Heidi Cohen interviews Felix Velarde
Felix Velarde is an industry leader and founder of several innovative digital creative and strategy agencies. He is now CEO of 2Y3X, an international two-year growth acceleration program and the author of the how-to guide for 2Y3X, Scale at Speed.
Heidi: To start, what inspired you to write this book? Was it a specific event or did it grow out of your past consulting?
Felix: To be candid it wasn’t my idea. I was interviewed on a podcast in the United Kingdom about the commercial growth acceleration program I run, 2Y3X. The interview just flowed and was really fun. Then, a literary agent got in touch with me and, three years later it’s an instruction manual for founders and leaders capturing everything we do.
Heidi: What is the key concept behind your book? How did you come up with it?
Felix: The book is based on the premise that if you start at the end, with your goals, and work backwards from those goals to where you are today, then it makes developing a plan really easy.
There’s a lot of science behind how to set your goals. I leaned heavily on the research done by Edwin Locke on Goal-Setting Theory. Since over the last six years running the 2Y3X program, it’s been proven to work time and time again.
This top-level diagram shows how the process works.
Our framework starts 3 years out:
- First, focus on what’s happening in year 3, the year you hit your goals.
- Then, focus on the year before that or year 2. This is what happens to get to year 3 successfully.
- Lastly, figure out what’s happening the year before that or the coming year. And turn that into the first year’s plan of action.
Here’s a really detailed illustration of that idea:
Heidi: What do you want readers to take away from your book or how do you want them to be different as a result of reading it?
Felix: When I started out as a founder, I spent 10 years building businesses through trial and error. It was incredibly frustrating and often disheartening.
So I wanted Scale at Speed to be the manual that says it’s possible to grow your business fast. You need to know what to do and in what order to do it!
I want your readers to know that it’s possible and you really CAN achieve your goals. I’ve done it and so have the companies we work with!
And every year some of the clients on the 2Y3X program sell to eager acquirers and I know it’s made more than a few millionaires!
Heidi: How did you arrive at the concept of the Growth Lab Team (or GLT as you refer to it in the book)? What I found interesting is that this team operates independent of the established c-suite. How did you learn to do this?
Felix: As I started to use this methodology, I realized that the existing C-suite or Senior Management Team (aka: SMT) achieved their positions largely because they were brilliant at:
- Refining the status quo or
- Creating and perfecting amazing processes and teams.
But scaling isn’t about getting better, it’s about leveling up. It’s about designing a new company that’s twice or three times the size you are now.
To accomplish this, requires change—and the SMT doesn’t want to risk changing what works.
Instead create the Growth Lab Team from across the company; these employees are the superstars of the future. They really want to design what comes next and to take responsibility for bringing everyone else along the journey with them.
And, even better, that makes sense to the SMT!
Because they get the organization’s future’s A-players to take the risks.
And, once this Growth Lab Team nails it, the SMT makes the necessary changes to upgrade the whole business.
This makes the whole process exhilarating:
Watching that transformation happen in the 2 years of the program.
Heidi: What are some actionable tips readers can use since convincing the CEO or founding entrepreneur can be a challenge?
Felix: I’m not sure it ever is a challenge.
The program and the book are designed specifically for owners and leaders who really, really want to scale but don’t know how to make it happen in a reliable way. If they don’t want to scale, you’re never going to persuade them.
But, if a leader truly wants to scale, they know that they need help to achieve that level of growth and it comes from:
- A tried and tested framework,
- Total team buy-in, and
- A relentless system.
Further, by working with outside consultants like us or a similar organization, they also get their feet held to the fire to achieve progress from where they are today to the end goal in 3 years’ time.
Heidi: Throughout the book you break new processes into business quarters. They consist of 3 one month periods (Research, Prototype and Implement). This makes the work easier to handle short term since it’s tangible and well defined.
In my experience, many businesses do well with 3 to 5 year objectives but get bogged down in the short-term day-to-day. As a result, near term plans don’t meet up with the longer term. So how did you devise this approach?
Felix: Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory basically says (and please forgive me Edwin, I know I am butchering 45 years of research!) if you set heroic goals, then heroes will step up. But that once set, those goals need to be far enough away that they are inspiring yet not so close that they are intimidating.
So we set “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (or BHAGs) to use Jim Collin’s term and then we break those BHAGs into a series of steps.
As Steve Jobs said, you don’t know how the dots join up except in retrospect. Having done this repeatedly over the years, we know what the steps should be and what order they go in.
The crucial factor IS getting the Growth Lab Team to:
- Work out what the specific steps for their business should be and to
- then put these steps in order.
As a result, they know why they are doing each quarterly task and what come next, and what the consequences are of not getting it right. It insures consistent quality of solution design and real attention to how it’s going to be implemented into the business’s processes.
Heidi: Further, what do you recommend readers do to apply this approach to their businesses?
Felix: The Strategy Map format is fairly straightforward.
Leaders should fill out the framework themselves behind closed doors.
However, the real kickstart happens when the Growth Lab Team does it all together. We do lots of strategy map and roadmap workshops with these teams to get them started. To watch them design their own future generates real energy and commitment.
Heidi: You explain soft topics like People and Customers in easy-to-implement and quantifiable terms.
Yet, across my corporate and consulting experience, it’s rare to work for or with an organization that can accomplish this well. I worked in a division at Citibank where Human Resources had a seat at the executive table. They strategically focused on developing bench strength and incentivizing top performers.
Since these are often soft skills, how did you learn to put this into measurable terms?
Felix: There are some amazing books out there on management, and of course Scale at Speed borrows heavily and references the best of them.
But the reality is:
Most people want to be challenged to be their best selves.
In my experience:
If you give people the opportunity to make their own decisions, especially when they understand the goals and the interdependencies of their decisions with others given similar responsibility, most people do the right thing.
Also, I’ve found that most businesses don’t pay attention to their core values. And these values are the essence of what makes a business thrive.
Your C-players (by which I mean the disengaged, the ones who don’t deliver or hold you back) aren’t bad people. Most of the time, they aren’t bad at what they do.
Instead, these senior executives are just a bad fit for your company because they don’t share your core values. When C-players move from a place where they don’t fit to a new job where they do, suddenly they become A-players.
But keeping toxic C-players can hinder the growth of your business. So usually it’s one of the first things we address when we work with a new client. Then we can focus on building an A-player team that will make your company shine.
Heidi: How do you recommend that readers without your support approach this both as an executive and as an employee?
Felix: With trained consultants across the globe, we hold cohort-based courses for people who only want help to get off the ground rather than a full, in-depth program.
BUT, in addition the treasure trove of videos and articles at 2Y3X.com, readers can use the book. Scale at Speed. Since it’s a comprehensive instruction manual for the program, they can get most of the theory and structure from it.
The biggest trick:
Creating a plan, sticking to it, and not losing momentum!
Heidi: I love that Marketing and Sales is one of your five core subject areas in any business. It’s pure Peter Drucker. He believed marketing must be integrated into every department across the business.
And Philip Kotler took this one step further when he said,
“Marketing is the art of creating genuine customer value. It is the art of helping your customer become better off.”
But, without a holistic approach to the customer, it’s difficult to know what your true acquisition investment was or whether a specific customer yielded profitable sales over time by tracking customer lifetime value or CLTV.
In my experience, I’ve been able to show how my programs increased revenues or reduced costs for both B2C and B2B businesses.
How did you reach this conclusion? What specific examples can you share with readers?
Felix: Without customers you don’t have business! And yet we pay so little attention to who our customers are. Specifically:
- Do they really want what we love delivering?
- Do they really understand what we love delivering?
- How do we communicate that effectively?
All of this is pure marketing:
It’s about understanding ourselves as much as understanding who our customers are and what they think.
Long ago, I concluded that you shouldn’t persuade a customer into wanting your stuff. Instead, they should have a need and your products or services should meet that need.
From this perspective, the key components consist of :
- What’s the proposition for my business?
- Does that allow customers to self-identify easily enough?
- Do I ask my customers whether they are really getting what they want?
To paraphrase Jim Collins:
Find the thing you can be the best in the world at and focus on it!
Don’t try and be all things to all people, because you’ll get beaten by someone who is bigger or better or cheaper. Instead, focus!
As a result, you attract employees who want to work for the best in a market. In turn, you deliver better products and services. And, this offering attracts bigger customers who challenge your business more. So, pretty quickly you will be unassailable.
Called 2Y3X which stands for 2 years, 3 times growth, my business consists of a program. Like the book, Scale at Speed, get your proposition right and all else will follow.
Heidi: How has your perspective about customers and marketing changed in the post-pandemic period? I call this the post-Seismic Shift in Marketing period. (Here’s the full description of the Seismic Shift in Marketing.)
Felix: I”m not sure my perspective has changed. My view remains that most people have no idea of how their customers perceive their business proposition. Once you address this gap, then you can grow your business significantly.
The specific techniques of marketing change all the time—and you’re right in your analysis of the factors at play today weren’t so evident before the pandemic.
But no matter what the latest tools are, the reality is:
Customers want products that precisely match their needs.
So, to connect with them, you must be clear about the customer needs you meet when they’re looking.
Conversely, it doesn’t matter how adept you are at voice or AI-based marketing or the various platforms’ ever-evolving algorithms:
If your proposition is not crystal clear you will be lost in the noise.
Heidi: What are 3 books on marketing or business you would recommend that our readers check out? Why did you like each of these books? How did they inspire or influence your work/career?
- Jim Collins’s Good to Great is the basic must-read for every business leader. Its ideas and concepts are clear and will stay with you forever.
- Patrick Lencioni’s Four Obsessions is just beautifully written; it tells the story of the importance of values, clarity and proposition, and for good measure shows you how to manage people well.
- And my favorite isn’t necessarily a business book. Scarcity – Or Why Having So Little Means So Much by Shafir and Mulainathan reminds us why stress and shortage are so damaging to opportunity and growth. It’s a charming and salutary book about how to change the world for the better.
Heidi: What is the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your life or career?
Felix: I didn’t know how to run a business.
Repeatedly. I spent my first 10 years as an entrepreneur making dumb mistakes which I shouldn’t have made, because there’s no business education that really works.
It took me years to find a mentor and before I really started to learn how to be a CEO.
While many of my mistakes were ultimately beneficial in terms of forcing me to understand the steps required to reliably build businesses, many of them led to heartache and stress as well as wasted time and money.
Heidi: What’s something unusual or fun that most people don’t know about you?
Felix: I am a qualified glider (sailplane) pilot despite being terrified of heights!
Heidi: Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you’d like to share?
Felix: There is a free self-assessment scorecard based on the book.
By answering a few questions, you get really good pointers on what:
- Your biggest risks are,
- Needs to address urgently, and
- Your best opportunities and quickest wins are likely to be.
This has been fun, thank you! I’d love it if people would write a review on Amazon or Goodreads if you read Scale at Speed. And get in touch if you ever want any advice or direction, I am always happy to point people in the right direction.
Heidi: Thanks Felix!
Name: Felix Velarde
Other book(s): Multichannel Marketing Ecosystems (contributor)
Twitter handle: @_2y3x and @felixv
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