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E56 | The Story of Predictable Success With Les McKeown

Today’s guest is Les McKeown, founder and CEO of Predictable Success. Les has over 25 years of global business experience, including starting 42 companies in his own right. After a long career advising individuals and organisations on growth and development, Les started his own training and development business. 

In 1999, Les relocated to the US, from where he writes, teaches and consults in high-performance organisational development. Les is also an internationally-renowned keynote speaker, with experience speaking to groups at Google, DO Lectures and numerous Fortune 500 companies.

Les McKeown consults with C-level teams on how to lead their organisations to the state of peak performance he calls “Predictable Success”. And it’s predictable success that we talk with him about today.

On today’s podcast:.

  • What Predictable Success is
  • Why Predictable Success is not limited to just for profit organisations, but every organisation
  • The seven stages of a business life cycle
  • The different styles of working including individuals, the visionaries, operators, processors and synergists


Today’s guest on Mind Your F**king Business Podcast is Les McKeown, founder and CEO of Predictable Success. Predictable Success is Les’ phrase to describe the peak of a life cycle that every single organisation goes through. It’s been his life’s work in uncovering, not making up but uncovering, what the path is that every organisation goes through. 

In fact, he’s written four books detailing his findings: Predictable Success, Do Lead, Do Scale and The Synergist. He discovered after writing these four books that all of the principles he covers in the books, the principles in the predictable success model, actually apply to any organisation: for profit, not for profit, a kids reading group, anything. 

Any group of two or more people trying to achieve common goals can all go through these seven stages – three growth stages and one big stage – the one he calls Predictable Success, and then the three decline stages. 

The seven stages of a business life cycle

  1. Early Struggle. Where 1 in 5 new ventures fail in the first three years (80%)
  2. Fun. The first of the three nice stages, but you can’t scale in fun
  3. White Water. There are 3 stages of white water:
    • Early white water – denial, where you can’t improvise your way out of a problem. 
    • Middle white water – where you have to make the decision whether to go forward to predictable success, or go back to fun. 
    • Late white water – where you have to make the hard decisions to go on to predictable success
  4. Predictable Success. This is the driver for scale
  5. Treadmill 
  6. Big Rut. This is the long slow decline into irrelevance (this is the stage Microsoft and General Motors are in currently) – it’s a stage where companies operate under an illusion that they’re still succeeding, when in fact they’re more akin to passengers rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Unfortunately there is no way out of The Big Rut. 
  7. Death Rattle. This where the zombie organisation is put to bed. Think of the company Kodak, or the manufacturers of the Blackberry. 

Where your business is on these stages depends on what you want to achieve out of life. You don’t have to move out of fun if you don’t want to. 

White water

According to Les, most companies exist in the ‘white water’ stage, when the founder/CEO needs to transition to professional management, or ‘treadmill’ which requires the return of risk-taking and the entrepreneurial spirit encountered in the ‘fun’ stage.

Identify where your company is in its lifecycle, and then you can figure out exactly what to do next to move toward sustainable growth.

Leadership styles

Les believes there are several leadership styles: the individuals, the visionaries, the operators and the processors. These are all natural styles, we pretty much come out of the womb, knowing at least two of these styles – typically a leading style and a secondary style. Les says he’s a leading visionary and a secondary processor. 

Then there’s another style – synergy. And those people who follow this style are called synergistic. The synergistic style is something that a few people have in and of itself. There is a very small percentage of people who are naturally synergistic. 

Everyone who follows a different style gets endorphin releases from different things: 

  • A visionary gets his or her endorphin release at the moment of inception.
  • Operators get their endorphin release by getting to the end result, to the thing that needs to get done. 
  • And for a processor, and this is where a culture clash happens in white water, a processor gets the endorphin release from doing the thing, right.

Book recommendations

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