The cavnessHR podcast – A talk with Todd Dean
Below is the PDF version which includes links back to the YouTube video of the talk.
Todd Dean, a Montana native and natural ‘Deal Maker’ has been connecting people and businesses in the entrepreneurial investment community for years.
Besides being a key partner at Dean Jones Partners bringing a unique dimension to the firm with regards to access to investors and executives the world over. Mr. Dean is the founder of Todd Dean & Co., a global, full-service consulting firm focused on the needs of early-stage companies to large scale enterprise clients including life coaching to CEO, growth capital, and advisory services for scaling.
He is also founder of the Keiretsu Forum Northwest; Keiretsu Forum is a global investment community of accredited private equity angel investors, venture capitalists and corporate/institutional investors. Keiretsu Forum is a worldwide network of capital, resources and deal flow with 52 chapters on 3 continents.
The cavnessHR Podcast can be found at the following places or you can just type in cavnessHR on the respective app.
Pocket Casts: http://pca.st/EMof
Social Media links for Todd below!!
Below are Todd’s book recommendations:
“How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life” by John C. Maxwell
“Developing the Leader Within You” by John C. Maxwell.
Click on the links below to purchase the books from Amazon
For our listeners today, what I've offered is I'm happy to review your company and give you some feedback. Whether it's your capital structure, whether it's your market strategy, whether it's questions about your company in general, board of directors. I'm happy to review your company. I'm happy to set up a phone call or email respond to your inquiry.
Jason: 0:01 Hello, and welcome to the cavnessHR Podcast. I’m your host, Jason Cavness. Our guest today is Todd Dean. Todd, are you ready to be great today?
Todd: 0:10 I'm ready.
Jason: 0:12 Todd Dean is a Montana native and natural “Deal Maker” who has been connecting people and businesses in the entrepreneurial investment community for years. Besides being a key partner at Dean Jones partners, bringing a unique dimension to the firm with regards to access to investors and executives the world over. Mr. Dean is the founder of Todd Dean & Co. – a global, full-service consulting firm focused on the needs of early-stage companies to large-scale enterprise clients. Including life coaching to CEO, growth capital, and advisory services for scaling. He's also the founder of Keiretsu Forum Northwest. Keiretsu Forum is a global investment community of accredited, private equity angel investors, venture capitalists, and corporate/institutional investors. Keiretsu Forum is a worldwide network of capital, resources, and deal flow with 52 chapters on three continents. During the past four years, Mr. Dean has focused much of his time to business education and financial literacy for young adults. He is an adjunct professor for the University of Washington Bothell School of Business. He's also served on the board for the past 8 years. Mr. Dean resides in the Sun Valley Idaho, where he enjoys skiing, hiking, golfing and fly-fishing. He also supports his son who a nationally recognized collegiate and US all-American rugby player.
Jason: Todd, thank you very much for being on our podcast today, I really appreciate it. So, what is Todd Dean working on right now? What's going on with your life right now?
Todd: 1:47 I'm never lacking opportunities or deals to take a look at – that's for sure. The three deals that are probably most pertinent that I’m spending most of my time on is I'm working with a partner. I'm creating a world-class Wellness Center in Sun Valley to focus in on brain health addictions, mental health and depression. So, that's one of my big projects right now. The second one is we're acquiring a couple charter jet companies and then doing an acquisition of a third and creating a private charter jet company that's national and international. Then the third project is a company that's involving debt financing triple B-rated bonds on asset-correlated debt financing. So, those are the three projects keeping me awake at night.
Jason: 2:42 Very busy man. So, Todd, in the companies of all the people you invest in, is there a common theme in those companies and all those people when you choose to invest in them?
Todd: 2:52 I don't know if there's anything common about any deal, but there's certainly characteristics that I look for. So, as far as what I look for in deals or companies that I work with, about a third of my business is capital, a third of my business is what I call advisory services or consulting, a third is coaching the CEO. The final third, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of any opportunity that I work with. So, I really believe with any company – I just met with a company this morning, an engineer, fantastic, cool company, technology company in the drone space. He was really focused on the coolness of what he's working on (which, I’ve got to tell you, it's really cool). That's not my concern; my concern is really the characteristics of this individual that I met with this morning, for example. So what I look for is that the sales, the vision, the execution; I do not get excited about products or ideas today – I've been doing this too long.
Jason: 4:06 So, sort of a follow-up question, what characteristics do you see in successful founders and what characteristics do you seen unsuccessful founders?
Todd: 4:15 So, we’ll start with the unsuccessful founders because I've learned that one the hard way. The number one characteristic of unsuccessful CEOs and companies is, when the CEO does not listen to the shareholders, the investors, or the team. So what happens and, in short, that’s just ego. I don't think it's their fault; in other words, I think that the decisions and the choices they make is far deeper than just running the company, on the psychology side of things. So, I don't fault them. But I certainly know where to put boundaries and my radar for that is very good and very high. So, when a CEO’s not listening to the team or the people around them, that's a problem. So that's a red flag or stop sign, to say the least. Ego’s a big part of that and I've worked with some of those people; once in a while, these people get lucky and they make a lot of money which, again, I believe in karma that money does not create happiness. The second question of what do I look for in that CEO or those characteristics is really easy – a CEO that understands transparency, understands their strengths and weaknesses, both. What I would say is one of my favorite clients, amongst many, is a CEO who’s very coachable, very open. But, at the end of the day, they're going to make their own decisions, because as a CEO you're getting inundated by opinions from everybody that think they know the right way. But, at the end of the day, it’s the CEO’s job to really make those decisions and calls with the Board of Directors as to the guidance of the direction of the company. So, I found that the CEOs that treat their employees well, CEOs that value their customers, CEOs that listen. By far, those are the CEOs that they take companies to a whole new level.
Jason: 6:28 Todd, as you said, you've been doing this for a little bit. How long does it take you to determine if this company or this founder or this team is going to maybe make it or they have no chance?
Todd: 6:40 This is probably my ego getting involved here, but I can pretty much narrow it down in about 10, 20 minutes whether or not, I believe, that this is a company that I want to have any dealings with or not. I can really tell through a number of questions where that CEO is at and what happens is, most CEOs and entrepreneurs. They're afraid to share the downside. They're afraid to share their faults; they're afraid to share where the companies are really at, they're afraid to share the financial struggles and difficulties of raising money or the money they've spent and maybe misspent that money. So those are really the areas that I look for. So, it's not a matter of if the CEO is going to necessarily disclose that right away. But it's kind of that willingness of where that CEO is at as far as how transparent are they really willing to be, and the more less transparent they are, or the more they cover up, quite frankly. The more that pulls me away from wanting to have any dealings with that CEO or company.
Jason: 7:49 So, in other words, you looking for a founder who pushes information, versus you having to pull it from them.
Todd: 7:55 I'd love to say that but, in reality CEOs just don't want to do that. So, the thing is that a CEO’s biggest fear – and I don't care if it's a big company or small company – that people will find out who they really are. So what I try to do is create that safe environment which I say, “listen, there's nothing you tell me that's going to surprise me; whether it’s your marital problems, or your struggles with your addictions, or your family dynamics, or your struggles with your board of directors.” It's not that I've heard it all, but there's nothing that surprises me today. So, once I create that relationship with that CEO and they can be truly open. Then I can really help them and, quite frankly, not even myself, but also all the resources that myself and others can provide to that company. So, that's really the opportunity, is to work with the CEO where they're willing to be open and kind of go down that path where they're really able to share their struggles and so share their milestones too because it's not all about faults. It's about accomplishments as well. The CEO I met with this morning, again, phenomenal engineer and a very cool product, and he's been able to achieve a tremendous amount on a fairly low budget and with a very small team. So, it's not always about just weaknesses, it's definitely about the strengths and positives of what the individual brings to the table as well.
Jason: 9:31 Todd, can you talk about a deal that you didn't make but then you wish you went in on the deal?
Todd: 9:42 Well, I'll tell you the deal that I didn't get into that I wish I did, which was Clarisonic. So, David Giuliani who started Sonicare toothbrush, his first company was a huge win for investors and he literally took the same team and the same idea a similar idea and translated from dental to facial vibration thing and so he was able to sell that company (I think he sold it to L'Oreal) and sold it for 500 million – all the investors made money and I didn't get in that deal. I could have made a nice return on that.
Jason: 10:22 That would’ve been nice. Todd, how is the startup community in Sun Valley, Idaho? Is it a strong community in which you can get started?
Todd: 10:30 Well, I don't think you want to be an entrepreneur at Sun Valley; that's not necessarily the draw for resources and demographics – a certainly great place to live. We do have a startup community called KIC (Ketchum Innovation Center), started by Neal Bradshaw, and it's a great incubator for startups at Sun Valley. But we're looking at 10,000 people in the whole, entire valley so you're not talking a metropolitan area. What I am able to capitalize on, personally, is the relationships in Sun Valley. So, I work with literally some of the senior executive CEOs country and the wealthy of the wealthy, which we have dinner, we golf together, we hike together and, at the end of the day, it's about relationship. So, my professional life is largely outside of the Idaho State and Sun Valley community.
Jason: 11:26 Todd, what's your philosophy on startups going and using accelerators and incubators?
Todd: 11:33 I think when you're starting a company, you have several different paths you can go down. So, you can do the Y Combinator, you can do the incubators, you can do the crowdfunding, you can do the angel route, you can do the VC route; so there's several different paths that you can go down. But one thing I love about incubators is the synergy, the camaraderie, and the research that you're able to provide everything from the coaching and guidance, to the office facilities. so I think it's a great concept; it's not something that I'm necessarily involved with a lot because my path is a different path – I work with private investors and resources and we get a good deal. We fund it and build it ourselves or with that team. So, I think the Y Combinator and other tech stars, many of those are wonderful resources to a company but, again, they're very selective about what companies. So, it's kind of like a lotto where or lottery where only a handful of companies will get in so I'm certainly supportive of that model.
Jason: 12:47 Todd, next, can you talk a little about Girls Giving Back and how you support that program?
Todd: 12:54 So, Girls Giving Back http://www.girlsgivingback.org/ I'm not so much involved with that organization anymore but (I'm drawing a blank on her name right now who runs it), but Girls Giving Back is an organization that helps mothers and needy women, primarily, that are going through a transition in their life. Whether it's an abusive situation and then a divorce, or their low income – and so the resources that are provided are provided from the community. Similar to a goodwill where we provide the housing, we provide the bedding, the pots, the pans and the resources to help these single mothers support these children. So it's not something I've been directly involved with probably for the last couple years; I've been involved with some other organizations – Montana Ambassadors I’m very involved with as well as some other not-for-profits.
Jason: 13:51 Todd, next, talk about a time you were successful in the past, what you learned from this success, and what we can learn from I tell you a this success you had in the past.
Todd: 13:58 So, before I answer that, Teresa Valley https://www.linkedin.com/in/teresa-valley-b534021/ is the woman that runs Girls Giving Back, I want to put that plug in for Teresa because she's done an outstanding job with that. So, the question was the strengths in my life and the weakness, is that correct?
Jason: 14:12 To talk about a success you had and how we can learn from the success you had.
Todd: 14:17 This is a good success – I was in my early or mid-20s and I was selling life insurance. So everything we did was scripted, and if you stayed on script, you had certain ratios of sales and, basically, 1/3. So we had to set our own phone appointments and I think I was like 22, 23 years old and we had to sit down and make the appointments. We worked with labor unions, credit unions, associations, and the companies called American Compliance. You know I hated to sit down and make phone calls and read the script and so I would do this and I might set, for example (and it’s been a number of years). But I might set like five to ten appointments on the weekend. Well, the problem is, when you set five to ten appointments, you're driving into these various communities around the state of Washington, and if you only have ten appointments. You're going to have two or three that don't show up or cancel, you're going to end up with four to five appointments where you're not going to sell – you might get lucky and sell one of those four or five – and it's not enough to make money. So I thought, “well, I'm going to hire someone, I'm gonna hire someone.” So, then I hired a phone setter, I thought, “oh, that's the answer.” So I hired this woman to set my appointments and she did a worse job than I did so now I'm paying for someone to set less appointments and losing money. So, finally, I just started having the discipline to sit down and make these calls. So, I made calls on Fridays and either Monday and Tuesday or Monday and Wednesday nights. Instead of my 5 to 10 appointments on a weekend, I’d book 25 to 35 appointments on a weekend. So what happened was I ended up selling a lot and making a lot of money and so I ended up doing something I hated to do – I hated to set phone appointments to the point where I actually really enjoyed it, and then I became very good at it. Then once I set my appointments and went out did the work and then the income certainly followed. I've been out of that industry for 18 years and I still get a check every month, so it pays to do the things we don't want to do.
Jason: 16:48 That's a good lesson right there. Todd, next, talk about a time you failed, what you learned from this, and what we can learn from this failure of yours in the past you.
Todd: 16:58 This is a good failure. So, Keiretsu Forum was, by far, one of my greatest ventures and certainly I worked hard. I started Keiretsu Forum in 2005 with partner Nathan McDonald. Nathan is very much operations, back end, one of the hardest workers I've ever met my life. I was the front end, I was working with the people, the investors, working with the CEOs of companies, and we were a very good tag-team. We came to a point in our relationship where we ended up parting ways. So, I ended up buying him out and then, in 2009, I think it was when the economy started turning and we were a very kind of high-end how we presented work with our investors. It was a very high touch organization. So because I had our meetings at the nicest places, we had an event in Sun Valley every summer, and I didn't hold back on expenses. So I did not foresee the economy lasting as long as it did from 2009, 2010 and into 2011, So because, as a CEO of my own organization, I didn't make changes quick enough to adjust for the economy. So, in 2010, I was losing money every month and at the end of 2010. I had a choice to either close the organization down or do something different. So, my previous partner and I worked something out which did end up being very favorable on both sides. But, the point is that I didn't adjust accordingly based on the economy as quickly as I could and, because of that there's financial repercussions for that. So, that was a hard lesson.
Jason: 18:51 Yes. Todd, can you talk about someone who has helped you in the past and how they helped you?
Todd: 18:58 I've had a bit fortune to have several wonderful mentors in my life and I'll key in on Bernard Rapperport. I'll go back to my insurance days (I sold life insurance for ten years) and this – again, I was in my 20s – and this happens to be the same company that I just referred to earlier. I was working out of town and we made all our money on bonuses we made huge money on these bonuses – monthly and quarterly bonuses. It was a quarterly bonus that I was working for and I was working out of town. I hit the numbers, came back in, turned my paperwork in on (I think it was a Tuesday or Wednesday) and I was a day late on turning in for this bonus. So I missed it based on the time frame. So, I had a wonderful manager at the time – Joe Shanks – and Joe said, “well, let's talk to Bernard (the CEO of the company).” So we called him up out in Waco, Texas and I talked to Bernard Rappaport. Bernard said, “well, clearly, you hit the numbers for meeting this quarterly bonus, and it's not a matter of money, whether we can afford to pay you, but you missed the deadline.” Bernard says, “as much as I empathize with the amount of work that you put into your quarterly bonus. The problem is, if I bend here on the rules and pay you your bonus, where do I stop bending on my end?” So it was a really good lesson in life about boundaries, and the older I get, I try and obey speed limit. I try to obey making sure paying parking tickets on time, I try and obey the laws because those are boundaries. So often, or not, we as individuals, and even speaking for myself, we want to bend those rules to our own likings and rules and boundaries are set down for a reason. So, I've just learned to respect boundaries as I get older in my relationships, in my work, with my employees, with my clients, and I set boundaries for myself to protect me, but also protect others as well.
Jason: 21:23 Yes, Todd. Todd, on an average year, about how many deals do you actually look at and what percentage of those do you do invest in? Do you look at 100 deals a year and invest in 1%? Or how's that work for you on an average year?
Todd: 21:35 That's a good question. So, I typically work with about three to five companies in any given time. So, for example, the deals that I'm working on right now. One of them I'm working on for two years – the aviation deal coming up on two years; the bonds deal, the team has been working on this for years. (I've only been involved for the last few months and I'll be involved in this deal for probably a prolonged period of time); The Wellness Center and Sun Valley, that will be a very much time-intensive deal and that will probably take me a couple years, at least. So, I don't work with a lot of companies anymore. Historically, I used to get about two to ten companies a day that enquiry into me and that's either through LinkedIn or email or phone call or text or referral, whatever it is. I don't have the time to look at those companies. So, typically, if I'm involved in a company, it's someone that I know that says, “hey, I want you to look at this, I'm involved in it, I'd like you to be involved in it, let's work on this together.” So, I'm not as accessible as I used to be and so I probably work with probably five to fifteen days a year.
Jason: 22:56 I'm sure that keeps you busy, doesn't it?
Todd: 22:59 Yeah, it does. I don't work on as much early-stage stuff anymore because, quite frankly, I don’t have the time and energy or the risk tolerance. But I still love startups, they’re still my passion. So, I still, if a company needs some help with some guidance, I'm always happy to take a phone call and or take an email and review their stuff and I’m happy to review that. But I just don't have the cycles or the time to spend a lot of time with them and/or invest in them. The opportunities I work with are on a different scale. But certainly my heart still goes out to all the entrepreneurs.
Jason: 23:39 Yes. Todd, can you recommend a book for our listeners?
Todd: 23:44 I'm a big fan of John C. Maxwell; it's Seven Traits. And John Gladwell I'm a big fan of, John C. Maxwell, The World is Flat, Integrity; there's just so many great books out there, but I don't think you can go wrong with John C. Maxwell.
Jason: 24:27 Yes. Todd, I understand you have something for our listeners today.
FREE RESOURCES BELOW!!!!!
Todd: 24:35 Yeah. As an entrepreneur we live in a day and age where there's a tremendous amount of resources and education and then the question is, where do you turn, where do you look for that information. So, for our listeners today, what I've offered is I'm happy to review your company and give you some feedback. So, I hope we don't get inundated by 200,000 listeners, because that would be a problem. But let's hope that a handful of entrepreneurs out there, if you have some questions, specifically, that I can help you with or some guidance. Whether it's your capital structure, whether it's your market strategy, whether it's questions about your company in general, board of directors. I'm happy to review your company. I'm happy to set up a phone call or email respond to your inquiry.
Jason: 25:39 Todd, can you provide us some social media platforms to reach out to you?
Todd: 25:44 Yeah. So, I'm on LinkedIn; it’s probably the best from a resource standpoint. LinkedIn is for my professional stuff for Dean Jones & Company, my Todd Dean & Co., and as Facebook, I'm a very social, that's kind of my personal which you're happy to connect with me on Facebook as well. That's a little bit more entertaining. I would say, so a little bit more light-hearted. So, either one of those is probably the best resources. My email is email@example.com and my website is just todddean.com; either one of those you can get a hold of me.
Jason: 26:24 Yes. Todd, so we've come to the end of our talk. Can you provide any last-minute advice of wisdom for our listeners?
Todd: 26:30 So, I'm working on this Wellness Center and I met with a woman that said she wanted to create a Wellness Center and she was like, “you stole my idea.” I think the difference between an entrepreneur and one that's not is someone that executes. So, everybody has an idea, everybody has a concept. So the question isn't whether or not you you're an entrepreneur; the difference between an entrepreneur and one that's not is someone that actually goes out and makes it happen. So if you have that dream, you have that idea, you're working for corporation. Or you’re a young guy, young man or woman out of college, and you really want to pursue that idea, just do it. And here's what I can promise you – regardless, whether you're successful or whether you fail, you'll still be successful by doing it. And so that's my words of advice today.
Jason: 27:44 That's great advice, Todd. That's a very good way to put it. For our listeners, all the links will be included in our show notes. Todd, thank you very much for taking the time to do this podcast, I know you’re a busy person, I really appreciate it, you gave a lot of wisdom and value to our listeners. To our listeners, thank you, and remember to be great every day.