Craig Kautsch, a lifelong entrepreneur, founded Avocet Ventures, a portfolio real estate company that has cracked the code in providing homeownership to low-income families in DFW. His company has made a huge impact in the lives of families that wouldn’t otherwise be able to own a home. He has purchased, restored, and sold more than 600 houses in DFW.
In 2016, Craig launched Indwell Realty, a business development company where real estate agents can build their perfect real estate career.
A while back, I attended a marketing conference. I met a bunch of interesting people, but one was especially impressive.
You know how they say “appearances are deceiving?” That describes Craig Kautsch perfectly.
Craig is one of the most laid back guys I’ve ever met. He dressed casually and carried a longboard.
So naturally I introduced myself.
I would have never guessed that Craig owns five companies.
I was immediately drawn to Craig (only partly because I love longboarding). He was one of those guys who you loved being around and I couldn’t put my finger on it until this interview.
I had an incredible chat with Craig. He’s a down-to-earth guy with insightful and sophisticated ideas about business and life.
Before you listen, I want to highlight a few of Craig’s important points.
When he was 22, Craig borrowed $30,000 from his dad to start a retail company. He did well for eight years, but then the business fell apart. Everything changed.
After liquidating his business, Craig was $1 million in debt.
His biggest mistake, he says, was doing everything alone. When your entire business revolves around just you, you develop blind spots (as Craig calls them). Blind spots are gaps in your knowledge and awareness that cost real dollars.
So you need smart and capable people to compensate for your blind spots.
This is what Craig calls the Circle of Excellence.
The Circle of Excellence is your core team. It’s a group of competent, trustworthy people who understand your goals. It’s the people you surround yourself with who watch your back.
Half of the circle is your staff, partners, and vendors. It might include your top-tier employees, your contract CPA, your banker, or the attorney who gives you à la carte advice.
Craig uses a unique litmus test before inviting anyone into his Circle of Excellence. He and his team ask themselves, “Could we get stuck at the airport with this guy?” If they can’t, the new relationship just won’t work.
Surrounding yourself with high-performing people to compensate for blind spots isn’t a new idea. Many entrepreneurs bring in business-minded people with industry-specific knowledge.
But many entrepreneurs neglect the other half of the Circle of Excellence.
They miss the critical piece that helped Craig find exponential productivity and growth.
The other half of the Circle are people that support you emotionally and spiritually. They keep you in check. They’ll have tough conversations with you. They’ll answer your call at 3 AM.
For instance, Craig has his friend Chris, a “black belt at encouraging.” Chris provides heart-felt encouragement when Craig feels inadequate. He also has Steve, a source of sound input and acceptance.
Craig recommends having three to five people fill the emotional half of your Circle of Excellence. They don’t need to come from your industry, but they need skills to help you identify and compensate your blind spots.
Most importantly, the Circle of Excellence is reciprocal. Craig gives to his Circle just as much as he takes.
As his first venture crumbled, Craig discovered he was missing this emotional half of his Circle of Excellence. When things got bad, he looked around and saw no one he could turn to for real emotional support.
So he joined a leadership group with eight other executives. They helped him dig into his blind spots to determine which direction he wanted to go and how he wanted to make a difference in the world.
The leadership group gave him emotional training. It taught him how to connect with others without getting sucked into their problems.
Emotional intelligence has a real, financial impact on your business.
First, emotionally aware leadership creates a culture of safety, security, acceptance, and loyalty that attracts and retains the best talent.
Creating a healthy culture starts at the top, Craig explained. If you really want to grow, you must
get your culture straight.
He gave us this metaphor:
As an entrepreneur, you’re like a boat traveling through a lake. Behind you is your wake. This is the company culture.
The wake comes from two sources: The tactics you put in place to do the work (first half of the Circle of Excellence) and the emotional connection your team feels to the company (second half of the Circle of Excellence).
If the wake is choppy, your team will swallow water and drown. If it’s calm, everyone will follow you comfortably and safe. As the leader, you need both halves of the Circle of Excellence to keep your wake calm.
Second, an emotionally aware leader knows how to ask for the support they need.
Successful, high-octane people often don’t know their own needs. That sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. They’re hard-wired to solve other people’s problems. They’re unable to articulate their own.
They can’t step back and say, “Maybe I don’t have all the answers. Here’s what I could use…”
But a leader with both halves of the Circle of Excellence has the resources to meet their own needs. If they need acceptance, encouragement, or just a place to vent frustration, a full Circle of Excellence gives them a source.
Joel Widmer is the Founder & CEO of Fluxe Digital Marketing—a content marketing shop that helps smart businesses create, produce and promote their content through a unique one-on-one interview process. When he’s not working, Joel can be found trying new restaurants with his wife, son, and daughter.