Book Review: Business Fixer and Best-Selling Author Chris Collins Shares His Secrets in 'Syndicate X'
This post was written by Rob Kosberg, founder and CEO of Best Seller Publishing, a company that helps experts position themselves in their marketplace with a best-selling book.
Chris Collins’ real-life journey as an entrepreneur is almost stranger than fiction. Collins grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, the stepson of a missionary. At 13 years old, Collins’ stepfather abandoned him and his mother in the middle of the night, cleaned out their bank accounts, and ran off with a 21-year-old girl from the church.
Left homeless, Collins and his mother were taken in by his grandfather, a former fire lieutenant. “My grandfather was born during a time where deals were still made on a handshake, and all you had in life was your word and your work ethic,” recalls Collins. “He instilled in me what it meant to be a man, to work hard and live with honor, character, and integrity.”
Collins applied his grandfather’s lessons to finding a job in the wash pit of a car dealership. After a year washing cars while moonlighting as a drummer in the Seattle grunge scene, Collins negotiated his way into a job in the service department. “At first, I ended up angering half the mechanics and freaking out my boss,” says Collins, “but then I blew away the numbers — as well as the numbers of every other advisor in the department.”
He went on to work his way up to GM of a BMW dealership in Southern California, driving it to number one in the world for sales for four years straight. He then shifted his focus toward helping other dealers fix their own service departments by plugging solid systems into place. “I started getting addicted to the fix,” shares Collins. “The more broken the business was I consulted, the more excited I would get. I felt weaponized.”
Collins was soon consulting full time, catalyzing a total evolution in the way service departments do business across the world. He quickly realized the systems he used to help flip failing dealerships applied to all businesses and started working as a turnaround specialist across industries.
The entrepreneur has now been a gun-for-hire “fixer” for more than 20 years. He’s also the author of three books, including Amazon best-seller “Gamification: Playing For Profits.” In his newest book, “Syndicate X,” Collins imparts some of his business wisdom through fiction.
“When I sat down to write a book about my experiences and unique set of tools, I didn’t want to write another ‘how-to’ business book,” shares Collins. “The only way I was going to capture the reality of running a business was with a fictional setting where everything doesn’t get perfectly buttoned up.”
The outcome is a book that reads more like murder mysteries than a business book. “I use the sex, murder, corruption, and drama I’ve witnessed firsthand as a delivery mechanism for the business lessons,” he quips.
Part thriller, part coming-of-age story, “Syndicate X” follows a young man, Michael, who inherits a bar that’s $1.8 million in debt from his estranged, murdered father. Michael finds a mentor who introduces him to an elite group of business experts, The Syndicate. Through his new connection to The Syndicate, Michael starts to learn the insider business tips that will transform his life.
Here are three key principles that Collins’ hero must learn:
1. To hit a target, you must be able to see it clearly.
At one point in the story, Collins’ protagonist is struggling with how to turn around his newly inherited business. “Your brain’s Reticular Activating System needs to hone in on specific targets,” shares his mentor, Floyd. Collins explains how the reticular activating system (RAS) functions as a gatekeeper to the conscious mind. “When you set a goal, the nerve cells in your RAS start looking for ways to accomplish it. Your RAS is always on, searching for answers.”
To set the right targets for your RAS, Collins recommends imagining your goals like a movie in your mind. “Imagine you’re the protagonist of our own hero’s journey and weave your goals into the plot,” advises Collins. Your goals should consider the complete picture — not just money. They should be specific, massive, but still doable. They also need a specific time frame. “Identify explicit instructions for your RAS,” insists Collins.
Collins says most entrepreneurs play “not to lose” instead of “to win,” so they focus on losing — thus emphasizing the scenario they’re trying to avoid. His protagonist adjusts his target accordingly, from “saving the bar” to “making $3 million a year in net profit.” Sound like a lofty goal? Collins says it should be.
2. For bulletproof success, master 'the Quaternity.'
Like life, business includes mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects — what Collins calls “the Quaternity” in his book. “The best entrepreneurs and CEOs master all four. To be successful, you must master at least three. Most master only one,” shares Collins. “That’s because many business leaders see everything through the lens of their own limited frame of reference.”
Collins uses the analogy of an accountant who becomes CFO, then CEO. “If you run a company like an accountant, you approach everything with the mindset of lowering the budget and cutting expenses — all your analysis is coming from the mind,” explains Collins.
To become adept at the Quaternity, Collins recommends expanding your perspective by learning all aspects of business, even if they’re outside your expertise. For example, a key step for Collins’ protagonist Michael is understanding the emotional side of his bar business and doing an audit of his staff and work culture.
3. A specific 'Grand Strategy' is the secret to financial freedom.
For Collins, business is war. So, like any good general, an entrepreneur needs a battle plan — or Grand Strategy. To create your Grand Strategy, list your greatest long-term goals as accomplishments, including specifics like when and where you’ll accomplish them. For instance, instead of writing, “I will open three new locations,” write, “I opened three new locations in California this year.” Collins also recommends including one-, three-, and seven-year profit targets.
Begin your own Grand Strategy by finishing these three sentences:
- My company can be best described as …
- My company’s core values are …
- My company makes me feel …
The list goes on in the book, offering a template for readers to create their own long-term business plans. Collins recommends being overly ambitious. For example, his protagonist’s answer to number one is, “The place that makes the best damn craft beer in the world.”
Collins insists that your team should be as committed to your goals as you are. “Your team must be able to mentally step into your Grand Strategy and keep it top-of-mind. Anyone unwilling to memorize it should find another job.”
Through the course of Collins’ novel, his protagonist grapples with a choice: What do you do when you inherit three breweries and $1.8 million in debt from a father you never knew or met? Through Syndicate X, Michael learns the massive responsibility he’s presented with is in fact an opportunity to rise to the occasion and become a better person. Collins hopes his readers will use their greatest business challenges to do the same.