Josh Turner is the Founder and CEO of a company called LinkedSelling. We interviewed him recently to get his insights about what it really takes to grow a business in 2019. (Answers have been edited for brevity.)
Can you summarize what your business does?
Sure. We help B2B companies generate leads and appointments and get clients, primarily using LinkedIn. We’ve been on the Inc 500 list for several years running, and we’ve been recognized by many publications as one of the best in the world at what we do. One side of our company is a full service agency: clients hire us to implement our system on their behalf. Another side, our training division, helps smaller businesses learn what we do and implement the ideas by themselves.
You’ve had a unique vantage seeing numerous companies scale. What happens to businesses as they grow?
It’s easier when you’re smaller, that’s for sure. The bigger you get, the harder it is to continue putting up the same growth rate. For example, it’s a lot easier to double from $1 million to $2 million than it is to double from $5 million to $10 million.
At LinkedSelling, I recognized at some point that I had become a bottleneck for our growth. So I worked on building a great team around me, and then I just let them do their job. Our best people have almost always been homegrown. It takes longer to groom somebody internally, but we’ve found this process leads to a better fit, culturally and otherwise.
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself from three years ago, what business advice would you give?
I’d suggest being more aggressive with building our sales team. And I would have hired more people and structured compensation differently—to emphasize getting prospects on the phone. In a business like ours, people can buy programs without ever talking to somebody. But we realized that if we get people to speak on the phone, our average sales price goes up.
Why didn’t you grow faster? Was there a psychological or logistical obstacle?
We’re always trying to grow as much we can, while also being profitable and managing cash flow. But we’ve never been afraid. We’ve never been trying to grow slower or anything like that. But often in business, you don’t know what you don’t know until you go through it.
In working with lots of B2B companies, do you have insight about why some crash and burn, while others succeed?
We conducted a year-plus study of over 1,300 businesses. Of those we surveyed and interviewed, 88% said they struggle with maintaining cash flow. 12% never struggle—and almost all have systems to consistently bring in new leads, appointments, and clients.
By contrast, the 88% almost all lack those systems. Instead, they largely rely on word of mouth referrals. So they go through peaks and valleys. If you exist in that state, you’re just a bad month or two away from being in a lot of trouble. That’s what can kill a business really: running out of work.
Right, and then you’re tempted to throw a Hail Mary, which can make a bad situation worse. Somewhat relatedly, is there any piece of conventional business wisdom that you believe is misguided?
When I started my business, I got a lot of advice to go to networking events. Attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, have coffees and lunches with people, etc. By doing this, so the thinking goes, you’ll collect referrals, who will turn into clients. Some people are great at the networking game. But for me, I found it was almost always a waste of time. I’d have great conversations, and everybody was really nice. It felt good to feel tapped in, but it didn’t move the needle and get me clients.
Relatedly, I noticed that super successful business owners tended to avoid these networking meetings. That’s not to knock the events or those who attend. But for most people, this type of prospecting doesn’t work.
LinkedIn, by contrast, allowed me to create a marketing system that put me in front of the right people at the right time. It minimizes randomness and makes it easier to replicate successes and improve over time.