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It's Not About You, CEO

Mary Grothe October 13 2021


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.


Don't Have Time to Listen, Read The Full Transcription.

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Mary Grothe: Welcome to the House of Revenue®. I'm Mary Grothe, the Founder, and CEO. I love scaling companies to their first 5 million, then 10, 15, and 20. If you've reached a revenue plateau and aren't sure how to get past it, you're in the right place. Listen in as we interview CEOs and solve their most pressing revenue challenges. If you want to be on our show or want to learn more, connect with us at

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It's been a big week, and I'm ready for a big month - five speaking engagements, two Denver Startup Week presentations we did this week - one was the CPG panel with my team and one of our clients. Then we had one of my best CEO friends, Amanda Moriuchi, CEO at AppIt Ventures. We did a joint presentation, a ton of fun. Both those videos will be out soon if you would like to go back and watch those. This coming week is Hubspot's giant conference, Inbound. I'll be presenting with Kyle Jepsen about RevOps in real life. Then, RevCon, put on by RevGenius, has me as a speaker to talk about RevOps, from dysfunction to holistic revenue scale. I cannot wait for those presentations, very excited. It's been a good week. We've had a lot of movement. It looks like, I swear, all we do at this company is movement. One day, one day, one day, one day, I will take a break. Yesterday, Friday, was a marathon. I did not take one break between my first meeting, starting at 8 am, and my last call wrapped up at about 5:20 pm. I haven't done that in a long time. That's not typical. My husband was off work. So he was able to pick up our kiddo, and I just went for it. I took advantage of the extra working hours, and boy was a lot accomplished yesterday.

Okay, here's my topic today, it's not about you, as a CEO. A big realization for me, as I've been on this journey going from being in the spotlight. In fact, I've changed my story a lot. The way I used to introduce myself, I was so proud of the number one rep title, really proud of it. I worked so hard for that. Up until about, I don't know, maybe a year ago, it was brought to my attention that maybe people don't like hearing that type of intro. It's not very humble, and it's very braggadocious. Okay, I started to realize that there's probably a different way to talk about my successes and create some credibility without naming every accomplishment I've ever achieved in an intro. It's interesting because during my journey, in my 20s, I was a top sales performer, and the way I viewed it, I was never good enough. I didn't believe in my ability to get things done because I didn’t receive that from my parents when I was growing up.

Growing up in an alcoholic family, I never really got the love and acceptance that most children crave. So, I carried those wounds into my 20s. I had this belief system that literally nothing I did was ever good enough and that no one could love me. It sounds like a lot of ‘woes is me,’ but you don't understand it until you've been in that environment. When you're really like, it's ingrained in your DNA and belief system to truly just believe you're not worthy or worth really anything, so I overcompensated. In my 20s, I started to do something with my life, won all those awards and recognitions, and became a top sales performer. I had all of that became my identity. For the first time, I started to think maybe I was good at something. But I never really let it in and let it seep in and allowed it to be good enough. I turned it into this crazy monster to overachieve and be number one and yada yada yada. Well, I started getting addicted to being in the spotlight. I had so many years where I was craving praise and recognition, and really at the bottom of that, was just craving to be loved, accepted, and cared for within my own family. Therefore, I was overcompensating with all the awards recognition and success being in sales. By the way, you can get a lot of those if you show up and work hard and do well. I was addicted to it. It was a drug for me - always winning. It was where I wanted to be - in the spotlight. I wanted to be number one. I wanted people to care about my accomplishments so that, in turn, I could feel like I was actually worth something.

Well, fast forward a little bit. I really started to heal in my 30s and find peace, love, and acceptance in a lot of things, especially with myself. Therefore, I don't need to hear a ‘good job, Mary.’ I don't need the pat on the back anymore like I used to. I noticed that it took a while because I was still telling the same story about me being a number one rep and all these accolades. I thought, "Wait a second. Okay, maybe people don't want to hear that side of the story." It was brought to my attention that you don't need to introduce yourself that way. Okay, maybe I'll try and not say all those things, and really just show the credibility, my thought leader status, and how I handle a conversation with people, answer their questions, and whatnot.

Well, it started to transition for me just with an intro and how I introduce myself. It was a cool transformation over the last I don't know how long it's been, 9 to 12 months since I've changed that. Realizing people still find value in me and worth. Then, incredibility, they signed contracts to work with my company. They don't think it matters that they don't know that I was a number one rep and used to tell the whole story. My first year's quota was $150,000. I sold $750,000 in my first year, and that was just the beginning to make the... Okay. I don't have to say that anymore. I can say after an eight-year sales career, I feel very, very well. I love the profession. This is what I did in my journey yada yada. Okay, it works out great. Okay, so bear with me here, and long story. There's a point, I promise you, that this translates into - it's not about me. It's been a transition.

I think a lot of CEOs have been used to being in the spotlight. A lot of CEOs have obviously done great things in their lives. They're wildly talented. I'm guessing that a lot of CEOs who are super mediocre or barely good enough, and most things probably don't go start a company. That's just my guess. I think a lot of the CEOs that I've met are quite talented and brilliant. But with that, if you're not careful, the ego, arrogance, and the overshadowing of other team members can come.

As I've been referred to as the tip of the spear here at our company for years, I've made it a mission not to have people depend on me to be that tip of the spear. How do I actually raise up talent inside the organization to replace me from all these key important functions? How do I start stepping out of the spotlight? How do I start-stop, well start to stop making it about me and start making it about the incredible team we have and the incredible brand and company we are? It's easier said than done because I tend to fall back on what's in my comfort zone and how I'm used to talking about myself.

I love being able to step in. I'm an idea generator, idea architect. I'm that inventor type. I always have an idea for everything. Tell me the problem, and I have an idea on how to solve it. Sometimes I'll take that hero stance within our client engagements and even internally, where it's like, I have an idea, I have an idea, I have an idea. I would love for my team to tally up how many times a week I say that. But ultimately, that creates a dependency on me, and I'm only one person on this journey of scaling. If I've created a dependence on me that things are required to come through me to get to the next step, then that's a problem. How do I reduce that dependency? Well, I have to start shifting it and making it not about me. I need to allow others to step up into the spotlight into that next stage into that next step.

Well, the only way to do that is I have to give them what I have. I've got to train, mentor, develop and really pass the torch. But that is not something that happens overnight. For example, you guys heard me gush over the exciting news that Brad is stepping into the CRO role, which is technically half of my job. And boy, I had this vision but kind of a rookie CEO sometimes, or maybe I'm just human, I don't know. I have this vision. October 1, all of a sudden, I'm going to get 30 hours back per week. Hahaha hahaha As a joke on me. Yes. But maybe you've done the same thing. You're looking at a milestone, an event, a key hire, and you're like, "Oh, great." When they come in, they'll take this off of my plate, and then the reality hits. Well, they could but is that setting them up for success? Don't get me wrong, if I just left everything on Brad today, the guy would figure it out, and he would flourish, and it would probably be fine, but I don't really think that that's fair because I am still here. I still have the time. I also have the where with all the know-how.

There's an exciting skill that I have, which is this idea generator. Wouldn't it be better if I passed that skill on through training and developing and mentoring other members on the team rather than just cutting it off and then saying, "Good luck. Just do it your way." The first couple of weeks of this month is where we are right now. I had initially this idea like, "Oh, my life's going to change. October 1, I won't have to do all of this." I very quickly realized, well, that's not fair. Number one, why would I take it? Please? No, he's already working a full-time job. He's working more than a full-time job, I'm sure. Why would I think I can just take this extra 20 to 30 hours that I currently have and just turn around, dump it on him and say, "Good luck."

Again, I'm sure the guy could figure it out. He probably would turn it around, do a great job, but that's not fair. So as a CEO, where have you done that in your business? Have you found great relief in hiring somebody and you think that this person will change everything for you, solve all the company's problems, and be the end-all, be-all? How much weight have you put on that person? I'm putting a lot of weight on Brad. This is a very exciting opportunity. But what I had to do was shift my thinking from it's not a light switch to I used to do that, now you do that. I used to do it by myself, but now I'm going to have a partner in doing it. We're going to have this overlap and period of time we're working together. We can probably recreate how it was being done in the first place, build something even more powerful and unbelievable for the employee experience and the client experience.

Then slowly, over time, once we get into this brilliant groove where we've leveled up, yet again, then I can phase out, then I can step out. Over the next couple of weeks, I will start stepping out of some of these pieces. In fact, I'm going to be going to Disneyland. I'm making a commitment to actually go to Disneyland and like go - be there, not just go and like have my note and my phone the whole time. I'm making a commitment to be with my family, and I'm going to absolutely shut myself off. For three days, I'm going to prep my team ahead of time. I'm going to bravely go and just totally trust that everything is going to be fine. Whatever it is that needs my attention, the team can figure it out and solve it. Then, when I come back, I have complete trust that we will be in a great spot.

Going back to this transition standpoint, it's not about me anymore. I no longer need to be the hero in situations. Wouldn't it be amazing to take this hero status that I have been for four years now and train up five other heroes inside the company? Shoot, let's just train up two. Let's start there. How about three? What if we train up other heroes? So now we're looking at this element of scale. The buck doesn't have to stop at me. It could actually stop at any of our executives, any of our VPs. I have to ask myself, "what am I doing today to put that in place so that those VPs and executives can take that role and can fully step in and have that confidence and ability to be brilliant in that."

That was the shift in me. That I have to come back down from my head in the clouds I was dreaming about like, "Oh my gosh, I'm going to have someone take over half my job, and I won't have to do it." The reality is, yeah, I could do that. That's probably not a really nice thing to do to him. He'd figure it out, he'd get it done, he would be fine, but it's not nice. I think I'm a nice person, plus two is better than one. He's brilliant in his role. He totally redefined how I had done the VP of Revenue role previously, and that's how I trained up all the other VPs of Rev, and Brad came in and learned it my way. Then he started doing it his way, which was far better than I had ever done, which is why he's in the position now. I'm thinking to myself, “Cool. We did that already once. We did that in Q1 of this year. Let's do it in Q4. The Brad and Mary show. Let's reinvent this. Let's figure out our internal processes. Let's redesign it. Let's take all the data points. Two is better than one. We can just commit over the next few months, and let's fine-tune all of it. Create the game plan, get it in motion, and then I'll just slowly start phasing out of that.”

So check box Number 1; when you bring on that brilliant hire or promote somebody from within, it doesn't end at the promotion or the hire date. I think the acknowledgment that a lot of CEOs feel like, well, I brought this person on, or I just promoted them, so... hold on. You've got to make the investment in them. These are human beings. Yeah, I'm sure they're great, but if you have an option just to put in a little extra effort to take them to the next level in a shorter amount of time, wouldn't that be a good idea? That is the checkbox there.

The second area of the checkbox is really digging in internally. Where are you the hero in the company? Where are you in the spotlight, and you don't need to be? Something that I noticed in one of our recent client kickoffs is the CEO. He's a really big personality. He's a super likable guy. Really, I'm crazy about him. I just think he's a tremendous leader, and I love what he has built in his company. Something very admirable and eye-opening for me is that we are in a collaborative conversation with his six-person team. He said I want to be the last one to talk. I asked a question to the team. He said I have an answer for this, but I want to be the last one to talk. Sweet.

I don't think I've ever said I want to be the last one to talk. When a question gets posed to my team, I think I jump at the chance to answer it and dump out everything I know. I don't think I set my team up to even be charged with having to be complex thinkers when I'm in the room because I just jump in and answer the question. I love doing that. I love it because I love the work that we do, and it comes naturally to me. It brings me so much joy, but it's not about me anymore. Maybe when we were 10 employees, like I could do that, but we're not. We might be 30 employees by the end of the year. Suppose I do not train up the next generation of leaders inside of this company. In that case, I'm going to forever have my job description that I have to answer all the tough questions. That was a big realization for me over the last couple of weeks is it's not about me.

So CEO, who's listening to this, it's not about you. There is a time and a place for you to be the knowledge expert and be the driver. But if your goal long term is not to be a lifestyle business, and it is to genuinely scale the company, the quicker that you can start training up the group below you and raising up those leaders, the quicker you're going to be able to move on to the next role—such a great call out for me. I'm tasking myself now. I'm looking at the meetings I have upcoming on the calendar, looking at the rocks that we've assigned to ourselves this quarter, looking at our next L10. I'm asking myself, "What am I going to do in those meetings? What am I going to do in my weekly one-on-one with my exec team to empower them to answer the question? Where am I going to create pause when they ask me how to do something so that I can consciously suppress that desire to just answer the question and ask them a question instead of me answering it to help guide them down the path of becoming that critical thinker to solve that question on their own."

That's what I'm tasking myself with. This is my newest assignment. I'll make it my rock for this quarter to be intentional and purposeful in training this next generation of leaders inside my company because I cannot achieve the vision that I have for my role until this is accomplished. So I'm excited. That's what I'm going to be working on. Hopefully, that's encouragement for you to figure out how you do it. I know we have non-CEOs that listen to this show. So translating it for you, look at your direct reports. Look at the people you're surrounding yourself with, even if you're an individual contributor role, and you have counterparts and other divisions. How are you a great natural leader for them? What are you doing to be a stand-up human being in your role? Well, that's my homework. I hope it's encouraging for you. Have a great week.

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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 or with me Mary Grothe spelled G-R-O-T-H-E on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.

Connect with House of Revenue® on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

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