From Marketing to Coaching: Lessons on Crafting Your First Executive Peer Group
Episode #1025: “If you knew you couldn’t fail with your business, where would you go with it?” Tune into a conversation with Steve Brody, an executive coach and former Vistage Master Chair, for inspiration on taking your business—and your clients’ businesses—one step further. During the conversation, you will glean valuable insights about Steve’s 16-year career at Coca-Cola, his experience setting up his first Vistage group, and a case study that proves marketing’s impact on the bottom line.
About Steve Brody
Steve Brody is an executive coach and former Vistage Master Chair. He has his MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and has ample experience in both the corporate and coaching world. Steve began his corporate career in marketing for Coca-Cola Company, where he stayed for a total of 16 years. In his time with Coca-Cola, Steve developed an understanding of marketing and business leadership. From his position at Coca-Cola, Steve moved into executive positions with other private companies in the beverage and packaging industries.
After Steve’s successful career in the corporate world, he transitioned into a Vistage Master Chair for the next 20 years. Steve is currently the President of Naviond and a Certified Exit Planner Strategist with NAVIX Consultants. He also continues his CEO coaching practice through CEO-Mastermind. Steve has a passion for helping CEOs become greater business leaders and helping business owners successfully exit businesses. Steve’s passion for helping other business leaders paired with his experience in the corporate world make him a highly impactful executive coach today.
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Learning and Coca-Cola
Steve shares that he began his career straight out of college with a position in the marketing department at Coca-Cola. Steve points out that when he entered the Coca-Cola corporation, he had a vast knowledge of the “prescribed approach” based on his academic learnings and textbooks, but that he truly developed “the greatest learning” of how to lead businesses and market well during his time at the company.
From a large pond to a small pond
Steve left Coca-Cola and began working for smaller privately owned corporations. He did this because he enjoyed being a “bigger fish in a small pond.” From this realization, he launched his career leading 4 companies over the span of 10 years. As Steve’s career in running small businesses grew, Steve excelled in his leadership ability. After this, Steve was introduced to Tech (now called Vistage) through a former co-worker at Coca-Cola.
Building your first Vistage group
As Steve entered Vistage, he shares that he had to “start from scratch” developing his first group. Steve shares that as he started his first group, he realized that he had to create new connections with other CEOs. In his time building his first Vistage group, Steve maintained his financial stability by selling funds and setting aside some financial assets from his experience selling companies. Severin commends Steve on having a financial resource in place before starting his Vistage growth process and comments on the need to have these resources in order. Steve agreed with Severin and explains that it was beneficial to his Vistage development because it helped avoid the temptation of consulting contracts. Steve finished his initial training for Vistage in the last quarter of 1998 but didn’t have enough CEOs to become an official Vistage group until 1999. Thereafter, Steve continued developing his group and soon introduced a key executive group to his practice.
Steve’s powerful questions
Steve uses several questions in his executive coaching practices. One of which is the “death question.” When posing this question, he asks his executives “what happens if the plane goes down?” He uses this question to encourage his executives to create a plan for not only his family in the case of tragedy, but his company as well. He brings up the point that many of the individuals that executives consider as important members of their team have no equity in the business. Steve shares that this often opens up executives to learning more about how to better involve others for the longevity of the business. Severin also asks this question but with a different scenario. He shares that when he uses this question, executives are also caught off guard and surprised.
Steve also likes to use the question, “if you knew you couldn’t fail with your business, where would you go with it? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t’ fail?” to encourage clients to dream big and realize their true desires for their business.
Furthermore, to encourage vulnerability, Steve asks clients, “what is it that you have not told me about yourself that you think would be helpful for me to know?”
Embracing the exit
Steve has worked with Naviond and Navix which seek to help executives sell and exit their companies. With another Vistage Chair in Canada, Steve started Naviond, a peer group for CEOs who are exiting their businesses. Naviond gets its name from the phrase: “navigating life after business and beyond.” This group meets quarterly for half a day and focuses on how to be significant and meaningful after selling your business as well as how to have an effective exit strategy.
Selecting your group members
When Severin asks Steve what he wishes he would have known during his first year of executive coaching, Steve shares the importance of selecting executives to coach based on how much you enjoy working with them. Steve explains this by comparing conversations that are effortless versus difficult or taxing. He has learned in his years of coaching that it is important for him to select clients who he enjoys working with and that have the ability to be vulnerable. Severin agrees with Steve’s insight and states that “it’s very wise to be very choosy and bring those that you can help and find joy in working with” into your coaching practice.
Steve’s favorite quotes
Steve enjoys using quotes in his executive coaching practice. One of the quotes that he uses is “hope is not a strategy.” Severin jokingly comments that he calls that phrase, “hopium,” and agrees that hope is “definitely not a strategy of money.” Other quotes that Steve uses are “prescription without diagnosis is malpractice” and “what business are you really in.”
By encouraging executives to think about what business they are really in, Steve helps executives more clearly define success and identify the “secret” of their business. Lastly, Steve uses the quote, “nobody buys anything based on price…unless there is no difference in your product or service.”
Was the water named after the town?
Steve shares a great example of one of his favorite quotes, “nobody buys anything based on price… unless there is no difference in your product or service.”
At one point in his corporate career, Steve was hired to help Utopia Spring Water in Utopia, Texas generate greater profit. Spring water is generally universal with “no difference” between competitor products as the FDA regulates the content of the water.
One of the first things Steve did for Utopia was hire an ad agency to get broader exposure and create differentiation. After some time, a member of the ad agency introduced the idea of the “great debate” of Utopia, Texas to Steve—“was the water named after the town, or was the town named after the water?” And, that debate became the theme of all the advertising that came thereafter. This slogan became so impactful that the business of Utopia Spring Water doubled and greatly impacted the consumer market.
In fact—the slogan was so memorable, that even a few months later—Steve used a company credit card at a restaurant and the waiter asked, “was the water named after the town, or the town named after the water?”
The 60 million dollar question
When coaching an executive through an exit strategy, Steve was able to encourage a client to examine and question their entire business and its impact in the market before selling at the recommended amount. His client was initially advised to sell his company at a value of 15 million dollars, but instead of taking the offer immediately, the individual considered the questions posed by Steve and sold his company for 75 million dollars instead.
The executive’s ability to consider Steve’s questions and further examine his business’ potential increased profit by 60 million dollars. Steve states that he was “so happy that he was able to achieve that, and he listened” to the questions that Steve gave.
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