Stephen King Joins Us On The Steve Jobs Inspired Join Up Dots Podcast
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Introducing Stephen King
Stephen King is our guest today joining us on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots podcast.
He is a top executive at a Fortune 500 company. Bootstrapped CEO. Venture- backed tech startup founder. Non-profit fundraiser.
It’s safe to say Stephen King is not your traditional CPA.
Stephen is President and CEO of GrowthForce, one of the nation’s largest providers of outsourced bookkeeping and controller services.
Regarded as an industry thought leader by AICPA and CPA.com, his ability to visualise the future of accounting has lead GrowthForce to become one of the
fastest-growing companies in America.
How The Dots Joined Up For Stephen
His experience at the forefront of technology development and accounting system design spans nearly three decades.
In 1995 he founded Virtual Growth, the nation’s first cloud-based accounting service, and quickly grew it into a market leader.
After being acquired by Insperity, Stephen was brought on as president of Insperity’s Financial Management Services division, serving two years before leaving to build GrowthForce.
He also spent seven years working at Amnesty International USA—first overseeing 300% growth as CFO, then raising over $20M a year as Director of Development.
Stephen’s time at Amnesty reinforced his life-long commitment to giving back to the community.
As a result, non-profits represent 35% of GrowthForce clients.
So where does his true passion lie, in the quick moving startup world, or working for major corporations often with less than movable parts?
And are we now at the start of the next industrial revolution, whereby we will see more and more people start their own businesses?
Well let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Stephen King
During the show we discussed such deep subjects with Stephen King such as:
Stephen shares how people are changing their systems everywhere to simplify their businesses due to the pandemic.
Stephen talks openly how he started the first cloud account and the steps he took to make things happen from scratch.
Why our next generation of children are under such a strain to achieve the same level of success as their parents.
We hear the story of Stevens family origins and how his Father changed his life with just $47 and a boat ticket.
How To Connect With Stephen King
Or if you prefer just pop over to our podcast archive for thousands of amazing episodes to choose from.
Full Transcription Of Stephen King 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 [0:25]
Yes, have a good morning to you. Good morning, everybody. And thank you, as always, for tuning into Join Up Dots and showing us your ears. We’ve got great guests on the show today. And normally I do a little bit of a preamble, but I’m gonna get straight into it because he’s got so many things and so many different directions that we can go into. He’s a top executive at a fortune 500 company. He’s a bootstrapped CEO. He is a venture backed tech startup founder, and also a nonprofit fundraiser. Now it’s safe to say the guest is not your traditional CPA. He’s a president and CEO of growth force one of them nation’s largest providers of outsourced bookkeeping and controlled services regarded as an industry thought leader by AI CPA and cpa.com. His ability to visualise the future of accounting has led grateful to become one of the fastest growing companies in America. Now he’s experienced at the forefront of technology development and accounting system design spans nearly three decades and in 1995, he founded virtual growth, the nation’s first cloud based accounting service, and quickly grew it into a market leader. Now after being acquired by in spirity. He was brought on as a president of instabilities Financial Management Services Division, serving two years before leaving to build a growth boss. It sounds like growth horses he’s baby. He also spent seven years working at Amnesty International first overseeing a 300% growth as CFO then raising over 20 million a year as Director of Development. You can see he’s got some Much. So where does his true passion lie in the quick moving startup world or working for major corporations often with less than moveable parts? And are we now at the start of the next Industrial Revolution, whereby we will see more and more people start their own business? Let’s find out what he thinks as we bring them to the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Mr. Stephen King. Stephen, how are you?
Stephen King [2:28]
Wonderful, David. Good morning to you as well.
David Ralph [2:31]
It’s lovely to have you here. So you are a New Yorker, but you are based just outside Houston in Texas. Without date stamping this show too much is lock down being okay to you.
Stephen King [2:43]
Yeah, I mean, we are pretty much you know, a company that had virtual in its DNA. Even though we have all our staff, we’re in a big service centre outside of Houston.
David Ralph [2:55]
You know, with technology today, it’s been really easy to make that shift. So we’re Where we’re locked down, we’re all at home. But where it’s almost like nothing happened. It’s a strange situation and it sort of leads to me to where because my business is flourishing. And my podcast listenership is like doubling every week, which is like, amazing. And I just bow out, it’s people sitting at home bored looking for stuff. And then I found out that a lot of other podcasters their audience are going different ways. So it makes me wonder, and leads to the question. Are we actually at the start of the next Industrial Revolution, do you think do you think people are now sitting there thinking, it’s time to get online, it’s time to create a business that is virtual and won’t be taken down by situations and pandemics? What do you think Stephen 100%
Stephen King [3:46]
I mean, we surveyed hundreds of small businesses and what we’re seeing is a lot of people sharpening the saw right now, right, they, they’re there, their revenues are down and their clients are at risk and they’re sitting there Seeing what changes do I need to make to my business and across the board, we’re seeing people pivot their revenue models, they’re changing their service delivery. We’re, you know, zoom is all of a sudden just real made you realise you don’t have to get on planes or go face to face because you can see people face to face. And, and just figuring out taking those projects that were sitting on the shelf for nine months. And to simplify pricing, or to streamline billing, or to automate, receiving and just now’s the time to do it.
David Ralph [4:32]
Because I think the moment that I thought, yeah, you know, I’ve been in the online world for 15 years or so. And to me, it almost becomes just life is what you do. And the moment I thought to myself, Oh, my God, we’re going into a different world here was when I saw the four members of the Rolling Stones all in different houses in different countries playing one song together and sounding just like the Rolling Stones and it kind of blew me away that You know, my dad is now getting onto messenger and sending and he’s 82 Okay, and he’s doing stuff that I wouldn’t have dreamt he would have been doing just sort of five or six weeks ago.
Stephen King [5:12]
Yeah, but Keith Richard looked pretty bored when he was playing
David Ralph [5:14]
that guitar, didn’t he? He did. But I did still sound like the stones deny they sound.
Stephen King [5:21]
Although Charlie watches air drums, I’m not sure exactly.
David Ralph [5:25]
What was. I don’t know what that was pretty cool. So with yourself is growth for your baby? Because one of the things when I was reading that intro, I thought 1995 that’s early doors. You know, the internet was vam, obviously, but it was one of the first companies I would have thought that really embrace that
Stephen King [5:42]
wasn’t it? Yeah, yeah. We we raised 43 million, because I started the very first Cloud account, and what the Director of Development amnesty and we had really good technology. analogy friends, I got a call from someone at Apple and they said, I need you to see this new thing. It’s called Netscape. And I looked at Netscape and saw immediately 1.0 that it was a wide area network. And I had this idea for Mike, you know, I’m a, I’m a CPA, five years at Ernst and Young, I started my own CPA firm, and I hated it. Because my clients books were a mess, and they weren’t willing to pay me $150 an hour to clean them up. So I thought, well, instead of them hiring a bookkeeper who doesn’t really self taught, right and doesn’t have an accounting degree and doesn’t know a debit from a credit, and is screwing up the coding, what if I could provide that through technology? So that’s what we did with that company called Virtual growth. And it was it was the worldwide weight, right? It wasn’t the World Wide Web. It was just slow as could be.
David Ralph [6:56]
So let me take you that to that moment, because it’s all that for you to say. But there’s issues, you know, you don’t just go, oh, let’s do that and make it happen if the infrastructure isn’t there, it’s the first one. How do you do that? It kind of blows my mind. And now you kind of think, Oh, yeah, I get somebody who knows about it to do it. But if you’re the first person, how do you actually get that set up?
Stephen King [7:19]
You know, it was really a great moment. It was it was right after Netscape came out. I was in Manhattan, you know, amnesty was on 26th Street and Eighth Avenue. And I left there and started this business on in in Soho, in New York. And you know, in the, in the artist community in the, in the, and what we found was that Madison Avenue saw the web as the internet as an advertising tool, but they didn’t know anything about HTML. So all of a sudden, all the artists community of New York City suddenly found themselves getting paid gigs, from ad agencies to create apps websites. So what we did was I, what I, what I did was, you know, join the New York New Media Association and got to be friends with some of the leadership in in Silicon Alley as it was called. And we focused on companies that had fat broadband pipes, they had T one lines coming into their building. So we were able to serve clients remotely, because the web developers had fibre, you know, the precursor to fibre. Yeah, but I do remember, you know, showing my mom a one of our clients that had a virtual runway, and they were doing a virtual fashion show, and from my home, and in Hoboken, New Jersey, and it was just miserable. So we we had a small niche market that we were successful with because we found the clients that had fat pipes.
David Ralph [8:53]
And when you come up with an idea, this is something as well but we see time and time again. Used Often this is brilliant. It’s a fantastic idea. And I keep it to myself. And then after a couple of days, it’s like, no, that’s the most stupid idea. I’m never going to do this. How did you get that support rounder? Because you can’t make it happen on your own. So how did you go? That’s a
Stephen King [9:15]
great question. You know, I have
consistently been blessed with great mentors. And I went to a partner at Ernst and Young, who was my mentor there. And he was left to went to another firm. And I reached out to him and said, I got, we, I remember we went out for beers. And so he, I said, You know, I got this idea, and I just don’t know if I’m off the wall, or if this is the best idea I’ve ever had. But my thought process is, you know, I was a manager of accounting system design at wide design big giant accounting systems. And that’s like, why can’t we take QuickBooks and then use the web to be able to To connect up QuickBooks with the tax software, connect up QuickBooks with the banks Connect QuickBooks with all the other places where financial information exists in electronic form. Is this crazy? I mean, I can’t believe nobody else is doing this. And he said, I think this is a great idea. I would like to have it as part of our firm. So why don’t you put together a business plan and let me pitch it to the managing partner? So I was like, Okay, I got emboldened, and I hadn’t even quit amnesty yet. You know, I gave him six months notice that I was going to leave and I was just in the, in the exploratory stage. And I wrote up this business plan over the weekend. I got it to them on Monday. And on on Thursday, call them obviously. So what do you think, you know, I mean, I’m ready to go. He’s like, well, we have a our quarterly partners meeting is next September, and I’m going to see if I can get it on the agenda. Then I’m like, next September. It’s July. I mean, I don’t have two months. So I just took, I went I met with all my buddies who had started CPA firms, or who, you know, were doing CPA stuff. And I said, you know, ask every I went to everybody I possibly could just to see if, if I was smoking crack, you know, it was this, it was this just a pipe dream. And the response was so positive that one of the CPAs that I went to college with, he says, hey, I’ve got a, he’s a sole practitioner. He’s like, I have two offices, and we’re in a conference room. And it’s, you know, a shared receptionist if you want I’ll give you an office to get this off the ground. And so so
David Ralph [11:35]
you Dennis Stevens, I say the first person when actually you are smoking crack, did you think that would have knocked you on your heels? Or did you have such conviction in that idea that you would have said, No, I’m, I’m asking your opinion, but I don’t actually believe you’re right, and keep moving forward.
Stephen King [11:52]
Well, I I am a data junkie. So what I would look for is I typically look for three data points because that’s a trap. Write one data point is an idea of two data points is align. And if the first person in the second person told me No, you know what, this is really a waste of time, I would have been, I would have been. I would have been concerned and I would have really weighed heavily on that trend, that third line. And now these were informed people, right? These were CPAs I was going to about an accounting business. So it’s not like I was asking a marketing person about accounting, right? I, I would say in a pub. Yeah, right. Exactly. That would be the worst, you know, after a couple of pints. But, you know, if if, if three or four people in the row said No, I wouldn’t buy that, then I probably would have had to go to plan B which was go get a job and I really didn’t want to do that. But
David Ralph [12:47]
when you say you know, over a couple of pints, so many people do that they sit with their mates. You know, I can remember sitting there with a guy and saying to him, I’m going to become a podcaster He basically said, What do you know about podcasting? And I said, I don’t know anything about podcasting, but I think I can do it. And he kind of not my confidence. And I remember really being insecure of saying to anyone, I was a podcaster until I’ve done about 60 episodes until I was sort of really into it at that stage. You know, it was like, weird pornography, but I was addicted to but I didn’t want to share with the world. And I can track that back to that one conversation when that guy sort of knocked me on my heels. And a lot of people do that don’t know, they say, Yeah, come down. I bought you a pint. What do you think about this idea? And then that dream is over?
Stephen King [13:38]
Yeah, well, I think it really depends on the conviction or, you know, to my mind, this was as clear as day there was no, nobody was doing it. I mean, this was Netscape. 1.0. Right. It was the dawn of the internet. And and you know, by the time the the end of 1995 came out, right, right. When we were getting started in October, November, my Microsoft did a major about face and they announced that their entire company was going to pivot to the web. And that’s when I knew this was his This is third party validation. This is this is going to change everything we do. Well,
David Ralph [14:16]
you know, he was not in the forefront of it has its growth still surprised you? Because, you know, as I say, I’m watching the Rolling Stones and nearly at all playing in different rooms. I’m constantly surprised by stuff that I should already accept as normal. Yeah,
Stephen King [14:33]
yeah, I mean, it’s still even simple things like you know, how easy it is for us to slack a file to each other right just just just blows me away how, you know, in the old days, you send an email and wait and wait and wait till it travelled around the world and showed up in your inbox and hopefully didn’t get killed by spam. This is say, Well, we’ve got available to us MCs, dealing with a pandemic. Pretty easy if you’re if you have the ability to work And we couldn’t have done this 10 years ago,
David Ralph [15:02]
I’m still amazed about I can go off to the toilet and not miss what I’m watching on TV. And you know, and stop it. Because when I was a kid, you had to tell him it, you know, so that you could do that. Also, did you remember when you was a kid? And well, not when you were a kid when you were a bit later? And the world was full of houses screaming? Whose type is this? Whose tape is this? Can we record on this? Can we record them? Yes. Before you whisked off for the evening, you know, and that seems so antiquated now, doesn’t it?
Stephen King [15:33]
Yeah, just you know, Cloud Storage. And you know, just we just signed up for YouTube TV. It’s like, you know, basically unlimited DVRs. Right, I can I can get access to whatever programmes I want whenever I want in real time without commercials. Who would have expected that? Yeah, so
David Ralph [15:52]
it certainly wouldn’t be me, but certainly wouldn’t be me. Now. I’m gonna play the words of a man who left some quite motivational words a few years ago, Jim Carrey.
Jim Carrey [15:59]
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.
David Ralph [16:26]
Now, you seem to really go for that, but you want to do something you love and the fact that you say, you couldn’t see yourself working for a company any longer, you know, you had to do that. Where’s that passion come from?
Stephen King [16:40]
I have been really blessed that my father had that passion. He’s an accountant and he but he didn’t he got to be. He came off the boat from Ireland, right Dublin, Ireland, and met my mom in the Bronx. And they got she was off the boat from Lightroom and they they got married and had a couple of boys. I was the first to 1960. And he didn’t have a high school degree and didn’t have two pennies together. And he ended up working and getting his night school and with a couple of kids in hand, you know, doing two jobs to pay for it all. And he ended up being a controller in a car dealership, in Long Island. And he, he went to that Long Island because that owner was willing to give them an equity stake to give them some profit sharing. Because what he said was, I don’t want to just work for a salary. I want to get something tangible from my work. Well, the guy the owner died. And he was this the controller and the sales manager and he went to General Motors and said, Hey, you know, we think we can run this better than anybody else. General Motors believed in them, and they became the owners of a car dealership. I watched our life change overnight. They said
David Ralph [17:58]
what I literally do, Casa is The American dream with that. Yes,
Stephen King [18:02]
yeah. 100% I mean $47 in his pocket when he got on the Britannica to come across the ocean, and, and it took six weeks. And with no plan, no job, just a family member who sponsored them. But what I was fascinated by was how much our life change. We were in Queens living in Flushing queens with four boys and in a in a four bedroom and a three bedroom house. And we went from my mother clipping coupons and going on taking the four of us to the supermarket on Wednesdays because it was double coupon day, because that was the only way to make things work, to having the ability to live a quality life that I had never expected would be possible. This didn’t happen till I was in college. So I didn’t grew up with it. But I saw that transformation. I thought, Oh, that’s what I want. And then you know, fast forward 20 years 15 years later, I got meta I met a ballerina in New York City ballerina and I married her and her father was an executive vice president for human resources for Sony. And he had reported right to the CEO of Sony USA, you know, he had a whole floor of HR and, and Madison Avenue, and Fifth Avenue, and it was, was so impressive. And then the CEO of Sony got fired. And the new guy brought in his own team and my father in law got fired from his amazing job. And I thought, holy crap, I’m 33 years old, I’m not gonna let that happen to me. So and that’s when I was at amnesty. I was like, I’m not going to go get another job because I want to have security and I wanted to live that American dream and that’s that was really the the nail in the coffin. You know, I liked Ernst and Young because it was working on so many accounting systems and companies But the idea of having to put on a suit and tie every day and commute with my briefcase into from the suburbs into the city, I looked at all those miserable people that were doing that in their 50s and 60s and said, I can’t imagine doing this for the rest of my life. So I don’t know if I answered your question, but that’s kind of what my, my view did.
David Ralph [20:18]
You did. And you’ve led to many more different questions, because when he was talking, I was reflecting on that $47 that he had in his pocket. And literally, that is a game changer, but it’s something that you think, how can you make that into something? Now, do you think nowadays because I’m kind of leading this to what my kids do, my kids basically want to have a million pounds salary a month and not do anything for it, or they want to have all the dots join up. And I often think about these people that get off the boat like you’re dead, we’ve just $47 and he walks down the gangplank. He gets onto the shore and he looks left and he looks right and things are go right. And just, you know, make something happen. Do you think that’s missing somehow Is that true entrepreneur entrepreneurial spirit, but people nowadays don’t have that as much.
Stephen King [21:15]
I think it’s harder. You know, I’ve got two kids who are college age. And you know, we’ve always encouraged them to do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. Yeah. And so, you know, I got one who’s a drummer in a rock and roll band, right. That’s what his vision is. And I think it’s harder though because, you know, when I graduated college in the 80s, my my my buddies, the three of us got together, got an apartment for you know, $650 a month, and we had a lot of ability to, to save because the cost of living the cost of housing specifically was so much less and I came out of College, you know, without any debt because, you know, college tuition is $90 a credit. I think it’s, I think the cost structure have risen and the wages haven’t. So it’s, it’s, you have a lot more pressure. I see the pressure on my kids and I’m thinking, Oh, you know, a lot of it’s self induced, right? Because they have, they have desires, and they have, they have a wishes and dreams. But achieving that dream is harder. I think today when you know, you can’t get a house for less than $300,000
David Ralph [22:31]
when I see kids pass their driving tests, and they’re driving better cars than I do now. You know, and yeah, with my first car, you could literally keep it together with sellotape. You know, I love that. It was my first car. But now Yeah, but the kids and so my son passed his driving test two months ago and he said, I haven’t been in a car since and I said, No, you won’t until you you know, do something about it. I’m not just gonna buy him a nice car, but he can just drive around. But you do see people and they’re driving around in Love the cars. It’s almost like it’s just, it’s just given to them. And then the next generation, it’s that competition, you know? Oh, by had it so we need to have something bigger and better all the time.
Stephen King [23:10]
Yeah, I bought my first car when I moved from New York City to Texas at age 41. So I can completely relate to what you’re saying, Yeah, we didn’t need a garden, the city, you didn’t want a car, it was too much of a hassle to park it and tickets and alternate side of the street parking. I think, you know, I do think that it’s hard for me to, to, I don’t I don’t see kind of the entitlement. At least not in my kids. I see the stress. They’re very stressed. And, you know, this pandemic is really knock them off their legs, every other. You know, My son was getting ready to go on tour, you know, he ended. Now all of a sudden, they don’t know if they’ll play for another year. And so, you know, I don’t I don’t, I don’t see that entitlement as much as I see. A fear. I see. A worry that you know, they’re their dream. Of being relevant their dreams of having something that gives them to self worth and self esteem. It’s going to be hard. You know, one day my son said, and he was in middle school, he’s like, you know, it’s like, you know, he was expressing some of these fears. It’s like, well, what are you worried about? He goes, you got it easy. I don’t think my generation is not going to be able to have the same quality of life that their parents had. And that’s the same first time that’s ever happened in America. I was like, holy crap, that’s deep stuff for for an eighth grader. So, you know, that’s what I’m seeing.
David Ralph [24:32]
I’m seeing I’m seeing similar over here as well. Now we’re talking to Stephen King from growth balls. We’ll be back with him after these words.
Unknown Speaker [24:42]
Are you ready to make a full time living online?
Unknown Speaker [24:44]
Check out the amazing Join Up Dots business coaching.
Unknown Speaker [24:47]
Hello, my name is Alan. And I’ve just completed the excellent eight week course with David before I started working with David Actually, I had no idea at all where to start. I had a lot of ideas. About
Unknown Speaker [25:01]
while I probably
Unknown Speaker [25:02]
thought was going to be good business, David was able to help me through that though, to find that passion. Within literally minutes.
Unknown Speaker [25:09]
We had, we had a business idea. And for the last seven weeks, we’ve been building on it and building on it and the position I’m in now, but I’ve got an ever got here on my own because of the amount of information that David gives the structure. He’s got the full package here, and he explains it in a way that I can understand. His support is is phenomenal. I feel like this is the way business is supposed to work. They
Unknown Speaker [25:33]
helped me understand. Okay, what were the next logical steps that I should do? How, how can I get this up and running? So I would really recommend this as an excellent course helping you if you have an idea if you have no idea, really teasing that out and some of the practicalities and steps to take to really launch your business, whether as a full time job or a side hustle. So it was really excellent. I recommend it for anybody thinking about setting up their own business.
Unknown Speaker [25:59]
I don’t think so. Exactly. To say, David, to save you years
Marni Spicer [26:02]
Thank you, David for your amazing help and support which keeps on going. And we certainly couldn’t be where we are today without you. So you’re awesome.
David Ralph [26:13]
So if you would love to become my next success story and have your own life changing online business following my step by step system, fine tuned over many years to take away the effort and expense that others struggle with, and come across to Join Up dots.com and book a free call with myself. Let’s get you living the easy life as it’s there waiting for you to get it that is Join Up dots.com business coaching. So we’re talking to Stephen King from growth force and growth force I should say. And Steven, what do you love most now when do you love working in advising big companies or do you like lean startups what what sort of excellence you
Stephen King [26:56]
we only serve companies that are from zero to about two 25 million in revenue so we’re not advising the big companies I did that and I enjoyed it but it wasn’t satisfying. You didn’t really feel like you are making a difference in someone’s life and what I love now I love running a small business we have 62 employees. So, you know, you know everybody in the company you know about their families, you know, you know what their strengths and weaknesses are and it allows you as a leader to be able to help put people in the right seats to to maximise their higher purpose and and add the biggest value to our clients. But I think the thing I love more than anything else is I’ll give you an example we just signed a deal yesterday with a company infrared cameras Inc. They are the only approved United States FDA approved camera to test COVID-19 fevers, and they have grown exponentially I mean they’re their cameras are in the White House in the Pentagon there’ll be in every airport, every Starbucks every Amazon fulfilment centre. And I’ve been a they were a client of ours last year. And before all this happened and, you know, we were helping them put a platform for growth in place, because they were hoping to double in size. Now they’ve had, you know, it’s so far this year, they’re seven and a half times larger than all of last year combined. And doubling was the stretch goal. But what’s really rewarding is to be able to sit with the owner and their leadership team, with me and my team and and help them lay out a course of what they need to get to the next level, work backwards from the goals and the decisions they have to make, you know, we everything we do we start with what decisions do you have to make? And then what what are the drivers of those decisions? And then what data do you need at your fingertips to take action? And what’s so exciting and I just said this to the owner yesterday, Gary is his name. I say to Gary, he needed something and it was something that was not what we’d agreed to And he was like, you know, Hey, can you do this? Instead of that? I was like, sure. He’s like, do you need? Do we need to change the contract or anything? Well, yeah, if it gives you comfort, just cross out the contract. And just write in what you want. And we’ll just do it. And he said, I love working with entrepreneurs, because, you know, when I worked in my last company that would have been go back to committee committee would have sent it to legal legal would have said, Okay, well, we don’t understand this deal. So no, and then you’d have to go back and fight with lawyers. It’s like, no. So making a difference in people’s lives is really what I find. It gets me up every morning, especially now when people have to make hard decisions about cuts. And we’ve got a methodology to help them so it just if you can see, you can help businesses thrive so their communities thrive.
David Ralph [29:50]
Yeah, I agree with that. I went from investment banking, and then ended up working for local government just for a little while. And Older people in the local government were sitting there with old style phones cooked under their neck trying to sort of write with one hand. And I said, Don’t worry, we get headphones, we get headphones with a microphone, and you can just do it took me two years, I never got that signed off. Wow. It’s amazing how these companies do restrict their growth. They do restrict their opportunities, you know, because they just can’t see the value. And the value I was being is, is looking after the staff looking after the staff and the bottom line kind of takes care of itself. Would you say?
Stephen King [30:34]
Yeah, Oh, I’m so glad you touched on that. You know, this is this is the third time that I got to do growth for us to do an outsourced bookkeeping, accounting and controller service. You know, I started virtual growth. And we had great success, right? We raised 43 million. We were in seven cities, 250 people, but I remember at one point, looking around and thinking, who are these people? I That guy is a jerk and he’s in. He’s a leader. He’s a, he’s got a, you know, 35 people on his team. What a complete and total ass. How did we get here where I’ve got people who are in important positions that I wouldn’t want to work for. And what I found was we never got the profits that I hoped in that business. That’s why we needed 43 million in venture capital funding. And what I realised was along the way, I end up selling that business to inspirati. And asperity is a an outsourced HR company. I reported right to the CEO of this, you know, $4 billion company, and I walked into this place and at the time, they had 1700 employees, and it was like a startup. Everybody loved their job. Everybody loved coming to work. Everybody was excited about the difference they were making and helping communities thrive. And
David Ralph [31:57]
do that Steven
Stephen King [31:58]
Yeah. My Saturday Exactly, yeah, yeah, I asked the CEO, I, you know, I met with him every week for two years, it was like, and I learned so much about human capital strategies. You know, what he, what he taught me was, you got to recruit for cultural fit and behaviours, not skills to pay the bills, you can train people skills, you can’t change their behaviours, and everything starts there. And then you’ve got to set clear written goals. You got to cascade the company goals to the department, the department to the team, and so that every individual has a clean line of sight between their actions and success of the team, the Department of the company, and then the most important part is you have to recognise and reward those people who contribute the most success recognition being more important than than reward and and it comes down to Maslow. You know, what I really got for us is the third time I got to do this. I was like, Okay, I get to be intentional about this business. I don’t Do this and have fun. You know, for me one of the biggest lessons was I hated my life running virtual grow. I hate it. I was getting on a JetBlue plane every Monday morning, flying to the seven cities trying to close deals, taking the red eye back on Thursday night. So I could meet with the management team in New York, and then work in the weekend to catch up on email. And I thought, why did I do this? I love my little bowtique. And so by being intentional, and timer,
David Ralph [33:29]
why did you do it just for the money?
Stephen King [33:31]
I know I wanted him I wanted to, I think it was ego more than the money. You know, I’m the son of a Cadillac Dealer. Right? I didn’t need the money. I did it. I think because I wanted to make a difference in the world. I had a vision for changing accounting for small businesses. And I thought I could be that guy. And I always thought there’ll be this is a billion dollar business opportunity. And I liked that but i i lost control of the arc of the story. And so this time what we were intentional about saying what is what is a good quality of life, we’re gonna we’re gonna have a work life balance is number one, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to work hard. And it doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t work, you know, and nights and weekends we are right now because of COVID-19. Because where everybody’s calling does help with cuts and cuts with cost cutting and scenario planning and cash flow forecasting. But it’s a joy to because you’re, you’re it’s a direct connection with the client. It’s a direct connection with the staff who are serving the clients. And you can feel like you’re making a difference in people’s lives. It’s kind of like we’re talking about with, you know, our kids, right, their stresses, how do you how do you have meaning? And for me, it’s about, you know, teaching business owners how to make the decisions that increase profits, so that they can live a happier life and their employees live a happier life.
David Ralph [34:56]
Right Stuff. Let’s listen to somebody that’s also got great stuff. So big jumps.
Steve Jobs [35:00]
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 [35:35]
So is your path sort of LinkedIn those words, did you have a plan or do you just kind of trust that things are gonna work out?
Stephen King [35:43]
I think both. I have a lot of deep faith. You know, I’m an Irish Catholic. So I have a strong feeling like I’m here. The reason I serve nonprofits, you know, it’s not just because I was CFO of Amnesty International. It’s because I feel like that’s been my calling. So I agree. wake up every day and and in the difficult moments, you know, when you’re when you’re, when you’re when you’re alone with yourself or praying or meditating or yoga, whatever it is, I found that I did have a solid belief in this vision, I did have a solid belief that we could make it work, and that I was on the right path. But I also found that you have to be opportunistic, like our path has changed so much, because we didn’t. We didn’t, we didn’t stick to what we were trying to do. In a, you know, the ideas we came up with in a windowless conference room, or, you know, talking at the pub over a pint and say, you know, we think this is a good idea. We were willing to pivot. And we didn’t just pivot, you know, willy nilly, we pivoted with a plan and we made we got our data. Most importantly, we every decision we made was based on the data. What is what’s working, what’s not Working. And then we would what we would do is, you know, we it’s a joke at our company I, you know, I often we often say, you know, we can’t invest in all of Steve’s ideas because we’d be bankrupt, right? There’s too many of them. So let’s just take the ones that work, the ones that, that customers are saying, Yes, like, we just launched a new break even scenario tool, and it’s going crazy. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna put some people into that because everybody needs this right now. And there’s plenty what I say to people is there’s plenty of money for things that work but let’s just not be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. In fact, let’s celebrate those mistakes because that’s our intellectual property. As long as we share the mistakes with everybody.
David Ralph [37:43]
When you do make mistakes vo a in in this sort of Steve Jobs timeline, he says effectively, there’s there’s no such thing as mistakes. You just have to sort of keep moving forward. Yeah, but when you do make mistakes, and they do occur all the time. mistakes, or are they just things that aren’t right at that time? Because I look at my is a leading question again. But I look at everything that I’ve done. And more often than not something that was a complete failure was about three years early, when it wasn’t right for me or it wasn’t right for the competence or whatever. And I’m finding that I’m reaching back into this drawer of ideas and projects. And I think to myself, that’s where that fits. That wasn’t a failure. I’m just bringing it back.
Stephen King [38:30]
Yeah, no, where’s that? That’s, um, that’s, that’s, that’s the story of my life. I mean, we were we were early on the outsourced accounting in 1995. And we were early on the venture capital funding of all that. That is absolutely influencing how we act today. And we’re constantly going back to the well and saying, well, we did this but what was different to me, I like the word mistake. I mean, it’s not I don’t have a negative connotation, right? Because what I say is you You know, let’s celebrate our mistakes as a learning as intellectual property. And as long as we’re sharing the knowledge and we’re, it’s three things that we have that as a as a process in our company, right? I’m a process minded guy, when we have a learning opportunity, if you think big mistake is to get, you know, negative when there’s a learning opportunity one we need to raise our hands and say, Oh, wait, I just screwed this up, or this isn’t gonna work. We thought this was gonna happen and and communicated bad news needs to travel fast. And then what we do is we pivot, what’s the adjustments? We need to Is it a change in a procedure, Procedures Manual and a checklist? Is it a, is it a go a different go to market strategy is a different messaging, we, we we consciously say, Okay, how do we change this, and then we document it where I have a rule if it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen, because there’s only so much that you can remember Then when somebody leaves, you know, members, if you don’t if it’s in writing, you don’t have you’re not running the company on tribal knowledge. So when a member of the tribe leaves, so does the knowledge. Yeah. So, so I like i i agree with you what you what you’re saying as well as what Steve saying is that, you know, it’s all those lessons that are built. I’m three, I’ve been a CPA for 35 years, this is my sixth recession, we’re about to enter. And all those lessons, you know, we’ve turned this into five steps to weather the storm, and we’re telling all our clients what to do, because I watched the companies that come out of it stronger, and they sharpen the saw while they were slow. So, you know, I think I think you’re right, it’s all valuable, it’s not a bad thing at all.
David Ralph [40:43]
That’s the whole mantra of Join Up Dots for sure. And also to lead you on a journey of discovery yourself to the bit that we call the Sermon on the mic. And this is where we are now this is when we send you on the journey to talk to your younger self and if you could go back in time and speak to the young Stephen. Well, at Would you like to speak to him? What advice would you give him? Well, we’re gonna play the music. And when it’s time to talk, this is the Sermon on the mic.
Unknown Speaker [41:16]
With the best bit
Unknown Speaker [41:16]
of the show.
Unknown Speaker [41:31]
Wow, that’s a great question.
Stephen King [41:36]
I go back a couple of different points in time, you know, the five year old Stephen King, my mother had a garden in Queens and she cut the flowers and I delivered them to the neighbours and I got a I got a quarter for a bunch of flowers and I thought, I like this idea of having a little business and so you know, to me, I thought entrepreneurship would with was rewarding and made me feel good and so I I went down that path. And I would encourage that in anybody who’s at the beginning of this stage to just find that energy that makes you happy and follow that. I think the biggest point in time was, you know, when I was in my 30 years old and I was starting this company, and I looked at my people as an expense, and I thought, I want to pay as little as I can. I want to get the cheapest health insurance. And if they quit, okay, well, that’s the cost of business. It’s turnover. And there’s you know, I’m I’m an accountant, right, so if you want to increase profits, you either increase your revenue or your cut your costs, and there’s no line item that says turnover expense on a p&l, so you can’t see it and the cost of it, but as I grew and partnered with inspirati and learned about human capital management strategies, I realised turnover is the single biggest pricing and turnover are the two biggest drivers of profitability. If you have a team that stays together for 1015 years, you’re gonna have if you have a good product and good processes, and you price them, right, you’re gonna have a highly profitable business. And I’ve been serving these clients for 30 years, the ones that are wildly successful, have a management team that stays together. I have clients that stay a long time because they’re working with the same people and people buy from people. They have employees that don’t leave, they grow up with the company. And when I when I got to do growth for the third time, that was the biggest awakening and I, when I was a young, I was a CEO at age 35 years old. I didn’t know that and to me, that was the game changer, human capital management is looking at your people as an asset. And what do you want as an asset, right. If you want to increase profits, your assets have to grow, they have to provide a dividend they have to give you a return on investment. So by looking at your people as an asset You’ve got to invest in the training in the in the career paths in the in the reward and the recognition and reward systems. We, we, I believe, have 6% turnover is our unplanned turnover rate now 21% is the average in accountancy. Because we really it’s a family, it’s a work family, you know, Loretta Moreno’s, our COO, she’s my work wife, and I’m not afraid to love on my staff and my people and they know we’ll take care of them. And I think Nobody leaves for an extra $10,000 when they like their boss. They like their work they’re doing and they feel recognised, because masley we all have a need to belong to something bigger than ourselves. And work is the second most important relationship should we got to me, that’s the thing. I had no idea. People are an asset. They’re not an expense.
David Ralph [44:51]
Steven, what’s the number one best way that our audience who have been listening today can connect with you sir
Stephen King [44:56]
growth force.com gr o w th force.com we’ve got, we’ve got a link at the top right now COVID-19 all the resources that will help with that we’re giving our clients and our prospects and colleagues how to manage cash flow with a 13 week cash flow forecaster, how to do scenario planning and look at your breakeven and figure out what happens if revenue goes down 10% 20% 30% what do you need to do? We’ve got a calculator for those in the states who got the PPP funds to make sure that you’re tracking your spending so that we can weather the storm so growth force comm or you can email me at Stephen STV pH en at growth force calm, and I’m on Twitter. I’m on Twitter. My handle is it’s s King g force. And LinkedIn is Stephen King with a pH CPA Stephen King CPA.
David Ralph [45:55]
We have all the links in the show notes to make it as easy as possible. Stephen, thank you so much for Spending time with us today joining up those dots. Please come back again when you’ve got more dots to join up, because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our pasts is the best way to build our futures. Stephen King, thank you so much.
Stephen King [46:13]
Thank you, David.
David Ralph [46:15]
Mr. Stephen King from growth force. So he had a journey to me and his dad, I love that story about his dad getting off the boat $47 in his pocket and thinking, you know, what should I do? What should I do? And I often think about that, if everything was taken away, could I start it all up again, and it would be quite easy. It would be quite easy because the network you get of people who you’ve connected with and you’ve worked with and use speak to you never lose it, you can just tap back into it. But of course, if you’re sitting at home just listening to podcast after podcast, not actually reaching out connecting with people, then it’s going to be difficult. Now you can connect with me. That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I do. Every single day, so if you want to connect with me just drop me a line a message and I will respond directly. And of course, I’ll be here again, see you.