Giuseppe Grammatico: Welcome to the Franchise Freedom Podcast. I’m your host Giuseppe Grammatico, your franchise guide, and today we have a very special guest. Today I’m talking with Greg Gray. Greg is the CEO of Gray Solutions, a business advisor and executive life coach. He and his team specialize in providing education and inspiration to business owners and their teams. Greg and his team work every day to guide business owners to find their freedom from the chaos, overwhelm and lack of direction that many experiences. Greg is the author of the recent book, Business Owner Freedom, Transform Your Business to Create the Lifestyle You Desire. And Greg is also the host of his own podcast, Business Owner Freedom. I’m really excited to speak with Greg today and learn a little bit more about what he’s up to. Greg, welcome to the Franchise Freedom Podcast. Gregory Gray: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you. Giuseppe: So really excited. I know we spoke briefly before. I had a chance to take a look at your website and definitely a lot of questions that we can get in here and in the short amount of time we have today. So I guess, you know, where we’ll get started is, you know, fill us in on your background, you know, how did you get into this? And what did that journey look like? Greg: Yeah, so for the last 10 years, I’ve been doing, coaching, consulting, business advising, if you will. Prior to that, I was in a couple of different corporate environments you will. The first one, the one I spent the longest time was in automotive manufacturing and manufacturing in general. And I got a lot of experience running businesses in divisions along the way. And so there are a lot of people and process issues and that’s sort of what gave me my impetus to want to be a coach and a consultant one day. And then I spent, my last three years in the corporate space was actually with a franchisor and got to see that inside and out. So you put all that together and I found out that what I really enjoyed doing and what I was really good at doing was building teams, developing leaders, and helping build businesses. And so that’s what I do now for the last 10 years. Giuseppe: That’s great. What are some of the challenges people face when they make a transition to a new career, specifically into entrepreneurship?
Common Challenges of the Beginning Entrepreneur
Greg: Well, there’s a lot of the unknowns. And we like to say the phrase, you know, we don’t know what we don’t know. And that’s so true. And until you trip over it, and then it becomes an obvious thing that you don’t know and then you’re rushing around trying to get answers. I think the first thing I would challenge anybody making a career transition to do is to make sure that they go into a business that fits the lifestyle they want. So, you know, there’s all different kinds of franchise models, all different kinds of business models. And even though it might make a good income or, you know, look right on paper, it really has to marry up to what you want you and your family to experience because some businesses have demands that others do not and vice versa. So that’s the first piece. The second piece is, you need somebody to help you uncover your blind spots. And they’re blind because we can’t see them. And so you need somebody to kind of guide you along the way, whether it’s from leadership capability, business ownership capability, financial, okay, whatever you may not realize your shortfalls are, it really behooves you to have somebody along the way with you and probably a group of people to help you start your journey in the business because it is a different endeavor. I can tell you firsthand knowledge when I left the corporate space, I didn’t just walk into just consulting. I actually bought an insurance agency at the same time to have cash flow while I get my consulting practice up and going. And I can tell you for a fact, and I talked about this in my book, is that insurance agency made me go in cold sweats at night and I couldn’t sell it fast enough. It was not a fit. Even though it gave me an income stream, it was not a fit. So on paper it was it, looked smart, strategically, it looked smart, about drove me crazy. And so you don’t want to get in a situation where especially if it’s the only business you have going, you find yourself in sort of a trap, if you will. Giuseppe: Right. I couldn’t agree more. It’s, we talk about it on a daily basis. You know, you don’t necessarily look for the product or service, you look for the best match and that’s going all the way back to the beginning. What’s your goal, what’s with your goals, your vision, and I always believe in working backwards and then figuring out what the ideal business looks like and then looking into whether it be a franchise or a startup, but not just jumping into the product. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ll get a call, I love coffee, so I want to buy a Dunkin Donuts franchise. Or I love sandwiches and I want to look at a restaurant franchise and I always tell them, that’s great, you can definitely have that interest. But let’s take a step back. And let’s start from the basics. So definitely important. I couldn’t agree more. I have worked with business coaches in the past. And I know in your bio, and we talked earlier about being a business advisor and an executive life coach, for my understanding, you know, you kind of have to have both, if I’m not mistaken, because you know, life is a is a constant balancing act, whether you have a business, you have a family. So can you talk a little bit more about that as far as how you can help an individual either becoming a business owner, I should say, and someone that’s maybe already a business owner?
No Such Thing as a Truly Balanced Life
Greg: Yeah, so you’re exactly right. I mean, we use this misnomer of a balanced life and it’s almost impossible to balance it but you do have to go through periods, you know, and it’s really beyond a balance. You know, you have to balance your life, then you have to go beyond balance to get anything done. And you have to literally step out into what I call periodization, which is, you know, the next three months maybe focused head down and get this business going. And then you need to take a break and, and focus on the family for a while and that sort of thing. I don’t mean you 100% business or 100% family and forsake family for three months at all. What we mean is, though, is you may have to get a project pushed over the goal line, there’s a deadline, and you have to work through those kinds of things. And if we do that on our own, we usually mess it up because we get way about I mean, beyond what’s even reasonable. And so, what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced over the 10 years, including myself, is as a business owner, it doesn’t matter if it’s a female or male business owner, you need somebody to help guide you and keep you within the guardrails. You need to set up some guardrails and they need to be able to hold you responsible. You hold yourself accountable, they hold you responsible to do what you say you’re going to do. If you’re building this lifestyle for your family with this business, then somebody’s got to hold you accountable that, you know, for a period of time and that’s usually yourself. The coach or the visor has to look in and say Okay, we’re going to make sure we’re gonna do some milestone checks and make sure you’re doing this. So, you know, yes, I go in and coach people every day on their business and the p&ls, the balance sheets and what strategically makes sense. And who should you hire and who should you move around in seats and all those and all that’s important, but probably the most important thing I do is help the owner keep their wits about them from a total life standpoint. And so even if they hire me just as a coach to work on the business side, is it everybody we end up talking about life too, because it’s just it’s all wrapped together, you know? Giuseppe: Yeah, absolutely. Because if you don’t balance your time and you’re working 20 hours a day it’s obviously going to affect your personal life. So been there done that when I started my first business, especially that first year, so. It was not easy to say the least. This has been very helpful. I know, with business coaching and correct me if I’m wrong, a lot of the information, from my understanding, there’s a lot of free information out there, just as there is with franchise ownership and the various franchise companies out there. But I think when working with someone like yourself, it’s the accountability, you know? And we were basically touching on that, but it’s the accountability factor. So, knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things. Or having that information and how to apply it are two different things. So is that something that you work on and kind of have milestones, or I should say goals, you know, daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals? Is that something that you work with, with your clients?
Setting Entrepreneurial Goals
Greg: Absolutely, we would not do it without that. Matter of fact we’ve had people just say, hey, just give us the information. And while that would be easy for us to do, we don’t do that because we know that the implementation will be next to nothing. Even good-hearted people with a lot of drive just won’t get it done the way it needs to be done because you have to have somebody, again, checking what you’re doing and making sure that not only what you did was completed, but it was completed in a way that’s going to actually have an impact, whatever it is. And it could be a lot of different things, whether it’s setting meetings up in your company or delegation or creating your vision store, it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is we work on, we have a system that we use that we’ve created, and we go through multiple modules over time. And we literally go through and have meetings with the business owner and their team, if that’s what it requires, every two weeks. We don’t let you off the hook. So we meet twice a month on a regular basis to do check-ins and make sure that these actions are done and you’re not stuck in an area. So we don’t just coach in a sense of teaching. We also coach in the sense of the accountability piece too, because if you don’t, it’s a pretty good chance, about 25% of the people that go through a coaching engagement without accountability will not implement like they should. It will fall away because we’re busy, right? They get busy, they got many hats on and there’s new customers coming in, they get enamored with all that. And next thing you know, you look up in a years gone by and they haven’t done anything, Giuseppe: Right, life gets in the way, right? Greg: Yeah. And then you have this business that’s built up, you know, to scale where it’s like, oh, wow, to go back now and put these things in place is going to be more difficult. And we have that happen too We have business owners that come to us that have been in business 10, 11, 12 years and they’re like, Okay, my business is getting so big, and I don’t know what to do. It’s beyond me. And that’s a tougher challenge. We still do it, but it’s tougher than doing it right on the front end. So I’m imploring you guys listening to this that are starting out or they’re just a couple of years in, do something now, You know, you don’t have to grandiose things. Just do some small basic principles. These principles of business do not change over time. But they’re needed for somebody who’s never done it before, you know? Once you’ve done it, it’s like, oh, that’s obvious. But until you’ve done it, it’s just not that obvious. Giuseppe: Right. I agree. Absolutely. Let’s switch gears a little bit. Around, you had mentioned you had worked in franchising. Lot of obviously, I am a franchise consultant. So we assist people with the vehicle of franchising to reach their freedom, financial freedom, time freedom, and you name it. So, with franchising, obviously, you have a system in place. It’s a proven business model, and you have to be the right fit obviously for that model. How would you be able or how would you be able to assist a franchisee as part of a system. You know, they’re going to be getting support from the franchise company. They’re paying a royalty fee on a monthly basis, but how would you be able to help a franchisee of an existing system? Greg: That’s a really good question because that is, there is a misnomer there that when you’re in a franchise that everything is there that you need. And, you know, as good as some franchisors are, there are things that you have to figure out your own. Part of that is your leadership skills. They can train you, they can give you some good information, they can, you know, name some books you should read, those kinds of things. But then you have somebody coaching you while you’re doing it in practice, you again, we go back to blind spots, you don’t know what your blind spots are. Based on your personality style and your experiences of all these things, we sometimes like we’re doing everything right and our communication and we found out, oh, I made a mess and I’m not sure what I did. So those are the obvious ways that from a personality leadership standpoint. The other way is even though they may have prescribed systems, the systems in a franchisor are typically, you know what colors you have to use, how to use logo, you know, whatever process you’re doing to or service that you’re creating or whatever product you’re pushing out, how you do those things. But they may even teach you marketing systems and some sales systems, all those things. But there’s always some things missing that you have to fill in. So, you know, I’m making up numbers here, but I would say the top end franchisors probably have 80 to 90% of everything figured out because they’ve been around a long time and they’ve put a lot of energy and effort, but there’s always some things missing that you’re going to have to fill in yourself. I’ve actually helped quite a few people start their business in franchising, and they wanted a coach because they couldn’t even understand how to implement the things that the franchisor it was giving to them. So if you’re new in the business, even though it’s a business in the box, you have to take the stuff out of the box and do something with it. And if you’ve never done that, it can be a daunting task and you may just want somebody to check in and say hey, am I doing this right? Does this make sense? And some franchisors will tell you that but they’re busy too, and they’re not specifically just focused on just one franchisee, they’ve got many. And so I would implore you, use everything that franchisor gives you. I’m not telling you not to, but that little added extra expertise in there can make all the difference in the world. And it can really help you speed up your ability to implement the things that they are teaching you. Giuseppe: Yes, and yes, I absolutely agree. I tell anyone that will give me a call and speak with me, we talk about the number of franchises, over 4000 franchise companies out there and that number is growing. And, but they’re not all created equal. And so yes, as you mentioned, they’ll give you a lot of the business in a box as we call it, and there’ll be some support but they’re not going to be checking in daily. You’ll have a little bit more support in the very beginning but they will not take the place of a coach with the constant check-in and holding you accountable and everything. So that is great. And I myself have owned franchises and have hired business coaches as well. So definitely I see a huge, huge benefit there. I guess just one more question. What would you say was your number one piece of advice for people considering entrepreneurship? You know, I guess, to make that decision, yay or nay and move forward, because I know a lot of people get kind of hung up in that, with that question. Should I or shouldn’t I? And then years and years go by. So you have that number one piece of advice that they can use?
Advice for the Aspiring Entrepreneur
Greg; Well, I think you first have to have the burning desire to really want to do something on your own. And in that, you know, that can be misplaced. Obviously, you can have this desire and not be suited for it. We’ll talk about that here in a second. But you first have to have that desire. Some people out of the box, they say, Well, you know, everybody else is starting a business. Should I too? It’s like, do you really want to? And they’re like, No, I just really want to get up every day and draft to the corporate job and, you know, turn it off on Friday afternoons and don’t think about it all weekend because that is not entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship will consume you. I mean, it’s, you know, 168 hours a week in your mind. And that’s just the way it is. And you have to want that. You have to be able to handle that. So, you know, one of the things that we use a lot of time as a disc profile. We use other assessments to help people figure out if they are made for entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurs know it, but there’s some people that are on that land and like, I’m not sure, and we’ll walk them through. It’s okay, let’s figure out who you are. So I think it starts with you first. And then second thing is there’s the lifestyle. Is your family willing to put up with that? Are they going to support you in that? You know, is your spouse or significant other, your family members, are they going to be there and understand what you have to do when you have to do it because there are some businesses that you’re going to be on call 24 hours that first year to get a team built around you that they can be on call. And so, you know, until you can, and I’ll use this in quotes, until you can quote, get off the truck and you’re doing the work yourself, you need to have a family that says okay, we’re willing to do this for next year to 18 months. And as the business is scaling, we know you’re going to be consumed 24 seven. I mean, you know, kids ball games, whatever it is, you’re gonna have to go. And so there’s a dedication there. The other thing is too and I think this really ties into your audience here is do you franchise or not franchise? And, you know, my personality is that I would, I’m a, you know, a high D on the disc profile. I’m a very hard driver. I like rugged independence, those kinds of things. I would not do as well a franchise system as somebody that is maybe a C profile that says, I’m going to follow the rules. Follow the, just give me the outline of what I need to do and I’ll go do it. So if you’re a rule follower, a franchise is great for you, and you can it can speed you up to success very quickly. You know, other personalities will just fight tooth and nail. So you need to know that going in because that’ll depend whether you should have your own business without a franchise system or have a, you know, be within a franchise system. Back about five years ago, I helped a couple and they want to start, they had their own business doing something else, but they want to start another business. They wanted it as an investment. They’re like, well, we don’t want to work in the business very much. We just want to get it going and after we get going, we’re gonna turn it over to somebody. I said well, then you need to look at a franchise. And they did and it worked out great for them because they had all the things to follow, all the rules and the, you know, the guidelines and all these things, and they could just plug and play that business. And they did. They put a general manager and it took off and it grew from nothing to, you know, several million dollars in sales. And then they sold it a few years later. That worked perfect for them. But if the guy had that I worked with, he had actually bought that business and had to work in it every day it would have drove him crazy because he was fiercely independent too. But for him, he wasn’t going to work every day so it still worked out. So I think you have to figure out those nuances and really make sure the business fits you. Giuseppe: Yes. I yes. I get the question when people asked me about franchising, I tell them, it’s not for everyone. It’s, there’s basically the startup or the franchise. And the business in the box versus being able to create and have a little bit, you know, additional flexibility. Ultimately, what do you want? You know, what is your end goal? So, yes, I could not agree more. And to your point about making that big decision, you know, we have candidates calling us and it’ll just be either the husband or the wife on the line and I’ll ask well, what is your, where’s your spouse? You know, how come they’re not on the line? They said, well, they’re we’re on the same page. And I always jokingly say, when you purchase your home, if obviously you purchase your home, did you make that decision on your own? And usually they say, or for the most part, they say, No, we made it together. And I said, Well, this is probably just as big if not a bigger decision. This is something that’s going to generate some income. This is going to be your future. This is going to be your life 24 seven. Especially in the very beginning stages, you need to make sure your spouse and your family are on board. Because, yes, you’re going to miss family events in the beginning, hopefully not many. You’re going to miss your daughter or son’s basketball, soccer games. So I’m just surprised at how many times I’ll just be speaking with one spouse and not both. And I always encourage them, let’s maybe reschedule and have both on the line because some things come up, some concerns come up, and we figure out, hey, maybe business ownership in general, isn’t the right fit. Or let’s look at more of a semi-absentee or existing business so that you’re only involved for 15 to 20 hours a week. And obviously, those numbers will vary. So very interesting. It sounds like we have many of the same conversations. Greg: Yeah, yeah, I would imagine we do. Business doesn’t change, right? It just continues the same but the people around at change that are asking the questions. Yeah. Giuseppe: This has been great. I really enjoyed speaking with you and we’re coming up here about 25 or so minutes. So, you know, we are speaking today with Greg Gray of Gray Solutions. Can you walk us through how a new client were to reach out to you? And when they do, what’s the initial process?
The Beginning Process at Gray Solutions
Greg: That’s a good question. We, the very first thing we do once we decide to work together is we create what’s called a vision story. And the vision story is the basis for everything and I would urge anybody that whether they work with me or not, go to businessownerfreedom.com, and get into the area where there’s a way to create your vision story. It’s very important that you do that because the vision story outlines what you want and, you know, the basic areas of life. You know, your financial life, your freedom, your family, all these things that matter. What kind of culture you want your business to be, how much income you want to make, all these things. You need to figure all that out before you go find the business because again, we got to match it up to your lifestyle you’re wanting. Also if you’re in the middle of a business, you go, I don’t need the business. No, you need it just as bad because we’ve had business owners do this vision story exercise. They’ll be I mean, one guy was 20 something years in his business, and he did the vision story, he said, Oh, my gosh, I need to sell my business. This is not matching where I want to go. It changed his life, right? And so that’s where we start. And we will not work with somebody that won’t do their vision story, because we can’t help you get where you want to go without knowing where you want to go. And then the next step after that is obvious things. Like we do mission and not the mission statement, we do a mission for your business, we set up the values for your business because the vision is where you want to go, the mission is, you know, why you do what you do, and the values are How you going to do it. And so you got to know where, why and how and once you get those things figured out, the rest of the business we can work on the fundamentals, the principles of the business. And that’s how it works. Typical engagement with us as nine to 12 months, typically. We use, we have a lot of business owners that reengaged say well, we want to keep working on some things. After that, we’ll stay with them for three, four years. But it’s imperative that you flesh out the most key items first, which is where you want to go. And that’s where we start. Giuseppe: Right. Yes, I agree 100% and I feel like we are saying the exact same things. So at least there’s two of us saying the exact same thing out there. Greg: Yeah, there’s a few of us out there. Yeah. Giuseppe: It’s the foundation, right? I always say you have to have the right foundation because you know, people start, you know, okay, let’s, let’s bypass everything and start a business because of an interest. And there’s stories and I have dozens and dozens where someone had invested in a golf franchise, no vision, no anything, just loved golfing. And not only did he lose his entire investment, he also hates the sport of golf. So kind of killed them both just being in that business on a day to day, being in a retail space on a day to day basis. So Greg: Yes. Don’t take your hobby and ruin it. Don’t do that. Giuseppe: Right. Leave it alone. Protect it. And that’s actually what you do after work. That’s what you do on the weekends. So you don’t have to actually have that being your primary, you know, primary business. So that’s awesome. Well, Greg, it was great. Great speaking with you. This is, really enjoyed the conversation. I’m sure we can talk for another, easily another hour. For my audience, what is the best way they can get in touch with you if they have any questions or to set up a call? Greg: Yeah, just go to businessownerfreedom.com. And that’s the best way to get in touch with us. Giuseppe: Sounds great. We will put those in the show notes. And Greg, thanks again. Really appreciate your time and look forward to speaking with you soon. Greg: Yeah, absolute pleasure. Thanks, sir.