The setting is Yemen. You, a former Delta Force operator, seven French legionnaires, two Navy SEALs and one Israeli are pursuing high-value targets. This operation like similar ones is most certainly hush-hush, yet a BuzzFeed article appears on the internet exposing it all. Dale, I want to know what's going through your head when you get the news that all this stuff is now public knowledge.
I was a rehired by an old friend of mine that I've worked for quite a bit in South Africa, Hong Kong and Mexico. He contacted me and told me that he had a contract that he's trying to fulfill in the Emirates and he wanted me to be on board and essentially be his strategic advisor.
At first, I was reluctant because I'm doing my own security business, but eventually he talked me into it and we ended up going down range into Yemen. This was before anybody else got fully involved. For clarity, what I was involved in was legitimate mercenary work and it's not illegal for a US citizen to join a foreign military service as long as that government is in alignment with the US.
In this case, this was all in support of the global war on terrorists. I ended up going downrange with these guys. It was eleven of us. It was clandestine operations and we were a strike team. We were providing a service for the Emirati government that did not have a Special Forces capability, nor did they have the means to conduct surgical strikes on high-value targets.
That's where our expertise came to play. Anytime you do a mission or an operation whether it's a classified military operation or in this context what we were doing, there’s a rule. You don't talk. What happens downrange stays in the downrange. We also knew that what we were doing might raise some eyebrows and it could be misinterpreted. We always felt like, “It's better to keep your mouth shut, collect your paychecks, do your job and be happy with that.”
What I didn't realize was after we did these ops, I started getting these messages from a guy named Aram Roston, who was a BuzzFeed reporter that works for Reuters. He kept asking to talk to me. I wasn't sure what that was about. I kept ignoring him. One day I picked up the phone when he'd call not knowing it was him, he introduced himself. Right away he started off with who he was and what he was investigating and he wanted my input. I was taken aback by that.
I was at the airport at the time. I use that as an excuse to cut the call short like, “I've got to get on an airplane and I'll call you back.” I hung up. I never called him back. He messaged me again and said, “This story is going to come out.” He wanted to verify everything and makes sure it was accurate. I felt like there's no need in me getting suckered into this thing. Mum was a word and sure enough it came out.
What I'd realized was that it was one SEAL that was looking for fame and glory and he broke the rule of the brotherhood. He decided that he was going to shop this around in Hollywood through Aram Roston and other news reporters to try to make this into a movie. The part that irritated the rest of the team and me was he never conferred with anybody.
We had no idea. He put our names out there and told this story that was not 100% accurate. This causes a big stink in the news. I felt like, “This can go bad or could go away.” I felt like I needed to get in front of the story. I came out and said, “That's not what happened.” I got on some other news feeds and told my version of the story that is a more accurate picture of what happened.
They tried to paint a picture of us as a gang of murderers going around gunning good people, which none of that was true because we targeted one guy in particular, Anssaf Mayo, who was the head of the Al-Islah political party who was aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood that was there had been building barracks for Al-Qaeda.
There were over 1,000 Al-Qaeda in that particular area that we were in. They call an AQAP, which is Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There were a lot of ISIS fighters there. There were ISIS enablers and facilitators, bomb makers. This was like a hornet's nest and it was not a good place to be. The guys we were surrounded by were not good people. They were all bad guys. I was happy to go over there and take it to them. That all came out and it was a big dust-up.
From there, there was no fallout from that other than there are some things that raised my eyebrows with the rest of the team. One of our guys got shot here Stateside by what appeared to be Arabs in a car, drove by and hit him in the stomach. He did survive the gunshot wound. In fact, he self-medicated himself and tried not to draw any more attention to himself.
There are some other things that had happened and this is exactly when you do this type of work, whether you're in the military, you don't talk and draw attention to yourself and he did that. He put our names out there and that's a problem I have. If you want to tell your story, great, but don't use my name, don't put it out there. At least ask me for my permission. That operation went down in December of 2015, that's when we first deployed.
Dale, are you at all concerned? You talked about one of the guys taking a shot here stateside. Do you have to look over your shoulder always? How do you march through life with it being out there?
I always look over my shoulder because of who I am. I'm very recognizable. You can call that self-inflicted gunshot wound if you want with my book, my TV appearances and my mustache. Everywhere I travel around the world, somebody recognizes me. In fact, I came back from Manila.
I was at the airport and a guy walked by me, Olive-skinned, dark hair and he stopped and started staring at me. I was leaning up against the wall and go, “Where’s this going to go?” He walked over to me and he's like, “Are you Dale Comstock?” I'm like, “Yes.” He goes, “I follow you on Facebook.” He was on his way to China. He was an English teacher. He was former military.
Inevitably, somebody will recognize me somewhere. Sometimes it's foreign national, sometimes it's Americans, but I have to assume that people know who I am so therefore I always have to remain vigilant, even here at stateside. I've gotten threats from Americans that I don’t even know. Crazy stuff that told me I'd better look over my shoulder and they're coming to get me in. I don't report this to the police.
It's like, “Come and get me. I'm armed and I'm always ready for a fight. Bring it on, little guy.” Whether I want to or not, I have to be if I want to stay alive.
I want to encourage people to go to Amazon and check out Dale's book cover, American Badass
. I want to ask you this before we get into the business and the entrepreneurial stuff. I don't have this awareness and I don't think a lot of people either. When you did take jobs post-US service, is this about the money? Is this about the thrill? Is this because you're missing the action? Is it because the targets are our bad guys and you want to be patriotic? How do you come to that decision in your head if you're going to take one of these things? Because this is still life or death. This isn't like you're going over there and getting highly paid to babysit. You could die. How do you weigh that in your head if you're going to take a gig like this?
In fact, in the news articles, the implication was we do it for the money. We're like prostitutes, which being a mercenary is one of the oldest professions in the world along with prostitution. It's not about the money because at the end of the day, what price can I put on my life? The money is there, but it’s not worth the money.
However, that's not why I did it or the rest of us did it with one exception and that was this one particular SEAL. For me, it was the opportunity to go back and bring the fight to the bad guys. A lot of people probably can't get their head around that because when you see what the bad guys are willing to do and have done to innocent people, it's infuriating.
You want to go scorched Earth on them.
When you sit at home behind your computer or watching the television on your comfy couch and the most dangerous thing you ever do is maybe cross the street. Sometimes it's hard to wrap your head around it. When you actually see it, experience it, it gives life and freedom a whole different meaning.
I'm willing to fight for that. I don't do it reluctantly like, “I've got to go do this. Let me find some courage and do this for God and the country.” I enjoy my work because I'm good at it and I'm confident. I like to fight. I was a professional fighter, a professional boxer and a fighter. I can go on all day long. Being a warrior is in my DNA. Being a soldier was a perfect fit for me. It's not because I'm a bloodthirsty killer and I'm less for that stuff.
I believe in doing what I need to do to protect our freedom. I enjoy what I do. Unfortunately, because the last thing you want is a guy out there who's scared to death trying to fight for you because that usually doesn't work out that well. There was one individual in the group. I remember one day he was always out sunbathing on the back of the pickup truck while everybody else was preparing equipment and doing things mission-related and preparing for the next operation and this guy was lounging.
It was the number two guy in the business. I walked up to him one day, I said, “You guys are paying me a lot of money to be your strategic advisor. Let me start by saying this, lead by example.”
One of the guys, Abraham, he agreed with me and he's like, “Yes, I get it.” I told myself at the end of the day I said, “This might be a business for you and the bottom line is important to you. I understand that, but here's the deal.” These are grown man, fetched coffee, do this, do that. I even went into his hooch one day when he's gone. I had to go find something. I found boxes of Red Bull and oranges that he had been rat-holing for himself and not sharing with the team.
I thought, “That is a bunch of crap there.”
I called him out on it. I said, “At the end of the day, when we're out in a firefight and we're getting it on. There's not one guy out there that's going to care about your bottom line. The things you are going to remember is how you treated them. If you were not nice to them, they might not be there for you.” Right away he retorted, “I disagree. It is about the bottom line. Money is important.” I'm like, “You don't get it.”
I said, “We'll see how that works out for you.” It’s not about the money. It's about the reasons why. Some of us want to go out there and beat back the terrorist. I always tell people that I was and am the terrorist’s terrorist. I want that guy to go to bed at night thinking, “Am I going to get blown up in my bed? Am I going to get shot on my way to the car?” I want him to have the same fear that they try to inculcate into us and I'd be happy to do that every day of my life if I think it's going to help our country and restore and keep freedom.
Dale, I appreciate the service and what you're doing to further the mission of the United States, peace around the world and sometimes that requires some tricky things. Dale, all over the world you're known as the American Badass. I'm very curious, how did you come to get that name? Did you call yourself that? Did someone call you that?
First of all, here's how I got it. When I was on Stars Earn Stripes on NBC, we had to do an introduction as one of the scenes. Initially what they did was they paired us up with different Hollywood celebrities. For example, I was paired up with Terry Crews but I didn't know I was going to be paired up with Terry Crews.
They kept it a secret and what they wanted to do was fly the celebrities in on a helicopter while the rest of us were standing on the ground. It was ten of us there and we were going to have this big introduction, hugs and kisses like, “I'm paired up with Terry Crews.” When the helicopters landed, the celebrities got out. They were about 25 yards away from us in a cluster looking at us like a scene out of Gangs in New York staring each other down.
We were directed to one by one introduce ourselves and our backgrounds. Each guy introduces themselves and they came to me. I sounded off, “My name is retired Master Sergeant Dale Comstock, United States Army and the Delta Force.” All the guys behind me, Chris Kyle, the American Sniper, and others, they started to chime in quietly, “American Badass.” They kept saying that and that moniker caught on. One day I was talking to Chris Kyle on the set and I didn't realize he had written the book, American Sniper
I was pretty impressed with that and we got to chit-chat. He was like, “I want to read your book.” I was like, “I have a book.” He's like, “I want to be like you.” Because at the time he was only 32 years old and we've been heard a lot. I'd already considered it before and this was like, “This is it.”
I called my management team and said, “I want to write a book and I want it to be an autobiography, but I wanted to have a message for the readers.” I particularly want to appeal to young American men and boys. I felt like our younger generation is going in a different direction, especially our guys. They're almost being emasculated.
They're not the same breed as when I was growing up. I’ve seen the consequences of the new generation and the way they think in combat. It’s very scary. I told my team, “I want it to be not about me so much. Even though it's my stories, I want it to be about other people. I want it to be a message in the story, something people can learn from.” We came up with the title American Badass.
I had a good friend of mine unfriend me and he said, “A real badass doesn’t tell people that he's a badass. You fool yourself. We're never friends again.” I said, “Okay, goodbye.” I told him never judge a book by the cover. That's very fitting because this book, American Badass, is not about being a badass. I jokingly said, “It's about being a goodass.
It's about being a good citizen, a good patriot, a good American, a good father, a good son, a good brother and a good soldier.” That's what it's about. That's what makes you a badass, not because you're a thug or you can kick ass and kill a lot of people. Badass in my mind is the opposite.
The cover, all that was intentionally done that way because I wanted people to look at it and go, “What's all this about?” I'm standing with a chain around me and no shirt on. It looks like I'm in a prison yard somewhere. That was the whole goal behind it and that's how that happened. It was stowed upon me that way.
I encourage people to go check it out because if you see that cover it's like, “I hope I never run into that guy ever and piss him off.” Dale, I am grateful to be on your side. I'm grateful that you created a course with us at WealthFit. I want to talk about that transition from you're training in the military doing Delta Force and being an operator into the entrepreneurial world. What training from the military do you take that has helped you succeed in entrepreneurial endeavors?
Everything in the military that you learn has application in the civilian world. You’ve got to adapt it. Here's my little story. I do have a Master's degree in Business and Organizational Security Management. I've got a doctorate in Alternative Medicine, but the reality is I don't use those degrees. I use the doctorate in a lot of my personal coaching stuff.
The Master’s degree in Business and Organization Security Management didn't teach me how to run a business or how to stand up a business or anything like that. In the military, we have what's called an operations order. When we conduct our plan A mission, we're going to tack something or rescue people, we write out what's called a five-paragraph operations order.
It's a good format that you can follow. It keeps everything in order and it makes sure that you cover all the details so that you have a good plan to execute from. For example, it starts with an enemy in a friendly situation. You talk about the enemy, where they are, what they're doing, what the disposition is.
You talk about a friendly situation. Who's on your side? What's going on in that area of operations? Does it go all the way down to what is the mission? What is the commander's intent? What does he want you to do? It goes into concept of the operation, which is a summation of the big plan and then you go into the details, the execution, service support, command and signal. I've used that in everything I do when it comes to planning. I was working in Hong Kong running a bodyguard detail over there for a very wealthy investment banker.
I met my wife and she's from Indonesia. I only went back to follow her. I had no plan. I didn't know what I was going to do. She's going to go back, so I chased her back. After I got the hanging around for a while, I saw some opportunities. I said, “There's a need for security here, especially Western-type security.”
One thing led to another and I decided I want us to start a security company. I thought, “How am I going to do that?” Because I don’t have an MBA. I didn't understand all that. This was my third company. I did start two other companies successfully and sold them both. It was trying to figure it out as I go doing my internet searches and cobbling everything together until I had a plan that worked. What I relied on was the operations order. What I did is I adapted it and made a business plan. I also used the Special Forces approach.
In Special Forces as Green Berets, we have many different missions. This is not classified. You can look up on the internet. One of them is Foreign Internal Defense. We call it FID missions. That's where the Special Forces team goes into a semi-permissive or non-permissive environment. They marry up with the local indigenous people. They recruit them, they train them, they feed them, they pay them and then they take these guys and create small armies to go fight.
Green Berets is a force multiplier. I used the FID concept when I went into Indonesia, I said, “What do I need to do?” First of all, I've already infiltrated, I'm already in the country. What I'd have to do? Step two is I have got to network. I've got to find people, win hearts and minds because that's what you do in Special Forces. You got to win their hearts and mind if you want them to fight for you.
When I started building this network, then I went into the next phase, I wanted to establish a base. In the military and in Special Forces you call it a Mission Support Site. Where am I going to run the operations out of?
That took me to Bali, Indonesia. I set up down there and got me an office. My wife, she was the enabler for everything because she is Indonesian. We put everything in her name. I would be on the backside pushing buttons and pull the levers and getting this thing going in the direction we needed to go.
We set up an MSS concurrently at the same time, we started a recruiting phase. We’re going out and recruiting our employees, in this case, it was dog handlers because our security company we provide explosive detector dogs and patrol dogs for all the resort hotels in Bali as well as other venues. I needed dogs and I needed handlers. I needed a management team. I needed assets, logistics, and all kinds of things that make this thing work. Like in Special Forces, it was a matter of going out, recruiting, training, organizing, standing everything up and then deploying my handlers and my canines.
It’s not an easy task because it's Indonesia. It's 97% Muslim. They don't like dogs over there. They consider dogs dirty. The dogs have value and they’re becoming more and more accepted. For the most part, I've never had any real problems with anybody going, “You've got a dog.” Most people are not offended. Indonesian Muslims are very different from Middle Eastern Muslims. I love Indonesia, I love Bali because of the culture and the people are so nice.
They’re probably the nicest people on the planet. I feel very comfortable over there, even though there's a lot of danger there. There is a lot of risks, a lot of terrorists and bad guys. I stand out not only because of my mustache. They call me a Bule because I'm a white American guy. I stand out because I'm a Bule. I'm probably six inches biggest than the biggest Indonesian over there. They're all diminutive in size as well. I use the Special Forces approach.
While I was doing that, I hadn't had come up with a plan and I use my military operations order format to come up with my business plan, who, what, when, where and how. I used that and created this business, which we've been operational for several months and doing very well.
We are operating in the black but we're growing. We've been very successful. We have outperformed any competitors that we've had. In fact, we don't have any more competitors left. At least not many licensed ones for that matter. It's been a journey, but I consider it mission accomplished. To your point, I have used my military experiences. I've used ideas from the military concepts, instruments and constructs to create this business strategy to allow me to go to a country that I've never been to before, get immersed and then build a business there and doing it very well.
I think everything you laid out everyone benefits from, but this idea, whether you're a stay-at-home mom, whether you're in a corporation or maybe like you Dale, you're entrepreneurial. You're building a business in a whole another country. Winning hearts and minds, I want to dive a little bit deeper there, especially in a different country. How do you go about winning? What’s your advice for winning hearts and minds and in any situation?
Here I am in Indonesia, I don't know anybody. The only person I know was my girlfriend at the time. I kept flying back and forth to see her and I thought, “If I'm going to keep coming back here, I might as well get to know some people, figure things out and be a part of this whole culture a little bit.” I used social media to my advantage.
I got on Facebook and I started searching around. I found a site called Tactical Indonesia, which was a Facebook site that the guys in it were policeman, cops, soldiers, business guys that were selling tactical equipment, kids that were in the MilSim and paintball guns. It was a community of people that were like-minded. I jumped in there and said, “This is me. I'm the American Badass.” I got in and introduced myself and then let everybody know who I was and one thing led to another right away. I had a Chinese business start reaching out to me and go, “We want to meet.”
I ended up meeting some Chinese businessmen that had tactical stores and they’re selling tactical equipment, paintball guns and MilSim guns.
I remember I met one guy and he invited me to his shop, I said, “I'll be over there in a little bit.” While I was on the way, he contacted another American who is now my business partner, who is also a Green Beret. He manages the security for Ritz-Carlton Pacific Place, which is a huge mall complex with two towers from Ritz-Carlton. He oversees eight Marriot properties. He contacted him and he goes, “Do you know this guy?”
He's like, “Yes, I heard him.”
There were a couple of other friends that we’d known and they all chimed in like, “Yes, we know this guy.” One thing led to another. I ended up meeting my partner and then he introduced me some other people. Before you know it, he and I are in business together and we're running a company. In fact, we incorporated here in the US. We pulled in some investors from US that invest in the company. We built Strategic Outcomes Indonesia, which I call that my Fort Operating Base, the FOB. It's a franchise of the larger company, which is Strategic Outcomes Asia LLC
That's how you went hard to mind. Once the introductions were made, I had to present myself in the best light, which is not very hard for me. I will just be me and I'm pretty transparent. I don't have anything to hide. Usually, I went to people's confidence and trust right away. If you want to grow in business, you've got to network.
I firmly believe that business is not about what you know. It's who you know and do they respect you, trust you and like you. If you have those elements respect, trust and they like you, then you can get the business. You can figure out how to do it later on. You can get the assets to figure it out, but nobody's going to give you a job if they don't like you or trust you. You've got to win the hearts and minds. That means you've got to have a little bit of personality.
You have to have some social skills and you have to have a good presentation. Otherwise, you're never going to get out of the starting blocks because who wants to do business with a fuddy-duddy?
You talk about this in one of your courses, the idea of decision-making. To make this real for people, I imagine you have seen some tricky situation. I'm thinking of a combat situation where not only is your life on the line, but that of your men. How do you come to make decisions in these environments? Let's talk combat and then let's talk business. Is there any difference? Do you go through the same process to make decisions?
No, you have OODA Loop, which is Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. It’s nothing more than a mental construct, a tool that you can use to help you very quickly identify whether it’s a threat and decide what course of action you're going to implement and then you go with it. If that course of action is not getting the job done or do what you wanted to do, then you go back through this OODA Loop again, observe, reorient and come up with another course of action, implement and then continue the process.
Whether it's business or the military, whether it's day-to-day life, I always live by this OODA Loop.
It gives me a construct to follow to help me get through issues. There’s one more that I use as well. It's in line with the deliberate decision-making process, but it has more to do with solving an issue. Notice I use the word issue. I don't use the word problem. In fact, instead of problem, I call things challenges or some people call them opportunities. If I have an issue or a challenge or I need to resolve, the first thing you have to do is identify the issue.
What is the issue? Define it. Once you define it, you have to assess it. This is the orientation thing again or I get oriented on it. What's going on here?
You go into the next step, which is coming up with courses of action. Normally, it's a good idea to have at least three separate courses of action for any issue you’re trying to address. You select a course of action, you implement a course of action and then you manage the process and you go back through the cycle again until you get to where you want to be.
Those are the two tools that I use in life for most things, whether it's addressing an issue right away and I've got to do something quickly or if it's something that I want to resolve and do it deliberately. These are tools that are taught in the military in one form or fashion. These are the same tools that I've been able to apply in my personal life, whether it's in business, professional life or whatever it is I'm doing from a day-to-day basis.
Dale, I want to ask you about decide. A lot of people have a challenge deciding acting, but I'm going to take it back to deciding. Let's say option A and B sucks. Maybe you're paralyzed by thirteen different options that you have. What's your advice or what's your training around deciding on something and taking action and preventing that paralysis of analysis?
In the military, we have what's called the Military Deliberate Decision-Making Process. If you follow this process, it allows you to figure out what's the best course of action to execute a mission or conduct an operation. What it does is it makes you consider all the variables and then compare them to each other.
Through this comparative analysis, you figure out, which one has the best variables, which one has the worst variables? You decide from there, what is the best course of action? I’m normally limited to three courses of action. In fact, in the military, that's the standard. It's a minimum of three, but you don't want to have thirteen courses of action, you’re going to analyze that forever. There's a way to do that. One is building a metric.
For example, in one column you have the three courses of action and they should be very distinct and separate from each other and then you list, what the variables are. What are the things you have to consider? For example, how easy is it to execute? What kind of logistics would be required? How much money would it require? What are the hazards and risks? You weigh those. For example, keep it simple, it's either one, two or three. One being optimal and three being not so optimal and two somewhere in the middle. You'll assign a score in every category.
Once you do all that for everything, after you analyze it, then at the bottom you add up all your scores and you figure out which one has the smallest score because of the ones are optimal. That's how you make a decision, “This one's got the lowest number on the bottom and this one has the highest number and this was somewhere in between, I think I'll go with the lowest number one.
Because through my math, my calculations and my analysis, I have the best chance of succeeding using this course of action.” When we create a plan A, plan B and plan C, we have all these contingencies. Rarely does the plan A ever work. When we go to plan B, Plan B doesn't work so well either.
We ended up going to plan C, which is usually a combination of A and B plus some extra fluff in there to make it work. That's been my experience in the military. You got to start somewhere. You come up with the best scenario and hopefully one of amalgamation of all those three will get to the right solution that you need.
Dale, you talk about managers versus leaders. It's a great conversation to have. What's your distinction there between someone that is a manager versus someone that's a leader?
There are a big difference and a lot of times people don't recognize that. A leader is someone that can inspire other people to do things and they make them believe that they want to do that.
Here's one analogy on leadership. I was writing this out for a speech that I’m preparing to conduct. My father was in the Army for many years and he told me one time, I was about ten-years-old and he asked me. Think about this. He goes, “You have a platoon of soldiers standing in front of you and behind you, you have a fence that's ten feet high with barbed wire on top. You can't dig underneath it. It's a contiguous fence.
There are no gates and no doors to get in. You want your platoon on the other side of that box, how do you get them in there?” I'm thinking to myself, “Parachutes, cranes, helicopters, catapult or human canons.” I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don't know.” He goes, “First of all, as a leader, you can't possibly have all the answers to every challenge.” What do you do? You call your platoon to attention and you'd tell your platoon fall out, fall in on the other side of that fence.
He says, “You give the platoon the why and let them figure out how. That's how you develop leaders. Let them solve their problems.” I've never forgotten that lesson in life. I use it in the military. I use it all the time. A lot of times I don't have the answer and I look at my employees. I was like, “Tell me how you're going to do it. Tell me how to do it. You do it.” I put the onus on them and I give them the responsibility. I delegate the authority to them, but I ultimately take responsibility. If they failed then it's my fault. That’s what leaders do. They delegate, but they also maintain responsibility for their issues. What's the difference? A manager, his job in the military is to count beans and bullets. He manages stuff. He keeps track of who's checking in on what time. They're showing up for work, what time they're leaving, how much ink we still have left for the printers, how much paper reams we will still have left?
A real leader, he guides the people in that business to excel. I do a lot of performance coaching and I get a lot of guys that they don't quite understand that concept. What many leaders are afraid to do and I don't consider them leaders. I consider more like managers when I do this. They are afraid to train their subordinates. They are afraid to give them too much information, too much training because they're afraid that they're going to take their job one day. That's the wrong approach. As a leader, your job should be to develop your subordinates to be better than you. I had one guy that was concerned. He was a regional bank manager. Another new bank opened up and he thought he might have a better opportunity for promotions. He jumped over to that bank. He worked for them for a year. The bank went under and he came with his tail tucked between his legs to the old bank. They started him down in the bottom again flying a desk and he lost his managerial position.
The guy that was over him was an authoritarian. What everybody did, he took the credit for it. He didn't have any original ideas and it was frustrating for my client because he felt like in all honesty, he was more qualified than that guy was, yet he's taking orders from this guy and he wanted to know how to challenge him. He’s calling the supervisors to go head to head with him. I told him, “That's the biggest mistake you'll ever make. As long as that guy's in a position of authority, he's got power. He's got leverage over you and you're just shooting yourself in the foot. Here's a smart thing to do. Help him out. As a leader, even though you're not in a leadership position, take the leadership role. Teach this guy a thing. Let him take the credit.” I said, “Everybody in your office is going to know who's the lead dog in this thing and they're going to know it's not him.”
Those that are important are going to recognize your leadership ability and the fact that you're able to work with this guy, mentor this guy and help develop this guy, you'll be recognized for it. He did that, within 30 days after that conversation, he got promoted to the regional bank manager. He was on top of this guy after that.
They don't understand the human condition so much. What I mean by that is a lot of times managers don't get it. If you want things done, you have to entice people to do things and make them think it was their idea and give them credit for it. Prop them up and develop them. That's how you get things to happen. Running rough shot over guys and gals doesn’t work because people will resent you for that. In fact, they'll resist you. Sometimes passively, they'll resist everything you want to do and make it even harder for you.
When I was in Special Forces and when I was in Delta, both times I was a team leader. I remember when I got promoted one time when I was in Delta, I had a five-man assault team and all the guys on my team were all E7s. I was an E8 Master Sergeant. I took over the team and I remember we had a team meeting one day. I said, “I'm in the driver's seat now. However, that doesn't change anything. Here's how this is going to work.
When we have an objective, we have something we have to do. I'm going to ask every guy on this team for your opinion, because I'm a firm believer that five heads are better than just my head. We're going to talk about it. If there's time and then I'll weigh it all out and then come up with a decision.
Ultimately, I'm responsible for the decision. If it goes bad, it's my fault. If it goes good, I'm going to give you credit for it.” That's how it's supposed to work. That's always been my philosophy. What you end up getting as a team that works together like a family. In my case, a team of brothers rather than a leader and a bunch of followers that reluctantly falling, especially if they don't like you or don't like your personality or they don't like your leadership style, then it makes it a lot harder for you.
I'm a democratic type leader, but I'm not a Democrat. I use that approach. It's like, “Let me have everybody's opinion and I'll make a decision, then we'll move forward from there.”
I think that the audience will say, “Dale, that's easy. You're in the military. You built up a brotherhood. You've built up a comradery and they're not going to bail. I'm in Corporate America or I'm an entrepreneur. I got to manage a team. Some of my team members, they’re looking at the clock. They're there to get the paycheck.” How do you combat that? What do you say to the people that have to be in certain situations versus people that are opting in to be there?
Here's my next example. I've got a wonderful wife. She's a little tiny Indonesian girl. She's about 92 pounds and she has a sixth-grade education. When I met her, she worked most of her adult life as a maid. It was a cultural thing. The way she grew up in a village. She was married off by her mother at the age of fifteen and up with kids, no father, no husband and supporter. Her whole life has been her laboring.
She met me and we fell in love.
When I decided I want to start this business, I realized that the only way it's going to work is I've got to have her involved as well because I'm not always going to be there. I travel a lot. I do other businesses as well. I needed somebody that could take the controls. She couldn't even open up a computer and turn on. She had no idea how to run a computer, never needed to. She runs a MacBook Pro.
I taught her how to work the computer. This company that we have, she runs every aspect of it, from HR, finance, accounting, and logistics. She goes out and trains our explosive detector dogs. She trains our handlers, our supervisors.
She is large and in charge at 92 pounds.
We have about 48 male employees and about 36 canines. Some of them are tigers and she manages and runs the entire company single-handedly and doesn't get any pushback because one of the things that I impressed upon her early on was leadership. I told her, “No matter what happens, at the end of the month, every man better get paid his paycheck every time, all the time, always.” There should never be any doubt in his mind if he's going to get paid or not. I said, “That's the first part of leadership.”
Take care of your people. Do the right thing. However, that doesn't mean that you can let him run rough shot over you either.
If a guy screws up, the first time you warn them, the second time, you crush him. That might be something like a pay deduction or if it's bad she has no problem taking the acts to them because we have to protect the business.
The business is like a baby.
Everybody's got to contribute to take care of the baby. This baby is made up of canines and the human element of it and that's how we survive. If we have a bad apple in and is not doing his job, not taking care of the canines or not pulling his weight, he could put the entire baby in peril. That can't be tolerated. However, we have to be also professional enough and understanding enough that people can make mistakes sometimes.
That's part of growing. As a leader, what we do is we retrain and reorient the person that's not doing what he's supposed to be doing.
We try to get them back on track. We give them chances. She doesn't give them as many chances as I do. There's a whole reason for that because of the Indonesian culture, she understands it better than me. I'm probably a little bit too nice and too forgiving to the business’s detriment. She's a shining example of you don't have to have an MBA.
You don't have to have a lot of experience at a business to manage a business. What you have to understand is how to lead it. She's managing as well. She's wearing both hats. One is a manager because she's got to keep the books, all the elements that go along with that. Buying dog food. We spend about $1,100 a month just on dog food. That's all got to be coordinated.
There's so much that goes with this thing, the veterinarian. There's a management and there's the leadership aspect of it and she’s got to separate them. One, she manages but two, how do I keep these guys motivated to keep them happy and keep this thing moving in the right direction? That's where leadership comes into play.
For an Indonesia woman that grew up in a village, culturally she's not supposed to be in a leadership role. By virtue of her training and understanding what it means to be a leader, she's up there and she's run the business and she's got no disrespect. She doesn't tell them what to do. She gives them an idea or a suggestion like our ops advisor, “Andrew, we probably need to change the dogs out over there. What do you think?”
Let him make the decision and figure it out.
When you start telling people what to do and order them, that's an authoritarian approach. Sometimes that's needed. However, you got to remember people and their emotions. Sometimes you got to be nice. I’m not saying you got to kiss their butt. You've got to find that fine line. I always found it works best if you encourage people to take the initiative and do something rather than having to tell them to do it.
There are times when you have to tell people to do things and you have to be firm about it. If you have exigence circumstances and you’ve got to do something and there's no time to deliberate, there's no time for you to second guess it or countermand me, just do it and you make it happen.
An example when I was in a firefight with my Afghans and we had some SEALs with us and we were going after bad guys. It was pitch black out and all the guys were on night vision goggles behind the machine guns shooting and carrying on. I noticed that one of my guys in the back of a truck that's manning machine gun wasn't wearing night-vision goggles and had them flipped up. You can't see anything if you're not wearing your goggles.
I told my interpreter, “Tell him to get his goggles down.” He went over and told him to get his goggles down. A couple of seconds later I looked at his goggles were back up. We went through this three times. It's like, “This guy is not getting it. By wearing your goggles up you can't see which made you put the rest of us in risks.” I told my interpreter, I said, “Get his name and his supervisor’s name, whoever his squad leader is.” The next day I called his squad leader, his team leader and his platoon sergeant out and him out.
I brought them outside in the heat and we have a big, giant pile of sand. I told them, “Bring your helmets out with your night vision goggles on and I let you put them on.” I said, “I want you to flip your nods down. I want this guy as a punishment to start filling sandbags all day with his night-vision goggles on his head and his helmet in the heat.” I said, “I want the other three of you to stand there and supervise them all day until it gets done right.”
That was a time where there had to be consequences for his disobedience. He put a lot of people in peril. I couldn't tolerate that. I could have fired him. I could have him pack his stuff and leave, but I decided to give him another chance. He was a young soldier. I've got to teach him a lesson. He's got to learn why he did that or why he’s filling the sandbags and what he did wrong, that there are consequences.
There are times to tell people to think things, but I just encourage people to do things. I also like to empower people to take the initiative, come up with some great ideas, do it. If you think it's a good idea and you know what my left and right limits are, make it happen. That’s a mark of a good leader and it happens that she's actually very good at it and I have a very good supervisor that does the same.
I've worked very hard to impart my experience and that knowledge on all of them so that they can learn because I also have a philosophy in the business. We need every guy, the newest handler to act like a leader. When he's out on a site and he's working the dog, he needs to know how to take the initiative. If there's an issue, I can't have this guy get on the phone and call his boss go, “What do I do now?” I need you to take the initiative.
Think like a leader and make it happen. If you make a mistake, we're not going to cut your head off for it. We're going to learn a lesson, but I want to develop these guys.
When I first got out of the Army, I was starting my company but I didn't have a job. I didn't have a pay paycheck. I needed a job. I ended up taking a superintendent job with a big glass factory, a Fortune 250 company. I always joke that I went from being a Green Beret to a glassmaker. I had no choice. I needed a job. I need to feed my family so I took this job.
When I first started the job, the first three days I had to read a bunch of stuff, take a bunch of tests and the company was very anti-union. I watched a lot of anti-union videotapes. There was one particular test. Here’s the scenario, I walk down to my section, which what we call the hot-in. That's where we took the glass that came out of the furnace and then it went into a thin bath and we stretched it and created thicknesses. We run it through, cool it and cut it up.
That part of the plant was like the Special Forces of a glass factory. I was elite just being on that end. The question was, “If I walked down to my section and I find a guy laying there and he's not moving, what's the first thing that you do?” I said, “The first thing you do is you look around and make the area safe and make sure whatever took him out doesn't take anybody else out.
You are the first responder. The second thing you do is go over and you do your ABCs, your primary secondary surveys. Make sure the guy's breathing. He's got a heart rate. Make sure he's not bleeding out. There are some steps that you take. Concurrently, you're yelling for help, ‘Somebody call 911 and get a medic here.’”
I go through this and I write all this out because it made sense to me. I got hammered for that. I failed that whole question. I'm like, “What's the answer?” The guy doing the HR testing said, “The first thing you do is you call your supervisor.” I'm like, “Why would I do that and waste time?” I wait for my supervisor to show up after lunch or whenever he decided to get there and in the meantime this guy is bleeding out or maybe worse than getting ready to happen.
Maybe there's a gas leak and the place is getting ready to blow up.
That didn't make any sense to me. What it taught me was that in Corporate America, sometimes all they care about is things like liability, risks, the bottom line and I was taken aback by that. I didn't agree with the answer and I told myself, “If that ever happens, I'm going to do it my way because it's the right way.”
I 100% agree with you on that, Dale. It's funny how some people have their rules. Dale, I love your background. I love who you are as a person and the experience that you bring into the world. I’m grateful that you've created a course with us at WealthFit. For people that are curious and want a little bit more of the American Badass outside at WealthFit, where can people find you online? What's the best place? Are you on social? Do you have a website? What is that place?
Dale, I appreciate you being on the show and sharing some stories with us and some insights as well in terms of how to make decisions lead and be a badass in business and in life. Thanks for being on the show.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.