Josh Rovner is a best-selling author and business consultant. He has worked with businesses of all sizes, from small to large corporations, as they pursue the goals they have in common: growing their revenues and improving their performance. As a consultant, he “leads change and transforms businesses by communicating clearly about complex subjects, designing effective processes, and developing and coaching people.”
As a business consultant, Josh Rovner specializes in a lot of crucial aspects in the field. His expertise is in “organizational transformation/organizational effectiveness/organizational development, change leadership, business performance improvement, business process development, facilitation and presentation—classroom/in-person and virtual, root cause analysis, adult learning and instructional design, hotel revenue management/pricing optimization, analytics, data visualization and storytelling with data.”
Josh Rovner has also received several professional certifications. He has received certifications as Emergenetics Associate, Ken Blanchard Situational Leadership Facilitator, Franklin Covey Instructor of “5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity and the “Four Imperatives of Great Leadership,” as well as certifications in the DISC Behavioral and Communication Styles, Tableau 10, and Cognos.
As a best-selling author, Josh Rovner has written the best-selling book “Unbreak the System,” which looks at the “10 fatal flaws that plague very business” so that executives “can understand and cure what’s really not working,” instead of working from misdiagnosed problems.
Jerome Knyszewski: 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?
Josh Rovner: Yeah, it’s certainly been an interesting path from where I started to where I am now.
I went to college to study communications. While I was in college, I did an internship in public relations at a luxury hotel, and that’s where I discovered the hospitality industry. I ended up getting a masters degree in hospitality management. It was essentially an MBA but focused on hospitality.
After getting my masters degree, I wound up in the corporate world. I have more than twenty years of experience in the corporate world at all levels of small to large companies.
Over time, as I saw a variety of companies struggling for a variety of reasons, I began to recognize patterns among the reasons why. Given my communications background, I’ve always loved writing. I began to think that there may be enough material for a book on the topic — especially because I didn’t know of any books that covered the patterns I’d recognized so clearly. So I pursued the idea and wrote the book.
Jerome Knyszewski: 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?
Josh Rovner: Oh, definitely. Interestingly, one of the earliest failures and hard times I had came when I was a public relations intern in college. Up until then, I’d done well in school and was pretty successful, so I was totally unprepared for it.
One of my jobs as an intern was literally cutting out news articles and photocopying them in a very precise way for distribution. That sounds so easy, and it should have been. But I was horrible at it! I was so bad that one of my bosses got so angry with me one day that she told me I needed to get my eyes checked. It was crazy.
I was devastated, and I couldn’t believe I had failed so miserably at something so seemingly easy. But even though I was really upset about that, I realized that it was just one thing and one experience, and that it didn’t define who I was or what I could do in the future. I knew that I didn’t have to do only that for the rest of my life, and that’s what enabled me to move forward and focus on the good that came out of that experience, which was really the start of my years in the hospitality industry.
Another story like this came in my first job in the pricing world after getting my masters degree. Pricing is a very technical and analytical profession. I was extremely overwhelmed with all the technology, tools, and processes I had to learn. I remember my boss telling me that the person training me thought I wasn’t going to make it.
I was terrified and upset, but I kept trying and kept practicing the things I needed to practice. I knew that I needed to keep going even though it was hard. My desire to prove to others and myself that I could do it was what kept me going.
I figured I would try as hard as I could to get better. If it didn’t work out, I knew I could move on and do something else. But I wanted to give it my best shot.
Fortunately, my boss believed in me enough to keep me on even with a steep learning curve. Eventually, I figured it out and got to be very good at it. In fact, later on, I got good enough that I wound up training a lot of people how to do it. Sometimes perseverance pays off!
Jerome Knyszewski: 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?
Josh Rovner: I’d say the two stories I just talked about are great examples of that. They are definitely funny stories now, although they weren’t then.
I learned four key lessons from the public relations intern story:
- It’s okay to not be good at everything. No one is good at everything.
- If you don’t really like something you’re doing, it’s okay to focus on something else.
- Details are important. You always need to pay attention to details — especially if you’re doing something that’s not necessarily a strength for you.
- Always be kind to people — even if they’re not performing well. Losing your temper or getting visibly frustrated does not help people perform better. It generally makes them either shut down or avoid you. You can’t achieve greatness if your team is operating in that way. The way you behave carries tremendous weight, especially if you are a top executive or business leader.
The lesson I learned from the pricing story is that you need to be patient with people. Just because someone doesn’t execute perfectly on the first try, that doesn’t mean that person is a “bad fit”. People need a bit of time, help, and direction. This is true even for CEOs and other executives at the top of the company.
The pricing story is also the first time I realized that people need clear processes to follow that help them know how to make the decisions they need to make (and why) — in order achieve the best outcomes every time.
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
Josh Rovner: Well, the theme of my book and work is actually ten critical flaws to avoid in order to take your company from good to great. But I’m happy to flip that around and narrow it down based on your question.
If you are a top executive or leader, here are my top five things you must do to take your company from good to great.
- Expose your company’s blind spots and prioritize addressing them
- Fix your company’s dysfunctional infrastructure
- Invest in technology that works for you
- Focus on the vital few and avoid chasing shiny objects
- Replicate the best processes throughout the organization
Let me explain what I mean by each of these.
Expose Blind Spots
There are three types of blind spots you need to expose and address:
- Customer-focused blind spots, which happen when you are blind to the flaws in your products, services, or processes from the customer’s perspective.
- Employee-related blind spots, which are the things you aren’t completely aware of that cause your employees to struggle, to be frustrated, or to engage in politics or other unhelpful behavior that affects your work culture.
- Process blind spots, which happen when you spend time and resources on unnecessary processes that seem to add value but don’t.
Fix Dysfunctional Infrastructure
Fixing your company’s dysfunctional infrastructure means eliminating friction caused by the organization and supporting cross-functional collaboration.
Most companies have a siloed, functional reporting structure even though their key value-driving processes require cross-functional collaboration. In the best case, this design causes work culture problems when different functions don’t realize what other functions are working on or what they are capable of. Worst case, it can cause open war between functions.
A company’s infrastructure includes the organizational structure or chart, as well as compensation / recognition structures; recruiting, hiring, and expectation-setting practices; and tools and resources necessary to get the job done, among other things.
Even if your people are skilled and dedicated, having dysfunctional infrastructure will prevent your company from being great. In order to achieve greatness, you need to ensure all the elements of your company’s infrastructure are aligned around the outcomes you’re looking for based on your company’s mission or purpose.
Invest in Technology
Many companies hesitate to invest in technology because there’s so much involved in doing that, and it’s scary for a lot of leaders.
But have you really thought about how much time and money you spend working around your technology that doesn’t work the way you want it to? How much time and money would be saved if your technology worked well, without the friction?
The reality is that today any company has to have great technology in order to be great. In fact, the greatest companies today are technology companies. So take a lesson from them, and realize that, no matter what your products and services are, you are also a technology company.
Investing in relevant technology that works the way you want it to is a game-changer.
Focus on the Vital Few
I talked about this earlier and how important it is for avoiding burnout. Turns out, it’s also critical to making your company great. The more you consistently focus everyone around the few most important things, the greater your company will be.
Replicate Best Processes
Many companies have no Standard Operating Procedures at all. Instead, they rely on their teams to basically wing-it for everything — in hopes that everyone will figure it out. But that rarely happens. Or if it happens, it’s sporadic and inconsistent and not scalable.
Other companies have what they call Standard Operating Procedures, but they’re really nothing more than simple checklists of what to do without any guidance or clarity around how to do it and why.
Great companies have detailed processes and Standard Operating Procedures that clarify desired outcomes, standards of success, decision-making flow, and several other components that need to be considered to consistently produce the best outcomes and results.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Josh Rovner: I completely agree that purpose-driven businesses are better. Some people call it purpose. Others call it mission or vision. It all boils down to what you do for your customers or people in general to make their lives better.
Many companies forget that, in order to be great, profit needs to be a symptom of purpose. Profit, revenue, market share, EBITDA, and other financial metrics are not purposes in and of themselves, although they’re obviously necessary and important.
The best companies focus exclusively on achieving their purpose in the best way, and they know that profit and growth will come from that.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Josh Rovner: Well, there’s a lot of great stuff coming out of the digital marketing world dealing with Artificial Intelligence and other technological innovations that help you target the right customers at the right times to increase conversion. I won’t go deep there because it’s not my specialty. But it’s definitely critical to understand and implement that in the right way.
Otherwise, in general, I think the best strategy is to fundamentally understand who your customers are and what their needs and pains are. Then, create products and services that anticipate those needs, eliminate or minimize those pains, or “spark joy” in the face of one of those needs or pains.
At the end of the day, you have to genuinely solve a genuine issue for your customers, ideally in a way that they never thought of. It’s about anticipating their needs. If you do that, and your pricing is appropriate, people will buy.
Another good strategy is giving people some room to try things out without a commitment. You see this all the time in consumer products and retail. It’s all about reducing the customer’s risk if things go wrong.
As a consumer, you feel much more safe buying something if you know you can try it out first. Money-back guarantees or “no questions asked” returns are another form of this strategy that works well.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Josh Rovner: Absolutely. Like I just said, keep the focus on your customers, the people who buy and/or use your products and services. Make sure you always do things that spark joy or eliminate pain in their lives.
Be very specific about who your customers are. There’s a great saying that comes from the marketing world, which is: “the riches are in the niches”. What it means is that it’s better to have 1000 true believers than 10,000 half-followers.
Also, the better you design your products or services for a niche market, often the more it will appeal to a broader consumer base — or, at least you will have a great starting point that you may only need to minimally tweak to reach a broader audience.
Once you know who your customers are and what you want to sell them, then use marketing to ensure they know about you and can find you.
Then, once you get them in the proverbial door, you have to make sure you maintain consistency. Consistency doesn’t necessarily mean everything is exactly the same every time, although sometimes that is what’s necessary, depending on the company. But really consistency usually means consistency of experience.
For example, I’ll never forget that when I interned at the luxury hotel I mentioned earlier, the leader of the hotel actually told new hires that he wanted our hotel to be just like McDonald’s — albeit at a higher level. I couldn’t believe he said that since this was such a fancy place. But his point was that every time you go to McDonald’s, you know exactly what you’re going to get, no matter where you are. Trusted, beloved brands do that.
I think the last piece of creating a great trusted brand is how you handle problem customers. Every business is going to make mistakes and have problems. So it’s best to anticipate those as much as possible and make sure that you are easy to do business with when problems arise.
Problems happen all the time, but great recovery from a company is rare. If you handle problems well, you will actually turn your problem customers into brand evangelists.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
Josh Rovner: You’re very welcome! I really enjoyed speaking with you!