Ric Franzi is the owner Critical Mass for Business, a company dedicated to making a lasting positive impact on the lives of business leaders through the power of peer learning. Ric’s presence both locally in Orange County, Calif., and nationally is accomplished through his CEO Peer Groups, a weekly podcast and authoring the first book on peer learning called Critical Mass: The 10 Explosive Powers of CEO Peer Groups.
“I believed in this business and the power of social learning so much that I was willing to walk away from my day job as President for a wholly-owned division of Delphi and pursue it. The year before I didn’t think there was anything that was strong enough to pull me away from the corporate career I had.”
Ric is the author of two books on the power of social learning, with a third book in the works, and runs a weekly radio show for entrepreneurs, called the Critical Mass Radio Show. He’s worked hard to first become a trusted adviser and source of information for other business owners in his community. That meant become a recognized thought leader in his home of Orange County, not just through his own work but through the insights and ideas he gathers from other business leaders.
We spoke to Ric a few weeks ago and he shared with us five lessons about running a successful company that he’s learned from interacting with thousands of other business leaders.
1. Learn everything you can when the opportunity to learn presents itself.
I have two children and they’re out on their own now, but when they were growing up I would suggest to them the same thing: learn everything can at the time you have the opportunity to learn it. You never know when later in life it will be convenient to have that knowledge.
Here’s an example from my own life. I went to college originally because I thought I wanted to be a radio show disk jockey. All through college I was on the radio, I was “Ramblin’ Ric playing rock ‘n’ roll records.” Ultimately I went into sales and I was the station manager, but I went there because I had a love for being on the air.
Fast forward to a few years ago. I had the opportunity to appear on Leadership Talk Radio. I had a very positive experience, and that led to the decision to build the podcast radio show that I’ve been doing every week since March 2009, where I’m able to meet and interview local businesses. So there I was, all these years after graduating, very confident that I could do a podcast radio show because I had done it for 4 years while I was in college. So for me it reinforces the idea that when life gives you a chance to learn something, put the effort into it because there’s a reason why it’s being presented to you that may not be apparent at the time.
2. There are simple business models, but there’s no easy business.
Every business presents a leader with its own unique set of challenges. If the business owner is open to it, they can find others that have had not the exact experience, but similar enough that they can benefit from that person’s experience to improve upon their outcome in their current situation.
3. For growing companies, there’s a constant need to put money back into the business.
Regardless of the stage of your company, if you’re leading a growing company, you always seem to need to put money into the business in advance of when the revenue is going to be realized.
I call this the Entrepreneur’s Dilemma. You always have to be mindful of putting a couple more chips on the table to benefit from what’s available to you. So there’s always that risk-reward tradeoff that business owners are making throughout the lifecycle of their company. It may be more obvious in the early stages because of the size of the business, but that never really goes away regardless of the size of the firm you’re running.
4. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, leaders set the company culture.
The culture of your company is created by the leader and how they choose to respond to both opportunities and situations inside your company. It is the culture of the company that is the most resilient and that will benefit that entrepreneur to get them towards where they want to be.
5. Some lessons are best learned vicariously.
Experience is the best teacher, but some business lessons are best learned vicariously, through the experiences of others. The beauty of being a rational being is that you can learn by example, you don’t always have to learn by direct experience.
The power of peer learning is so strong that you might think back to when you were younger and your parents may or may not have been careful about the people that you hung around with at a formative age. The reason they did and the reason I did when my kids were that age is that I knew that they could be influenced by their peers and I wanted them to be around peers who would influence them in a way that would rise them up and help them get to the next level.
I apply that every day to the work that I do here in Southern California with my learning community, the Critical Mass learning community. The learning community is meant to surround successful entrepreneurs with other successful entrepreneurs, authors, and service providers, to benefit them so that they can make more informed decisions that move their business in a positive direction.