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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Sales Leadership Series: Arnie Malham | Founder & President, BetterBookClub


How do you create a culture that attracts and retains top talent?

One lesson Arnie Malham, Founder & President of BetterBookClub and Author of Worth Doing Wrong, teaches us in this episode is that it takes time and will not happen suddenly.

Tune in now or keep reading for a brief overview.

About Arnie Malham

Arnie Malham is an award-winning CEO, 8-figure entrepreneur and best-selling author who helps progressive leaders create and sustain engaging cultures within their organizations.

With more than 20 years under his belt as a successful entrepreneur, Arnie has founded and sold multiple businesses, including his most recent sale of a prominent advertising firm producing more than $60 million in annual revenue. Through employing thousands of employees across three different countries; he has implemented simple, yet effective methods to create remarkable and sustainable cultures.

Arnie is an international speaker who has spoken to more than 10,000 executives, CEOs, and entrepreneurs worldwide on the topic of culture and employee engagement and has also been featured in leading media such as CBS and Forbes. Arnie was awarded Most Admired CEO, ranked in Nashville’s Best Places to Work, and was an Ernst and Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” finalist.

Today, Arnie is the founder and CEO of BetterBookClub where he helps companies, leaders, and individuals build a strong culture that both attracts the best people and rewards those who seek personal growth within the organization.

From Media Salesperson to Business Owner

To help listeners understand Arnie's background a little more, host Matt Sunshine asked for a brief overview of his work history.

"I started with WTVF, the CBS affiliate in Nashville from 1990 to 1994," explains Arnie. "This was the early days of broadcast TV sales where my only sales training was being told to go sell."

During the interview, Arnie tells listeners that two things made him a successful salesperson:

1. Willing to walk into any business and talk to the owner.

2. Learning skills by doing and reading from authors like Harvey McKay, Tom Hopkins, and Brian Tracy.

After moving away from TV, he started an Ad agency CJ Advertising. This agency was inspired by some clients he worked with in the media industry, specifically personal injury lawyers. "There were three things I noticed in this market," Arnie explains. "They didn't have good representation in the market, they had no idea what they were doing, and TV (at the time) could do a massive job of helping them."

Five Ways Company Culture Impacts Your Bottom Line

Culture-First Approach

CJ Advertising was a 20-year experiment that ended in success. "For 10 years, we survived, and we survived because I didn't put culture first," Arnie explains. "I created a place that even I didn't like working at."

Culture reflects leadership, and Arnie talks about how it took him time to realize that he was the one responsible for creating a bad culture.

When he started putting culture first, he realized that it has to happen gradually, not suddenly. "We found that every culture program needed time, typically 9 months," he says. "Teams wait for culture programs to just go away, and we need to go into this with a mindset that we need a champion and checklist - things that can continue to happen on a sustainable basis. And we need permission to fail."

Arnie explains how they did one culture program at a time and over they years, they ended up with an unbelievable culture that he write about in his book Worth Doing Wrong. "We got a lot of it wrong on our way to getting it right, and that's where the title comes from."

"As leaders, we give ourselves permission to fail, but we don't give our teams permission," he states. "That's one of the biggest lessons in leadership that changed out business the most."

What is the BetterBookClub?

Once Arnie sold his businesses, he turned his attention to BetterBookClub. One of the top sessions he learned as an entrepreneur is that if you can't grow people, you can't grow a business. "BetterBookClub became a way of growing people," he states. "The books we read and the people we meet are the differences in our lives as we move forward."

During the interview, Arnie explains his love for reading and how he becomes richer in more knowledgeable every time he read a book — and he wanted that for his team.

"I had to recognize that my last book isn't my team's next book," he explains. "My job wasn't to tell people what to read but to recognize and reward them when they did. It's not the book, it's the habit I'm trying to create and BetterBookClub helps hundreds of organizations create that habit in their people."

And as Arnie points out, BetterBookClub is not an actual book club. It's a platform that recognizes and rewards team members when they read and it encourages learning.

Tune in now to hear how BettterBookClub works and the advantages of using it for your team.

Overview of Worth Doing Wrong

When Matt asks Arnie why he wrote the book Worth Doing Wrong, who it was for, and what it was about, Arnie says, "We didn't realize what we were doing at the time. We were in a war for talent in an industry where talent didn't come running."

Arnie started creating a culture that recognized people and helped them grow. "We wanted exposure to more people. We developed everything within the culture through incredible R&D - rip-off and duplicate technology."

This book is how others can "rip-off and duplicate" the same culture that Arnie grew. In the book, there are programs he used to reward, recognize, and grow people. "We talk about what we did wrong and how we make it right and sustainable," he states.

Matt also asks the question, "How has building a culture changed in a hybrid or work-from-home environment?"

Arnie explains that while they did it all in person, there's nothing that can't be adjusted to a work-from-home or hybrid environment. "Just do it with purpose and creativity. Be okay with not getting it right. And just get going give a name to your culture. If your culture has a name, then you'll put programs in that culture and they stay alive."

Don’t miss another episode of the Improving Sales Performance series where Managing Partner Matt Sunshine speaks with thought leaders, experts, and industry gurus, who share their insight, tips, and knowledge on various topics that help companies improve sales performance.  

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Topics: company culture