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People Management and Culture Building to Service Entrepreneurs and Their Teams, with Nicky Billou

Recently, Nicky Billou, best selling author and host of The Thought Leader Revolution podcast, sat down with Jonathan Westover to have a conversation about working with entrepreneurs to help their businesses grow and find success.

Nicky first decided to work with entrepreneurs because of his dad, and one of the main things that has always stuck with him is that “business [is first] about people, not money”. He notes how important it is to keep in mind that “that person sitting in front of you, [...] is someone’s brother, [...] father, [...] mother,[...] daughter [...]. That someone is a hero to somebody.”

Nicky also talked about how that applies to both customers and your employees. “You gotta have a group of people that love the idea of being there for you but also feel respected and that their contributions matter." He said, “be people focused [...] show people, hey, there’s an opportunity here for you to be the best that you can be” and work towards providing that space constantly. “Any human being who wants to be successful is going to focus on serving people.”

Nicky also shared his perspective on the best ways to sell your business. He notes that when someone asks you what you do, you shouldn't brag about your business, but rather “talk about your customers and how you help them. That’s what they’re interested in. [...] The only thing that makes me worthwhile or great is that I’m somebody who cares enough about people to give a damn and wants to solve their problems.” He talks about how business is all about figuring out “what is their pain? What do they need? [...] business [is] solving problems for people,” and just happens to help you make a profit. “Reframe selling to serving”, but never forget that “if you’re not a believer in making a difference for people, then you’re not going to succeed.”

You can listen to the full episode at, or anywhere you listen to your podcasts, just search “HCI Podcast”.

Check out the full interview transcript below:

Welcome to the Human Capital innovations Podcast. John, an honor to be here. Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be with you. You're joining us from Toronto, Canada. I'm south of Salt Lake City in Utah, and today we're going to be talking about people management and culture building within the entrepreneurial space. And you have a lot of expertise and experience working with entrepreneurs and serving entrepreneurs as they work to build their organizations and to build their teams. So that will be our focus of the conversation today. As we get started, I wanted to share Nikki's bio and highlights with everybody. Nikki has a lot of really great things to focus on, but I did want to mention just a few. He's a bestselling author of eight books. He has a top ten itunes podcast that he can talk a little bit about here in just a minute. He's also been a guest on over 100 podcasts and he's known commonly as The Millionaire Maker. Again, a pleasure to have you, Nikki. Anything else you would like to share with me or my audience by wave of your background or personal context before we just dive on in? Well, John, first of all, thanks for having me on the show. It's an honor to be here and I'll tell you a bit about my backstory. I'm originally an immigrant from the Middle East. I'm a Christian from Iran. When I was a young boy, the Islamic revolution was happening in Iran, and my late father, he could see the writing on the wall. Within a year or so, it became very clear to him that this was going to be the greatest place for him to raise his Christian family. So he made a plan and got us out of Iran and eventually we settled in Canada. I thank God every day for my father and his foresight because we left Tyranny and moved to freedom. Freedom is very, very much a key value for me, okay? So I believe in freedom and free expression and free enterprise. I really believe that living in a free society is something none of us should take for granted and we should always be seeking to uplift people. Back home in Iran right now, there have been massive protests, possibly a second Iranian revolution, because a young woman was killed. Her name is Masa Amini for the crime of going outside with her hair on cup. When you think about that in Iran, if you're a woman, you're not allowed to go outdoors with your skin or your hair showing. And then there's people who say, america is so oppressive, racist and sexist. I just laugh, like, Are you kidding me? This is the most tolerant, incredible country on the face of the earth. So it's important for me to push back against that kind of nonsense. And it's important for me to take a big stand for freedom for everybody. Now, my late father was a believer in freedom. He was an entrepreneur. He was very proud man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He used to come tell me, Son, did you know we fed 60 families this week? And that was like ours and that of his employees. He was somebody who just he came from nothing, literally. Family was dirt poor. And he built himself up very successful business in an environment that was rife with discrimination against him because of his background. And dad was an uplifter of people. If you were looking for a job, he'd get you a job. If you were looking to start a business, he'd help you start that business. Even if you're going to go compete with him. He didn't care about that. He just wanted to help people and his employees. If you work for him, you know, you were looking to buy a car, a house or an apartment. You didn't have enough money, he topped you up and make sure you bought that car in that house, that apartment. And you might just listen to this and go, really? Who does that? Well, first and foremost, the Lake great Napoleon Balloon, that's who. And you might go, Why? Well, first of all, he's a Christian. He believed he had been blessed by God, and it was his duty as a Christian to share those blessings with others. But secondly, he did it because he could. He had the financial means, the wherewithal to be able to make all this happen. That was the beauty, the glory of being a son of this kind of man. And I wanted to be just like that. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to help people, too. And, you know, dad would always tell me, son, just remember, business is about people, not money. Business about people, not money. It took me a while to understand that, but then when I saw how he treated everybody and how everybody just just wanted to, like, help them, it was a message that stuck with me and stuck with me quite powerfully. And I wanted to help people. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Eventually, I became one. I saw there's a lot of entrepreneurs that were good people, but not good at business. So I made in my business to start to teach them, because I studied business. I studied at the feet of the master in the case of my dad. And I taught people about how to sell without coming across as pushy and salesy. I taught people how to take care of the people in their organization and make sure that those people were loving and caring them and what they were all about. That really was what it was all about as far as I was concerned. Business is about people. Not money, not numbers. And you got to always remember that person sitting in front of you john that's someone's brother, someone's father, someone's son, someone's mother, someone's daughter, someone's sister. That someone is a hero to somebody. Maybe they've been disappointed by life. Maybe they even been disappointed by someone just like you who made all kinds of big promises and delivered nothing. So just remember that it's first and foremost about making a difference for people. And if you have a team of people that work for you, if you want to create a great company you gotta have a group of people that love the idea of being there for you but also feel respected and their contributions matter. So if you do that you're going to build an organization that's undefeatable. Yeah, I love that. And thank you for sharing more about your background. That's tremendous. And I love your focus on people. I mean I shared as I was introducing you, you're commonly known as the millionaire maker. Now a lot of people would look at that and they're like oh well here's just this capitalist, cold hearted capitalist millionaire maker. Someone who's focused on money in the bottom line. And what you just expressed is exactly the opposite of that. That money can be used as a means to improve the quality of life, the standard of living for people, to help them to meet their needs. Money isn't an end in and of itself but it's a means by which we can bring about these other elements to take care of people. And that's what your father did, that's what you do. And I really appreciate that. As we focus on having successfully run businesses, sustainable businesses that can survive. That means you have to make money. When you are successful in that way, then it opens the door for you to do a lot of other really great work from humanitarian work and social impact work to just helping your people, investing in your people, treating them like human beings, treating them with dignity and respect when we do those things and that becomes our primary focus. It's been my experience that a lot of those bottom line elements can often take care of themselves because you have great people doing great work, collaborating, innovating, bringing value to the market so that the company continues to be successful in terms of the bottom line areas that it needs to be to survive. 100% agree brother. 100% agree. Couldn't have said it better myself. So what do you find? Because you work predominantly with entrepreneurs, solarprooners small teams. When you're working with those sorts of organizations I suppose that's probably a little bit different than these big companies even medium sized. You know, you get up to hundreds of employees, thousands of employees. That's a very, very different thing than when you have a small founding team or a solopreneur or they're small and starting the process to scale. How do you approach this kind of people management and culture building perspective within that kind of smaller context versus like what we might try to do in terms of the systems, the processes, the policies and practices and procedures that might exist structurally in a larger organization? Well look first and foremost you got to understand that regardless performance has to be the key. You got to be a performance driven culture, okay? Because this after all is about business and getting results, right? And there's a friend of mine. His name is Emile Stuttom. He was one of my clients. He started a consultancy that was all about driving performance driven cultures inside organizations. And here's what he figured out that the best way to get the best performance is to be people focused, is to show people, hey there's an opportunity here for you to be the best that you can be. You get to be great inside this organizational space. You get to create a life that makes you excited about living it. And if you have an organization that demands high performance but also creates opportunity for the people then you're going to be in a fantastic spot. But you can't create high performance if it's like, screw that. I don't care what you want, you got to do it my way. That just doesn't work. I don't know if it ever worked but it sure as hell doesn't work in 2022. You know what I'm saying brother? I think that's absolutely right. In the past organizations kind of shall I say, they got away with it. I'm not sure if that's the right way to frame it up but there's definitely a kind of a pendulum swung and there's a different mentality, a different approach to leadership and how we lead people and teams in the past. And as the years have gone by we've seen more and more from a scientific perspective even but certainly from an organizational just productivity perspective, we've just seen more and more that the more successful organizations are the ones that value their people, invest in their people. They recognize people as that human capital element that's going to be really core to helping an organization thrive. And just like an organization you talk about any asset, any form of capital, whether it's plant property, equipment, financial, intellectual capital, any of those things, right? We talk about those things all the time and maintaining them and sustaining them and being strategic about how we leverage them. Why wouldn't we do the same thing with our human capital, with our human asset that's the source of all the creativity, that's the source of ultimately what's going to interface with the customer, what's going to bring value to the market is going to be coming from those people. And so we need to get past this kind of old school mentality of thinking about people management and creating an innovative dynamic culture as kind of a cost center that's just sucking money from the organization, but rather think about it in terms of reinvesting into the organization. Just like we'd invest in maintaining a piece of heavy piece of equipment. You spend millions of dollars on this piece of equipment, you're going to upgrade it, you're going to maintain it, you're going to have quality control practices to make sure it's producing things the way it's supposed to. You're going to do all those things. Why wouldn't you invest in similar ways with the people in your organizations? And I find when I flip the script a little bit and kind of look at it from that perspective, most people are like, oh, that makes sense, we probably should do that. But it is hard to change that mentality for a lot of leaders who might have kind of come up in an older system and an older kind of dynamic or an organization to see that maybe there's a different way to do it. And the way you just described it, the way we've been talking about it, I think is the way of the future. And as we think about not only the future of work 510, 20 years out, but we just talk about the nature of work today. People want to work for organizations like what you're describing. They don't want to work for a company where they're being micromanaged and controlled and where they don't have decisionmaking autonomy, where they can't be creative or where they're fearful to innovate and try things that don't work the first time. We are quick to label things as failures when really they're just learning opportunities. And we do need performance, we do need people to achieve. But we also need to create a space where people can try and experiment and do things. That's where innovation comes from. And so I get that there's tension in all of this that I'm saying, and there's not easy answers to any of this, but it's also not rocket science that we can if we just make the decision that we're going to invest in our people, invest in the culture, that can start us moving down this path towards a more dynamic workplace environment. Life is about people. It's not about numbers. Business is about people. It's not about numbers. Any human being who wants to be successful is going to focus on serving people. What is a business? It's about solving problems for people, for profit, solving acute problems for wonderful people, for awesome profit. That is the focus of business as far as I'm concerned. And I kind of coined that three p solution, because that can help you add seven 8910 figures to your business if that's what you focus on. One of the key mistakes a lot of businesses make. And you ask them, what do they do? They talk about themselves. We're the biggest, the best, the most amazing. We've been in business since 1912. Nobody cares about that crap. They ask you what you do. You should talk about your customers and how you help them. That's what they're interested in. So what I say when people ask me what I do is I work with Solopreneurs and CEOs and what I help them do is I help them add a zero or two to their annual income while working ten to 20 hours less a week by creating a very powerful founder thought leader brand for them. And that will go, holy cannoli. How do you do that? Like, if you're a consultant, John, you heard that. You might go, oh, okay, well, maybe I make a year. I sure would like to make a million. Nicki, you can take people to a million. How do you do that? That would be the first question that comes into your mind. And you might go to yourself, damn, I work hard. I work my tail off. I sure would like ten to 20 hours a week back. How do you do that? While making more money? Is that even possible? You need things to get people to say things like that, to want to have a further discussion with you. If I told you and you asked me, Nikki, what do you do? And I said, Well, I want to you shut the academy. We're the biggest, we're the best. You know what I mean? You're going to your eyes will glaze over and you'll just get just another idiot, right? You might not say that out loud, but that's what you're going to think. Just another idiot trying to sell himself, trying to tell you how great he is. No, I'm not great. My clients are great. The only thing that makes me worthwhile or great is that I'm somebody who cares enough about people to give a damn and want to solve their problems. That's all. That's what you got to do. Whether you're selling to a customer, whether you're helping build a team, and you're always selling if you're a CEO, you're selling your employees on the vision of you and your company. You're constantly selling them on this. They're not your serfs. They're not your serfs. You can't treat them like that, okay? This is America, not Zarist or Communist Russia. That's right. That's right. And I think a few high profile cases in the news right at the moment of senior executives and CEOs kind of treating their people that way. All I can do is kind of shake my head and chuckle at it. Anyways, we don't need to get into that more in any detail, but you highlight some really good points. And like you said, it's all about sales. We all need to be able to do sales. Now, some people, when they hear the word sales, they're like, oh, I'm not a salesperson. They equate sales as like a dirty word. Like, we all do sales. We all are in the business of trying to influence others and trying to generate buy in and get people to understand the vision. Like you said, if you're in a leadership role or to help customers understand the value that you're bringing them, we all are involved in some form of sales. And so if you don't like the term, substitute a different term, that's fine. But if we just recognize that, yes, it's all about people. It's all about the connection we have with each other. It's all about genuinely caring about those other people sitting next to you or beside you on the other side of the desk or the table from you, that we're trying to help people. If that's our focus, then great things, truly great things, can happen within businesses, and that involves sales. That involves just being a people centric, people focused organization. If you're not a believer in making a difference for people, then you're not going to succeed. And I understand there's a lot of people who don't like the word sales, conscious of images of being pushy and salesy and reeking of commission breath, I'm going to make that sale. You got to buy from me. People have that vision. But what if you could reframe that? Because I don't look at sales that way. What if you could reframe selling to serving? Nobody wants to be sold. You don't want to be sold. John I don't want to be sold. But we all love to buy. We love to buy cool things and we love to be served by great people on the way to making those buying decisions on our own. And that's your job. That's your job. So look at it not from selling, but from the point of view of service. Look at it from the point of view served in that individual, serve, in that employee. What is their pain? What do they need? Remember, business solving problems for people, for profit. Solving acute problems. Wonderful people for awesome profit. That's all it is. Acute, wonderful, awesome. A-W-A that's what it is, brother. I love it. Nicky, this has just been a super fun conversation. I know at the time. I'm going to have to let you go here in just a minute. But before we wrap things up for today, I wanted to give you a chance to share with the audience how they can connect with you, where they can find out more about your podcast, your books, where they could connect with you and learn more about you and your team and then give us a final word on the topic for today. So N-I-C-K-Y-B-I-L-L-O-U is how you spell my name. Go on Amazon. Put in N-I-C-K-Y-B-I-L-O-U. It will show you all the books that I've written and published and they'll show you the podcast that I have as well. My main business podcast is called The Thought Leader Revolution. I interview the world's top thought leaders and we talk about how they built their thought leader brand. And I'm bringing thought leader branding into the whole world of founder branding. And that's going to be a big part of what we're going to start to do going forward for folks is show them how to create that powerful founder brand to take themselves. So if you're a business owner, if you're a solopreneur and you're understanding that you need to have that found a brand to grow and scale, you get that's important, then that's really where we're going to step forward and make things happen for you. And the way to do that is go to my main website, e circle is a bunch of free resources there, but I offer something called a success coaching call. It's a 45 minutes coaching call where what we do is we take a look at your current business, where it is, we took a look at where you want it to be. We analyze the gap, we do the gap analysis, we find out why you're stuck and we work on getting you unstuck. We look into your mindset, we'll look into your strategy and tactics. We'll look into your sales and marketing efforts. All this is offered free of charge. This is a couple of $1,000 value that I give away for free. Now, why do I give it away for free? Well, two reasons. One is I want to help people. I love helping people. I love these kinds of conversations. And I know that a certain number of the people that I end up talking to are going to need the kind of help that I offer and we'll end up doing business. Not everybody, obviously. And I want to just be really candid, I'm not a hard sell dude. I don't do the commission broadcast. We'll have a conversation. If it makes sense for us to keep talking about things, we'll keep talking about things. If not, I'm going to give you a plan you can run with and go forward and make it happen for yourself. So I want to encourage you to go to forward slash appointment to set up that complimentary call. There is a little bit of a screening form we ask you to fill up and just want to make sure you're a real business person and not a tire kicker or a time waster. But as long as that's the case, we'll have that conversation with you. So let's go forward and do that. Wonderful. Nicki, it's been a true pleasure. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me to share your insights with me and my audience. I hope everyone will reach out, get connected with Nikki, and as always, I hope everyone can stay healthy and safe, that you can find meaning and purpose at work each and every day, and I hope you all have a great week.

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