Posts

MDH 41 | Exit Strategy

MDH 41 | Exit Strategy

 

Part of the life cycle of a business is the founder’s inevitable exit from the company. To make sure that you are able to make the most of your business, you need to have an exit strategy. In this episode, Victoria Wieck talks about selling a company with the president of Provenance Hill Consulting, Martha Sullivan. Martha and Victoria discuss building systems and adding value to a company and how these make your business more attractive to buyers. Hear the best practices for crafting the right exit strategy from Martha. Tune in and learn more of the ins and outs of selling your company in this conversation.

Listen to the podcast here:

Watch the episode here:

Always Have An Exit Strategy: Building A Salable Business With Martha Sullivan

We have an amazing guest and her name is Martha Sullivan. I want to ask you if you have started your business and things are clicking, you’re finally getting some traction on your business. It’s growing and you wish you could grow more but it’s growing. You hope that maybe your children, some family members or whoever is going to go ahead and take your business. That’s what I dreamed of when I started my business or at least envisioned that.

If you’re in that category where you have started a business and want to grow it and scale, you’ve probably done all that, you want to look at an exit strategy, you haven’t thought about it or maybe you’re beginning to think about it, I’ve got the perfect person for you. Martha, what she does is helps you do just that. Basically, she will work with family-owned businesses. If you have a family-owned business, that’s great because you can enjoy the fruits of all these together or maybe you have a business that’s even bigger than that.

Either way, it’s important to have your business structured in such a way that you have the option to exit any time. Life is strange. Things could happen to you, voluntarily or involuntarily. Having those options is everything these days. Martha is the Founder and the President of Provenance Hill Consulting where she helps you accomplish all those. She’s written articles for Forbes, Authority Magazine, Forbes Financial Advisor Magazine, Milwaukee Business Journal and so much more. Without further ado, welcome Martha to the show.

Thank you so much. I’m thrilled to be here. I’ve been looking forward to our conversation.

It’s important that we have an exit strategy. Many people think, “I have an exit strategy,” but do you really have an exit strategy? Your strategy might be, “I’m going to grow this for twenty years or I’m going to grow this to $20 million and I’m going to sell it.” If you even think about that, you can never start your exit strategy. Meaning that you need to have a strategy and have your structure in place before anything could happen. Is that not correct?

That is so correct. It’s 100% spot on. A story brought that home, where our two-door down neighbor, a 34-year veteran of owning his business, decided not to wake up on Monday and he had no plans in place. You go from that perspective all the way to you have a great business, the market is going well that it’s like, “Maybe this is the peak and we should get out now.” You want to have a business where it will be attractive for somebody else to want to buy it or if it is a family business, you want your next generation to be able to look at it and say, “I want to be a part of this.”

You want to have a business that is attractive for somebody else to want to buy it.

As opposed to, “Mom and dad handed me a rock and I feel pressured into taking it.” Getting a company ready to sell, for example, as a transition strategy is not “I wake up now and do it tomorrow.” It takes time and thoughtful preparation from day one. Having a vision of where you want it to go and making sure that it’s always ready for sale. Even though it’s not on the market, it’s always ready for sale.

Martha, maybe about 35% of our readers are on the verge of starting their businesses or have started a side hustle. I would say that even your day one if you have a mindset of starting a business that you could sell someday, you’re going to be thinking about things like brand names that other people might want, all the different things that go with a sale of a business. Number one, we have to differentiate between a business that’s a profit and loss business versus building a brand, for example. What does your business stand? That makes it easier to sell it someday.

Even if, let’s say hypothetically, a family has three children. The mother and the father started the business. They now have to transition it to their kids. I know somebody who went through this. They had four kids. Two of them didn’t have anything to do with the business. One was a dentist and one was a professor. The other two wanted to have the business but one didn’t want to do any sales, all that but the four of them inherited it. How do you then value the two that don’t want to have to do with that? They’re entitled to something. The company that I was telling you about is a $25 million company. That’s a good size company.

Eventually, they did sell out to 51% ownership to an investment firm twenty years down the road but it came after huge family fights and several divorces. It went through all that stuff. It was ugly. This uptick is very important. I know you’ve been doing this for most of your adult life. You were in a consulting business, worked for a consulting company and then went out on your own and did this. What are some of the tips from the very beginning stages? If you are now thinking about selling, it might be almost late. You need to hustle at this point. What are the tips?

In terms of the tips at the outset, when you’re starting your business, you need to think about it from the perspective of setting up good systems that are helping your teammates learn and carry on the business, as well as setting up a management team. The number one thing that kills deals when you go to market and sell your companies is if the company is overly dependent on the owner. Meaning all the relationships are with the owner, all the institutional knowledge, all of that stuff.

You want to ideally get it to the point where the company can operate without you. I like to simplify it. Can you go on vacation? As a new business owner or entrepreneur, you probably don’t feel comfortable going on vacation. Your goal should be to get to the point where you could comfortably and confidently go on vacation, not just for a week. Any of us can shoehorn that in. Would you be comfortable going on a vacation for a month and know that the company is going to be able to function without you?

MDH 41 | Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy: It takes time and thoughtful preparation, having a vision of where you want it to go, and making sure that it’s always ready for sale. Even though it’s not on the market, it’s always ready for sale.

 

My advice to people that are further down the development path in their business and thinking about potentially selling, maybe that’s in 2, 5 or 10 years down the road, it’s important to start putting on the lens of a buyer and looking at it from the perspective of, “How it’s somebody independent look at your company, how would they look at your baby?” They may not say your baby’s ugly but they may look at it and say, “That is one ugly baby,” because there are no systems because it is dependent on the owner. There’s too much concentration on all the businesses with 1 or 2 customers and they’ll walk away.

They’re putting on the lens and saying, “Would I buy my company now? What risks would I see if I were walking in fresh?” That’s challenging to do but it’s vitally important. Think about it in terms of if you were going to go buy a house or if somebody was coming into your house and saying, “Would I buy this house?” The paint’s peeling and the roof is leaking or does it have fantastic curb appeal? It’s in tip-top shape. It’s not all that different when people are looking to buy your business or your kids are considering, “Do I want to take this on?”

Honestly, everything you said is something that you should do for your business whether you’re going to sell it or not every single day. Number one, for example, having your business so heavily dependent on 1 or 2 customers basically, they pretty much own you at that point. I would say that in my own consulting world, I tell small business owners not to take on a huge customer until you can be sure that no single customer is more than 15% of your business.

At that point, that single customer dictates your product development, services, hours of operations, what employees you hire. It’s changing the character of the company. That’s a no-no in the first place. In terms of making sure that you can go on vacation, I would argue that in order for you to scale your business, you have to depend on other people. There are going to be limitations on how many hours you can work.

I’m sure that you find this to be true. When you consult with a lot of entrepreneurs who are very passionate about what they do, they want to do everything. I don’t know about you but I find that to be true. They’re passionate. They love their customers and employees. They look forward to going to work every day.

Many people don’t realize that when you first went about owning a business and starting a business whether it was your mother or you did it, most people will say that the ability to work fewer hours is at least at the top or the second to the top reason why you start your business. It’s emotional, financial and freedom of time, yet they spend more time working in their business and oftentimes for less money.

You want to ideally get your business to the point where the company can operate without you.

What you’re advising to do now is even if you don’t ever think you’re going to sell it, this is something that’s good for you every day for your own sanity. If you’re doing everything, how are you ever going to nurture any employees to do more than you do? You’re going to need many employees who can do more than you do, who you can trust?

It’s who you can trust, help you scale up and grow that vision that you have into something that has traction, value and whatnot. It’s interesting you bring up the whole concept of freedom and what drives us entrepreneurs to become entrepreneurs. It backfires on you because it was like, “I have all this stuff I have to do. There are so many plates spinning.” If you can accept the concepts that as you build your team and a company that is always ready for sale, it does give you that freedom and flexibility.

If I have the confidence to go on vacation for a month, I also have the confidence to lean on my team and say, “I started this business because I love doing this but now I have to do this and this.” Now, I have a team and I can get rid of that, this and this. “I’m going to focus on what I love. I do my best. You focus on what you love and do best. We’ll all be much better.” Having the right focus on building that transferable company helps you get back to achieving that daydream that every entrepreneur shares of that freedom and fun to build a business.

I’m sure that many readers will agree with you on the concept of working less, building a team, building trust in your employees and to some degree to some customers as well. You know as entrepreneurs we are a very stubborn group of people. We don’t know how to do it. That’s what drives entrepreneurs. I come from a family of five kids. I’m the oldest of the five. A couple of my siblings will never, ever be an entrepreneur. They don’t want to be one. If you tangle them $1 million an hour, they wouldn’t do it because it’s not their life. I’ve got a brother who’s a lawyer. He refuses to go start his own little practice.

He wants to work as a General Counsel for a very large company. We’ve got a couple of other kids who will never be able to clock in a day at work because she can’t handle being told what to do, the routine every day, the grunt work. How would you advise an entrepreneur who understands it conceptually but can’t do it? They don’t have the basic trust in their employee. I’m not saying that they’re going to steal from you or anything like that.

“What happens if they screw up and my customer gets mad while I’m on vacation? What do I do?” They have this anxiety. What advice do you have for that entrepreneur who wants to follow your advice? Other than, Martha has a workshop series. If you go to ProvenanceHill.com/millions, she’s got the little workshop series. You can get a little coupon or other free things. Give us a couple of hints.

MDH 41 | Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy: When you’re starting your business, you need to think about it from the perspective of setting up good systems that are helping your teammates learn and carry on the business, as well as setting up a management team.

 

To piggyback on the Finding True Value Workshop Series, what I teach entrepreneurs and business owners is to understand and appreciate that to grow a valuable company, you need to be balancing the rewards like the revenues and the cashflow that you get from the business with the risks in the business. Take that buyer’s mindset again. Where are the risks? What you’re talking about with that anxiety is a risk. “Do I risk empowering my employee to do this stuff for me?” Appetite for risk, entrepreneurs tend to be more risk accepting because you don’t go into business for yourself without taking some risks.

We also have the tendency to do what I call in terms of white-knuckling the golden goose. We hold on to our control so tight that we choke it off. You start small with your employees in terms of the risks that you take with them. Are you going to hand over the management of your best customer to your employee? It’s probably not right away. We all hate to lose a customer but there are some customers frankly if my employees step their toes on, I either have a good enough relationship with the customer to prepare them and say, “I want you to have continuity in our relationships. I can’t always be here. I’m bringing Junior along. Will you work with me on it?”

You take smaller risks where the stakes aren’t as high. It gives you practice taking those risks and helps you build trust that your employee isn’t going to drop the ball. At the same time, it helps to build confidence and competence on the part of your employees. They can step into that larger customer relationship, for example.

What you’re saying is that trust your employees. You are saying, “You’re minimizing risks by minimizing managing the risk.” I’ve had employees for a very long time. I want to say my first employee ever hired in 1989 is still with me and a couple of them retired. Employees are not mistake-free. You’re not mistake-free. Customers are not mistake-free. Things will happen. When they happen on a very small scale like that where stakes are not so high, which is not life-threatening, where a customer didn’t blow up at something. You didn’t get your package at 4:00. Maybe you got it the next morning at 8:00. It’s not a life-threatening thing.

Letting your employees make those small mistakes and learn from them. You should hire them well but my employees have made some pretty big mistakes. I’ve had one that made like $150,000 mistake. I didn’t fire him. What I did was I looked and figured out how the mistakes happen. We changed the system. This was a case where I got a huge order from a TV network and they wanted an Emerald suite. They were an Emerald necklace, earrings and pendant.

When we placed our order with our manufacturer, 2 of them were in yellow gold and 1 of them didn’t have a designation for metal so it came in white gold. This was a matching suite. I ended up having Emerald earrings in white gold, a matching pendant in yellow gold, the ring in yellow gold and then the bracelet in white gold. The whole order was $300,000.

We learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.

I would imagine replace it out so it was all consistent.

This was bought for May, which was Mother’s Day and May’s gemstone was Emerald. She said she didn’t want to buy it because nobody wanted to have not matching suite, all that stuff. Basically, what we ended up doing was I contacted the buyer and I offered her to do this at Christmas time because by the time we had to redo the whole thing, it was several months. I gave her a discount. I also agreed to take back merchandise that she couldn’t sell because that was the best I could do.

What we ended up doing is that now our purchase order system, every single item has a WG for White Gold, YG for Yellow Gold or RG for Rose Gold. You cannot put anything into a system unless you put in that metal color. You learn these things. Since that incident, nobody has ever made that same mistake again because it’s impossible. What you and I are both saying is that employees can make mistakes. Unless it’s catastrophic and the decisions they’re making isn’t that the firm. It is things that aren’t going to make a huge difference other than maybe your ego, whatever. It is almost better to train those employees with those small mistakes.

We learn more from our failures sometimes than we do from our successes. What I like about the story that you shared there, Victoria, was that we’re developing your coworker through that mistake but you also built your system stronger. The hallmark of a great transferable company is that you have systems that allow you to grow faster, as well as they’re replicable. If there’s turnover, maybe there were other reasons and you had to let that individual go. You have systems where somebody else can helpfully come up to speed faster and do the work as well, if not better.

There are a lot of drivers in what makes a company valuable to a buyer, probably more than we have time to talk about now but we do talk about that in the workshops quite often. It changes or can change a business owner’s focus from the bottom line to understanding what it takes to have a healthy bottom line but also an asset that you’re growing over time so that it can pay dividends later. I like to say and it’s a quote from a dear friend of mine through the Exit Planning Institute, “If you’re focused only on income, you may not have value but if you’re focused on value, you can have both.”

Let’s get back to how do we now structure a business that’s saleable from day one. A lot of times in the jewelry business, it’s a very archaic business. I’m in the jewelry business and I’ll go to a trade show and there’s one coming up. We can go to these trade shows where millions of dollars are being traded and they’re still using those three-part carbon copy things. They’re not using any technology. They’re still writing scratch notes. I’m saying reporting systems, reporting your numbers, your sales, doing analysis, having great inventory if you’re selling physical inventory and recording your changes in inventory accounts receivable.

MDH 41 | Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy: It really is a matter of executing a good business strategy and having the systems in place to make that happen. Systems determine performance period.

 

These things are all things that need to be in place because that’s how they judge a business. This is the other thing. It’s like a chain reaction. If you don’t trust your employee’s ability to keep the house running, for example, and then you don’t have a system to record your sales or whatever. “How many did you sell?” “I can’t remember if I sold 15 or 16 of those pendants but let me check.” They’re going through the three-part thing. If you have a system of reporting that’s already computerized, your inventories are computerized, it keeps track of what you receive and what you take out.

Having these systems in place where any employee can come in and perform that day’s job, that’s absolutely critical. When you’re starting your business or maybe you just started your business, whenever you start your business, I know in my case I started my business in ‘89 and I’ve had to upgrade change systems over time because the whole world changes. When you do that, listen to someone like Martha who has gone through this.

I started my business as a small hobby. I wanted to only make $3,000 a month. I wanted to work twenty hours a week, $3,000 a month but $500 million later, I can tell you that each time I’ve upgraded my systems and I’ve done anything was because my systems crashed. It wouldn’t work anymore. I had computers crash on me. I had systems crash on me where we were down for a week at a time. Don’t wait for something like that to happen because as a company gets bigger, the stakes are higher.

What happens is when you hire somebody upfront, someone specialist like Martha, she’s not going to cost you millions of dollars. I’ve had times where it didn’t cost me several hundred thousand dollars to upgrade. Don’t wait until your systems crashed and you don’t have a choice. Not only do you not have a choice to buy companies but you also don’t have a choice on systems.

I’ve had times where I’ve had to take the one that I could hook up with as fast as we can. It’s important. A lot of the things that you’re preaching and advising are things that you really need in your own business anyway. Having employees that are competent and you have confidence in is one thing. It’s the same thing with having vendors that are competent and confident. All customers are not the same. Some customers are going to work and grow with you. They’re going to matter when you sell your company. Some other customers are a lot of trouble. I’ve had customers that I got because nobody else wanted them. You don’t want that either.

You don’t want the whole portfolio to be that. When we talked about companies that are salable, you want to look at all the pillars, your vendor system, your employee system, your customer system and then the marketplace overall. Everything that you’ve shared with me and our audience is very sound advice. I know that if you are smart and adventurous enough to start a business, grow it and scale it, you’re capable of doing anything,

If you’re focused only on income, you may not have value, but if you’re focused on value, you can have both.

Starting a company is akin to giving birth, you think about it, nurture it, you feed it, do everything 24/7. This is what entrepreneurs do. If you want to detox from the entrepreneurship, the pitfalls of entrepreneurship, find someone. If it’s not Martha, it’s somebody like her who will teach you. It’s a shame that we have to talk about this being an exit strategy because it’s also a growth strategy.

It is. An exit strategy ultimately comes down to its simply good business strategy. It’s doing the right thing for your business so that it is sustainable. The Exit Planning Institute shares a statistic that 1 in every 2 business owners will be forced from their ownership because of death, divorce, disability, disagreement and distress. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about having good systems in place.

Having your management team, financial statements that are current, accurate and a valuable management tool, all these different factors because from day one, we’re giving birth to that baby. We want it to be beautiful, attractive and go on to live a wonderful life. After they hit eighteen, checkout time has come and gone and it’s time for it to go someplace else for us to do something different. It’s not always retirement. It could be growing a business to flip it and then move on to your next adventure. All of these principles come into play. It is a matter of executing a good business strategy and having the systems in place to make that happen. Systems determine performance. I agree with you, Victoria.

An exit strategy ultimately comes down to good business strategy. It’s doing the right thing for your business so that it is sustainable.

Martha, how do people find you if they want to have a deeper conversation. This conversation is deep.

The easiest way to get in touch with me is to visit our website, www.ProvenanceHill.com. I also have a blog there and that will also link to In Business Magazine, IBMadison.com, where I have a blog, Exit Stage Right, is the name of it as well. Those would be ways to connect with me. If you’re interested in the Finding True Value workshops, check out www.provenancehill.com/millions. If you use the coupon, thank you code of VICTORIA, that will give you a 20% discount. It’s my way of saying thank you to you, Victoria and your audience. This has been a delightful conversation.

Remember, I always sign off by saying until next time, please stay healthy and happy. Happiness is a choice. I hope you make great choices. Until the next episode, thank you so much.

Thank you.

Important links:

About Martha Sullivan

This one-time information systems analyst turned her most brilliant act of rebellion into a career as a CPA, CFO, COO, business owner, and profit & value growth strategist, consulting to hundreds of clients and colleagues over the past (gulp) three-plus decades.

Martha Sullivan, President of Provenance Hill Consulting, LLC. founded her firm with one purpose: Help companies build strong, profitable businesses that are attractive enough for someone to want to buy it when the owner decides to chase their next adventure.

She recognizes that exit planning is a topic, like death, that most business owners avoid. Yet life’s realities have a tendency to catch up to even the best of us, so building and maintaining a kick-tail business that someone would be thrilled to buy or take over is the best “business life insurance” possible.

Martha’s work supports owners, and their next-generation leaders, as they take the company to the next stage of its life – be it continuing growth or navigating all exit options available to the owner and his or her family.

Together, through roll-up-your-sleeves workshops, business analysis, a good sense of humor, and tough love, business transformations begin.

MDH 40 | Innovation

MDH 40 | Innovation

There’s no limit to how much you can scale your business if you know how to innovate. In this episode, special guest West Stringfellow discusses the innovation process he found works for almost any business. West is the Founder and CEO of HowDo, a self-guided innovation training program. West has worked for and helped grow some of the biggest companies today, including Amazon, PayPal, Visa, and Target. With years of experience, he has unlocked the key to innovation which he now uses to help others find their way to business success. Want to know how? Tune into this episode and be motivated to unlock your own potential! Join him and host Victoria Wieck as they talk all about innovation and give helpful advice to keep you motivated.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

How To Innovate To Scale Up Your Business With West Stringfellow

If you’ve always wanted to know how to improve your business, upscale it, all of that, it starts with you and you know that I’m a very big proponent of that. I’m a huge proponent of the one single thing you could do to change your life. Our guest is West Stringfellow. He is somebody who epitomizes everything that I’ve been saying on my show about all the things, little things and big things. The single thing you could do to start your journey to success. West comes to the show with years of impressive experience.

He has worked with companies like PayPal, Visa, Target, Amazon, Rosetta Stone and so many more. He’s made his impact with those kinds of companies but what impressed me the most about West and this is why he was invited to this show, is his ability to help every employee and person, no matter what you think your abilities are to help every person innovate and elevate. I’m so excited to have him here. I’m so thankful that he was able to make this time so that we can all share this amazing knowledge that he has acquired over many years.  Without further ado, I would like to welcome West Stringfellow. Welcome to the show.

MDH 40 | Innovation

Innovation: The purpose of business is simply to grow revenue, decrease operating costs, mitigate risks, empower employees, and delight customers. If you do those five things well, you’ll have a successful business.

 

I appreciate it.

I don’t want many of you to email me because I’m not trying to make a political statement of any kind. I do think that when we were growing up in the ‘70s, ‘80s, even the ‘90s, I felt like they were at the height of innovation. The ‘80s is when we got the internet, laptop, computers, cell phones and all of that.

When I hear the word innovation, the last person who innovated anything to me was Jeff Bezos with Amazon. Have you noticed that even music is being regurgitated? A lot of this stuff and movies are doing their 3rd, 4th and 5th rendition of whatever it is that came out in the ‘80s. When I saw what you do with your program called HowDo, I was impressed with that. Tell me a little bit about how you got to what you’re doing now and what it is that you do now to impact the world.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor more than anything. I entered all the Science competitions and Science fairs and they had one that was based on an invention. I came into second place making a better lunchbox but ever since then, I have always liked the idea of building things. Real early in my career, when I was an intern, I learned that if I solved problems that people didn’t know were problems. I could make more money than if they did the job they asked me to do. I kept scaling at that problem-solving in my job until, ultimately, I was recruited by Amazon. At Amazon, it was ten years intern after Amazon launched. It was still a very young company. There are a million things to get done and it was a great place to get stuff done.

Being an entrepreneur is about figuring out how something you’re passionate about connects with a customer’s problem. 

They gave me a lot of lessons about how to appropriately characterize problems and deeply understand what the problem is, put it in the language of the customer and then look at critically what competitors would do, could do or were doing in this space. Look at critically the commercial opportunity, how much money we could make from it and then make a solid pitch. That was what my job was at Amazon. I hopped around different teams and led the development of new products and fixed problems. When I left Amazon, I did that for Visa, Target, Rosetta Stone, PayPal and a bunch of startups.

What I learned along the way is that there’s a fairly generic process that can work for almost anyone in almost any context. If you’re a big company or you’re a small company, start with learning about the customer, the competition in the marketplace and then doing a pretty thoughtful analysis about what the real opportunities are that are present now and how you can take advantage of those opportunities using available technology and available tools. Business, in my opinion, is fairly simple.

There are only three tools, build, buy or partner. If you’re going to build something, it’s product management, service management or some sort of platform design. If you’re going to buy something, it’s mergers and acquisitions and corporate venture capital. If you’re going to partner with something, you use incubators, accelerators or other forms of partnership agreements but that’s business. When you understand the problem, the commercial opportunity and the tools that are associated with that opportunity, you need to find the team that can do that.

I think so many people get wrapped around the axle of their emotions, what they wanted for their business or their dreams for their business and they lose sight of the purpose of business. The purpose of business is simply to grow revenue, decrease operating costs, mitigate risks, empower employees and delight customers. If you do those five things, you’ll have a successful business but so many people get focused on what they want or what they hear their customers say they want and they lose sight of the overall holistic objective. I’ve designed a course that tries to help anyone and everyone learn first principles around business and teach themselves how to move from an idea to something that’s in a customer’s hands and making money.

That was a lot of information that was shared now. I want to share with the readers that one of the consistent feedback I get is that I don’t share enough of what I’ve gone through. The building my business from $0 to $500 million. When I listened to West described the five pillars of running a successful business, I have to say a lot of what he said resonates with me on I didn’t know then. I was too naive and simple and my business grew for many years. It’s not like I had a plan but looking back, a lot of the things that he said resonated with me.

Here is the one key thing that you all need to take away from his entire presentation, which is it all starts and ends with the customer. When you have a business, it could be that you are an artist or a musician where you’re expressing your feelings or desires, even then your customer, the end-user who absorbs your information, is who you have to cater your life around. Every product you build and every pitch you make, you almost have to think about how am I going to present this to my customer? How is she going to use it? I think that when you do that, you can work it backward. Sometimes, customers don’t even realize that they have a real problem or they need a product until they see it.

It’s not really about you but it’s more about the customer. I would even go simpler than that. Business comes down to solving problems for your customer. That’s number one. It may be a perceived or real problem, but it all comes down to that and how effectively you can solve their problem. I love the conversation we had. I’m with you on that. I share information freely with everybody. When I first launched my online course, everybody said like, “Do you have any testimonials?”

MDH 40 | Innovation

Innovation: The definition of innovation is really simple. It’s introducing a new good or service to the market.

 

I said, “I’ve got tons of testimonials. I just never got paid for it because I’ve always given free speeches, free webinars and free workshops to people because I’m so delighted at being able to share what works.” A lot of times, when you share that freely, you learn in the process of sharing because they will give you feedback. The other thing too is there’s such joy in sharing. I don’t have to get paid for every speech or every workshop that I do. I don’t think about how I am going to make the most money out of this thing. When you freely share, people come to you whether you are selling artistic cabinetry or coffee. Think about what Starbucks did with simple things like coffee.

They’ve almost made such a call that it’s cool to park your car, go to Starbucks, stand in line. There’s nothing else in life that I would want to stand in line for 30 minutes to overpay 500%. It’s crazy. This is what happens when you delight customers and have them love you and you attract legions of fanatic fans. To me, Starbucks coffee didn’t even taste that great. If you think about it, their coffee is so bitter that they have to add the whipped cream and all this other stuff. I was a pure coffee drinker before. I was a black coffee drinker before and now, they’ve converted me into drinking soy latte. I’m allergic to dairy so the next closest thing is soy dairy.

We digress but I think that what you’ve said about all the different pillars is not about you. I don’t want to sound harsh but when I say it’s not about you, of course, you do still have to honor your desires and your dreams. Your desires and dreams could be that you want to make it ultimately. If you have a product or service that serves your target market well, they’re going to either save time, money or hassles and they will then be able to contribute. When I look at your accomplishments, it’s all these big companies like Amazon and PayPal. These are all corporations that we have heard of.

Are there lessons that you’ve learned that you could maybe share with a small business person, a person that might have maybe one employee herself or under ten employees that are trying to innovate? When you hear the word innovate, it sounds like it costs money. Don’t you think that’s true? When you hear the word innovate, immediately, you think, “I can’t do that because I’m not an engineer. I’m not a scientist. I don’t have the megabucks so I can’t innovate.” What do you say to that?

The process of innovation is one of aggressive learning.

I think it’s a fair question and I totally understand why when people hear the word innovation, it’s a scary word. Candidly, that word has been so used and abused. It’s almost meaningless at this point. The reality and the definition of innovation really simple. It’s introducing a new good or service to the market. Do you know that the definition of an entrepreneur is a business person who takes on greater financial risk? It’s not like you have to be Elon Musk to be an entrepreneur. You could do something that’s moderately riskier than being an employee.

Elon didn’t take any risks with his own money.

A personal example would be I built and sold my own business. I was the sole employee and I’m not a great engineer. I’m a terrible engineer but I sold the business when it was on paper. I sold the patent in the concept. I think innovation takes many forms. Being an entrepreneur is about trying to figure out how something you’re passionate about connects with a customer’s problem. It may not be a direct connection or when you wake up out of bed, you have the right specific idea to solve that problem. The process of innovation, in my opinion, is aggressively learning. I don’t care if you’re a big company or a single individual sitting in your bedroom dreaming about what to do with the rest of your life.

Everyone has to learn from the customer. What I advocate for is a structured process of learning so that you don’t waste time and you maximize your potential for real knowledge gaining. The process that I’ve created for HowDo is based on best practices at big companies. I also founded and led a Techstars Accelerator, which I built and sold my own company as the only employee. I’ve done a lot of work with startups out of the years of my career, about seven years with startups. The process that I’ve created works for everyone. It starts with doing secondary research, which means Google. Ask Google a million questions. If you have an idea for a business, open up your laptop or your tablet and start typing phrases into Google.

You’ll see that there’s probably some information out there. If you want to build a bakery, open up Google maps and look at all the bakeries that are in your neighborhood. Get in your car and drive to all of them. Walk into the store and ask them how business is going. Look at what they’re selling and the price point. If you want to do any industry, look immediately around you and the folks who are in that industry. What I didn’t tend to do is specifically zero in on the people who are leading the businesses that are currently existing. I follow their social media accounts. I read their posts. I look at any of their blog posts or any podcasts they’re on that I listen to. Any YouTube videos they’ve made, I watch. I try to get as much information as I can about the marketplace so I understand what I’m talking about.

Let’s stay at the bakery example. I might know about all the bakeries in my neighborhood and then I try to meet some of the customers in the neighborhood. I’ll post a Craigslist ad and I’ll say, “I’ll give you a $25 Amazon gift certificate if you’ll sit down and have a cup of coffee with me. In these pandemic times, if it’s safer, you feel more comfortable with Zoom or on the phone.” Talk to customers. Now, some Google product managers wrote a great book called Sprint. Google is one of the best companies in the world in terms of using data to make product decisions. One of the things that blew me away about this book Sprint is they recommend that if you talk to five customers of an existing product, you’re going to get 80% of the feedback that you would get if you talk to 20, 30, 40 or 50.

Let’s say you want to make a bakery, find five customers of the existing bakeries and have some conversations with them like, “What do you think about the existing bakery? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? What would you like to see? How’s the price point?” Make sure you have these conversations. You have open conversations. Don’t go in there with your product and say, “I want you to buy my product. Tell me what you think.” Try to keep your mind open as much as possible. Try to listen to the words the customer says. The customer is going to speak in a different way than you think. Every time I talk to a customer, I’m constantly impressed with how they describe my product to me and words I would never use.

MDH 40 | Innovation

Innovation: Some of the world’s best innovations are taking something that worked in one end and doing it in an industry that hasn’t done it yet.

 

I’m also impressed that if I listen to the words they use, I can start learning more about what my product is. I can use those words to talk to my customer more effectively. I’ve been in the industry for many years. When I talk about stuff, it’s like, “Nerd.” It’s all about this technical crap. When I go talk to the customer, they don’t know all the technical stuff. They say to me in a much more colloquial, human and accessible way. If I learned that from my customer, I could ask them more specific questions, I get more insight, I know how to market and sell to them. It helps me long-term. Once I have a deep qualitative understanding and again, that can come five conversations. Not always but generally five conversations then I try to test it qualitatively.

I use something like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. I try to get a statistically significant number of responses. Now, if you’re in a small market, 100 or 200 people, it might be enough. If you’re trying to do something nationally, you should try to get 1,000 people from the demographic that you’re targeting. Hopefully, through your initial research and conversations, you’ll start getting an idea of your demographic. All you want to do in that quantitative survey is take the information you learned from the conversation, the qualitative and validate that they’re true at scale. Once you’ve done that, you have a much better idea of your customer than most of your competitors will because no one does that work.

I think that’s interesting because I love what you shared. As I said, I am so customer-centric that I rarely talk about myself ever and that’s one of the biggest complaints I get from my show because not many people would turn to my show. I’ve sold over 10 million pieces of jewelry and they basically want to know how I did it and I never shared that. What you’re saying is exactly what I did before the digital age. I started my business in 1989 and I didn’t have any money. I had no idea what I was doing. I literally had no clue. I was so naive but I went to different department stores and asked the buyer or the jewelry department managers, “If you had this type of design, would you be able to sell it?” It was all sketches.

The amount of information they gave me, in fact, they were so excited about it. Many of them sold from me off of the sketches. That’s how my business started. I started my business with no money. I had $30. This is before computers and anything then I thought, “How real could that be?” The two stores that sold for me were Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue on Wilshire and Rodale. It’s a different store. In my mind, I was thinking to myself, “That can’t be the rest of America. I’m going to need more than those two stores.” As you said, you needed a bigger sample. The two people that I talked to, the stuff that they ordered for thousands of dollars, I personally didn’t know anybody that would buy it from me.

Everyone has to learn from the customer.

My personal circle of people couldn’t afford the stuff that they thought they were buying. When I went out to other stores all around Southern California, I got a pretty good view. Even then, I didn’t think that that was all of America. I thought that was Southern California. My first trip was to Dallas, which I thought was much more Middle America. Basically, in order for you to find out what your customers want, go find customers, even if it’s just five. I completely agree with those five. In my personal experience, when you’ve talked to people, they’re overjoyed that a real person is talking to you. You’re not a part of anything. You’re not hiking and showing off on social media telling everybody how great you are doing.

You’re asking their opinion, they will be brutally honest with you and then you’re getting some feedback from them. I also loved what you said about how you think about your product a certain way that the customer then sees it in a different way. I think that that’s a key important issue because a lot of times when you think customers see it one way and you think you’re giving it another way, there will be a disconnect in how you message them in the end. If you come up with a marketing ad and let’s say you’re advertising on Facebook, “I have this wonderful, beautiful jewelry for you to wear to work,” then the customer says, “That’s like a milestone jewelry heirloom. I will never wear it to work.”

There’s a huge disconnect between those two because you think they’re going to want to wear it to work into everything then the person says, “No. For me, that would be such an incredible thing that I would want to keep it in my jewelry box. I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to ruin it.” You have to figure out how the customer uses it. Let’s go back to the word innovation one more time.

I think that a lot of people, when you say the word innovation especially coming from someone like yourself who has worked with Amazon, the innovation capital of the world, they think of inventions. They don’t think about improving things that are already out there. Innovating could mean the same product is delivered in different ways and products used in a different way.

It’s a similar product that elevates personal. Coffee is a great example. I wouldn’t say that Starbucks innovated coffee but the way we use it, the way we now view coffee, there are countries that used to only drink tea until Starbucks got there and now nobody drinks tea in those countries anymore. UK is one of them. I wish the bigger companies that you worked for did what you say. They don’t do it.

They don’t listen to us. It’s insane. I hate PayPal. I don’t like PayPal. They make it so convoluted and it’s not simple for me. I don’t understand why I have to put in my information and then you have to put in all your credit cards to go to their platform. It’s so stupid. I got my gripes with Target and even Amazon. Basically, what I’m saying is that if you’re a small company, you are in a better position to be nimble and surgically effective in the market that you’re in. You can make a lot of profits. You don’t need to make billions of dollars to make money if you got one employee and that employee is you.

I agree when you’re talking about PayPal being difficult. Having worked there for three years and I was the head of the platform there, it had to do a lot with a KYC, AML CTF, Know Your Customer, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing. If anything is difficult on PayPal, it’s not PayPal’s fault. It’s generally regulations that come in and make it hard. PayPal rides this weird line between banks, etc. The challenge when you get big is the government starts to pay attention to you. When the government starts to pay attention to you, they want their piece of the pie. They want to make sure that you’re doing things the way they want the things to be done. The government has its agenda. Companies have their agendas. A lot of times, those agendas aren’t the same.

MDH 40 | Innovation

Innovation: People become the most successful when they have the endurance to just consistently learn about the customer and never get complacent.

 

When you’re small, most governments don’t care about you. Most competitors will ignore you. It gives you a lot of latitudes to take risks and experiment with your customers. I wanted to touch on one of the things that you said earlier, which is innovation doesn’t necessarily mean invention. In fact, I think some of the world’s best innovations are taking something that worked in one end and doing it in an industry that hasn’t done it yet. There are so many examples of technology specifically that were helpful for the military and is now used by everyone on Earth like using a cell phone, Velcro or zippers. All of those things were designed for specific activities. A lot of them had to do with the space and how we use them in our kitchen like the microwave.

There’s a lot of utility in technology out there that hasn’t been brought to the customer in a way that makes it accessible to the customer. I also think part of the work that I’m trying to do with HowDo is to help people with their inner monologue. I think the biggest barrier to innovation starts with the stories we tell ourselves. If we tell ourselves that we can’t innovate, it’s hard, I’m not this or I’m not that, we’re literally ending the story with that thought rather than giving ourselves permission to try and maybe fail. Failure is literally a failure and learning. If you failed but you learned, that’s not failure. That’s an iteration. That means you took a step, it didn’t work, you’re going to take the step again but you’re going to do it smarter.

If you keep taking the same step with the same process, that’s crazy. Doing the same thing twice and expecting different results, it’s sanity. If you learn every time and you use that learning to scale, that’s not failure. That’s iterating. Everyone iterates on the path to success. Amazon, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos all iterate. If you give yourself a more positive story like, “I can do this. I might have messed it up the first time but here’s why I messed it up. Here’s what I learned about it,” then go look at people who were successful, your role models and your aspirational innovators. Watched how they got there. There’s a ton of failure in that process. No one got up out of bed at eighteen and he’s like, “I’m going to be a billionaire,” and then the next day was a billionaire. There’s a huge 20 to 50-year journey for most of these people.

I believe that there’s a lot of power and capability in everyone but we often are held down by the narratives that we tell ourselves and potentially stories other people tell us but innovation is not scary. Invention is not scary. Invention is harder than innovation. That’s for sure because you have to do something not new but innovation is everywhere in so many things. There are many problems in the world and people will say, “How are we ever going to fix this?” I swear to God, it’s going to be innovation and it’s going to be someone who’s alive now that fixes it. It could be you. It could be anyone.

We started with customer-centric mindset and we’re going to end it with a customer-centric mindset. I think that whether you’re innovating or inventing, it becomes easier the clearer you have in your mind of who your customer is and what they want from you. For example, your customer now wants to save time and they want safe food and they want a new way to microwave something that whatever it is, it becomes a lot easier to innovate and invent once you figure out what your end goal is. You’re going to go back to the customer, see what they want, how they are going to use it and what problems you’re solving for them.

In terms of the obstacles along the way, I weigh with you on that too. When I first immigrated to America, my father told me, “America is the promised land where all dreams come true,” which was a lie. You didn’t know it at the time but you have to work for your dreams. When I came to America, the prevailing thought was that America is still the promised land. It’s the land of opportunity. All you need is the opportunity. As long as you are willing to work for it, you’re persistent and tenacious and you believe in yourself, you’re going to get there. Nowadays, that is not the prevailing thought. A lot of people who are almost nearing retirement age will tell you, “Unless you have something so unique, chic and something different, you’re better off in Corporate America. You’re not going to succeed because the world is complicated.”

What happens as a society is we condition our children. Our graduate schools are teaching business schools how to plug into a system, how to lead a team and how to report to your boss, organizational skills and all this stuff. I can see why you might be sitting there, reading this and wondering if any of this stuff applies to you. I would argue that if you look at all the companies that we’ve mentioned, we’re talking PayPal, including Jeff Bezos at Amazon, all of these people started their companies with very little money like $5,000 or below. Google, Apple or Facebook were all started by some little dreamer with a little idea of something. I would say stop doubting yourself because sometimes, you might be the only thing that’s in your way between you and your dream out there.

What have you got to lose? I believe there was no failure because when you fail but you get up, you learn something and how to do something better the next day. I would consider that our learning lesson. Now, if you choose to do something and you succeed on day one, let’s say you want to learn how to ride a bike. One of my kids learned how to ride a bike pretty quickly and the other one fell for about a year. The one that learned how to ride a bike pretty quickly was a success story but then the one that didn’t eventually learn. You learn a lot of things along the way. Everything that you want to have is worth trying, even if you fear that failure because that failure isn’t a failure. It’s a stepping stone.

West was saying to believe in yourself. Innovation isn’t scary. Even invention is not scary. It’s something that you’re going to have to get used to. Don’t you agree with all the companies you worked for in the past, West, like Target, Amazon and to some extent Visa? These companies have evolved every year. Do you remember when Target first opened? It was an undesirable store.

It was a grade above Walmart. Now, that’s the choice that the Millennials go to. Go figure. Target is shaking. It’s hip now. When I say we’re going to end this segment with customer­centric thing, again whether you innovate or not whether you evolve or not, your customers are evolving every day. You better stay in touch with the evolution, the innovation and all that stuff that’s happening around you. Do you want to add anything else to that as we end our segment?

I would say never get comfortable. A principle is always day one. I think that’s true for every business. Many businesses that I’ve worked for missed hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue because they were like, “Whatever that thing is, it’s not going to be popular.” In 2007, I was at one of the largest banks in Europe. I was talking to their head of innovation and they were like, “We think this Facebook thing is going to be done in two years.” They were very wrong.

The biggest barrier to innovation is the stories we tell ourselves.

I see that so often. I see that in startup founders and in big companies. It’s a basic human behavior. We like patterns and familiar. Talking about stuff that’s unknown or unfamiliar is very hard. For a lot of people, that’s deeply uncomfortable. The more that we can make ourselves comfortable, specifically for me, I’m surrounded by musical instruments, I am constantly learning new things. I constantly challenge myself to learn new things so that I never get tired of the sensation of being unaware and feeling like a newbie. That is where people become the most successful. It’s when they have the endurance to consistently learn about the customer. Never get complacent.

Thank you so much for spending all this time with us. If you want to know more about West, he can be reached at HowDo.com. He will be launching a video series of a lot of free information. I highly recommend that you check it out because he has found ways to apply a lot of the principles that the bigger companies use. Those bigger companies do research at a much different scale and West is giving you them in smaller bites where you can apply it to your small business. I appreciate you coming in and wish you all the luck in the world for your upcoming podcast, which is also called HowDo Podcast. Thank you.

Thank you so much for having me. This is awesome. I appreciate it.

Thank you.

Important Links:

About West Stringfellow

West Stringfellow leads product management and innovation at scale. Throughout his 20 year career, West honed his ability to quickly create a better strategic vision of a company’s future, motivate large groups of people to pursue that vision, and then lead teams through the operational, financial, organizational, and technical processes that bring strategic visions to life.

Currently, West is the Founder and CEO of HowDo where he is providing free universal innovation training. Prior to HowDo, West was Target’s first Entrepreneur in Residence, Target’s VP of Innovation, and the Founder of the Techstars Retail Accelerator, in partnership with Target. He was also Chief Product Officer for Bigcommerce and Rosetta Stone, led product innovation at PayPal and Visa, and was a senior product manager at Amazon. As a result, West led teams that built and rebuilt products and services used globally and daily by tens of millions of satisfied customers

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share! https://milliondollarhobbies.com/

MDH 35 | Financial Literacy

 

No matter what happened to us in the past, we could always start all over again. If we want to be financially stable and start up a business, it’s still possible despite the tough circumstances we have gone through. Daniel Blue proves to us that it’s possible for anybody to follow his dreams regardless of the past he has dealt with. Victoria Wieck sits down for a conversation with him, and they delve into how businesses could create wealth and get creative with self-directed retirement accounts. Daniel is the owner of Quest Education, a company that provides financial solutions for individuals and business owners through education. Growing up with no entrepreneurs to guide him, he directed himself to be a successful business owner. Join Daniel in this episode, where he shares more powerful insights on financial literacy and wealth management to grow our businesses and attain success.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

From Drug Addict To CEO: Financial Literacy And Retirement With Daniel Blue

Welcome to another episode. You’ve done all the right things, save money, put maximum contribution to your 401(k), IRA, all of that stuff and you wanted to know if you have any access to that money until you retire. Many of you have postponed retirement or you have retired but you didn’t need the money. Maybe you’re getting close to it you want to buy a house. Having a house is hard. If you wanted to know if anybody could have access to it, I’ve got an expert. His name is Daniel Blue. He’s not only an expert. He founded this company called Quest Education, which is a company that’s dedicated to helping you access your money sooner than the law says so. Completely legally, of course. It’s also tax-free. He’s found all the different ways you can get this done if you want it to.

He’s got a company called Quest Education. You can find that on YourQuest.com. He’s the author of the upcoming book Blueprint to Your Best Retirement as well. I want to tell you one thing that’s interesting about Daniel. He learned how to do all this because probably out of necessity. He has become a parent at age nineteen. He’s gone through some financial ups and downs. He is a very interesting, amazing human being on top of being an amazing expert and an amazing teacher. I wanted to help him tell you his story rather than me going through his bio. Welcome, Daniel, to the show.

Thank you so much for having me. What an introduction. I’m honored to be here.

I know there are more important things here but I got to tell you, I have to tell my audience here, you became a father at age nineteen to a beautiful daughter named Bella.

I did and I still remember that day like it was yesterday when I got the news.

I assume that has changed your life a lot in all the good ways. The first way that a child will educate you is you got to learn how to exist on no sleep. Other than that, they cost a lot of money and you, as a parent, want to provide for your child. Not just what they need like food, diapers, school education and all that but also for their future. The birth of your child, did that have anything to do with being financially super responsible or were you like that before?

You have to look at personal preferences and your goals.

I grew up middle class and lived in a cul-de-sac in California. I had a great life when I was 5 to 12. I stopped at twelve for a reason as my parents got divorced. My dad ended up moving to Mexico out of the blue. I was a teenager and now it’s just my mom. She’s working all day. I don’t get a lot of supervision. My dad moved to a different country and didn’t come back. I don’t know why he left. I’m going through all these different thoughts. When you’re 12, 13, 14 years old, you start getting hormones changing and all the fun stuff there. I didn’t have supervision. I’m ditching school. I’m experimenting with drugs and hanging with the wrong people.

I saw my mom struggle. She was a social worker. She worked her tail off. I got to a point where I wasn’t going to pass high school. I was going to flunk. My mom ended up shipping me from California to a small town called St. George, Utah. We knew one family there. My mom one day came to me and says, “I want you to finish school. If you stay here, you’re going to end up in jail or you’re going to flunk school. I need you to finish school.” She shipped me off to this family. I lived with them. I finished my senior year of high school in this new city, a new school in St. George, Utah. The readers are entrepreneurs or side hustle.

There are two types of entrepreneurs. You’ve got people like Gary Vee that were an entrepreneur since they came out the womb. They were trading sports cards and selling Pokémon cards. They were hustling at a young age. They knew they were going to be an entrepreneur. You got people that stumble into being an entrepreneur. That’s me. I didn’t grow up wanting to become an entrepreneur. I grew up not wanting to be in the same position I saw me and my mom in. Where we were struggling financially and money wasn’t in abundance. I wanted to be in a better position financially and ended up getting into sales at a young age but I wasn’t able to define who I was.

That’s a lot easier in life when you can have standards and core values and know who you stand for. I didn’t have that when I was 18, 19 years old, which led me to make some bad decisions included getting on the drugs. I was addicted to OxyContin. All of this time, I’m making good money selling but then I ended up getting a woman pregnant at eighteen years old and then I had my daughter at nineteen. That was a monumental moment in my life as far as I needed to change and wake up.

I found your story fascinating on multiple fronts. I am a mother of somebody who’s probably your age. I’ve got a couple of kids and they have a bunch of friends. I’ve seen a lot of my daughter’s friends get into similar problems that you were in. They felt abandoned and lost. They felt they don’t matter when parents go through a divorce and all that. I want to break this interview into two parts. The transformation story that you’ve gone through, I would say that’s a huge transformation story. You went from being a high school dropout, a drug addict, being irresponsible and borderline going to jail, according to your mother, to being a responsible father. You’re financially literate, founding a company and you’re helping a lot of other people find their footing.

Also, having gone through with this entrepreneurship in a way that’s you stumbled forward, I would say then you founded this. When other people wouldn’t have access to money or into their retirement funds, they know that they’ve got the money and they want to start a side hustle. You’re helping those people. I think that your transformation story is very inspirational. I have quite a few Millennials reading. You’ll find this interesting, Daniel. I wrote a book. It’s going through its second phase of edits. Editors are tough on me.

MDH 35 | Financial Literacy

Financial Literacy: There’s a risk everywhere. We make and lose money every day. You can’t create wealth without investing money. Be clear on your financial goals and what you’re looking to accomplish.

 

Basically, I wrote a good enough book to attract all these agents. They’ve told me that anything I say, I had to back it up. If I say, “According to the latest news XYZ,” they’re saying, “You have to cite the newspaper itself, what issue, which day.” I did all this research and you’ll find this interesting that you might want to go with this. UPS did a survey two years in a row. UPS Stores have those mailboxes at their stores. They say, “The majority of Americans who are now facing retirement would prefer to own a small business over retiring because they have more financial resources than when they were twenty years old.” They are at the height of their knowledge base where they know a lot more about their expertise or the area. Even if they work for somebody else for all their lives, they have the expertise that they had built.

They’re living longer and healthier. Something like a majority a 55% of Americans would prefer having a small business over retirement. I did all this research. I think this was a survey done by Vistaprint. They were saying that, “Three out of five Millennials, 63% of Millennials either already has a side hustle business or they dream of owning a business someday.” I started my business with $30. If you wanted to have $3,000 access to your 401(k) account and you don’t have that or the psychological, you think, “If I fail for the next six months and I need to have access to some of that. I don’t want to pay huge penalties. How do I go by getting that?”

I’ve heard that you can have access to your 401(k) but I’ve always heard that you have to pay some nasty penalties, which nobody wants to do. From what you were telling me, there’s always the workaround with this as well. Tell me, how does anyone have access to their retirement money without penalties? Secondly, would you ever advise somebody to take the money out before they need it?

This concept was first introduced to me when I was selling. When I was eighteen years old, I got into the sales industry. I was selling real estate coaching for a number of years. As I was talking to these real estate investors, they started talking about how they use their retirement account to buy a house and flip it. They used a retirement account to purchase a rental. That thought process, that concept was foreign to me because I always thought that retirement accounts were for stocks and mutual funds. I didn’t know that you could use your retirement account to make alternative investments like that. This is something that not a lot of people know about. It’s not some brand-new loophole that came out in 2020. This is a strategy that’s been around for decades and it’s IRS approved. If the readers can get one piece of information that they can write down, put in their notes on their iPhone, write down solo 401(k).

If you’re an entrepreneur, you have a side hustle, you want to start a business and you don’t have any W-2 employees other than you or a spouse. You can have 1099 Contractors. You can have VAs. If that fits you then the IRS says you qualify for a solo 401(k). You’re right, someone that has money in a 401(k) from an old job or an IRA and they want to take $10,000 out. They’re younger than 59 and a half years old. How much are they going to have to pay in penalties and taxes? At least 20% to 40%. There’s a 10% early withdrawal penalty. Plus, they have to claim the money as income. It could be 20% tax rate, who knows, 25%. Either way, it’s a lot of money. The way around it is someone can have that 401(k) from an old job or an IRA and convert it into a solo 401(k). From there, they can take money out penalty and tax-free. They could use that money however they want.

I was talking to a friend, a client. She lives in Las Vegas. We helped her access money from her retirement account penalty and tax-free. She took out $10,000, bought a bunch of products for her Amazon store. She’s been able to have a successful Amazon store for a few years now. She was able to quit her job. That’s the goal why younger people want to have more freedom with the business so they can call their own shots. We want to have more time freedom. There are a lot of options that people don’t know about and that’s why we exist.

Be the best you could be, no matter what position you are in the company.

I love that. I read those two, the Vistaprint and the UPS thing. This will be all be in my book Million Dollar Hobbies. To back that up even more, in 2020, the US Census Bureau had more applications for an employer ID number, EIN number, which is what you need to do to start a business than any other time in history. They’ve had something like a 20% increase year over year. The number is incredible. I also think during COVID, a lot of people probably had a shift in priorities. All of us, as human beings, now crave a little bit more about human interaction with people that you want to have interaction with.

I read a lot of other studies about ditching a lot of luxury stuff that is fluff now. From the whole Amazon thing that you were saying, it’s like you have a 401(k) from some other job. If you want to start your own business, you work for yourself. That’s a different job. Is that right? You convert your old 401(k) into the new solo 401(k). They still considered the solo 401(k) but you can invest that money to real estate or something else. That’s brilliant. What are some of the tips that you have? I have a lot of people who are 40 to 65 people year old people that want to start a side hustle. They’re sitting rich and have a 401(k) account. What are the top tips that you would give to someone who is considering doing that? I think that one thing is you’re working for a company now, then the decision one is, “Do I start my own business?” What happens if they go from a one job to another job? If they’ll go from working for UPS to FedEx, can they do similar things?

If that 401(k) from UPS, the original job, if they take that 401(k) from UPS and move it into their new company they’re working for as an employee to FedEx and they move 401(k)s, we can’t help them. The only type of accounts that can get moved over into a solo 401(k) is a 401(k) from an old job. Not a current job. Unless you’re over 59 and a half years of age, then if you have a 401(k) from a current job then we can help or an IRA. I do want to touch on a point you brought up earlier in terms of, should people access money from the retirement account penalty and tax-free? There’s that whole concept of, “That’s money for retirement. That’s money from when I’m 60. I don’t want to rob my future.”

You just have to look at personal preferences and your goals. Some people have the conclusion that they would rather have some of their money. Not all of their 401(k) or IRA money but some of their retirement money in their possession where they can invest where they want. They come to a conclusion, “Instead of having this $10,000 or $20,000 in the stock market where I don’t have control over these stocks, I can make more money. I have more control over this $20,000 if I put it into ABC business.” There’s risk everywhere. We lose money in the stock market every day, every other day, whatever it works out. We make money in the stock market, same with the business. You make money. You lose money. It comes down to your financial goals and what you’re looking to accomplish.

I know when I started my business, I was young. I was in my 20s. When you start your business, everybody tells you you’re going to fail. My rationale at that time was if I’m going to fail, I’d rather fail when I don’t have any kids or any other obligations so where I can start my life over. I went ahead and did it but most people don’t have money when they’re in their 20s. I didn’t have parents or anybody I can rely on. The jobs that I had before, I probably had a total of $10,000 in my 401(k) at that time. I wish I had had access to it because I had to start my company with little. I didn’t have money to even make a single sample, which sucked. I’m glad you answered that because you’re not advocating even when you transfer it over that you risk all that. You’re basically saying if you have a calculated risk situation and you need a little help, that money is there for you.

It’s a good option to have. Also, one thing to talk about is credit card debt. I can’t tell you how many people we’ve talked to over the years have $20,000 in credit card debt and they’re paying 15% interest on their credit card debt. Their retirement account is making them 8%. If they’re making 8% a year on their retirement account money and their credit card debt is costing them 15%, they’re losing money faster than they’re making money. When you take money out of a solo 401(k) penalty and tax-free, the IRS comes to you and says, “We don’t care what you use this money for. You do have to pay back if you’re going to utilize the loan feature.” The loan feature is on the solo 401(k) where you can take out up to 50% of the account value or $50,000, whichever number is less. As long as you pay your retirement account back your solo 401(k) back within five years, there are no penalties and no taxes.

MDH 35 | Financial Literacy

Financial Literacy: When you experience struggling financially, you have to remember to have standards, core values and know what you stand for.

 

The cool part about the loan feature is there’s an interest rate of prime plus two. The interest rate’s about 5.25%. That interest goes back to your solo 401(k). You’re not paying anyone else the interest but yourself. This strategy works out great where if you used the loan feature, let’s say you take out $20,000 and you invest it in your business, you’ve got five years to pay back that $20,000 plus the interest to avoid the penalties and taxes. You can take that $20,000 and pay off credit card debt that’s costing you 15%. Now your credit card payment is gone. You’re not bleeding the 15% and you’re paying yourself back.

You could pay off all your debts. Basically, anything with the interest rate that’s above the 5% and you’d be so much better off and having that one bill. Any interest that’s accrued is going back to your own accounts. I think that’s brilliant as well. In your book, The Blueprint to Your Best Retirement, is this primarily what you teach? Are there other tips on how to live your best retirement?

I think one thing I wish I would have done earlier in life and everyone reading this can extract value from the bullet point I’m willing to hammer home, is the power of a Roth retirement account. When you put money into an IRA or a solo 401(k), when you contribute new money, you have the option to make the contribution as a Roth contribution. To break it down to the simplicity term, the money you put into it, you pay taxes on it. You don’t get any tax breaks when you put the money in the account as a Roth IRA or a Roth solo 401(k).

However, let’s say you put in $10,000. If that $10,000 were to grow to $50,000 over a period of time, that’s 100% tax-free. I don’t care who you voted for the president. I try not to get into politics because, as an entrepreneur, I’m going to make money no matter who’s in office. We will need to have tax-free money because the taxes will eventually go up. We’re operating at a historic low from a tax standpoint. I’d rather pay taxes on my money now. That way, when I’m older, I have tax-free money. As entrepreneurs, we love hearing tax-free. That gets us excited.

The Roth solo 401(k) for you, high-income earners with your side hustle or your existing business, depending on how much money you make as a business. You can contribute up to $58,000 per year into a Roth solo 401(k). You compare that to a Roth IRA. You’re only able to put in $6,000 a year. Not a lot of people are familiar with the Roth solo 401(k). I touch on that subject or the chapter in my book about the power of the Roth solo 401(k) and having tax-free money.

When it comes to retirement, how to live your best retirement, a lot of that which you’re talking about it has to do with the financial part of this. Is that right? You’re not teaching people how to go on wonderful vacations and stuff.

If you want to start a business, remember the most important thing is your personal brand.

Yes, by proxy. Have some nice tax-free money set up and you’re chilling on the beach having peace of mind.

The other thing I want to talk about too is I wouldn’t want to deep dive into this but I think that what you’re teaching is not necessarily retirement money. It’s more or less you’re teaching financial literacy. A lot of Millennials, my whole house is sometimes full of Millennials. My kids are Millennials and all their friends are Millennials. I’ve got 2 or 3 teachers in my family. They’re professors of Millennial kids. They don’t seem to understand the concept or they don’t think that it’s important for them to understand financial literacy now because they’re so young. Would you advise that you basically become financial literate early on because of every penny you save? I don’t think a lot of people understand the concept of compounded interest coming back to you.

There are two ways. Either you educate yourself through YouTube University or you read books. You join masterminds. You surround yourself with people that are more successful and you learn from them and ask questions or you’re a knucklehead like me. When I was younger, you learn from your mistakes. When I was 18, 19, 20 years old, I was making six figures. I was living the dream. I didn’t care about my credit score because I thought, “Why do I need a credit card? I can pay in cash. I don’t need credit.” No one taught me the importance of a credit score, utilization rate and having access to the bank’s money.

Luckily, I was able to learn from some mistakes. As I turned 24, 25, 26, I worked on my credit. I had a great credit score. When I started Quest Education, I was able to get a bunch of 0% credit cards to invest in my business. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know where Quest Education would be now because you need money to make money. Whether it’s at the beginning or the middle, you have to have capital.

I talked about earlier at the beginning of my interview that I was going to get a little deep dive into you as an entrepreneur and what you do as an entrepreneur. You, as an entrepreneur, founded Quest Education, which is educating people about financial literacy, access to money, access to money that you already have. What would you say was the most pivotal thing that caused you to venture into entrepreneurship? Was that by necessity? I know that you said you stumbled onto this. At some point, you do have to make a decision. “I don’t want to work for anybody anymore. I’m going to work for myself and I believe in myself.” You have to have the confidence and the competence to start that entrepreneurship journey. What happened?

I know it’s a mindset. When I was a young kid, I saw my mom work as a social worker. She was one of the only ones in the office that did not have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She didn’t have that degree to have that position but she was in it for a long enough time and outworked everyone. She was able to do what she did and was good at it. She had the mentality of, “I’m going to be the best social worker I can be.” That’s lost in society nowadays. My nephew, he works at McDonald’s. I tell him like, “Be the best fry cooker. Be the best in your position.”

MDH 35 | Financial Literacy

Financial Literacy: Start building your personal brand because people want to do business with people they know and trust.

 

The reason why I asked you that, Daniel, is that based on what you’ve said before about your background, your parents getting a divorce and growing up and everything, you didn’t grow up in a family full of entrepreneurs. That’s why somebody like you would need a pivotal moment or series of events that caused you to do that. Let’s say your father was a serial entrepreneur and he kept on failing at entrepreneurship but he kept doing it. You’d still have that model or something in you being an entrepreneur and failing, this is normal but you didn’t have that. You grew up with a mom who devoted her life to helping other people for very little money. The question is how did you end up there?

Enough period of time of always wanting to be the best at something, then eventually getting to the point because it started off when I bagged groceries at a grocery store. “I’m going to be the best grocery bagger I can be. I’m going to be the best grocery cart corral gatherer I could be.” When I got into sales like, “I’m going to be the best appointments setter I could be. I’ll be the best closer I can be. I’m going to be the best sales manager I can be.” I finally got to a point where I’m just like, “I like winning. I like competition. Why not get in the business?” That’s the next step.

I liked the idea of being able to lead a group of people. I played sports my whole life. I do think there’s a lot of parallels between competition, sports, whether it’s gymnastics, tennis, golf, basketball, soccer and business. There are a lot of parallels between those two. I think that had a lot to do with it as well. In terms of, “I’m 24, 25,26 years old, I want to be an entrepreneur. I’m ready for this.”

Even though you went through drug addiction, all the stuff that you went through. You still had core values, which were to always be in search of excellence. You must have had that discipline because when you play sports, you do have the discipline to show up on time, to be the best you could be, to give it your all. You have to face defeat and victory in a very similar fashion. I think that’s great. Your transformation story is fantastic in the sense that you go from literally in the worst-case scenario.

If somebody looked at just on paper when you were nineteen years old, “This guy’s a deadbeat.” You look at it on paper, they’d go, “He’s got a kid. He’s addicted to this and that. He dropped out of school. We don’t want to hire him. We don’t want to have him consult us or help us.” That’s how society judges you. Here you are. You are now a seven-figure entrepreneur at such a young age. You’ve got a secure business where you’re helping other people achieve their dreams. That’s fantastic. When I say fantastic, meaning it’s such an explosive story. I wanted to help other people. Some of them are on the verge of starting their own businesses. What does it take to start a business? You did it the hard way. You were a single father on top of that.

You created this seven-figure business. That’s not easy to do but it is not impossible to do. I like all of you who are reading to be inspired by someone like Daniel. Also, you could get financial advice from anybody. There are a lot of people who have a certified Financial degree, CPAs, wealth management. The whole world is full of people. When you look at someone like Daniel who’s gone through a lot in his young life, for me, I would trust someone like you who had some real-life experiences. You know what it’s like to be down and out and have no money.

Our goal in life is to have more time, peace of mind, and freedom with our businesses.

I commend you for having made that transformation and you’re paying it forward. Here’s another thing I’m going to tell you. If you were making seven figures, writing a book is the most stupid thing in the world when it comes to money. Isn’t it true? When I go on TV, I get paid in dollars per minute. Every minute you got to make so many thousand dollars of sales and you get a percentage of that. To devote 1 or 2 years of your life to writing a book that’s going to maybe sell for $10 a pop and if you’re lucky, as an author, you get a dollar out of every $10. Usually, authors make about 10% of the whole retail price. That is a poor use of your time if you think about it.

Not a great ROI. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. We are not crazy people. I think that authors who share this type of information do it because we love it. We do it because it is ingrained in us. For me, my success, I would say I’m not Oprah Winfrey or anything like that by going from $30 to $500 million, that is also a transformation story. I feel like so much of what happened to me, even though I worked my rear end off to get every penny that I have, everything that I have, there was a lot of luck involved. I would say that’s my way of paying it forward.

I’m sure, Daniel, you’re very similar in that when you write the book because you can reach people through your website, DanielBlue.me If you can, sign up for his book because us authors, we write books because we want to share. We are dying to share our information. It’s the best investment you’re going to have the $10, all the knowledge that we have put into this.

My editors, my publishers, they make me write. If I say, “I saw it a UPS survey,” what date was the survey was done and who published it? I had to write the guy who wrote the article to the paper like it was Wall Street Journal, whoever wrote the article, where it was published, all this stuff. Literally, it is a lot of work but we do it because we love it. We want you to have a piece of our legacy. Sign up for a Blueprint to Your Best Retirement by Daniel Blue. I have a lot of advisors to handle my money for me. I’ve never heard of the Roth solo 401(k). I never heard that before but I’m going to go check that out right after I get this show. Thank you, Daniel, for coming. How would you like people to get ahold of you to get more information from you?

The best place is DanielBlue.me. That’s my hub. I’ve got a link to my company’s website Quest Education. If you got a 401(k) from an old job or an IRA and you’d like to learn how to tap into that account penalty and tax-free, you can visit the website Quest Education on DanielBlue.me. There’s a link there. My team can assist you. If you’re interested, I do have a podcast. It’s called How Winners Win. I talk about how people can win in their personal, entrepreneurial and financial life. It’s something that I have fun doing. Also, a link to my book. I also have a course called The Quest Way: How to Make Money Tax-Free. I expand on some of the topics that you and I have discussed here on the show.

If you’d like to dive into the course, it does have a link to the course as well as my contact information, my social media handles. To the 30% of people that are thinking about starting a business or want to start a business, the biggest thing is a personal brand. The reason I can assume why you wrote your writing your books is it’s talking about branding. We’re not going to make money off this book but it’s all about our brand. That’s why we start a podcast, we have a book and we’re active on social media. You have to have a personal brand in the year 2021. Even if you don’t have a business concept or a business launched, start building your personal brand. People want to do business with people that they know, like and trust. You can start building your brand now, no matter what service or product you’re selling.

Thank you so much for coming by and sharing all your knowledge and information on yourself. For all of you readers, I always sign off by saying until next time. Please stay healthy and happy. Remember, happiness is a choice. I wish you lots of great choices. Thank you.

Important Links:

About Daniel Blue

Daniel is the owner of Quest Education, a company that provides financial solutions for individuals and business owners through education. He educates entrepreneurs on their finances so they can focus more on growing their businesses. Quest Education is a 7-figure company and has helped over a thousand customers throughout the country.

MDH 32 | Generate Leads

MDH 32 | Generate Leads

 

This pandemic showed us that more than just surviving in business, we also need to thrive. However, this has proven to be easier said than done. But while it is so, it is nevertheless not impossible. Join Victoria Wieck and guest, Visionary Marketing Coach Leon Streete, as they share marketing strategies that can help generate leads and increase conversion rates in the business. He talks about the importance of maintaining good relationships, recognizing problems, and creating solutions for customers. To stand out from the competition, he also emphasizes the need for doing business differently. Leon then takes us across his professional experiences, lending lessons that helped him get to where he is today. Join him in this episode to learn insights into staying connected with customers and growing as entrepreneurs.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

How To Generate More Leads And Increase Conversion Rates With Leon Streete

I love being here every week with you, reconnecting with amazing guests. Now is another exceptional guest by the name of Leon Streete. He is the host of the Business Owner Elevation Podcast. If you haven’t listened to it, you might want to give it a listen. Honestly, when I first listened to it, I was delighted and amazed. I learned a lot from that one episode. Go ahead and give it a listen. Leon is a visionary marketing coach who always offers a fresh perspective on where the market is going and how you, the entrepreneur can take opportunities of that. He’s very innovative in his approach and the man has the patience of a saint. What he is known for is helping entrepreneurs discover ways to generate more leads consistently and also to increase their conversion rates. If you’re interested in learning a lot more of this and walk away from this episode with actionable tips, stay tuned.

Welcome, Leon.

Victoria, thank you very much. I’m looking forward to this. You’re such a gracious lady and everything about you is perfect. Let’s go.

I didn’t mention that Leon’s Business Owner Elevation Podcast won the Best UK Business Podcast award. I’m sure it took you a lot of heart and soul to get to that point. Before we even go to that point, you’re a visionary marketing coach. When I say visionary marketing, in marketing, we do need to have a vision. You need to step out outside of the box, you can’t always follow leaders supposedly out there. You charted and carved out your own little niche within that very crowded market. Give me a little three-minute bio about how you got to this point, and I’m sure there was a lot of pain and gain involved.

I literally finish my degree here in the UK. If I take you back to 2004, I was already creating websites and into marketing, I was starting it in 1997. It was at that point, I thought, “I need to get real and get some clients now because education’s finished, so I need some cash.” Fortunately, I had a great relationship with my dissertation lecturer and he said to me, “Leon, there’s a contract going here at the university. I think you’d be great to take it up, six-month contract.” I said, “Perfect.” I took the contract on, it was a six-month contract and I finished within five months. I literally had a month’s holiday from getting paid because the contract ran for six months. You know how universities work. They’re very rigid and it’s six months so that’s how long it lasts but I finished it early.

What I realized at that early stage was relationships and my ability to think on my feet and create what I needed based on whatever the solution needed to be the type of thing. Whatever the problem was, I could come up with something. I was always creative and it was at that point, as I stepped forward, that I landed on my feet continuously all the way up until 2010. You mentioned pain. 2010, I got to a point where I would hedge my bets too far. I was about to get in for a big shock of cash gap. It was around about $75,000 if I do the conversion rates. I had no cash, we had money owed to us but it wasn’t coming in. We had two clients who also owed us money that went after the 2008 recession. They, in 2010 went out of business owing us money, I would use all of my resources. I learned a big lesson there about trading insolvent. The business was cash flowing so well up until the final three months, it was masking the problem.

If you go into hiding, you are going to face even bigger problems.

What I realized is when the chips are down, the greatest resource that you can have is to know that there are still options. I didn’t know that at the time. It was speaking to my business coach at the time and to people around me. Up until that failure, I didn’t speak to people where I was in areas of weakness where I needed to be stronger. I thought I was Superman, I would wear an S on my chest and somehow, I would figure it out. That was as far as my figure out Leon’s creative mind could go. To veteran business owners in me now, I can see it’s part of the learning curve in it. That’s what I needed because everybody’s journey is different.

What I realized is that I needed to focus on more of, “What’s the vision for Leon this time around? What am I going to create? What is it that I need to put in place? How do I need to do business differently this time?” It took me a few years. When I look back, I could see it was a few years of depression, not years of growth. We all come out of these things better off but at the time it didn’t feel like it. When I got to this point where we’re launching this new podcast, it was at that point, I was able to look back and think, “That’s what those few years were.” I looked back and I realized, “You’ve come a long way, Leon. You restarted, you got a team going again, you’ve got clients paying, you’re about to launch this new podcast.” It was at that point I realized that there needed to be a big shift. Steadily but surely since 2014, we launched the podcast in 2015 and a lot of things changed for the better. I’ll let you ask me the next question before we get up to speed.

If I heard you correctly, I’m going to paraphrase this in a simple way, which is you basically got an involuntary gift of a few years. You didn’t ask for it, but you got into a situation that you didn’t know you were getting into. People can say that 2008, 2009, 2010 were rough years for everybody, but everybody didn’t go bankrupt, somebody did benefit from that at that time. It seems to me you have learned more than you bargained for because of the situation.

The scenario you described the cash gap, I have an upcoming book called Million Dollar Hobbies and I have a chapter there that describes that exact thing. This is when you’re young, you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re lucky enough to seem to have been at the right place at the right time and doing all the right things, the money’s coming in and things are going good. You think you can conquer the world and you’re just scratching the surface of whatever and you don’t look at the potential landmines that are in front of you, it’s very easy to grow broke. You’re growing without a plan and you’re growing too fast.

You do have this cash gap. If you have 1 or 2 customers that go bankrupt on you or that are late, this is how a lot of companies grow broke. In that particular case in 2010, most people think that 2008 was the meltdown but I personally think 2010 was the bottom. It was like hit the bottom in 2008 but it continued to shift things out. You learned all these lessons and you launch this new podcast, which is amazing. When you’re talking about podcasting, the entrepreneurship category is number one, which means it’s very crowded. To win that top prize is amazing.

I’ve listened to several episodes quite regularly and you do offer things that are different than what’s out there. Some of the things that you do differently than other coaches, maybe not completely contrarian but if you’re going from point A to point B, there are many different ways to get there. You are specifically catering to the small business owner and also trying to help them from avoiding some of those kinds of mistakes that you walked into. What are the top three things that you’re focusing on now in terms of marketing?

Marketing, we both agree that marketing was shifting at a faster rate because we are now living in this constant barrage of instant gratification, instant messaging, whatever. Things were moving out of control up to the point we got hit with COVID. Things were already naturally shifting in a very dynamic way and COVID put its own twist to it. Tells us what was happening. How do we now cope with the result of COVID and what’s your advice for moving forward coming out of COVID?

MDH 32 | Generate Leads

Generate Leads: The market wasn’t so saturated before the pandemic. A lot of people who never thought they would really go a hundred percent online were now faced with the reality that if you want your business to continue, you have to go online.

 

Just before COVID, the difference was the market wasn’t so saturated because the market, the world globally as a society, we weren’t educated up to the technology. We’re doing this interview right now in Zoom, for me, I’ve been using it for 5 or 6 years. A lot of people had never come across Zoom in 2020, they never used it before. That’s been one of the main communication systems that I’ve used for many years to coach my clients in my group coaching programs. When I say the market wasn’t so saturated, a lot of people who never thought they would go 100% online we’re now faced with, “You now have to go online if you want your business to continue.”

We’re talking about big corporations right through to small business owners. Everybody had to educate up into this new technology arena. What that also meant is there’s a lot of online communities that I’m a part of. Basically, where the opportunities lie for people if you want to generate leads, traditionally, it would be business networking, business-to-business and so on. Whereas now, it went all online in 2020. The shift was basically how do we continue to run our business with the fact that we can’t get out and use the habits that we’re so used to. That was the challenge for a lot of people in those six months.

I picked up a lot of clients coming in because they didn’t know how to use Facebook and Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, they’re know how to load the app but they didn’t know how to use it to market themselves. It’s because of that, it created a lot of problems where some people went into hiding because they couldn’t face this online world technology. It sounds like how my mom would respond like, “I’m not good at technology, Leon, you know me.” A lot of business owners also realize that if they went into hiding, they were going to face even bigger problems because everything was locked down, there’s no cash coming in. What I was able to do is sift through that by being able to create new offers for the time. That was the choice that I made and that’s what I also taught my clients.

I’ll give you one quick example. I had this one client who is a leadership coach, she works at corporates C-Suite level. She helps people with confidence and was facing a £4,000 month which is about $6,000, so not particularly huge, but it was enough to keep her going. She was already pretty successful. She owned two properties here in the UK. We could say she was comfortable, it wasn’t like she needed to earn lots. I helped her to create a brand-new offer so that she could go out to a market and she turned that month from being £4,000 into £18,000, which is $24,000. That was in April 2020.

That’s what 2020 going into the beginning of this year, 2021 was all about. It was, “Can you pivot? Can you change? Can you adapt?” Now, the dynamics have changed, it isn’t “can you pivot?” It’s “can you stand out amongst the crowded noise there is?” That’s the biggest thing. What it’s forced is for people to dig into the emotions of your niche to stand out because most people don’t. What I mean by that is simply get into the point of what is the true psychological pain or desire of your audience, and that needs to be your message because that’s what’s going to help you to stand out. That’s where I believe we are now.

I agree with you 100% that in 2021, it is not simply a matter of survival anymore. This is time to figure out how you’re going to thrive. What you were saying is that I like to paraphrase because I want to make sure that we’re getting very clear messages and you made it very clear, that to clarify what you’re good at, clarify your strengths. Make sure that they will solve the problems of the pain that your audience is experiencing and going through and double down and make sure that you stand out. This is a time to stand out. Everybody else is pretty much contracting and trying to figure out what to do next but leaders don’t wait until everybody else determines what’s next. You’re going to determine what’s next.

Basically, you’ve answered all three of my questions. This time-tested question is, how do we generate more leads? The second part of that question is, how do you increase your conversion rates? This might be a great time to take a look at that because I do think that there is an opportunity to increase your rates of conversion because if you can connect to your customers on an emotional level. To me, that’s a pretty easy picking but you’re the expert.

All come out of challenging things better off. At the time, it won’t feel like it.

We’ve spoken about this before. I think the example you gave me is when you were talking about what jewelry does for a woman. I loved how you broke that down into woman doesn’t have to speak, it presents for her, it speaks for her. I’m not going to go into your answer much more. It was amazing. You’ll have to catch that episode on my podcast. What you raised here in terms of generating leads, to keep it simple, there are two ways that you can generate leads. The two specific ways are you can push an offer or you can generate a lead. There is a difference. An offer is, I’m going to put something in front of you that you combine now.

If you’ve ever come across Chet Holmes, the author of the Ultimate Sales Machine, I believe he was the guy who came up with the customer buying pyramid. If you’ve not come across that, it’s a cool diagram and it breaks down. What you find is that there is only ever 3% of your market who will buy now. However, if you create an offer that generates leads that educate, education-based marketing, you open up the doors to having an extra 67% of the market warm to your idea even if they had no clue as to whether or not they wanted to buy something or had a problem in the first place. With that in mind, the most powerful way to generate leads is to truly understand the fears, frustrations, the wants or aspirations of your audience. You’re either motivated by the stick or the carrot.

As human beings, that means that you have to put marketing messages out that appeal to both of those. People who want to get past the pain or people who want to get towards their desire. If you want to generate more leads, what I find is a lot of people tend to put their offers out. As I said, you’re only ever going to pick up 3% of your potential market or however far and wide-reaching your message goes. It’s only ever going to hit 3%. Don’t get me wrong, you may go 1% or 2% over there. The point is if you really want to attract people, you need to get them to raise their hands. The reason why you want people to raise their hand is if I feel like I don’t have to buy the thing that you’re offering me now, but I can learn more about it, there’s less of a barrier of risk for me.

A quick example would be, one of my coaching clients is a natural fertility mentor. She helps people who are having difficulties getting pregnant naturally. She created a guide on twenty recipes that women can take to help improve their ability to conceive naturally. Previously, she would just put, “Who wants to get pregnant? Are you looking to get pregnant?” We put these recipes out into specific places, into a Facebook group of professional women. Within three days, she has 700 leads. The reason for that is because what she’s doing is giving value. She’s providing something where the person doesn’t have to buy now, so the risk is low and the person can say, “Send me that thing.” Off the back of that, she’s now speaking to 700 women who are her target market.

This is what I’m talking about. If you educate your audience and you don’t push to put the offer in front of them straight away, what that does is open up the doors for you to put the offer in the backend. That’s exactly what happened. I think she got to about 800 by the time seven days had passed. For a lot of small business owners, that doesn’t happen in a year, never in quite two years for a lot of them. Off the back of that, she was able to book sales calls for people to join her mentoring program. You talk about conversions, for me, education-based marketing is how you generate leads.

The second part of your question, how do you increase your conversion rates? You increase your conversion rates through constant testing and what happens on the front tent? You can’t increase your conversion rates if you’re not generating more leads. What I’ve found that works really well is if you do more of what works. For instance, if you found a way to generate leads on the front end, you find a great topic, angle, whatever it is, that’s the place where you need to keep pushing those messages out, so you generate more leads on the front end.

Now, you’re going to get to the point, what’s the next step? Are you trying to convert those leads into prospects or straight to clients? That can also happen. I know you know about this, especially when it comes to eCommerce because you can jump a few steps. When it comes to conversion, I coach a lot of people who sell by Zoom these days, not so much phones. The biggest thing I would say to you is that you’ve got to have a system either for how you do your sales calls, a script. If you’re pushing people through to sell a funnel where somebody can end up on a checkout page and buy, what you have to do is remove distraction. That’s what the script does. If you’re speaking to somebody on the phone, “Let me remove distractions and ask them questions that will reveal, whether or not they’re a great prospect and whether I want to work with them or not, or sell to them.”

MDH 32 | Generate Leads

Generate Leads: Education-based marketing opens the doors to having an extra 67% of the market actually warm to your idea.

 

It’s the same thing for eCommerce. What I found with my e-commerce clients, which is if we remove the distraction, it allows them to get towards the desire of what they want when it comes to buying. It is more of how much of this stuff can you repeat the laborious stuff but get better at. I found this from a Keith Cunningham book. I’ll remember the title before the episodes are up but it’s a great book. He talks about, the entrepreneurs that win are the ones who can do the boring stuff over and over again to get better.

I’m going to write Keith Cunningham here. I’m so glad that we’re having this conversation together because the traditional way of lead generation is to create a slick marketing ad or create a quick brochure and make sure that you understand where to populate. You’re looking at the traditional rates of Facebook and all the different social media conversion rates. I’ve always had a problem with that because I just know when you’re not targeted when you’re not emotionally connecting with. You can’t emotionally connect with, for example, if you said something like, “I want to talk to women who might want to get pregnant.” For example, you’re talking.

That’s different than somebody who has gone through all the procedures and that they’re desperate to try almost anything at this point. You would have a very different marketing message there. The two-part questions were related because if you start with the right lead generation, you’re going to automatically increase your conversion rate to a certain number. The way you create the right kind of lead generation is by understanding your customer first, understanding who you’re talking to, what their problems are, and how you’re going to connect with them. The way you connect with them is by sharing your knowledge first.

What I love about that model you gave is that you share your knowledge with 5,000 people that are highly curated leads. In that lady’s case, women who have problems with trying artificial medical ways of getting pregnant. She wants to do it naturally and this woman’s got some expertise in this. I guess a large percentage of them are going to come in and say, “Help me.” You’ve got a percentage of those people who won’t buy anything right away but they’ll keep listening to you because they might have more time. They might want to try a couple of other different ways but down the line, they keep getting information so they’re going to buy anything. They’re going to go to somebody who has shared rather than a slick marketing ad. I feel like the kind of model that can keep paying the first 3 months, 6 months, maybe 5 years.

The longest I had somebody come back to me from the first communication was fourteen months. When you do it the right way, I think exactly, as you say, it pays dividends in the end. That’s the thing you’ve got to remember, not everybody’s in the market to buy now only have 3%. The 7% that are open to it, don’t take me for verbatim, this is from Chet Holmes’s Buyer’s Pyramid. From what I’ve tested as well, and what I’ve seen in the market, it holds pretty true. He had tested it with thousands of people that he’d done marketing to over the years. He worked with some great people. I think Warren Buffett’s business partner, I can’t remember his name off, it’s the top of my head, he works with Jay Abraham. Chet Holmes is not with us anymore but a very well-respected guy from America. The book came to me, The Road Less Stupid, Keith Cunningham, great book. The audiobook is great to listen to as well.

Where do you think the market now is going? I think you answered it partly. The overarching question now is as we know, human beings, some of this is going to be out of our control. Meaning that if the world economy, all of a sudden improves crazy, we’re going to be looking at a different mindset in terms of our customer base as well as how coaches respond. Where do you think we’re going? If you don’t want to answer the question, that’s okay, too.

In terms of where we’re going, this is 2019, where information is what people are paying for, now it’s transformation. Now, more than ever, that’s the thing that people are looking for because of the rapid ascension in up-leveling in technology and the approach to marketing and being online. There are so many different things. I think we mentioned one of the apps when we were speaking before the interview Clubhouse, there’s TikTok. I’ve got one client on there, he’s a driving instructor. I may have mentioned him to you before. He’s literally got millions of views on TikTok. He’s not just on his own, he’s got a fairly decent business that we’ve built up together but it sends hundreds of thousands of visitors to his YouTube channel, which is growing at an exponential rate.

The most powerful way to generate leads is to truly understand your market’s fears, frustrations, wants, or aspirations.

The biggest thing I genuinely believe 2022 is about is the journey of transformation that you help people within your marketing message. I truly believe gone are the days where you can simply say, “I’m a business coach, I’m a live coach, I’m a consultant,” and people want to speak to you. No. Tell them what you’ve done for your customers. That’s what people are interested in. We’re no longer interested in, “Can we exchange business cards, and perhaps, I’ll give you a call.” Do people want to know what’s the outcome you create? What difference do you make in this world?

That’s partly where the visionary marketing coach has developed and evolved from. What I found is that there was less substance with people with who I was working. When I started to dig into what their vision was, and we married up their offers compared to their vision, we were able to bring them from being a person who was selling on features and a basic story to, “Here’s the difference that this product is going to make and here’s why we do what we do.”

I think that’s it. It’s just people showing up more like you’re doing this show and you have such an amazing message and story. I shared your message to some of my group coaching clients after the interview, and they were like, “She sounds amazing.” That’s what people want. This is the funny thing. When you look at it, we’re going back to what we want and crave as human beings, which is to go into the fantasy of the story. What you’ve got to do is bring that into your marketing messages. I think that’s what 2022 is all about.

One thing about the digital age, the information age brought to us is that we went through two decades of time where people with information, didn’t do anything with that information. They simply gave us information and this is how they made their fortunes. Now, we have the same information, we have access to the information but some of us can turn that into magic. Some of us can help you dial in on your strengths, work on your weaknesses and how that applies to what you’re doing now. With the digital revolution, everybody’s got a mobile phone and everyone can check you out. That’s the thing you can’t get away with one word that’s wrong. I think twenty years ago, a business coach would never come on any show and say, “I made these six mistakes and they were painful.” You could never do that six years ago. You have to be perfect. Now, that’s not even believable anymore. When I first asked you the question, I prefaced it with, I’m sure there was pain and gain involved because without the pain there isn’t going to be any game.

It’s like anything. I always see the quote, “Even a diamond is created under pressure.” It’s the same thing. We go to the gym but if we want to grow our muscles, we can’t get away from the pain and the tension that our body has to go through in order to grow muscle. It’s the same as an entrepreneur business. If your business is going to grow, expect the pain that comes with you going for it. It’s quite interesting because we know we’re getting on something, you could see my energy lifted as well. When I’m speaking to my coaching clients, a lot of the time, even though we’re talking about marketing strategy, I probably spent 50% of my time talking about their mindset and their ability to see through their misbehaviors and their bad habits. The things that basically are their blind spots that they don’t see. The more we get past our blind spots in life, the more we end up with people like Victoria.

As we close, what are your couple of advice for entrepreneurs who are reading now, thinking about what they can do right away? You’ve already covered a lot of actionable tips. If you had to leave us with the one thing, I’m very big on doing the one thing you can do for yourself, what would that be?

The one thing in two parts. The one thing is, if you know what it is that you want to do for the next 5, 10 years, so you’ve got this feeling or even the next twelve months, start going onto places like YouTube and Amazon to find the books, the videos and get the information you need. Part two, if you’re at the stage where you could invest in a culture or a mentor, or you get to the point where you’ve grown your business enough to get a cultural mentor, that would be the advice that I would give everybody. Make sure that culture mentor is in an area where they’ve either helped somebody achieve that or they’ve done it for themselves. You don’t want to go for somebody who’s generic. That way, you’ll get to wherever your goals are set to or your vision much faster. That would be my advice. If there’s anything that I could have learned early in my career, it would have been to speak to somebody who’s in that place where I wanted to be.

MDH 32 | Generate Leads

Generate Leads: When you’ve grown your business enough, it’s best to get a cultural mentor, where they’ve either helped somebody achieve that business goal you desire, or they’ve done it for themselves.

 

Those were some great advice. When I started my business, Amazon and YouTube didn’t exist and coaches were not all that assessable at least in my area. I do agree with you that having gone through that journey, the one thing that I wish I had was a mentor or somebody. There were so many times I was this close to giving up and thinking to myself, “This was a stupid idea.” A great coach will collapse time. They will help you get results that are exponentially better with the same amount of effort.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, Leon, he’s the host of a podcast called Small Business Elevation Podcast voted the number one business entrepreneurship podcast in the UK in 2015. As you heard, he’s so delightful and so polite and ever gentlemen. Thank you so much Leon for coming and I hope you enjoyed it. If you have not subscribed to my show yet, go ahead and do that, I would appreciate that very much and share it with everybody because the more the merrier. We want a community of successful entrepreneurs who are happy and people who will share as Leon has. Again, thank you so much.

I was going to say, Victoria, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I encourage everybody to read this show to make sure you leave a five-star review on whatever platform that you’re reading it on because of the guidance of what you bring as you articulate the answers, your presence, and obviously, your experience. People will learn and gain a lot of great results and transformation in life just from reading this. Thank you for having me on the show.

Thank you. That’s it for this episode. Until next time. Stay wealthy and happy. Remember, happiness is a choice.

Important links:

About Leon Streete

MDH 32 | Generate LeadsGrowing up as an 80’s baby and being from a mixed-race background (English & Jamaican), I had such a vibrant upbringing.

With a heavy influence from my father who was into the Reggae Sound System scene, I was destined to follow, especially with my love, for beats and heavy bassline, Bob Marley, John Holt and Freddy Macgregor plus more were part of the music I grew up listening too, so in 1994 I decided to become a DJ.

In 1997 I created my first website off the back of me being a DJ “Disc Jockey“. I wanted to reach out to new fans, listeners and make waves with promoters and record labels.

It worked! My passion for music drove my need to be heard and after dj’ing around the country whilst trying to finish up my A-Levels, the music career and Website work were going great, should have perhaps focused a little more on my A-Levels!