Strategic Partnerships in Action: Founder and CEO Adam Hergenrother & Chief of Staff Hallie Warner at Adam Hergenrother Companies

When we wrote The Founder & The Force Multiplier: How Entrepreneurs and Executive Assistants Achieve More Together, in February 2019, our focus was on the partnership between an entrepreneur and their right-hand employee (usually in the form of an Executive Assistant, Personal Assistant, or Chief of Staff). What we’ve realized over time is that the principles that we live by and value extend far beyond the scrappy early days of a start-up, all the way to the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies. An effective strategic partnership is a powerful thing. It is one of our missions with The Founder & The Force Multiplier to help leaders and Force Multipliers to find their match, celebrate and showcase strong partnerships, and provide coaching, training, and consulting to help these partnerships continue to thrive.

In this new series, Strategic Partnerships in Action, we highlight some of the Executive and Force Multiplier duos who are doing it right. This week, we’re going to peel back the curtain a bit to show you what’s working in our world!

Adam Hergenrother, Founder and CEO at Adam Hergenrother Companies & Hallie Warner, Chief of Staff

Could you tell us about your positions within the company and the primary responsibilities in each of your roles? 

Adam: As CEO, or as we sometimes like to call it, Chief Visionary Officer, I have three main responsibilities – cast the vision, provide clarity and direction, and remove roadblocks for my team. My “job” is to stay ten steps ahead of my leadership team, watch for opportunities, read and learn, triangulate information, hold my team members accountable, coach them to achieve the results they (and the business) desire, and make the tough decisions. By the time something lands on my desk, it a real problem. That is where I thrive, because I’ve already done the work taking in as much information as possible, worked on my leadership, and practiced staying centered so I can make a clear decision and lead my team forward.

Hallie: I serve as Adam’s strategic partner to ensure his vision is clarified, communicated, and executed. I also provide strategic counsel to key leaders within our companies and handle special projects focused on the growth of the organization. Depending on our current priorities, my day to day responsibilities can range from writing blogs or drafting a new book, to recording podcasts, to interviewing leadership candidates, to planning our year-long full-immersion coaching program, Project | U, to prepping Adam for interviews, to reviewing projects that other team members are working on.

What have your career paths been and how long have you been working together? 

Hallie: Adam and I have been working together for almost 10 years. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like in the early days, but suffice it to say, we were both failing our way forward. Prior to joining forces with Adam, I had a fairly short resume – 1.5 years as a public relations assistant at a non-profit, and then another 1.5 years as an Executive Assistant to a high school Principal. I really grew up and grew into who I am over the past 10 years working at Adam Hergenrother Companies. I have been able to forge my own career path which has led me from being a Marketing Assistant on Adam’s real estate team, to Executive Assistant to Adam, and now to Chief of Staff. I was just telling Adam yesterday how fortunate I am that at 35, I can say, “I am who I am supposed to be. I’m doing what I’m meant to do.” That is a testament to Adam’s leadership, for sure.

Adam: My entrepreneurial journey started when I quit my cushy job as a Financial Controller in late 2006 to become a Realtor (not the best time in history to take that leap!). But I knew that I could no longer let anyone else dictate my life or put a limit on my thinking and growth. So, I took matters (the risks and the rewards) into my own hands. I started a real estate team and went through several assistants in the first few years. In 2010, I decided to open a Keller Williams Realty franchise and later that year, I met Hallie. The rest is history. Since then, we’ve expanded the real estate team beyond the borders of Vermont to almost 30 locations around the country. We helped grow the Keller Williams Vermont office to the #1 in the state. We also launched several other companies, went through too many iterations to count, and had a whole lot of failures along the way. The cool part is that those challenges are what we both thrive on and have allowed us to experience personal growth through business success. That is what Adam Hergenrother Companies is all about.

Successful strategic partnerships look different for everyone. What is the one thing that makes the partnership between you work? 

Adam: Hallie and I are actually quite similar (though she is much more detail-oriented and more risk adverse than I am!). We have the same drive and work ethic. We share the same passion for building this organization. We have a similar relentless desire to grow personally and professionally. And we both dislike the minutia of the day to day. We both are incredibly impatient and have a high sense of urgency to make progress each day. All of this we know about each other because we were very purposeful from day one in understanding our own behavior, as well as each others. Self-awareness is the key to success. We regularly check-in with each other to make sure we’re both operating in our strength zones. We engage in direct, no BS communication (because anything less would just slow us both down!). If there is one thing that would sum all of this up, it would be radically transparent communication.

Hallie: I will just add this. That is not just radically transparent communication from Adam to me. I have to be radically transparent with Adam, too. That means it is also my responsibility and duty as Chief of Staff to ask the tough questions, challenge Adam’s thinking (and sometimes his decisions), be the truth-teller, and always have a distinct viewpoint. Some of my favorite and most challenging times at work have been when Adam and I have been arguing debating an issue, but we always come out with extreme clarity and an action plan on the other side.

Communication is a common challenge between leaders and their EAs. What communication failures have you had, what lessons have you learned, and what systems have you developed for communicating effectively? 

Hallie: The communication failure is always the failure to have the conversation that needs to be had. Our communication failures usually arise when I hold back how I am feeling about an issue and let it go for too long before I bring the topic to Adam’s attention. These are not organizational issues, but specific to my position and work. These types of issues don’t happen often anymore because I have learned to recognize my own thought-patterns and make sure I get in front of Adam as quickly as possible to discuss (with a viable solution). I bring the facts and my curiosity. I have learned to leave my ego at the door, let go, and make peace with whatever outcome arises from the conversation. Several years ago we implemented the 5 Daily Accountability Questions (we also did a podcast on these 5 questions) which helps mitigate many of these communication challenges by providing a framework to engage in honest dialogue daily.

What are the biggest challenges you have working together? 

Hallie: I have to really think about this one! It could be that we have just worked together for so long that any challenge I may have working with Adam is just part of our day-to-day relationship or it may be that even if we are faced with a challenge, at this point, I know we’ll work through it? Nothing comes to mind immediately! Adam? What’s challenging about working with me?

Adam:  The biggest challenge about working with Hallie is to make sure that I am always growing to ensure that she is always growing. While this comes naturally to most leaders, if you want to take your life and business to the next level then you need to be purposeful on your personal and business growth. 

What’s one thing that comes easy to you both when it comes to working together?

Hallie: We operate at the same speed and have the same dedication and passion for the company. We have a shared vision for the success of the organization, which makes our decision making easy and in-sync. We also share a fast-talking, direct communication style. No one is getting offended by the way the other communicates or likes to work. We know what needs to get done and we do it. That makes for a great working relationship in my opinion!

What is one of your proudest moments or achievements while working together? 

Hallie: I have been able to be a part of a lot of amazing experiences over the years – from writing our first book, to speaking on stage in front of 10,000 people, to watching our real estate team hit #4 in the country, to growing from 5 to 50 staff members, and so much more. But last year when we launched Project | U, it was an honor and a privilege to help Adam create this transformational coaching experience for our participants. Watching their growth and breakthroughs in their health and fitness, their business acumen, their wealth, their leadership, the depth of their relationships, their self-awareness, and their spirituality, was transformational for me. I am proud of what we created. I’m proud of the success our participants had. And I’m proud of who I became during the process. We’re gearing up to kick-off the next class of Project | U. Let the next round of transformation begin!

Adam: Sure, I am proud of all the external growth that we have accomplished during the last 10 years, but what I am most proud about is the people that Hallie and I have become. Personal growth for me means that you personally have grown to the point where you have completely changed your state of being. What used to bother you at work or cause stress at work no longer bothers you. An employee’s issue is no longer taken personally therefore allowing Hallie or I to clean it up without bringing our personal side into it. For example, Hallie use to get really bothered by negative comments about my speaking engagements and would tend to way overthink the feedback and take it personally (even though it was about me!). Now she looks at it from an objective standpoint and points out the opportunity for us to improve. I never want us to feel great for a day, be rich for a day, or create relationships for a day. I am proud because these are feelings and items we have for life. 

What’s one thing that others would be surprised to learn about both of you and/or your partnership?

Adam: Even though we’ve worked together for almost 10 years, we’ve never socialized outside of work or work events. This wasn’t intentional! People may also be surprised to learn that I’m really an introvert, so when I’m not working, I’m either reading, learning, working on my personal development or hanging with my family. So, when it’s time to work we work and then we need a break from each other!

Hallie: I have a lot of freedom and flexibility in my work. That seems like such a contradiction when you think of an assistant (in whatever form that takes). On a lot of the projects we work on it’s hard to remember or even be sure which one of us came up with the idea first or who molded it into what it is today. I think that is a mark of a true strategic partnership. I think people may also be surprised that I have a threshold of how much I can talk about spirituality and inner growth before I need to work on solving a staffing or organizational challenge. It’s business before spirituality for me.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to leaders/CEOs? 

Adam: Get clear on who you are looking for and what role actually needs to be filled in the organization. And then get very clear on what your standards and expectations are for that position. Be honest with yourself and any new (or inherited) hire about who you are and what you expect, while sharing the long-term vision for the business.

Hallie:  Once you have the right person on-board, set up your meetings and cadence of communication from day one. Make sure you are setting aside time for questions to help your assistant get up and running. You may have to slow down a bit to make this happen. If you’re not going to train them, make sure you invest in someone who will. But remember, training is not going to replace your Force Multiplier having access to you. That is the only way they can truly become your strategic partner, the other half of your brain, and help you force multiply your life and business.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to Force Multipliers/EAs? 

Adam:  Make sure you understand who you are getting into business with. If you didn’t ask them before you took the job, go back and ask them now. How do they like to work? What is their ideal daily schedule? What is their biggest challenge or pain point? What is their leadership style? How do they make decisions? What are their goals? How do they communicate? Ask questions, challenge your leader’s thinking, and strive for clarity on your leader’s expectations and vision. This helps them hone in on their vision and effectiveness and build an even more purposeful organization.

Hallie: Take control of your career. No one else is going to do that for you. Read everything you can get your hands on about your position, leadership, communication, entrepreneurship, business, and your industry. Work on leading yourself first and then mastering the art of leading up. Manage your career like you manage your Executives! You are the CEO of your life.

What books have had the biggest impact on your personal or professional life?

Adam: The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer was my first glimpse into the life of an individual who had both true inner peace and massive business success. Reading that book sent me on a quest to dive deeper into personal growth through business success and figure out how to share that message with as many people as possible. I continue to go back to that book, along with The Untethered Soul, and each time I do I am reading it from a different level of consciousness which means it’s like reading it again for the first time. Those are powerful books!

Hallie: The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection and Courage by Brene Brown is an audio course I listened to several years ago that unlocked a lot of limiting beliefs and misconceptions I had about myself. It sent me on the path to reading everything by Brene Brown to learn about vulnerability, authenticity, and how to show up and be seen (and why that is important, okay, and necessary) in work and in life.

What’s next for you both? 

Hallie: I’m really looking forward to the launch of the next Project | U class! I’m also just a couple of key hires away from completely operating in my flow state on a daily basis. With that, I will be spending more time on leadership and special projects with Adam, as well as The Founder & Force Multiplier brand. While, “Done. Next.” is my typical mantra, I’m really practicing being in the moment and embracing every experience that comes my way. I guess after 10 years, Adam’s principles are finally starting to rub off on me.

Adam: The maturity of our organization brings a host of new challenges and opportunities to help lead other leaders and that is always exciting to think about! More specifically we are working on a few new books, a Saas company, scaling our coaching company, as well as our real estate organization, expanding our development and real estate portfolio, and continuing to create more opportunities for everyone who is part of Adam Hergenrother Companies (employees, agents, and clients) to build a limitless life by design.

Want to grow your strategic partnership by working with us? We are so excited to be launching The Founder & Force Multiplier Live Course on June 2, 2020! In this 4-week live online course that’s based on the best-selling book, we’ll walk you and your strategic partner through the exact steps to build a partnership that will keep you and your business growing in the years to come. This is a no BS, no fluff course that will take your strategic partnership and business to the next level.

The Founder & The Force Multiplier Live Course

Even if you have a successful partnership already or have taken the course before, this is an excellent investment in you, your partnership and business since the high-level conversations we’ll be having in this course are designed to keep pushing you forward. We are super excited about this course because there is so much we weren’t able to fit into the book to help you operate at your highest level of success. But it’s all in the course, and we can’t wait to share it with you!

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FOUNDER & FORCE MULTIPLIER LIVER COURSE HERE >>

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