Welcome to the Join Up Dots business coaching podcast interview with Lee Caraher
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Introducing Lee Caraher
Today’s guest joining us on the Join Up Dots free podcast interview is a woman who loves nothing more than ensuring high performing teams in organisations across the world.
She believes that all teams should be well oiled engines, lubricated by honest and meaningful communication between its members.
This is the mission of her San Francisco based company Double Forte, which over the last few years has positioned itself as one of the key companies to turn to in the event of a company needing to find ways to up its game.
What is interesting with this lady is although she has created this company, and so is in effect an employee, at her core she is quite obviously an entrepreneur with hustle muscle running through her big time.
Starting her working life back in 1988 as the Account Executive to the Account Supervisor for The Weber Group, she moved through quite a few positions quickly, as her ambitions forced her to find her true calling.
How The Dots Joined Up For Lee
And it seems now that she has found it, and with her acclaimed book “Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide to Making it Work at Work“, where she shares what’s she’s learned from leading big, medium and small teams and companies over the last 20 years selling well, her history seems to be connecting nicely.
Or said in another way it appears that she is well and truly joining up her dots.
So when she joined the work force back in 1988, did she have a plan to lead her to where she is today, or has it occurred organically over the years?
And are there common themes that she finds time and time again with non-producing teams?
Well lets find out as we start joining up dots with the lady that says “I’m a straight talker who doesn’t hold too many punches, although I try to be pleasant about it.” the one and only Lee Caraher
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Lee Caraher such as:
How she started the company by sitting in her garage with her friend, and why she realised early on that she needed to invest in herself and her business.
How she remembers seeing the tragedy at the twin towers in September 11th and knowing that her life would never be the same again.
Why she focuses all her energies on building an environment where she is surrounded by people that she likes, ahead of money and success.
Why she believes totally in her heart that there must be a completely total different way of operating on this world…..it can’t just be what others tell her is right.
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Full Transcription Of Lee Caraher Interview
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK, David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:26]
Yes, hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of Join Up Dots Join Up Dots 445. It seems like a special one for some reason. And I suppose it is because once you get to a certain point, the momentum seems to gain incrementally every time you do a show, you seem to sort of move forward a bit. And it’s interesting actually, because my guest today actually on her Skype says she’s busy changing things one step at a time. And it’s fascinating what people put on Skype because it really sort of emphasises their kind of essence, somehow I’ll tell you why I don’t normally say this right up front. But I like this lady. We’ve had a little bit of a flirty conversation before we’ve even started so who knows where it’s gonna go. But she is a lady who loves nothing more than ensuring high performing teams in organisations across the world. She believes all teams should be well oiled engines lubricated by honest and meaningful communication between these members. Now, this is the mission of her San Francisco based company double 40, which over the last few years has positioned itself as one of the key companies to turn to any event of a company needing to find ways to up its game. Now what is interesting with this lady is although she’s created this company, and so is in effect an employee, her core she’s quite obviously an entrepreneur with hustle muscle running through her big time, starting a working life back in 1988 as the account executive to the account supervisor, but a Weber group, she moved through quite a few positions quickly as their ambitions bolster to find her true calling. And it seems now that she’s Founded, and Weber acclaimed book millennials and management The Essential Guide to making it work at work, where she shares what she’s learned from leading big, medium, and small teams and companies over the last 20 years setting. Well, history seems to be connecting nicely or said in another way, it appears that she’s well and truly joining up her dots. So when she joined the workforce back in 1988, did she have a plan to lead her to where she is today? Or has occurred just organically over the years? And are there common themes that she finds time and time again with non producing teams? Well, let’s find out as we start joining up dots with the lady that says I’m a straight talker who doesn’t hold too many punches, although I tried to be pleasant about it. The one and only Lee Caraher. How are you Lee?
Lee Caraher [2:46]
David, I’m awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
David Ralph [2:49]
It is lovely to have you on. We were a bit flirty beforehand when we we we were getting it on as they say In a Marvin Gaye way, or that
Lee Caraher [3:03]
little heart of the Marvin Gaye when 11,000 miles just you know is between us but other than it absolutely
David Ralph [3:09]
you can do anything virtual now and and with with Amazon, he delivered within a second.
Lee Caraher [3:16]
David Ralph [3:17]
which is fantastic. I told him about Amazon Actually, this is my last show the day I’ve done about nine of them today. So I’m gonna take it in a different direction. But I was reading the other day that Amazon are actually getting to the point now that they’re gonna deliver something for you before you’ve even bought it. Now, how amazing is that?
Lee Caraher [3:36]
Well, I think the other piece on that is the drone delivery, right the drone delivery and then you know with their engine their their like engine and their suggestion engine is getting really pretty good. So they can do a lot of predicting now. Now we’ll see.
David Ralph [3:50]
Well, they Yeah, if the trouble is like I bought the first maybe four or five faster the few years and now. I can’t stand them. So I’d Be really annoyed if I keep on getting those delivered to me because I bought the first core. That’d be dreadful Vin Diesel turning up at my doorstep every morning,
Lee Caraher [4:07]
right? Oh my goodness that needs to they need to figure out the when they drop it there how you can not accept it and have it you know, go back and buy the drone as well. Right? So you’re not you don’t have to worry about that stuff.
David Ralph [4:19]
I’ll figure it out. We will be good with your company talking about sort of Amazon because Amazon is the classic starting in a garriage and sort of org and just sort of expanded to sort of global domination. Your company is doing very well at the moment. Did it start on sort of the the kitchen table or did you have more of a head start and something like Amazon head
Lee Caraher [4:43]
oh my gosh, it actually started in my garage with truly in the garage with a with my business partner and we had my husband clean out half the garage and we sat apart from each other. And then I realised I was terrible at working at home. I was easily distracted by the laundry or you know who’s at the front door or, well, there’s the cat or whatever. So we decided to, if we were going to actually make the company get off the ground, we had to get out of my house and, and find an office. So we did we actually buy companies in San Francisco, our first office was in the famous Ghirardelli square where the chocolate used to be made. It’s sort of an iconic San Francisco building. But we had literally a closet we were in less than 300 square feet. It was a closet within the closet at Ghirardelli square. So we always we never took meetings there because we didn’t want people to know that we were in a closet without a window. But we could say that we were accurately square different. I thought we were much bigger than we were. That’s quite boozy bow, isn’t it?
David Ralph [5:48]
When you’re sort of holding back money, because you haven’t got a lot of money when you start a business to office space, well, did you say no stick to the gouge. I’ll just be quiet. I’ll just be at the other end.
Lee Caraher [6:01]
Now, you know, what I figured out was that I had to the best decisions. I the two best decisions I made when I started the company is 13 years ago, is one don’t do things that you’re not good at, or where it’s gonna, you know, you can do them but it’s going to take you lots of time. So for instance, the first person I paid was our CFO, you know, he maybe work two hours a week for the first year, but I didn’t do any of that work myself. I’ve never done any of that work myself. Because it’s just not where I should put my time. So I actually paid the CFO before I paid myself or my business partner at the time. We paid him six months before we paid ourselves, but he has been a bit increased our capacity so anything I could do to increase my capacity from the beginning, I did and I realised sitting in the garage that or as he would say, car garage, right garage. Now we say Gary, that’s Garrett. Okay, was that I was easily I’m so easily distracted that I need to be in a place I could focus and it is worth the money to get me focus because I’m so much more productive I can bring so much more in when I’m focused than when I’m trying to save a few dimes and quarters here and there because it doesn’t look good and it was definitely roll the dice kind of situation like either me I’m gonna make it or not. But I needed to put myself in a situation where I was putting my time against the things that I’m best at. And not spending time being distracted or putting time against you know how to create the spreadsheet. I know how to read one Don’t make me make one because it was going to take me 10 hours instead of the 20 minutes that it was take somebody else
David Ralph [7:38]
but that’s that’s really unusual, isn’t it? Because I know, with myself growing this show, I literally killed myself trying to do every single thing. And it was was that grown from experience. Did you see other people in corporate gigs where you think you shouldn’t be doing that you should be up there doing something else. You know,
Lee Caraher [7:58]
I started this week. I started this company, I had started two companies for a large multinational media company that I was hired into during the.com. Boom here in San Francisco. And they sort of they hired me in San Francisco. They were headquartered in New York, and they said, Okay, go make it happen late, and they gave me no help. So I had to do everything myself. And I just thought that was dumb. I was like yours, you are multinational company, and you can’t figure out how to support me. So I can actually make the things happen that you want me to have happen. So when I started my company, which was actually I wasn’t original intention to start the company. I said, Okay, what did I learn from having to do this for somebody else? What mistakes Did I make on someone else’s dime that I don’t want to make on my own dime, because it just feels a lot harder when it’s your own money. And I wrote them all down as like what what, what really bothered you about having to push these companies off off the ground by yourself within this other large entity, I wrote all the things down and then I sort of picked them off. I prioritise them, I picked them off one by one, to just create as much capacity as possible for us to actually reach our goals.
David Ralph [9:16]
So if we took you right back in time, which I like to do in Join Up Dots, I’m gonna probably I’m gonna go even further back, but at the moment, so you start work and you are just, well, I say just you’re an employee, you go to work as the account executive, even at that stage where you entrepreneurial because you seem to have some muscle, you seem to make those bold decisions, just as we were talking about just a moment ago, that is not normal. To do those kind of things is not normal. People generally get to the point where they’re on their knees crying in the corner, before they put their hand in their pocket, and they they hire somebody to help them. So what came first was an employee who then saw a better way of doing it or was it an entrepreneur who slipped into employee world.
Lee Caraher [10:02]
I wonder, I think I’ve always been entrepreneurial because I like to start things. I’m really good at starting things. But I don’t when I wasn’t. When I started my career, I didn’t imagine myself having my own firm. I thought it was too risky. You know, there were a lot of opportunities for me to do that. When I was internal at the video game company, Sega I was offered to, you know, spin out my group and create a company and I just thought it was too risky. And then, it was really 911 that propelled me to leave the big company leave being an employee where I was really unhappy and sort of take the time to reevaluate. And then in that reevaluation, I decided that you know, I have what you call hustle muscle, I have to you have to have it in my business. If you don’t hustle, you don’t make anything happen. And that is sort of reflex and I want it to be in a position where I was surrounded by people I actually liked to be with and that’s Sort of what propelled me to
Unknown Speaker [11:03]
open my own company? I think more than anything else is pleasure isn’t is pleasure
David Ralph [11:07]
and pain. You’re running away from something or you’re running towards something. I certainly left a painful situation, which I look back on now. And I think, I don’t think it actually was that painful. I think I was just at that, that point, but it was gonna happen anyway. But I needed to move on. So have you had those kind of clash of personalities, as you were saying, Oh, I was saying in the introduction, you, you don’t pull your punches you’re willing to go now. Have you clashed with people as you’ve sort of gone through your journey where you think to yourself, that’s a better way of operating to become more successful. I’ve got to become more a chameleon and be able to deal with people in different ways.
Lee Caraher [11:50]
I am actually known for clashing with people wherever I go. And in the because I just I have such a strong belief, I trust the people around me, I have such a strong belief in what should be done. And I can see, I can see a future and I can see a strategy very quickly. It’s one of my gifts. And sometimes it takes other people longer to get there, or they have other agendas. And I’m pretty much you know, what you see is what you get in when, when I’m working with someone who I can’t see, you know, their agenda with their stated agenda and what their hidden agendas do not match up. That’s when I really clashed with people strongly. And in corporate America, probably corporate worldwide anywhere, you’re always going to come up with that, particularly if you’re in publicly traded entities that you can’t necessarily see all of the agendas depending on where you are in the line. Right. And when I can tell you that in 2001 this is in the United States in San Francisco in particular. The economy just tanked right just tank tank tank. I’m I had at that time two young children. My husband worked halftime, and everybody around me all my peers, even edps general managers in my big company, we’re sort of dropping like flies. And my husband said to me, Don’t lose your job, don’t lose your job. You know, I was the one bringing home the bacon, as we say, in this country. And I was like, Okay, I won’t lose my job, you know, I won’t do it. And my company was going through a merger. And in that merger, they had 35 different companies that were going to you know, be absorbed down to four and my company $35 million company was going to go away because in the in the spectrum of things it didn’t make sense to keep and they worked really hard they gave me you know, offered me seven different jobs to make me happy. And you know, I finally settled on one because my husband really was like, Don’t lose your job every you know, people, your people like you aren’t keeping their jobs.
David Ralph [13:50]
And then what do you decide how did you decide you got seven jobs in front of you? How to choose the most money? Well, the one that’s
Lee Caraher [13:58]
well, the first job they offered They really wanted me to move to New York. I did not want to move to New York and then you know, they offered me this job that was sort of intergalactic president of something or other and I feel
David Ralph [14:08]
quite New York. I can imagine you know, just just listening to you You’re very new
Lee Caraher [14:17]
and very that way Yeah. But then I you know, I I created the seventh strap I said this is a job I will do this is and I wasn’t very happy about it. But this is the job I will do. I and I went to New York the week before 911. So on nine for one week earlier, I flew back from New York to San Francisco and I had settled on the job and then on 911 my older son woke me up at around six o’clock and said I’m watching TV and a plane just went into a building and I was so furious like what is my husband letting my kids watch right? And I jumped out of bed and I went to the to the TV room and and I watched the second plane go into the into the bill. Right. And I just oh my gosh. And what I knew then was okay, we’re going to close. I had 13 offices at the time we manage 13 offices, I’m going to close my offices, we’re not going to work today. There’s no reason for any of us to be promoting any products. And I closed on my office, of course, I called my boss and I said, you know, Larry, we’re closing the offices of coarsely closing offices, in the merger situation, the people who the other side of the merger I was going to end up reporting to, and they were not happy with me for closing my offices. And I said to them, well, I had permission number one, and two, are you guys on the phone? Are you guys working today? Are you actually promoting products today? And I was so incensed. I said, you need to get all those people off the phone and you guys should probably go home because they’re about to evacuate Midtown Manhattan. And I at that moment in time, I decided I am not doing this. I’m not I’m not going to do this. If this is who I’m gonna. If this is if this is the culture of the company, this is not lining up with who I am. And, and I was pretty flippant. I said, not only are we not working today, we are not working tomorrow, I’ll talk to you Thursday, and I was I probably should have done them. And I went home, because I did go to work that day. So I could be there as leader of the entity. And I said to my husband, I’m tapping out, I am tapping out thirsty, I’m going to quit tomorrow. And I did. And I exercise my contract the next day. And I said that this is not where I’m going to be, how can I help you transition me out of here. So you have success, but I’m going to go be successful somewhere else, because this is not where I want to be based on that behaviour.
David Ralph [16:33]
Isn’t that fascinating story, that obviously it’s a situation that we never want to encounter again. In many ways, to me from certainly from the London side, 911 was a kind of pinnacle of almost laziness somehow, since From then on, everything’s becoming a lot more streamlined. People are aware of their thoughts at that point. It was almost cleansing, which, you know, my heart goes out to all the families, as I say, never want to see that happen again. But for you to have that moment in your life aged, and it’s moved you on to something better. It’s fascinating, isn’t it?
Lee Caraher [17:13]
It is, and I think that’s a total linchpin in in everything about my daughter. That’s definitely a dot, right. And I decided I was going to take time off to really figure it out, right. And my younger son in this country called him, you know, he has developmental disabilities, and we were figuring that out. Now he’s 14, but at the time, he was an infant, and I was going to spend time with him and I was just gonna take some time to figure it out. And then, of course, that’s the year you know, we had a bit of a nest egg that we could just write it out, and it was sort of it was the economy was terrible. I mean, there was people you know, ate it and where we live. 80,000 people left the San Francisco Bay area because they just couldn’t find work in that year 2001 2002. So and then, of course, that year or Windows broken our house, we had to replace the whole heating system. And we had termites in our house. So we had to spend all of that nest egg that I was going to take off on our house. So our house wouldn’t crumble. And my It was very clear that I had to go back to work. And I just said, you know, I’m going to focus on the things I love to do. I love to do XYZ, but I didn’t imagine myself owning my own business. So I was very focused on getting a job like I’d had before. And I was in the reading for two very high profile jobs that I probably would have liked very much. But then my mother got sick, and she was diagnosed with cancer and she was given three months to live. And she lived 2000 miles away. So in Wisconsin, and 2000 miles away, just can’t get there from here. And I was going to be with my mom. So I pulled myself out of the two job searches I was in and I ended like I said, I’m the breadwinner. I said, Well, I’m gonna have to figure this out. I’m gonna have to find a job that I can do bring home the bacon and be with my mom 2000 miles away and help my family particularly my younger son who was developed many channels and had all this therapy had to do. And that’s where I decided to start my agency because I can do this work I can advise and work wherever I am in the world frankly. It doesn’t matter where physically I am as long as I’m telephonically connected. And that’s really the impetus for starting the company was a need to be to create the life that allowed me to do what I need to do for my family. More than anything else. That’s the the other dot that led me to this entity. And that’s where I really when you talk about hustle muscle, that’s when I really I just when I made that decision. I felt so at peace even though it’s so risky. Here’s your company was terrible. I had exactly two cents. I mean, I had nothing. I had no money, but I knew that I could make something happen. I knew that I could. The people who had trusted me before will trust me again, and then I could create something that would match my life. More than I had before.
David Ralph [20:03]
Well, let’s play some words. Now that’s gonna seamlessly move us to the second part of the conversation. And we normally play these words around about this. But it emphasises exactly what you were just saying at that moment, finding that thing that you love. This is Jim Carrey,
Jim Carrey [20:18]
my father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
Lee Caraher [20:44]
I love that. Oh my gosh, I love that.
David Ralph [20:47]
It is one of those inspiring commentaries that when you listen to it, and you really listen to it, you think to yourself, why don’t we all do that? Well, why are we living these lives? Now? The fascinating thing about you. And I want to jump back on it was one line that you said, just before we listen to that speech, and it was you were gonna figure it out. You didn’t have the answers. You didn’t know, you didn’t even have a runway financially, but you were going to figure it out. Is that a great starting point? Do you think that most people out there that have a desire to create their own economy can actually figure it out? Or is there a fast track that they should be aiming for? Is it better to go the long way and find out yourself? Or is it better to try to cut corners and sort of pay for mentors and coaches and stuff?
Lee Caraher [21:39]
I think finding it out for yourself is can be inspired by lots of input and like I’ve had mentors, I have mentors, I have coaches. But in the end, it’s you deciding you know, if you have a coach who tells you what to do, that’s not the kind of coach you need, right? It’s you, whatever you read or whoever talks to you, whatever you listen to, you know, I try to go into every of the situations and find one Colonel that I’m going to take and adapt to myself. I think if entrepreneurs don’t, if they if you’re waiting for perfection before you start, you’re already too late. Because whatever is perfect at that moment in time is the perfect for that moment in time, it will never be perfect for the future. And if you if you wait for perfection, you know, you should be an employee, not an entrepreneur, because entrepreneurs and people who are starting businesses and figuring it out right there, they have to they have what they have said to themselves and to the people around them and the people who are, you know, counting on them as we’re going, this is for the long haul. We are going to figure this out. We’re going to ride the wave whatever happens in the economy, we’re going to we’re going to you know, shift and get ahead of it so that we are viable. And if you’re looking for perfection, perfection can happen only once until you have to repackage it up totally differently. I think you have to have that. trust in yourself, or whoever your partner is, are you together whatever it is, that you’ll be able to adapt and keep moving forward. And if you don’t have that belief in yourself, you probably should not start an entity.
David Ralph [23:16]
Because I believe that totally, absolutely, totally. Now, when I started Join Up Dots, I, I kind of thought it was gonna be easier than it was. And I steamed into it with already enthusiasm in the world. And it literally killed me. Now, if you listen to a lot of the shows, in the early days, I was I was putting on an act, I was literally my fumes were just pushing me through, I’d run out of fuel, and I was just going on, I don’t know inspiration. Now, once I got past that, I realised that the hard times were actually the good times because I learned so much about doing things quicker and faster and all that kind of stuff. But it was the belief that something worthwhile was going to come out of it and people said to me, you know, Can you do nine hour days? How can you do 12 hour days? And I used to think 12 hour days, I’m doing like 20 hour days. But there’s a difference there. Did you have those moments when you were the only one that could see what was in your heart, but you had that belief? Were there people going to you, Lee just get a job. Just get a job it up. But you’re right.
Lee Caraher [24:23]
Yes, you know, the best. So my husband is probably my best fan. You know, he’s my biggest fan. And he believes in me and he believes in my capacity to make things work. But at the same time, he’s seen me you know, I haven’t been home. There’s been days where I’ve been doing those 20 hour days, particularly early on. And you know, you have to have those conversations is this worth or not? And for me what was worth it is the, you know, money’s not the only currency right? And for me, the currencies were money, flexibility, being able to be 2000 miles away from my business. And still work at being able to choose who I worked with. so important to me that I’m not willing to give that up. So when I, when I explain that, that people around me they’re like, well, then you’ll have to have your own business and exactly, that’s why we’re keeping, keep moving, we’re gonna keep moving. And, you know, the people who work for me, you know, the greatest. It’s humbling, frankly, the the confidence people who work for me have in, in figuring out what to do for the future. You know, my business has changed dramatically. The industry I’m in has been topsy turvy with social media and bought media and all this kind of stuff. What we, what we do for a living doesn’t look like what we did for a living 10 years ago or when we started the company. But when people around me were like, well, we’re gonna make that through. We’re gonna say I pointed direction, and we just never say I have the answer. I said, we’re going to figure it out. The goal is this and it’s not straight line, I think, you know, there’s that great cartoon that has the straight arrow from the bottom left to the top right. Success, right. And then the next cartoon is the squiggly line that says, you know, you probably went back 515 steps and afford one and back or another, you know, and I’m very comfortable in the squiggle. I think employees are much more comfortable in the straight line. And if you’re not uncomfortable, if you’re not comfortable with the squiggle line, don’t do it. Go get a job.
David Ralph [26:27]
Because with the squiggle line, I always think that you will naturally cross over successes, won’t you? If you go on a straight line, it’s almost like you’ve got to wait to get to the end of that line before you find your success. But on a squiggle, you’re naturally finding things that will give you the impetus to move on to the next stage, and certainly with your company, double forte. There must have been times when the squiggles were all over you where you were thinking this is amazing. Everything’s gonna go brilliant. And then yes, oh, you’re in non squiggle land for a while. Trying to get to the next point. So I’m looking at the pictures of all your lovely stuff. And we’ve got bill all and we got Liz O’Donnell magazine. How did you choose the star because one of the things that a lot of people struggle with is having that vision of what they want to create, and letting others buy into it, but in a way that they can still see what your vision is. And did. Did you struggle with that? Or were you very fortunate of the people that you brought on?
Lee Caraher [27:30]
I think because I started my company after I had a successful career being an employee, you know, I had a really good network. Those three people you just mentioned, Bill, Maggie and Liz had all worked with me before this company. And I decided, we have four rules. When I look for people. They have to be inquisitive, and it has to take initiative self starters, they have to have really good senses of humour because you know, there are some bad days and you better like be laughing And your way through it. They have to be good people. And they have to want to do great stuff, right? But together, not they’re not individual contributors. And I’m very fortunate that I have, particularly the three people you just mentioned, you know, they could all have their own companies, they all have had their own companies, but they prefer to be with me and among themselves, you know, among this group of really high performers. And my promise to them is that I will you tell me what you want to do, and I will help you get there. That is my promise to them in return, you know, you’re going to be here double forte as part of this great team. And we’re all going to get there together. If we have one p&l, we have many different lines of business, but we have one p&l instead of multiple piece p&l because I really don’t want to set up this set anything up that pits one person against the other, which is how most corporations work. And that one p&l means that we’re all pulling in the same direction. And a lot of people don’t like that. And if you don’t like that, I’ll help you be successful somewhere else. But when, when you come to this company, you’re saying, you’re you’re buying into our vision of doing something a little bit different. But having a great career and a great life at the same time and sort of putting the work in that as required to do that.
David Ralph [29:22]
You’re very loyal to your your employees on you. I can sense I already, it seems to me, but in many ways, you’re a lioness, you will attack people and clash with people. But the ones that get into your, your vicinity, you sort of nurture them like a protective lion. It’s interesting that these guys used to work with you, and you are self confessed clashes with people, but they saw something in it that’s worth joining up with you again. What did they see in you, Lee? Why did they say yeah, I’ve worked with her before, and not thank God I don’t work with her again, but no less Nice to meet again.
Lee Caraher [30:02]
You know what I am? I see my job. You know, in American football, we call it the offensive line. I don’t know what we’d call it in soccer because I don’t Well, your football I don’t know, we don’t play that. I don’t play that game. But my job is to is to sort of make space for other people. If someone wants to become, you know, really well known for, you know, being an expert in digital media, okay, you put the time and I’ll provide the resources. Let’s go make that a business. So
David Ralph [30:36]
understanding is it the big fat person that runs around just pushing people over?
Lee Caraher [30:40]
David Ralph [30:41]
right. I don’t know American football and so my image is the person who doesn’t do anything creative but just kind of puts their weight around big
Lee Caraher [30:49]
space. Right, exactly. space for the quarterback. Okay. I feel that my job is to make space for the people around me. I’m really excellent. You know, I My strength is I have a lot of strengths, I think but my in the business, what I’m really good at is seeing strategy fast understanding potential, and then in a crisis put me in coach because I can get you through to the other side, I’m not as interested in the day to day, that’s not where I get my juice from. There are lots of people who get their juice from the day to day. So these, what I try to do is surround myself with people who can do some of the stuff I do but are complimentary to me, who want to get to a different location in their own career. And the nice thing about having your own company and not being beholden to other people is that you can make your own rules, like there’s no rule that we have to grow. There’s no rule that we have to give 20% of our profit to New York. So because we’re not publicly traded, there’s no rule that everyone has to have the same career path. There’s none of these roles. It’s it’s individuals who create their own career paths and the goal is to line up to work with the person and if so, like we just had a young woman who wants to get into public health leave us because she wants to get into public health and her last day she was totally in tears because she loved being here but this is not her passion her passion is going to be in hospital administration. Well, we’re not going to be in hospital ministration but we can help her get there. We can help her get there and and I think you said earlier I’m really loyal. I am significant. I’m really loyal to the people who are pulling the same direction. Yeah. If people are pulling in different directions I’m, I’m not so loyal. You will come to please. You know and my my thought is, you know, I’m the only one here who has to be here and everyone else can find a job tomorrow. And if it’s if they think it’s just for me, they’re not going to be here very long because they can all truly go get work anywhere. My I such a high performing staff. My job is to make it a place where people want to be and can and are proud of being So that, frankly, that they are loyal to me and my company for their entire careers. So if they leave here, I, I am working on making them loyal to the company because of what the company affords them for their entire careers No matter if they’re here or not. And I feel that is that is where the growth plan the growth plan for me is that is how can I increase my footprint by the people who we serve or who are served by us. So I don’t have to be with people I don’t like and in the end, that is so important to me not to be around people who just suck the soul out of me. Isn’t that
David Ralph [33:39]
low life? Oh, yeah. You know, as a kid, you go to school and you spend, I don’t know, 15 years with people that you just happen to be planted next to in a room, right when you go into offices, and you just have to work with these people. And at times, you’re sort of leave the company and you think, ah, these are all my best friends and they You never see him again, after six weeks or whatever, you just have to move on to something else. Isn’t that just naturally life? Why are you so focused on that you’re the first entrepreneur that I’ve spoken to. We always have people that are focused on location independent, or time choices and over. I’ve never heard anybody saying, I want to have people that I enjoy being with, which seems, it seems totally right now you’re saying, but you’re the first person who said it?
Lee Caraher [34:27]
Wow. Well, I think, you know, I’m very, I’ve done a lot of introspective work in my career. And the, you know, I think I’m here when I’m really what I find joy in when I find joy in is helping people reach their goals, and helping and frankly, if those goals are lined up with my own, that’s awesome. But, you know, I don’t find much joy in helping people, you know, screw other people over. I just don’t. So, you know, I’m very clear on my purpose on this planet. And I’ve lined that up with my business. So that I, you know, my businesses, we People always ask Who do you work for? We work for good companies doing great things who have good people working for them. That’s, that’s our goal. And we would choose not to work with people who are disrespectful or greedy or mean or whatever. Because it just, life’s too short. And we’re not curing the world from cancer. I mean, we’re not that’s not what we’re doing in my company. I wish we were but that’s not us. So you know, you do Do you wish to be with
David Ralph [35:32]
the DPT Do you wish back do you wish but you had a kind of global legacy, but you could say yes, double 40 cured cancer or something is
Lee Caraher [35:42]
now with that. My brother my father is a retired cardiac surgeon who has that kind of legacy. He is, you know, he has he’s a big presence in that world. And you know, there are thousands and that 10s of thousands of people around the world who could say that what he has done in his in his career has saved their lives. legitimately saved their lives. I chose not to do that kind of thing, what I, what I focus my time on is where I can amplify great thing. So I do spend my time I’m on three volunteer boards here in the San Francisco Bay Area. And my goal with each of them is to help them do their great work just to help them do the good work that they’re doing. And that, to me is the legacy if I can make them not incremental, but exponential, I really don’t care about incremental growth. I care about exponential impact. And everything I do around either the companies we’ve worked for double forte, like how can we make x exponential impact for these companies that we think are doing good stuff, or with the nonprofit’s that I work with? How can I help you have exponential impact on the people that you serve? Then that is where I find the joy and that will be my legacy is helping people have exponential impact and not just think incrementally
David Ralph [36:59]
and do The deal employees aren’t there. They’re not employees. They’re your friends. Really? Did your friends feel the same way? Do you sit in a board room? And is it as much of values and mission as it is bottom line?
Lee Caraher [37:15]
I think in the boardroom for these nonprofits, you know, no margin, no mission, if you do not, if you’re not running your nonprofit, like a business, you don’t have you’re not a nonprofit, you know, doesn’t make a difference. Because you have to run your bit you have to run a nonprofit for margin so you can actually get your mission done. I think that they’re not and you know, I don’t I’m not sure all the people that work, my work are friends. I mean, I don’t really hang out with them. You know, I have other things going on in my life. I’m friendly, and I spent a lot of time with them. And we are like minded. But in the end, I have to make some choices. Sometimes I make decisions that are not friendly decisions, right? But we’re definitely like minded and that is where I get Fun. It’s just fun for me and my goal or what my think my role in most situations is to say, is to say something like, Can we do more? Can we, you know, what if it wasn’t 10% growth, but 100% growth? What if we didn’t help 10 people but 1000 people? What if you didn’t, you know, and I, that’s my role. And I think where people look to me, people now, I’ve been doing this for a long time. And now people can count on me to say, how can we make it bigger? How can we make it better? And sometimes, you know, it’s just defining the pot, the pond you want to play in, you know, the United States is a really big place, right? And but you can have success that looks really small, but has huge influence. And that’s what I focus on in everything that I do.
David Ralph [38:46]
I think that’s the way forward. I do a lot of coaching with people through the show. And one of the things I like to really get them to think about is, just because I’ve spoken to 10 people, it doesn’t mean that there’s not a business there. Just because I’ve spoken to 10 people, and they all say But yeah, that’s a great idea. It doesn’t mean it’s a business either. Now, in the global sense, How big can double forte be now? You’re obviously doing very well in America. Is it something that literally can go anywhere you want, as long as there’s connectivity?
Lee Caraher [39:20]
I think the, you know, what we do for our clients is very local, is very local. And I, you know, I have had offices in the UK in Germany before, I think Americans trying to run businesses that are UK, well, anywhere, anywhere else in the world without local talent, actually in charge is a mistake. Think feet on the ground, even in Canada, you know, just Canada. A lot of people in America just in Canada is the 51st state of our union. But the Canadian you how you do things in Canada, even though it’s right next door to us is very different. Then how you do things United States. So I can imagine growth by having our model in many places, as long as there was local talent in the general manager leadership position, and I was, you know, helping them with our, you know, I think there’s a lot of attractive things about the double 14 model that we could expand if I was willing to spend that much time away from home. I spent a week, a month, a week a month on the east coast. I have people on the east coast in New York and Boston. And and that’s about as much time as I want to spend with you. But
David Ralph [40:35]
do you have to count you just sort of web conferencing and Skype do you actually have to travel now?
Lee Caraher [40:42]
I believe that in the you don’t have to do it. I think the more you can have the personal connection and actually show people that you would put the effort in to meet them face to face over a long period of time in a long term contract. That means a lot to people when people come to see me. I remember it more, you know, we’re in the business of experiences and memories. And when you have that memory of somebody that will end up meaning more. And the question is, how can you get that memory done? Can you get the memory done over Skype? Can you get the memory in a podcast? Can you get memory in a written word, you know, that kind of stuff. But my people, my people who work for me, they want my personal attention and my physical presence matters to them. So I will I will do that for them.
David Ralph [41:33]
I’ve got a lady coming on the show and I was doing a bit of research today and she is a public speaker. And she can stand in front of say, 5000 people, and she greets every single one of them walking into the theatre. Every single one of them she either hugs or says hello, before she goes up on stage. And most of the people coming out, couldn’t really remember what she’d been talking about, but they remembered fire
Lee Caraher [41:59]
Wow. She said, I did the same thing for the speaking that I have done my book, you know, on the topic of my book, Everywhere I go, I try to go early, and I try to stay late. So I can just answer any question and meet as many people as I can. And that’s what people mean, they email you back and say, thank you so much for you know, taking the time to shake my hand or sign my book or whatever it is. And that extra memory is what is what people care about.
David Ralph [42:26]
No, I agree with you. Absolutely, totally. Now what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna play the words that have created the whole theme because we’ve got so engrossed in your personal vision for your company, a lot of the questions I had in my head have gone out the window. So I’m going to bring in the main man himself, and this is Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs [42:45]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards. 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [43:21]
Now, that obviously is a remarkable speech and actually a song. That’s just one part of it. I listened to the whole thing again, for the first time, maybe I don’t know for six months. Your your journey is one of those ones, but I imagine you look back and you can join up the dots. You can see how you went from the Twin Towers to the garriage to where you are now on any of those dots. But you look back on it and you think if I went past that journey again, I’d probably try to change them.
Lee Caraher [43:54]
Um, you know, it’s funny, I when I went to college, I have a degree in mediaeval History, which is very useful. I think it’s very useful. I say that to everybody and you know everyone laughs because mediaeval history you do you know, PR for technology firms, what could it possibly be useful? What’s really useful is that you learn everything I needed to know about how to articulate, defend and propagate a message, a point of view I learned in the in the discipline of history.
Unknown Speaker [44:26]
I think that, um,
Lee Caraher [44:31]
you know, I’ve made these decisions along the way. I wanted to leave Boston, I wanted to go to California. My boss told me he would send me to California and this other office, and then he said, No, only you can’t go You’re too important here. So I went back to my office and I picked up my phone and I called all the headhunters who’d been calling me I said, get me to California. And I moved to Los Angeles. I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t know anybody in this big, big, you know, City of 10 million people and I wasn’t there very long because it wasn’t home for me. But that was an important dot for me because it taught me that I could do things by myself. It taught me I didn’t need to know everybody in town. It taught me that. You know, I could go to dinner by myself at a restaurant, which I’d never done before I moved to Los Angeles when I was 27 or 28 years old. I try not to think about the past in a way that says, oh, if I’d only because I can’t fix it, I can’t go back and change it. All I can do is say going forward. How would I have that experience and have it be more positive? And that’s where I really focus on I don’t know if it change any of the dots I might change how I reacted to some of the dots you know, less be less emotional or or you know, count on other people more or be disappointed by other people because we’re I think we’re disappointment comes in is when expectation doesn’t meet reality. Hmm. And when you’re counting on other people for your actions, affectations, that’s when they really fall down and when you can count on yourself, look at yourself for your own expectations and the reality that you create, you know that as you you know, if you’re good as you get older, if you can make that gap short and shallow, and I think you know, the shorter and shallower it gets between expectation reality, the better it is.
David Ralph [46:19]
Because that’s sort of cuts through what Steve Jobs was saying Steve Jobs obviously talks about having belief and he never mentioned expectation at all because that is the killer, isn’t it? When you’re doing something and you think Yeah, okay, in three months time I’m gonna be the new Donald Trump and you find out in three months time you’re the new Donald Duck and you’re nowhere near where you want to be. Did you have the expectations can kill a business before even gets going? And did you have those expectations yourself?
Lee Caraher [46:50]
I don’t think expectations can kill you. No expectations can kill any idea. Right? Because you’re expert you know, you might have a great idea but you can can control the world around you? You know, I couldn’t control that 911 happened. I couldn’t, you know, for one of my clients, we had a major announcement on the day that America declared war in Afghanistan, you know, well, no, that wasn’t going to happen, right? And my client who was very rational, you know, we just we were sitting in the room together and like, we can’t do anything today. We can’t do this for another month, we can’t control around it. It’s a question of, if you have an expectation that whatever you plan will be perfect, and that everything around you doesn’t matter. You will always be disappointed. Because you know, something’s going to happen in the world that may preclude you. It’s a question is how you react? How do you respond? And then how do you you know, how do you so and how do you shift your expectation like what is reasonable? What’s a stretch goal? If you don’t have a stretch goal? I always want people to have stretch goals because if you don’t shoot high, you don’t get to the what’s what’s reachable. If you shoot What’s reachable you? Everyone’s sort of fall short, right? Yeah, yeah, it’s my belief. So I always have a higher expectation, I always have a higher goal than my actual expectation. Because I think you have to stretch farther to have that rubber band effect back to you know, the high point. But, you know, the expectation of being in a bubble I think is really where you know, when people are looking in this country at the Kardashians, or maybe in your countries or where your family if I could only be the royal family. Well, only certain people can be the royal family. Only certain people would have the audacity to be the Kardashians. I would never want to live like either. I mean, I can’t imagine being in that kind of spotlight or wanting to be in the spotlight, like the Kardashians want in this country, at least. You know, it’s what it really doesn’t coming like what what matters to you. If you didn’t worry about what everyone else thought about you. If we can just strip that out of our, our psyche. Gosh, we’d all be alive. happier, because we’d all be deciding what was joy for ourselves, not what the media or other people were projecting as joy, or success or whatever that meant, you know, I could say, you know, I could have not had the rules and I could have chosen to take in this company chosen to work with people I really didn’t particularly enjoy, made a lot more money, a lot more money. As you know, when it’s when it’s when we have tough days. I’m like, Oh, God, I wish I didn’t, I just wish I’d only didn’t want to work with people I liked. But, you know, these business, limiting decisions, revenue limiting decisions are business enhancing because they keep people here longer. And if I have people here, here, if I have people a double forte, who stay longer than they think they’re going to stay, that is sustainability. That is loyalty, that is where like I can, that is actually a business growth strategy. It just looks a little longer than you know, just taking the quick cash which might be great for the bottom line in the short term, but the long term impact of Working, you know, working in a detrimental and engagement. I’ve been there, it’s not worth it. But other people might have other people may not care about those things like I do. So I’ve been able to define what is success for me. Other people would not agree with that they say leaving money on the table. Why are you doing all that? Well, because that’s, I don’t have just one currency. Like I said earlier, I have more than one currency. And I worry about all those currencies at the same time.
David Ralph [50:29]
So what’s your big document when you look back on over everything because you are a woman? It’s quite obvious. You’ve got principles and you stick to your principles. And I imagine some of those principles as made life a little bit hard for you as you’ve sort of moved through. So once you picked up when you look back on everything,
Lee Caraher [50:48]
you know, I actually hadn’t thought about this to just ask that but when I turned 30, which is a while ago now, I took myself on my first vacation by myself ever and I went away to this spot. In Los Angeles, or Palm Springs or something for 10 days, for the first four days, I slept, I was so exhausted, I’ve been working 20 hour, week, 20 hour week, 20 hour days for weeks and weeks and weeks and I was exhausted. I slept the first four days literally don’t remember much about it. And then, and then I sort of got engaged with other people who were there. And I through that process, we did a lot of hiking, we did a lot of talking was one of those, you know, very woowoo la kind of things. Which what had been a gift, frankly, from my parents, you know, take yourself to the spa. And I’m like, whatever, it’s free. buffet I slept, which I hadn’t done in years, it felt like be I was able to say you know what? I don’t. This idea of perfection that I had in my brain is crap, that it’s just not it’s just crap. And as soon as I had this click in my brain, it said I’m not going to care about what other people think. I’m gonna care about being able to look at myself in the mirror and be happy about it. And that dot which I had not thought about as a dot until you just said that I was really what put me on a trajectory for pursuing the things that I pursued in the way I’ve pursued them more than anything else.
David Ralph [52:20]
Well, let’s take you to the end of the show. Now we we’ve covered so much. But of course, there’s one last bit that we’ve got to do and that is when we send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to the young lady, what age would you choose and what advice Will you give? Well, we’re gonna find out because I’m gonna play the theme tune and when it fades you up. This is the Sermon on the mic.
Lee Caraher [53:09]
deadly, you are 23 and you are unhappy. But it’s all going to be okay. What you need to know now is that, you know this vision of a perfect life that everyone talks about this. You know, beautiful has been beautiful above average children, the great job everyone loves you fabulous clothes, it is a mirage. No one has the perfect life that everyone talks about. And if you can just focus on what makes you happy, you will be happy. Don’t worry about what other people think about you. Also, perfection is impossible. Do not try to be perfect. All this energy you’re putting in being perfect, is just energy wasted because there’s nothing no such thing as perfection in the human condition. So if you can just be happy Take, take some laughter in the fact that you’re imperfect. One people, you won’t be spending all this energy, you’ll get more sleep and you’ll be so much happier and people around you will enjoy you as well. And the last thing I would tell you 23 year old Lee, is you do not need to be around people who suck the soul out of you. If you’re with people who you don’t, who are mean or who are disrespectful, who have closed minds, who don’t want to focus on making the world a little bit better, don’t spend time with them. Don’t spend any time with the people that don’t feel you that don’t bring you energy. And if you can just keep those things in your mind. You will find happiness much earlier than I did.
David Ralph [54:53]
Lay was the number one best way our audience can connect with you.
Lee Caraher [54:58]
The easiest way is to go to To my personal website, which is dub dub, dub.li kara her.com. And then you can find my agency and my Twitter handle all that kind of stuff there. And my book there as well.
David Ralph [55:10]
Well have over links in the show notes. Lee, thank you so much for spending time with us today, joining up those dots. And please come back again when you have more dots to join up. Because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Lee, thank you so much.
Lee Caraher [55:27]
Thank you, David. It’s such a great time to talk with you. I really enjoyed it.
David Ralph [55:34]
Well, wasn’t she great, a lady who knows what she wants and she’s not going to give in the end. She’s out there running through the office, pushing people into into space. Now if you enjoyed that show, thank you very much. If you want to go and listen to all the others, we’d be glad to have you. But the bottom line is See you next time. So we’ve got some good shows coming up now and I’m looking forward to moving forward to the future. 500 show the found some show and whatever can be delivered from Join Up Dots. Thank you so much, David. Ralph. We’ll see you again next week. Cheers. Bye.
David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant sell fewer wants to become. So he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to Join Up dots.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on Join Up Dots.