The other day a client and I were chatting, and in the middle of me explaining a marketing theory, he cut me off and said “Man, where’d you learn all this?”
That really got me thinking, and I realized I never really explained in writing where it all comes from.
There’s no way to be sure, but I believe I was born to be an entrepreneur, born to build businesses. I have a natural, keen sense for finding opportunities hidden in businesses and staying results-focused, and I have a knack for being able to spot the money through the clutter.
When I was 12, I bugged my father to finally let me cut the lawn on my own, and from there I printed out my very first business cards—offering landscaping services—and hit the road.
When I got my first client, my father insisted he come with me to meet the homeowner. He introduced himself as my dad and told the owner that should I ever “mess up” in any way, to call him personally and he’d take care of it.
This was my first lesson in Risk Reversal, and the true power of a guarantee.
I was a hard worker, and never once needed to use that guarantee, but I always guaranteed my work regardless.
By the end of the summer, I had dozens of clients. I was working from the moment I got home from school until dark, from sun-up to sun-down on weekends, and was known as the lawn kid that pulled his green lawn cart up and down the block all day long.
By 15, I was cutting 3 out of every 5 houses in the surrounding 3 blocks, and I had it made.
Soon, I was renting a lawn aerator for $60/day from Home Depot, and I’d have 30-40 homes prebooked back to back all in one day at 20 bucks a pop—let’s just say it was a good day. At 15, for a few days in the spring and a few days in the fall (when lawn aerating typically happens) I’d pull in anywhere from $600 to $900 a day. Not bad for a kid.
I “retired” from the lawn work at 16 and thought I’d venture into this whole “being an employee” thing…
I put my name in at a staffing agency, and got a call for a weekend job at Rainbow Concrete. By lunch, having seen my work ethic, my supervisor offered me a full-time job on the spot, and I started the following Monday. I worked there for a year or so before realizing that labor-work wasn’t going to reach my goals and quitting.
I saw a lot of potential at Maslack Supply, so I applied for a position there and got a call right away. During my interview, which was for a simple warehouse position, my interviewer saw my potential and gave me two positions.
Yes, two jobs. I was working an average of 80 hours a week—and I loved every second of it. Within a few months, I was working hand-in-hand with the big man himself and making drastic changes in their warehouse systems that really optimized the sales process and inventory management.
I kept this pace up for over a year before I knew I needed a change.
The Start in Real Business
While all of this was going on, my father had opened Family Kickboxing in Sudbury, and he was running it as a pastime. After seeing him dabble in it for 3 years, I decided to come into the picture, and by the end of that 4th year I had more than doubled sales.
In year 5, with my relentless hard work, we doubled again and had to expand our location.
At the end of year 5, he sold me the company and I ran it full time, doubling the student base again, and expanding the location two additional times.
It was during that growth that I realized something: growing and building the business is the part that really got me excited, that lit me up, my true passion.
I then sold that business and dabbled in a few other small enterprises before going back to my calling—building businesses.
Just like in the weight loss industry, where I could take someone who was just about giving up on themselves and completely transform their life, I was able to take business clients who were at the end of their ropes, stuck, feeling the pressures of payroll and financial demands, and lead them to victory.
School of Hard Knocks
Throughout these various businesses and jobs, I learned a lot.
But more importantly, I’ve retained a lot and I apply, test, fine tune, and improve, and I continually learn and challenge what I know to reach new heights.
Here are 71 things I’ve learned along the way:
- I learned the true meaning of customer service. That most companies claim to have great customer service but rarely back it by explaining it in such a way that leaves a lasting impression to the client or prospect.
- I learned that listening to the client is more powerful than talking and that they can usually tell you exactly what you need to say or do to sell them, to bring them to the buying point.
- I learned that new blood is the life blood of a B2C business, and that if you invest most of your time focusing on new clients, on prospecting and lead generation, you can really have a great thing going.
- I learned that of those businesses that do indeed have great lead gen, many are bleeding out the back door and having to bring in new customers constantly just to break even.
- I learned that data is priceless, and capturing that data is important, but being able to USE that data is where the money really lies. Data alone is just noise.
- I learned that having priorities and doing a minutes study of every employee is key to ensuring they are spending as much time on their priorities as they think they are. Far too many employees spend precious time on meaningless tasks.
- I learned that although being face-to-face with a prospect is the most important thing a salesperson can do, most spend 90% of their day warming up, preparing, making notes, driving around, cooling down, pumping themselves up, and basically NOT selling.
- I learned the value in staying top-of-mind, and making sure that when a prospect realizes they have a need for which you have a solution, you come to mind and not your competitors.
- I learned the value in press releases, and how with a bit of effort one could acquire loads of free media without paying a dime.
- I learned that most business people get fooled by media salespeople claiming to know and understand marketing, when they really just want to sell their product or service.
- I learned that markets change, and staying on top of the game is vital to long term success.
- I learned that being an active part of the community matters, but it doesn’t compensate for poor service or products.
- I learned that branding doesn’t just mean your website needs to match your business cards and flyers, but that every single part of your business needs to be in line from the way you act, the way you write, the words you use, the way your staff acts, etc.
- I learned that if you preach friendly service, and are seen getting irate with a service employee elsewhere, you have a branding problem.
- I learned that if your website claims that your business is state of the art, but your location is falling apart, you have a branding problem.
- I learned that the very first phrase or word you utter to a prospect at a trade-show booth or when someone walks into your store is the equivalent of a headline and can produce changes in results in the high multiples.
- I learned that how you answer the phone can make or break that sale or future sales.
- I learned that features don’t sell. People don’t buy a drill, they buy a hole. They don’t buy 8 megapixels, they buy the vibrant color that takes you right back to the moment the photo was taken. They don’t buy weight loss, they buy the confidence to wear what they want or be free in the bedroom.
- I learned that people buy from people, and they want to see people with your products/services. An image of a product isn’t as powerful as an image of someone using it.
- I learned that people buy based on emotion, and justify with logic.
- I learned that knowing your market and who your prospects are can greatly lower your cost of acquisition and substantially increase your conversion rate.
- I learned that choosing who you should market to directly can transform your business.
- I learned that some clients aren’t worth acquiring: they cost too much, take too much of your time, give you the most headaches, etc.
- I learned that following up on leads is vital, and that most salespeople don’t follow up past the first time.
- I learned that a follow-up without a value add-on is a waste of time.
- I learned that systematizing is key to scaling, and removing human error wherever it’s possible makes predictable success possible.
- I learned that if you don’t know who your ideal prospect is, you can blow massive amounts of money on marketing mediums that don’t work.
- I learned that most take the social out of social media and completely destroy any chance of forming a loyal online following.
- I learned that poor staff management is a major cause to client dissatisfaction.
- I learned that details matter. The garbage needs to be empty. The toilet clean. The shelves dusted. The floor mopped. The staff presentable. The booth organized. The staff engaged. Etc.
- I learned that if you don’t know the lifetime value of a client, you don’t know how much you can spend to get them.
- I learned that most businesses put too many words on street side mediums such as billboards and posters.
- I learned that up-selling is key to getting more out of each sale, and that it needs to be systematized to ensure it actually happens.
- I learned that by simply getting a client to purchase twice as often, you can effectively double your revenue with only minimal increase in overhead.
- I learned that by simply following up a marketing campaign you can see many times better results.
- I learned that most are spending a fortune on display advertising, often encouraged by media salespeople because of its lack of trackability (so there’s no proof that it works) rather than focusing on direct-response marketing which allows you to track specifically if it worked or not—which is vital when you’re small and every dollar matters.
- I learned that your best source of knowledge on what you should offer next comes from your current clients.
- I learned that the only limit to your business’ potential is your resourcefulness.
- I learned that utilizing joint ventures is one of the quickest ways to grow—and the cheapest.
- I learned that by running a simple test before a campaign you can establish enormous changes in results before putting big money into it.
- I learned that most people have no idea how to write a headline and spend more time working the copy—but without a good headline the copy will never be read.
- I learned that bounce-back offers can give a great instant boost in revenue.
- I learned that many will send a catalogue in the mail (or send via email) and not include a sales pitch.
- I learned that speed matters, and often a prospect will do business with the one who responds first.
- I learned that competing on price rarely works, and when someone enters the market and undercuts them they realize they never learned how to sell any way other than price.
- I learned that most businesses aren’t optimizing their websites.
- I learned that many companies do have some form of lead capture yet never do anything with it.
- I learned that although many businesses rely heavily (as much as 80%) on word of mouth, they have zero systems in place to track the numbers, or at the very least ensure that those numbers don’t change.
- I learned that often what you think you sell isn’t what your prospect is buying.
- I learned that when a client leaves or decides to stop doing business with you, it provides you with an excellent opportunity to discover why and improve on your faults.
- I learned that when a sale is lost, a salesperson can often save it or improve future sales by starting to pack up and leave, then emphatically turn and say “Listen, I know you’re not interested, but I’m learning, and I want to truthfully know how I could improve my skills and learn where I went wrong.”
- I learned that non-converted leads can be a gold mine.
- I learned that often we get in the way of our own sales.
- I learned that most businesses don’t have a strategy and are running blind year after year.
- I learned that holding your prospect’s hand and telling them exactly what to do is key.
- I learned the secret power of the word “because” and its substantial increase in action.
- I learned that most salespeople can’t close and don’t ever ask for the sale.
- I learned that most direct mail lands in the recycling bin because strategy was poor, or no strategy was put into it at all.
- I learned that in advertising, both print and digital, most are going for aesthetic over effectiveness and thus substantially decrease their returns.
- I learned that most don’t have a USP and aren’t differentiating their business from everyone else’s.
- I learned that educating your prospects is better than selling.
- I learned that most don’t understand how to optimize not-for-profit opportunities.
- I learned the power of a loss leader.
- I learned the power of an irresistible offer.
- I learned that anytime a prospect walks in, you should be doing cartwheels.
- I learned that if you have a strong moral and ethical code it shows in your marketing.
- I learned there are many barter options available out there.
- I learned that many use the spaghetti marketing strategy where they throw a variety of things at the wall and hope some sticks.
- I learned that at any given time, 3% of the market is looking to “buy right now,” and that while you should gear some of your marketing to them, it’s equally as important to focus on the 97% that isn’t.
- I learned that it’s important to take your customers by the hand.
- I learned that there’s more to a guarantee than simply saying “guaranteed.”
Honestly, I could go on for another couple of pages, but I think you get the point.
You might be asking yourself why I never bothered to take a marketing or business course in college.
The truth is, I was going to.
I spent several months looking over their courses and even read over a few of the program textbooks, and my conclusion was very clear: These courses are excellent if your goal is to be an employee following direction from the entrepreneur, but your average local marketing courses in no way teach real-world marketing and business strategy.
My experience, lessons, and keen observation of real world marketing—and feeling the results in my pocketbook—offered me far more valuable, in fact priceless, lessons.
In the end, the school of hard knocks is where true entrepreneurs are made—or broken.
Like in the stock industry, paper trading holds very little weight.
Now, I can assure you, in addition to my extensive real world education, I’ve taken more true marketing courses than anyone I’ve ever met.
Actually, let’s go over a few of them…
Most notably is my education through Jay Abraham, the 9 Billion Dollar Man. Jay Abarham is the marketer’s marketer. He’s the guy business leaders around the world call upon and attribute their success to.
In addition to Jay, I’ve taken courses, seminars, coaching, and action packed training with the likes of Grant Cardone, Chet Holmes, Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, T. Harv Eker, Zig Ziglar, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jeff Walker, Frank Kern, Eben Pagen, and the list goes on.
Over the years, I’ve spent upwards of fifty grand on education, but more importantly, I’ve retained and applied more than most have ever learned. And that’s the key – you must APPLY what you learn.
I don’t say all this to impress you. Accolades and experience mean very little in the real world—results are all that matter.
And my ideas, philosophies, and strategies are continually evolving.
I never claim to have all the answers—but I listen. I don’t pretend to know what the market wants, but I listen to it, I pay attention, I observe what’s working and what’s not.
I pay attention to what other businesses are trying, and I compare the results.
I listen to the numbers and I test, test, test.
At the end of the day, your market knows what it wants, and if you just LISTEN, it’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to sell to it.
I guess, at the end of the day, my ability to listen, learn, and apply is what sets me apart from most.
I challenge you to look into your business with a fine-toothed comb, take a look at everything you’re doing, and ask yourself “am I doing this because the market wants it, or because I was sold on its idea?”
Don’t get blinded by your own love or enthusiasm for your business—be a student, be a listener, and TEST.
Anyhow, I’m going to wrap this up – I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my head.
To your success,
CEO RYS Group
The Blais family enjoying the views at Lake Tahoe.
RYS Group Inc.
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