Not many people talk about ego and business. The relationship between ego and leadership determines the health of your company. The real problem happens when our ego gets in the way of you leading your people. Today’s guest is Kyle Francis, CEO at Professional Transition Services. Inc Magazine ranked his company #248 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Kyle’s company has grown 1790 percent over the last three years. Professional Transition Services provides strategic advice on buying and selling dental practices. Kyle shares his perspective on ego and leadership. We look at why you have to give up your ego to lead your people. Kyle’s insights will you be a better leader.
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Kyle Francis: The Transcript
About: After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Professional Sales from Baylor University, Kyle completed the MBA program at the University of Colorado with specialties in Finance and Strategy.Kyle has worked in the dental and medical field since 2005 consulting for practices, medical device companies, and groups of practitioners. He has used this knowledge to consult over 50 start-up companies and dental practices, as well as help build well over 100 dental and medical practices across the country. He has owned all or part of more than 20 practices and has been an investor in multiple DSO concepts.
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.
Kyle Francis: The first person that, joined the team was going to be somebody in ops. Right? I did not have an ops mindset, not even a little bit. And I’m watching somebody like that work. Matter of fact, we were just talking this week. About, optimizing some things that, I had not thought once about, honestly, I hadn’t, and I would love to say that I had that it would be a lie anyway. Just kind of watching, watching her go and, watching somebody take, taking a broker role, which is what I served as for a very long time, and just absolutely crushing it better than I could have done otherwise. I love having moved brokers out early. It’s amazing, you know, and outearn any year that I’d had previously, and this is pretty fun to watch. So, you know, I think the key is going to be “Trust”. And then also, you know, it’s that whole hiring slow, concepts of making sure that, they’re, they’re going to be a fit in the culture, but trust that they’re going to do awesome things.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, 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: Don’t let your ego get in the way of your leadership. The title of this episode was something I’ve thought about a lot. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Why would I even asked you for the key behind your evolving and growing? Is to ensure that your ego doesn’t stop you from, what’s really in front of you, the opportunity to let go of the day-to-day work, let go of some of the tasks that you could give to others, and empower them in a very important way that allows you to work on the most valuable strategic parts of the business. And as you continue to do that more and more, it allows others to surround you with their talents and their skills. And when you will empower them to really show up as leaders, not just followers or doers, you create the kind of company and culture that allows you to scale beyond where you are today. Don’t let your ego get in the way of your leadership. Our conversation today is with Kyle Francis. He is the CEO of Professional Transition Strategies. They work primarily with the dental world around the buy and sell transactions and valuations of dental practices. And so when we talk about this today, we look at his ego. We talk about what’s getting in the way, and you probably have similar things that you could be paying attention to. If you’re willing to do the deep work. And join us for this conversation. You evolving and growing as a leader is the key to your company, scaling from where it is today, to where you really want it to be. Now, before we jump into the interview, let me just remind you that if you want to check out the free resources we have around you evolving as a leader, you can go to Genehammett.com. I’m here to help you and serve you. We want to make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast, but also. Get us a question, give us an insight around what it is we can help you with because if you reach out on any of the social channels to us, we’ll respond to you and we’ll help you with free resources to help you grow. But if you want to join a community of like-minded people that are fast-growth founders, CEOs. Not just any people they’re growing faster than the top 1%. The checkout fastgrowthboardroom.com inside fastgrowthboardroom.com is a community of fast growth leaders, founders, CEOs, and presidents that really want to encourage each other and empathize with each other. As they journey the evolution of leadership and growing their companies. This is what we do. If you want to check that out, absolutely free to apply, which you must be on the Inc 5,000. Just go to fastgrowthboardroom.com. Now here’s the interview with Kyle?
Kyle, How are you?
Kyle Francis: Great. How are you doing?
Gene Hammett: Fantastic. Excited to have you on growth, think tank to talk about leadership and culture and growing a company fast. You’ve had a tremendous run there at professional transition strategies. Tell us a little bit about what you guys were up to.
Kyle Francis: Yeah, well, maybe to start at the beginning, graduating from Baylor, back in 2005, I thought that I was going to go the route of private equity, venture capital, investment banking, those kinds of things. as I started to see the way that those folks live their lives, I just knew that it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. , I didn’t want to work hundred-hour work weeks. , I didn’t want to be gone 200 days a year, those kinds of things, but I really love that type of work. And so the other way of getting involved in that type of work is to specialize in an industry. so very few people believe me whenever I say it, but I actually took a couple of hundred interviews outside of Baylor to try and figure out where I wanted to be. I had no connection to dentistry at all but found this funny little world of little tiny entrepreneurs that I figured I could help. I maybe even a fair amount. So I started selling equipment to them. I’ve got a babyface and I wasn’t being taken very seriously. So, slowly but surely I started doing contract work. I would do lease renegotiations, buy-sell agreements. Associates should placements really impacted my hands-on. So that people would take me seriously as a young kid out of school by 2007, I was getting more calls for that than anything else. So I started up a company to do transitions work for dentists and, slowly kind of found my way, IE myself up the food chain, which was instead of working. Million-dollar businesses suddenly were $10 million businesses. And that’s, I guess, where we’re up to right now is that we are working with you at any one time, us, I guess, working with about a hundred or so clinicians across the country, average deal size and kind of a million to 15 million range, but trying to make a dentist or a difference within the dentist labs yow work with.
Gene Hammett: You know, I have had so many conversations with people about niching down and you have just proven to me again, that it’s hard to make a name for yourself when you just like, do all things for all people, but you chose an industry after some real deep research, and you’ve created a force of nature if you will, within what you’re doing right now. So you’ve proven me right by this niching approach.
Kyle Francis: Well that’s my entire job was to prove you right. That’s what I thought. So, but, yeah, I think, I’d love to say that it was a grand plan, of that’s the reason that I was doing it. , I just figured that I could make a difference there and it just kind of ended up working out pretty nicely and founded a consolidating industry. That’s kind of working very, very well with what I’m doing.
Gene Hammett: Well, I did mergers and acquisitions right out of college, so yeah. Kept with it. And you probably get the viewpoint of a lot of businesses. You see what works and what doesn’t work as it relates to leadership and culture, just like I do. You’re going in there helping people sell. I’ve always had this kind of theory around selling and get the most value for your company. What do you think the core elements of any business that wants to sell, getting the most value for their company is?
Kyle Francis: Probably the biggest thing to look at is going to be what is value in the first place, right? And I think that the value equation can be different for lots of different folks. Sometimes that just means the biggest dollar value on day one. Sometimes that means the best structure going forward to have them live the type of life that they want to live. Sometimes they’re a growth junkie and they really want to figure out a way to leverage better and to have capital partners to help them grow. So, I guess first things first is understanding where the value lies and then, then try to find the right transaction that ends up aligning with those objectives. , sometimes it’s a very simple thing, right? And sometimes, you kind of have to put them on the couch and, be a psychologist for them and help them understand what that is. But overall, I think, understanding what the value is, is probably the biggest thing to work on.
Gene Hammett: Kyle, you came here to talk about not just what you’re doing there. Dental services and the transactions that you help them through buy and sell, but to really talk about your own development as a leader and specifically developing your executive leadership team, why has that been important as your company has scaled really fast.
Kyle Francis: I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. So that’s probably the first thing. My, my capacity is only so large. I’ve got a decently big capacity just cause I’ve done quite a few deals. , I think what goes down to 400 now, but, I wouldn’t be able to do it if it was just myself. , I had this business as an assistant business for a very long time. So from 2007, Until 2015, essentially, I had a couple of partners in different ventures, but primarily it was me doing the work and, that’s everything from prospecting to appraisal to closing, Right? Once I figured out that, it was probably my ego that was driving that more than anything else. , that was the time that I decided, Hey, maybe I can actually scale this with people who were better at different things than I am. And once they have the trust to do it, then just allowing them to go out and do amazing things is key. So I wouldn’t be able to do without them. So for starters,
Gene Hammett: I want to dive into this ego thing. Why do you feel like ego gets in the way of us being the best leaders we can be?
Kyle Francis: I think that as much as we try not to be all of us, have some sort of myopic tendency tendencies, and, to think how long I stint coming up with that very first appraisal methodology, you know, and I’m stumbling over myself on, you know, a very, very large deal that I had no business being a part of, you know, a year out of college. Learning facts. She did it pretty well. Suddenly. I think that inherently builds a self-fulfilling prophecy. Then, you are pre-dawn goodness. Right? And can someone else be as good as you are? The answers Yes, maybe, maybe a dramatically. So, so, the first person that, joined the team was going to be somebody in ops. Right. I did not have an ops mindset, not even a little bit. And I’m watching somebody like that work. As a matter of fact, we were just talking this morning about, optimizing some things that, I had not thought once about. Honestly, I hadn’t, and I would love to say that I had that it would be a lie anyway, just kind of watching, watching her go and, watching somebody take, taking a broker role, which is what I served as for a very long time and just absolutely crushing it better than I could have done otherwise. I love having those brokers outearn me. It’s amazing, you know, and outearn any year that I’d had previously is it’s pretty fun to watch. So, you know, I think the key is going to be trusted. And then also, you know, it’s that whole hiring slow, concept of making sure that, they’re, they’re going to be a fit in that culture. Trust that they’re going to do awesome things.
Gene Hammett: You know, this ego thing that gets in the way of us being leaders is it comes from a genuine place because you talked about the early days of the business, you had to wear every hat across the company, whether you did it well or not. And you get to the point where you’re afraid that others won’t do it as well as you, they won’t do it as fast as you, they’ll miss something, but that really does create you as the bottleneck of the company and every client I’ve worked with a client. They realize that it’s been a huge shift in their growing business. So as soon as you realize your ego was getting in the way, and you started hiring people, what kind of happened next? ,
Kyle Francis: so I would say that the first thing was from a business development standpoint. , yeah. , it’s kind of smoothed out the curve and the MNA world. you work on a deal and you kind of get all consumed in that deal. And then all of a sudden you’re like, oh, that’s right. I got to build the pipeline again. Right. And so you go back and start doing that. Suddenly the business development side, if that’s being done, well, then suddenly, there are constantly dealing in the top of the funnel that you can, you can worry about it, then you can actually grow that sales organization that way. Then, the scariest one for me personally, was the valuations person to come on board and do the appraisals because I thought that I was, I saw a lot of other appraisals that other people were doing. And I thought that I was pretty darn great at it. And then watching, Jennifer for going to town who our in-house CPA, Nan. She is amazing. The new analyst that we just brought on board to help her. I mean, they were both great at this, better than I, that was hard for me to stay still, but it is they’re legitimately better. And then, I think they’d beyond that. Then suddenly you start looking at having broker responsibilities and I didn’t want to take, you know, the bigger deals that would make more of a kind of revenue hit on our business. And, once I started getting that away and suddenly I could empower each individual person to do better things and I was helping on all the deals. So I didn’t lose the endorphins that I was getting. , but, it allowed them to grow and to do those types of deals. I didn’t have to be running point on any of them. So starting in January, this last January, I’m not running point on any deal, which is the weirdest thing in the world to me, but it’s also kind of great. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.
Commentary: Hold on, Kyle just talked about empowering people. What are the key things I’ve seen to empowering people is letting go of the thought that you can do it better, that you know, better, that you have the right decisions and you can be the only one who can do this. Because that truly makes you the bottleneck of the company and empowering others, not just sorta, but truly empowering others is all about trusting them, but also trusting yourself as a leader, trusting that you can guide them through the challenges ahead of them. They may not do it the way you do it, but they will do it in a way that allows you to focus on the other aspects of the business, which is really important. If the company is going to continue scaling and growing beyond where it is. Empowering people is one of the key aspects of people feeling like owners inside of this, my next book, which is not out yet, but it will be all about how do you, as leaders inspire people to feel like owners will, part of that is empowering people. Back to Kyle.
Gene Hammett: So this is a little bit of a new piece to you. I know you’ve been letting go piece by piece, adding certain players to the team, but not running point on the deal. And my interpretation of that is really calling the shots on every little piece of preparing for client meetings, proposals that go into effect, any kind of documents. You’ve got someone else doing that for you. Is that my understanding.
Kyle Francis: Yeah, exactly. And so not being intimately involved also means that you are entrusting that, broker, that representative to be what you were, you know, and, I think that sometimes, I mean, yeah, I can always nitpick, but I could also nitpick myself. Right. Like, oh man, I wish we would have handled this better. That, that was also true. Whenever I browse the broker is the running the point person. So, it’s, it’s not a hundred percent of the time, but I’ll tell you what. Like If, if you hire right, and you empower them, then they’ll, they’ll be just as effective as you, as you could have been. And by each one of them being as effective as you, as you could have been, you can handle, you know, call it 10 times the amount of the business that you could otherwise because there are 10 people running that exact same role simultaneously.
Gene Hammett: Now I hear this quite a bit, so I appreciate you sharing with us, but I want to kind of go into today. Time and really looking at the moment you’re in right now, because a lot of people who are used to holding on to things, and now they have key people in a place or empowering them. They kind of get confused about what they should spend their time on. Did you go through any of that confusion or did it just naturally fill up with the more valuable stuff that you have to do as a CEO of a company?
Kyle Francis: I probably waited a little too long and so, I would say that there were so many things that were being backlogged for me that were important things for me to be focusing on, but I didn’t have the time to do it. So I think suddenly by half, by freeing up that amount of time, there were plenty of things to fill it right back up with them. Really there weren’t other people in the company to be able to do those things. And so I was just able to focus on the more valuable, tasks and not the, revenue generation tasks, tasks around important. They’re incredibly important, but, from a strategy standpoint and from, you know, hire, retain amazing talents, you know, and, making sure from a financial standpoint that we’re on a really, really, really great road. And, all those different things that just kind of get thrown to the back end of my priority list. Whenever I’m servicing a client, suddenly I’m opened up to do all of those things.
Commentary: Hold on. Kyle just said something really important. He said, “I waited too long”. Have you ever gone through any big change in your business and realize you waited too long? Well, how do you avoid that? The question is, do you have time to think about the things that you are avoiding right now that you might be waiting too long on? Maybe it’s empowering others. Maybe it’s really optimizing the executive leadership team. Maybe it’s a big pivot. That’s right in front of you and you waited too long, but a lot of people can look back on these decisions and say they waited too long. And the best way I know to combat that and be intentional is to be intentional about creating space, to think about the things that you might be looking back at and say, I waited too long. That way you can always be intentional about these things and be moving them forward, even if it’s small steps, but you want to make sure you’re creating that space because you don’t want to always look back and say, I waited too long because you’re missing out on opportunities. You might even lose key people. If you wait too long, then you’re missing out on really capturing the market. If you wait too long back to Kyle.
Gene Hammett: Yeah. You’ve got a fairly small team of about 20 full-time employees. , you have, an executive team that supports you through the different aspects of the business.
Kyle Francis: Yes.
Gene Hammett: And what is the biggest challenge in keeping those people aligned and keeping them moving forward when you can’t have your hands on every part of the deal?
Kyle Francis: Probably so can we, I mean, man, this is going to sound super cliche, but I think it’s true is going to be just, you know, constant communication. Right. And, if you do a, you know, an adequate job of showing what the vision of the company is. And, kind of making sure that your story is being told, throughout the organization then suddenly, ho I guess hopefully everybody starts to align towards that vision and the time that they’re spending kind of Alliance towards, the most important objectives for the business. So I think that, that communication just like whenever I was meeting with Rebecca earlier today, right. Or whenever I meet with my lead broker standing about, you know, the newest broker that we brought on board and how is it that we can be helping them get that first deal to the close, right. Those kinds of things. I think that all of those interactions kind of should help promote that initial vision that you’ve put into place.
Gene Hammett: You have a small team they’re working well together. When did you start thinking about culture as a really important piece to how your company would perform and serve your clients.
Kyle Francis: After the first two hires. So the first two hires, we were having so much fun together and it was just me for so long. , on my own, I was having a blast and I hope that they were having a great time soon. They say they were. , and I think that having, the. The same feeling kind of seeped through the rest of the folks that we hired was super important. So as we hired that first administrative assistant, right, and as we hired that first business development person, or, you know, that next broker. That was the biggest thing we hired for was culture and making sure that we thought that they were going to be able to plug into what we, weren’t, not that we’re all the same by any stretch of the imagination, but that they were going to bring a kind of a unique aspect of themselves to an already fragging culture. we, we hire for culture and that is kind of period. End of statement. , we, we did not hire for skillset, hardly at all. I mean, like it’s nice there. The other stuff I considered icing, it’s not cake. The cake is the culture stuff.
Gene Hammett: Kyle, you must’ve been listening to some of my shows because one of the biggest mistakes that leaders make when I asked them this question around murmur mistakes, is they hired for skillset, not for culture fit. And what you just talked about is something you learned very early. So I know that how important that is as the company has scaled to the point it is. Now, when you think about. You know, anything else that we haven’t covered today in your journey of creating a fast-growth company that truly does serve your market? Well, what have we not touched on that we should touch on?
Kyle Francis: I think. , so, I mean, I think the ego thing is super important and, kind of making sure that you understand it as much as you don’t think you have an ego you do. Right. And the different things that you have are sacred cows and being able to let go of those sacred cows is a very, very important thing to do. and then trying out a couple of things to give up, I think is also very important. I remember this funny story. So, Stanton was the first person I brought on board. Who’s our lead broker. , I had him do some prospectuses. He probably did 10 or 20 of them, something like that. And, I’ll tell you what. He was horrible at them. Oh my gosh. She was bad, you know, and understanding, okay, well that, wasn’t something I could give up at that point. Right. But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t give other things up, you know? And, then waiting for a point that I could, it started getting up the prospectus and appraisal work. so I tested it, it wasn’t one of those things where I just knew that this was the next step. , now it’s become a little bit more, you know, formulaic in that there’s a certain amount that can be taken off of my plate or through the executive team’s plate. And we hire for that. But, in the beginning, I didn’t know exactly what to give up. And so trying and not necessarily committing, they won to like, okay, I’m for sure getting this aspect of the business up, I think is also important.
Gene Hammett: Well, I appreciate you sharing that with us. , you really have. Opened her eyes up to what it takes to build, a strong executive team, and letting go of that ego is a very important piece of it. When you think about your journey as the leader, I want you to think about what Kyle has talked about today, letting go of the sacred cows, really looking at your own ego, and seeing what is getting in the way of you being a stronger leader. You creating the space for your employees to do that. I love the work I do with leaders to help them evolve from where they are today.
I only work with fast-growth companies. If you are listening in today’s message and you want to evolve beyond where you are today, Make sure to check out some of the free resources we have around leadership, but specifically joining a community of other fast-growth leaders at fastgrowthboardroom.com. That is a community where fast-growth leaders are evolving together, creating better cultures, better leadership, increasing the value of their own companies because of the work that they’re doing.
So just check out fastgrowthboardroom.com as always live with courage. Will see you next time.
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