Mitch Russo, former business partner of Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes, joins Tonya Dawn Recla to discuss the power of building a superpowered virtual business. And Mitch knows a thing or two about business. He started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins, building a business together. Mitch wrote a book called The Invisible Organization – How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies.
Hello, everyone! This is Tonya Dawn Recla, your Super Power Expert and I’m delighted to have with us today, a really unique guest, unique in the sense that how he kind of puts things together with his engineering mind is a lot of fun. Not so unique in the sense that like a lot of our guest, he really is a culmination of kind of integrative modalities and experiences and everything else. And that seems to be a profile of folks who are really doing amazing things in the world. And so I love that kind of mix that he brings to the table. But Mitch Russo has a unique perspective on business and how to go about business. He has a podcast in South and a couple of years ago published the invisible excuse me, The Invisible Organization and that’s all around virtual businesses, so really tapping into the energy of business how that’s shifting, so today we’re going to be talking with Mitch about building virtual business in a super powered world. So welcome to the show!
Thank you Tonya! Great to be here!
Thank you! I’m so glad you joined us! What are your super powers, Mitch?
Yeah, that’s a great question! And you know as I was thinking about it a few things came to mind. Probably my best superpower is my ability to use my creativity for the good of others and what I mean by that, I know it’s a broad answer but what I mean by that is, when I work with clients I see solutions usually very quickly that they can’t spot after being in their own business for many years. And then what I do is base my work with them on my experience of working with and helping over 500 different companies succeed in the world including my own company which I grew to 10 million and sold. And then Tony Robbins company which we grew to over 25 million a year in revenue. So my perspective comes from experience but my solutions come from a very deep creative place that seemed to appear just when I need them.
Beautiful! So you’ve thrown around some pretty big numbers there so how did you get to the place to where you know something like 10 million dollars and 25 million dollars and stuff just kind of rolls off your tongue?
Well first of all, I mean I was really in my 20s when I built my software company late 20s and I did it the hard way I did it when you first of all there was no internet and second of all I had no investors. It was done entirely intuitively in the sense that I picked a partner that I hoped would be the right guy but I had my gut feeling that he was the right guy and he was. And together we built this amazing company. We worked really hard to produce an incredible product a software program called Time Slips Corporation and about three years into the process I basically stumbled upon a business model that accelerated the company yet again as it did from when we were just getting going so that business model was certification. And so for me understanding how to certify a group of people and then bring them into your community and literally have them become bonded to the company as your tribe turned out to be one of the most valuable skills I ever learned in my life and resulted in doubling or even tripling the value of my little company back then.
I love the success stories and then let’s not set aside the very big name that they present, Tony Robbins. What’s your connection to him and how did that come about?
Well I mean I’m lucky enough to call Tony a friend. We worked together for five years Tony, myself and another gentleman named Chet Holmes built a company together called Business Breakthroughs International, so I was friends with Chet for years, decades even before we brought Tony into the mix. And when we did, it was like a marriage made in heaven, it was a perfect combination of Tony’s fame and amazing abilities to build businesses and promote. Chet’s incredible talents in the way that he was able to train people and create training programs. And my ability to build virtual companies and manage people in a way I was able to you know bring together 300 people from all over the world to be part of this company and we did it completely virtually.
Wow that’s awesome! That’s like the Holy Grail for a lot of folks who have online communities, so you come from an engineering background is that correct?
I guess the complimentary nature of those is apparent to me and probably most of our listeners, but the journey had been somewhat fascinating to go from the engineering sector into more of an entrepreneurial and you have a name that even a creative element. Like how did you make that shift?
Well see, to me I thought when I went to school for engineering that I was going to be able to use my creativity in engineering much more than in reality I was able to. So I was a circuit designer, I design circuits. I was one of the first people in my community to buy what was then known as a personal computer so to me the creativity part was doing things in electronics that I love to do but then when I finally got to work at Digital Equipment Corporation which is now Defunct Minicomputer Company, I founded only 5 to 10 percent of my time was spent being creative. The rest of it was running down parts, trying to get prototypes built and babysitting projects through manufacturing which I think stinks. I had no interest.
That’s sounds very similar to my counter-intelligence experience where I was like you, 5 percent James Bond and the rest of it was paperwork. So I love that! Very cool. So today we’ve been talking a little bit about this idea of building virtual business in the super powered world. I want to get back to that in a second, we’re going to take a quick break but let’s listen in because I really want to pick Mitch’s brain about some of the challenges that the virtual business model but also what he forecast coming up in the future so stick with us and we’ll be right back.
Awesome! We’re back you’ve been listening to the SuperPower Up!Podcast, we’re talking to Mitch Russo today about building virtual business in a super powered world. So Mitch, what are some of the challenges in this virtual business concept that maybe the brick and mortar, mom and pop shops didn’t get and didn’t have to deal with?
Well, one of the things that I find myself dealing with more than anything else when helping a client through this process is their mindset. And so when I wrote my book, The Invisible Organization, I spent the first third of my book on dealing with mindset because it was so important and so neglected when thinking about converting a company to a virtual organization.
You know it’s interesting I just recently picked up a revised copy of Psycho Cybernetics and was thinking that same thing about not just mindset, but also everything that goes into our concept of the world and how we view it and view ourselves within it. And I agree with you, we, my husband and I taught a course we were working at the counterintelligence special agent course and we crafted a course in one of the main tenets of it was Carol Dwight’s book, Mindset and you know I loved a lot of what she had to say about the growth strategies you know versus how we identify a lot of times with what we think, who we think we are and what we think the world exists as, so for you to tie those two things together, were their unique things that you were seeing in people’s mindset, they created specific challenges with regard to virtual business or was it most of the same like the success principles and everything else?
No it was different and here’s where it was different. People would think that they could manage a company the same way virtually as they could in a physical based organization and it’s nothing like that, and to make that mistake is common but to not fix it is deadly. And partially, the main reason why is because a lot of CEOs usually are good communicators but many are not and many rule through their management team and occasional communication to the company into the staff. But in a virtual organization that has to be turned upside down. The CEO has to be the personality of the company and must know his why and must be able to make sure that the entire company knows the why of the CEO and the why of the company and more importantly the systems must be in place for ample communication at every level. And by ignoring that thinking oh it’s just like it is when we all work in the same room is basically heralding the end of the company.
Wow! Those are some strong predictions and I like that, I mean you say it with such certainty and so I love the kind of tying that into this idea of what we would call, the Evolution of Things. You know so the evolution of business as it’s seen new phases of technology and virtuality and everything else. What do you forecast for the future, like it sounds like you’ve got your thumb pretty well on that and also what do you see coming?
Well you know there has been a different direction by different leaders throughout the last few, I would say the last 5 to 10 years. Marissa Meyers, at Yahoo was against virtual organization and she brought everybody or wanted to bring everybody back into the home base, whereas other companies like IBM have long embraced this virtual component and I would say a large percentage of their company is virtually the same with the airlines. I mean if today if you call almost any airline and speak to someone at their call center, you’re talking to them in their living room or their kitchen where they work. So virtualization is essential to profitability. But here’s the best part, Virtualization is essential to the enjoyment of our employees lives and I think what you do with virtualization is you create a lifestyle that people want which reduces stress, increases productivity, certainly increases longevity in terms of staying with the company and it’s provable by studies so, Stanford University did a study, “Does working from home work” and documented a 13 percent increase in the first tier relationship with the company and it goes even deeper. So as you get further and further up the management chain that productivity increases even more than 13 percent. So the benefits of doing it are so far outweighing the restrictions of not doing it, that it’s important to think about it even if it’s partially done in your company.
Wow! Again bold words, I really appreciate your stance on that. I like that it’s free, I mean it’s pretty definitive writings on the wall centrally for those companies. How much of that do you think, do you attribute to just in a lot of cities and locations of scarcity of space costs and the rising cost of office space and just the brick and mortar doing of business when there’s so many virtual solutions available?
Well let me turn that question upside down and talk about the technology for a moment. When I had my software company I had to spend about $350000 on a telephone PBX switch, which occupied a room the size of a bedroom and it would require enough energy frankly to run a household every week. It required cooling, it required staffing, and I had several people full time to attend to the equipment. I had several hundred people in a bullpen environment, each with their own headset and phone, each with a space in the parking lot, each in a building that was insured and all of those things did not make my operation more efficient it made it less efficient. So when you start thinking about the tools available today we now have tools where millennials who would love to be able to work only when they want for example, they can now do so, on their iPad even in a call center environment. So we have probably been without a doubt the most advanced tools ever available. And I started to talk about them in the book but you know my book was published in 2015 and the day it was published many of those tools were