Tell us about you.
Growing up, my dad was a business owner, so I always kind of pictured myself owning a business or something that way. I started my first business out of my college dorm room in 2003. I had a bad t-shirt order and my roommate, Ryan looked at me, “Hey, we should start a business so nobody else has to go through what you just went through.” I was naive enough as a 19 year old, I was like, “how would we do it?” He goes over to our dorm room door, shuts it, and he pitches me the idea and I’m like, I’m in. That summer we worked hard. Thew next fall we started business, from there, by the time I sold that we had done about 500,000 pieces of apparel.
It opened so many doors. What I liked about running an online custom apparel business was, I built it from the dorm room where people had no idea that I was in 19 or 20 year old kid. They thought I was like a 40 or 50 year old man. What I liked about it was I practiced my skill of customer service or customer care in a way that, I built it so I would never have to meet my customers. I learned the soft skills of phone and email just as it was getting going in 2003, 2004, or 2005. I fit a ton of experience into those few years in college and then just grew.
I love Co-Ed Monkey, still buy shirts now. They have great customer service.
I’ll step back quick and say in 2008, when the economy tanked, every business really struggled. I stepped back and I went into debt. It was bad, and I looked at my business and I hated life. I was a probably 20, $30,000 in debt and had no idea how I was going to pay it back. And I looked at the business and I hated it. I hated waking up in the morning. I hated answering emails. I hated every single thing about my business. I remember I sat at Starbucks, I kinda hit this low point and I call it my Starbucks experience.
In business you’re always told like dream about, you know where you’re going to be someday. I pictured a corner office and all these things and what we would be building. And I realized that amidst all the busy-ness of business in the dreaming, the one thing I forgot to dream about was my customers and what they should expect out of my business. I thought about how much money I would make, everything and I forgot about the customer. So I call it my Starbucks experience because back then the internet at Starbucks was very bad. So I couldn’t answer my email, I couldn’t do anything. And I sat there with a white piece of paper and I just go, if I could build a company for my customer, what should they expect? That changed everything. I started dreaming and before I knew it then that changed everything about my business. I looked at it, there’s either customer service or there’s customer care. Services is reactive, cares is proactive. Once you find the thing that you do different. Once you find thing though, you’re one, two, maybe three things different than your competition. You double down, double down, double down.
How do you stand out? How do you make your events stand out? How do you make your business stand out?
Let’s break it right down to the event thing. I think today’s events, it’s not about putting on events, it’s about curating pieces that people will talk about. I think it’s about somebody that comes to your event. They go to how many events, how many galas, and they see how many MCs and MC is an MC. They’re all funny. The stage is now in the middle or it’s up front. You know like you can only do so many different things, but I think there are the little touches that make people go, how did they think of that? Like when the speaker says, I want you all at your table, I want you to stand up and shuffle around. Now I don’t want you to just to sit at your table anymore. And actually forces networking. It creates touch points, elbow rubbing moments where now you’re forced to meet people you didn’t come with.
It’s like the flowers. You know how many events, especially if you’re talking about weddings, it’s like “who did those flowers? Who did that?” I think as an event planner, I would want people going “who did that?”. I’d want so many “who did that” moments coming out of my event because that’s what makes people go, I want to go back to their event. It’s not just coming up with something new, but it’s more thought and it makes that needle and thread through your brand and every event feel like it’s the same thing.
It makes me start thinking about how do you create the standout moments in all of the elements of a show?
A great thing that is totally under utilized the events space, cause I get to speak at a lot of events, and one thing I started offering to any place I speak at I say, “Hey, I love it coming into your event to do the keynote for you.” I go in there just like every other speaker. I do the speech for 45 or 50 minutes. And now what I like to say is, “Hey, I love the idea though of your people going back to their people and talking about what I talked about. So for you, I want to offer a webinar. You plan it, it’s going to be an hour long. They can invite anybody they want on it. We’re going to talk about what we talked about that day. And the event’s going to keep going.” Everybody gets pumped about that. 25% of them actually do it. These people already move on to the next thing and then they wonder why their event struggles later.
It’s because they’re not doing the little things that separate them from every other brand.
So the question is how do you set yourself apart from being lazy? I think one of the big things you talk about that I really enjoy and maybe you could go deeper on this is how do you make your yourself stand out as an individual?
I think it’s holding yourself to a standard and going, when people hear my name, what do they think about me? Maybe it’s not all what you want, but I think we can strive for that. My team at CloseSimple, that’s my real estate software, we basically created like a pizza tracker for the home closing process. Before this there was nothing. What’s been really fun is we’re instilling culture now in our people and we’re having them read the Gary Keller book, the guy who founded Keller Williams One Thing. Now my entire team has their one thing. Each person has a different one, which is different than in traction, the rocks that they might be doing. This is my one thing for my job, not for company, but for my job that’s going to push the company forward.
It’s clarifying what your one thing is. If you can only accomplish one thing this week that’s going to actually create momentum for you to do other things, what is that? If I’m going to do an event, what’s the one thing I can do leaving this event? Outside of the typical stuff, there should be a checklist. If I’m going to be exceptional and something that people actually want to be a part of, what’s something additional.
What other books do you love?
I think a great book, just one of the best books of all time. If you’re looking for that next idea, how do you stand out? Made to stick. It’s why do some ideas stick and some don’t. It’s unbelievable. Chip and Dan Heath, brilliant guys. If you want to get the book awesome. I love the book, but this is one of the rare audio books that you listen to and are like, it’s better audio than reading.
Super power: I am amazing if I’m at a conference or business, looking what people wear, sizing them up exactly and knowing like where to shift the conversation based on like what they’re wearing. Often it’s going to start with what they’re wearing, it creates the conversation.
Twitter: The Meeting Minds