Leading a Culture of Innovation and Growth with Chris Anderson at Ledge Loungers

Have a culture of innovation. Leadership that inspires new thinking takes a does of self-awareness and courage. A culture of innovation allows you to go beyond the traditional. Today’s guest on the podcast is Chris Anderson, Founder, and CEO of Ledge Loungers. His company ranked 1154 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Chris talks about the need to embrace failure if you want a culture of innovation. We talk about developing people and leadership that inspires ownership thinking. Discover how you can create a culture of innovation.

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Chris Anderson: The Transcript

Target Audience: Chris Anderson is an Entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Ledge Loungers. At Ledge Lounger™, they developed a full line of products made to be in the water and under the sun. Featuring a contemporary design, all of our products are made with the highest quality outdoor materials so they’re guaranteed to stand up to the harsh pool environment and complement your poolscape’s aesthetic.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Chris Anderson
Try not to make the mistakes early on even though you will. But as you grow, make sure there’s a mistake budget, right? Because the last thing you want to do is make a mistake and then try and figure out how to make up for that mistake versus just stopping and saying what did I learn from that mistake? You know, and debriefing, when you make a mistake, stop and debrief. You know, I think it’s in NASCAR. They constantly do debrief after pit stops to figure out after every pit stop. What really right what’s really wrong.

Intro [0:34]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [0:51]
Getting your employees to think differently, is really an important part to your growth. Getting them to innovate is something you probably We think about all the time. If you want to create a new product, if you want to create a new business model, if you want to create new value in the marketplace, innovation is the key. Today we talk about a culture of innovation. What does it mean to have a culture of innovation? Well, I think it means people are willing to think for themselves, they’re willing to risk their own failure to move forward, maybe it’s inch by inch, or maybe it’s certain times they go in leaps. But a culture of innovation starts with leadership. You’ve got to allow this to happen. I have a special guest today. He’s a CEO and founder of ledge loungers, Chris Anderson, his company grew astronomically fast number 1134 on the Inc 2019 list, but also just really a smart guy when it comes to leadership about how to engage people to go beyond what they don’t even believe is possible. Today, we talk about those things inside this episode, I love being able to share insights like this with you because as a leader, you’ve got to be able to think differently. You’ve got to get your employees to think differently. And creating a culture of innovation will allow them to think differently, collectively, to collaborate, and to really push beyond the boundaries. Here’s the interview with Chris.

Commercial [2:21]
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years I’ve refined this tool this gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz. To get the leadership quiz just go to theleadershipquiz.com that’s pretty easy, right? theleadershipquiz.com what you will get when you do that is you will answer a few questions. You will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast-growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company are you want to see where you are? Then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com you Inside it you will get insight into where you are, understand where you want to improve. And you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again, go to theleadershipquiz.com and you can get that right now.

Gene Hammett [3:15]
Hey, Chris, how are you?

Chris Anderson [3:17]
Doing great. How are you doing today? I’m fantastic. Glad to have you on the podcast. Hey, thanks so much for having us and looking forward to it.

Gene Hammett [3:24]
Well, I’ve already told our audience a little bit about you and some of the backgrounds and the fast growth of the company, but I didn’t give them much information about knowing what industry you’re in. So tell us about Ledge Loungers

Chris Anderson [3:35]
Sure. Well, thank you for the question. My background is started in the swimming pool industry in realized that there was a need for virtually in waters furniture that could go in that shallow area of the swimming pool. And so after developing that product and growing the company, we quickly got into a number of industries we got into hospitality multifamily. So that was resorts, your apartment complexes, we’re in a lot of commercial environments such as hotels resorts course like I mentioned, we also have a big Consumer Direct aspect of our business. So we do a lot of online commerce sales. And, of course, we also have a number of wholesale customers such as pool builders, interior designers, landscape architects, and those sorts of folks. So we virtually cover a wide range of customer segments and recently have found that it’s made a pretty strong foundation.

Gene Hammett [4:33]
I know we talked earlier before we cut the recorder on the importance of innovation. And you asked the question around is the innovation of products or is the innovation of business? And your answer really, to that was it’s both? What do you think is, you know, as it relates to innovation, what has been so important about the growth of your company.

Chris Anderson [4:54]
Being able to keep up with the demand, I think is first and foremost. We can all get lucky We can all develop a product that there’s a need for I don’t want to say we can all do that, of course. But the idea is the easiest part, I think is what I’m trying to say. Figuring out how to make it, of course, is harder, but still not as hard as potentially running the operation running the business, meeting the customer demand. We have, I want to say done a decent job at keeping up with the demand. And there’s a lot of challenges that came along the way in keeping up with demand. So I think just more so the innovation around keeping up with the demand and continuing You know, every year we tell ourselves, how are we going to do this again next year? How are we going to grow the revenue? another hundred percent or another 80% another 50%? How are we going to do that? And we surprise surprise ourselves here.

Gene Hammett [5:50]
When you think about innovation, of the business, the business model itself, what are the things you actually think are most important to the way you guys have grown so fast?

Chris Anderson [6:02]
Well, I think people, certainly people are one, I think we all know that it’s very hard to get good people. I think to trust that your people when you find the right people trusting that you people can grow with you, and giving them the resources to be able to be developed, whether it is leaders or as you know, your current employees, if you will, to be developed to do to be able to keep up with the growth, as the business is growing, their experience and their knowledge needs to grow. And if they’re not, they need to get off the bus quickly need to get somebody else in their position that will. So I think people certainly, you know, supply change, critical understanding, manufacturing, not just understanding it on the top level, but, for example, we outsourced a lot of our products in the beginning, and you can’t just rely on them to meet your demand. You certainly need to get in and understand them better. As much as you possibly can, so you’re not just trusting every word, they tell you diversifying that supply chain, the more you understand about how your products being made, the more educated you are to be able to go out and diversify your product, your supply chain. So certainly the people, the supply chain infrastructure has been a big one, trying to knowing when to get a little bit bigger facility than you need, because you’re going to grow into it. It’s very, very hard to break your business in half because you didn’t get enough square footage. And now all of a sudden, you have to go in a different space somewhere else and you’re splitting your staff that can be hard, can hurt culture in a big way. So I think those are probably three of my three of some of my top. Tom answers that question.

Gene Hammett [7:50]
I know most of the topics we have here about people. So let’s dive into that a little bit. You have a saying and I’m not sure whether you came up with this. So maybe you can the Origin but hard work plus inexperience equals innovation.

Chris Anderson [8:07]
Yeah, I honestly think it was when your pre-interview, he was interviewing me that we came up with that. But if you’re experienced in something, you’re going to tend to want to do it the way that you’ve done in the past. As long as you have a strong worth, work ethic, and you’re willing to fail, over and over and over and over, no-fail to succeed, right. And I don’t mean, fail at succeeding, I mean, fail so that you can succeed. If you’re willing to fail a lot and get up and keep going, you’re going to gain the experience. In sometimes it’s better to gain the experience on your own, as opposed to being taught by those around you. Because you’re going to find new innovative ways to do something that other people haven’t because you’re not reading a textbook on how to do it, and then go do it, you’re figuring out your own ways that are gonna work for your business for your product for your customers, and I truly believe they’re, they’re all different business to business, it’s all different, you know, we tend to have a little bit more of a high-end client, our products are a little bit more luxurious. And it’s, it’s critical that we build a business model that satisfies that client. So, again, just, you can read in the book, how to do it all you want, but challenge it, if you’re going to get the education on it, challenge it if you’re going to learn it on your own, trust what you’re learning and grow off of that.

Commercial [9:33]
Hold on for a second. Chris has talked about failing to succeed. Well, what that means to me is, you’ve got to be okay with failing. Not only you have to be okay with failing, but you have to be okay with the people in your team, taking some risk, making decisions, and moving forward. I love this conversation because it really is hard as a leader, but we’re here to do the hard things. We’re here to have the courage to move forward. Despite that, being scared. And having the courage to fail really is a part of it. encouraging your team to have the courage to fail is really a central part of your leadership if you believe in this whole concept of going beyond responsibility, taking ownership, back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [10:17]
I say all the time that leadership principles in books are great. But until you actually apply them, have conversations with people about elements like trust, or radical candor, or even we were talking about the book traction, like really applying it like, you don’t get it just by knowing the principle, right?

Chris Anderson [10:38]
Absolutely. And not one, as you mentioned, right? Not one has all the answers. So sometimes we read a book and we get this mindset. And that’s all we want to do is focus on this book, as you mentioned, the one thing that potentially traction lacks a little bit is that leadership aspect tractions meant to be an operating system, right? Whereas what you’re talking about is not necessarily The operating system of the business, it’s the people part of the business, traction, like you said, great job of setting up a meeting, execute a meeting getting more efficient, which is ultimately going to keep everybody in the company happy and moving forward. But how do you develop good leaders? No, good to great, you know, the number of the other books that and hopefully some of the stuff you’re coming out with really works there. But yes, it’s don’t rely on one source. You know, I’m going to see your group and got to ask five people the same question and hope for five different answers. Because you’ll be able to take one piece of each of those answers and build your own.

Gene Hammett [11:37]
Well, I know leadership is not easy, and you’ve probably didn’t have a run. You’ve probably made some mistakes along this journey. What mistakes would you say really shaped who you are today as a leader?

Chris Anderson [11:50]
Man, making I made some mistakes. I made a ton of mistakes along the way, still making them every day. But you know, I think you have realized when you made a mistake, you have to own it, you have to have some humility. You have to apologize to the people around you and show that you realize you made a mistake so that those people will continue to follow you. The last person, not some person somebody wants to follow is somebody who won’t own up to those mistakes. I’ve learned that. So that’s one thing I’ve certainly learned from is making mistakes and not owning up to perfect. Additionally, I would say, assuming that the world’s perfect when it’s not assuming that the business is, is has a strong foundation when it might not. not asking enough questions about a certain topic. Not having flirt, full clarity on a decision. You know, trying to think I’m trying to think specifics because I want to be able to give you.

Gene Hammett [12:57]
I think the point there behind this Chris is there’s a lot of money stakes that we make and but you don’t shy away from them, you seem to be someone that realizes, okay, this is part of the journey. It’s, you know, you’ve built a 10 million-plus company, you’ve got almost 50 employees, you’ve got there because you really do believe in innovation and just moving forward systematically through this, is that appropriate?

Chris Anderson [13:20]
It is, and you kind of just touched on it, right? Put some money in the bank, so that when you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world, I think it is a great bit of advice. You know, if you’re, if you’re in the early stages, extremely hard to do, right? So ask a ton of questions. And try not to make the mistakes early on even though you will. But as you grow, you know, make sure there’s a mistake budget, right? Because the last thing you want to do is make a mistake, and then try and figure out how to how to make up for that mistake versus just stopping and saying what did I learn from that mistake? You know, and debriefing, you know, When you make a mistake, stop and debrief. You know, I think it’s in NASCAR.

Chris Anderson [14:05]
They constantly do debriefs after pitstops to figure out after every pitstop what went really right and what went really wrong, and somebody in past is shared with me that in a debrief, they realized that the guy cleaning the window on the front of the NASCAR in the pitstop took too long. He was the last one staying there cleaning the window. In the guy at that level was a had had some experience being a horse jockey. And when horse jockeys are riding down the field, or riding around the track, they have clear covers on their goggles that they can rip off and throw out, and then their goggles are completely clear. They don’t have to spend time clearing in this gentleman told me that about this and what that guy on pit row figured out was let’s just put a piece of plastic on the windshield. Let’s rip it off. And he’s done. Now before the guys that are changing, the tires are done. So the debriefing after those mistakes are so critical with every level of employment, every level of the person on your team because sometimes those people to bottom level are going to have the best, the best answers to solve your problems. So owning it in your debriefing is critical.

Gene Hammett [15:12]
I like both of those aspects. And I’ve seen that there’s not enough time to debrief, a lot of people just keep moving on. But if we systematically looked at areas for improvement, and we empowered our employees to really find those areas improvement, we tend to grow together as opposed to growing, you know, a piece of the company at a time. When you think about growing together. Why is that so important for the overall culture of the business?

Chris Anderson [15:41]
Sure, well, first of all, it’s extremely challenging. And the reason why is because people want to be heard, but people don’t only want to be heard, but they want you to take action off of what you’re telling what they’re telling you. And sometimes they don’t understand the full scope of the solution. Let me kind of give an example there. We manufacturer patio furniture we manufactured in our facility, and the guys that are actually assembling the furniture, or the guys that are to packing the furniture, in other words, figuring out how to make it. Commonly, they will have a great idea. In some of those ideas we will take and we’ll put in place, but some of those ideas are great ideas. But then when we think about how they’re going to impact the price of a product and put it out of reach for the consumer to purchase, is one it’s not, it’s still a great idea, but we might not implement in instead of just telling them, Hey, thanks for the idea not doing anything about it. And moving on. A lot of resentment can grow. So you have to spend the time to educate them, why it is that you’re not moving forward with their ideas. And if you do that you’re empowering them. Their next ideas are going to be considered of the things you’ve taught them. And they’re going to then come to you with ideas that you can start to implement and put in place so instead of just Brushing those ideas off or moving on from them and growing that resentment. explain to them why it’s great or why it’s not a great idea. So their next idea can have that foundation.

Commercial [17:10]
One more second here. I don’t know if you caught it, but Chris just said, people want to be heard. Isn’t that true? Don’t you want to be heard? Don’t you want to know that when you actually have something to say that someone pauses, takes a look in your eye and actually receives what you have to say? Not because they just want to respond to this or get their point across, but they really take it in. That feeling of being heard is so important. We need it in our personal lives, with our spouses, with our kids, with our friends, with our parents, with all of those around us. Why would we need it in the workplace? The feeling of needing to be heard is something you want to pay attention to. Are you listening to your employees, back to the interview?

Gene Hammett [17:57]
You also mentioned earlier about Investing in employees and I know that you’ve, you’ve made some hard decisions, to invest in employees, COVID, you know, God is concerned and whatnot, but you’re still investing in different ways. Why do you see the value of investing in developing those employees right now?

Chris Anderson [18:18]
Well, our earlier conversation surely painted a new picture. In my mind, you know, there nothing I’d like to explain it again, kind of the way I explained it to you there’s very wealthy people in this world that are focusing on fourth and fifth generational wealth, right? They have more money today than they could ever spend in their entire life. And what they’re focused on is making sure that five or six generations from now have enough money to live their entire life, that’s going to be their legacy. That’s a very, very hard thing to understand because I don’t think I certainly don’t have nearly enough money to be worried about that. Right. And I would say most people don’t.

Chris Anderson [18:59]
But if you start thinking a lot of small business, you know, if you truly intend to want to be a big business one day, you think beyond tomorrow, you think beyond three years, you think beyond five years, and you think that your business is going to be the next Ford, or GE, or some of these, you know, older businesses that have been around for a long time and been very successful. When you start to put yourself in those context in that context, then you start thinking about man, I need to create generational, great employees within my business, I need to remember that people will quit, people will move on, and I’m going to need to backfill those roles, even if it’s 10 years from now. I need to have somebody ready to take that role. So certainly our conversation earlier really kind of opened up my eyes to more than longer-term development.

Chris Anderson [19:46]
From a short term development perspective. We haven’t had a choice I can afford and be as profitable as we’d like to be in reach our goals from a profitability perspective to gotten hire people that are two and 300. thousand dollars a year, I can’t. So our mo has been to hire people with the grit, hire people with the passion, drive the desire, hire people that are capable, and then help them go out and gain those skills. And we invest quite a bit in Vistage and we have three, three team members in Vistage. And we’re looking at putting some of our other members in some leadership and organizational type coaching opportunities. So it’s it I mean, the short answer is Gene, ROI. Right? We all know what an ROI is in Vistage, leadership cost me let’s just say it’s $5,000 a month, right to have three people in Vistage I am probably making $50,000 a month if I averaged it out over the course of a year on the knowledge and experience were gained from Vistage if not more. So looking at it as an ROI, not just a budget item that you’re just throwing money out the window.

Gene Hammett [21:02]
I actually love the way your perspective on that is and we’ve got to create the kind of leadership that people want to stay and stick for. And what you really talked about was that the whole dilemma of do we buy leaders paying a lot of big salaries? Or do we develop them? And I see both sides. There are some benefits to both sides. But when you learn how to develop them, and you get the right systems in place, it pays off tenfold. So, Chris, I really appreciate you being here on the podcast, sharing your journey to talk about leadership and growth.

Chris Anderson [21:36]
Well, hey, thank you so much for the time. I certainly appreciate it.

Gene Hammett [21:39]
Having interviews like this really does allow me to express something with you that I’ve just been bottling up for a long time. I love what I do. Well, I know I’ve said that before. But I get to talk to leaders that are on the front lines of growth, actually putting their heart and sweat and tears into something more than themselves. growing the people creating a culture of innovation is something that we all must be thinking about as we rebuild our businesses and reimagine them in this new world after COVID-19.

Gene Hammett [22:10]
I share this with you because one of the things I love doing is helping leaders get more clear about their thoughts about who they are than ever before. taking their confidence to a new level, never taking their confidence to a new level, taking courage beyond where they believe it’s possible to go. All for the sake of clarity. I was just talking to a client of mine on a call before I recorded this and really was a great conversation because he said, You know, I really appreciate you helping me get clear about big decisions that I needed to make clear that I ever was before so that I can move forward with confidence. I share that with you because that’s exactly what I do. If there’s anything I can help you with as a leader, make sure you reach out to me [email protected] make sure you share this episode with someone that you know could benefit from it wants to be a better leader wants to activate, grow and as always lead with courage.

 

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

 

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