Alexander Kidd Of Z Group Digital: “Truly know your staff”
Truly know your staff- Encourage your employees to be themselves around you, this will help you assess them better and empower them faster. Decorum can be a detriment if it is too rigid. Be fluid with your staff, get them to open up about what they are afraid to admit and coach them through it. Ideally you as a leader should be strong where they are weak and vice versa.
As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexander Kidd.
Alexander has grown businesses from the ground up in direct marketing, custom home AV, industrial equipment, manufacturing, sales, design, real estate and the import-export arena. Alexander thrives on finding untapped markets and sharing his insights as a public educator.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’m a second generation immigrant and the product of two soviet bloc parents, thoroughly middle-class, so the work ethic is encoded in my DNA. I have the first generation immigrant mindset because my father was raised in a German orphanage in the mid-forties. As you can probably guess, nothing was ever good enough for him. I didn’t realize at 7 years old that being good at cutting grass wasn’t a thing most kids were worried about. I didn’t know that lazy Sundays and carefree afternoons were the characteristics of children. I was raised with the mindset of push, push and push again — nothing is ever good enough. I could’ve been the most successful 15 year-old ever (which is when I started my first business) and it still wouldn’t have registered to me, because I wanted to be Bill Gates and that’s ridiculous. I tell people to set achievable bars for themselves. I remember this one time my father came home having just lost his job. I asked him if he was worried. He simply replied that it’s better than being homeless and an orphan, so it really gave me perspective on how to be grateful and how fleeting things can be. I’m always working. I never even have the opportunity to rest on my laurels or slow down and smell the roses. It’s always onto the next thing you know? Jury is still out on whether it’s a flaw or a feature.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
You can fail a thousand times but you only need to succeed once. It’s important to remember that. I’ve had many failed startups and ideas that led nowhere. But each failed venture always snowballed into the next thing. When we first started our current company, we were a health and nutraceuticals organization. We were struggling with breaking even, so we hired someone to do our marketing internally. Next thing we know, one of our mutual acquaintances who had a great business, asked us to consult for him. Then a month later we helped another friend. These tend to feed into each other and soon enough, we had four or five clients which now meant we simply did not have the time to run or manage our health organization. So we fell into marketing. Technically a failure, but it did help us roll into the next thing.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Around the advent of the personal computer, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I used to be a bit of a whiz in setting up systems. Plug in a couple of wires, follow instructions, hit a few keys — I loved it, it was fun for me as a kid. I remember my neighbor got a PC when I was a kid, so I went over and helped him set it up. After I was done he handed me 150 dollars. It absolutely blew my mind. He explained to me that my knowledge, skill and time are to be valued and leveraged, even if it was just 20 minutes. I remember thinking “I can make this kind of money doing something I love?” My life went from black and white to color. Look, I wanted to be in a band but I had no talent and I didn’t want to work for a living. I saw my father put in 80 hour weeks his entire life. He didn’t love what he did, but he did it. So I was scratching my head trying to figure out my path. When my neighbor handed me those bills and I realized that work and happiness weren’t mutually exclusive, my whole life changed.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We always play in arenas with little to no competition. The things we specialize in are hyper-specific, maybe a handful of other companies can pull off what we actually do. If some new player comes along and starts outdoing us, then good for him. We’ll move into another low population arena and excel there. This is a large part of why we excel. We find niches where there is a need but no fulfillment. I stumbled into this mindset back when I started designing and manufacturing industrial equipment — the entire sector was just 4 guys. Much easier to compete and keep your eye on the ball. Take tennis for example, you wanna be a professional tennis player who makes 100–200,000 dollars a year? You only have to be half decent because there aren’t that many tennis players to satiate the market. Apply the same rubric to basketball, it is infinitely harder. I got into the home theater industry in the early 2000s, it was slowly becoming a trend. A trend that only me and a handful of other guys could provide for. When we started, we didn’t even have to find customers. They came to us because we were one of their only choices. All we had was word of mouth. Compare that to the booming CBD industry right now. It’s so crowded, how can you guarantee your company won’t get lost in the shuffle?
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s really just the conventional wisdom of, “love what you do.” If you’re not doing what you love, what you are meant to do, you’ll obviously burnout faster. You really have to assess if you will be happy doing what you do, both for your sake and your organization’s. This touches on what I mentioned earlier. Once you figure out how to make money doing what you love, the magnitude of ‘burning out’ will be decreased exponentially. Prevention is the best cure. Set precedents that work for you. Then hire people who have the same values.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Guess what? It happened through a stream of failures. In my earlier years I partnered a lot with the wrong people. For example my first partner was a nine-to-five guy, whereas I, am a ‘money is time’ guy. That fundamental difference got in the way of our cohesion. As for my current business partner Daniel Chang, I crossed paths with him during a marketing consulting project. We always thought in the same wavelength and he had all those strengths that addressed all of my weaknesses. After 1 year of building a relationship, it just dawned on me that he would be the most obvious business partner for life. Best decision I have ever made.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?
There aren’t reasons per se; it’s really about one central thing; your ability to scale both as a leader and as an organization. Look you will always be the best suited person for every role in the company. Because it’s your idea you know exactly what to do and how to do it. You can’t do everything, it’s impossible. You need to be able to hand off responsibilities to your team so you don’t have to constantly focus on ground level results. If you become too obsessed with the minutiae of the day-to-day proceedings you will lose your vision of the bigger picture. If you can’t delegate competently to competent people you will not be able to direct your company’s overall path, you’ll just be stuck trying to break even or make a profit.
Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
Being a leader is boring. The thing I’ve observed most in authority figures is that they have a problem finding the line between delegating and micro-managing their staff. This goes back to what I just talked about: they’re one and the same.
In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?
I struggle with it myself. The trick is to be able to predict your employees. Everyone has weaknesses. It is your job as a leader to help them through their weak aspects so they can thrive in what they are actually good at. You have to coach them through their weaknesses. As a good leader, you’ve got to hire the right people under you, then manage them keeping their deficiencies in mind so you don’t have to take your eye off the horizon and constantly tweak things at the molecular level. You provide the direction, your employees get you there.
Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.
- Self-awareness — Honestly know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If you know what your weaknesses are, you can then hire around your weaknesses and empower yourself. At least that’s what I do. For example I love organization but I’m not great at it. My memory is very selective and generally gravitates towards information that helps me long-term. I simply hire people who are strong in areas where I am weak.
- Truly know your staff- Encourage your employees to be themselves around you, this will help you assess them better and empower them faster. Decorum can be a detriment if it is too rigid. Be fluid with your staff, get them to open up about what they are afraid to admit and coach them through it. Ideally you as a leader should be strong where they are weak and vice versa.
- Hire quick, promote faster, fire at lightning speed- Having a high turnover rate seems counter intuitive, but if your organization is in constant flux you truly get to see if your tenets are effective. I’ve grown multiple businesses and vastly different sectors. If you wanna be a company that moves fast and swims with the tides, the fact is you are better off hiring new talent than training old ones.
- Be unafraid to pivot- Some people get emotionally attached to their decisions. This is a fatal flaw that every entrepreneur can fall prey to. It is good to have vision and take risks but at the same time you must have the wherewithal to assess and say “hey maybe this isn’t as good as it could be” and pivot away to a more lucrative use of your time. It seems like a no-brainer, but it bears mentioning: do NOT get emotionally attached to your decisions. People with money have a tendency to over commit and triple-down on their bets, like Blackberry or Nokia. An effective leader must be able to admit that the path they chose might not be in line with their initial assessment.
- Long term vision- Most of your daily work needs to revolve around things that are gonna happen three or five years down the road. You really, really need to be able to see the future of your company clearly. You don’t need to be prescient, but you do need to be able to see the direction of where things are going. Bill Gates has made a couple of general predictions that have rocked the world. This is what makes him an effective CEO, not the thing you’re reading this on right now. He sees the future way in advance and he needs to, because the machine he runs is so enormous that a change in direction would mean reallocating millions of man-hours. It is easier for a small company to pivot, your agility must match your size. The only reason successful companies die is because they can’t predict the future.
One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliché “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?
I have a love hate relationship with that maxim. Sure if you’re the guy who came up with the idea, you would obviously be the best suited to execute it. The reality, however, is that mindset will stop you from scaling your company up. You need to be able to scale. That’s the whole purpose of a corporation. Think about it, you can’t be CEO, Janitor and the Lead Programmer — nothing would get done. The statement only applies to very small companies and indicates to me the person lacks vision.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If we can educate the world in a way that is selfless and self-empowering to the individual, we can bring about real change within one generation. I am living proof of that. Current education systems are either antiquated or designed to mass produce brow-beaten drones. Revamping the education systems and teaching kids the things I talk about in my videos, real-world, actionable knowledge you can implement now and secure your financial futures. We just need to find a way to get knowledge to the people who need it the most, not an easy task given just how inundated the average person is with useless information.
How can our readers further follow you online?
My website www.alexanderkidd.com has links to all my content and socials. I’m probably most active on TikTok (@thealexanderkidd).
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!