Brian Johnson is the Founder and Owner of Main & Johnson, a Charlotte, North Carolina, based Business Consulting & Coaching company, aimed at seeing small to medium-sized businesses thrive, not just survive. Main & Johnson partners with business owners to bridge the gap between what success they have had and the success they seek.
Brian and his team specialize in driving accountability, long-term growth, and accelerated results with an outside perspective to blend with business owners’ knowledge and experience.
Connect with Brian on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Airline Analogy for Business
- Growing Through the Scale Hurdles
- Exit Strategy Planning in Business
- Price Now More than Ever
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for high velocity radio.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:13] Lee Kantor here, another episode of High Velocity Radio, and this is going to be a fun one. Today on the show, we have Brian Johnson with Main and Johnson. Welcome, Brian.
Brian Johnson: [00:00:23] Hey, thank you, Lee. Well, I appreciate being here. Thank you for the welcome.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:27] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Mayne and Johnson. How are you serving folks?
Brian Johnson: [00:00:32] Yes. So we’re a Charlotte based business. So a little bit up the road from you there. But we focus on helping and connecting local small businesses to where they’re going and at an accelerated pace. So we like to kind of tell our business partners that we’re not going to tell you how to run your business, but we’ll be there to partner with you and just accelerate where you are going to get to on your own. So we try to plug a few holes here and there, but help you get your momentum in the business. And then and that’s kind of the main street focus. So if you thinking Main and Johnson, do I have a partner with a last name? Main that’s not the case. We were just thinking about if you saw our logo, kind of like the intersection of Main Street and myself for businesses, and then we’ve branched out into a little bit more of a national consulting approach on business strategy and commercial strategy. So but that’s what we’re up to.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:23] So how did you get started in this line of work? Were you always involved in coaching and consulting?
Brian Johnson: [00:01:29] I wasn’t, at least not formally or being compensated for it. I kind of came out of the corporate world like a lot of consultants out there, but spent 20 years in the Fortune 500 space. And then as I kind of got a little bit further into my career and you start kind of assessing what you like to do, what not to do, the coaching option and kind of having your own business became a lot more attractive. So I kind of traded in a suitcase and a plane ticket for sitting a little bit in the car and meeting for coffee until COVID decided to change the rules a little. But we’re kind of getting back into, I guess, kind of a little bit more of an open environment, at least somewhat right now. So it’s kind of how I got here. But, you know, just grew up with my father owning small businesses and just always knew that we wanted to kind of find a way to be a little bit more progressive, to take stuff that I got to experience and bring it into the the small business space.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:26] Now, you mentioned having kind of worked in the Fortune 500 space. Is any of that really transferable to the folks on Main Street?
Brian Johnson: [00:02:36] It is. And you sometimes the scale may be not. So, I mean, a lot of the like breaking it down into like executive coaching. I mean, a lot of the smaller businesses aren’t really looking for their teams to necessarily be coached per se. But, you know, you do get into things like how do you retain clients or sorry, not not just clients. You definitely want to know that. But how do you retain employees? I mean, these are all things bigger companies struggle with as as do small. And you just try to take some of the strategies that you learned in the ways that you applied them on an enterprise wide scale. And boil it down to like, hey, here’s your business, here’s what’s important to you, and how do we set the path forward to make sure you’re capitalizing on the opportunities that you’ve got in front of you? I think there’s a lot of macro analysis that you spend a great deal of time in the corporate world on that maybe is a little bit much on the smaller end. But, you know, certainly being able to pay attention to trends like here in Charlotte, it’s probably similar to Atlanta. You can’t drive down the street without seeing either road construction houses being built or a big crane, you know, building a thing downtown Charlotte. So that kind of stuff is good to know if you’re in the type of business that the demographics matter and being able to kind of bring that skill set into the conversation, I think can open some eyes sometimes.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:51] So walk me through what an engagement looks like. One, when people are coming to you, what is their situation? Are they’re in a crisis? Is something bad just happened? Is this something that they’re frustrated, they’re not growing fast enough? What is typically that point of entry for you?
Brian Johnson: [00:04:06] Yeah, and I you know, we’re always able to try to help people and we’re always engaged in it. If there’s something wrong, that’s not our sweet spot and that’s not where most of our customers come from. I mean, if you’ve already hit the iceberg and you’re taking on water, there’s not a whole lot we can do at that point. But what we do is we see a lot of our our client base coming directly from, hey, I started out this way and this worked for quite a while and I’ve kind of plateaued. And it’s not that I’m trying to be a, you know, the next millionaire out there or multi millionaire. But I had visions of my business being in a different level, and I’m starting to kind of hit my head against the wall here. And we come in and we work with them, partner with them, understand where they’re at and what they’ve done successfully and where they failed. And then we start applying some new strategies to that. So we bring a fresh set of eyes. In a lot of cases, we’re especially on the coaching and we’re a little bit business agnostic. So we have a wide variety of of customers and markets that we work with. But the reason is we don’t tend to know more than they do about their industry. We complement it with business practices, processes, systems and strategies that really kind of reinvigorate where they’re at. I’d say the COVID pandemic was not great for business in the sense that all of a sudden we had a lot of people that needed help. But as much as I think it reminded business owners that you can’t keep plugging away the same way that has worked and expect it to continue to work longer term. So that opened a lot of opportunity to sit in with business owners and really help them kind of either pivot or refocus where they’re headed in a in a maybe different way than they’ve done before.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:49] Now, you mentioned systems and processes. Is that something that, you know, intellectually people understand, but practically they don’t really executed at the level that maybe the best run companies do?
Brian Johnson: [00:06:04] Yep. The thing that we see with that, you know, it’s a very interesting one because most people think like, okay, now I’ve got to go get like an SAP system or something. This is what you’re talking about. And it’s really not. I mean, if you think of just the general business owner that maybe is a is somewhat of an employee in their own company. You know, I mean, take myself, for example, I do the coaching for my business. Well, if I were coaching 40 hours a week, there’d be nothing more I could do. So what kind of systems would I put in my business that I could take those same 40 hours and I’d be able to reach more people without really totally changing the dynamics? So some of the systems are really geared towards expanding the capacity that a business can run with its current resources. And I think a lot of times people think it’s this massive investment, like some big I.T. system, and it can be. But in a lot of cases, it’s really applying just, you know, what is it that I could invest in that does the work for me? So I’m not the one doing it all. And I think that’s where some of that value kicks in. People are like scratching their head like, oh, wow, that just made whatever I’ve been doing during the week a whole lot easier. Fantastic. You know, I mean, perfect example is like people that do their own schedule and then there’s this thing like calendar and there’s a million others that are out there that do it for you. And if all of a sudden you’re not searching your schedule, trying to figure out where to put people in and let them pick it, you just got a lot of time back in your day. So it’s things like that, too, that tend to move the needle. We we see the most in the quickest with a lot of the smaller businesses.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:34] Now, when you’re working with a client, are they typically at that growth stage of their lifecycle or are they at the kind of this is the end of the party and I’m going to exit stage of the process.
Brian Johnson: [00:07:46] It’s an interesting question. And I li we we use an analogy that we kind of call the airplane analogy for business. And coming from a lifestyle at 30,000 feet was what I came from and trying to figure out how do I articulate things to business owners that make sense to everyone? And so we came up with this analogy and it’s basically four parts to a flight, four parts to the business cycle, and your first one is your takeoff phase. So just like when you’re starting out of business, you know, do you have any in number, do you have funding? Do you have a vision and a path forward? Do you have your business plan written? It’s a lot of box checking, kind of like Seatbacks and their upright locked position tray table stowed bags under the seat in front of you, everything in the overhead compartment. None of those things the plane can’t move forward into. All those boxes are checked and in a lot like that is business. And then you move into the next phase, which is ascension. And so your question on where do we see a lot of people we see a lot of them coming in here. And the reason is this is like on a flight, you know, you go to take off and nobody’s moving around the cabin. When you’re rocketing up to 30,000 feet, you know, everybody has to stay put.
Brian Johnson: [00:08:50] You can’t use the bathroom unless it’s probably an absolute emergency. But even the flight attendants aren’t moving around. And that’s because just like in business, you’re really focused on the one thing that matters, and that’s getting to that altitude where you know, you’re in good shape. And for a business that’s a lot more like, Hey, what do I got to do to get to that point where I put my head on the pillow at night and I know in the morning I’m going to wake up and still have a business. And so there we work with a lot of business owners to, you know, it’s great that you know where you want to be in five years, but you don’t get to five years if we don’t accomplish this year. So what do we need to focus on that allows you to maximize your time and get to that that level the quickest? Whenever you turn that corner and you’re on the cruising altitude, it won’t doesn’t mean you won’t adjust altitude, but it does mean it’s not about survival anymore. And this is where things tend to relax a little bit and you can focus on efficiency and effectiveness. So we see businesses here. This is on a plane. This is where the drink cart comes out. This is where your your mileage loyalty programs really kick in and people can relax, get up and walk about the cabin.
Brian Johnson: [00:09:49] Same thing in business. You can start your employee retention strategies, your customer engagement. Retention strategies work on profitability and things that maybe aren’t so much topline based, but they do matter in the long run because they’re going to fuel what? Allows you to sustain what you’re doing and reinvest in the business. Then obviously the last phase is the one you kind of alluded to on checking out, which is dissention. And we look at it as, you know, it’s crazy that it takes you 10 minutes to get to 30,000 feet. But they announce your your starting your initial descent. You land an hour later. Well, we hope it’s like that for businesses as well, where I can see the ending and it’s a nice soft dissention into that that landing spot. And so we’ll work with businesses to kind of tag into what they need to get done before they put it up for sale, if that’s what they want to do to maximize valuation. If they’ve got somebody they feel could take it on internally, we’ll work with them to make the transition and help bring that person into the the new CEO level type capacity or whatever they have in mind. But you’re right, there’s there’s kind of two aspects where people tend to pay attention the most, and that’s when they’re rocketing up and that’s when they’re kind of coming back down.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:59] Now, is there any advice you can give an entrepreneur that is maybe closer to the end than the beginning? I wouldn’t think that if you’re thinking of exiting your business, that you do that, you know, the week before. Like this is something in order to have a good exit, you better be planning for years in advance.
Brian Johnson: [00:11:18] Yeah. And even in your right and even those that maybe kind of come to the game a little bit later than you’d like. I think the biggest thing is there can be a bridge step between where you are and when you sell. And a lot of owners want to get out because they just don’t really want to put forth the effort anymore to to run the business. And there’s there’s many ways to do this. And I’ve seen people that will hire a general manager that literally is just part of the transition plan from where they were to then when they sell. And that person kind of oversees that valuation creation process that allows this business to sell for more. And quite honestly, when they’re a proven GM, they’re a really good marketing tool for the potential buyer to say, you’re going to inherit the person that already knows how to run this thing. You know, it’s not like you’re buying it from me and then all my contacts and relationships now leave with me, you know? So that’s probably the thing is most people kind of panic. And when they just don’t want to do it anymore, they’ll sell and they wind up selling at a discount.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:19] So by putting that manager in place that is trained up and skillful, you can really get a higher multiple. At the end of the day you can.
Brian Johnson: [00:12:29] And if your tolerance is, it doesn’t have to be a point in time that it’s sold. And it’s just I want to change my lifestyle into more of, like I say, retirement phase. But, you know, hey, I’m on the golf course, but I’m still collecting paychecks. There is an inter between an in-between step that you can do that could allow you to still sell it for the max value but not have to lose the lifestyle that you’d kind of rather rush into at that point in time.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:52] So is that something you help your clients with?
Brian Johnson: [00:12:54] We do. We can help them identify who who might be a good person to step in if they don’t have that person already, kind of in their in their business if they do. And they just need trained up. Of course, that’s part of the thing we do, but we can give them kind of the right plan and walk them through the execution of it over that span of time.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:13] Now, in your business, what has been the most rewarding example of working with somebody that might have been frustrated with the state they were in? And then you inject yourself and your team and all of a sudden now they’ve hit a new level.
Brian Johnson: [00:13:27] Yeah, I think it’s when they connect business success and their lifestyle goals, you know, you get a business owner that they’re working hard. So it’s never amount about the effort put into it. But you know, you can waste a lot of energy on some of the wrong things and not realize they’re wrong until it’s too late. And so being able to come in and partner with them and they have another set of eyes looking at their business that just kind of helps give them an approach that they have confidence in. Then watch them go out and succeed and build up their their ownership confidence. And then eventually, I mean, the icing on the cake is the person that had no time to take a vacation is now taking three vacations with their family. So you see that happen. And then you’re like, okay, I’ve if I’ve done anything, I’ve helped them connect to the lifestyle that they set out to have when they bought the business in the first place or when they started it in the first place. I mean, most of us don’t start a business to work more hours.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:18] Right? And unfortunately, some people trade a bad boss with lots of bosses and they’re not ready for what it means to be an entrepreneur 100%.
Brian Johnson: [00:14:29] I mean, it’s being skilled at something in a business owner, two totally different things. And not not that that doesn’t mean you can’t develop into being good at both. But yeah, sometimes you become the worst boss that you’ve ever had.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:42] So if somebody wants to learn more about your practice, what is the website or what’s the best way to get a hold of you or somebody on your team?
Brian Johnson: [00:14:50] Yeah, our website is W WW DOT Business Consulting Charlotte. And then the best way to reach I say I love conversations with business owners so you can reach out to me directly. It’s B Johnson. At Mane and Johnson and would love I mean, even if it’s just a zoom link in a chat or a phone call. Love to connect with business owners. We learn every single time we talk to someone.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:15] Good stuff. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Brian Johnson: [00:15:20] All right. Thank you, Lee. I appreciate being on the show.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:22] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on High Velocity Radio.