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Business Lessons from the Floundering Founder
Episode 28111th February 2022 • Same Side Selling Podcast • Same Side Selling Podcast
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00:05 Ian Altman

Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. I know that it's a surprise to many of you that I am the host of the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm joined this week by a repeat guest, but it's a special occasion this time. So my guest is Raman Sehgal. And Raman has been on sharing his story in the past about how he's used Same Side Selling in his business. And today, we're having him on as a newly published author and a book called "The Floundering Founder." So Raman, welcome to the show.

00:41 Raman Seghal

Thank you, Ian, it is a genuine pleasure to be back here for a third time. Am I, am I the first third-timer? Or have you had, oh, don't break my heart and say you’ve had other third and fourth timers?

00:53 Ian Altman

Listen, I don't need to talk about it because it never comes across? Well, it's, you know, I don't want people to think that you know, I'm speaking. But there are some people who have, in fact, been on multiple times, but they weren't coming on the third time to talk about their new book. So you would be the first person to come on, who started as kind of somebody who we were profiling as here's a case study on how someone used Same Side Selling. And in fairness, you’ve achieved so much success that now you've got a book that talks about how other people can learn and key lessons in growing their business. So I think it's, you're in a niche, no matter how you look at it.

01:39 Raman Seghal

That's fine. And your book has played a significant role in my journey in the success that I've been able to achieve.

01:48 Ian Altman

Well, you know, that's, that's a nice thing to say. So here's where I want to start our conversation, which is, you've obviously had some good success. You've really, you've grown your agency quite well. You've grown multiple businesses, in fact, on multiple continents, so your agency operates in the UK, where you are right now, as well as you've got offices in the Boston area, and I don't even know where else, but I know those two locations. And so my question for you is, what are the things that you didn't know when you were first starting your businesses or early on in your businesses that you wish you knew back then, but obviously, you didn't?

02:29 Raman Seghal

There are so many, and it's almost like, where do I start, but I think broadly speaking, and I think you, most of your listeners would have heard the concept of, you know, working on your business and not in your business. But I think for many of us, we often end up running businesses because we're good at something, right? So for me, I was going to marketing, right? You know, you yourself are at good sales, and you end up running a business based on your technical ability, and then that business starts growing, and you have to learn to do all the other crap that comes with growing a business whilst actually doing the doing. And certainly for myself, and for many other people in my shoes, what I found is, it can become a very consuming journey, the business, your business will eat every hour, minute, and second of your day. And you have to make time to work on making sure the business is going in the right direction, targeting the right people, and going to market in the right way, but also investing in yourself as well. You know, I'm a big believer in, you know, I have benefited and my business has benefited, and my team has benefited from me taking time to invest in my own personal development. And I think owner-managed businesses and owners of small businesses are typically terrible at that is what my observation is. And if they actually spent a bit of time working on themselves, that business would probably benefit from it.

03:58 Ian Altman

It's certainly true. And I think that one of the things that often happens is, I'll hear from people, and especially entrepreneurs when they're starting a business or when they're ramping up, they're so focused on doing the work for the current project. And a lot of times, it's people in service-related businesses or even people on the product side, they're focused on that next big sale, and they get that sale, and they execute it, and then they turn around and say, Oh, my God, I have no new business coming in. Now, what do I do? And so it's kind of they run into these peaks and valleys in their business because they're not looking at it as how do I grow a sustainable business that has recurring revenue and can really sustain growth? They think, to your point, okay, here's the thing I'm good at. So I need to convince someone to pay me to do that. Now I'm going to go do it. Okay, now that I've done it, now, I gotta find someone new, who is going to pay me to do it, and they end up on that on that wheel, just running and running and running and not really going anywhere. At the end of the year, they say, I really didn't make the kind of money I was hoping to make. And I think they can also fall into the trap of just chasing any business that's going to generate revenue and help them pay the bills, because, of course, that's the most demanding requirement on any business leader is, I gotta make sure I can support the people I've got, and we can make money in the business. So what are some of the things that you learned along those lines, and you can also touch on things that are in the book, because I think you've got, you know, specific lessons for people on their business as well as for their personal development?

05:31 Raman Seghal

you know, when we did this in:

08:56 Ian Altman

So here's my question for you. Because I think that it, some people will hear this and think, yeah, but you know what, I need to have all these different areas of business that I go after, because, you know, we get business from all these different sources. So without getting into necessarily the specific dollar amounts, what's been the growth and trajectory of the growth of the business since you shifted that focus and said, Okay, we're only going to take on these types of clients. We're not going to take these other ones that we could get. We're not going to do this stuff that a bunch of other people can do. We're gonna double down on this industry or these industries and only do that. What's been the difference in terms of profitability? You know, the sales process and the sales cycle, the growth of the business, things like that, because I think that's something that'll be insightful for people to hear about.

09:56 Raman Seghal

I'm just having a quick look. We are since we did it, we are 12 times the size.

10:01 Ian Altman

Only 12 times?


I can't do the maths of the profitability. It's just too complicated for my small head. But it's a lot more. And that's not just my business. I've seen this work really, really well for other people who've got similar businesses and predominantly service-based businesses that are in multi sectors, they just keep going after business in multiple sectors and all have multiple service lines, and just become a very broad generalist. And I think, I also think buyers are savvier now where buyers are looking for more specific expertise, whether you know, you know, for example, if you are, let's say you're in the construction sector, you want to work with a partner that has some experience of working with your type. They understand the language of your sector. They understand the, you know, they're not just buying your technical expertise. Now I call it, you know, that domain knowledge of combination of sector expertise and technical expertise. And it also makes the selling process a lot more consultative to your kind of way of doing things, and your conversion rate will go up because your annual can charge a higher price. I mean, it might be on the analogies you've given me in the past has been that kind of classic, you've got a bad knee, right? Do you want to see a family physician, or do you want to see a knee specialist? And I bet you pay twice for the knee specialist. You know, it's not more complicated than that in like, in its infancy, if you like, it's very kind of basic level. But I think the thing that most people struggle with is the courage to do it. And that's the hard bit. You know, I remember saying when we did this, Ian, I remember thinking, okay, 50% of our business is not where we are focusing. And all of those clients dwindled down over time. But then, you know.

11:59 Ian Altman

I remember you, and I have a discussion about this very thing, where I said, Look, here's one of the critical things, and I know that's a hard thing to do, but you got to pick who you can serve the best and focus just on them. And I remember you saying, yeah, but what if a good portion didn't even say half, you said what if a good portion of our business isn't in that niche? So there's that concern of, look, I've got this amount of business, but I know that those other people aren't necessarily going to value what we do because we're going to seem like we're a commodity. In fact, I've got an upcoming episode one of our clients in the construction industry. It's funny that you mentioned construction, and they're a good-sized construction company. In fact, before we started working with them, they were a $100 million company. So before they implemented anything related to Same Side Selling, they were a $100 million business. And the challenge was, as their CEO explains, they were a $100 million business for three consecutive years. And he said we've got to do something different. I had spoken at an event similar event where you and I had met. And he said, Okay, we want to implement the Same Side Selling stuff. And that was about five or six years ago now. And this last year, they closed out at roughly 650 million. And the funny part is that part of what they did was they said, you know, we serve these industries really well. We're gonna double down on those industries. And the funny part is that people in those industries, they don't want to work with anybody else because everyone else says, Well, we're a general contractor, which they really embrace the term general. And they say, Oh, we're a general contractor. We can build anything. And these guys come in, and for example, they'll work in the biotech sector, and they have a whole division that just does biotech. And part of the way they present their company is they present it and say, Look, we know the certain requirements in biotech. For example, you're never going to see one of our people walking through one of your cleanrooms accidentally, and now you've got to start over in reestablishing that cleanroom. We know that we can't just order a part for this type of system in a week's notice. We know that there's a four-month lead time on that. And if people didn't know that, then your project would be going along fine, and all of a sudden, there's a four-month delay that you can do nothing about. And so all of a sudden, they went from 100 million to 650 million in a short timeframe. And in those stories, the thing that I love is that people where it was we were 100, 100, 100 and now we're 650. Or there's another client we profile a case study on Same Side Selling who they were 15 million, 16 million, 17 million. They implemented Same Side Selling, and then three years later, they were 109 million. So it's, you know, that story of your business growing 12 fold is always music to my ears because here's what I will tell you. It's not just about Same Side Selling. It's who are the business leaders who actually learn these lessons and apply them? Because there are many more businesses where they have actually read the book or listen to the podcast, then there are people who have grown tenfold, 12 fold, etc. And the reason why is because not everyone implements these ideas. Not everyone internalizes it the way that you have. So that notion of realizing who your ideal clients are and just focusing on them it's uncomfortable for a lot of businesses because you have to, in essence, agree that I'm going to bypass certain business. In my prior, the first business that I started, when I look back, we did some work in the federal government because we're in the Washington DC area. And we said, well, you have to do some stuff in the federal government when you're there. When I look back, historically, it was a waste of time. We made almost no margin on it. They were the biggest pain in the neck for us to deal with. And it wasn't where we delivered the highest value. And I had no clue. Now I look back at that business, I think, why did we spend time for less than 10% of our business doing this stuff that took 30% of our time to get ten percent of the business. It didn't make sense. So what are some of the other things, the big lessons? Because you titled the book "The Floundering Founder." So I want to get a sense of you. Why did you come up with that name for the book?

16:27 Raman Seghal

Just to make it difficult for you to say, Ian, to be honest. I think the name was, I'm a fan of alliteration generally, but I think it hopefully to evoke that sense of sometimes you feel like you're suffocating and it's hard to keep your head above water when you go in as a founder. When you kind of running the business and you're growing, and everything's coming in, you know, it's kind of, you're wearing 50 hats. That kind of classic founder trying to do everything situation. And that's the point at which the majority of the book or the kind of the primary aim of the book is aimed at people who are going through that particular challenge, where they are just feeling like overwhelmed, and they're not sure where they're going. And it's not that they're not making money on growing a business. It's not about that because what I found in my experience is growth is great, but it can also be very overwhelming and suffocating. And actually, it can add more pressure because we've done 50% growth this year, we'll have to do 60% next year, and it kind of never ends in that sense. And so I think the name of the book was very much to evoke that kind of sense of okay, this is I'm struggling, and I need kind of like I need some direction. I need I need help. And, you know, and as I mentioned for, you know, the first kind of 12 lessons of the 24 lessons or learnings, they're all based on my mistakes, right? They're based on the things that I did, that I wish I did, you know, you asked that question at the start, you know, in a way you wish you didn't, like the entire book is based on things that I learned on the journey and hopefully that will help shortcut and give people kind of quicker access to whether it's tools or kind of always the 20% the stuff that I wish I had known that has kind of made the 80% of the impact. That's the kind of way of doing it. And you know, in the second half of the book is all about that self-investment in yourself as well. And, you know, learning as you go. Reading your book was life-changing, genuinely life-changing for me, and I implemented the stuff as well. And I've since read tons of books being I got into the habit of reading books, like every day, I will read, like a bit of a book and 10-15 pages and over a year that kind of compound effect is I will read 20 books a year. Twenty books a year for a creative person is a lot when your mind is full of ideas anyway, do you know what I mean? Like so, you know, friends, one of my friends, I think he read like three books a week or something like that. It's crazy how much he reads. But, he's not trying to implement everything. He's just he just wants to absorb the knowledge. Whereas I'm one of these that I will read a book and I'll be like, Okay, I want to put this in. I'm gonna try this tomorrow in my business. I tried to write the book in a way that was, you know, really jargon-free, nonacademic, non corporate. It's like normal words people will understand and because actually just because we've run a business doesn't mean we know all the corporate spiel right of the investment world and all that kind of stuff because the majority of us don't.

19:32 Ian Altman

So Raman, let me ask you this because we talked about the growth side of it that I think is going to be familiar for everybody. And that notion of narrowing your niche and knowing which clients are the right clients, that sort of stuff, which I think is incredibly valuable. What's the biggest lesson you learned in terms of the personal development side? And, you know, the focus on yourself, your family, things like that, that I think a lot of people can easily overlook. I know that when in growing my prior businesses, I grew businesses to a good size. I sold them. The company that acquired them asked me to run the parent company. We were about $100 million in value at the time. We grew to $2 billion. When I look back, I don't see the growth. I see all the stuff I missed in my family's life that I regret missing. And so it's kind of a weird thing. What about for you? What are the big lessons, and you can touch on the things that are in the book that people will learn as well.

20:34 Raman Seghal

So I think just to my previous point. I think building a learning habit every day is essential for people. And it doesn't have to be a heavy lift. So I think I give the example in the book, like my own learning time every day, is I read ten pages or for 10 minutes in the morning. I listen to one useful podcast a day. So I'll tune in to one of your podcasts while I'm driving, while I'm commuting, while I'm running, whatever. I often listen to two or three, just because even if I'm helping my wife in the kitchen or whatever, I'll have my headphones in. I'll just be absorbing content. And often I'll just make notes on Evernote, or whatever, to just like, oh, that's a good idea. I'm going to add that. And then I read, I often read like Seth Gordon's blog. He has a short blog. For a minute of your time is the best investment of time you'll ever have, just reading his blog. And all in there are a few of the blogs that I follow that I might read another. You take that in, and it's an active investment time, like, like active learning, 11-12 minutes, and then passive learning in 10 minutes, right. Think of how, and if you're listening, think how much time you burn overrunning meetings, talking on the phone too long, scrolling your social media, watching Netflix like you will be burning so much time in your day, if you can't make time for 11 minutes of active learning a day and some passive learning through a podcast or an audiobook. Like you've got bigger problems going on in your life. So I think that learning habit piece is like one of the fundamental things. Another kind of thing that I've found very useful that I talk about is, is working out what makes you happy. And I kind of coined the phrase, it's like my happiness hack. And so, I've journaled every day for the last six years. And this isn't a dear diary thing. I use a technique called a five-minute journal. I think I learned it from Tim Ferriss and on one of his shows. And so every day I write, you write what's going to make today great, what am I grateful for, and at the end of the day, what made today great, right? And actually, if you could have made today better, what would it what would have been different? And actually, that latter part is where the real gold is, right? And I reflect back every month, so every month, and I'll see this same stuff every month. And what I found really useful I think I have a list in the book of the types of things that make me happy, and it's not the stuff you think it's going to be, right? It is getting my car cleaned for $10, and seeing my car clean makes me happy. Right? You know, having a beer with a friend on a Friday makes me happy. Having a movie with my family and we sit in, you know smoosh together on the sofa makes me, it makes me happy, like, and the reason I know this now is because it's come up hundreds of times over six years. And obviously, these are specific to me in my life, and you know every single one of the listeners in yourself will have a different thing like, and it can like getting a shirt that fits me really well makes me happy. Like it's crazy.

24:00 Ian Altman

These could be things that almost never happen. Like for you, it could be Newcastle winning right, so things like that.

24:00 Raman Seghal

Wow, so brutal!

24:13 Ian Altman.

Listen, I'm a Tottenham Spurs fan. We have the same problem right now.

24:18 Raman Seghal

And you know, it's funny, you know, like you mentioned Newcastle. You know, one thing, my assumption would have been going to the game to watch my team play makes me happy. Actually, it wasn't. The thing that made me happy was the camaraderie with my friends and going for a beer afterward. That's actually the really good stuff. But if you don't write stuff down and you don't reflect, you don't see it, you kind of it's your blind spot that you don't see, and for me, I think none of that cost very much money. So you know, you have this you know, especially when, you know, you are fortunate like me and yourself where you're successful in career and start earning money and think, okay we're going to buy stuff and buying stuffs gonna make me happy. It actually doesn't. You might get in. Obviously, you remember telling me you had a Tesla at some point, you telling me all like you think you're putting the air conditioning on from the UK, in the US to freak your wife out, which is, which is funny. But don't get me wrong, like buying a nice car and living in a nice house, and all that kind of stuff is like, clearly, it's part of the journey. But for me, you build up a real picture of those kinds of little moments in life that make it. I love a sunrise, right? Like it is, I mean, it sounds so soft. But you know, I was running in London this morning. I actually went running near Buckingham Palace in London this morning, and it was amazing. And then the sun was coming up, and there's this beautiful red sky. I was just running being like, like, maybe I'm just getting old, right? But what a gift. What a beautiful gift, man. It's absolutely magical and like, and that will make my journal tonight. Like what made today great? I got to see the sunrise near Buckingham Palace. That's pretty cool. You know? And so yeah, those are the kinds of things.

25:56 Ian Altman

It's interesting that you say those things because, for me, it's interesting. If we take a vacation with our family, it's all about the experience and the memory. It's not about the room. It's not about this and that, you know, we've got one of our kids has gotten some dietary issues, got some allergies. And so we'll go to places, and we'll say, Oh, was it amazing? I said the most amazing part is that that resort handles his allergies perfectly. So we don't have to worry about anything. Every place we go, we know they're gonna take care of it. And it's, yes, the food's great, the service is great, but it's that attention to detail that makes for a great experience. Or when one of my kids does something that I can tell, I remember having a battle with them when they were young about this, and now they've learned that lesson. And now they're paying it forward. And it's like, oh, this is fantastic. This is a great thing. So Raman, let me have you share with people what's the best way for people to learn more about what you're doing and stay in touch with you?

26:58 Raman Sehgal

Well, I actually, believe it or not, I have a website, and everyone's going to misspell that, which is fine. So hopefully, it's in Ian's show notes.

27:07 Ian Altman

They’re not going to misspell it because we're gonna have it, we're going to have it on the screen right now. But it's R A M A N S E H G A L. I'm going to spell it again. Because I've known Raman for what, eight years. And I still often mess up the G and the H in his last name. So it's R A M A N S E H G A Right?

27:32 Raman Seghal

That's it. Yeah. And for people who are interested in buying the book, obviously, it's on Amazon and all that kind of stuff. But, you can get the first few chapters for free on the website as well. You just download it. And you know, genuinely my reason for doing the book was just to try and share some of the learnings and lessons that I think will help others that are in that position that I want to add, or actually, you know, for seasoned people are running businesses, or even professional sales teams or anything like that, I think it will be a timely reminder of how to make time to invest in yourself. And you know one thing I was going to mention, and I'm more conscious of it than ever of in your lessons, you know, just keeping your eyes open in life. And you know, like, you know, I'm in London at the minute and when I was running this morning, like the amount of people walk around glued to their phones, right. And when I met you, Ian, if I had not been paying attention, if I had not come and said hello to you afterward, we would never have built this relationship over, you know, that time period. And, you know, it's a really actually, I mean, obviously, it is the most obvious example I've got because I can see your face, but you know, I had my head, you know, above my phone. I was interested in the content and actually went and came, and I think I ended up giving you a lift to the train station.

28:46 Ian Altman

Yeah, you gave me a lift to the train station. And then next time I was in New Castle, I messaged you, and we got together at the train station. We had a coffee at the train station.

29:00 Reman Seghal

That's right. I was flying to Vegas that day. So I think that's the other thing for people is like, it's very easy for busy people to be distracted by emails and devices and all that kind of stuff. And, you know, some of the best connections and opportunities that I've had in my career in life have come from just keeping my eyes open. Little things, like when you're in a car and ask the cabbie where the best place to eat is, right? Like, what we used to do, you know, in the olden days, is actually still as valuable now. So yeah, I'd encourage people. But I just wanted to, one thing before we're probably coming to an end soon, but I just want to say thank you to you, Ian. You have played a genuinely significant role in my success in terms of the, you know, the content you've put into the world and actually that we've taken on board and that we train our team to do now. And you know, to your point before, if you implement some of this stuff, you really feel the benefit of it. And so I'm very grateful for that and for being on the show again and, you know, being a friend, right? Like, it's awesome that we've got this relationship.

30:03 Ian Altman

So it's very nice of you to say. Let me do a quick recap of some key points that I think people can use and apply, and then I'll give you the opportunity for rebuttal to cover anything that I've missed. So first, make sure that from a business side, there is value in narrowing your niche and focusing on the right fit for clients, so you're not chasing everything. And it's a scary thing for some people to do, but you're almost always rewarded when you do that. Make sure that you're aligning your marketing message with that focus. So the example you gave of you can't say that you're focused on a certain niche, and then people go to your website, and it seems generic. That's going to be inconsistent. It doesn't seem believable. And some of those were keys to you growing 12 fold over over the years, which is remarkable. Build that culture or discipline of continuous learning. And that notion, I love how you talk about active versus passive learning, so that it's not just all something you have to be actively involved in. I do the same thing. I listen to podcasts when I'm at the gym or when I'm in the car, and of course, my wife gets in the car. She's like, can we put on some music? And, of course, I just want to listen to someone's podcast. And then, that idea of reflection on the things that make you happy and keeping your eyes open, I think, are all lessons that people can learn. And of course, make sure you pick up a copy of "The Floundering Founder" from Raman Sehgal, and I guarantee they're things that you're going to take away that you can learn. So what did I miss?

31:35 Raman Seghal

You did good, man. I mean, this is not your first time, right? This isn’t your first rodeo. I suppose you know, some of the things we talked about today are obviously covered in the book in a lot more detail, and you know, I do encourage people that are in that situation of going through feeling overwhelmed or just want to kind of get some sense of direction and stop and take stock like that’s the people this book is aimed at, and I genuinely hope you can pick up a copy and it helps you on your journey. And reach out and let me know if it is. Thanks again for having me on for a third time.

32:07 Ian Altman

Oh, of course, always a pleasure. I love watching your trajectory and how you continue to rise to new levels, and I'm sure people are going to get tremendous value from "The Floundering Founder." Raman Sehgal, thanks for joining me.