Brad Tornberg - Business fitness
Brad Tornberg is the founder of E3 Consulting Partners and published author of Business Fitness Revolution, as well as a Microsoft Certified professional with over 35 years of experience in management and software consulting.
With the major upheavals to work and society, also entailing the great resignation of employees mass quitting their jobs, businesses need to change as well if they want to keep up with this new more flexible, hybrid and employee-centric reality.
In this episode, we discuss how focusing on business fitness can help leaders rethink and revamp their company culture. We touch upon the role of digital technology, discuss tips for preventing burnout and finish with a note on the transition to hybrid work and what the key elements of success are here.
Links & mentions:
“It's business suicide. I mean, if you're not going to be flexible, your people aren't going to come back to you. And, you know what, it's happening. You see it, you see the companies that order them back, they have a 15 or 20% reduction in their workforce because people aren't coming back. So why put them in a situation where it's choose me or them? Put them in a situation where you've got choices.”
Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation Podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.
Tim Butara: Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. I'm joined today by Brad Tornberg, founder of E3 Consulting Partners and published author of Business Fitness Revolution. He's also a Microsoft certified professional and has over 35 years of experience in management and software consulting. In today's episode, Brad will be telling us more about business fitness and why it's become so crucial for businesses in recent times. Welcome, Brad, thanks so much for being with us today. It's really great having you as our guest.
Brad Tornberg: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it, Tim.
Tim Butara: Can you first tell us a little bit more about business fitness? Maybe what the term means, how and when it was coined and maybe how the concept has been evolving since the start of 2020, since the start of COVID.
Brad Tornberg: Great. I like to tell the story of how it came to be the evolution of it. I was at a client doing some consulting and I noticed that the business owner was extremely stressed out, extremely overweight. He was sweating profusely and it was the middle of winter and he was yelling and screaming at all of the people in the place. And when I looked around and I looked at everyone in the company, I saw no one was really happy. Everyone was very negative.
And I realized that the business owner is essentially the brain of the business and how he communicates or doesn't communicate effectively with his people is the central nervous system. So from that blog article, I came up with the idea of comparing each of the systems in the business body with the systems in the business body, for example, the circulatory system, how well transactions flow through an organization, what's the cash flow of the business. The digestive system, we take in all of this information and we get rid of the garbage. But the stuff that's useful to the business body we have to keep and we maintain.
So it started with one chapter and then every week I started writing another blog, and eventually it became a book, The Business Fitness Revolution. And then that was back in 2015, 2016 when I actually put it together. And then I wrote the book. It was done in 2018. And I always wanted to produce an online course. And what I did was I went to a professional who does it and put together the course. It's 13 chapters, there's workbooks and things in there. There's bonus chapters. But the idea is the concept is to help the business owner and the business both achieve peak performance for themselves and their business.
So that's how it kind of came to be. And my background is, I have a background in IT consulting, which is mostly business applications. I also owned a marketing business for a period of time called Duct Tape Marketing, and I do general business consulting. When I used to come in and help solve the business problem, they would say to me, you really seem to know what you're talking about. Can you help us in other areas? So it became kind of viral like that. And what this course really is is 35 years of me making mistakes and getting it right and trying to empower the people that are going to work with me or that are going to take the course to not make those mistakes and actually scale their business up quickly.
Tim Butara: That's an awesome mission about utilizing your past mistake so that other people don't have to make it. And an awesome origin story, because I think that with these more abstract business and especially digital concepts, it's sometimes hard to really understand and grasp them if you don't have a kind of analogy with something that's more familiar to them. Kind of comparing different business processes to different body processes. I think that that must have been a super valuable and popular series.
Brad Tornberg: It is, especially since, to the most layman, the concept of digital transformation or digital technology is this vast idea. And what does it specifically mean for the business? And how do they apply it to their business? And what are the things that they should be looking to do and they should be looking for? And I get those questions asked all the time because people read and a buzzword becomes popular and people want to understand what that buzzword means to them within their business.
Tim Butara: So how exactly does business fitness benefit a business?
Brad Tornberg: Well, by working on the overall health of the business owner and the business itself, we're trying to get them to achieve that peak performance. And what it is, it's a holistic method in terms of making the people feel involved in the process. It's really important today, right? There's a shortage of quality workers that are available in the space, and it's really crucial and important for people to feel that they're part of the company.
So by bringing them into the fold of, how do we make things better and improving, you're going to reduce turnover. And right now, that's one thing that businesses all over the world are looking to do. How do I keep my people in my business? It's not money anymore. It's about feeling wanted. It's about letting them lean in. Brené Brown always talks about leaning in. How do you lean in? How do you rumble with them? How do you-- everybody come into the room, say what's on your mind with all kinds of honesty and things like that. And when we walk out of the room, there's no emotional scars, because that's what rumbling is. So to me, what it really does is business fitness kind of brings together the owner and the employees to create a team concept to move the business forward.
Tim Butara: That was really well said. I love it. And it's definitely a key aspect of a successful business today, right?
Brad Tornberg: Yeah. People leave businesses because-- not because of money. They leave because of bad managers and bad owners. And I'm trying to make the bad owner a good owner so that his people want to stay. And a lot of times when I talk to the people, it's funny. I get brought into consulting engagements and the business owner says to me, my company's broken, I want you to fix it.
And nine times out of ten, I go back to the business owner, I say, well, I found out what your problem is. And he said, what I said, you, you are the problem. And the way you communicate or don't communicate with your people is frustrating to them that you've got a high turnover in here because people will take less money to be in a happy environment today, especially with Covid and the things that we're going through now, people have no tolerance for BS. If they're not happy, they're going to move.
And I heard a statistic this morning that basically said that people returning to work, it's down like 14%. People are just not going back to work, retirees who sometimes go in even after they retire and pick up work and things like that. They're not going to do it anymore because they just don't want to deal with all of the garbage that they have to deal with today. So it's really important that you focus on your employees and their wellness and fairness to those employees and making them feel that they are part of a family, a bigger thing.
Tim Butara: Yeah. It's definitely true that business fitness is right now and will become even more important and probably more talked about. I think we're just now talking about it pretty early on, and I think it still has a lot of room to grow and for companies to see how it can benefit them.
Brad Tornberg: Well, one of the things that we were doing before the pandemic was, we had actually have three major hospital systems in this area interested in incorporating this into a wellness program. I had proposed to them, what if we use-- a lot of the hospitals now have these health facilities right where you can go and you could work out, it's an extension of the hospital. It's very common now in the US. That we would go in there and we would have business executives or business owners actually work closely with a personal trainer who can deal with their issues of stress and can deal with their issues of physical health and wellbeing.
And at the same time, we would give them a breakfast on the way out the door. And we'd have 20 minutes of an open conversation to kind of create this wellness program. And we've even had some of the bigger providers of medical care, like Blue Cross, Blue Shield, saying to us, hey, this would be a great program for us to offer our large scale businesses and to attract other businesses in because we're going to work with their C-level executives and help improve them.
So the idea was really well received and unfortunately, the world shut down. But when this is over, we plan on going back to that more in person kind of concept where the executive comes in like, I get up at four in the morning and go to the gym. I'm not expecting them to get up at four in the morning, but 06:00 in the morning. They can do this. They can make it part of their day. They walk out with lunch and apple, a couple of healthy foods, and they go on with their day.
And that's what the concept is. That like you get up in the morning and you brush your teeth, you should get up in the morning and you should have a good workout because that's what gives you your energy. That's what gives you your enthusiasm. That's what you walk into business and you're ready to rip the face off the world. So it's the way I've lived for the last 35 years. And I want other people to live that way because they can see that achieving peak performance only happens when they themselves are at peak performance.
Tim Butara: And it won't only positively impact their business performance, but their overall life basically.
Brad Tornberg: And that-- you know what? And I say this to business owners. I say, how'd you like to live another 20 years? Think about how much more money you could make in those 20 years. And if you don't want, think about how much you could enjoy your retirement in those 20 years. So, yeah, it's a lifestyle issue. It's of quality of life. And today, I think with what's happened in the world, everybody is now making this monumental shift to realization that this is something that they have to do. It's called self care. They have to take care of themselves because no one else is.
Tim Butara: Perfectly said. And yeah, another huge change that's going on in the world right now is this accelerated digitalization. So more and more people relying on digital technologies and whatnot. So how does this factor into business fitness? How can digital technology help with business fitness?
Brad Tornberg: It's a very far reaching thing, for example, by having digital technology in place, the speed of your transaction is increased, so it's much more efficient. The facilitation of communication and collaboration is much greater. People talking to one another through Teams and Zoom and other things. So the ability to have that constant touch point is crucial in terms of making the business fit and providing communication between everyone.
Process reinforcement, when you implement digital technology, chances are you're going to have an electronic process of how things happen and having that documents-- by documenting that, the process ramp up time is quicker, the accuracy and transactions is greater, and your employees are happier because the mundane tasks - they're not doing it. And when you look at the way digital technology is going today with things like robotics and artificial intelligence and the ability to scrape papers and scan them and read intelligence off the fields, you're removing from employees the mundane tasks that people don't like to do, and you're allowing them now to move into other roles that gives them the perception of the reality of being more important, adding more value to the business. Things like that.
According to a study by MIT and I read this the other day. It was by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte. 91% of employees, they want transformation in the business because they believe that digital technologies have the potential to fundamentally transform the people in their organization work. But only 43% are happy with the progress so far.
So it's something that's out there. It's something that companies I work for Microsoft. We're pushing it and pushing towards it. And when we go out to customers, we preach it up and down. But the reality is people talk about it, but the implementation of it is much more difficult, much more expensive and is a slow turn. It takes a while. You take parts of your business and you digitize those parts of the business and then eventually at some point, if you're ahead of the curve, all of that business is digitized. So it's really important.
And the other thing is, there are areas that it really works, it's effective, like marketing automation, where you have processes and procedures and automations and measurements already built in. It's really about the data today. It's about gaining the intelligence from the data and being able to predict what's going to happen in the future. We run into this a lot now with supply chain planning, right? I mean, look at the world.
I mean, you can look at a map of all the ships and you can realize there's more ships on the ocean than there are in port because they can't get into dock because there's no trucks to unload them and to move it throughout the country. That's a big area. It just so happens. I'm a supply chain specialist. Little did I know that I’d become the center of attention at Microsoft for all of this stuff.
But the reality is you can automate sales, you've got project management, all of these tools, all of these things that are available to you in the digital world, and all of that data now becomes a repository for you to analyze and look at your customers, look at the items that you're selling and look at how long it takes to move something from one point to another.
Looking at the effectiveness of a vendor that may be in the supply chain crisis, I need to have five vendors, not two vendors, and then organizing projects around that. Being able to collaborate and coordinate in a digital world is great because rapid information. If projects are going awry, how quickly can I get them back on track? What's my cost? Am I over budget or am I under budget? It used to be that accountants would total all these things up, and by the time you got the numbers, guess what? It was too late.
So having that information at your fingertips now has got tremendous value to it. Customer relationship management - what are your customers saying about you on your social media sites? What are your customers, what do they like about you? And more importantly, what don't they like about you that you need to change? Getting that feedback is an important way to mold and form your business so that it meets what the general public wants to see.
I always talk about your business face and your business body, right? Which is, how do people perceive you? How do they look at you? And what do they say about you? And do you ask them what they say about you? Do you listen? So those things, through digital transformation, are easily available because you can call all of your social media sites, you can read all of the feedback. You can bring it all together, and you can start to generate customer satisfaction scores, things like that. It also helps you position other products and other things that you might want to sell.
And then because you have the cloud, you have that ability to work anywhere in the world that you are, including remotely. I mean, people say to me, how has it impacted you at Microsoft? And I say, it hasn't, because we were in the cloud to begin with. How it's impacted me is when I go to my customers, I'm not in person, although I'm starting next month with the customer in person, but through the use of collaboration tools like Teams and Office 365 and all of those things out there, I can comfortably work with my clients remotely like I can. Now it took them a while to adjust, and it's taking a lot of people a while to adjust. But as far as I'm concerned, I was in it to begin with. So there's really no difference or no impact to me other than I get tired of sitting in a chair for 8 hours or 10 hours a day.
Tim Butara: Speaking of remote work, obviously, we've all been affected by it, and this has been a huge transition for businesses, and we're seeing even further developments for this now. So, what do you need to do? What changes do you need to make to your communications and your business strategy if you want to maintain a good experience for the employees, for clients, basically, for everybody with remote settings, remote work?
Brad Tornberg: Well, I'll take the lessons that I've learned and talk about that. You need to have check-ins and you need to have feedback sessions with your people, individually and as a team. You want to be conscious of the fact that people are on Zoom meetings or team meetings all day long.
So what I always say is here's a block of time. We can schedule meetings between 10:00 AM and 02:00 PM. But I don't want meetings at 04:00. I don't want meetings at 09:00, I don’t want them if-- It's one thing if I'm in person. But the idea is to reduce the amount of time that you're actually in this kind of situation where you're on a Zoom or you're on a Teams, you need to limit that time. Also, people that have hour and a half meetings, you can't have an hour and a half meeting. They've got to be short spurts. You've got to give people the opportunity to get up and walk away from their desk.
I've had a dog for a few years, and I'm really glad I have because that has been my escape. What do I do in between meetings? I'll take my dog for a walk, I'll get out and I'll breathe some fresh air. I think that's important. I actually tell my people, take lunch, take an hour, close your door, go into your kitchen, or go to wherever you get your lunch from and get out and experience the day because the burnout that seems to be occurring is people are at their desk all day long. They're in their house all day long and at the end of the day, you know what they do, they go to their sofa and they watch TV in their house.
So there's no breaking things up. When you're working for someone right, you and a bunch of buddies go out for lunch. You don't have that. So you've got to allow people the flexibility to work the hours that they feel the most comfortable, too. I've got some people who are very comfortable working overnight, and when I get up at 04:00 in the morning, I usually Ping them on teams because they're about to go to sleep, and I'm getting up. And we work on opposite sides of the clock. But amazingly, just like I am with you, there's always time that you find that intersects both parties. And that's the trick when you're dealing with people all over the world is being able to plug into that calendar.
You need to let people also know that I'm not interested in how much time you're on Teams or that you're in Zoom. I'm more interested in the productivity that you have. And if I notice productivity is going out, I do something that's called we have mental health days. We give everybody four or five days that they can just say, look, man, I need to get away and maybe go down to the beach, maybe play with my kids, whatever it is. But I am not checking in at all today.
And by having that, it really gives you something to say, all right, I'm getting tired this week, and I'm going to use one of those days. So it's kind of a respite where you can stop, get a drink of water, so to speak. Like if you're running and take a break before you jump back into it again.
People that work remote need to have that balance between being at home and working as well. So we all have to lean in and understand that everybody, with this remote work, is at a different place. There are some people who are very comfortable with it, and there are other people who rip their hair out. And you have to be very sensitive to that and understand the people that you're dealing with and how it impacts them.
It's a hard thing because with self care, you want to take care of yourself. But as a business owner, you need to take care of the people that work for you as well. So that's kind of the way I look at those changes in communication on what we're doing now is we're just trying to make it, as I say, a kinder, gentler place.
Tim Butara: Yes. It must be really challenging, especially for managers and leaders nowadays who obviously they're probably struggling just to keep themselves in check, to not be subjected to burnout. But then they also have to take care of all of their employees, of their teams. And while realizing that those people have problems outside of work that may contribute to burnout. So, yeah, I imagine that it can get very difficult.
Brad Tornberg: It's a good point, because as you mentioned, the business owner has to check himself. He can't show that kind of stress and wear to his people because then his people say, well, if he's that way, then now I understand. I always look at it as, we're all in the same boat together. What we sometimes do is we start off with, hey, how's everybody feeling? Give me one word. Give me two words, how you're feeling. And you can get a pretty good reading from the people who are like, I'm charged, ready to go. And the other people who say, I am just tired and exhausted or burnt out and exhausted.
And those are the people that sometimes need a little bit extra care. And it's important for the manager to lean into that person to say, hey, look, how can I help make it better for you? What are the things that we can do to maybe give you a break from what you're dealing with right now? And is it necessarily in the business, or is it some issues that you're challenged with on the home front? How can we give you more time to maybe address those issues?
So it's really kind of - there is no answer. It's a matter of empathy. It was fortunate that I have empathy. There's a lot of people that don't have empathy who have to learn about empathy. With me, it's always like if someone said, hey, how are you feeling? I'm sorry that your husband or your wife or your spouse had surgery. How are you holding up with that? Are you there to support them?
I mean, look, like, my mom and my dad passed away this year within a few months of each other, and people picked up on that. I was kind of down, and a couple of people reached out to me and said, hey, Brad, it seems like you're a little down. You want to talk about it? Some people will say, no, I don't want to talk about it because it's business. But when I talk about it, I feel so much better. And the fact that people reach out to me when they ask me for something. And when this thing is over with this nightmare, I'm going to be there for them.
So if anything, it builds resiliency and it builds compassion. And it builds friendships that you may not have had going into this pandemic, but now people really do care about you. And you never saw that until now. So that's a good thing. There's always something good that comes out of everything bad, right? That's the good thing. We're all kinder to each other. And that's what it is. You've got to be kind and understanding.
Tim Butara: Brad, I am just getting the chills and this warm feeling throughout my whole body. Really well said. Awesome. Yeah, I agree completely. It's about making connections. And these connections will last, as you said, after all of this blows over, after we return to some kind of normalcy, the connections that you've made during this time, because of empathy, because of the kindness, because of this, genuine care for other persons, will remain and will strengthen us and will enable us to build something better going forward.
Brad Tornberg: That's my definition of the new normal. The new normal is the people that I didn't like, I like now. And some of the people that I like kind of disappeared off the face of the Earth. So it resets everything. So the new normal to me is resetting the people that you have relationships with. Resetting the business relationships. Resetting your vendor relationships. If the vendor reached out and knew that he couldn't get a product but helped me get a new product, I'm going to remain loyal to him.
Loyalty is very important. Your employees need to be loyal. Your vendors need to be loyal, especially when the chips are down, like now. And my dad always taught me a little time ago, when you're in the worst part of your life, the people that are there for you and the people that will always be there for you; never turn your back on them. And he's true. It's very true. And I see that now.
Tim Butara: Awesome. Yeah. Some great points here. I'm loving this discussion. Maybe as a kind of final question, Brad. Now we've talked about specifically remote work and kind of how to deal with that. But what about this transition to hybrid work now or in some cases, employees having to return back to fully in-office work? What would you recommend in these situations, for this time?
Brad Tornberg: I think a hybrid model will continue to work. I think telling everybody to come back into an office is a control mechanism sometimes. Senior managers, you hear about it, Jamie Dimon at Chase, he's like, I want everybody back in the office by a certain day. Well, you know. I haven't put on a really nice suit, and I haven't put on a pair of slacks. I'm in a pair of jeans right now. I haven't put on a pair of slacks and a shirt. And I'm looking forward to that, too.
I like to be remote because I can accomplish more without having to travel. I can focus more on the things that I need to do. So from a preparation-- and preparing demonstrations, preparing proposals, coming up with ideas, working alone sometimes is a benefit. But I also find that when you're in the same room with people and you put a piece of white paper up on the wall, it's amazing the exchange and the flow of ideas that happen.
And I think that we lost a little bit of our creativity by each of us being compartmentalized into our own little world. There's just something that happens. There's a chemistry that happens when you get people in a room, and when you're in front of a client, that chemistry... I tell people. I get on the phone. I say, I just want you to know that if I was doing this presentation in person, you would probably be a lot more impressed than you're going to be from this.
Because when you look people directly in the eyes, when you're talking to them directly, when you're a guy like me who uses his hands when he talks and enunciates things-- in a room, I can attract an audience. On Zoom, it's not quite as effective. So I feel that the way to do it is a hybrid work and let people come back to their world when they're ready. And if some people want to stay remote, let them stay remote because what will happen is crowd mentality will kick in.
When they start to see that the majority of people are back in the office, they're going to start to say, I really need to be back in the office, and they'll naturally come back into the office. So be kind, be compassionate, be understanding. Some people are ready to come back the first day after Covid hit. I have a lot of friends I deal with that are like, I'm going crazy. I got to get back into the office, and then I have other people who actually go into the office now.
They might be the only one there, but they say it helps them think better when they're in the office because they don't have to deal with any family issues. They don't have to deal with the dog barking. They don't have to deal with any of those things whatsoever. So having that hybrid approach, I think, is going to be the most effective way to get your employees to come back to you. Because if you say to them, you have to come back in the office.
Right now, I'm seeing a big trend where when they're being ordered back into the office, they're going to new jobs. Mothers who have children really appreciate this hybrid environment because they have the flexibility to take their kids to school in the morning, to pick them up at 03:00 in the afternoon. If the kid’s sick, they can watch them while they're working. And their productivity isn't any less. Their happiness is a lot greater, which I think actually leads to greater productivity when they're working, right?
Tim Butara: Yeah. Definitely. Everybody is different, right. People are different. And being, staying rigid and not allowing for that flexibility would basically be the antithesis of leaning in which we discussed previously as how crucial it is.
Brad Tornberg: It's business suicide. I mean, if you're not going to be flexible, your people aren't going to come back to you. And you know what, it's happening. You see it. You see the companies that order them back, they have 15% or 20% reduction in their workforce because people aren't coming back. So why put them in a situation where it's, choose me or them? Put them in a situation where you've got choices and we understand what it is. We'd like to have you all back by the first of the year. And if that's not possible, then speak to your manager, talk to them, explain to them why you can't.
And if it's just a matter of accommodating someone because they just seem to have a better life if they're working at home, then let it be. And if there are times they need to be in the office, then they'll come into the office. I went out of the New York office with Microsoft. Okay. I also have my consulting business, and I own other businesses. What I love about this is I can do three or four different things at the same time because I'm not stuck in that one office, right.
But I just find that by being flexible like that, having that ability to do what I want when I want, I almost feel empowered, kind of as an entrepreneur. Microsoft, I go in, I'm out of the New York office, I think in the three years before the pandemic, I maybe went in five times, and it was usually just to meet someone who's in New York or to meet another, someone who's doing something I needed some help with.
But for the most part, we were remote anyway, and that's a lifestyle, I think, that the world can adjust to that hybrid lifestyle. But that also means that the business owner has to have trust. That's a big thing. It's one thing to have empathy. It's another thing to have trust. Loyalty. Trust breeds loyalty. If you trust your people, they're going to be loyal to you. That's the way-- I'm the same way, too. I'm loyal to anyone who I can trust. As soon as I don't trust you, you're gone. And that's an important thing for everyone to kind of understand.
Tim Butara: I think that's the perfect note to finish this episode on, Brad. Just before we wrap things up. If our listeners wanted to reach out or if they wanted to learn more about you, how can they do that?
Brad Tornberg: My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can reach me at my email or I'll give you my cell phone number, too, if anyone wants to call me to talk 732-735-6429 and it's the US, so I guess it's an 01 prefix for everyone who's in Europe and other places, APAC, Africa, wherever.
Tim Butara: Well, Brad, thank you so much for speaking with me today. It was an awesome conversation, both super enjoyable and very insightful. So thank you for being our guest today.
Brad Tornberg: Tim, thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.
Tim Butara: Well, to our listeners. That's all for this episode. Have a great day, everyone, and stay safe.
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