Hey there business leaders!
This time, I had the opportunity to interview Chris Prenovost, Vice-President at AZPro Group. We talked about their humble beginnings, struggles, solutions, and culture.
There were so many great insights on this interview.
Some of my favorites include:
The interview was a little over 30 minutes but the conversation was like drinking water from a fire hose. Chris really showed his decisiveness and willpower from the beginning. His courage and boldness took over with help from further studies like training and books.
Chris Prenovost is the Vice-President and partner at Phoenix’s premiere vehicle wrap and large graphics provider – AZPro Group. Chris and his brother, Jason, managed to grow the company over 91% from 2014 to 2017.
AZPro Group was also listed as one of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies by Inc. 5000, served over 5,000 clients and has nearly 100 employees to date! These are just some of the most notable achievements of Chris.
Chris told me that he dropped out of college after a year and a half. He explained that knowledge was a lot more important than a degree or piece of paper. He spends a lot of time studying about self-development and leadership.
A Recession Hit In 2008 And Their Solution
“Everybody’s competing on price. So, we decided not to compete on price anymore,” Chris said. They changed their pricing and sales model to focus on quality and customer service, going a different route than everyone else. That’s when they noticed that their closing rates where going through the roof. “We’ve been blessed with opportunities. But we also have taken and seized those opportunities,” he added.
An Easy Way To Beat Competitors
Chris’ advice is to take care of clients. “Keep your customer happy because when you stop, someone is going to sneak in and steal clients from you,” he continued. “We just focus on client service,” Chris reiterated. He said one of their core focuses is to make their clients’ lives easier because when they do, clients will keep coming back. Chris said he knows that his clients want two things: to have things look good for their boss and second is for their life to be easy. “If you can accomplish those two things, you can usually keep them.”
What was Chris’ Biggest Leadership Challenge So Far?
The company started to struggle with leadership once they hit 30 employees. It got to a point where Chris had to fix it or leave the company. He even told his management team, “Hey look guys this is crazy I am working 100 hours a week, we are not making the profit we should be making. We need to do something because I am not going to do this anymore.”
He is co-owners with his brother, Jason. Saying “We think very differently,” the check and balances is a big part of our success. However, it was very confusing for their team members because each owner had a different outlook. "We didn’t empower anybody. We didn’t delegate properly,” Chris professed. “That’s when we decided we needed better management”.
At this point Chris took a step back and found a solution. “Two and a half years ago now, I came across a book called Traction and EOS. We instituted that and it’s been the best thing we ever did!” Chris excitedly said."
About Traction / Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)
EOS is a framework to run your business on. You can learn more about it here. Below are some screen shots about some of the items we discussed on the interview.
Chris' Thoughts About Letting People Go
Once they implemented their core values, 15% of their employees left. “They just weren’t the right people,” he said. “It’s extremely tough,” Chris accepted in letting people go. “But the alternative is to keep doing things the way you are and keep having the same struggles over and over every day. Life’s too short.”
Chris continued by saying that he loves his people even those who are not working for him anymore. He said that he wants to see them be successful.
“We don’t use the term ‘terminate’. We use the word ‘release’. We’re releasing them to go do what they’re supposed to do because this isn’t it.” He said that it’s a very different take on the matter. Thinking that way made it easier from a mental standpoint he said. “We’re not trying to please everybody,” he confirmed.
“I used to think that you have to make everybody happy. And you have to create a company where everybody wants to work in. No! I just finished a new hire interview and part of my presentation is to ‘try-to-scare-you-away’. I don’t want people here unless they really want to be here.”
Company Culture, Core Values and Employee Engagement
Chris strongly recommends books by Patrick Lencioni. He also said that it’s good to talk to your management team and see the core value that already existing in your company. You identify your core company values by combining the characteristics of your model employees.
He also confirmed that they have quarterly conversations with their employees talking about their metrics. They clearly state what their expectations are. When a certain employee doesn’t hit the metrics, it’s strike one and the employee is put on 30-day probation. When the employee does what is expected of him/her, then the strike is lifted but if not then it’s strike two. When strike three hits, it’s time to pack boxes.
“The idea is keeping the channel of communication open with them,” Chris said. This is so everyone knows what is expected of them and no one gets surprised.
This is Chris' advice for business owners who have over 20 employees. “You’re going to hit various ceilings in your career. And if you want to continue to grow, you have to identify what is your ceiling, what’s holding you back? I think what it comes down to is delegation. You have to make sure that you’re spending the majority of your time on things that only you can do,” he said. Furthermore, he said that the owner should not do things that someone else can do for him/her. Otherwise, the owner will get stuck constantly doing it.
Chris suggested taking regular clarity breaks. Find a quiet place and think about your work and its challenges. He summarized this as two main things: realizing that you may be the problem and taking clarity breaks to dig deep and analyze things.
Click play to listen to the full interview:
Did you get how many times he said the word book during the interview? If you did, comment it below.
I’m sure you enjoyed the interview as much as I did. So, let Chris know by dropping by his LinkedIn and thank him for his valuable time and advice.