The Importance of Building Resiliency With Todd Palmer
In this episode Karla and Todd share stories to impress the importance of being resilient in business.
As a 25-year entrepreneur, business coach, keynote speaker & author, Todd Palmer made it his WHY to Improve Lives. He does this by teaching, guiding & empowering entrepreneurs, CEOs and leaders on how to take the complex and make it simple regarding human capital. He guides us to adopt a growth mindset, while teaching necessary business skills, to create a business & life by design.
Listen to the podcast here:
Read Along as Karla and Todd Discuss the Importance of Building Resiliency in Business.
Karla Nelson: Welcome to the People Catalyst Podcast, Todd Palmer.
Todd Palmer: Thank you so much for having me today, Karla. I’m glad to be here.
Karla Nelson: Oh, I’m super excited about the podcast here today and we get a little bit of a time to chat. I loved hearing not only your story, but I think something that any business owner, entrepreneur, individual that can learn from is resiliency.
Todd Palmer: Well, resiliency is often a lesson for entrepreneurs that is challenging to learn. It was challenging for me to learn because I had this image in my mind that success was a really, very linear line from the bottom to the top and it was just going to be if I have a better mouse trap or I have the better idea, the world would be the path to my door and I’ll market it and people will want to work with me, and it’s just going to be super easy. Where I’ve really just figured out, ultimately, that success is a very, very crooked line filled with stops and starts. To get through those, you got to be resilient.
Karla Nelson: It makes me think of that picture where it says, “What people think success looks like, and what it really looks like and there’s a whole bunch of scribble leaves.”
Todd Palmer: It’s absolutely that.
Karla Nelson: It’s messy.
Todd Palmer: Well, it’s like life. It’s messy. Parenting is messy, being a significant other or a spouse is messy, being an entrepreneur is messy. When you take a look at the data behind the messiness of entrepreneurs, I think is that resiliency that we don’t talk nearly enough. When you’ve got a space like entrepreneurship where the failure rate in 2020 is over 80%. The divorce rate’s only 45%, you got a much better chance of having a successful marriage than growing a successful company.
When the further data point that only about four and a half to 5% of all companies in the United States that are incorporated ever reach $1 million or more in revenue, there’s a lot to overcome. Having said all that, being an entrepreneur has been by far the most rewarding career I could have chosen.
Karla Nelson: Well, they’re definitely happier, and it’s really sad because 70% of people, as reported by Gallup for the last, I don’t know, 40 years they’ve been doing, they are just identifying. They put it in different terms: employee engagement or happy at work, but 70% in the United States Hate their job, capital H. Not just disengaged, basically feel like they’re selling their soul every single day.
Todd Palmer: Does not surprise me. Being a recruiter for 25 plus years, doesn’t surprise me because as soon as I could figure out somebody hated their job, and the number one reason they hated their job was usually their immediate boss.
Karla Nelson: Yes.
Todd Palmer: I was able to pull them out of that company.
Karla Nelson: Oh my gosh, that’s a podcast we just did, people leave bosses, not companies. It’s so true.
Todd Palmer: Oh, it’s totally true, and it’s really sad because a lot of employers think, “If I just throw money at it, someone will stay.” But the reality is money, depending upon, at least in my experience, is about third or fourth on the list, and bosses are always number one on the list.
Karla Nelson: Yeah. You spend more time at work than doing anything else. So, it needs to be an enjoyable place, and talking to the same thing is the object of the exercise, too, is to get something done. So when you take a look at oh, it’s not singing Kumbaya or the air hockey table in the break room, it’s the high fives and being a part of a winning team that gets people energized and engaged.
Todd Palmer: Absolutely, absolutely. Take a look at the stuff that Google has been putting out lately about psychological safety in the workplace and how they’re building teams out by creating the space where people can be seen, people can be heard, trust grows, and you’re not managed by fear and intimidation.
Those types of changes going forward are going to be massive for the millennials who really focus on the ideas of, “I’ll trade flexibility and freedom for money. I want to work in teams, don’t make me work by myself.” All those different pieces roll into that because at the end of the day, and I think you’re a believer in this, that the number one differentiator in any business art is going to be the people and the people on your team.
Karla Nelson: Oh, for sure. Oh yeah, and that’s why we always say in business and life, relationships are everything. Not something, not part of it, everything.
Todd Palmer: Yeah.
Karla Nelson: So that’s why when people leave their bosses, they don’t leave their companies. The crazy thing is in doing the research for that podcast, the cost is crazy. So, you’ve been a recruiter, Todd, or previously recovering recruiter.
Todd Palmer: Absolutely.
Karla Nelson: I always call myself a recovering banker too.
Todd Palmer: Oh yes, it is definitely a recovering recruiter role that I once had. Yes.
Karla Nelson: But, it is 33% of any position’s salary. That’s what the turnover, the hard costs, that’s from], or it might’ve been Harvard Business Review, I’m not sure, but 33%. So if you’re paying somebody $100,000, the hard cost to your bottom line for turnover is $33,000. But the soft costs are what echo and echo and echo, all those corporate words we use, right? Employee engagement, culture, leadership, you name them, right? Which, basically just can just suck a company dry. It’s the number one and number two largest costs to any organization.
Todd Palmer: It is really something that’s still, by and large, across most companies is not known and not embraced by leadership because a lot of leaders that I’ve run into, even some of the leaders I’ve been coaching now that I’ve transitioned away from daily recruiting, they’re going to salute the flag of the past with a, “We’ve always done things that way” fixed mindset, and they don’t recognize the progress is going to happen when you’re willing to let go of what was and be reality-based about what is.
So many employers I used to deal with are now my clients who are a little bit more seasoned in life are complaining about millennials. They don’t understand and they don’t this and they don’t that. Then, you got the millennials complaining about the Gen Xs and the boomers. We have five generations in some companies now working together.
Karla Nelson: It is staggering, isn’t it? So different. Just thinking of the mediums to communicate.
Todd Palmer: Oh, it’s insane. It’s funny. My greatest client success story for Extraordinary Advisors is a guy in his 50s we started his first business after turning 40 and it’s all millennial-based and it’s all virtual. He has no fixed costs for real estate, no fixed costs for all the desks and all that nonsense. He’s created this-
Karla Nelson: My first phone system costs $15,000. Remember?
Todd Palmer: Oh, I think he uses VoIP for free, so the world has changed so much.
Karla Nelson: Exactly. I know, it’s just amazing when you actually look at the benefits. I loved how you said, “Don’t focus on what was, focused on what is.” That’s awesome. Can you share a little bit about how that helps build resiliency just all in of itself?
Todd Palmer: Oh my gosh, that’s exactly the whole point. So, I used to think that the line of success was that straight trajectory. Every time I would stumble and fall, every time I would make a mistake as the leader, I would beat myself up. I suffered from something called imposter syndrome. I thought everybody else had all the answers and I was the only idiot in the room and that just compounded over time. Over time for me, it started to shut me down. I’m nine years into my business, I’m starting to shut down, company’s not doing so well, and I’m not dealing with my stuff. I’m not going into the office.
I could lie to myself and say, “Well, I’m the owner, I don’t have to go in.” Well, September of 2006 I’m $600,000 in debt. My imposter syndrome is off the charts, I can barely get out of bed. I’m thinking of the world’s biggest failure because my identity was tied to the business. So if the business was successful, I was so successful.
Karla Nelson: That’s so interesting, and that’s very true. How many times does our success connected to something else and suffer for just being human?
Todd Palmer: Absolutely. I needed an outside observer. So, I hired a coach and he’s looking at the business, he’s looking at my team, we’re talking about their performance. I’m not holding anybody accountable. The inmates are running the asylum. We had breakdown in trust. So in all candor, in September 9th of 2006 I’m, remind you, I’m 600 K in debt, so I’m running out of cash. I’m going to lose the house that my son and I we’re living in, I was a single parent.
I walk in, fire my entire company, start over, and within a year, I’m on the Inc. 5,000 was the fastest growing companies, make the list six times because I realized that the key to being, for me, to be successful was tenacity and resiliency in the face of overwhelming odds. A lot of those odds I had created for myself.
Karla Nelson: That’s good. I love that. Tenacity too. I mean, that’s really when your muscles grow the most, right? I mean, you have to put them under… There’s a reason why when you work out and you’re breaking it down, but it builds back up. So I mean, you could really apply that to a whole bunch of different facets of business, but I’m pretty sure, I mean, my background, I went to the school of hard knocks two times, so I think I always grew during the most challenging times.
Todd Palmer: Well, it’s crazy because for a long time I never talked about September 9th, 2006 because I was so embarrassed. I was so shamed. I was guilting myself. It’s crazy how so many years later, my mess has become my message. It’s a story I tell from stage, it’s a story I tell my clients, story I’m telling on podcasts like yours so that people know that they’re not alone and that these-
Karla Nelson: They’re normal, congratulations. Welcome to the team.
Todd Palmer: Yes, welcome to the human race. Yes. In difficult times where, in my case, some things were thrust upon me and some choices I made, it, like you talk about in your philosophy, it always comes down to people. Well, the one person I was doing the worst job taking care of was me.
Entrepreneurs often think we have to be so much of service to others, which we do, but we also have to make sure we take care of ourselves and I wasn’t doing a very good job of that. I had to realize that I had to get rid of the doom loop in my head. So, my coach worked with me, we came up with five positive things to do every day to get me unstuck. Sometimes when I checked-
Karla Nelson: Oh, I like that. Do you mind sharing maybe some of those positive things that everybody could do?
Todd Palmer: Yeah. Yeah. For sure.
Karla Nelson: I’m sure everybody needs more positivity in their life, right?
Todd Palmer: Well, and I love the work of Gabrielle Oettingen around her WOOP concept, “It’s not just thinking something positive, but then taking an action.” Then, that action-
Karla Nelson: The action has to be connected to it.
Todd Palmer: Absolutely. Then whatever the result of that action is, for me, and we worked so much on this back in ’06 was you try something, it doesn’t work. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure just because the idea didn’t work. So over the course of time, I’d check in and when I was really bad off, I checked in with my coach every day. He was awesome. So, he’d be like, “Okay, what are the five things you did?” “Well, let’s see. I got out of bed and made it to the office.” Big step right there. “I went to the gym and exercised and took care of my health.” Important. “I called five clients that I hadn’t talked to in six months and reengaged them.” I did something-
Karla Nelson: How fun is that, to catch up with a [inaudible 00:11:53] client?
Todd Palmer: Oh, absolutely. I, again, distanced myself. Some of them thought I’d sold the business. I mean, it was just a situation where those five things every day and then, how did I apply those to myself? So when I got home at dinner, my son and I would have dinner, and I would always ask him not, “How was your day?” because any kids are going to say, “It was great,” because I don’t want to talk about it. I’d say, “So, tell me the one thing that you learned today that you didn’t know yesterday,” and then he had to think.
Karla Nelson: That’s awesome.
Todd Palmer: Then and he said, “Well Dad, what was the one thing you learned today?” “Well, I learned that if you don’t pay the bank, they get really angry at you,” but it taught him finance. Now, he’s 29 years old and he’s a CPA.
Karla Nelson: That’s awesome. Yeah. You know what is interesting, I started my career in the title industry.
Todd Palmer: Okay.
Karla Nelson: So at 18, I worked at a title company and I was sitting there going, “Gosh, I need to learn this and be the best at what I was doing.” That was my goal every day: learn one new thing that I didn’t know yesterday. Two months into it, and I was looking around going, “Gosh, I want to run a business. What business should I do?” I was like, “I love events, I love people,” and then all of a sudden I started realizing all those checks that were coming across my desk. I was like, “That’s a nice check. I want to know what those people do.”
So, I got into finance, but it started out just learning one new thing a day. After two years, got my broker’s license at 20, and it just happened to be that one thing I did every day that all of a sudden, a light bulb went off and went, “Hey, wait a second. I kind of think I need to launch a business.”
Todd Palmer: Well, it’s so important to recognize what do you enjoy? So if you enjoy, like my son, he enjoys doing accounting. I enjoy-
Karla Nelson: God bless him.
Todd Palmer: I know. I tell him, I say, “You’ve got a job for life. I mean, you’re good to go.” It was interesting going back to the resiliency part, I love helping solve problems. I love clients and satisfying their needs and the staffing place, or even now with in the coaching business. What I didn’t like and what I was really bad at was cold calling because it would fire up my imposter syndrome.
So, I broke down all the steps of my sales process, and I felt like a failure in the moment because I would hire other people to cold call. Back in the days when people actually had these things called landlines and they would pick it up and someone would answer. Half your audience is probably checking out-
Karla Nelson: You used to have things called servers too, Todd.
Todd Palmer: I know it, and there’s this other thing called a fax machine. I think I just saw it in that Wall Street with Michael Douglas back in the day.
Karla Nelson: Oh, my gosh.
Todd Palmer: But I would hire people to do that for me so that I would engage the customers or the prospects after the cold call because I realized the cold call shut me down. But for a long time, I would just beat myself up because I should be all things to all people all the time. That was a falsehood and it was an unproductive message to send myself because, especially now in 2020, resiliency and tenacity and the ability to fight for another day, and to get up every day with that Rocky mentality is more important than ever before.
Karla Nelson: Definitely, because things are changing. I was just reading, I’m not sure where the article came out of, because I’m an avid reader, but it was talking about all of the businesses that are open today, Todd, in 10 years, the likelihood that you’re still going to be around is not likely because that’s how quickly things are shifting.
Todd Palmer: Oh. If you see things like that or you even go look at some of these old list articles of who was on the Fortune 500 25 years ago, a lot of those companies don’t even exist anymore.
Karla Nelson: Yes, yeah.
Todd Palmer: The iterative nature of business, and now throw in artificial intelligence, I mean, that’s part of the reason recruiting became a whole lot less attractive to me because I thought, You know, this artificial intelligence is going to start replacing me. My unique ability, my ability to listen in a conversation, pick out things, and create a great candidate experience, create a great customer experience is going to be limited. I really should think about other things to do with my life because I’m still a relatively young person. How can I do those things?”
Because the world we know, I mean, now going into the rest of 2020, I predict we’re going to see a lot more people wanting to work from home.
Karla Nelson: Oh, yeah.
Todd Palmer: Companies are going to be much more comfortable with it because world forces have forced them to adapt and adjust. We were talking a little bit about some associations we’ve been part of, and now they’re going to more virtual models and more tele-models versus face-to-face models. I love face-to-face. I think there’s such a magical energy when you’re in a room with somebody face-to-face, but if that can’t be always attained, then the virtual model’s going to be going forward. It’s going to be-
Karla Nelson: Yeah. The flexibility of it is just incredible because now we’re talking about, because I know you were a part of EO there in Detroit and you’re the past president. Right?
Todd Palmer: Absolutely.
Karla Nelson: One of the challenges, and I was a member of this, did just the fact that having a whole day, one whole day per month when you have a travel schedule, is really challenging. Not that I can’t put that day aside, but the fact of I might not be in the state is sort of an issue. That is really interesting. Thinking about the resiliency of individuals through those times too, because now all of a sudden, only 29% of people have the ability or have telecommuted before, Todd.
So, you think about that other group. We just did an article, we collaborated with an association called, MANSEP.
Todd Palmer: Okay.
Karla Nelson: Talking about taking innovations, right, globally. One of the challenges they had was that in a gentleman named Doug Sparks, we kind of co-created the article together. Is that they’re in the electronics and semiconductor space, and they had people in China who had to telecommute. Their CEO actually got stuck in Ohio for like since December. She just went home.
Todd Palmer: Wow.
Karla Nelson: Then, they have a group in the EU and then they have a group in the States, and they started talking about how the telecommuting just completely changed their culture because instantly, not only are you dealing with, “Okay, we have to get something done,” but three completely different cultures of process more because it seems in the EU they’re more process-orientated. In China, it’s because my boss said so. In the States, it’s trying to get them motivated, right?
Todd Palmer: Sure.
Karla Nelson: Because if I don’t want to do it, I’m not going to do it. So, it was literally so challenging, looking at, “Okay. Well, how do you get all these people working together and overcoming this current challenge with so many completely different characteristics?”
Todd Palmer: Right. Well, it’s so important I think in those environments to have someone, and sometimes it does require an outside observer, an outside resource to come in and really work on team building and sub-team alignment to the greater cause of the organization. Some of the training I do with EO globally is around some of the board positions are called The Trifecta. It’s three board positions that were very, very diligently on the member experience.
The more they get aligned on what the impact they can do and what the impact they can make on the new member, it’s so powerful. You see your attrition rates go down, you see your member satisfaction go up, all these different things, and they have about a 90-day window to make this happen. So laying all that out and getting them to buy, part of the challenge has been in getting them to buy-in. So, what I do is I really talk to them is I talked to them all the same, I talk to them as individuals and I get them to harken back to what it was like in your first…
Do you remember what your first EO experience was? Do you remember your first EO event? If it was great, let’s talk about it, but I know my first EO event was miserable. I didn’t know anybody, no one was my champion through the process, and I’m here today to be a servant leader to the training room so that everybody can have a great experience like Karla had or like Jody had or like Bob had. Laying that all out and getting everybody going in one direction can be really done.
I think it’s a magical art if you can able to do that in regards to different cultures in different areas, but I do believe, and I think we’re seeing that so much today where people from around the globe can come together for a common cause.
Karla Nelson: Yeah, I love it. That’s awesome. Of course, there’s the amazing part of having to be in a situation, right? Because, that is how you actually build resiliency. It’s funny, I used to, when I was growing up, pray for patience. I stopped doing that because it’s it’s like, “Okay, I want to be patient,” but then all you really get is the opportunity to be patient. It’s not like something that happens to you, it’s your response to a situation.
When we first got on the previous call before, I’m jumping on the podcast, we talked about 9/11 and 2008 and current situations in the marketplace today, and it’s like, “Okay, well, you’re not just made resilient. You get the opportunity to be resilient.” You take it as an opportunity until something happens.
Todd Palmer: Well, it’s true. I remember 9/11, I remember 2008, I remember my experience that I self-created in 2006. I remember 2009 after being in the recession and coming out of it and being on the Inc. list twice already, having to go into my team and I laid off my entire company for two months. I handled it very differently because of the resiliency I learned.
I worked with a great game of business people, I came up with an open book management style, my numbers were shared, people knew how much money I made. I put all the myths and misnomers around what it was like to be an entrepreneur or CEO and got real with my people, laid it all out to them. I stopped taking a salary two months before I let anybody go, and I laid out for them what a great future would look like when they came back, so everybody knew that this wasn’t a reflection of you. This is a reflection of the marketplace. When you’ve got 15% unemployment, no one’s going to use a recruiting company to hire. It’s just not going to happen.
Karla Nelson: Yeah.
Todd Palmer: That was our brutal reality, the Stockdale Paradox. So, I’m going to have the absolute faith that we’re going to get through this tough time, while also dealing with the brutal reality and having the authenticity, the transparency, and the vulnerability to say to my team, “I’m not sure how this is going to happen yet, but trust me, we’re going to live to fight another day because I’ve been there before and I’m going to lead this charge. So, just have faith in me.”
While all the time I’m thinking, “Well, this feels really uncomfortable, but you know what? At the end of the day, this is going to make a great story.”
Karla Nelson: It always is. We always call that type two funny talk.
Todd Palmer: Yeah, but it’s always-
Karla Nelson: At the moment when you’re going through something you’re like, “Ugh,” but it tends to be the best.
Todd Palmer: Yeah.
Karla Nelson: Like you said earlier, that your mess became your message. So, there’s the beauty within the tragedy, right?
Todd Palmer: Well, look at any Shakespearian play, look at any of these popular movies, Lord of the Rings series or Star Wars or anything else that’s popular. It’s always that hero’s journey fraught with peril, fraught with one misstep and you’re done. That’s what people get. I mean, Rocky. Everybody loves the hero overcoming massive odds to achieve success. Where I think the greatest opportunity for those of us who’ve been through those challenges is to be the guide to other people’s hero’s journeys through the coaching and through the mentoring or for the opportunities that come to us because a lot of people have not been through some of the tough times.
If we can do that experience here, we can help be the eyes and the ears of a 30,000 foot view while they’re chopping through the brush down on the Earth. We can give them so much more value, and that creates such a great legacy that it’s just so incredibly rewarding.
Karla Nelson: That’s awesome. I love it. Okay, so how can our listeners get ahold of you, Todd?
Todd Palmer: Karla, the best place for them to reach me is going to be on my website, extraordinaryadvisors.com. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to offer a 30 minute free coaching session to anybody who’s heard me on your podcast today. We can talk about imposter syndrome, we can talk about growing and scaling your business, we can talk about what your legacy’s going to be, we can talk about resiliency.
Karla Nelson: Yes, that’s awesome. I love it.
Todd Palmer: I think for me, it’s a great opportunity. 12 years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Simon Sinek before he wrote his first book, and it’s been two-
Karla Nelson: So does that mean, we had on the podcast not too long ago, the cofounder?
Todd Palmer: Oh, cool.
Karla Nelson: Yeah.
Todd Palmer: I mean, Simon really impacted my life from a perspective. I spent two years working with him to get two words: improve lives. That’s why I’m here, that’s my calling in life. So really, if people think go, “Oh, I don’t want to bother him and I don’t want to waste his time. I can’t do this,” I’m like, “No, let’s have a conversation because if you have one aha moment or one takeaway, you’ve made my life a better place. So, let’s have that conversation.”
Karla Nelson: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for your time today, Todd. It’s been a pleasure.
Todd Palmer: Karla, thank you for the opportunity.