Behind Every Great Visionary Entrepreneur Is a Great Operations Counterpart
Meet Host, Mary Grothe
Mary Grothe is a former #1 MidMarket B2B Sales Rep who after selling millions and breaking multiple records, formed House of Revenue™, a Denver-based firm of fractional Revenue Leaders who currently lead the marketing, sales, customer success, and RevOps departments for 10 companies nationwide. In the past year, they've helped multiple 2nd stage growth companies between $5M - $20M, on average, double their MRR within 10 months, resulting in an average ROI of 1,454% and an average annual revenue growth eclipsing $3.2 million.
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Mary Grothe: Hey everyone, this is Mary Grothe - Founder and CEO - and you're listening to the Revenue Radio™ podcast brought to you by House of Revenue™. Each week, we'll talk about common revenue challenges and how to get past them, share real-world experiences, and get a glimpse into my life as a CEO scaling my own business. If you're a struggling entrepreneur, or just an entrepreneur looking to be inspired, this podcast is for you. I'll give you honest, unfiltered, and practical insights into growing your business and getting past your revenue plateau.
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Mary Grothe: I planted a seed in last week's episode that I would have a guest. I think it may be nine months since I've had a guest. I'm terrible with time. Maybe it's even been a year since I had a guest. Today, I'm honored to have this guest, whom I've had the privilege of working with since February. We're in podcast fill, which means you might be listening to this five years from now. You have no context of time, but we've been working together for a handful of months with a small company based out of Michigan to give you that context.
I want to give you a little backstory. Many of you have been following my journey as a scaling CEO. You've recently heard me talk about how I stepped back from my day-to-day duties at House to Revenue™ CEO duties. Brad and Charlie are running the show, and they are tremendous. I have been sitting in an investor seat and a fractional CROs seat where I've been on the front lines again, working with businesses and helping them scale. I love being in this seat, working with great teams and great companies. It's been tremendous for my mental health and sanity.
I have to tell you the backstory; then we're going to welcome our guests, so bear with me here. You're all on pins and needles. Who is she? Okay, so in February had a unique opportunity at House of Revenue™ to kick off a client unexpectedly. We had identified a different team member to kick off this new House of Revenue™ client. We had some transition happening inside of our company. We talk about CRO Brad all the time. Brad and I looked at each other and said, "What do we do? We told them they were going to work with so and so, but that's so and isn't going to be here long term."
Brad and I loved each other, so we're going to Michigan. We had a fantastic time together. It had been months since we kicked off a client together, like months and months and months. It's been so long. Brad and I flew to Detroit to get a rental car. We spent two uninterrupted days together, a lot of Mary and Brad's time, and had so much fun. We met a company called Unleashed. You can find them at unleashed (dot) ceo.
This was a very intriguing opportunity for me when I first learned about Unleashed. They came into our inbound funnel. I met with the two co-founders. I immediately felt drawn and aligned with this company. I could not believe the business that they had built. It is brilliant.
When I was there on-site in February, meeting with their leadership team. Suddenly, my heart just was filleted, open to Holy smokes. On the surface, these people have a service. But behind it, they are legitimately not only changing the lives of visionary CEOs. But I will boldly go as far as to say saving the lives of visionary CEOs.
I am a proud visionary. I went from Chief Everything Officer in 2020 to the beginning of 2021. I was pulling my hair out, going nuts trying to manage a growing company. Charlie raised his hand. He was a VP of Marketing when he started and was so good in that role. Immediately saw an opportunity to build systems and infrastructure. He raised his hand and stepped into the position before I gave him a title or the pay to go with it. He created a process to help our company get out of that chaotic startup phase and grow into more of a mature small business. Charlie was so good.
My operations counterpart, Charlie, started changing my life as a CEO. In May of 2021, I worked with Charlie for just a couple of months in what we would call an integrator role. We were able to double the size of our company. We were able to double the size of House of Revenue™ because of Charlie. He unlocked all of that growth because we built infrastructure so that we could scale.
I got to sit in the visionary seat. The story becomes even more magical when we put Brad in as CRO. I had two right hands - one for the back end and one for the front end of the business. That truly allowed me to become unleashed, and why I'm sitting here. I'm so happy, fulfilled, and encouraged by how I'm living my life now.
I had an integrator raise his hand inside of the business. We got Charlie ramped through trial and error, no training, no support. It was a little bit clunky. Our guests can talk to that today about why that's important. We had some struggles. We had communication gaps. We didn't have a lot of support, so we had to navigate it. It was a little bit rough, but we figured it out.
Then, I'm suddenly unleashed with Brad, stepping into a different version of an integrator-type seed. I've been open about my mental health struggles in Q4. I am so thankful because I have two of them as an integrator. I get to sit in the visionary seat. I get to be fully unleashed. I could just spend my time doing what I love.
My heart again filleted when I was sitting with Unleashed with their leadership team in February in Michigan. There's a company that does this for CEOs. They find an integrator and train them. We're able to empower them to be highly successful in their role. Our guests can talk about that a little bit more in detail. So without further ado, I will introduce you to our guests. We have the Chief Operating Officer of Unleashed on the show today. Somebody who has become a dear friend that I have loved working with. Somebody so powerful in her role and as a human. I absolutely adore her. Sam Sleeman, welcome to Revenue Radio™.
Sam Sleeman: Thank you so much for having me, Mary. I have been listening to your podcast for a while now. I'm super excited to be here as a guest.
Mary Grothe: I know a lot about you, but I need our listeners to know much about you. Please give us the backstory. Tell us about you, how you came to Unleashed, and what spoke to you on that mission and vision. Then, we're going to deep dive into what a visionary integrator duo looks like?
Sam Sleeman: Awesome, I'd be more than happy to jump in. I come from a background having experience in project management. I love a good Gantt chart, a good plan, and everything very structured and organized. That was my background before Unleashed. I will give your listeners some insight into my personal journey. I know that you are very authentic on your podcast. I'm just going to share my story.
I was working in project management, and I loved it. I was in a corporate setting, working in office furniture. Believe it or not, I loved office furniture. I'm a very passionate person. So anything that I get my hands on, I go all in. It's either 100 100% or nothing. I loved my job and the team that I worked with every day. Showing up to work with teams to learn as much as I can about the industry and move projects forward.
I started to dream with my husband. I began to think, "Where can I be in the next season of my career? What could it look like?" I started to envision working with a company with a lot of vision. I would say that I am not an entrepreneur by nature. I knew that I wouldn't start my own business during college. I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if someone already had a business that I could come in and help bring more structure and systems to? I'd become more proactive versus reactive."
I throw that out there. I said maybe that's 10 years from now. I don't even know what a job description would look like for something like that. It was just a fleeting thought and a dream at the time, so I said that. I was like, "Okay, that would be cool. Someday." Then, I go home after this walk with my husband.
The next day, I'm finishing up a meeting at my job, and I get this text from a co-founder here at Unleashed. He said, "Hey, I have this position opening up that I think you could be a great fit. Do you want to learn more?" I thought to myself, "Wow, what a coincidence." I don't believe in coincidences. I knew that it was something I had to learn more about after that initial text. I had two or three interviews with the co-founders of Unleashed.
They started to cast the vision for this company and what they were doing. The piece at the time that was part of our vision statement was helping make earth look more like heaven. That resonated with me and the verbiage I use pierced my heart.
From that moment on, I was able to see myself contributing to that with my unique gifts and abilities. I wanted to be a part of it. The rest is history on how I came to work with Unleashed. Now, I say this to my team, to anyone I meet when they say, "How was work today?" I say, "I'm living my dream because it was just a dream. Now, I'm living it every single day. It's better than anything I could have dreamed or imagined." That's my story on how I came to be here at Unleashed and my background.
Mary Grothe: I'm inspired all over again. That was great hearing it again. Sam, it is such an honor and privilege to work with you every day. I know that when we did the kickoff, you blew me away. I saw this young, powerful woman standing in front of a whiteboard and leading a session. I could see how powerful you were. I remember sending you an email after that kickoff. Just wow, if part of this will get to work with you, sign me up. I've just been impressed with you every single day.
I want our audience to understand because these are terms they may not fully get like visionary integrators. Let me take a stab at the visionary, then you can add anything you want. I'm going to have you divide integrator because it means so many different things. It means one thing but describes so many different roles inside a company. I need to look in the mirror and describe myself. For clarification, I serve as a CRO for Unleashed right now. That's the hat that I have with unleashed.
Even though I am a visionary CEO, part of that realization is that I get my fulfillment from doing work. I need to be in a seat where I can roll up my sleeves and do work. I want to do something that moves the needle. God gave me these talents, abilities, and capacity to take on the small companies and their revenue departments, rebuild them, and take them back out to market and go for scale. For me, it's highly fulfilling.
Sam is my COO counterpart in Unleashed, which I work with. I am an idea generator. I can visualize any scenario, any situation, as building blocks. I like to look at how things are constructed and their current state, and how they are without any effort. That's just naturally how I show up in the world. I look at how something is constructed.
I immediately look at the pieces, components, and variables. Then start ideating and thinking, "What if this building block was over here? What if we took these three building blocks out? We're missing these four building blocks. Let's break this apart. What if we rebuilt it here?
I'm always able to see that clear vision. I'm vision casting. I can see into the future. I can sit in the visionary seat and say, "Based on the available data, this is what I'm seeing." I think visionary CEOs make great founders. They see a problem or an opportunity and can ideate and build a solution around it.
They typically are very passionate and usually don't strive with details. They're generally fast-paced and high urgency. They have maybe mood swings. They can multitask and have their hands in 20 different places at one time. They can be a bull in a China shop. They typically don't see things through to completion.
A visionary is highly motivated and seems to have a lot of capacity and good energy. They are usually fueled by impact-driven passion and see the vision. They relentlessly stop at nothing to make that happen until they get stopped. They will stop when they build their company to a level that can't take it further because they do not have somebody to manage day-to-day operations. Many visionaries start entering a dark place because they are forced to do work that is not part of their DNA. Cue the integrator. Sam, who is an integrator?
Sam Sleeman: Yes, thank you, Mary. That's an excellent definition of a visionary. The only thing I would add before a transition to the integrator is that a visionary can live three years in the future. That's where their mind is already at, sometimes even further. The integrator helps reel them into the here and now. That's not a bad thing. We need people who are constantly innovating, thinking about different solutions and picturing where the business could be three years from now. While the integrator and the leadership team around them are executing the 90-day plan.
One of the integrator's primary roles is to filter between that visionary CEO and the rest of the organization. I would describe an integrator and talk about it with our clients or people because it's the more operationally minded counterpart. They think about structure, process, and day-to-day management of people.
There isn't a filter for anyone who has worked in an organization where there isn't an integrator. There can be a lot of disruption, chaos, or unclarity because the visionary is coming and dropping these ideas down into a space where people can't see the vision they're casting. It's like, "Wait, we just decided we would take this direction. Now we're going in this direction?" It can cause a lot of change fatigue or whiplash for the people within the organization.
The integrator is that filter. First down from the visionary, who can go toe to toe and say, "Hey, that's a great idea, but not right now. It's not part of the plan. It will cause a lot of disruption if we trickle this down to the rest of the organization." But also, for the rest of the team, either sitting in sales, marketing, operations, or finance.
They filter everything up to the integrator, who can then say, "Hey, visionary, we have this issue." Say I have a problem that I can't solve on my own. I'll use operations as an example. I go to the integrator and say, "Hey, I'm thinking about this. I don't know how to solve it. I don't have the time to solve it right now because I'm going to execute it with my team. What do you think?"
Then, the integrator can bring that back to the visionary and say, "Hey, visionary, all those innovative ideas that are always in your brain, I need you to take this issue. Go do some R&D on it, start thinking about it, and bring it back to the team. Let me trickle that down to the rest of the organization in a way that will not cause disruption. It will be done in the correct sequence so that we don't lose momentum in the day-to-day operations. That's how I would define it. That might be a little abstract.
The integrator sometimes has different titles - there might be President, VP, or COO (Chief Operating Officer), depending on the organization's size. It could be an office manager or an executive assistant that helps the visionary CEO get those ideas down to the rest of the organization and implement them so that that vision can become a reality.
So hope that helps provide some additional clarity on how I would define the integrator seat and the importance of that role within an organization.
Mary Grothe: If the integrator is going to the visionary and saying, "Hey, cool idea, but not right now." Doesn't that create friction? You did a great job painting the picture in a couple of those other scenarios.
Sam Sleeman: Oh, yeah, especially if you have two very passionate individuals. They're sitting in the visionary or integrator seat on the org chart. They love the vision and what you're doing. They're going to "fight," but it's good. It's a good, healthy conflict. They're going to be working together to figure out the best thing for the organization. There is tension but healthy friction. That's managed by staying on the same page and ensuring healthy dialogue and mutual respect. Yeah, there's friction sometimes, but it's all healthy and smart for the organization.
Mary Grothe: I know that Brad, Charlie, and I have had some friction. The biggest realization for me was I was stuck in 2020. In 2020, we had an eight-person company, Sam. I was running the whole thing. I was even a fractional CRO for a local company here in Denver. I had it all. I had a small team. I had my hands dirty working with a client, which I love. I also had a small ship. Like visionary Titus, I have shiny object syndrome.
When you're 8 people and 2 million in revenue, you can do whatever you want. I don't make these crazy, fast decisions or implement changes. I love change. I operate well in chaos when things are undefined, which is crazy because I don't like when things are undefined. I use it as motivation to get them to a state of being defined. I get bored when things get normal. Then, I find the next chaotic project.
As visionary, it got to the point when we had 15, 16, onward to 20 people, and my decision-making started looking reckless to the people in the company. Even when we got to that point, Charlie was in the CEO position. We hadn't established the VI relationship. I was still fully in charge, and Charlie was behind the scenes. You said something significant, filter. Charlie did not step in as the filter until Q4 of last year. Then, when Brad stepped in as CRO, he became the next-level filter for me. I didn't have that filter component. I drove people crazy. I also think that as this fast-paced, high urgency vision, casting visionary CEO scaling rapidly, I created an unhealthy work environment.
When Brad and Charlie finally stepped up and did more of the filtering, I released the reins and allowed them to step in and run the company. That's when the magic started happening internally. Obviously, I found my own integrator. He found me, but we didn't have a program. We didn't follow a four-step process. We didn't have any support, mentorship, advisement, or anything. We did it alone. It was rocky. We stumbled, and to that example I just gave Sam, I could have had more mental sanity in 2021. Our listeners know I had a mental breakdown in October 2021 at Disneyland because I've talked about it.
As a scaling CEO, I was exhausted and burnt out. I had nothing left to give. I was broken. I didn't know how to delegate or work in partnership. I had an integrator. I didn't realize the integrator's role. I didn't know what it meant to have a right hand. We just sort of fell into it and figured it out after a year of working together.
So talk to me about the program. You lead an incredible team at Unleashed. You have recruiting and advisory teams. In partnership, they work directly with the visionary CEOs and transform them from Chief Everything Officer to Unleashed CEO. Can you speak to the process and the power? Sam, how do we avoid that? Tell me more about the Unleashed process.
Sam Sleeman: I'd be more than happy to, for just a moment. Mary, I want to say that your story is not a unique one. It is unique to you, don't get me wrong. Many people stumble into this from a place of genuine need. There is a way to accelerate that process, have support, and that's what the Unleashed CEO system process looks like. It's a four-step process. I'll just briefly walk through each step.
We always start our process with our clients with Vision Refinement. This is a part of the process that many clients that come to us get excited about. They say, "I've been so burnt out. I've been wearing all of the hats in the organization. I haven't allowed myself to dream. I haven't allowed myself to cast the vision and figure out where I'm going or what's essential to the organization because I've been running so fast."
We dive in and start to think about the tasks you're doing right now that you shouldn't be, that you're not the right person to be doing every day? Once we have a clearer picture of their vision, purpose, core values, people, and what habits they need to live out daily to be a part of that organization, we get to work in Step 2: Opportunity Recruiting.
First, let's audit what you're doing now. Create a success profile for your integrator, and identify key responsibilities they need to have clear expectations before joining your team. We then take that success profile, where our recruiting team comes in. They use the success profile to search our internal database of integrators that we have pre-vetted. They get everything they need to find the next right integrator to join the team.
Two, we help our clients get it out to their personal network, and 25% of the time, we know someone who may know someone who could be a good fit for this next opportunity.
Third is more traditional recruiting methods like posting on job boards and betting. Anyone can post a job, but we want to make sure that who's coming into this organization is aligned with the vision and wants to be a part of an opportunity to grow with the company. We want to make sure that it's a great opportunity.
Once we identify that person or a set of people, we present two to three hyper-qualified candidates to our visionary CEOs. We prepare them to run through those interviews and qualify this person to start to envision this integrator joining their organization.
We don't want to say, "Okay, here's your interview," but they don't know what questions to ask or how to make sure they're a great fit. We help them through that process. Debrief those interviews, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates so that they know they're making the best fit both from responsibility and from a cultural standpoint. That's Step 3: Onboarding and delegating phase.
The first 30 days of somebody's onboarding experience are critical. We don't want an integrator to come into an organization without a crystal-clear plan on how to be successful in the first 30 and 90 days. We work with the visionary CEO to create that plan and then work with the integrator to clarify expectations. We then transition into helping them onboard this person well and delegate the tasks off their plate that they're not the best at.
Step 4 is when we enter Management Mastery. How do we make data-driven decisions, create the infrastructure, and plan? Once the integrator has been found, placed, and onboarded, we work through a five-pillar approach to training and empowering these two unique individuals on how to work best together. Always start with leadership and how they communicate, show up well for the organization, and then dive into numbers.
Once we have the data in front of us, we can create a clear plan. We help them by facilitating a strategic planning session for the next 90 days for them to be focused on, then hiring. Once you have a plan and know who you need to hire, we teach them how to use the unique hiring process to hire the integrator.
Then finally, scaling. We don't go too deep into scaling because it's a long journey. We'll give some tools and ways to think about scaling for specific industries and high-level advice. That's our four-step process. That's what we walk our clients, both the visionaries and the integrators, through here at Unleashed.
Mary Grothe: This was what we were missing. Listeners get some extra goodness today. I'm sure they love it. Charlie and I didn't have that support now. God is good. He knew what I needed. Charlie absolutely is the right fit. I'm so thankful that I had that. Even to this day, Charlie still presses in to understand the vision and where we're going.
I have the vision bottled up inside me, which fuels me. I know where we're going every day. I may, but does everyone else in my company? Am I doing a good job verbalizing and casting? Does my integrator, my COO know the budget? Does he know how it's ebbing, flowing? Does he know what I'm thinking about because he's the integrator? He's building the systems and the processes. He was doing all the execution with clients and leading the team. It's the vision refinement step.
It's also great as step one to get it out of these CEOs to build the success profile so that you find the right person to work with them. Then, you get that person onboarded.
Charlie and I struggled with delegating. In fact, he's been in this role for a year, Sam. I got him fully ramped on payroll and accounting things that I am still doing as a Visionary CEO. I don't have the business doing those things. I got him ramped on those, onboarding, delegating, and learning. What does the visionary do? What does the integrator do? Building a plan, a training plan, and SOPs so that people can be onboarded versus integrators can onboard it powerfully.
It was all trial and error. It was a hodgepodge mess. Charlie was brave and asked if he could do things for me. I had to ask if I was ready to let go and relinquish control. Certain items would have had a different outcome had I worked with a company like Unleashed. Just the advisory team and how you're structured would have made a huge difference for us.
I had already given out the URL unleashed.ceo. People can go learn more. Follow Unleashed on LinkedIn. We're going to be ramping up a lot of incredible thought leadership. The content will be coming out in the newsletter and pushed out through the social channels. If people want to connect with you directly, where can they find you, Sam?
Sam Sleeman: You can connect with me at Samantha Sleeman on LinkedIn. That's where I'm the most active, and I look forward to connecting with people who could benefit from learning more about Unleashed, our process, and anything else that can be helpful.
Mary Grothe: You've been an amazing guest. I haven't had a guest for so long. I am glad it was you, Sam. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Sam Sleeman: Yes. Thank you for having me, Mary. It's been a pleasure.
Mary Grothe: All right, listeners. Just a reminder, next week will be the final episode that I'm hosting. Then, my amazing CRO, Brad, at House of Revenue™ will be leading Revenue Radio™ with our VPs of Revenue. They, quite honestly, are the smartest, brightest, and best revenue scalers I've ever met. They will be dropping knowledge week after week. Revenue Radio™ is getting this fantastic level-up facelift. We will be bringing these incredible revenue scaling practices to you every week.
Later this summer, I'm going to be launching a personal podcast. You will hear from me as a wife, mom, CEO, woman of faith, entrepreneur, and investor. All the fun things I have. My hands in will be on a different podcast.
Stay tuned. I'm not dropping the name of that yet. You're going to have to wait. Stay tuned next week, so you can subscribe and get notified when I drop my first episode.
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Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you're interested in being on our show or want to learn more about how we can help you scale your company, connect with us at houseofrevenue.com or with me Mary Grothe spelled G-R-O-T-H-E on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.
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