The Learning Leader Show With Ryan Hawk

Episode #309: Verne Harnish – 

Verne Harnish is the founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), with over 14,000 members worldwide, and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” held at MIT, a program in which he still teaches today. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 200 partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale up.

He along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. His book Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0) has won eight major international book awards including the prestigious International Book Award for Best General Business book.

Full show notes can be found at 


  • Leaders who sustain excellence =
    • Ability to persevere
    • Willingness to hire a coach and listen — All of the greats had coaches to help them (Rockefeller, Steve Jobs)
    • Be part of a “mastermind group” — Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
  • Cannot be afraid to make the cold-call.  You must be willing to ask
    • Verne cold-called Steve Jobs leadership coach
  • Ask yourself:  Who are the top 25 influencers in the space where I want to play?  Write their names down… Then call them, email, writer letters.  Find a way to get in contact with them
    • Earn the support of influencers and it will put you in warp speed — “I was the first person to get President Ronald Reagan to say ‘entrepreneur’ in the White House”
  • Two rules:
    • Give before you ask for anything — Sometimes you can only give your time and attention.  Go to their speeches in person, sit in the front row, nod your head, take notes, then follow up with them afterwards and ask questions.
    • Understand your pitch, what you do, why you do it, and be able to share it concisely
  • “What a great mentor wants is a great student”
  • Verne realized there was not a curriculum for gazelles — mid range companies that wanted to scale-up
  • Titan — Rockefeller was so successful because of his discipline
  • Disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action
  • Build a functional accountability chart… 4 criteria:
    • Will – Have to hire will to learn, succeed, persevere
    • Values — Mars mission values
    • Results — Track record of success
    • Skill – Fungible 
  • Strategy
    • One idea must be different, don’t be just like your competition
    • Michael Porter advice — Article in HBR, “What Is Strategy
    • Strategy is rooted in… “What word or two do you own in the market-place?”
  • Execution — Must act or it’s just hot air.  Failure happens at this phase as you add people
  • Communication rhythm – “If you want to move faster, you need to pulse faster.”  — Have a daily huddle, agile meetings
    • There should be equal talk time of each person in the meeting.  Don’t have one drone on for the entire meeting
    • “Want heated debate, conversation”
    • Run forums so each person speaks
    • Generalities versus Specifics — It MUST be specific
    • Average 1 minute per person
    • 3 agenda items, to to each person
      • What’s up the next 24 hours?  #1 priority — Get the headlines
      • Updated daily metrics that drive the business — Stat of attracting and keeping talent.  What’s the data say?
      • Where are you stuck?  What’s in your way?  Get them verbalized
  • The 3 Barriers to scaling up
    • Leadership
      • Awareness– “What got you here won’t get you there” — Must learn to say no.  Have to let early clients go.  You can’t have all the answers
      • Constraint between your ears — Bill Gates does “think weeks”
      • Marcus Buckingham — Understand your strengths and weaknesses.  Strengths give you energy, weaknesses take your energy.  “Focus on doing what you like, that gives you energy.”  If you love working to solve client issues, then become the head of customer support and hire a manager to be the CEO
    • Scalable Infrastructure
      • Bloomberg office space — Everything goes through the six floor so that people collide… To talk, learn, interact
      • Human brain — Nobody wants a manager.  Set it up so all can be a leader and have autonomy.  Team of Teams.
      • November 2018 HBR Issue – The end of bureaucracy 
    • Marketing
      • Hi tech fast growth companies scale rapidly… Must have great marketing
      • Marketing is the single most important function — Attract talent, investors, attention, customers
      • It takes a village of gurus — Curate people
  • Advice:  “Make a list of who you need to hang out with… Write it down.  You are who you hang out with.  Move in with a mentor if you have to.”

“Strengths give you energy.  Weaknesses takes your energy.”

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