leadership team. Our guest is Michael Bor, CEO at CarLotz. Inc Magazine ranked CarLotz #435 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. CarLotz is a consignment store for used vehicles. Michael shares insights on how to increase alignment with the leadership team. We talk about some simple strategies that you can use to improve the performance of your team.
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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
We don’t want people to really have to think too hard about how to treat a situation we, we tell them that in every situation treated when we come to a difficult decision, what would you do if it was your father, or a loved one car selling the car. And by doing that, you end up doing the right thing all the time. And it might not be financially the best move every time. But we don’t treat each transaction as necessarily financial transaction, we treat it as an opportunity to create remarkable experience and have that guest feedback to us.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you would get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. And I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [0:55]
How would you describe the connection you have with the members of your executive leadership? connection, you think about how well you guys know each other, how you understand each other what they’re going through on a day to day basis, or week to week basis. One of the things that I see companies that are growing fast building out that executive leadership team is they want increased alignment with their leadership team. So today, we’re going to talk about the ways that you can increase alignment with your leadership team. We have a special guest, he is the co-founder of CarLotz we have Michael Bor they grew astronomically fast, a couple of years running, they’ve been on the Inc 500 list, they were 439. They were 435 and 2019. And they have over 160 employees, we have that many souls to take care of, you want to make sure your executive leadership team is well connected, you want to make sure there is alignment. And today we’re going to talk about some of the unique elements that they do every week, and every day to make sure that they have this connection and increase the alignment of the leadership team.
Gene Hammett [2:07]
One of the things I like about this is we get very specific about how they structure that weekly meeting. And the elements inside that meeting that allow them to feel more alignment and connection with each other and understand each other. It may be something different than what you’re doing today. And I would challenge you to include something like this so that you can have what you want most, which is that alignment with your leadership team. So before we jump into the interview, I want to remind you if you haven’t already checked out the training we have, I keep saying this over and over, but not enough of you are really taking action on this. Do you want to be a better leader? Do you want to create a team of A players, we’ll go get the free training to avoid the three mistakes that you are making. Inside your leadership. I’ve seen every company making one of these mistakes. So it’s likely that you’re making one, maybe two, or all three, just go to genehammett.com/training, you’ll get that right away. It’s absolutely free. help you become the leader that your team craves. Just go to genehammett.com/training. Now here is my Michael Bor.
Gene Hammett [3:11]
Michael, how are you?
Michael Bor [3:13]
Good. How are you doing?
Gene Hammett [3:14]
I am excellent. We are excited to have you here at Growth Think Tank, we’re going to have a conversation about leadership and culture, and growth. Before we get into it. Tell us a little bit about CarLotz.
Michael Bor [3:26]
Sure. CarLotz is a company that my co-founders and I started about 910 years ago. It’s fundamentally it’s a consignment store for cars, we started the business thinking that it was purely a retail concept. So you might be dissatisfied with the trading offer that your dealer gave you. You might be dissatisfied with the concept of selling it yourself trying to list a car and have strangers call you. And so you bring your car to us. And we would sell the car for you and you end up with thousands more than you otherwise would if you took the dealer trading number. And we started that way. And what we learned as we grew the business is there’s quite a bit of demand for that service. There’s an even greater demand for that service for the business customer business seller. So there are huge fleets and rental car companies in banks, other financial institutions, other dealers, anybody who otherwise would sell a car at an auction, we take those cars, we recondition them, and we retail them and sellers get thousands more than they otherwise would have. So while we still have the consumer consigner as our selling client, the bigger portion of our business is now commercial consigners that are selling cars through us. We have stores in five states of eight stores. We’re pretty much east of the Rockies and hopefully continue to grow so we’ll be everywhere very soon.
Gene Hammett [4:54]
Michael, how many employees you have?
Michael Bor [4:55]
We have 160.
Gene Hammett [4:59]
Now, I know That it’s hard to lead that many souls to the next level. And I know that you guys have been through a tough time through Coronavirus. When you think about kind of the foundation that you created as a company, and you know what you’ve been through, and as you start to dig out of this hole that this is put into us? What about the people in your leadership? Do you really are proud that you invested in it?
Michael Bor [5:27]
Well, I mean, from the beginning, we knew we were entering an industry that is a bit maligned, you know, there’s a reason that used car salesman as a cocktail party joke for the most part. And we knew that going in, but it’s really, you know, we really built this business to not be part of that culture. And so it was very important as we built this business to stick to a set of core values. And for us, that’s transparency, integrity, service, and fun. And that’s something that as we studied the industry before we dove in headfirst, we realized those are really key values that this industry is not known for other, you know, I don’t want to say we’re the only ones that are doing it the right way, there are plenty of you know, high performing best in class used car retailers out there. But it’s still a cocktail party job to be a used car salesman, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure that our people and our guests feel the exact opposite when they come to our store. And it’s really because of our core values that run through everything we do.
Gene Hammett [6:37]
We were looking at some of the ways that you do values before we turned on the recorder here. And you talked about how it’s not just something that you do once in a while, but it’s completely ingrained in every day, what is ingrained in every day do for you.
Michael Bor [6:52]
Yeah, I mean, what it really does is it limits the amount of thinking we have to do about how to treat unusual situations that pop up, we do thousands and thousands of transactions. What’s interesting about our businesses, when we sell a car, we actually have two clients or two guests, we have the seller and the buyer. So every car transaction is really two experiences that we’re creating. And we need to so we have a lot of transactions, we have a relatively young and fresh teammate base. And so we don’t want people to really have to think too hard about how to treat a situation we tell them that in every situation treated, you know when you come to a difficult decision, what would you do if it was your mother, or your father, or a loved one who was either buying the car selling the car. And by doing that you end up doing the right thing all the time. And it might not be financially the best move every time. But we don’t treat each transaction as necessary a financial transaction, we treat it as an opportunity to create a remarkable experience and have that guest come back to us over and over.
Hold on for a second. Michael just said something really smart, that values are a tool that limits the time we invest in making decisions. Let me explain how that works inside of organizations. If you have values and you’re not living them day in and day out, you’re missing an opportunity. Because when you leave the room, don’t you imagine that your employees will make the best decision based on how you want them to think or want them to treat the customer or move the sales forward? Well, they don’t always know what you’re thinking. But if they understood the values, and that is ingrained in them over and over and over to the point of when you leave the room, your employees know how to make that decision, and you trust them to do it. You’ve empowered them. Imagine what the company would do. If this happens over and over again. Imagine what would happen as your leadership and your team feels completely aligned to each other through the values. And those decisions that they have to make are made because they understand they’re in alignment with the values of the company, which you helped shape. Back to the interview with Michael.
Gene Hammett [9:19]
I love that idea. And if people did that, I think in customer service, how you would treat your mom and pop and that would be fantastic, right? I want to, you know, dive into something you talked about the values and you listed them off. Transparency is one that comes up quite a bit and fast-growth companies. And I talked about it on the stages that I go to back when I used to speak on stages. But you were talking to me and share with me how you actually use transparency inside the organization. That day today we were looking at your executive leadership team meetings. Take us back to why transparency is Important at that team level, and then we’ll talk about, you know what we’re actually going to do with it?
Michael Bor [10:05]
Sure. So what we found is, you know, these executive team meetings are very, very important. We’ve got folks worried about technology, we’ve got folks worried about our team, on a human basis, we’ve got folks who are, you know, in the back office, but doing the accounting work and remittances that are very important to keep our clients happy. We’ve got people thinking about growth, people thinking about real estate. And so when we all come together, we need to very quickly be able to sync up and know what’s on everybody’s mind, and what are some of the big issues that might permeate through all the different teams. And so for us, it’s really important to understand where everyone else is. And we, you know, in addition to just the power of articulate communication across the team, we really want to know where everybody is at that moment, at the meeting. And so we do a process, I think it’s, I don’t think we’re the only ones to do this. But it’s called checking in. And, you know, at the beginning of every executive committee meeting, and other meetings that we have in the company, we go around the table, and we ensure that everybody knows where everybody else is at that moment.
Michael Bor [11:15]
So it’s as simple as I have it, I just had a great weekend, I was out in the sun, spent a lot of time with the kids, I’m feeling super energized, all the way to, you know, loved one passed away, I’m worried about the health of somebody didn’t have a very good weekend, I feel buried by work right now, you know, and, and by going around the table and hearing from everybody, you know where everyone else is at that moment. And it really helps to understand how much you can expect to get out of the other people around the table. While we’d like to think that we can get 100% of everybody all the time, it’s just not realistic. And to know that, you know, person number three around the table is having a hard time really helps to set expectations and really understand why they might be a little lethargic, or not as aggressive or a little out of their game. And it’s just helpful as we, you know, try to problem solve and think through things. You know, if person number three is really important from a technology perspective, and we have a tech question, and they’re not on their A-game, we might save that topic till another week where so that that person can really provide their hundred percent. It’s been very helpful.
Gene Hammett [12:33]
I know we talked about the check-in piece to that. But you also do an icebreaker, you gave me an example. It’s Father’s Day coming up when we record this, your most recent leadership team, what did you ask?
Michael Bor [12:45]
We went around the table and talked about the first memory we have of our fathers. And it was great, you know, it wasn’t all positive. We had a lot of people had, you know, very fond and positive memories. Everybody had fond memories of their parent father. But the first memory might not be positive. And so it’s not, it’s not meant to be kind of a hokey. Hey, everybody needs to feel good around the table question. It’s really more helps us to continuously get to know each other better and better. Every time we meet. And it’s been helpful, you know, it’s really, we’ve got a fairly diverse team from ages and backgrounds and, and to every week, get to know just a little bit more about everybody on a prescribed basis, it’s been very, very helpful.
For a second, you might be thinking that you know, asking questions like, what’s the best memory for your father? Or what do you like to eat for a snack, those are a waste of time in the meeting. But let me remind you that we’re here not just to get the work done as machines, but to connect with each other relate to each other. One of the books I read recently is the trillion-dollar coach, a guy named Bill Campbell, is a legend in Silicon Valley. And one of the things he suggested that Steve Jobs and the Apple team do is to take a moment early in the meeting, to talk about personal stuff to talk about the kids talk about the baseball or the football or the ballet, whatever it may be, but to take a moment to get personal. And the time was well spent because the team felt connected, they felt understood, and they felt like people cared. And then an important part of leadership. Apple couldn’t have been wrong. They were one of the fastest-growing companies most innovative. And even Steve Jobs, who’s not known for his stellar leadership capabilities, agreed with the fact that people need to feel connected. Bill Campbell brought that to him. I bring it to you. And hopefully, you will adopt something like this. If you do, make sure you let me know. I’d love to know how it’s working for you. Back to the interview with Michael.
Gene Hammett [14:53]
So, Michael, we got two things that you kick off the meeting with we’ve got this icebreaker we got to check-in and I know the answer this but I know our audience is kind of curious, how long does all this take on a typical week to week basis?
Michael Bor [15:07]
Yeah, it definitely depends with respect to the icebreaker, you know, their various levels of an icebreaker. So, you know, it can be as simple as you know, what’s your favorite snack food, too, when was the last time you cried and why. And as you can imagine, talking about Twinkies versus, you know, a difficult time with your spouse or whatever, obviously, can take different amounts of time. So, you know, it’s they’re all helpful, we probably do, we probably end up somewhere in the middlemost of the time, not talking about snack foods or really deep emotional issues. But typically, it’s anywhere from a couple of minutes per person to it could be, you know, one person could end up talking for 10 minutes, so we can end up a half-hour the meeting before the meeting starts. It’s not it’s for the executive committee meetings, you know, we can dig deeper, we, we schedule a little more time, we actually start a little earlier than our typical day for these so that, you know, we don’t end up, you know, burying even more at the end of this meeting. But it’s it really is the best use of time at that moment, to continue to get closer to each other understand how each other works, and really understand where they are at that moment.
Gene Hammett [16:26]
I wanted to bring that up here today because I think a lot of people are looking for ways to increase connection. They’re looking for ways to increase alignment. And they want to focus on how to do it within the context of just the business talk. And it’s so hard to do it that way. Michael, you’ve seen this. I know, I asked you this, but you’ve been doing this for years. And you have kept doing it because it’s working. When what are the benefits that you see in the way that people collaborate? And whether people trust each other? By having these moments of the check ends? And these icebreaker questions.
Michael Bor [17:02]
I think it enables people to be real with each other. So we had a meeting a few weeks ago, where what you know when we went around the table, it was largely positive. And maybe the fourth person who checked in had a real problem with something I did or the previous week, and they needed to get it off their chest. And it kind of you know, it was a real slap. I mean, slap in the face has a negative connotation, but kind of a real wake up, I had, you know, it was a blind spot. For me, I didn’t realize that what I had done was so negatively impactful to this person. And it was a huge, it was a huge growth moment for me. But you know, with that ability to, to have, you know, to proactively say what is on your mind what’s bothering you, you know, I don’t know that that necessarily would have come up in a different context. And so because that happened there in front of everybody, I had to answer for why I did what I did. And, you know, I don’t know that we necessarily resolved it, we’ve chatted since. And I think it’s now resolved, but it was good, you know, it kind of highlights the transparency of our working relationships as a team.
Michael Bor [18:22]
And now I don’t have to, I don’t ever have to wonder we have these meetings weekly, and sometimes more frequently. But I never have to wonder more than a week what’s what someone’s thinking, or if something’s bothering them because it comes out in these meetings. And it really just takes you to know, some of the long-term interpersonal friction, that can build up over time, and it just releases it. During these meetings. We also, you know, you’d asked earlier how we permeate this through the rest of the organization, we do we have weekly check-ins with everybody on the team, everyone on the team is expected to take 15 minutes a week, and let the people they work with most know where they are and what’s on their mind and what they’ve been up to and what they’ve accomplished. And then the manager, the person who manages that person takes five minutes to review all of that and provide some counter feedback. And having that every week kind of eliminates the need for an annual review or, you know, like longer period updates, where you might be surprised to hear that someone has an issue with the way you’re working. And so it’s just you know, it’s really a kind of a real-time feedback loop that we think releases a lot of the tension and friction that can sometimes build up in an organization and, and allows us to hopefully be at our best for, you know, for longer, longer periods of time.
Gene Hammett [19:55]
Is there any technology that used to streamline that and I’m not saying that we have to but Are you collecting this data? Or is it just a face to face moment for 15 minutes?
Michael Bor [20:06]
I was, you know, I? Yeah, it is a technology. It’s called FiftyFive, it’s a, it’s an app. And it’s been fantastic for us, it’s virtually eliminated the need to have extensive and, you know, potentially difficult conversations once a year or twice a year, because everybody kind of knows where everybody is all the time. And it’s, it’s been a, it’s been an awesome tool for us.
Gene Hammett [20:33]
Well, I wanted to dive into some other aspects of this, we mainly talk about leadership and culture. What are some of the other things that we haven’t addressed today? On what keeps the team aligned? What keeps you moving forward towards your growth goals?
Michael Bor [20:48]
Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, it all comes down to communication and ensuring that everybody on the team is aware of what we’re thinking at the executive committee. And, you know, we have, everybody has meetings with their team, obviously, we’re, you know, I don’t, I don’t want the casual listener to this to come across that all we do is meet all day, because, you know, we actually have very few meetings, compared to the amount of actual work that gets done. But the meetings are very productive. And it’s really intended so so that everybody from, you know, the people in the executive committee, to the corporate staff, to the people in the stores, to the people in the processing centers, everywhere around the business, we want them to know where we are. In our growth curve, you know, we did 2018 was a massive year for us, we added almost 50% more stores than we had before.
Michael Bor [21:47]
And so 2019 was a not necessarily growth year in terms of the number of stores we opened. But it was probably even more of a growth year in terms of digesting the massive growth that we executed in 2018. And we really needed everybody to know where we were at all times. And so a lot of growing pains from technology to ensuring that the customer was the clients and our guests were getting the same experience that they had always gotten when we were a smaller business, but you know, check-ins, email communication, or town halls that we have periodically, more frequently recently. Those are all ways that for those who really want to be informed of what’s going on at the corporate level, at the executive level, they can kind of tune in, better understand it, ask questions, and you know, then go on with their day and feel like they’re a part of a bigger organization.
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Gene Hammett [23:05]
As a company is grown fast. I know you’re a co-founder, you probably have a strong team around you. What’s one of the things that you had to overcome, in order to be the leader that you are today.
Michael Bor [23:18]
You know, this whole the whole feedback. Like taking very direct and immediate feedback has been difficult, you know, was difficult at first. Now, I don’t know how I ever lived without it. But when we first got started, before we opened the doors, our first day that we were open, we did my two co-founders and I solicited a bunch of friends to come and roleplay customer interactions. And of the three co-founders that started the business, one of us, not me had a tremendous amount of experience in the car business. And so we would have a friend come in, they would ask the customer, we would act the car lots coach, and we would walk them through an experience. And our my co-founder Aaron, who has just a ton of experience in the space, he would lay it out, you know, and we were we would not do a good job. And he was very direct about it and very brutal about it. And it was you know, it could be embarrassing. It could be could hit upon some soft spots and areas of growth. And it was tough. It was tough to like continuously take that punches.
Michael Bor [24:33]
But it definitely makes you a stronger person to and ultimately what we realized is that most people even though it’s uncomfortable, want that direct feedback. They don’t want to guess how they’re doing. They want to know how they’re doing from someone who knows what they’re talking about. And so as long as it’s clear that this is the type of place where you’re going to get direct feedback. And it’s going to be immediate, you learn to accept it, and it becomes less embarrassing or hurtful. And it becomes more empowering and allows you to grow as a professional and as a human being. And it’s great. And the feedback goes both ways. So if you give me feedback, and I don’t agree with it, you know, I will give you feedback on the feedback. And ultimately, we’ll, you know, we’ll both not have to wonder what the other person is thinking, which allows us to really focus on getting the job done.
Gene Hammett [25:31]
Well, Michael, thanks for being here. I’m smiling when I say this, but that’s just another example of how important transparency is to you in the organization, the culture, and it’s something that I’ve seen is very beneficial to organizations and embrace that. So I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom and insight.
Michael Bor [25:50]
Thank you so much for having me.
Gene Hammett [25:52]
Fantastic interview here on the podcast. I love this conversation about increasing team alignment with your leadership team. When you think about the ways that you guys interact with each other, do you wish it was a little bit better? Do you imagine a little bit more camaraderie, a little bit more support, empathy, whatever is missing, you have to be intentional about bringing it in. It’s not always about just the work, just the metrics, and how you guys are, you know, getting results. It’s about how you guys relate to each other, communicate, how to feel connected, and understood. Now your job as the founder, CEO, and really someone who was meant to align this team so that it’s optimized to the highest level is to figure out what needs to shift inside you not to blame others, but to look at what’s going on inside your own thinking, What’s keeping you from creating that alignment that you want. Well, that’s where I come in. If you’re not quite sure what it is make sure you reach out to me at [email protected], or you can send me a message through my clarity call. You can go to genehammett.com/clarity-call, and you can have time with me to talk about this issue, the breakdown that you want to find, or the breakthrough that you want to create inside your company. Just go to genehammett.com/clarity. When you think about moving to the next level, make sure you think of me, make sure you think of this podcast. As always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
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