Rob Braiman has a reputation as a “Serial Entrepreneur” and for the past 15 years has been working directly with business owners to improve strategic planning, operations, growth, and profitability.
- Always putting the interests of the client first
- Rob’s value system and what he asks the employees of Cogent to embrace
Profitability / Small Business Success
Small Business Marketing
Sound business practices for SMB’s
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Tony Winyard 0:00
Exceeding expectations Episode 62. Do you have your digital marketing strategy planned out? In this week’s episode with Rob Braiman we talk about how many companies don’t have a strategy planned out for how they’re going to proceed with their digital marketing over the next month, six months, a year, two years and so on. And he gives him some fascinating insights. So that’s in a minute we’re going to be hearing from Rob. This is the podcast where we aim to give you ideas on how to give your customers a better experience than they thought they were going to get which was obviously new, getting better reviews, recommendations, referrals and repeat bookings, and ultimately means you enjoy what you do more and hopefully that means you get paid more as well. If you do like this episode, why not share it with someone who you feel may get benefit benefit from it. join the Facebook group, which is called exceeding expectations may be mentioned anything about the depth of the episode in there. You can contact Rob via LinkedIn and the links are at the end of the episode. Hope you enjoy this week’s show with broman. For Welcome to another edition of exceeding expectations. My guest today Rob Braiman. How are you?
Rob Braiman 1:17
Oh, wonderful Tony. And I greatly appreciate you having me on the show today. Thank you.
Tony Winyard 1:21
No problem whatsoever. Where do we find you today?
Rob Braiman 1:25
I am in Greensboro, North Carolina. It is my home of record and I’ve been here for about 16 years fabulous, fabulous place.
Tony Winyard 1:34
And so for people listening who aren’t familiar with where that is, you want to explain where it is?
Rob Braiman 1:39
Sure it North Carolina, I always say is the greater two states of the Carolinas but you have South Carolina and North Carolina. It is about central United States as far as North South goes but it’s right on the coast. So we’re about two hours inland from the Atlantic Ocean. Right on the beat. So but Central State of North Carolina you can imagine, you know, the US is very, very large landmass, but about about middle of the country on the east coast.
Tony Winyard 2:14
And so you say you been there for 16 years. So where did you grow up?
Rob Braiman 2:18
I am a bit of a mutt Tony, I was born in Indiana moved to Kentucky, Wisconsin, Texas, Brazil, South America for about five and a half years, came back to the US to finish up junior high in high school. And the post that ended up going the military went all over both the United States and outside continental United States. When I got out of that, I ended up opening locations for another very large entity. So I when I say I’m a man, I’ve lived any one of a number of place. I’ve lived in North Carolina longer than I have lived anywhere at my life. So
Tony Winyard 2:56
So what is it that you’re doing at the moment in, you know where you are now?
Rob Braiman 3:00
So coaching analytics is a management consulting group we represent you know, people think of consulting, you know, they think of big box Deloitte and Touche McKinsey KPMG, Boston Consulting, professionally, we are very purposely working with other entrepreneurs. Typically the most under service to group, whether it’s here in the States or there in the UK, you know, a lot of the big corporations use consultants for operational efficiencies. and small business centres go to their accountant or they go to their attorney for advice. We ultimately are that third leg of the stool, representing Main Street more than say Wall Street, right. I’m very, very focused on the entrepreneur that privately held business. I’m a serial entrepreneur myself, I love working with entrepreneurs. I’ve been working with entrepreneurs for 17 years and now coach and analytics is the firm that I have built. Sold purpose in life is to work with privately held companies.
Tony Winyard 4:03
And so how long ago did you build that?
Rob Braiman 4:06
coaching analytics started and I had Brandman associates going back to 2003. It was really a private endeavour. But I turned Braman and Associates into coaching analytics in 2014. So August, August 20. August 2013, was really the beginning of the transition. And then April of 2014 was the official launch of gudgeon analytics about five and a half years.
Tony Winyard 4:37
And what was the reason for the change?
Rob Braiman 4:40
So I used to work for another consulting group that candidly was more about the build hours and it was about the results in the relationship. So we’ve disrupted kind of the approach towards small business representation. In that every effort that we make a coach and analytics is client first its client centric, to and include our life cycle. So we don’t we don’t believe in going in and doing a project we agree we we believe that you represent a client if you earn the right you represent a client for the long term and the lifecycle name. So we have represented clients in the in the five and a half years we’ve been in business we’ve had clients in the life cycle programme for five and a half years. And the effort is really continuous improvement. So you know, one of my one of my favourite stories is the small business owner that was sitting at about $2 million in revenue when we first started representing them and today they are well north of $20 million in revenue and their profits are exceedingly healthy. But that was through working with another team right the business owner and his team to implement good process good organisational process, good opera. Operational process measurement and structure, business development strategy, overall strategic planning, you know, these are some of the things that we do with every client every day.
Tony Winyard 6:10
And so do you nice with any sort of particular industries? Or do you use or just help generally small business?
Rob Braiman 6:15
No Sure. We have five what we consider to be prime verticals, construction, manufacturing, transportation, distribution and technology. And now and I want your listeners to understand how broad each one of those categories are they they mean a lot of people will hear construction and they think it’s just somebody going out and building something. In reality what it is, is construction management, General construction, architects, engineers, all of the trades craft so plumbers, h HVAC electricians Foundation, there are a massive number of privately held companies in the construction vertical and you can imagine that same thing would be true Tony, for manufacturing transportation. So there’s five prime verticals, we historically do not do medical. And we historically do not do retail unless there are multi unit retail. So five or more locations is historically where a client might bring us into work on operational efficiencies. But, you know, five prime verticals, we have diverted from some of that to privately owned businesses that reach out to us and say, Hey, we need business advice. And that’s really where we make that’s really where we make our bucks.
Tony Winyard 7:39
And so why would a company come to you in the first place as opposed to go into someone like an attorney or someone what why would they make a decision to come to you?
Rob Braiman 7:48
So we’re operational in nature, you know, the accountants, as good as accountants are, and I have a wonderful accountant that represents codes and analytics. I’m going to kind of group accounts, his story We do not deal with more than financial performance or taxable consequence. We really are operational in nature. So if you think about the staff that I have working at cogent analytics, most of them have their master’s degree in business administration, most of them I mean, I have accountants on staff, I have jadis on staff, I have a number of professionals but their whole focus in life is operational in nature, more than it is just the numbers for taxable consequence. You know, attorneys really deal with the law accountants deal with tax, we really do with the running of the day to day business.
Tony Winyard 8:42
So how would they find out about you in the first place?
Rob Braiman 8:47
So and I apologise for the long extended, there’s a number of resources that we publish, whether we’ve been publishing trade magazines, we’ve done a number of podcasts like you and I are talking today. We do broadcasts, we do blogs, we do white papers, we do case studies. I think we’ve been published, you know, a couple dozen plus times. You know, my theory of how to put code and analytics isn’t in the marketplace isn’t really about. Just come do business and cogent analytics, we spend most of our marketing efforts putting practical pragmatic business advice, thought leadership into the marketplace. And I assume if we continue to do that, not only do we develop the relationship of the cogent brand, but we also tell our prospective clients that our first consideration is giving them good information. Even if they don’t go do business with me at least it helps the small business owner with resources and information that they might be able to tap into, to self improve. So that has always been our strategy since day one, and it is served us very, very well.
Tony Winyard 9:56
And so how do you try to to give A customer a better experience so to you know, to over exceeded expectations.
Rob Braiman 10:06
In our model and our approach, what we have always been committed to is our discovery process. And the discovery is two to three days of very intensive you know, if I, if I can use a metaphor, peeling the onion, Joe a business has many layers to it, and there’s a lot of reasons why it’s, it does well and there’s a lot of reasons why small business owners don’t perform to the level that they should. Our discovery process is designed to go through each of the prime pillars of the business in other words business development, we define that as sales and marketing, organisational engineering, which is all aspects of people development, training, compensation, efficiency, operational engineering, which is really process and the measurement, financial and operational. So those are the four pillars of our profit platform. That That we published that on cogent analytics com so you can see kind of as a reference point of what we’re talking about today, but the discovery goes through and really does a holistic approach because usually in a business it’s never just one thing when I’m when I’m when when a small business owner is doing well, but is not as profitable as they should be. That discovery really uncovers with our clients, you know, areas of opportunity that they and their team can focus on whether or not we engage them in consulting for us it’s got to be a very specific rationale why we will take on a client we don’t represent every client we take in discovery. For us there has to be a financial return before we will engage in consulting work and there has to be the right client motivated to change and i and i don’t i don’t want to create a thought process in the listeners that will why would accompany walk with away from good business. Sometimes in consulting if you’re giving people advice if you don’t have confidence that that people will embrace and and be the driver behind that change. There’s nothing in the world any professional can do to push, push them to that place of success. Yeah, we evaluate our clients as much as we evaluate the mechanics of what’s going wrong. Before we will engage, I will engage in a discovery with everybody. Because I think that is the most incredible value when you live in your forest every day. What what we try to do is pull business owners above their forest and look down and work through the dynamics of where they have opportunity for improvement. And then in the right cases, we will take clients and we will re engineer their business with them. What we most commonly see Tony and I’m sure you have this in your experience. We see a lot of business owners that are honourable, they care about their business, they care about their employees. They care about the future for their family. And yet they underperform in profitability, you know, a company that should be making 10%, all of a sudden they’re making 234 percent. And the way we look at that additional margin that’s left on the table is the oxygen to a business. You know, that profit turns it into cash flow, that profit retires and debt, that profit pays bonuses to employees, that profit pays to long term retirement strategy, or value of equity. So sorry for getting on a long diatribe there and they have a number of questions. So I apologise. That’s okay.
Tony Winyard 13:36
And one of the things that was going through my mind when you were talking about that, and you said you, you really help companies with change. So in your experience, what are some of the How is it you’re able to help them to change what is it you’re able to help them see differently?
Rob Braiman 13:51
So I will, if you allow me a little latitude, I’ll give you an example of a discovery that we did last week. We had a husband Wife business owner, it was about a $6 million company. Their son was also in the business, they had built a fairly successful business. $6 million is nothing to sneeze at, over a period of about 10 years. Now, his store ugly, that company has made moderate, if not low profit over the history of that 10 years. So think in context of two and 3% profit over a 10 year period. And when we really started to peel that onion back, what we saw is, you know, the owner was wearing all the hats. There was no real defined organisational structure in the company. middle management really didn’t have a definition of what was expected of them nor how it would be measured. That were real. There were no real financial plans in place for the business owner to really take ownership of the profit in his own company. And they were struggling with cash flow, because the profit wasn’t robust enough. And some of the people that they had done business with, were paying them on 60 or 70 or 80 days. So there was a number of structural issues going on within the company. There were measurement problems because the owner wasn’t getting information, the speed in which he needed it. There were organisational issues because people were coming to work every day. And although they were working really hard, it was very inefficient. And there was no real management of the type of business we were doing because some things are more profitable and other every one of your listeners will will definitely keen on this. When we do business in the world. Some things generate more profit than others. And in this particular case, there any sale would do. So there was a wide chasm between profitability of work being performed and then management of the human resources to get the work done was not managed very efficiently either. So a lot of times they would bit it at a at an expected profit. And the net result was, you know, making one or 2% once the job was complete. So and I’m sure you have some listeners, you know, in our, you know, listening to this podcast today will that will say, oh, gosh, I’ve got those same problems. That is a very common thing that we see. And it’s not historically Tony, when I talk about the profit platform, it is usually the four critical areas in tau tau, more than it’s one specific thing. A lot of a lot of small business owners think, well, if I just get more sales, it’ll solve my problem. Rarely is that a case? Usually what’s happening is they’re getting enough sales, but they’re not managing it effectively to the point where they’re, where they’re generating a predetermine net profit or an engineered profit as we like to refer to it.
Tony Winyard 17:00
Why do you think it is they weren’t able to see some of the things that you were able to see quite quite quickly.
Rob Braiman 17:08
most business owners come from most people who start a business have a trade or a skill or an aptitude that draws them into into becoming an entrepreneur. I’m really good contractor I know the manufacturing process I know how to run 20 truck now you know just to give you an example you know, rarely however our business owners coming with an MBA when they show up to go to work these are again hard working salt of the earth folks that want to go to work care about their employees do a good job represent their customers well but the business of the business right managing the business itself is his story quickly not part of their direct skill set and and their you know businesses a science you know, you have to learn How to run a good business. And I think it I think even if you’re doing well, there’s areas of opportunity to do better. I’ve had plenty of clients in the hundred million dollar plus range. And you would think, you know, they’ve got a leadership group, they’ve got a strong president, they’ve got, you know, 250 employees working at the company. And they have just as many inefficiencies or dysfunctions because that’s what happens in the day over day. You know, absence of standard substandard becomes the standard. And so, you know, in growth, you will create this function. And in day over day operations, you’ll create this function, whether that’s weakness of organisation, whether that’s weakness of process, that is what we see whether you’re a $2 million company or a $200 million company, the theme in those four pillars is pretty consistent.
Tony Winyard 18:49
And so once you identify the weaknesses they had, how were you able to help them to South us.
Rob Braiman 18:56
We roll up our sleeves and get to work You know, a lot of times and it really is circumstantial. We don’t believe in cookie cutter. You know, every every solution that we do with a client, there’s a couple of dynamics that most consulting groups do not consider. And that’s the client themselves. Because you and I may have the exact same problem but our approach to fixing that problem based on our personality, our value system, what we believe how do we believe good management should look is a little different from person to person. So you may have a common solution but it has to be modified to fit the client circumstance because if a client doesn’t embrace the fix, I can promise you they will digress too old bad comfortable behaviour as opposed to staying with a new good behaviour. So the best way I can answer that is, we develop systems we develop process we work with teams, we teach train mentor, employee Man, any effort that would endeavour a team to go from where they are to where they should end could be is our number one focus. So I wish I could give you a cookie cutter answer but any one of the aspects in business development, organisational engineering, process engineering or measurement is a collective approach that we take towards every circumstance knowing that the psychology and sociology going on in that business is always going to be a little different, even in companies that do exactly the same. And
Tony Winyard 20:32
so I give any stories or examples of ways where you’ve helped a company where they got far more for you than they were ever expected when they first spoke to you.
Rob Braiman 20:43
So I just read a letter this morning from a very, very well run company that we started representing about 18 weeks ago. And it’s interesting that we’re having this podcast today. And I knew somewhere in this conversation, you were likely to going to ask me that question. But the interesting thing I have a personal understanding because I work with all my analysts. This client was a father with a son and a step son. And there were genuine, there were genuine challenges with the sun stepping up and taking on or assuming his role, notwithstanding the fact that there although they were a fairly large company with moderate profitability when we engage with them, some 18 weeks ago, there were a number of dysfunctions that they had reached that point of complacent success. And today when I read the President’s letter that you wrote to me personally, I was I’m always a little shocked and overjoyed, I think, when you when when it’s written in their personal pen, they have restructured their bidding and estimating process they’ve restructured their go to market strategy. They restructured the roles and responsibilities of the next successor group in the company. They’ve been able to redefine the reporting relationships from middle management to senior management. They’ve restructured and recreated financial, strategic planning and operational planning so that everybody in the company is now on the same page. They’ve got both middle management and senior management now communicating more effectively. And what that’s translated into is a 28% efficiency improvement in overall day to day operations. So we’ve been able to increase their margin by about three and a half percent year over year and for a size of company that we’re talking about, you’re talking about a $350,000. net improvement year over year, you can imagine the impact that that makes for that family, and the ability for the President to retire and know his son can buy him out of the business. You know, those are the profound moments that I have on a on a daily basis, frankly, that that inspire me to get up.
Tony Winyard 22:56
And so and you are able to effect that change just by you know, kind of really We’re asking the right questions and really finding out where the problems were that they weren’t aware of.
Rob Braiman 23:07
Yeah, starts with the right questions. And then when you have a really highly engaged group, I always say our life gets really easy when you have a highly motivated group of people that are, are they know they could be better, but they just haven’t been able to get there. That’s the kind of those are the moments where I think it’s magic. Because now you’re now you’re working to implement, teach, mentor and train the improvements. And as you’re putting it in place, and you’re working side by side with them, you see them embrace it, and then it becomes the new normal. So the life cycle process because, you know, we we as coaching analytics developed a long term strategic relationship with our clients. We, when we end that first phase of the engagement, that first initial fixed phase, we stay with our client week over week in that first month posts Bye bye monthly the second month, by monthly the third month and historically go back for about a week. Because we try to stop the digression, we want to protect that clients investment that they’ve made in change almost 100% of the time, it’s a ridiculously large number, where people will start to slide backwards, if you don’t catch them before they slide. That’s why we, we do that continual follow up. And to be clear, Tony, when I started this firm, I committed to the fact that we were going to do that post follow up work, pro bono. So we do that as part of the original project without building the client. Additionally, the only time we build our clients is when we’re boots on the ground. That’s what I think truly sets us apart from the other firms in this space. That’s what I meant by putting clients immersed.
Tony Winyard 24:51
You mentioned before, you’re asking the right questions, and so when you are asking those questions, was there a point where the lightbulb suddenly went off in their heads when they realised by some of the questions, you were asking that the answers, they were giving to you where their own problems lay, that they just hadn’t realised.
Rob Braiman 25:11
Almost every discovery, I think you’re I think you’re touching on something there that you know, the hardest thing we have is getting clients to recognise that the crazy that they’re going through every day. You know, I, we’ve had a discovery plan with a client for now almost a month, and each and every work each and every week, excuse me. The next crisis pops up every week, which is causing the client to push back another week. So this morning, a client and I had a conversation I said, some you realise that next week is going to be the same crazy. If at some point in time you don’t stop and deal with the crazy. You just get to keep what you’ve already got. And he laughed and said, You know, we’re Nobody’s ever really put it to me in that way. I get so used to my crazy my wife told me that I’m so used to my crazy that I think that’s the new normal. And and I said the only thing we have to decide is that you’re going to choose a different crazy. And, you know, I know this client because I’ve had the privilege of working with them. That is a common story. People get sucked into the day over day operations and just trying to wear all the hats and keep keep all their aren’t, you know, keep their arms around what they built, that most of the inefficiency is built by the client in in that behaviour. And that’s really what happens in the discovery when we start going in and identifying what’s really broken. The idea is to empower that client and give that client their their life back. And I don’t I don’t mean to overstate the issue. But that’s truly what I think we’ve done for what I’ve done for 17 years and coach and analytics is absolutely committed to over the last five and a half
Tony Winyard 26:59
What are your general thoughts on exceeding expectations Rob?
Rob Braiman 27:04
I, you know, I get up, I get up in the morning and I tell my entire team that so I get up every morning and I asked myself one simple question and this is the same question I’ve asked myself for 3035 years and that’s what will lie. What will I do today to make a difference? What will because we represent other families as a profession, when we get it wrong, people get hurt. So mediocrity is not an option for us. You know, I say to my team, we will strive for perfection every single day knowing it’s an unachievable and unachievable result in the hopes that we achieve excellence. And that has been that has been embraced, I think by by and I, you know, in this way, I’ve been blessed by the people that that work at cogent analytics and people that embrace the vision of what we’re trying to accomplish on behalf of entrepreneurs, not exceeding expectations in our world is not an option. Again, because what we do is in service to the American family on business, I think it’s critical that the standards we set for ourselves the standards we set for our clients are exceptionally high. Because if we’re not working towards that common goal not just the owners had her but the owners employees get hurt the owners, employees and their families get hurt and see my point. There’s a there’s an expectation of exceeding expectation every day because of what we do is
Tony Winyard 28:29
how do you think that he that mindset has developed in you? Where did it come from in the first place?
Rob Braiman 28:37
So I lost my father when I was 15 years old, I was the baby of four and maybe because I had no nobody ever gave me anything. I had to earn it along the way. And I went into the military as a fairly young man, I went to a semester college and went in the military and had the privilege of serving with first battalion first Special Forces Group. I think through that experience, it taught me about what it really took to excel in life. I can tell you that I draw from my from, you know, both my military experience and my entrepreneur experience. You know, coaching analytics is the fourth company I built. You know, I know what it’s like to make decisions every day that have impact on other people’s lives. And I think that drive was instilled from my father and then life experience along the way. And I would say that that’s probably the big motivating issues to watch got me where I’ve accomplished.
Tony Winyard 29:39
Well, if people want to get more information about what you do, and how you know how maybe you can help them wherever they go to.
Rob Braiman 29:47
So even if even if they don’t reach out to us and say, Hey, you know, come do a discovery, please go to www coach and analytics com. You can download an ebook, you can download a case study, you can download a white paper, you can go in and look up just about any information that you need to know. And if you have any questions, we’ll be more than happy to answer them. That isn’t just a function of who we are, you know that thought leadership and working with small business owners is preeminent to our culture. So again, www dot cogent analytics. com. You can call 8334 my profit, that’s the number for my profit, a three V for my profit. And one of the administrative assistants will either gather myself or one of the other team members here and we’ll be more than happy to have any business discussions that that furthers the interests of the people that we represent.
Tony Winyard 30:50
And just before we finish, I believe there’s a quotation that you like?
Rob Braiman 30:56
it was something in there very much. So Tony, it’s raised others is up and you will rise. And you know, I’ve said for years we are in service to those we represent. It doesn’t make us a servant to those we represent but service unto itself is the most honourable profession that goes to the core of who I am. If you raise others up, you will rise its service to others instead of service to self is really, you know, kind of what that what that means to me is that if we spend our life trying to make others around us better, whether it be our community or church or our business owners that we represent, you know, ultimately the greatest reward comes from other people’s success. Absolutely.
Tony Winyard 31:42
Well, Rob, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking to you. So thank you for your time,
Rob Braiman 31:45
Tony, the honour and pleasure was mine, sir. I hope we do this again, if you ever want to get into breaking down the platform into specific areas of the platform. I’ll be more than happy to come back on the show and we can break it out here with listeners a little bit Great. Well,
Tony Winyard 32:00
best of luck, Rob And yeah, hope to speak to you again sometime.
Rob Braiman 32:03
Cheers. Yeah, most especially thank you, Tony. It’s been an honour.
Tony Winyard 32:08
Hope you enjoyed this week’s show with Rob and next week, Episode 63 is with Misti Patrella. On December 3, and Misti, she helps entrepreneurs make more of an impact and more of an income. She’s a transformational coach. Based in Portland in the US ,next week, with Misti Patrella. Hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Why not share it with someone who you feel may get some some benefit from some of the items discuss some of the topics discussed and why not give us a review on iTunes. Let us know what you think about the podcast. And that really helps the word get out to many more people with more reviews weekend so I would really appreciate it if you would be able to leave a review for the exceeding expectations podcast. hope you have a fantastic week. See you next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai