Lee Benson is the Founder and CEO of Execute to Win (ETW) and EXECUTE™ MasterMINDs — companies dedicated to helping businesses create value effectively. With over 30 years of experience in business, including experience founding seven companies with exits ranging from a few million dollars well into nine figures, he is a value creation expert.
Lee developed the innovative MIND Methodology (Most Important Number and Drivers Methodology) — a business operating methodology designed to strengthen teams by aligning every action with their core objectives — which has seen teams he works with accelerate their growth and impact. He is also a sought-after speaker, best-selling author, and a strong advocate for continuous improvement and innovation.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [7:23] The importance of creating value and embracing healthy struggle
- [10:13] The concept of the “Value Creation Kid” and teaching kids about financial competency from a young age
- [19:51] Having a Most Important Number (MIN) for teams and how it drives productive behaviors and outcomes
- [20:20] How does the MIN methodology help teams develop and improve over time?
- [25:19] Lee Benson discusses common mistakes made by departments when determining important metrics
- [25:42] The importance of having a clear Most Important Number (MIN) for each department
- [28:30] Lee shares examples of companies that successfully implemented the Mind Methodology to improve their results
- [43:29] Different ways people can engage with ETW, including mastermind groups and consulting services
In this episode…
What actionable steps can you take to improve your processes and help your team work better to accelerate your growth as a business?
According to Lee Benson, a seasoned expert in value creation, traditional goal-setting does not stand the test of time when it comes to realizing business core objectives. Many traditional goal-setting approaches, such as using OKRs, often get diluted or completely lost within company or organizational teams. As such, it is critical to determine approaches that drive productive behaviors and connect your team to core objectives. Lee’s MIND Methodology (Most Important Number and Drivers Methodology) — an approach rooted in aligning individual action to a company’s desired outcomes, whether profit or impact — provides actionable steps to nurture value creation culture for your business.
In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz sits down with Lee Benson, Founder and CEO of Execute to Win (ETW) and EXECUTE™ MasterMINDs, to discuss innovative value creation. Lee talks about creating a culture of value creation within families — the idea of the “Value Creation Kid,” the Most Important Number (MIN) in business goal-setting, and approaches that drive team collaboration when executing core objectives.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Atari & Chuck E. Cheese Founder Nolan Bushnell Opens up about Low times and Proud Moments on Inspired Insider Podcast
- “The scarcest commodity on the planet is actually positive emotional energy.”
- “Our job as a leader is to create an environment that encourages value creation.”
- “Creating value isn’t just about money. It’s spiritual, it’s emotional.”
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Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.
Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Insider Stories from Top Leaders & Entrepreneurs…
You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.
Jeremy Weisz 0:23
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here is the founder of InspiredInsider.com, where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders, and today is no different. I believe Benson and you can check out his site at ETW.com to find out how he got that amazing three letter domain. But before I formally introduce leads, it’s a really remarkable story of growing from three to 500 employees and having a nine figure exit. I always like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast. And you mentioned won’t be right before we hit record which is top grading the CEO of top grading Chris Marcel talks and is a great book to and Lee as a book, you’re actually two books, your most important number in the value creation kid.
But top grading people kept mentioning that books I like, I gotta have the other people from the company on. And so that’s a great way to hire players. Also in the spirit of Lee, what you did with your company and sold it. I had Luis Navone from Mobileye. And he talked about how they were acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion dollars. But the interesting part of the story was, there were times in the journey where they had to sacrifice pay, he had to pull his kids out of any activities because they didn’t have money for extracurriculars, and no more eating out. And it wasn’t always, you know, the glory days, right. And they had to get through those tough times to get to the summit and eventually sell.
So just a remarkable journey there. So check out the wild release, Navone is a really pretty cool episode. And the one I did with the founder of Atari, Nolan Bushnell, he was Steve Jobs as one of Steve Jobs’ mentors and he talks about how he turned down. Steve Jobs wanted 33% of often 33% of Apple for $50,000. And why he turned it down. So that was interesting as well. But this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25. We help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that? We actually help you run your podcast. We’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast. We do this strategy accountability in the full execution. So leaving the carousel is a kind of magic elves that work in the background and make it look easy for the host. So they could just do the show and run their business.
And for me, you know, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking for ways to give to my best relationships. I’ve found no better way to do that than to profile the people and companies I most admire on this planet. And Lee and his books are one of those people. So if you think about podcasting, you should go to Rise25.com If you have questions, reach out, and I’m excited to introduce Lee Benson. He grew aerospace from three to 500 employees, those saying paid off the debt and achieved the nine figure exit. remarkable story. His boss actually decided to shut down the business. And Lee took on the debt and kept running the company. I’m wondering what you saw, he looks that’s a rescue risk starting company, now you’re taking on one that already has debt.
And he founded after he sold aerospace to Textron aviation, he committed to helping other leaders achieve similar results. Obviously, Lee probably doesn’t need to sit and talk to me right now, he does not talk to anyone, he could probably just be playing music and just do that. But he has this passion to do that. So he founded ETW, where you help senior leadership teams work better together, and improve the organization’s most important number. And he’s got the methodology called Mind. Most important numbers and drivers which we’ll dig into Lee, thanks for joining me.
Lee Benson 4:07
It’s so great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Jeremy Weisz 4:10
So take me back. Right. It’s hard not to have a business. Now there was debt on the business and you take that on and start running. What did you see at that time with Abel aerospace?
Lee Benson 4:23
Yeah, the short lead up to it. You know, I came from a low income family. I was kicked out of the house and at the beginning of my senior year, I was already working full time as a cook. It was a non-event to get my own apartment through the 80s. I don’t count it. But my first real business was playing in a band we’d play hundreds of nights a year. It was just a fantastic ride. During the day to earn extra money. I was working at a sort of mom and pop shop electroplating company and I became the supervisor. We had about 25 employees.
They sold to a larger company, and we really only had one customer. They were 90% of our bill. Isn’t this and they cut us off overnight. And my boss said, close it or sell it, I’m done. You’ve got 30 days, I couldn’t find ready to buy it. And so I went back and I said, Look, I want to go in this direction. And I want to do the work we’re doing directly for aircraft operators, and I think I can make it work. And he said, You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve never never done it before. It’ll never work. So how about this, let me assume in total about $600,000 in debt, and either way you walk away from the debt, and some of it was due to them as management fee. And you can get some of that back if we turn it around. But either way, you walk away from a dentist, he said, Yes, instantly. We had three employees that first year. And my perspective was, there’s no way we’re not going to make this work. Like I just knew it would work. Because I realized, if you worked really hard and struggled to get a capability, you can use that to create value. And I just trusted that process.
That said, the first year it felt like we were almost going to go out of business about 15 times we did $360,000 in sales. It was myself and two other gentlemen, I couldn’t afford to pay him the first year, but I gave them provisional equity. And they both did incredibly well when we exited in 2016. And then we just started, you know, doubling and doubling. And then you know, we had right before I sold it the 15 years prior, we had a steady clip of 20% compounded annual growth on average going forward.
So I was used to taking risks. I was used to being out there and floating. I’m still a big risk taker, but an intelligent risk taker. I don’t, I don’t want to just, you know, be stupid with money, if you will. But I love that. The harder it is the bigger opportunities for margins, we ended up being a wildly complicated business where everything was special handling and so many different roles and so many different sets of capabilities that people needed to be able to create value in the organization. And as a result, the gross profit margins were always in the 50-60% range. And this is doing aircraft component repair and overhaul.
Jeremy Weisz 7:09
So how old were you at that time? Lee, when you took over the company? What would that have been?
Lee Benson 7:18
I guess, late 30s. Something like the mid mid mid to late 30s. Yeah.
Jeremy Weisz 7:23
Were you still playing in the band at that point? doing gigs or No, you were?
Lee Benson 7:29
Yeah, yeah. Were you I was definitely. Actually at that time I was in a band that was playing most weekends. It was just a fun band.
Jeremy Weisz 7:37
Yeah, I find that the people in bands were musicians. Hustle. And they need to hustle to get gigs and they need to do all those things. All the market, you know, you have to do all the things right. The marketing, you have to do the fulfillment. And when I was mentioned before we hit record Greg roulette, who I had on who had I think it opened for Bone Thugs and harmony was a rapper, and he had to learn all the marketing and book the gigs. And there’s a lot of moving pieces there. Yeah, that’s true. Is that what you took into aerospace? You think?
Lee Benson 8:10
Totally. And I just did the math. I guess I was 32 when I took over the company. But if you back all the way up, and I think about how I’m six, seven years old and the neighbor asked me unsolicited, would you pull weeds in my garden for 25 cents an hour? I’m like, Sure. And back then you could buy two candy bars and change. It was amazing. And then and then I said, Well, this is a lot of work, but I love having the money and then I started shoveling snow I grew up in Spokane, Washington, I could get 50 cents to shovel snow off a driveway and I could do two an hour why just for folding my money then I got a paper out and then I got I was a dishwasher busboy cook and then the band in the 80s
That’s how I made most of my money. So it’s this whole sort of value creation struggle cycle. It’s how I articulated it today . I couldn’t articulate it back then but there’s a capability I wanted. I would struggle to get the capability to build my confidence and self esteem and I would use that to create value. And I just kept taking bigger next steps. And even e TW today. This is my seventh company that I’ve started from scratch. And I still think my value creation best days are to come. This is so much fun going that way. But once you get on this cycle, and I think it’s important for kids to get on that value creation cycle and I think it’s really important for adults to embrace it to your confidence, your self esteem, your belief in yourself and your ability to do things. It just keeps elevating your internal fulfillment Quotient or KPI, whatever you want to call it can just continually grow throughout your entire life.
Jeremy Weisz 9:53
I want to talk about some of the things you put in place along the way to grow because I’m sure there were certain milestones. But you mentioned the values and what you did as a kid and you have a book, value creation kid, what are some of the things you talk about? And you tell families?
Lee Benson 10:13
Yeah, the biggest thing to understand from my view is that motivational nudges aren’t really going to work for most, it will work for some kids, it’ll work for some adults, but it doesn’t work for most. So within companies that I work with, we put in an intentional operating methodology, within which every team member creates value. And there’s rules of engagement and all of that. And over time, everybody discovers, you know, sort of their value creation superpower, if you will, and they keep accelerating the value that they create. Well, the same thing applies inside of the family. And so how do you operationalize value creation within the family? And so the rules of engagement, and all of that I think, are really important.
And most parents will, you know, give them a book, take a class, talk about how to make money, manage money, save it, spend it, share it, etc. And they think, Oh, they got it. And I would say, Well, look, it might have taken you 2030 4050 years to get it at your level, you can explain wisdom and character to the kids. So in a value creation kid, my co author, Scott Donnell, and I frame something we call the gravy stack method. And there’s four really simple things that any family can do. And I’m super interested in low and middle income families, because they make up the vast majority of the population in the United States. The first piece of it is value creation. And value creation isn’t just money, we put it in three big buckets.
The first bucket is material value. The second bucket is emotional energy value. And the third bucket is spiritual value. So help kids discover talk about these things and all that but help them discover their value creation superpower. And I believe the scarcest commodity on the planet is actually emotional energy, positive emotional energy. And when that’s running on nine, or 10, you can do just about anything, and it supercharges everything, when it’s running on one or two, you know, the smallest thing happens, you get a flat tire and it ruins your week. And so there’s the you know, how do you talk about value creation? And how do we create values of family, then the second piece of it is house rules. So you know, what’s everybody’s job for the family? And we kind of outlined it in these three years, you know, what are the expectations?
Like, what are you, what are you going to be doing, you know, et cetera. And as kids get older, what a third, the second is, what are the expenses that you’ll be picking up, and then the 30 would be extra money. So we need to show them how to make extra money above and beyond their job for the family. So they can start using it to cover some of these expenses. And then you build on that. And it’s amazing how we can watch them. And this is totally how I did it, watch them into adulthood. Financially competent, and as independent as they choose to be, you can be that too. The third part is financial competency. So teaching them everything they need to know about all aspects of earning and saving and sharing and spending and investing money, appropriately.
Age appropriate over time. And then the last one, which is the most important and it’s the one most adults Miss within families, is healthy struggle. So you know, the title is value creation kid, but the subtitle is the healthy struggles your children need to succeed. And, and so many parents tell me, you know, I don’t want my parents and my kids to struggle, like I did. And I’m gonna go out of my way to make sure they don’t go without, and they have everything. And I talked to one gentleman where we’re mutually invested in a particular company. And we started talking about a person. Yeah, I’ve got two sons. And I really pride myself on the fact that I gave him everything I didn’t have. And so what’s going on now, and he says, well, one’s 23 127, they both live in my basement, and I don’t see that they’re ever going to be able to leave, because there was no struggle. So let’s design healthy struggles for our children.
And let’s be okay, when they’re bouncing off the walls and having a little bit of difficulty with it. Love is unconditional, the support is unconditional. Don’t keep jumping in and doing it for them. And don’t expect if it took you 20 or 30 years to get a concept that you can explain it in one conversation, and your kids will just get it and be that it’s impossible. So if you can create this framework, this sort of operating methodology for creating value within a family, kids will discover their value creation superpower over time, they’ll get better and better at it, more self-reliant. And when they’re more self reliant and calm. Around this, they’re intrinsically motivated.
They’re not as influenced by hate that I get on a tick tock likes or this, this, you know, kid looked at me funny or I’m not part of the cool club, it doesn’t matter, I’d like to eventually get to a place where the primary drive motivation, maybe even identity for most kids is the value that they create in the world. And I even want to take it one step further and say, when it comes to education, the purpose of an education is to create value in the world, it’s not to get a good grade, get a diploma, get a degree, get a job, when you start going down that track, which is how we’re talking about it in most schools across the country, kids are coming up with things because I think I’m supposed to do that, or I’m supposed to do this other thing. If right out of the gate, you know, they’re having this conversation in the home, they go to kindergarten, and they talk about the purpose of creating value. Here’s three macro buckets. What do you do ? How would you like to create value in the world? What do you think your value creation superpower is? Now all of a sudden, why to learn is a lot more impactful. And then what to learn, the kids will have more say in that and develop that over time, and then how to learn becomes really interesting, because we want to learn faster, and everybody learns a little bit to a little bit different.