In this engaging episode, Benj Miller, Co-Founder & Chief Architect of System & Soul, shares how he went from teenage night club owner to accidental entrepreneur to a coach & consultant that helps entrepreneurs build businesses they love.
Along the way he discovered the power of and path to achieving clarity and control for your business.
Benj is a proven entrepreneur who values character, culture and innovation. He founded his first company 17 years ago as the strategist and visionary behind Syrup Marketing , where he has launched hundreds of brands for clients -- and eight additional operating companies of his own.
One constant runs through all that Benj does: he has a passion for creating amazing organizational culture … culture that pours into people; that develops and sustains them.
Notably, he brings that heart to his family, too -- his wife of 21 years and their four amazing kids!
Benj’s coaching journey started with an implementation during a merger of two of his companies. It was such a success that he began coaching all of his other companies. He then went on to create ninety.io, a software platform, authored The Clarity Field Guide, co-hosts the System & Soul Podcast.
In 2021, Benj founded System & Soul. It’s the only operating framework that combines the systems and soul of a business. System & Soul pulls in some of the same systems and principles that have helped businesses run better for decades but has a deeper focus on the Soul of the company… the identity, culture, and people development. Together, these elements are proven to create breakthrough in companies across industries to accelerate growth.
Want to learn more about Benj's work at System & Soul? Check out his website at www.systemandsoul.com and for a free daily leadership reminder visit the261.com.
Scott Ritzheimer 0:07
Welcome to the secrets of high demand coaches podcast where I interview some of the best coaches in the business to find their secrets and share them with the world. I'm Scott Ritzheimer, founder and CEO of scale architects and we help founders and leaders find the right coach at the right time, so they can achieve the predictable success they deserve. And a huge part of that is helping great coaches do great work that creates enormous demand for their services with way less effort. If you're a high demand coach, I'd absolutely love to share your story and expertise as well to stick around to the end of the show, and we'll reveal how you can be our next guest in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
Hello, and welcome everybody. We are at episode three. And when thinking of who I could have on the show, there was one of my best friends of recent years. We all have old friends, but there's some space for new friends. One of my best friends from recent years, a fellow coach, consultant and colleague in this space is Benj Miller, and he's here with us today, I'm so excited for you guys, to not only hear his story, but for those of you who are watching in video to see his beard because I'm horribly envious of it. And those of you who are listening on audio, now you're gonna want to know, so go check it out on YouTube, it's worth, it's worth every minute of it. But without any further ado, Benji, I'd love to just open it up and ask you just tell us your story. How did you get into coaching? Why did you get into coaching and take it from here?
Benj Miller 2:03
Well, I I've been an entrepreneur since a very early age, even like, you know, the stories of the kids who have the paper route, I wasn't a paper route kid, because I lived out more in a cornfield than a neighborhood. But I had very strict parents and they insisted that we weren't really allowed to go to other people's houses that they didn't know the parents or party. So I decided to bring the party to my house. And so I turned one of our barns into what I thought was a nightclub. You know, we had a full court basketball, we had music, we had snacks, we had a cover charge, there's a PlayStation up in the loft with the couch like it was it was full on. So that was my very first taste of like, well, just if you can't do what other people are doing, and there's a demand, like just do something. And if you build it, people will come and we had a solid three, three week run on that one. But that's what kind of led me into this idea that we get to design our own life, we get to design our own business.
And we overuse the word visionary. But I think we under use who we apply it to because so many people can are can be visionaries of their own lives if even if they don't have a business, the business owners. We think about the big, big vision, we forget about all the micro visions that happened along the way. And really that's just seeing what could be and making it happen. So I went on like a little bit of a, I don't know what I'm doing typical kind of right out of high school, college. But I ended up running my own business almost by accident. And we kind of grew it and grew it and grew it and I had no idea what I was doing. So I made a couple of really bad decisions. And
it was like one of those moments, I'm like, alright, what are my options, I can go get a job like a normal human being. I can take this business down to about a third of the size, it was a quarter of the size it was and have a really easy, fun lifestyle business that I enjoyed with people I enjoy. Or I can figure out what it looks like to run a business. And that's when I fell in love with the mix of the blend of the art and the science of building business building. I figured out that I was in love with it figured out that I was actually decent at it and went on to start a bunch of other companies.
And along the way one of my longtime business partners, trusted advisors, he's beenalmost everything that you could have in a right hand man along the way. He's been in the CFO seat. He's been in the operator seat. He's been in operations. He's been in the sales seat. And along the way he he we left a planning meeting one time he goes, you know, you're gonna be a consultant one day, and that was like a dirty word to me like, oh, I can't believe you would say that. That's so gross. And so to this day, I never live that down. And just as I went through that season of building my businesses and loving the art and science, I found myself loving working with senior leadership teams, whether it was my companies or other people's companies, to help them gain insights into their own business clarity and control that led them to the breakthroughs that they were looking for.
Scott Ritzheimer 5:15
I love that. So one of the things you mentioned, the language I use for it is working on your business that in your business, right, we finally realize there is an art and science to this thing. It's not just this, it's not an accident anymore. And the accidental entrepreneur, the accidental leader, the accidental salesperson, all starts to kind of hit its limit. I know folks are going through that some folks have been through that. But how did you know that that transition was happening from Hey, we can just kind of make this up as we go to we actually have to pay attention to what's going on here?
Benj Miller 5:47
Well, for me, it was look, staring at catastrophic failure right in the face. I mean, we were really, really close in the season that I told you about to you know, bankrupt, I don't know, I don't I didn't even get to like what are my options, but it was shut the thing d own kind of state.
And so when you're looking at failure, versus I've got to be intentional, that was the moment, right, that was the like, I've got to figure out everything and pay attention to everything. And I was just ravenous, like I got a coat, got a peer group, I got every book I could read on business on leadership, really more business, I feel like I had a grasp on the leadership. But I was in my in my leading I was way more the language I use way more soulful than system full. Right. So like I was all about my people and the culture, the product, the customers. The though that part of the business was strong, but I didn't have the systems to support any sort of longevity to the business other than, you know, moment to moment, week to week, month to month, there was nothing thst was going to hold things in place, if I, you know, went on vacation for a month, right? Like, I could not come back to anything at that point.
Scott Ritzheimer 7:09
Right. So as a great opportunity, because you run system and soul sucking to one of your newest projects. As a serial visionary, and entrepreneur, I know there's about nine of them happening. But the one that I know you best through system and soul, which really brings those two worlds together fuses those ideas. So why don't you tell us a little bit about what you guys do it system and soul, and why that's so important, not only for your clients, but for folks who are listening today.
Benj Miller 7:34
Yeah, so when I, when I really went through that season, and it was later, maybe a second evolution of my business acumen, through, you know, implementing some systems and tools into my business, using an operating framework that really, really helped me. As I took that same framework and tried to help other entrepreneurs with it, I realized that it helped me create a holistic business because I was strong on soul and weak on system. And so as I worked with other leaders, they may not have the same strength on the soul side of their business. And so let me define that what I mean by that, it is a pretty loose definition. But we're talking about the identity of the organization, that the ethos, the culture, the clarity on the story, why this business exists and creating the story for other people to find a role. And we get really intentional about engineering, the culture that we want to have, and maintain as we scale. And then we have a very kind of specific way that we approached leadership, we can talk about that if you want. But through all of that, we're creating the stickiness that, you know, the attractiveness and the stickiness for the organization. And so as I was working and implementing, you know, an operating system that didn't really have the sole components, I left a few specific clients that I was working with going man, that was really unfulfilling. Why was that so unfulfilling? Well, basically, I'm creating a well oiled machine that doesn't really matter in this universe. And so I had this longing to infuse kind of my tools, tricks, ideology that I had learned along the way on the soul side in with the system. So I got that opportunity. About two years ago, my partner Chris White, put the thing together. And we have some coaches that work with us that work with these businesses. We have some software that kind of pulls it all together and some some really cool tools but it's the it's kind of like the system side helps make all of the soul side true. Like it puts it on rails to make sure that it happens. And then the soul side makes sure the the system side matters. You know, if we have a system without the soul, it just doesn't matter in the scheme of things.
Scott Ritzheimer 9:50
I love that because I think so much of my experience in the world both with entrepreneurs and with coaches, I feel like most people have a bias towards one of those sides or even in extremes, right, yeah, this is a business, don't talk to me about navel gazing. And you know, like, I don't want to sing Kumbaya, like, what the heck is all this touchy feely stuff we got work to do. And then you got other folks who are like, you know, I got out of the rat race, I don't want to do the work thing anymore. And I don't want people to work with me who want to do the work thing anymore. And either one left to their own devices kind of flops, you know, it's, and both of them, I found are not all that fulfilling, right. And both of them are quite stressful, right? Especially as they're successful, the more success in either arena, the more stress adds up. And so I love how you approach that I love the hanging on to the tension in between, it's not so much about balancing them, as it is holding on to the tension of we're real people, right? Who have souls who have want to have purpose who are wired for purpose, and we got a real business that has to meet payroll, and you know, have profit leftover at the end of the day. Otherwise, why are we doing this?Benj Miller:
So question that I have for you is, what do people typically try before they come and work with you? And how does it go?Benj Miller:
Well, a lot of times, you know, business owners are smart people. And so they are collectors of ideas. And it depends you and I both know, there's it, we can't just stereotype an entrepreneur into one or two boxes, because there's very, you know, you get 31 flavors of them. But oftentimes, they've, you know, read some great things, they read a book. And they're like, we're gonna do that. And they'll either implement it, part of it, because that's the part that they understood more attracted to, or they'll implement it for a season. And so they've, they've collected these things from here and there, and they don't really all work together. There's nothing that holds them together, even like, great personality assessments, right? You come in, you do a personality assessment for your team. And it's a good kumbaya moment. And I learned something about myself and I learned something about you. But what do we do with that? Ongoing, so I think that they try lots of individual things. They don't have great sustainability for those things. They're kind of cobbled together. And so really having an operating framework that that holds it all together at all works together, tends to be where there's a little bit of magic where they can actually break through on some of the things that they intended to do, but didn't necessarily know how to do them really well.Scott Ritzheimer:
Right. Yeah, I've found so often it's about getting not only the right things, but the right things in the right order.Benj Miller:
And getting all of those things working together. Right. The illustration I've used with clients is, you know, you can line up all your dominoes, but if you flick one over in the middle, you're only going to knock half of them over. But if you go to the end, you flick the first one, they all fall from there. And knowing what I know about the system that you guys put into place, I think you guys do such an excellent job at coming in and putting first things first. And, and doing things in the sequence that really allows those accumulation of wins. Right, the the just momentum to build that I've not seen in a lot of other systems. That's fantastic.Benj Miller:
That's cool, thank you!Scott Ritzheimer:
Yeah. So here's a question. The big question, the moment we've all been waiting for, I'd love for you to share us share with us. As as a high demand coach is someone who knows what they've been doing, as someone who's been in the CEO seat themselves. What's the biggest secret of or the number one thing that you would want our audience to hear from you today? And again, we're talking about founders, leaders and entrepreneurial organizations, what's that one thing that you really want to pass on?Benj Miller:
I don't know if this is my forever one thing. But today, what what's top of mind is that vulnerability attracts resources. And so often, as the leader of the organization, we somehow have this intrinsic feeling that we have to have it all together. And the reality is, is that there's so many resources out there, you might have a team member that's more capable, might be ready to step up that if you open up and you know, talk about the needs of the business, talk about where you, as a leader are struggling, you're creating room for them to step into. It's the same with your market. You know, if you've got a question about your your product, why are we scared to ask our customers, right? Like, let's be a little vulnerable and say, Hey, we're trying to figure this out. You're actually the expert because you're the one we're trying to solve. We do the same thing, hesitant to get therapists and coaches and, you know, there's, there's so many resources out there, but it requires us to step out and be a little vulnerable to say, I don't know the answer, and I'm willing to expose that I don't have the answer.Scott Ritzheimer:
So good. I was playing around with the idea of leadership with a friend the other day and my my best shot at what leadership is my current working definition is to be really good at something to know what you're not good at, and, and know how to fill those gaps. Right now there are some leaders who are really good at something, know what they're not good at and just run over people to fill the gaps, right. So just because like, just because you have the gift of leadership doesn't mean that it's a good thing necessarily. And the real magic happens, I think, in that point of vulnerability, like you're talking about where, you know, not only do we recognize, hey, I don't have the answer here, but I'm actually going to open up and find the answer through somebody else. And when when you take that route, I've found that I think what the way that you said, it's beautiful, it's just vulnerability attracts resources, like there's something just attractive about that. And there's something that runs against the grain on what we expect people to do, especially people in leadership. Yeah, during that, and you've mentioned this a couple of times. So I was one of those folks who, for the beginning part of my career, the idea of a coach was like, yuck, you know, it was like, why would it? That's an admission of failure. Right. Right. And, and then that, that really slapped me in the face on more than one occasion, because it took more than one occasion to get through my head. But I'd love to hear a little bit about your journey through like, how do you move from, I don't want a coach to I've gotta have a coach. And if you could wrap that up with, in your opinion, who needs a coach and why?Benj Miller:
All right, I think there are three things in there. So I'm gonna start with a quote that somebody said to me, and then I'll give you my story. So somebody, somebody used the quote, the best way to know what's down the road ahead, is to ask somebody on their way back. And I'm like, that is so smart. Like, I think I'm this visionary, like visionary leader, which means I've got to be the one to break, like pave a brand new road that nobody's ever been down. And that's just foolishness like somebody's been, even if you slice and dice, what you're going down, somebody's been down that road. So that that quote, hit me hard. And then in my story, I went and spoke at a peer group, like I was a guest speaker one day on, you know, subject matter expert. And I ended up engaging with a few of the guys in this group. And I just, I'm a, I'm a curious kind of guy. So I'm like, so what, what was it about this group, because I, the the chair had recruited me like two or three years before, and I thought the cost was just absolutely outrageous to be in. This is a peer group slash coaching model. So you've worked with the chair, and you had an all day, group time with the guys and two of the guys gave me the exact same answer to that question. They both said, I couldn't afford not to do it. And there was something about the weight of those words where they, you know, what they weren't saying is, I couldn't even put a value on this. Like, it's not once once you do it, and you feel it, and you see it, the cost you put in becomes insignificant, because it's no longer even becomes a choice. It's like buying, it's like insurance for the business. Like I it's just a cost. And I can't imagine not doing it because I would be stealing something from my future by not investing in it now. And man, that when the second person in a row said that gave me almost verbatim the same thing. I'm like, Okay, I'm missing something here. And I need to see what it is.Scott Ritzheimer:
Yeah, so good. Now, I've worked with lots of coaches had the opportunity to interview several 100 coaches, actually. And one thing that I've found and I can be guilty of this myself is that coaches have a knack for spending all of their time and energy on their clients and can forget to spend some time and energy working on their own businesses. So I'd love for you to put your own CEO hat on for a moment and just let us know, what does the next phase of growth look like for you and system and soul? And what are you doing to achieve that?Benj Miller:
Okay, so if we're talking about the the organization and not my own coaching practice, correct?Scott Ritzheimer:
Yeah. So we I think that we have, I've gone back and forth, do we have product market fit or market product fit? I'm not sure. But I think we do have that. So now we're moving on to more of a go to market fit, where we can find some repeatable success and how we, we have not yet even tried to mark it to organizations, because we've we've brought on coaches who then go, you know, raise up their own book of business. We're making the shift on that this quarter. So we're shifting from being really really heavily focused on recruiting coaches, to I won't even say recruiting companies evangelizing the companies. We're actually going to work on democratizing system and only giving as much of it as we possibly can away to impact as many businesses as we possibly can.Scott Ritzheimer:
I love that a mutual friend of ours, and someone that I know is instrumental to your story told me once that you cannot outgive the market. And I've tried for the last three years to prove him wrong. And I haven't yet buut...Benj Miller:
Yes, we've joked about that at our quarterly planning. It feels if it makes me a little nervous to try, but that's exactly what we're going to try and do is we're going to try now give the market we're just not sure on the timeframe for the return on out giving her a market. Right. How do you? What's the timeframe on that? That's scary. There's a thing called cashflow. In the meantime, this is very true. All right.Scott Ritzheimer:
So now I know that some of our listeners would say, yes, we absolutely need help. We're bringing clarity and control just bringing everything under one hood, getting rid of the mix mash of everything, how can they best connect with you guys over at system and soul.Benj Miller:
systemandsoul.com really easy bunch of options there. Something super simple, totally free that everybody can do is go to the261.com. And I share there's 261 business days in the work here. And I think there's so much clutter and noise about what we're supposed to be doing, what we should be doing. And then also what we forget to take time to think about as leaders. So a very short, you know, couple sentence email every day to help us frame up an idea or a piece of our business. So that's a free daily reminder that you can get the 261 dot com.Scott Ritzheimer:
I love that the261.com start off each day, right? With Benj and the crew over there Benj thank you so much for joining us today. Really appreciate it.Benj Miller:
Always a pleasure, Scott.Scott Ritzheimer:
And thanks everyone for listening. We look forward to seeing you next time. Take care.
Scott Ritzheimer here thank you so much for listening to the secrets of high demand coaches podcast. If you are a successful coach, consultant or advisor who's built a strong book of business and win like to be on the program, please visit go dot scale architects.com And if you got something out of this interview, would you share this episode on social media and just do a quick screenshot with your phone and text it to a friend or post it on the socials. If you know someone who'd be a great guest, you can tag them on social media to let them know about the show and make sure you include the hashtag high demand coaching. I love seeing your posts. I love seeing your guest suggestions. Thank you so much. We are regularly putting out new episodes and content to make sure you don't miss any of those episodes. Go ahead and subscribe now your thumbs up your ratings your reviews, they go a long way to help us promote the show and they mean a lot to me and my team. If you want to know more, you can go to our website www.scalearchitects.com or you can follow me or the company on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram. Thank you so much for listening. We'll see you next time.