Episode 101 – Chief of Staff: A Role You Can Leverage Today To Find The Time To Work On The Firm – Member Case with Bryon Morrison

Scaling a boutique professional services firm requires effective replication of the founder and a focus on delegation. On this episode, Bryon Morrison, Co-Founder & CEO at Proxxy, talks about the power of replication to remove the founder bottleneck so they can work on this business.


Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Pro Serve podcast with Collective 54, a podcast for founders and leaders of boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community dedicated entirely to helping you grow, scale and someday exit your boutique processor firm. My name’s Greg Alexander. I have the pleasure of leading this group and I will be your host today. And on this episode, I’m going to talk to you about how to scale yourself, how to replicate yourself and others, how to delegate, determine who to delegate to when to delegate, how to delegate, etc.. And what I hope to accomplish on this call with my esteemed guest, who I’ll introduce in a moment, is to first just draw awareness to this issue that when we run a professional services firm, sometimes the founder or co-founders can get in the way. They they continue to do things the same way they’ve always done them. However, their firm has progressed beyond a practice. They have a real firm, large numbers of employees, etc. And in order for them to continue to scale and maybe someday exit their firm, they have to get to the point where the firm can run without them. They’re not the firm is not entirely, completely dependent on the founder. So that’s the goal of today. We’ve got a great role model with us. He’s going to share his experiences. His name is Bryon Morris and he’s a member of Collective 54 and the founder of proxy. Brian, great to see you. Welcome to the show. Please introduce yourself. 

Byron Morrison [00:02:01] Thank you, Professor Alexander. Good to be on the podcast and I appreciate you letting me talk through the bottleneck with everybody. So, yeah, I am the co-founder and CEO of proxy and you know, it was just like you said, I spent enough time working in large Fortune 500 companies watching these executives. And what I learned was they have this support system around them that makes it impossible for them to fail. And I always looked at them and I said, why? Why isn’t that available to the entrepreneurs of the world, the small to medium sized businesses that are in high growth mode that really, really need it. And so I you know, a few years ago, I stepped back and and said, you know, I’m going to see if I can solve that problem. And so met up with a couple of other my other co-founders and we developed a proxy. And I’ll tell you, it’s been an amazing ride for we’re entering our third year and, you know, it’s just natural for us to be able to help these companies because we just have this servant leadership mindset and we believe in entrepreneurs and we believe that they’re capable. So we’re excited to be able to help anywhere we can. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:25] Okay. I was really excited to see that you were on the show today because you provide something that I think our members would benefit greatly from. And this is not just a blatant sales pitch. I really believe this and that’s something is a professionally trained, remote chief of staff. And first, I want you to explain what that is. And then I’m going to offer the audience my opinion as to why they should care. So would you explain what a professionally trained remote chief of staff is? 

Byron Morrison [00:04:00] Yeah, we’re essentially an executive multiplier. You know, there’s such an important need for an executive to be able to, as you said, replicate yourself. And so it’s what we provide is a solution to automate some of the routine tasks that you see. But the reason we do that is because it frees up the executive to listen to and work with the strategic counsel that we can provide. And so will help drive strategic initiatives, help them identify where and how to prioritize those. But the chief of staff role is something that, you know, you see it coming up more and more. And it’s often misunderstood. Some people think of it as, you know, an executive admin or a support role that is really more task oriented, but it’s a really strategic role. And the thing that’s a little bit unique about how we do it is, and I would argue it should be a third party most of the time because we trying to grow budgets, we aren’t trying to build a fiefdom and get more hires. We are only focused on helping that executive. And so that’s why we built this as a remote model, so that we could keep somewhat separated from the rest of staff and really stay focused on that executive that we’re working with. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:33] Someone to tell the audience a little story, and it’s somewhat comical and embarrassing, but those are usually the best ones. So when I had my boutique firm called SBI, my wife and I were really into a television show called The West Wing. And we would we’ve been this thing I’ve probably seen every episode, I don’t know, five times. And what I learned through that show, which is crazy, that this is how I learned this, is that the way the presidents of the United States and the White House operates is the president has a chief of staff and the chief of staff is a senior person, maybe the most senior other than, you know, the president’s direct reports. And the contribution that that chief of staff made to the president was enormous. So I said to myself, with that inspiration, maybe I need one of those people. So I had one. And what I what I started with, which is what I would recommend everybody here is I did a time on it and I said to myself, Where is all my time going? And if I hold myself to a standard and the standard that I came up with was what was called a key contribution. A key contribution was the things that I did for the firm that significantly moved the needle. And if I stripped everything else out of my life and my work life, how much more time would I have to invest in key contributions? And as a result of that, could I scale myself and then by default, my firm? And really, that’s what the chief of staff did. So I, I said and I would use that word, shed all kinds of habits and things I was doing that I thought I needed to do, but I really didn’t need to do. And I had to take a leap of faith. The chief of staff had to prove to me that she, in this case, was capable of doing it. But I got to tell you, you know, today we’re talking about how to scale yourself. And that was a major moment for me. And what I love, Brian, about what you’re doing is that a lot of our members don’t have that person internally. They might not be 100% convinced that they should do this or they could do this. And by engaging with proxy, it’s a flexible model. It’s a variable model. And it’s a way to get started and see kind of what the return is. So that personal story that I just share with you, do you see that story in your other clients and do you have a couple stories that you are examples you might want to share with the audience? 

Byron Morrison [00:08:13] Yeah, yeah. It’s everybody needs a Leo. I actually wrote an article on that because everybody needs Leo McGarry. But, you know, you’re right, Greg. I think one of the challenges that people have with this is they think of it as an all or nothing role where I’m going to make this hire and man, I’m going to invest a lot in that hire. And, you know, I feel like a better place to invest that time is in the long term hire that comes up that you’re going to invest and you’re going to grow your firm around. And so that’s that whole point of succession. But you always need somebody there who you can talk to. And, you know, we have a. Every rational promise that we make to everybody, and that is that we focus on giving back or reclaiming at least 8 hours a week. Now, if I just do the math here, your point about going through your personal efficiencies and identifying where your hours going and your key contributions, you’re probably burning some time in areas that are really helping the firm. So we recognize that. And and frankly, that’s why we don’t have long term agreements, because we really don’t. All we’re focused on is helping you succeed. And each week we come back and say, did you feel it? Did you feel the impact of what we worked on? Because if not, we should change the focus. And so sometimes that’s a collaborative process where we’re working together to identify that. Sometimes we bring that to our clients and say, you really ought to reprioritize and focus on something else. And they know that it’s coming from a good place. So the rational promise is you get some time back, you know, change what you’re doing. The emotional promise that we focus on is. Being that confidant. That you can talk to and you can say anything to because, you know, if you’re working with somebody, you say something to a staff member. There’s a ripple effect no matter what because of personal biases, concerns. So we actually, you know, one of my friends and clients told us I love what she said. She goes, you know. In business as a CEO, I have speed bumps all the time and so I’ll look at lots of different lanes I could drive down and some speed bumps are higher than others, and I don’t even want to get near it. She goes. You guys just shape the speed bumps. It’s just gone. Like we just execute. We keep moving forward. And so I thought that was a great metaphor. But yeah, we see that. We see tons of issues around succession planning. We see issues around management methodologies. You know, do we have the discipline and consistency in that, the wrong people in the wrong roles, people being mismanaged because of their site makeup or their natural strengths, just poor initiative management. And sometimes it just comes down to like that hero, the CEO. You know, we see that all the time where it’s hard for us to see that. And you know, your point about funny stories. I was that guy. Yeah. I’ve absolutely been in that role where I was like, I didn’t know I was doing it, but I would set it up so I could come in and save the day. Mm hmm. And so once you’ve done that, you’ve realized it. You go, don’t let anybody else pay that dumb tax. Yeah. Then, you know, we’re. We see it all the time. So. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:46] So part of scaling yourself to the listeners is the distinction between kind of cost of doing business items and strategic mission critical key contributions. So the hard part is once you understand what your personal key contributions are and you say to yourself, okay, I’ve got to teach somebody else how to do this as well as I do it. And I talk at length in my book, The Founder Bottleneck How to Scale Yourself and How to Do That. And that is the long term multiyear process of succession planning. And it is absolutely, positively mission critical. And you can’t go cradle to grave as a founder of a boutique process firm unless you master that. What Brian is talking about and what his firm offers is a different type of service. And I would argue equally important, because it is a multiplier to use his terminology, and that is there are cost of doing business items. There’s things that we all have to do that we do not want to do, but they have to get done. If they don’t get done, the firm doesn’t operate the way the way that it should operate. And when I suggest to founders that they need to scale themselves, they always come back to me and they say, Hey, I can’t just stop sending out invoices. I can’t just stop automating this or automating that. Like, all this stuff has to get done and I’ve got to give it to somebody in my staff. They’re early, they’re already 80, 90% utilized right now. So I can’t load this stuff on top of them. I need somebody else. And that’s where I think a chief of staff can come in. Not that they’re just relegated to mundane, boring task work. These are cost of doing business items. So they’re critical that they get done. But that’s the stuff that I think can go to a chief of staff. And this is a you know, this is a new idea for many of our founders, is the idea of having this person on staff, you know, a real right hand. The objection that comes up when I suggest this, Brian, I want to give you a chance to address it is I don’t have the money. It’s I’m not going to invest in doing this. I know what I say, but I’d love to hear what you say to that objection. 

Byron Morrison [00:14:04] Yeah. I just it kind of comes back to the old argument of, hey, I’m the CEO, but I’m also the chief model washer. Well, when I hear that, I’m like, then you’re really doing a poor job for your stakeholders in that business because you should not be the chief bottle washer. I get the point of what you’re trying to get across, but you’re using your time ineffectively and that time is worth a lot. You know, we do an ROI calculation. When we start working with a client, we start the same thing. We look at personal efficiencies. Where can we save that individual time? A lot of those times they might be administrative functions like that. We identify how to automate those and make them go away, or we identify how to make those routine so that you can hire to it a less expensive resource. Then you move on to the next thing. And those tend to become more and more strategic as we eliminate the tactical issues that you’re dealing with. So you’re right. I mean, you know, a lot of people I came up in consulting and advertising and marketing and, you know, some people were like, oh, I don’t like doing that kind of work, you know, because it’s, you know, that’s for somebody else. We believe that those are the things that stop you from becoming great. So we eliminate those things. We work, focus first on the personal efficiencies, but then we move in to team assessment. What’s your team look like? Are they capable of taking on those roles? Are there spaces where we can improve upon the processes that you’re currently doing? Then we get them to the stage of growth. So where is that company at? Should we introduce, you know, like you do a great job in the boutique of laying out what you should be thinking about in each of the stages? We go through a similar process. We just break that down a little bit more granularly so that we can actually focus on what should be prioritized first and where do you spend your time. So I agree with you the little things that when people say I can’t afford to do that, that’s because they don’t really understand the role of the CEO yet. Yeah. And so most of the companies that are larger, they’re like, I have I want to have an Office of the Executive because they know exactly what that amplification or that multiplier effect is. 

Greg Alexander [00:16:25] What I say to people say, listen, I don’t have the money for this. I say, you’re missing out on the most important cost and that’s opportunity cost. So Bryan says it gives you back 8 hours a week. So what’s that worth? So let’s say you build a client, I don’t know, $250 an hour. Right. So, I mean, right there. What’s that? 2000 bucks per week. That’s eight grand a month right there. So I don’t when I hear that, I’m I don’t know, I just call B.S. on it because very often people think they think about the cash. They don’t think about the opportunity cost. What would you do with those extra 8 hours? You know, pull open your to do list. Stack, rank the things top to bottom based on the areas that you want to dove into that you’re not getting to because you don’t have the time. And if you had a chief of staff, you’d be able to get to those things. And if you pull them off, one of those worth. So the opportunity cost is just astounding. It’s it’s a real big issue. So. 

Byron Morrison [00:17:19] Yeah. You know what we also see, Greg, is just this. They get into it and they go, Well, I don’t have that many other things on my list. So a lot of times they aren’t just they just aren’t aware of what else could be done. Or when they implement something, they go, No, no, no, I did that well, they did it in their head or they did it half way and they haven’t made sure. Are they tracking it over time as a longitudinal value? Am I working through the communications that are necessary to get that out? Is there an ongoing effort to make sure that it sticks? So there’s this difference in entrepreneurs from people who are doing work because it matters and they know it. And then the individuals who are doing checkboxes. 

Greg Alexander [00:18:04] Yeah, for sure. 

Byron Morrison [00:18:05] And they go, Well, I finish that. I’m on to the next. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:18:08] All right. Well, we’re out of time here. I’m really looking forward to the Friday Q&A session that we’ll have with members I this is a hot topic. Our members are time starved. I hear it all the time. And they’re going to really probe into this as a possible solution for that. So thanks a bunch for being on the show. I really appreciate it. 

Byron Morrison [00:18:25] It was my pleasure. Thank you. 

Greg Alexander [00:18:27] All right. So if you’re a founder of a boutique processor firm and you want to belong to a community of peers and meet great people like Bryon, consider joining Collective 54 and you can apply for membership at Collective 54 icon. And if you’re not ready to join, but you just want to educate yourself some more on topics like this and others. Subscribe to Collective 54 for insights, which you can also find on the website. This gives you benchmarking data, a weekly podcast, a leading blog. We actually have a bestselling book called The Boutique – How to Start Scaling, so a professional services firm. So that might be a place to start as well and until the next episode. Thanks for listening and I look forward to the next time we get together. Take care.