Carey Rome – Founder and CEO of Cypress Resources

Set the pace. When your employees see you work hard, they’ll also work hard. When they see that you’re focused, they’ll also be focused. When they see you keep your word, they will do the same. Work hard on the right things, and do what you say.

Carey L. Rome is a management consultant and leadership expert with more than 15 years of experience developing and driving strategic projects. A certified public accountant by trade, he specializes in utilizing his 3% Leader System™ to help executives and organizational leaders achieve their goals.

Carey’s foundation of financial and operational expertise began in Arthur Andersen LLP’s assurance and business advisory practice. While there, he advised mid-sized and Fortune 1000 companies as an auditor and business consultant.

He continued to hone his entrepreneurial and leadership skills during stints as CFO and COO of two privately held companies before launching Alabama-based consulting firm Cypress Resources in 2005.

Since its formation, Cypress Resources has helped leaders and executives across the country frame and deliver corporate mandates. The company offers a nimble approach to traditional management consulting. Its overall goal is to help leaders clearly articulate their visions, architect plans for success, and provide on-demand, ground-level expertise to get things done faster.

A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Carey holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Louisiana Tech University. He is a member of the American Institute of CPAs, the Alabama Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the Birmingham Rotary Club. He also serves as a member of the Center for Executive Leadership, is on the board of trustees for Alabama Retail Comp, and is a past board member and president of the board for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham.

Where did the idea for Cypress Resources come from?

I have always loved business and helping others succeed. When my three daughters ask me what I do all day, I tell them I’m a doctor for businesses.

My uncle encouraged me to study accounting in college. His logic was that I’d get to see many businesses, how they operate, and, most importantly, learn how to make a profit. Throughout my early professional experience, I noticed that most in the consulting industry only wanted to tell you what your problems were and what your vision should be. Few were actually willing to roll up their sleeves and do what needed to be done.

In 2005, I decided to start a firm that would fill that gap.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

I wake up every day at 4:50 a.m. and spend my first hour drinking coffee, listening to a book on Audible, and scheduling tweets. Then, I work out, eat, and head to work.

I have a very clear vision of where I’d like to be in three years. That vision has 12-month strategies that are each divided into quarterly goals and projects. Further, each project is broken down into individual tasks that need to be accomplished. This ongoing process makes up my daily to-do list.

In addition to servicing Cypress’ clients, I also oversee business development, marketing, and operations. In order to successfully juggle these three distinct functions, I quarter a page in my notebook every morning and devote one quarter to business development, one to marketing, one to operations, and the final quarter to my personal tasks. I list and prioritize all of my daily tasks on this one piece of paper and add more as they come up throughout the day.

I shut everything down around 6 p.m. and enjoy dinner with my wife and three daughters.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I keep an ongoing “ideas” notebook in Evernote, and when something pops into my head, I quickly capture it in there. Once my schedule allows me to revisit it, I’ll either go to a whiteboard or grab a blank piece of 11-by-17-inch paper and structure the idea by breaking it down into smaller pieces. Once I have the concept architected, I begin discussing and sharing the idea with my peers to gain feedback. Then, I use their feedback to tweak and refine the idea.

I often go through several iterations of this before feeling good about the idea, but once it has legs, I look at where it fits into my current priorities and build a schedule toward execution.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Virtual assistants.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Listening to books on Audible.

Five years ago, my habit was to wake up in the morning and drink coffee while watching CNBC. Then, I’d continue to watch or listen to CNBC throughout the entire day — in the car, in between meetings, and even after dinner when my kids were asleep. I decided this habit was in no way helping me achieve my goals. I ditched the TV and replaced it with Audible. I am now investing in the knowledge I need to help me achieve my goals. I highly recommend the change.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

My worst job was the first one I took after working at Andersen. I was CFO and COO of a small company, and here are the four main lessons I learned:

• Trust your wife. If she doesn’t trust someone you’re doing business with, listen to her.
• Always get your deals in writing.
• If someone tells you that he has built and sold several companies and is offering equity as part of your compensation, ask him whether he has offered equity in the past, and request to speak with those employees. If he says, “No,” you should run away.
• Never prioritize work over your marriage. Never.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Nothing. I firmly believe we are a product of our experiences. I haven’t always enjoyed the journey, but I refuse to play the victim role. If things don’t work out, learn a lesson, pick up the pieces, and move on.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Set the pace. When your employees see you work hard, they’ll also work hard. When they see that you’re focused, they’ll also be focused. When they see you keep your word, they will do the same. Work hard on the right things, and do what you say.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Advising clients and helping them think strategically. I didn’t even realize I was good at this until a marketing firm told me that my clients viewed strategic thinking as my top attribute. Turns out I am a great sounding board for executives, and I have a way of simplifying the complex for them. My clients love this because we are able to solve problems that seemed overwhelming at first.

This advisory capacity has grown into deep, trusted relationships. Cypress Resources has become their preferred firm for plan execution, and our nimble design allows us to be responsive and effective.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Ironically, I’d say my biggest failure was in leadership. I used to think that all you had to do was hire great people in order to run a great company. But that’s not leadership; that’s recruitment. After hiring and subsequently losing more than 10 employees, I began to feel like a complete failure. This was a major turning point for me.

I realized that my lack of leadership skills was preventing me from keeping employees around. Sure, there were some who I should have never hired, but there were just as many great workers who left due to my shortcomings. Nevertheless, it was time for a reset, so I almost completely cleaned house and started over.

I began reading leadership books at a record pace and committed myself to being a great leader. The more I researched and studied, the more I fell in love with leadership. Yet the more I fell in love with leadership, the more I became frustrated because the topic seemed severely fragmented. I found many silos of leadership but nothing that pieced it all together.

So I came up with my own leadership system called 3% Leader and wrote an e-book about it.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think there is a tremendous need for a project management tool that is designed from the top down, not the bottom up. There should be an executives’ dashboard that lists the weekly decisions that need to be made and allows you to keep tabs on the progress. There should also be analytics that allow you to further drill down the project details.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I ran the New York Marathon in 2000. I ran with Andersen, a huge corporate sponsor of the event, and we assembled the largest corporate team to ever run the marathon. It was a great experience — up until mile 22. That’s when I hit the wall that marathoners talk about. It’s for real. I still managed to finish in the top 10 percent, but the last mile was brutal.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Evernote, Dropbox, and Smartsheet. I travel a lot, so I need to be able to pick up and put down work at any time. The cloud access these tools provide allows me to always be on.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg is great. Everyone does small things every day that eventually turn into habits. Boosting awareness of this can help replace bad habits with good ones. My change from CNBC to Audible is the perfect example.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Peter Drucker, Charles Duhigg, John Jantsch, Jesus, Chip and Dan Heath, Keith Ferrazzi, Simon Sinek, Paul Smith, Tom Latkovic, and Todd Liscomb.


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