Rishon Blumberg graduated from the Wharton School with a degree in entrepreneurial management. From concert promotion to co-founding Brick Wall Management, 10x Management and 10x Ascend, he has imbued his passions with purpose.
Founded in 1995, Brick Wall Management is a music management & entertainment consulting firm that managed, marketed, and shaped the careers of musicians like John Mayer, Vanessa Carlton, Citizen Cope & more.
With the formation in 2011 of 10x Management, Rishon brought his extensive experience managing creatives to the technology space – creating the first-of-its-kind tech talent agency. In 2019, 10x Ascend grew out of 10x Management, to help senior tech talent negotiate their W2 compensation packages.
Rishon also helps to administer The Kristen Ann Carr Fund for cancer research and serves on the advisory board of Musicians On Call which brings the healing power of music to the bedsides of patients.
Rishon’s first book published by HarperCollins Leadership was released in Sept 2020. Game Changer: How To Be 10x in the Talent Economy, reveals the strategies companies and individuals can take to become 10x.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Game Changer: How to be 10x in the Talent Economy
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Speaker1: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the business radio studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for coach the coach radio brought to you by the Business Radio Embassador program, a no cost business development strategy for coaches who want to spend more time serving local business clients and less time selling them. Go to B.R. X Ambassador dot com to learn more. Now here’s your host.
Speaker2: [00:00:33] We can’t hear another episode of Koch, the Koch radio, and this is going to be a good one today, we have with us with Sean Blumberg with 10X Management. Welcome.
Speaker3: [00:00:43] Hi, how are you?
Speaker2: [00:00:44] I am doing well. I’m so excited to talk to you. I’m excited to learn about 10x management. I’ve heard the phrase 10x. I love to hear how you guys do it and how companies can take advantage of that.
Speaker3: [00:00:56] Sure. So 10x management and 10x in general. What we think of as 10x is somebody who delivers exponential value to a company. And in our case we represent very senior freelance tech talent. And the premise here is that we provide rapid access to this type of talent for companies who have problems that they are having trouble solving. And the hope is that our people will bring them exponential value as well. The concept of 10x, it sort of crosses verticals. Anybody can be 10x in any kind of vertical in tech. In particular, though, as you can imagine, somebody who is really exceptional at what they do can can change dramatically the valuation for a company by solving certain types of unsolvable problems. And we’ve absolutely seen that happen on our end. So that’s sort of a little bit about us. We wrote a book called Game Changer How to Be 10X in the Talent Economy. And a lot of the the ideas that we’ll talk about here today are in that book as well.
Speaker2: [00:02:05] Yeah, that’s how I the first time I heard 10x was I I was talking to somebody in technology specifically about coding, and they were explaining to me that, you know, coders are important and critical. But if you have kind of an a player or a 10x player, it’s dramatically different. You’re talking about this is a person that can really do x exemplary work in much less time. They get it faster. They deliver a better result, a cleaner code in this respect that’s more efficient and it can dramatically impact your business. And I don’t think people realize that. I think a lot of times they settle for maybe A, B or C player when if they hold out for an A player or they, you know, kind of wait for their pitch, when that a player comes, it can make a dramatic difference in their business.
Speaker3: [00:03:00] Yeah. I mean, obviously, you’re preaching to the choir when you say that I could not agree with you more. We have a concept called rent fast or slow specifically to address what you’re talking about there, where companies are better off taking their time to find the right full time W2 employee, as opposed to just the quick, you know, this is the person I can get in sort of the best person I can get right now. So a lot of what we’re doing for companies is providing that stop gap of you can rent our person really quickly and get somebody who’s super high level. And, yeah, they’re not going to be a W2 option for you necessarily, but it gives you that time to find that right person who can be exponentially better for your company than other people. So I couldn’t agree with you more.
Speaker2: [00:03:46] Now, I’ve also seen this work because I’ve worked in some in some of the creative businesses and I’ve seen, for example, EDS. I’ve seen an editor do in seconds what another editor would take hours. So I think this transfers to other areas as well, not just tech or developers or coders.
Speaker3: [00:04:06] Oh, yeah, I we’re firm believers that this is more of a mindset and a capability rather than something that is domain specific. It’s sort of like the saying that, you know, intelligence is spread evenly across all races, colors and creeds, but opportunity is limited. I think that that’s true with tenex capability, you can have ten extras in any vertical. In addition to working with tech talent, we also work with entertainment. That’s sort of how that was sort of the first talent we ever started working with. In our book, we interviewed Bruce Springsteen’s manager. Bruce is really the first 10 extra we ever came across. He’s not writing code, obviously, but he’s so exceptional at what he does and everything he does, for that matter, from giving a speech to writing a book to writing a song, to performing everything that he touches is just amazing. And that’s why he is the icon that he is. And this is repeated in other in other verticals as well. I mean, we could probably talk about I don’t know the names of these people, but people that wrote algorithms for hedge funds and trading floors, you know, before those algorithms trading was done very differently. After those algorithms which were written by people who were exceptional, it basically changed the game.
Speaker2: [00:05:29] Now, when you’re when we’re talking about 10x. People and and their skill specifically, is this something that you found just on dealing with a lot of these folks? Is this something that you’re born with or is this something that you have maybe a propensity for and that you can really get good and get to that level? Or is it just kind of genetic luck that, hey, I’m this person and I just have these I’m a 10 year.
Speaker3: [00:05:55] Well, first of all, I think that’s a great question, and I think the answer is twofold. One is true 10 years, which there are not that many of them are born with it, but also work very hard at it. It’s like the stories of Michael Jordan, who is obviously a goat, and he may be the best basketball player ever, but he also worked harder than anybody else on the court, putting time into the gym, getting his reps in. And that’s true of other techniques. So you are born with that innate IQ and perhaps even IQ. And by that I mean the emotional quotient, how you deal with people, communicate, empathize with other people. You may be born with that, but I think you can also learn and improve on those skills. So the true 10 are born with it. However. You can really push yourself down the spectrum, you may not reach real ness, for lack of a better phrase, but there are definitely things that the average individual can do to be more 10x. And I can I can run through some of those. Yeah, go ahead. Yeah. So for starters, you want to be a continual learner every 10 exer and people that are pushing themselves down that spectrum are constantly learning, evaluating, reevaluating, getting feedback. We dedicate a chapter in our book to this and basically you should be looking for feedback in all directions. People that are at your level at work, people below you, people above you, people outside of your work world, you want to be able to get an accurate impression of where your strengths and weaknesses are so you can work on them and improve.
Speaker3: [00:07:35] So upskilling professionally and also constantly learning and re-evaluating how you approach problems is one thing. Having a mentor, a coach, somebody that has a vested interest in seeing you do well is a great place to start. Sometimes that’s a family member right in the first place, you might look as a parent and uncle, some family member that may be able to give you a certain level of guidance that you can’t have on your own, being able to see the blind spots that you yourself can’t see. We talk about something called Johari Window in the book, and one of the elements of it is things that other people see about you that you don’t see in yourself. And that’s where you really need that guidance, that coach, that mentor and the feedback from, because there are absolutely things that you don’t know about yourself and it can really help you improve. So I think constant learning is the number one most important thing, finding people that have sort of skin in the game in your life that can give you outside feedback. Those are a couple of tangible things that people can do to push themselves down the spectrum.
Speaker2: [00:08:45] And do you have to kind of the specialist like, is it difficult to be a generalist 10x or
Speaker3: [00:08:51] I think you can be a generalist 10x or because at the end of the day, it’s about being the best that you can at whatever it is you’re working on and whatever it is you’re doing. But I do think that where we see the most sort of public impact from 10 years tends to be sort of domain specific, somebody who is exceptional at writing front end or back end code or algorithms or somebody who is able to synthesize, like a lawyer who’s able to synthesize arguments in a much more elegant and eloquent way. Those are going to be people who are exponentially better. And I think that I sort of alluded to this, but 10 years are part IQ and part IQ IQ. Everybody knows about IQ. Part is that ability to relate to others. And the higher your IQ, the better off you’re going to be as far as success in things that you do. So if you have a super high IQ, that’s great. But if you can’t communicate with others and empathize with others, I can guarantee you that by and large, you’re not going to have the kind of success that you want. So if there’s one thing to truly work on beyond constantly upskilling and you’re improving, your IQ status is to be more human, to understand other people, to be able to communicate to other people with other people and empathize with the things that they’re going through professionally and personally now.
Speaker2: [00:10:21] So if you were talking to a recent graduate from college, what would be your counsel to them if they wanted to or they aspire to be a 10 X or in their career?
Speaker3: [00:10:33] Well, first of all, they should figure out what they want to do. Do they want to be in entertainment? Do they want to be in sports, marketing, management? Do they want to be that they want to be a coder? Whatever it is they want to do, they need to learn about that profession and discipline. So, again, I would try and find some sort of a mentor or a coach and learn what the process is to become better and excel in that vertical. So it starts with baby steps. And then once you take those initial baby steps and figure out what you want to do and maybe figure out your foot into the door of the first job that you have, that’s when you start applying the other elements like feedback and making people advocates for you by working really hard, having grit and fortitude, being a great team player, communicating well, finding people in your workplace who can give you critical feedback, trying to engage with your manager to to play that role and then find people that are in your same vertical but at other companies and network with them. Find out how their job differs from your job. Go to networking events. You really. Have to immerse yourself in whatever it is that occupation you want to pursue, learn who the players are, learn where they go, learn what they do, that’s sort of this constant learning process. And slowly but surely, you have to have grit and fortitude to stand up. But slowly and surely you will rise up the ladder. And then the key is, once you’ve risen, is to pay it forward and offer that feedback and offer that support for the people that you see in your organization that are exceptional, what they do and need to get that that boost in that leg up.
Speaker2: [00:12:15] Now, in your organization, 10X Management, what is the pain that your prospective client is having right before they’re hiring you? Are they startups where they’re just building a tech team? Are they like kind of frustrated? They’ve plateaued and they they need help kind of getting over a hump and they’re got a little bit of a crisis on their hands. Like like who who are the folks that are calling you and why?
Speaker3: [00:12:39] Yeah, I mean, we really see the full spectrum, everything from like a mom and pop start up without it, without a technical founder who needs to have an MVP built of their idea all the way up to Fortune. One hundred companies, multinationals. So it really just depends. We have a broad enough client base where we can sort of find the right solution quickly. For most problems, I will say that the barriers to entry tend to be companies that are more calcified in Old World, meaning that their procurement process is incredibly challenging. This is something we talk about all the time. It’s largely why we wrote our book is that we work with so many forward thinking companies. But there are still companies that we come in contact with who desperately need the help of the kind of people that we represent. But there are so many hurdles and hoops to jump through in order to be on board, it becomes impossible. So the companies that were really successful with working, working with our companies that are much more modern and people centric, focused, meaning that they’re looking to find the right solution, whether it’s a W-2, whether it’s a ten ninety nine freelancer, whether it’s domestic or international, they want to find the best resource to solve the problem. That’s a kind of company that we work very effectively with. I don’t know if that gives you the complete picture, but we have we run the gamut of all different types of companies.
Speaker2: [00:14:12] But is there something happening internally? Like are they did they just get funding and now they got to really build this thing out? Or do they just got a new client that has asked them to do something? They promise that they’re going to have a hard time delivering and they need help.
Speaker3: [00:14:28] The answer is yes. I’m not being that helpful here, but so I would say that there are several different types of usages. One would be adding capacity to a team. Let’s say you’ve got your own tech team at your company and they’re focused on a variety of different projects. And an edge case project comes up that that is important. But you don’t want to take your core team away from what they’re working on day to day. In order to build this, we’re often brought into to build these kinds of edge case pieces of tech products. Sometimes we’re adding capacity to existing teams when they have a product push, maybe they have a launch for something and they just need to add extra capacity. Sometimes we’re building something from the ground up. I would say twenty five percent of our projects are what we call Greenfield, where we’re coming in and we’re basically building the whole thing. But yeah, it could be a company just got funding and they want to ramp up and rapidly bring an MVP to market. It could be a capacity thing where a company just needs to add people for whatever reason, but they don’t want to add headcount on a two front. And it could be case projects or it could be in. This happens fairly often, often with the fortune. One hundred companies, they have lab groups and they’re looking for a very specific type of capability. And so they would come to us because we have people who do are experts at certain certain types of disciplines and edge case R&D related elements. And so it can really be a variety of of different uses.
Speaker2: [00:16:07] So now, if they’re not choosing you, are they just kind of networking locally, finding somebody that knows somebody, get some independent freelancer, or are they going to a recruiting firm and going to hire somebody permanently?
Speaker3: [00:16:21] You know, it’s it’s really all over the place, I would say a large chunk of the business that we do comes from referrals from other companies that we’ve worked with, which is obviously we think is a huge compliment and we love that. So that’s that’s a situation where, like you sort of said, they’re kind of networking their way into finding a resource. There are a lot of marketplaces that have popped up over the last 10, 15 years, up work being one of the bigger ones you’ve probably heard of. And, you know, when we started out hiring freelancers ourselves before we started 10x management, we would go to marketplaces like that. Up work was a combination of oDesk and I can’t remember the other company that merged together. But oDesk was was really an initial marketplace for tech talent. And the problem that we ran into was we had no real vetting mechanism. It was very hard to know what we were getting, the quality of work. And sure enough, it was it was very hit or miss. And so we kind of put that. But the concepts in the problems that we saw in the back of our mind and ultimately around 2010 when people started to talk about tech talent as rock stars, we’d already been working with rock stars. And so we thought perhaps the type of representation we do could could transport into tech. But there are definitely a variety of different ways people can find talent. The question is, what is it they’re looking for? And I think that the what you talked about as far as the techniques are being able to write code faster and more elegantly and get it right the first time, that’s a certain type of customer that is looking for that kind of person, because though that combination of talents is not cheap. Right. So if you want quick and cheap, that’s one type of tech talent. If you want really high quality, that’s going to be a different kind of tech talent. So it really depends on what your need is, where you will try and source that that resource.
Speaker2: [00:18:20] So now how do you kind of vet the talent to make sure there can Xers?
Speaker3: [00:18:26] So a lot of the people that we represent and we really have two types of relationships and our agency is is small by design. We’re not a platform. We don’t have tens of thousands of people. Most of the people that we represent came to us through a trusted source, either a customer we’ve worked with or another client that we represent has somebody who they think is great, that they referred us, and whether or not they come to us through that source or off of our waitlist. We have about a 5000 person wait list of people who have applied to be represented. We go through essentially four different vetting elements. The first is we do reference checks, which I think is sort of your basic low hanging fruit. We do a little cyberstalking, which is really just looking at all of their public personas and seeing how they present themselves, what they talk about, what’s important to them. And then the two most important thing which we important things, which we dive in most deeply on are personality based interviews, which happen with myself and my co-founder, where we really try to find out what makes this person tick. Who are they? What is it that inspires them? What makes them work? Well, what kind of projects will be good for them? How do they problem solve what happens when they come in contact with issues? How do they deal with those issues? And then the other thing we do is we do technical vet and we use our existing client base to vet new potential clients. The idea there being we want to ensure that even the weakest link on the chain is is pretty strong or is very strong. So that’s really the four step process that we go through.
Speaker2: [00:20:02] So that stage where you’re talking to them, that’s your kind of IQ analysis?
Speaker3: [00:20:07] That’s exactly right. Between that and the reference checks, we get a sense of how they work
Speaker2: [00:20:15] With others, with humans. It’s your human test with humans.
Speaker3: [00:20:18] Yes, it’s our human test. We want to know how they problem solve. What do they do when they’re blamed for something that either is their fault or isn’t their fault? Do they step up to the plate and take ownership of it? Do they pass it off to somebody else? We really want people who are going to take ownership of things that are problems that are created. And then the second thing is to propose solutions. We don’t want people who are just like, yeah, I’m sorry I messed that up, but I don’t really know how to fix it. Right. So we’re really we’re really voting for who you are, what you have to say, how you deal with problems. Do you step up to the plate and own things or do you push it up onto other people? And generally, I mean, we have a list of core values that we show to these prospective clients and see if that aligns with their own values.
Speaker2: [00:21:10] Now, any advice for folks out there that are in the hiring business and obviously they should call you, but if they’re going to try to do this on their own, is there some kind of dos and. From hiring, if they’re trying to do it on their own, that you would recommend, other than probably by your book, probably by your book, is probably a good starting point.
Speaker3: [00:21:29] It would be great. But I think that the four steps that we go through as far as vetting, I think should be done by anybody who’s bringing on a freelancer. If we’re talking about a W to hire, it’s a little bit different. We actually created something called a lifestyle calculator that weighs out twenty four different elements that could be in a compensation package. And we use that for prospective clients who we’re working with to help them negotiate the compensation package that compensation packages that they’re getting for W-2 employment. And we do that through our company 10 percent. But when we’re talking about freelance, especially tech talent, go through those four steps and focus, most importantly, on the personality elements and how they deal with issues and also be very upfront about what your process is as a company. Are you a company that insists on doing multiple stand ups throughout the week and they’ll have to be a part of that? Or are you not a company that does that? Like what is your cadence? What is your expectation? And then one of the things that we tell the companies that we work with when dealing with the 10 extras that we represent is you’re hiring them so that they can teach you what to do, not so that you can teach them what to do. That’s like a Steve Jobs quote, We hire the best and brightest so they can tell us what to do, not for us to tell them what to do. 10 years want to solve your problem. But if you micromanage a 10 year, they’re never going to succeed. They don’t they don’t work well under that kind of situation. So set up the expectations, set up the parameters and give them the space to do what they do while still obviously managing them. But micromanaging is a huge problem.
Speaker2: [00:23:08] Now, if there’s someone out there that wants to learn more, get a hold of your book or talk to you or somebody on your team, whether they’re talent or whether they’re looking for talent or what’s the website.
Speaker3: [00:23:19] So the two websites that I would say make the most sense is 10x management, the number 10, the letter X management dot com, and that is information on our tech talent agency, both how to hire people and bring them on for projects and also for people who might be interested in applying. And then for the book, it’s game changer, the book dot com, and it has a lot of information there, including a fun test that you can take to see where you fall on the spectrum. And also you can take it on behalf of your company to see where they fall on the spectrum. And my contact information is on the game changer, the book, dot com website.
Speaker2: [00:23:59] How many people who take that test or ten years?
Speaker3: [00:24:02] You know, it’s funny, we don’t actually capture the answers, so I don’t have a good answer to that. But I can tell you, when I took it myself, I was only about three quarters of the way there. So I think that most people will probably fall into that a third to seventy five percent range without outliers being below and above. If you’re above seventy five or eighty percent, you’re pretty well on your way to being 10x or at least understanding what it takes to be a ten extra good stuff.
Speaker2: [00:24:31] Well thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Speaker3: [00:24:36] Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Speaker2: [00:24:37] All right. This is Lee Kanter. We will see you next time on Coach the Coach Radio.