Rob Braiman: The Discovery Process with Cogent Analytics

December 20, 2019


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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, founder and CEO of We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, where I'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go with us right now. We've got Rob Braiman. Rob, you are the senior partner and managing member of Cogent Analytics. Thank you so much for joining us, Josh. truly a pleasure and an honor to be on the show today. So Rob, give me a quick overview of what Cogent Analytics is, who you serve, and the outcome that you provide for your clients.

Josh, we're a management consulting group and I don't want that to be a four letter word in people's minds we have spent coaching analytics has really been existence since 2014. And we've had the pleasure of being honored on the Inc 5000. We made the Inc 500 the Inc 5003 years. And I think I can do math, I don't want to get over the tip of my skis. But I feel very strongly that we have had commensurable growth this year. But, you know, our focus is Main Street business. Our focus is really working with a family owned, privately owned, I always say our sweet spots between that two and 30 million. And that's not to say we don't have a lot of clients below that. And we have a number of clients above that in in revenue size. But you know, when I look at entrepreneurs when I am a serial entrepreneurs, when I look at entrepreneurs, my whole life has been dedicated to that other small business owner who was aspiring to do something amazing. And that's really what it takes when you when you jump in and say I want to own a small business, but hopefully that that answers A very long answer to a short question job.

Yeah, sure. So then when you work then with your clients, what do you what do you actually doing with them? Obviously management consulting, but can you kind of break that down for me? Like, what does that look like?

Yeah, the tip of the spear for us really is our discovery process. So I want to be clear, we don't always take clients forward to consulting, we believe there has to be a clear return on investment before we will accept the client, you know, it makes no sense to spend $1 to get your dollar back. So we have a threshold of there must be a clear two to one return most often we will exceed that, you know, 3214215 to one return with our clients as a as kind of a litmus test of who we will represent in consulting. But let's dial that back to the discovery process, which is rare. I really think the magic is for our small business clients. You know, people fight the fight every single day and We really focus on the four pillars of business. And and the four pillars exists in every business, whether you're a $200,000 startup, or you're a $2 billion multinational corporation. And those four pillars are business development, how do we generate or drive revenue into our company is about people, you know, we call that organizational engineering. So all aspects of people, how we hire, how we train, how we retain, how we compensate how we do continuing education. As you can imagine, organizational engineering covers a lot that's going on in a privately held company, operational engineering, which is really Process Management, how do we do what we do and do it efficiently and do it profitably. And then lastly, is the measurement process and people get a little hung up on measurement, right? You don't measure so many things. It's It's not supposed to be paralysis by analysis. But in the world today we should be able to create really good financial information in our company that allows us as leaders to make good business decisions and usually that's driven through operational measurements which are referred to as KPIs or key performance indicators that allows you a president and if you think about your business gosh that allows you to be able to manage your people at key measurement points in the business so that you know you were efficiently delivering a product into the marketplace that you can you can manage to a predetermined engineered profit

so profit obviously is it is a good measurement that what like things are in harmony the system is working well. You know, it's almost like physically, you know, I have great energy physically as it as a human. So that means probably you know, some some things are my hearts working okay, my lunch. Or find my brain is doing all right. You know, I'm generally in good health physically. It's a little bit like that. And so is I mean, you could still have a profitable company. But things can be out of whack though.

Sure we historically see clients underperform relative to profit and and then justify that underperformer. And you know, in today's conversation, I want to make a point if the if you'll give me a little bit of latitude, profit is the oxygen to the business. So if you want to offer better benefits to your employees, that's going to be driven off of profitability if you want to be able to have security or savings outside of the business in the form of distributions that comes through profit if you want to invest in capital equipment that comes through profit. If you want to grow your business that comes through cash flow generated by profit So, you know, we really are a profit enhancement group. And I want to touch back on something that we were talking about, which is the discovery. You know, we focus on the four pillars of business. If you'll allow me a shameless plug, if people went to the cogent analytics website and went to our solutions tab, what they would find is the coding analytics profit platform. The only thing that you wouldn't see in that profit platform is the is the strategic planning circle, the profit platform resides within because you can't really have a business without strategically planning, every element of the business failure to plan is planning to fail. So excuse the euphemism but you know what, what that Venn diagram is really communicating is that these aren't standalone pillars. It's like building a house. If you don't have a solid foundation called strategic planning, where pillars can stand on the top of that and you have to, you have to have an equal endeavor and each one of your pillars and you You have to have a good connective tissue. So if if you have people but you don't have a well defined plan on how you're going to get the work done, profit suffers, right if you don't measure success or efficiency, profit suffers. If you're not generating the right revenue to be able to bring in your business to cover your overhead costs and absorption rate, profit suffers. So if I can communicate that to your audience, you know, profit is an engineer thing. It's not profit, less cost equals what you get to keep its profit, excuse me, its revenue less profit equals what you get to spend. So I'm gonna say that one more time it is not revenue, less what you less cost is what you get to keep. Profit is not residual. It is revenue left profit because you want to engineer profit first, then dictates how much you get to spend in your business because you should treat profit as a president of a company. You should treat profit is the most important oxygen in the room.

Amazing. Amazing. So then what is what is the discovery process typically look like? I mean, how does someone and maybe this you experiences frequently where people say, Oh, no, our people are fine or people are great. And then what through the discovery process, they go, Oh, boy, we got problems.

You know, it's funny, I don't like to look at as success fail. The best well run companies, even our best clients, and we have a number of highly skilled, highly profitable clients that engage us on a continual basis to come in and identify gaps. to us. The discovery is an empowerment tool. You know, even if you have a good business, there are likely things going on in that business that that get away from you. It's like being in the forest and not being able to see that Trees. So the discovery process pulls you up above the forest. And that then takes a really hard, honest look on areas of improvement or opportunity that you and your team can be empowered by and makes the logical adjustments. It's easier for us as a group of professionals without having skin in the game, so to speak. You know, it's very easy as an entrepreneur to get really caught up in in in the success of the business. When you give me the example of a successful business, I promise you after almost two decades of doing this, yeah, I did 15 to 1800 discoveries of my own accord my firm has done thousands. On every single occasion we find areas where profit should should and could be enhanced. And it's really an empowering experience when you when you get a chance to work on your business, from time to time as opposed to just working in it.

Yeah, and and so how does how do you? I mean, when you go through sales people measurement operations? Is it just a matter of knowing best practices when you're working with a company? And you say, well, let's review. How do you measure? And they say, Oh, well, I mean, we're just doing this, you know, like, Oh, no, you should be doing more than that, based on, you know, we've worked with a lot of other companies. Is that kind of the only way to know or how can I know if I'm not measuring effectively?

So every every organization is unique in that I could take five construction companies and look at all five. Remember that everybody's business model is a little different, their staff is a little different, how they approach their market is a little bit different. But to answer your question, yes, after looking at thousands and thousands and thousands, of companies, you can imagine not only have we been able to see with The worst of the worst. But the best part of this story with that, with that length of tenure, I mean we've got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years of experience in this firm. You know, when you get an opportunity to look at a lot of areas of opportunity can be improved on you know, I always say that's my PhD in small business ownership aside outside of the this cogent analytics been my fourth endeavor. I've really had the joy of representing American families around this country that are striving for the same thing. You know, remember small business owners are good, hard working honorable people that are wholly vested in that success of the business and its energy to get lost in the second thing thing.

Yeah. And and as well, I think with with sales, for example, is it a matter of testing or how does someone determine that there is an issue with sales and business

development? So it

sounds like hey, we're not making the profit and Is that the indication?

So So, okay, you're backing into your backing into a question, I will answer the sales question. Yeah, think about profit engineering. Profit engineering is about controlling direct costs, indirect cost and overhead, right? So it has to be broken out into three things to develop a breakeven strategy, which over arching effect will be your strategy on go to market. How do you sell to whom you sell? What do you sell? Now, where a lot of business owners get lost is a lot of folks will hire people that have the title sales guy, and they'll bring them into the organization because they know they need sales, but they will be unsuccessful because there is no process. There is no structure, there's no measurement, there's no strategy. And that is classic because business, selling is a science. It's not just go sell something So there's got to be a pricing strategy and market strategy. There's got to be how do we hit our breakeven and what strategically Are we going to take on discounts towards product? So, you know, we could have a full geek out session on today's discussion about selling practice. What we look for is how, who you hire, how do you manage who you hire, how do you say, how do you set standards? What is your selling system that you deploy? How do you teach, manage and measure your sales staff? And what form of compensation incentives that are driving behavior in sales other than just the commission sales? Yeah. And I and I say that with you know, the dangling italics, you know, I so, it is a very comprehensive review, Joshua, you know, there is there's an entire strategy to selling towards the overall arch overarching goal of developing highly profitable business and I know you're you're drawing out of me some questions, but I don't want to get I don't want the listeners to get lost in this conversation, right business development is sales and marketing. It's not just go and sell something. And there is a clear selling process to growth.

Yeah. So you do have a kind of an entry level product, which is kind of nice. So, if you're a small business and you just want to begin this process, can you explain that?

Sure. It's fully scalable. We, you know, we, strategically when I started coaching analytic, a lot of consulting firms dismiss the startup companies the $1 million, million and a half dollar $2 million companies, because in most consultancies, they, they think that those Well, I'll just, I'll just be a little brash when I say that it's not worth their time. So to us when I started coaching analytics back in 2014, I knew that the people that needed the most hope for help. And were typically under service were those startup companies and those people that were trying to figure out how to get back beyond, you know, that $2 million 20 employees threshold. And and so we strategically as a group looked at that looked at that whole body of American families out there and said, you know, we have to strategically develop a service that is going to support those types of clients. And there's a division in our firm called VCs or virtual consulting, which is kind of in tandem boots on the ground and doing virtual. So if you think of zoom or teams, Microsoft Teams or go to meeting, we use video conferencing and sundry of other tools which are a little proprietary that I want to talk about, on an open mic that allow us to engage with clients in a social format sitting around across the desk, even when we're hundred miles away, so but we do it on a much more abbreviated basis and tackles specific problems almost on an hour carte basis, although it's not truly all a cart because the overarching mission is to enhance profitability. And that would require most often addressing all four pillars of the business. But we we elongate that and ever because usually you can't you can't eat an elephant on one bite, usually eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Yeah. So Rob, in the case of sales, like you just use myself here. Like we clearly need some some sale systems like we're, you know, kind of going through that rapid growth as as, you know, startup that's really starting to get momentum. But there are some very, very key pieces. I mean, I'm embarrassed to share this but we don't even have a sales official sales CRM. I mean, everything right now is just running That is spreadsheets. And we have like we've got over $200,000 in Mr. That's in the pipeline right now. Yeah. And I'm like Dory john two problems number one, no system no good system number two it's all on my shoulders right now. And so we have some some some people issues where we've tried we've tried hiring and it just hasn't worked out real well. Is it is it just as simple as like you looking into my eyes and going Josh, Come on brother fix that.

No see that that dismisses the you the owner and your own personal aptitudes you would have addressed it you know, there's some humble there's an old funny haha that ignorance is fixable. stupidity is a choice. Right. You know, you know, you're aware of the problem, but I believe you would have fixed the problem. Had you had a meeting we've tried unsuccessfully, which is I automatic And when you telling your story that you got a bunch of listeners on this listening as podcast say that would tell the exact same story. So what I would want to do in your particular case is do a traditional discovery. Let's look at what what your approach has been, what your intentions are, what kind of systemic structure Are you using to measure, you know, what systems have you vetted or looked at? And can we give you you know, distill this, you know, if you went looking for CRM today, you could probably find 300, we have 10 that we historically will lean towards. There are some more dynamic, selling CRMs that are far more expensive and and traditionally reserved for companies of, you know, 2030 $50 million and above, but we usually have a core grouping and once we make the selection with a client, it really is talking about what system what structures so that when you start the hiring practice, you're not Bringing a salesperson into you Am I and not have a very clearly defined strategy to sell with a selling system and I'll give you, you know, cheap counsel on on today's discussion. You're a consultative sales group. One of the best consultative selling models in the market today is called SPIN Selling. It was started by Neil Rackham wrote a book back in the 1970s. The first exercise he did was Xerox, well, SPIN Selling has matured greatly over the years and spin stands for situation problem implication need payoff. And it really is using a Socratic methodology in question and answering with with the prospect that allows you to get to a needs assessment and what the potential problem is costing you Josh Elledge. Once we know what that is, we know what our relative investment should be over what period of time to be able to develop a selling system and then People in the system to give them a chance to be successful. Usually what happens is we hire somebody, and we set them up for failure. Right?

And that's, admittedly, that's exactly what our problem was. We've been through a few hires now. And we just didn't have our game. And you know, and I think that we've, we've got clarity on that. And so now we're in the action process. So, you know, we just want to make smart decisions.

Yeah, that's outstanding. I'm glad you to see you're putting your arms around it. Right. Oh, yeah. Are you kidding with that, with that

revenue sitting out there? So

well, that journey is never ending, you know, you'll go through a series of growth that you build a system today that will take you to an income level or a success story. And you're going to go through this same discussion again, at your next plateau phase. Every company has thresholds. Most clients I talked to are spending years at a plateau. Instead of, you know, a year, 18 months strategically, you know, slowing sales down, maintaining a level cleaning up process, cleaning up people cleaning up measurement, and then scaling the business. You know, that is one word that I hear from my clients all the time, Rob, we've been at $5 million for seven or eight years. We've had some occasions where we bumped up but it always seems to find our way back to $5 million. And they haven't been able to scale their company and that's really critical. You know, that's a key indicator that we look at with our clients. What is the client trying to accomplish and what are they using to get there? And it's like going to the doctor, let's diagnose the problem and come up with a strategic plan going forward. That's the empowerment piece that allows you and your team to to embrace take responsibility and attack the problem and in a in a more thoughtful way.

So Rob, at Cogent Analytics com if someone would love that, that that $100 discovery feature was, which is fantastic, it's accessible. It's a great way to get started great way to build some clarity. What would be the best way to activate that?

Sure it was so we have a number of discovery rate. You know what I've done? Okay. Forgive me I was going out there. I just it's great. We hadn't shared that with the audience. One of the traditional artists I've done

on you heard

one of one of the offers that I've done with you know, I've done a number of podcasts with a variety of other platforms. I love coming back to your show. You know, I know your passion for the small business community is what's always impressed me about up my influence, you know, your approach to small business owners is what I mean it's truly inspired leadership on your part. So you know, what we've done is offer and our discovery is boots on the ground, right? We send an analyst boots on the ground in your organization for Two to three days so that we can do a comprehensive review and and and produce a findings report with you and your senior leadership team that gives you the beginnings of a roadmap. You know that that, to me is where the the real disruption in the market that we've tried to accomplish, you know, I'm a strong believer that, that if we earn credibility and an honor and distinction with our clients, then we'll earn a client's business for life. I don't assume the consultative relationship and I have put whole directional focus on the discovery process to make sure that is a value to the clients that we represent. So what I what you and I spoke about it before we turn the mic on today was to offer a 1200 dollar discovery to any of your listeners, you know, you can go to www cogent analytics com we have a number of resources we have downloaded ebooks that you know, if you're having a particular problem we're about to launch an entrepreneurs test in the coming 10 days, so that you can do a self evaluation and then download some materials and then speak to an advisor to talk through some of the challenges you might be experiencing. But that is an open offer today on your show that we will do a discovery for 1200 you can imagine that that is about half of what we normally do for two to three days boots on the ground with with your listeners, and we'd be hugely, hugely successful program.

Wonderful, awesome. All right. Well, Rob Braman. You know, again, your position with the you're the

owner, I know I'm the owner, I'm the senior partner I am the managing member of cogent analytics. Nice. So this was my brainchild. I am very passionate and and truly appreciative of having me back on your show, this has been sure. This has been a joy. It's been an honor.

And your website is cogent analytics. That's co G and t And there's all the contact forums. Again, click on solutions. If you want to see a graphic of what Rob and I were talking about, you can just click on the solutions tab, and it'll be right there. Rob, thank you so much for joining us today.

Josh. Once again, thank you kindly for

thanks for listening to the thoughtful entrepreneur show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up my slash guest that we've got something out of this interview. Would you share this episode on social media just to a quick screenshot with your phone and texted to a friend or posted on the socials. You do that tag us with the hashtag up my influence. Each month we scour Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. We pick one winner from each platform, and you get crowned king or queen of that social media. What do you win? We're going to promote you and your business to over 120,000 social media fans totally free. Now, can you also hook us up now in your podcast player right now, please give us a thumbs up or a rating and review. We promise to read it all and take action. We believe that every person has a message that can positively impact the world. Your feedback helps us fulfill that mission. While you're at it. Hit that subscribe button. You know why tomorrow? That's right, seven days a week. You are going to be inspired and motivated to succeed. See 15 minutes a day. My name is Josh Elledge. Let's connect on the socials, you'll find all the stuff we're doing at up my Thanks for listening and thank you for being a part of the thoughtful entrepreneur movement. Rob, you are the senior partner and managing member of cogent analytics. Thank you so much for joining us, Josh. truly a pleasure and an honor to be on the show today. So Rob, give me a quick overview of what cogent analytics is, who you serve and the outcome that you provide for your clients.


The Four Pillars of Small Business Management


Whether you are a $200,000 start-up or a two-billion-dollar corporation, the magic lies in the four pillars of business management: business development, organizational engineering, operational engineering, and measurement.

Business development is a process that focuses on generating profit. It is about implementing adequate sales and marketing strategies to drive revenue into a company and ensure its development and growth.

Organizational engineering covers all aspects of people management, including hiring processes, training and retaining the employees, and continuing education programs. It allows you to define the structure and complexity of your business.

Operational engineering or process management encompasses various methods to analyze, improve, and optimize different business processes. It makes sure that everything you do is efficient and profitable.

Measurement is the process of choosing and evaluating appropriate KPIs, or key performance indicators, which (that) assess how successful a company is in reaching its goals.

How to Achieve Your Strategic Goals

If you are a small business owner, you want to have a future vision and ensure long-term growth. However, it's easy for an entrepreneur to get caught up in temporary business success, losing sight of the bigger picture. This inevitably leads to reaching a certain threshold and hitting a plateau phase in the company's development. To avoid this scenario, you need to implement appropriate strategic planning that will help you scale your business and realize your goals.

Running a business is like building a house, and strategic planning is the foundation on which all of the four pillars can stand. A good strategic plan needs to establish your company's purpose and its core values. It analyses the strengths and weaknesses of your business by predicting potential opportunities and pitfalls you might encounter. It should include precise operational strategies as well as efficiency measurement tactics. Put simply, failure to plan is planning to fail.

Managing Cash Flow

If profit is oxygen to a company, then cash flow is its bloodstream. If you want to grow your business, offer better benefits to your employees, and invest in capital equipment, you need to have a positive cash flow. Some of the basic rules for managing and maintaining a healthy cash flow are:

  • Keep your books up to date;
  • Be smart with your invoicing strategy and get payments on time;
  • Set aside enough cash reserve.

However, if your business is struggling to make ends meet, and you are looking for ways to boost your revenue and cut expenses, you might want to consider using some of the following strategies:

  • Estimate your expenses, starting from the total monthly outflows for salaries, rent, and equipment;
  • Get advanced payments for long-term projects;
  • Grant discounts for instant payments;
  • Drive-up your sales by either generating new leads through marketing or selling your product or service to existing customers for a higher price.

The secret of good cash flow, to a large extent, lies in the discipline and functional internal procedures as well as precise pricing and planning of SME marketing.

Marketing for Small Businesses

Building a strong presence in the market is one of the biggest challenges for small businesses. With fast-growing technologies and the Internet, all companies today have the opportunity to build their brand and expand the availability of their products and services globally. Additionally, most customers first go online to find all the necessary information about a particular product before making a purchase decision. With this in mind, it is clear that digital marketing for small businesses is vital for making a successful marketing campaign. It allows you to segment your market and tailor your messages in a valuable and measurable way.

People like to have all the information at their fingertips and get to the desired product in just a few clicks. For this reason, marketing strategies for small businesses should be focused on building their online presence.

The first step in creating your digital marketing strategy is to understand your business and what exactly you want to achieve with it. Secondly, identify the problem that needs to be solved and your ideal buyer's persona. This is followed by selecting the appropriate digital channels (social networks, search engines, e-mails), creating content and campaigns, monitoring these campaigns, and optimizing them to achieve the best results.  

Are you in need of a business analysis?

Rob Braiman is the senior partner and managing member of Cogent Analytics.

Cogent Analytics is a business management consulting firm focused on helping small businesses get their needs met.

They offer business analyses to improve performance and benefit the companies.

Cogent’s primary concern is to put the client first and help them succeed.

Learn more about how Cogent Analytics can help your business by listening to this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on  Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – Spotify –Google Play –Castbox – TuneIn – RSS.

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