Episode #40 - How Delegation Will Make or Break Your Business - Teacher Zone

Episode #40 – How Delegation Will Make or Break Your Business

What would happen to your business if you were run over by a bus? Well, that’s basically what happened to our guest, Robby Schechter. And he was so eager to talk about it, that he wanted to do the interview while still in the hospital recovering! No joke…

In this episode of the Teacher Zone with Chris and Tyler they meet with Robby Schechter of Musical Life Denver and discuss Delegation. Don’t be like Robby and wait until you find yourself in the hospital and are forced to delegate!

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0:00:04 S1: Welcome to the next episode of the Teacher Zone with Chris and Tyler. Chris Bates, how are you? Can you please introduce our guest?

0:00:13 S2: I’m excellent, and I just wanna say we are so grateful to have Robby Schechter on from Musical Life Denver. And Robby, you aren’t at your office, you aren’t at your school, and you’re also not at home. Where are you? We’re so grateful, by the way, that you’re healthy and good. But you’re not in the normal place. You’re somewhere very different. Where are you right now?

0:00:39 S3: I am at a skilled nursing facility, AKA, a nursing home.

0:00:46 S1: Are you training to become a nurse? What are you doing there? How did you get there?

0:00:52 S3: I am convalescing in room 127, waiting for my bones to heal for another three weeks, so I can start acute inpatient rehab, and heal from a motorcycle accident that happened on the 30th of April.

0:01:09 S2: So if you’re watching this on YouTube, Robby, hold up your arms right now.

0:01:13 S1: Yeah, in all seriousness, we…

0:01:14 S2: Oh my gosh.

0:01:15 S1: We knew all about this, and we are so grateful that he’s even here on planet earth right now. So we’ve all been through scary stuff, but Robby’s got some other things that happened that he’s gonna talk about today. And Chris, I want you to start all this. This is pretty cool.

0:01:33 S2: Just to segue, so today’s topic is not about convalescent homes.

0:01:38 S1: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, and how to start a convalescent home, how to grow it. No, no, this has nothing to do with that.

0:01:45 S2: I actually know some about that, so maybe we can do that for those that care at another time.

0:01:51 S1: Yeah, tell us if that’s what you want. We’re here to please.

0:01:55 S2: So it’s actually a great investment. In fact, in Denver, there’s quite a few of them, which is where you’re at. But the reason we wanted to get together so quickly is that Tyler and I both talked to Robby after this happened, and it’s a very scary moment in life. But Robby, you had kind of an epiphany, which really made us go, “Oh my gosh, let’s jump on a podcast,” and it was about delegation. So today’s topic is gonna be about delegating. And Robby, go ahead and take the floor for a bit and tell us what happened. And tell us why this was important to your delegation. Tyler, what’s up?

0:02:34 S1: This is all I’ve gotta say first, we gotta open with how Chris and I even found out about this. So I am loading… This is… When was this, Robby? What day was this? Two weeks ago?

0:02:46 S3: Yeah, the accident was the 30th. I reached out probably the first week of May.

0:02:51 S1: Okay, so first week of May, I am, for the first time, putting a livestock trailer onto my truck and loading horses to go help work cows, and move cows with horses. It was a big day for the Marolf family. We’ve never done anything like it. And I get a call, and I’m like, “Robby, what’s up, man? It’s Sunday.” [chuckle] It’s the first thing I said. “Is this an emergency?” In my head, was like, “It has to be. He didn’t forget what day it was.” And he said, “Tyler, I have just been in a… I just broke both arms and my collar bone in a motorcycle accident. And my music school, Musical Life Denver’s big concert, first one since the pandemic happened, is going down in like four days.” And I was like… And I’m literally… There’s livestock attached to stuff, and I’m like… And this is Chris, “This is where we’ll do a podcast on partnerships one day.” Because… Thank God you’re my partner because I literally had to send him to Chris. So then you called Chris, I’m guessing, right after that. Is that how it went down?

0:04:02 S3: Within a day or two, we connected.

0:04:05 S1: Okay, got it. So I just want everybody in the audience to know that that was the initial phase into reality for our side of it. But little to be known by us, Robby had already been in the thick of it. So Robby, back to what Chris said, start to explain what went down.

0:04:25 S3: Alright, well, I guess I’ll try to make it quick. I’ll start with the accident, and then what I had to do after that. So April 30th, riding my motorcycle in the mountain canyons, like I always do to relax, sunny day, and I coming around a curve, and I’m wearing all my gear, and there’s this car doing an illegal U-turn in the middle of a curve. So it was a blind spot, and there was no shoulders on the road. It was a construction zone. And so I see this obstacle appear, and I’m like, “Okay, can I evade? No. No shoulders. I can go into the canyon wall, a thousand-foot high sheer rock wall, I can go off a cliff, or I can hit my breaks and basically run into the car.” And so that took me a minute or two to make, or a second or two. It felt like an eternity.

0:05:11 S3: So I apply my brakes. I open my eyes and I’m lying on the ground, and I’m like, “Was that a dream?” I’m like, “No.” And instantly, someone’s helping me. And very quickly, it’s like, “That happened. I’m now on the ground. I don’t know where I am. I must have hit the car.” I found out later on, I hit the car and flew 8 feet in front of the car. I have no memory of the impact. So the paramedics thankfully were there within five minutes. I was in shock. By the time I got in the paramedics, the pain kicked in. They gave me drugs. They got me back to the hospital. And then, So it was… Basically, I wrecked my arms, my shoulders, my wrist, everything. My arms are titanium scaffolding. They did an operation that night, let me rest. And it wasn’t my collar bone, it was actually my pelvis. So front and back of the pelvis was broken, and other injuries I’m not gonna mention on the podcast.

0:06:06 S2: So you couldn’t stand.

0:06:07 S1: That’s worse… That is 100,000 times worse than…

0:06:11 S3: Right, that was the one where they were worried about bleeding, so then I had a second surgery for that. So this process of surgery, rest, surgery, rest. About four or five days in, I was totally… I’m just in a bed. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything, eat, drink, go to the bathroom. I didn’t eat for like five or six days, just sipping water.

0:06:32 S1: My mom came out. I was pretty… I was helpless. Well, so it was like one week away, and so I call… I don’t know what I’m gonna do. The show must go on, so I call you guys…

0:06:44 S2: Okay, so for a lot of you out there, with whatever type of lesson business you have, you have a big showcase, a performance, in this case, a concert. And so you’ve planned for it, everybody’s excited. But this is a really tragic life moment. And again, I wanna reiterate, Robby, both Tyler and I, as we told you before this, we’re so grateful you’re okay, man, I mean, as far as, at least your brain, and yourself, and that you’re here with us.

0:07:17 S3: Well, it’s also very impressive that you had tools in your tool belt. And through the thick of it, you were like, “Okay, I need to solve this.” And some people, they don’t have tools, and they’re done. They’re sitting there, they have no help or they’re finding the help for the first time ever. Whatever that means.

0:07:34 S2: So out of curiosity, did you consider canceling the show?

0:07:39 S1: No, never crossed my mind. The show must go on. I don’t have a family. I’m 31. I don’t have a family. I’m lucky as all hell. My mom came, flew from St. Louis, to be there with me, to help with the medical side. And so I was able… My only problem was the concert. Another thing is, I’ve been with TeacherZone, what, three years now? So we have… All the office stuff is really streamlined. So it’s just a matter of time doing it. We have a checklist for our teachers to do to do things on TeacherZone, and we have a couple other spreadsheets. So I was already on the tools. We already had the Zoom, TeacherZone, Trello, ActiveCampaign. I was already, at that point, teachers as employees, payroll company. So if I didn’t have all that in line, I would have canceled. But since business was gonna run as usual… Yeah, I got in the accident and 100 payments were automatically done the next day, and I didn’t have to worry about a damn thing since they’re on auto-pay.

0:08:42 S2: It’s funny because the biggest part with delegation is we think we need to keep inflating ourselves. It’s like, “Oh, I’ll just keep taking on every possible thing.” And what you’re actually doing is minimizing your impact, and you’re making it harder on staff, and you’re making it harder on the students, and you’re taking… You’re actually starting to take away from folks. The longer you wait to have systems, the longer you wait to delegate. So the fact that you already did the work ’cause it’s not easy. Let’s not pretend like getting systems and automations in your business is simple. It takes a desire to say, “You know what? Enough’s enough. I need to have systems and I’m gonna go through the short-term pain to implement systems, so that I can enjoy the long-term benefit of things like not having to be there. So continue on.

0:09:32 S3: Right. I don’t know if he can enjoy this one.

0:09:36 S2: No, you won’t. In fact…

0:09:37 S3: But it’s nice to know.


0:09:38 S2: The biker in you still haven’t.

0:09:39 S3: There’s more enjoyable versions of this, Robby, I’m just gonna say, without catastrophic accidents and internal bleeding. So hopefully, your next venture into life is not as tragic and down in Costa Rica where you like to be in the sun and have fun.

0:09:57 S2: Well, and you said something that made us really wanna do this podcast. And you said the last piece to your automation systems was starting to delegate this aspect of the business. And you were hesitant because you love doing it, and you’ve always been so involved, and it’s how you got started in the business. So naturally, it’s the last thing we wanna give up. Because you love doing it, number one. But number two, also, I suspect some of our identity is tied up in what we love and what we love about our business. And so it’s really hard to give that up. It feels like you’re giving yourself up. So you said to me on our call, “Chris, it took a damn accident for me to delegate.” And I’m like, “Wow!” That is so heavy because that is such an insane metaphor for all of us, that I still struggle to this day, I’ve been preaching delegation for 15 plus years. I still struggle every day with it. So Robby, take the floor, brother.

0:10:56 S1: Yeah, well, a couple of points there… Let me keep going on the timeline, then I’ll get to the funny…

0:11:04 S2: Cool. Sure. Go for it.

0:11:05 S1: The blessing in disguise moment. So yeah, show’s coming up So I call… So first off, there was a TeacherZone podcast, about two years ago, I was listening to. And I remember where I was. I was on a flight ’cause I listened to it twice in a row. And that’s where you talked about systems and delegating. And Tyler goes into the story about, “Oh man, I’m laying in bed the first concert that I wasn’t doing, and the staff packed up the U-Haul, and I’m just anxiety-ridden in bed, just didn’t know what to do with myself, and the show was gonna go on, and it ended up being the best show ever.” Well, so that was me now. So we were fives day out. And I used to doing it at all. I am…

0:11:42 S3: Hey, hey, I’m still insulted that it was the best show ever, and the first one I wasn’t at. So anyway… No, I’m just kidding. I’m absolutely flattered.

0:11:50 S1: No you’re not. It was the happiest moment in your life. Okay, so anyway, same with me. So I have to now… Now, I have a drum teacher who’s been doing more and more office work. And after this whole thing, we know he’s gonna be my general manager and we’re gonna really… We’ll get there. So I’m having meetings with the staff. We have to do this. So now, I’m forced to plan on paper, with documents and folders in grueling detail, everything that’s gonna happen, from the gear, to the day of, who’s gonna MC, notes about specific students. All the things that I just did, I’ve been doing for five years that I shouldn’t have been, and it was stupid and I winged it.

0:12:27 S3: Was it all in your head and you had to finally dump it into Trello or Google Docs or whatever?

0:12:35 S1: Yeah, and I did some Google Sheets, some operations manual-type stuff. So we had a folder for the concert on Google Drives. Here’s our concert, here’s the packing list, here’s the tech list, here’s my guitar teacher who needs to go to my house to pick up the Mac mini that I bought, so we could multi-track, and get my Mac mini set up with a monitor, and he’s responsible for making sure this runs. And this teacher needs to liaison, this one needs to do merch, and basically every facet I had to plan out. And then

0:13:05 S1: so timeline… Just everything. Responsibilities, timeline, procedures, tech procedures, MC notes, everything you could imagine. So this is all done. So the show’s Friday. And we sent out a message to the whole school, like, “Hey, I’m in the hospital, the show will go on. We’re all here for each other,” yada yada.

0:13:25 S1: And so here comes Friday and we’re gonna have a debriefing. I give my staff and all the volunteers two hours to pack up. Thirty minutes into their two-hour allotted time, they say, “Robby, we’re done. We’re just hanging at the studio.” I said, “Alright, here’s my credit card. Order a pizza and just hang.” And I say, “Alright, guys, here’s my debriefing.” And I sit, and I go, “I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing else to say. What am I gonna do? Reiterate what I’ve already said? Everyone knows what they need to do. Everyone’s got their stuff printed out. Nick, you’ve got this. Kelvin, you’ve got this.” And I was just kinda, I was like, “I don’t know what to say, but thank you. I’m grateful. I’m emotional. I’m stunned.” Sorry, not a good time, guys. Come back. “I’m totally stunned,” blah, blah, blah, “and I just, I’m grateful. I love you guys. You guys got this. And I’ll tell you what? I am so exhausted from working 10, 12-hour days in a hospital. My phone’s available for an emergency, but try to not call. Try to do everything yourselves. If a student texts, I’m not gonna respond. I’m gonna turn off my phone.” And I went to sleep.

0:14:27 S2: Was that hard for you to say that?

0:14:30 S2: No, it wasn’t because after the planning and seeing how amazing people were and how to support that, I had done it. And really, I was so tired. My body said, “Screw this.” So it was like 2:00 PM, I fielded one more call. I fell asleep. I woke up at 9:30 PM. So I slept straight from 2:00 to 9:30, and the show’s gonna end at 10:00.


0:14:53 S2: Wait, you were asleep?

0:14:55 S3: So that’s delegation.

0:14:56 S2: You were asleep during the show, except for the last 30 minutes?

0:15:01 S1: Yeah, because my body had done everything. And plus, obviously, I’m on painkillers and stuff. And so there’s no anxiety, there’s nothing, there’s no feelings. And my body was just like, “Alright, dude, you did everything. You knocked it out.” Of course, I’m emotional. I called my mom, I’m crying. I’m like, “I don’t know how to feel. I’m proud. I finally dotted my T’s and crossed my I’s. I didn’t do the bare minimum. I’m used to skating by and improvising ’cause I’m a musician. How do I allow myself to be proud and not feel like… I’m so used to feeling like I could have done better.” It was the weirdest feeling. Plus, I’ve been working with these people personally since February. This is the first show we’ve done since… August, we did a show. Our show in December got canceled. That was like a hero story. Our neighbors came and had the right square footage. We made videos in a decor shop. It’s been the year of curve balls. And I wanna be there.

0:16:00 S3: And if you’re listening to this later on, ’cause I don’t know when someone’s listening to this, we just went through COVID, so you’ll remember that year. [chuckle]

0:16:08 S2: Right. Right. Right. So that’s the year he’s talking about, and this is May 2021 right now. So all of this timeline is very colorful, to say the least. Robby, I gotta chime in really quick, and then I want you to finish up. I am so proud of you. Because Chris came in when we partnered up, and my wife is going through some heavy brain surgery stuff that flipped our lives upside-down when my daughter was two weeks old, and it was the same day that that was the day I quit teaching. That was year five. That was the thing, where I had my last 11 students or something, and that was the end. Never taught since. It was like, even I was holding on to the last second and hadn’t done it until some catastrophe happened. And thank God, Chris was there and whatever.

0:17:00 S2: So first of all, I wanna say I relate to that. Number two, you practiced extreme ownership. I’m getting choked up because what you did to trust your fire teams, your team, because you identified that they were amazing, and the only reason they weren’t all the way amazing is ’cause you were standing in your own way and siloing with all the freaking nuclear codes and everything by yourself. No one had any access to the life strings of the business. You had them all in a box, and then one day, you just gave them the box. Now, you had to write a bunch of stuff down [laughter] and put it together. But, dude, kudos. That process is insane, unbelievable.

0:17:56 S3: I agree. Bravo. It’s blowing us away that not only did you do it, but you did like A plus, knock it out of the park, home run. Man, that’s amazing. And the fact that you slept is actually very telling, like you said, ’cause it shows that you were like, “Ha.” You got it all off, and now your shoulders, it was like that weight was lifted off your shoulders, and your body probably had a lot of tension because you’d been stressed from the accident about what you had to take care of. So I would imagine that was all very related, and I wanna say, I’ve been saying for years that humans, we all fight change, and we only change in trauma.

0:18:41 S2: Yeah.

0:18:41 S3: But I didn’t mean getting in a horrible accident.


0:18:46 S3: But sometimes, like you said, with Melissa, Tyler, or with this accident, or sometimes it’s a different kind of life trauma or change in your life. Either way, we’re so glad that you did it, but we also want everybody to use this as a metaphor, because you can push yourself to delegate. You can push yourself to get out of your own way and not require something this traumatic. You can have that…

0:19:13 S1: Chris, perfect

0:19:15 S1: point.

0:19:15 S2: I know.

0:19:15 S1: Just pretend. Just pretend you got in an accident. Call your staff be like, “Bro, I’m in an accident. No, don’t come visit me. It’s Covid, can’t come in.” And then go through everything and then, “Surprise I wasn’t in an accident but you guys did great.” Now, that’s probably not a good idea but…

0:19:30 S3: So what would you… That’s like… That’s a good…

0:19:32 S1: It’s that there’s no difference in doing what Robby did without a motorcycle accident. If that’s what you really want and see Robby didn’t know that that’s what he wanted yet. Did you? Robby describe that. Go back a little bit. Where was your head? Did you want the freedom of this delegation? And you don’t even know what this means yet ’cause you’re still in a home right now waiting to get back on your feet. So when you’re back on your feet and now you can choose whether you’re gonna teach again or not or build the business in a different direction is this what you wanted to do eventually and you got here faster or did you not wanna be here yet?

0:20:14 S2: No, I’ve wanted to be here since I heard your podcast two years ago and I’m like, “Oh wait, systems. That’s a thing. Writing things down, checklist.” But I’m doing it all on my own. I don’t have Chris who’s got all this experience with business and delegation. I just got a couple podcasts Danny Thompson, Dave Simon, a couple of the podcasts that folks are aware of and I tried multiple times. I tried hiring this girl into [0:20:41] ____, and she wasn’t the right fit and I was like, “Gosh, that was tough.” And then I hired another person who I thought was gonna be great and then Covid hit and that ruined that. So I’ve had about called my experiments with delegation. I had two that kind of were not traumatic but was like, “Screw this, it’s just gonna be easier if I… “

0:21:01 S1: Yeah, it wasn’t like a home run where you’re just like, “Oh great.” It wasn’t instant, this was a process.

0:21:07 S2: No, it’s trying. “Okay, you’re not the right fit.” Trying, “You could’ve been the right fit, COVID happened, everything changed, I don’t know what’s going on, now I gotta stay lean. My brother’s my accountant, he’s a hard work, he works 18-hour days like, “Just do it all yourself bro, just do it all yourself. Just teach more. Make money.” And I’m like, “Well, you’re not like, yeah, okay so I’ll try to stay lean. I don’t wanna be lazy but it was that balance of it was getting in my way but yeah.” So I’d tried. This has been something I deep down wanted and how to get out of coaching the bands. I got out of teaching privately a year and a half ago. I said no more private students. But I had this idea in my head that I have to coach. People love how I coach and no one can do it the way I can and I’ve tried. I tried to delegate that.

0:21:53 S2: I’ve tried to have other people do that and I didn’t know how to train and it’s the Extreme Ownership. I’d bring them in, I’d give them a week of training and then I just like, “Ugh, they suck,” and I end up taking it back over and they’re good people and it’s just a matter of mindset and experience and learning. I need to change my mindset. I can’t look at my staff as problems I have to be there for them and get excited. Well, I asked Chris, I said, “How do you say excited about challenges?” But now my whole CPU in my brain goes into like, “How can I help you as a teacher?” I save my positivity for supporting teachers now and I can tell now when I talk to a business owner within two seconds if they’re a business owner or they just work for themselves because if you go, “Ugh, employees.” I’m like, “I don’t need that energy.” I’m like, “Yay, employees, ugh, customers.” I’m like, “Yeah, cu… ” Obviously, I get mad at petty things and I have a bad attitude sometimes but then I don’t have that around the staff and it’s all… Took me three years to find good staff. Three fucking years to finally find…

0:22:58 S1: I don’t know if you dealt with this but I know I struggle with the word “leader” and only in the last several years and don’t kid yourself even though I have some experience in the past it sat on Tyler and I everyday. I’m so grateful for Tyler kicking me in the butt and keeping me on it and we all need each other. And the one thing though that I struggle with is that word because what does leader mean? It actually means to lead, it actually means to provide the leadership that it takes. It doesn’t mean to do and that transition from doing to actually leading is a big difference because basically you can go from being a super size individual where who you’re like, “I’m super man and I do 500 things.” Like you said was it your brother or brother-in-law? The accountant?

0:23:44 S2: Yeah, my brother.

0:23:45 S3: Yeah, that’s the old kind of stoic mentality of like, “I don’t just work… I work 27 hours a day.” It’s like, “Really? Why is that something to brag about?” And so the modern thing really in leading is that we’re… If we’re not leading. then we’re almost like stealing the opportunity away from our staff to actually do what they’re great at and do their superpowers and actually be appreciated for their special qualities and their abilities. It’s like we’re trying to steal a spotlight in every task and I know we don’t see it that way we think we’re just trying to help but ultimately, I think that’s what it’s doing. Yeah Ty.

0:24:23 S1: Chris, you’re exactly right and then on the flip side sometimes we’re so in the thick of it sometimes you just gotta back up and go, “Whoa.” Every great entity that’s ever been has had leadership. Anybody that’s ever gone from rubble to Amazon or Elon or whatever, someone had to get out and lead and they couldn’t. At some point I could imagine them all. I think Chris you showed me an old picture of Bezos in his office in Amazon like a million years ago and it looked like ours, just crap everywhere and a tiny room. Well, we all are there but sometimes you gotta fly 1000 feet up and go, “Okay, so how did those big dogs happen?” For instance, Phoenix Project, that book we read, Chris, it was a great story about bottlenecks and unplanned work and I just needed to see the hustle and bustle of a big Fortune 500 company failing. You know what I mean? When there’s not supposed to be failing and it took me a second and then it goes, “Okay, so wait a second, if they had the same problems at a Fortune 500 company with 38,000 employees that my 11 employees had no different when the chaos was at Los Rios rock school or Teacher Zone or whatever, there is no difference.” The bottlenecks, the unplanned work, it’s all the same except leadership. Has to happen.

0:25:54 S1: Yeah, and there’s actually something that they found out when it comes to potting up and it’s really interesting but you know what’s it called the…

0:26:05 S1: The mathematical principle, Robby, with the shell, like the conch shell. It’s the…

0:26:09 S2: Oh, the Fibonacci sequence?

0:26:15 S1: Fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence, oddly enough, has been shown to be the right number for kinda group pods. And once you get over a certain number, so what it is, is like there’s five, and then… Because two plus three is five, and then four plus three is seven, and then… So seven is a really good number, for instance. And then, what comes after that? It would be five plus four, so nine. And then it would be six plus five, so 11. So in other words, like you said, Tyler, 11, nine, seven. It’s actually been proven that in our staff, so even if you have 30,000 employees, you should still have teams that are smaller. So leadership, at a super high level I imagine, I don’t have any idea what business goes through those guys, but they’re basically leading a country or a small, small country. [chuckle]

0:27:10 S2: But they’re just delegating, Chris. They’re doing the exact same thing, except they’ve got three pods of CEOs or four, seven pods of CEOs.

0:27:19 S1: Exactly, and then those leadership pods then have pods underneath them, and then they have… So it’s like once you start the delega… Go ahead.

0:27:23 S2: Can I interject? I wanted to tell you this, ’cause you talk about leader. I never thought of myself as a leader. I bought this book last winter called “How to Be a Great Boss” by Gino Wickman, who’s the person who has a little traction that I’ve heard a great… I have it on my desk.

0:27:39 S1: Yes, I’m reading that now.

0:27:40 S2: Yeah. So how to be a great boss, right? And there’s a test you take halfway through on how to be a great boss, and I remember being with my mother, ’cause I visit her in Saint Louis. I’m taking this. I said, “Mom, apparently, I am not even a… I am the worst boss. I scored like a zero on this test/” I’m like, “Should I quit? Should I quit?” And I had a new employee thank me for being… He was like, “There’s another way of saying it, a great boss.” And that was like the biggest compliment. ‘Cause I have a new employees for… I have lots of employees now with this [0:28:13] ____. And that’s just a crazy thing. I literally got a book, “How to Be a Good Boss” and…

0:28:20 S1: So what were the elements in that book that you, at that time, what made you a bad boss? What are some of the things…

0:28:28 S2: It was like 27 metrics, and I failed every metric.


0:28:29 S2: It was like… I [0:28:30] ____ think about a metric like ability to delegate, ability to look at the good in people, ability to coach, ability to manage the work you delegate, seeing solutions to problems like… I was honest with myself, and it was like, “If you’re unsure… It’s either a one or a zero, and if you’re unsure, it’s a zero.” So I used to like… I have none of these qualities. I’m just not…


0:28:55 S2: And my mom was like, be like, “We’re gonna stop… I stop the book halfway through, I’m like, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m gonna quit my business if I keep reading this book.” So…

0:29:02 S1: Yeah. Well, the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

0:29:06 S2: Right.

0:29:07 S1: It’s funny, ’cause I… Guys, I, years ago… So there’s two types, Tyler and I learned learned recently in a coaching group we’re in, we learned recently about the term “transactional leader” versus “transformational leader.” And a transactional is your typical old school boss that we all have had, and it’s that like, “Do this and do it like this, and then I’ll check up and make sure you’re doing it. And it’s like, you’re just… Everything is like, I’m telling you, I’m telling you.” It’s a transaction, it’s like… Transactional leadership is basically you still in charge. You’re still… You’ve delegated kinda…

0:29:39 S2: Right, and your employee, they’re there waiting for that to happen. So it’s very reaction-based…

0:29:47 S1: Shout to delegation, because it still requires you to sort of… The staff member doesn’t feel like they have the freedom to truly act, they’re waiting for your approval before they finish that project. And so transformational leadership. in the other hand is about truly empowering our teams to be able to feel and own, like you say, Tyler, with Jocko’s book, “Extreme Ownership,” to be able to have extreme ownership in their work. Also, you enjoy it more when you own it. So we’re taking that away when we’re not transformation leaders. And so I would… This is probably 15 years ago or 12 years ago, something. I’m in a meeting with 10 other business owners, and I’ll never forget the look on everyone’s face, ’cause I was like… I think I had like 40 on staff at the time, and I’m like, “I don’t believe in transformational.” And they’re like, “What?” And I’m like, “You’re either born with it or you don’t. I hire people that are already awesome. I’m not training anybody.” And they were like… They all looked at me like I was crazy.

0:30:45 S1: And now, I’m embarrassed of myself 12 years ago that I actually thought that all of us, including myself, don’t constantly need assistants, leveling up, support. All of us need it. And as things change, we need new training, and we need new assistants, and we need new systems. So what this delegation thing isn’t… Robby’s now created a system, and he can go lay on a beach in Aruba. Now, you get to truly be a leader, which means, next year, maybe we’re finding the systems further.

0:31:18 S3: Right.

0:31:20 S1: Yeah, what’s your next step Robbie? What’s your… Now that this is happening, have your goals changed? Has your perception changed?

0:31:28 S2: Yeah, they’ve gotten real clear now, obviously. And I really hope anyone listening, I used to think to myself, “The only thing that’s gonna get me to change is trauma because I’m so comfortable.” And I really hope that’s not what it takes for you. I liked your idea, Tyler, of just lying and pretending like you got in an accident, and then you’re like, you have to act. But in the end of the day, I’ve… Through all this, right now, we have a folder that’s like a concert folder. Next concert that happens, guess what we’re doing? Calvin’s running that folder and everyone else is gonna do it, I’m not gonna be there.

0:32:07 S1: I’m.

0:32:08 S2: I think there’s a bit of transactional leadership when you’re training at the beginning, before you just… ‘Cause I have teachers coming in who are experienced coaches, and I’m trying to like… I run my programs. I’ve stolen everything, by the way guys, from Los Rios. So I run my band program very similar, I have a couple of tweaks, and we just had our first big meeting last night, I ran it from Zoom, but…

0:32:30 S1: Awesome. Awesome. Congrats.

0:32:34 S2: Yeah, thanks. I have teachers who have been teaching and I have to de-program them. I’m like, “Guys, this is not five 40 year olds in a room, where you spend 45 minutes talking about a cool thing Les Paul did in 1968.” We have 10 minutes per song, and they’re working on the enrichment with their teachers. They’ve gotta be better musicians, this is why we have great shows. Oh, and let me finish the show thing, ’cause we got tangented, ’cause… So yeah, if you don’t mind.

0:32:57 S1: Go ahead and…

0:32:58 S3: Go back.

0:33:00 S2: I just, so people know, I cried with all these emotions. I’m gonna miss him, I’m proud of myself, I don’t know what it feels like to be proud of myself. But after that long cry to my mother, talk to her all the time, I slept, woke up, people are… I got calls, face times, and people were like, “This was the best show ever.” 250 people showed up. We grossed $2000 from the venue. We had expenses, but we still made money off it, and of course I had to record live… Not live, but I recorded video messages of me in the hospital, ’cause I am a narcissist at some level [laughter] But people liked it, ’cause they got the…

0:33:37 S1: Wait, wait. Did they play it on like a screen at the venue?

0:33:41 S3: With audio?

0:33:42 S2: Oh, yeah. I took these videos one take, I had them shower me and comb my hair. “Hey guys, It’s Robbie. I’m here from the hospital, and I just wanna thank everyone, thank Herman’s for staying in business”, and it was just a little heartfelt all blemishes message. And I’m sure some people thought it was redundant, but most people know me, and I think that it added a little bit of authenticity, but… Yeah, but I woke up at 9:30, by 10:00 I’m getting calls. This was the best thing ever. The bands were tighter than ever, and the sound was better, and we had 250 people. The most we ever had was 180. So by every metric, it was the best show, and I was so happy. I was like, this is the best compliment, because I don’t need to be there, and I was getting in the way. And this just proof of concept, and so…

0:34:35 S1: And you said something important, I think a lot of people will relate to, is that many of us in small businesses… I’m sorry, but if you’re a small business owner, and you’re listening to this, you’re obviously a genius [laughter] But I think small business owners are really energetic folks typically, and like you said, “You’re winging it.” So the fact that you’ve forced yourself to sit down, and write it down, so you weren’t just gonna delegate and say, “Hey, you got it, I’m off the clock”, you took the time to actually create the systems and the planning. How much, moving forward, do you think that you’ll implement that part too? Because I think that that probably contributed quite a bit to the success of the night.

0:35:21 S2: Well, yeah, that’s what I plan to. When I had the debriefing, when I couldn’t think of anything to say, I’m like, “Guys, and I’m trying not to micro-manage you, I know I do that.” And Calvin goes, “Robbie, you just literally told us to turn the gain to two, and the volume to 2.5, on one guitar pedal during a debriefing.” So I still clearly… So I wrote them stupidly detailed, [0:35:45] ____ systems, still managed to talk about tweaking one guitar pedal during the debrief. But point being is, I joke about it with them, I’m trying, but…

0:35:54 S1: You normally woulda ad-libbed. You normally would have just done it like that.

0:35:58 S2: Well, I would have done that. I would. have walked around with my headset. I had a headset. I’d MC, I’d tweak pedals, I’d talk to the sound guy, I’d slap customers on the back, I’d direct point, I just did it ’cause I’ve been doing it so long. But this is the way it’s gonna go in the future, ’cause I’d rather do that. It’s better, it worked better, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. And now we just take this, we change the dates, we adapt it. So we’re talking about… It took me hours, but now it’s gonna be two hours before the next show, we go through the documents and update them. I already know what people are doing what roles, and Calvin can help make sure that happens. Calvin’s the most amazing dude ever. He’s 26, he’s a drum instructor. He’s gonna be in my GM, and I love that guy.

0:36:41 S1: Real quick, for the people that are listening, when did you start musical life Denver? Let’s get the audience a little bit of a timeline. We’re not gonna go too far back, but just… What’s the start date of musical life Denver?

0:36:54 S2: 2016, I got a building and I stole a business model of, I’m gonna rent out space to other teachers and we’re all gonna do our own thing, ’cause I got my own students. But no teachers ever came. I… Interesting enough, it was through Facebook groups, that I found fans, then I found TeacherZone, and I was like, delegate. Here’s all these ideas I’ve never heard. Be a boss, hire people, get employees. That was the big target.

0:37:20 S1: So that was 2016, now we’re at 2021, and we already heard the story here. And you didn’t consider yourself a good boss or a leader, quote, unquote, that’s what you just said. You failed the boss test, with a 0%…

0:37:35 S2: Yeah, it couldn’t have been worse.

0:37:37 S2: Maybe with this new success, and I know I’m speaking rhetorically here, but do you think… And I’m not speaking to narcissism for you either, this is supposed to be inspiring. Do you think that you might have more to offer yourself and your community than you had before now? Do you think that there’s something bigger out there for you because of this recent transition? Do you think that maybe you weren’t doing your best work, while you were [0:38:12] ____?

0:38:13 S3: When I’m trying to do everything in three hours of admin and coaching, I told them I couldn’t be the best coach, I was slacking. Now we have… Coaches are just coaching. We have systems, we have weekly practice reports we’re gonna be doing, but the main thing is I can grow the school. That means all my teachers have more hours, they’re happier, all my teachers have more direction and free time, ’cause I’m not… Three hours… Six hours a day are gone. I can help the coaches, be there to support them. I can be there for the needs of people, and I could just make more sales calls, advertise more. I can plan more for the future. So the plan… You asked, “What’s the plan moving forward?” Well, it’s I have 24 months left on my lease. My plan’s to grow the school in the structure we have, max out this place, get a new spot.

0:39:03 S1: I don’t have put together, hopefully find some investors, buy a building in two years from now and be having 350 students running 800 a year revenue and being able to pay myself well, have my general manager and have a couple of assistants and eight teachers and everyone’s happy. I wanna raise my teacher pay, I wanna make sure I’m paying my teachers more than any other school in town. That’s important to me.

0:39:33 S2: What it sounds like, is it’s really opened your vision and you reminded me of a metaphor that a success coach gave me years ago about… ‘Cause I was struggling with planning and I was struggling with systems and I was like, Oh, I just… I like the freedom of being creative, I like doing stuff on the fly, man. I don’t really wanna do all these systems and stuff, and Clement Pepe, Hey, Clement, he’s a great success coach, but he goes, Chris, let me explain something. He goes, you’re on the tallest building in Chicago. It’s a really windy day, and there’s no guard rails on the top of the building. You’re on the roof, and it’s really windy. What are you gonna do? You’re gonna lay down probably in the center of the roof. And so your whole perspective is from that position laying on the roof because you’re scared and you don’t wanna get blown off the roof. That’s not having systems.

0:40:28 S2: He’s like, now imagine that you plan for the winds and you plan to be on the roof and you actually built a really thick plexi. That’s like a four and a half foot high plexi around the entire perimeter of the roof. He’s like, now you can actually walk the roof, you can get up on the plexi, you can hang over, and so your entire vision, everything you see is different and also you’re relaxed. Whereas before you were freaked out, and so I thought that was a really cool way of thinking about the fact of you taking the time to have the systems. That now your vision, it sounds like, is really opening up and you’re like, Oh my gosh, I’m actually now starting to have this possibility of super growth, of affecting even more lives, of going deeper with my staff, of imagine this paying them more because we’re having more success. That’s amazing to me. So, I’m so proud of you for pushing yourself through this moment and having that. So what advice would you give yourself if you go back even six months?

0:41:36 S2: Okay. Hard to say. I was gonna say something about the motorcycle, but I was…


0:41:44 S?: Freak accident. I wasn’t going fast. I was wearing a helmet. I did everything. I took… I would still ride my motorcycle, shit happens sometimes like…

0:41:57 S1: You gotta get back on the horse. You cannot finish your life…

0:42:00 S1: [0:42:00] ____. It’s not like people into the World Trade Center to change the world like, Oh, maybe I would have… Whatever, I can’t do anything about that. I would have told myself that life’s gonna happen. And the sooner I do the systems, and maybe if I had put off a couple of sales calls or I had put off a couple things and have maybe kind of a slack week in the office, where even if I pissed off a couple customers and teachers for one week to sit down with somebody else, that’s huge. Finding someone whether they’re employee, I have an accountability person I pay who’s like a per day partner. I have coaches, but find someone who will sit down with you. You make a meeting and you say, today we’re going to write down everything I do in a band class. And just force yourself, ’cause I felt I had no time, I have to get these Trello cards done, we have to onboard, I have to hit this prowess… Oops, so fucking what? What if I wanna pissed off a couple of parents and a couple of teachers for one or two weeks? Slightly to be able to get the stuff done ahead of time.

0:43:08 S1: Then if the crash happened, I wouldn’t have had to do this. I could have totally just spent my time recovering, or I could have spent my time… I was like 30 calls behind. So calling people, how many people I called, and then call another school, how many more students could I have had? If I had been able to feel that, so just your brain’s gonna tell you I have to. And you tell your brain, screw off, what’s the worst? I’m gonna piss some people off. I’m gonna slack for one week, but I’m not gonna slack doing nothing. I’m gonna slack on the fires of the day, and I’ll be able to go back and talk to everyone later and apologize and it will be fine ’cause I’m a good person. And they’re good people.

0:43:52 S2: So worst case, worst case is you got a couple of weeks down time, your business might dip a little, but the…

0:44:00 S1: Yeah, I might lose a couple…

0:44:00 S2: The reaction… The result is increased enhancement to everything including business growth.

0:44:07 S1: ‘Cause I’ve had these on my agenda for two years now, scale up, get systems. I don’t have to do everything, delegate. But I, for two years straight, was rationalized. And it’s not like I was sweeping the halls. I wasn’t doing nothing. But I rationalized, I gotta do this. I tried getting a… I tried getting an administrator, it didn’t work. I gotta stay lean. I got time in the day, I can do these cards. Why lose an extra couple of hundred a month when [0:44:36] ____ so thin.

0:44:36 S2: Well, in the lesson business, the biggest challenge that we all face, I believe, is the operational challenge. It’s like, we all wanna be really busy and change lives. But as soon as that starts happening, now you’ve got all these people. And now you’ve got all these circumstances and scheduling and drama and all these things going on that takes your attention. Let’s not pretend like it’s just a simple thing. I mean, gosh, you built it a wonderful school before the accident, this just helped you level up and wake up to the reality of [0:45:07] ____ calls it sharpening the saw. It’s like, okay, you sharpen the saw before you go to cut. You don’t to build the boat right before the flood, you’re working on it and making it better and testing it and making sure it’s buoyant and all this kind of stuff. It can’t happen without planning, it can’t happen without delegation. It’s so important that we all get out of our own way and spend time sharpening our saw. Robbie, I gotta ask you. How are you feeling? Are you still feeling okay to go a couple more minutes? Are you getting tired? How are you feeling?

0:45:45 S1: No, I’m fine, man. I’m grateful to be talking to you guys and of course, it’s always fun being on a podcast, it feels cool.


0:45:58 S1: You know what? You are cool, man. And everybody listening to this, so this is good for everybody, everybody loves good stories, they love success, they love… I mean, every movie and show we ever watch, there’s that… If you’re watching a 10-show Season, Episode 7 is always the pits. It’s like, Oh no, this is depressing. They’ll never get out of this, and then they do. And so that part of this, even though it was intense for you, this is a life lesson story for many people, whoever listens to this, this is a win-win for everyone at your expense, and I think the moral of the story is, like Chris said, sharpen the saw before you have to test out your boat, build the boat. Don’t be afraid for change, like a lot of people… And we learn how to sort our customers because customers come to teacher zone and they’re not ready, and we shouldn’t be onboarding them ’cause their mindset’s not even freaking there, and then they’re three months later, they might not even wanna do it anymore, because we tried to make them fit, but they’re not ready because they don’t understand what it means yet.

0:47:10 S1: So there’s a lot of things we can do to really harness the energy of what your story is about, so the main thing I heard was open your mind, start sooner than later and get a mentor, get an accountability partner, get systems, sooner.

0:47:30 S2: Yes, schedule meetings with people and say, I’m gonna do this, and then show up, and then also put off to put on. That’s what I would tell myself. Tell yourself in your head, I’m putting off sales calls, I’m putting off getting back to this person, I’m putting off filling out this registration, it’s gonna be a day late and a dollar short, but not ’cause I’m lazy, ’cause I need to get these fucking… Yeah, again, had I had these going into this, I would have maybe 10 more students because something else would have been… I mean right now I’m thinking about…

0:48:03 S2: Yeah, no. It’s [0:48:03] ____ a threesome to being an entrepreneur, man, especially in lesson business. There’s always a fire. There’s always something. Have you guys heard of the Pomodoro? It’s basically the 20-minute timer, and the Pomodoro’s timers, I think that means tomato in italian, right, so it’s like an Italian timer, but it’s a 20-minute cooking timer, and the concept is, is that block 20 minutes because we can all focus for 20 minutes, hopefully, but it’s much easier to focus, let’s put it that way, for 20 minutes, than it is to say, “Oh, I’m gonna block three hours,” no, no, no, no, hold on. Start with 20 minutes, and then if you wanna go another 20 cool. So if you Google it, there’s all sorts of… It’s kind of a movement out there, the Pomodoro movement, and there’s the Pomodoro timers, and you can even just tell Siri or your timer on your phone to be a 20-minute deal, but I highly suggest if you’re listening to this and you’re struggling with time management, chunk it down. I think it was Henry Ford or someone, they asked him why they were so successful, and he’s like, Because I could focus for hours on end and all of my peers can’t focus for more than five minutes. That’s the one distinction that he had for his success, I think it was Ford…

0:49:21 S1: Yeah, shiny object syndrome is what Chris and I have started to be more diligent and not be so susceptible to is shiny new systems. Shiny new. Oh, look at that, look at this, look at that ’cause we’re trying to…

0:49:35 S2: Who’s done that? I’m gonna make a new system and you spend three hours working on it and you have a staff meeting and it doesn’t get implemented and you’re like, “Well, that never happened.” That’s why The Smartsheet sheets, this time, I had this big thought of like, “Am I gonna use Smartsheet like Los Rios?” And actually Chris, we like decide if it’s gonna be something you’re gonna follow through or not, and I said, “Not this time.” And we have another system, I think will work for us on a smaller scale, but it’s something we can do and it’s gonna be implemented, so to…

0:50:07 S1: Smart, man, that is so smart Robbie. Because the fact that you’re saying, “What can we own?” It’s so easy to pay lip service to it and be like, “Oh, we’re gonna do all these systems,” and then you don’t do anything about it, it’s not worth it. You’re better off having just a couple of systems and then over time…

0:50:25 S1: Credibility to Chris if…

0:50:26 S1: If you say a bunch of stuff and nothing ever happens, or staff here is you saying a bunch of stuff that never happens, that’s more…

0:50:34 S2: I’ve tri

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