Mitch Russo is constantly building something new. He enters a new field and immerses himself in it, gets good at it, and then rises to the top in most cases. Mitch is a CEO, a business leader and a business coach. He’s also a bestselling author, a podcaster, and an excellent photographer. As a CEO, Mitch loves helping small business owners and high net worth individuals find their way and get their life back on track through business accountability. Mitch shares that having accountability creates awareness of productivity and identifies distractions for business owners to then start taking action. Mitch reveals his journey in creating Timeslips Corp, becoming President of Chet Holmes, Int’l., creating Business Breakthroughs with Chet Holmes and Tony Robbins, and his passion project of building another software company.
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Staying Focused On Your Goals Through Business Accountability with Mitch Russo
This show is so valuable. People tell me all the time, “I would love to be able to clone myself or recapture time.” We know that that’s not possible to recapture time, but when we think and act smarter and more strategically, we can get back time because we’re using it more wisely. It’s about saving time, money and effort so that we can get better results. I have an expert on the show. I’m excited to have here Mitch Russo.
We go way back, so back when you were CEO of Business Breakthroughs, with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes Company. Your background is so diverse. You are a CEO and a business leader, you are a business coach but you’re also a bestselling author, a podcaster and an excellent photographer. You’ve got so many different wheelhouses where you perform. I’m sure that your creativity that you have from your photography comes into everything that you do in business. I couldn’t do you justice in introducing why and who you are, so I’d love it if you could share with us a sound bite as to who is Mitch Russo.
It’s funny because I get accused of not staying focused in one area for a long time. The reason is because I enter a new field or a new category and I immerse myself in that. I get good at it and then I rise to the top in most cases and then at that point, I achieve my goals. There are things I love and things I continue to do. I always help small business owners. I always help high net worth individuals find their way and get their life back on track when it comes to their business, but my project is building another software company and I love doing that.
Constantly building something new because once you do it, you got to move onto new things. That’s why I thought this was a great topic because in taking back time and being smarter about the way that we do things, we need to create accountability systems because without that, we don’t follow through or we only do it half-heartedly and we don’t get the full results. It’s human psychology. We default to our lazy gene versus that discipline that sometimes we need to create structure. What caused you to want create a system that would support people in accountability?
The big question for me is why hasn’t somebody already done this? Frankly, it’s part of life. It’s part of everyday life for most people. We are holding ourselves accountable and with the help of another person, almost daily. Husband and wife hold each other accountable when it comes to things around the house or the kids. In business we do the same thing. It’s never been set up in a structured way the way I have and now the way my clients are using the system to do so.
Tell us about it. What is the problem? Let’s start there.
The problem is very simple. People don’t finish the courses that they start, corporations struggle with corporate training that they spent $28 billion buying last year and only 4% of corporate training is completed. There are all kinds of ways that these people who built corporate training are trying to force people through the system and pestering them with reminders when they don’t and all this other stuff. Truthfully what it’s missing is true accountability. The accountability that an app creates can be ignored. I can ignore emails all day long. In fact, that’s what I do. So do you, Penny, I’m sure.
We all do it. Isn’t there a statistic that only a 2% to 4% of the emails get read?
Exactly, so we could ignore anything electronic. It’s hard to ignore another human being who we have agreed to have a relationship with. That’s what accountability in my world is all about. It’s about building the relationship first on a particular topic or subject or a program that we have a common interest in getting through together and then simply working it.
That’s so important. I want to reinforce that to the audience. A lot of entrepreneurs are in the audience, they’re running their business. There are different forms of accountability. There’re those things that we set for ourselves. There’re reminders and different types of apps that might send us emails and do different things like that, but there’s nothing that replaces the psychology of the face to face. If I know that you’re counting on me, then I’m going to show up differently. I use a personal trainer for exactly that reason because otherwise I would not go. I’d find a lot of other excuses and reasons why I couldn’t go and it helps me to show up and it helps me to push myself harder.
What I decided to do was draw in my experience when running Business Breakthroughs, as you mentioned earlier. One of the things that we offered, you may remember that we did this, we offered accountability coaching and we charged a crazy amount of money. We charged $1,800 a month for four sessions, five questions per session. We used our salespeople as our accountability coaches because we didn’t want to involve our high-priced expensive coaches and so our salespeople would call these people up once a week and ask them five questions like, “Did you make your numbers last week? How many units did you sell?” All they would do at that point is confirm that they did, and if they didn’t, ask “Why not?” and if they’d be willing to do it the following week. This alone was responsible for CEOs all over the country raising their revenue in running their business more efficiently. Simple things like this. What I did is a system of people talking to each other and I put a guided structure around it. Then I added statistical tracking on top of it. That’s what my system does and that’s why it’s already being used by hundreds of people all over the world.
Accountability is so important. Not everybody can afford to have a high-end coach that they can work with that they can dig deeper and you don’t always need. It doesn’t have to be that high-end coach. If you have somebody who’s asking you the question and expecting you to check in or weigh in. It’s like the whole idea of Weight Watchers and why it works is because people have to get on the scale and it’s embarrassing to show that you didn’t do what you said you were going to do. Same type of concept, and the fact that you are matching people. Tell us a little bit about how you match people because also an important factor is “Who do I get for an accountability partner?” How does that work?
One of the things that we do is we have three levels of the software. The first level is what I call the public level, which anybody can come and sign up. They could then use the search function and specify what they’re looking for in an accountability partner like a dating site. Then they hit the search button and it shows all the people that match those qualifications. The second level is called the partner level which is when someone who owns a course or a mastermind wants to put their people into the program. What we do at that point is we work with them to load those people in advance into the system. Usually, the mastermind or the program manager matches and them and that’s executed in the software. The third level is called the white label version which is for corporations and larger organizations that have upwards of 50 to 100 people. What they do is we again upload their list of everybody who is in the program and we also enter all of the accountability questions for the training program that they have already selected. Those matches are made by the people in the program because everybody in there is only from that one program. It’s very simple and it’s very easy. You just select somebody who you like or you think you would work well with and you’re matched up.
What happens when we don’t hold ourselves accountable? What have you seen in the past? What are the costs that people are paying?
There’s a psychological penalty that we pay. It goes something like this. If I cannot rely on myself, if I can’t hold myself to my word that I feel like a failure, I’ve proven to myself that I am a failure. I’ve proven to myself that I can’t trust my own word, and now that turns into a behavior that propagates all throughout our lives. Most people don’t ever think of it at that point. They just say, “So what? I just didn’t do something. No big deal.” Let’s look at the opposite. If you are willing to set an intention and hold to it and then follow through with the help of another person even, then you’re going to feel successful. You’re going to make progress, and you’re going to grow. You’re going to strengthen your ego. The ego naturally will push back, and that means that you’ll be taking on higher and more valuable goals naturally as time goes on. Accountability builds strength in many ways. It builds strength and character, most of all.
People don’t put enough value and importance on it. They don’t realize what it’s costing them personally, as you said, in their integrity, in their confidence, in their ability to also visualize what is possible. It shrinks down their possibilities because of this simple thing of making commitments and not following through. Lately, I’ve been talking about whoever invented the snooze button has created more of this problem in our society. The fact that we have all these distractions with social media and the impulsiveness is making it harder to stay disciplined and making it even more important that we find additional methods to help us to not only set an intention but to follow through with a greater sense of accountability.
We live in a world of distractions. We have a box that we carry with us every day that’s designed to interrupt us constantly and so we’re distracted by about everything. We’re distracted by the cars and everything that’s going on outside, the radio, by our computers. We can’t even sit down to write a piece of text without being signaled five different ways about emails, events, calendar, and invites and all these things. It’s hard to stay focused on your goals. The time that you spend with your accountability partner is a time where you get to be focused on you, and then you get to help your partner be focused on them. If you’re willing to spend 30 minutes on yourself and then 20 to 30 minutes on your partner and you both realize the value of doing that and how you feel afterwards, then you have made a major life choice by heading in that direction.
[Tweet “We have a box that we carry with us every day that’s designed to interrupt us constantly. It’s hard to stay focused on your goals.”] First of all, what I like about that also is that you’re not getting the reward from helping yourself when you set yourself up as an accountability buddy like in your system, but you’re also getting a reward. Studies have proven, it makes us happier when we help other people. We are more fulfilled, we’re creating an impact. There’s no better win-win than to be showing up not just for yourself, but at the same time while you’re benefiting that you’re creating impact for someone else.
It’s this whole thing about having another human being and not relying on a piece of software that makes it easy to meet, that makes it easy to have this conversation, and most importantly, it keeps track of what you’ve accomplished week to week so that you could see it on your dashboard. You can see graphs on your dashboard of your sales and whatever you want to track. You get six stats that you can use any way you want to track anything you want. The idea is to look at those graphs and say to yourself, “I’ve made progress. This is working.”
That’s another piece that’s important as you’re holding yourself accountable is to track your progress so that you get that feel good that you get when you’re creating momentum and when you’re recognizing it as you’re going along. I want to go back though to what you said about distraction, that these boxes were designed, distract us. That isn’t true. They weren’t designed to distract us. We let them distract us. We have to be clear that our whole culture and our whole mindset has shifted into more impulsivity, and so we’re also creating this for us if we don’t create some rules around how we’re using them. That also needs to be clear that your buddy can help you with that and also you have to take ownership and realize it’s your responsibility. What it takes also to get an accountability buddy is to take responsibility. Then to be aware and create awareness of how much it’s taking away from your level of productivity, all these distractions and then to take action.
They’re showing through research that our attention span has been dropping exactly for the last ten years. It is I believe because of the work we do on computers and the iPhones and cell phones that we carry with us. I believe that maybe the phone was not designed to distract us, but the software running on it was and is because that’s how they make money. In fact, it’s gotten to the point now where if you’re walking down the street because of the use of electronic beacons, a store will signal you as you pass by to let you know that there’s a coupon, “Come in and buy something,” so it’s that prevalent. It’s like hands reaching out on the sidewalk, grabbing you and pulling you in. That’s what it is and it’s not going to get any better.
It plays on is our psychology. It plays on it. As we’re walking by and we get this text and it says “50% off if you buy now.” Even if you don’t need it, you’re like, “I need to get a good deal. I’m going to go in and I’m going to get it.” Why these things distract us is because it plays on our psychology. Part of that psychology is also, I heard this recent statement, I thought it was funny, is they say we suffer from FOMO, fear of missing out. That’s the social media thing for people who are constantly checking social media and they don’t want to turn it off because they’re afraid that they’ll miss something or not be a part of some conversation or something like that.
Again, there’s another level of that and it is called scarcity. When you are hit with some big program launch if you’re on Facebook, you see it all the time, someone is going to give you $17,000 worth of free giveaways if you spend $2,000 on their program now. People go, “I may not need it right not, but I might as well buy it now because I’ll get all these free giveaways.” As you and I both know, most of those giveaways are not worth anything at all. In fact, they are simply designed to sell you more stuff. Ideally the best thing to do is try to stay focused entirely on what it is that you want to do with your life instead of letting these devices control us. If you want to use that as part of your accountability work with your partner, by all means. One of the things that you could track is how many times did you visit Facebook this week. If you wanted to, you can keep a little pad and keep track of it and you’ll see it’s scary how many times most people use Facebook every week.
I have this distraction tracking sheet that I make available for people because just that awareness is pretty eye-opening. They’re like, “I didn’t even realize how many times I’m checking my email or checking Facebook or whatever,” so creating that awareness is valuable. Coming back to your point, as a strategist in working with business, on a scale from one to ten about staying focused and achieving their goals, where do you think accountability falls in that ten being the most important and one being the least important?
There are there other things that are important too. Careful financial management is important and certainly most importantly your sales. The thing about accountability is that if you have an accountability partner who will hold your feet to the fire on picking up the phone and making calls, on driving up to your clients and doing visits, whatever it is that you need to focus on, whether it be sales or productivity or production in the case of maybe you’re running a team of programmers, production is very important with stuff like that. Having that person once a week for 20 to 30 minutes, hold your feet to the fire, care about you, that’s super valuable and I think it’s a ten.
I’m hearing what you’re saying. You’re saying that basically you have all these areas in your business that are key to growing your business and key to keeping your business stable, whether it’s the financial management, whether it’s the actual bringing in business and the sales. In order to follow through on all of those things, accountability makes them happen. It’s easy to start something but it’s not easy to follow through and stick with the plan.
Exactly right and that’s what I have an accountability partner and have had one for years because it works for me. I have watched my accountability partner grow significantly since we’ve been working together because I hold her accountable and she does the same for me.
I do too. I work with a coach and I have many accountability partners in different areas of my life. For those of us who have kids, we have this mini accountability partners because I guarantee you, if you say that you’re going to do something, they are going to remind you and make sure that you follow through.
That’s what kids are for.
Yes, in every area of our life. What else do you think is important to share with our audience?
I just came from a speaking engagement at a retreat. One of the things that I found that was super important and pretty important to stress is what the job that we have chosen, the job of being an entrepreneur and running a small business is about. One of the folks at this event sat down with me and asked me if I could figure out with them what their key elements were that they needed to do because they felt like they were distracted and doing lots of things, maybe too many things. What I told them is my belief that when you get into the state where your business is running and you keep in mind that your key focus are two things. It’s creating and communicating, and that’s it. That’s the CEO’s job. If you are creating or communicating, you’re doing your job. If you’re doing the books, if you’re following up on past due invoices, you’re not doing your job. If you’re writing software, if you’re updating your website, you’re not doing your job. It’s my belief that staying focused on the most important thing, let’s call it your highest paid work, is creating and communicating. If communicating for you means getting on stages and speaking, that’s great. If it means getting and doing webinars, that’s great. If it means communicating to your staff and to your team, the value that you see that we bring to the world as a company, then that’s communicating as well, and that’s great.
That’s great tip because it’s so easy to get caught up in the weeds especially for the entrepreneur that wears a lot of different hats. It’s easy for them to lose sight of where they need to be focusing their time and their effort, where the business is growing when they focus their time there versus something that they could easily delegate that isn’t in their core competency and isn’t directly growing the business. Tell us how can people get onto this accountability program? How can they find themselves a buddy? If a corporation is looking for something for their team, how can they get connected with this as well?
The easiest thing to do is to visit the Results Breakthrough website. We’ve set up something special for your audience, Penny. If your audience decides to go and try this out, we’re going to give them 30 days free of full usage. Usually we don’t give them full usage but for your listeners, they’re going to get full usage. All they have to do is click any of the red buttons on the page and type in the group code WINNER. Click on the red button on the sales page, let that red button take you to a buy page. Then there is the group code, put your group code WINNER in there, and you will get 30 days free. Once you’re in the system there’ll be videos to guide you on how to do things like get set up, do a search, and even conduct an accountability session, your very first one.
Thank you so much, Mitch, for being here and sharing a lot of your experience and creativity. That’s so valuable. For the audience, thank you for being here. Understanding that this particular show around accountability is to help you so that you can leverage the time that you have and use it more wisely so that you can achieve more in less time because it’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter, and that’s how we’re going to take back time.
About Mitch Russo
In 1985, Mitch co-founded Timeslips Corp, which grew to become the largest time tracking software company in the world. In 1994, Timeslips Corp was sold to Sage, plc. While at Sage, Mitch went on to run all of Sage U.S. as Chief Operating Officer, a division with over 300 people.
Later, Mitch joined Chet Holmes as President of Chet Holmes, Int’l. Soon thereafter Mitch and Chet, along with Tony Robbins, created Business Breakthroughs, Int’l, a company serving thousands of businesses a year with coaching, consulting and training services. Mitch was the President and CEO for 4 years.
After the untimely death of Chet, Mitch left Business Breakthroughs to help CEOs build their own Invisible Organization using the principles outlined in his powerful book: The Invisible Organization.