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We’re right in the middle of a three-part series. I am interviewing my beautiful bride. There’s that cliché phrase, “Behind every great man, there’s an even greater woman.” I’m not saying I’m great, but some say I am. A cliché is nothing but a repeated truth. As we’re going to find out in these three episodes, not only is Kerri brilliant, she’s highly intuitive and a phenomenal business owner. I’m going to call this Shortcuts to Growth, Wisdom Nuggets for Growth, or Pinballs for Growth. In 2015, Inc. Magazine reported us, Income Store, for the year at $6.4 million. I noticed on an excel spreadsheet that we did $6 million. Needless to say, growth has been steep and consistent and it has not come without some pain and some pleasure. I’d like to get your perspective on a few things. First, knee-jerk reaction, what are the two most painful and two most pleasurable or joyful things of our explosive growth?
The first pain would be stress. It’s not a burden. The weight of having such an amazing large company and having other households depend upon us, not only our children. We’re used to having a business and having this, but as we grow in the large numbers that we see in the multiple employees and their homes, it’s scary in the beginning as you’re growing. The second pain would be time, figuring out how to manage time because there’s so much to do, especially, as you’re growing. Before, there were tasks that you did in the morning and the second task you did in the afternoon. Now, the tasks that you’re doing in the morning needs the amount of time both in the morning and afternoon. Your tasks become larger and you need to find help. Until you find the help, you’re doing it a lot more. I know everybody’s got that 24 hours in a day, but you do need to fit food and sleep in there somewhere. Those are the negatives.
The positives are watching everything that you’ve worked for grow. It’s so exciting and amazing. It’s a whirlwind. I’m not built to sit behind a desk and sit there and go to work, go home, go to work, and come home. I need to have movement and I need to have the challenge. I have to be challenged. To me, that’s the coolest and greatest part of watching our company grow. It’s watching them and what it does to our family. It’s watching our children as they have light in their eyes and they have their own desire to do something amazing and great, not in a mean way, but in a positive way, like, “I’m going to show you, mom and dad, what I can do.” As well as being able to help the people in our family and help in any type and seeing what happens in our community. Also, being able to work with you and have a happy, positive, “We’re still moving in the same direction” kind of thing. That is a gift that this business provides for me.
Some of the pain points are the time away. We travel a lot, so we leave our kids a lot. That’s a little bit painful. Also, the silent night’s chewing on a huge temporary issue. Kerri started it by saying the stress of things. There are some temporary pain points that come with any growth. Imagine a child growing rapidly. That’s painful as the bones and the skin are stretching. The positives, we have been forced to see the world. We have spoken all over the world. We’ll leave again for the country of Columbia. Kerri, for her political thing, she got invited to the White House. She gets to bring a guest and I asked if I could be the guest. We get to go to the White House. Our life is amazing. It is a blistering pace. It is stressful, but it’s fricking awesome.
When I said stress, the stress doesn’t leave. Sometimes the stress that originally starts as a negative ends up being a positive. As you’re growing and you’re morphing into the company that you are, you realize the tasks that you did or the hurdles that came before you in the beginning. Those same hurdles often come as you’re growing. The difference is as you’re growing, you know how to deal with it. What used to be viewed as a negative is just a day. It’s like breathing. It’s like, “Yesterday, I wasn’t able to fill this position. I already have a whole team that goes out and recruits. That’s not a big problem anymore.” Those old issues are not issues in the future as you’re growing. Don’t let them stop you.
Part of the reason for our explosive growth is our ability. We found a way to connect with our key customer. We call them a site partner. For those of you who are new to what we do, people come to us with money and we take that money. Let’s say somebody sells a building, they have $100,000. They say, “Ken, Kerri, I’ve got $100,000. I hear you can take this money and go buy a website with this $100,000. Maybe a website making $20,000 to $50,000 a year. You’ll manage that for me and split the revenue 50/50.” That’s what we do. The key thing is we will literally put what’s called a Minimum Revenue Commitment on that website asset so that person entrusting us with their funds can know that them and their family for years, as long as they’re breathing and we’re breathing, can at least see a certain amount of money every month.
If something happens to that website, which has happened eighteen times out of over 800, we have to go in and buy them another website. There’s a little bit of what’s called a “too good to be true” element in the fact that we will honor that website even if it gets attacked by a Google algorithm or an outside force like a competitor. It has happened to us a couple of times. All of that is to say, “We have a unicorn product, it is unique.” I’m wondering how many people think that they have a very unique product or a twist and they have a product offering that is very unique.
I’m going to guess over half of the people are moving a product that is variably different than something else in the marketplace. We had that and we still have that. We found an awesome way to connect with a potential person thinking about maybe doing a repeat or buying a franchise or buying a website to generate passive revenue. We’ve found a way to connect. I’m going to ask my wife to take everybody back years ago. How did we attempt to connect with our potential customer back in the day?
It was called Digital Footprint. Our first Digital Footprint was at our local university. My father, at that time, still worked at the local university. We got a room for free and that was a two-day tact learning event because we were brand new in this field. We had to prove ourselves because we don’t always spend on business growth. We had to prove that we had this idea that is valuable and viable. We got ahold of the school and asked for a little room. There were about 25 people in the room.
Maybe it was ten to twelve plus people on our team.
We only had a few team members because, at this time, we were still a virtual company. They came in and we had one of our local guys who was our sales rep and who has always been with us, Mike. We were in this room. I remember that whenever you’re doing something right, something has to go wrong first. There was no food, we didn’t ask anybody to pay at that time. We had ordered pizzas in. On the way to the event, Ken went first and I stayed behind to take care of the kids and get them situated with the babysitter.
I was late and I thought the garage door was all the way up. I backed our SUV out quickly and basically destroyed the garage door and the rear of the SUV. I had to go to the body shop and it could never be replaced properly because I destroyed it too much. I completely forgot. I parked in the sun. I had pop or soda all over the car and when I came back out at the end of the day, the pop had exploded inside the SUV everywhere. It was on every seat that we never got it out of the cloth top.
You were asking about the Digital Footprint event. The person that we brought into speaker was someone that Ken was able to google. At that time, we’d google, find a need, and find a person. That was Dave Conklin and he was not working for us or with us. After he saw what we were doing, we paid for him to come out. He loved what we were doing and he became a partner with us. Eventually, he sold his assets and his interest in other business ventures and came to work with us for a few years. We both learned a lot.
The stress originally starts as a negative until it becomes a positive. Click To Tweet
Tell them about transitioning into some larger events at hotels.
The most important part is knowing where it came from. Over time, word got out of what we do. We were asked to speak. It was Ken first, then I came aboard and speaking also with Ken. We realized that we needed to make our event a little bit bigger and we did. We went from the twenty attendees with our staff and my family had to be there. We went from that small venue to a bigger venue of 50 to 100 to 200 until our last event, which was almost 300 people. I don’t like it to get much bigger than that because to many of you who have been to conferences, you’d realize the bigger they are, the less intimate it is. We like to bring your staff and work with the people who are at the conference. We do not like it to be more than 300.
What is one of the most important things for you personally at our events?
The personal touch. Ken and I walk through the audience. We talk. People would come up to us and we take that time. Each of the speakers that we have speak on the stage. I have a relationship with every single one of them. That’s very important, too, because we trust the people who are in our stage. We believe in ethics and morality. We trust people who trust us with a lot of money that we make sure that whoever is representing us on stage is the same. You can trust them. You will go to the event and you’ll learn a ton, not just about what we do in tech, but businesses as a whole. The whole point is to leave the event and taking away something that you can implement in your business no matter what kind of business that you have.
We try to make it fun. We like to have fun. I’m sure in one of our past events, you’ve heard us having a glass of wine or two. 99 visitors are never absolute, so most women enjoy dressing up. For the men, there’s nothing like a Dapper Dan and for a man to put a nice little suit jacket on. We like to make Saturday night pretty special and everyone dresses up. We have an amazing photographer. Ken Rochon from Umbrella Syndicate comes in and we have him take photos. He’s put some posts up on social media. There’s huge social media push. We have a videographer there. We always have a surprise vintner as well as some type of music.
In the past, we’ve had Lockhart. They’re a country band. They’re a guy and a girl and they’re absolutely amazing. We had the fortune of meeting them and then helping to invest in their CD. We’ve also had Steve Miller from the Steve Miller Band. We had him twice. He liked us so much the first time that he was excited to come back. The second time he came back, he brought a couple of guys with him to make it even more fun. He spent the entire night at the bar hanging out with our staff. They don’t care who the wealthiest people in the room are. We always have people who are down to earth, but we make it great. It’s a ton of fun. Sunday’s hard to get up and come, so we start that day a little bit later because we know everybody had a great night. It’s memorable and it’s posted over and over again. The people who are standing up on stage are also people who are taking photos with you. There is no one group over here, one group over there.
I’m going to segue into some mechanics. If someone is considering doing an event, is there some mechanical advice from putting these events on for five years? From the learning curve of putting on an event, are there some little tips or nuggets people would want to know if they’re going to try to connect with their audience through some form of an event? How do they set these things up? What should they know?
If you want to pick a venue that is where the majority of your people are or it’s a destination. Be careful with the destinations because if you’re going to spend a lot of money going to go to let’s say Las Vegas, do know that a lot of your people are going to leave. We always pick someplace that is in a great location like Los Angeles, but it is either by the airport. You’re not going anywhere. You’re going to stay at the event if you’re at the airport because it takes a long time to get from one place to another. Know your clientele. Don’t have it at Super 8 if your clientele is going to be purchasing something rather large. Know their expectation, even if it’s just about the hotel room. One time we had an event and we had a great price. The place was under construction. They gave us a great deal and the rooms were nice. I had one woman come up to me and she was like, “I have to stay at the Hyatt,” because it wasn’t to her liking, but that’s okay.
That was a one-off, but the rest of the people were very happy at the event. That’s why do know your client out and the location. That’s very important. They know your budget and you can negotiate. We knew how much we wanted to spend on a room. We knew how much people would expect to spend in a room. You negotiate the rate for them, even though you’re not paying for it. We always looked at the food budget because we provided food. You don’t have to, if you don’t provide food for the people attending your event then make sure that there are fast places for them to grab lunch and come back in bulk. If you have just one restaurant, that will be three hours for lunch for everybody.
By the time they have lunch and then the table is turned over to the next group and the next group it will be a nightmare. That’s why we always provided food. In that way, if they get in and out, we could say how much time we needed and we knew how to schedule around it. When you are negotiating with the food, you tell them how much have and they will work around that. Most of the time, you’re given this à la carte menu or how much the buffets could be. The buffet might be $60 per person and you only have $30, then they take one meat off. You don’t need to serve three different types of meats and seven style salads. You tell them. It’s best to know your budget. That’s extremely important.
Don’t be afraid. People need to know where they’re going. Especially if you do provide food or whatnot, they need signs. Signs are everywhere. The hotel is great about allowing you to put your signs up. It might not be on a wall, which it shouldn’t be, but you can definitely have your easel boards, floor stickers, and elevator stickers. Hotels have their own signage that they have for you that you can borrow without a fee. Make sure you make use of and there’s nothing like branding brand yourself. Plus, the more signs you see about your event, the bigger it looks and more people want to come or tell their friends about it because you’re around something that sounds to be and looks to be very exciting.
We found out in the second or third year when I did go to Facebook to check out the event afterward, I noticed so many people took a picture next to a simple sign that said Income Store’s Digital Footprint. They wanted to be associated with the memory of Digital Footprint. The more signs you have, the clearer people are aware to go. It takes the stress off of them. You will find a lot of the pictures on social media. They use the signage as a backdrop. That was a little about the location.
Our first event at a hotel, it was at the Westin. There were only 22 people there and we served pizza for noon and dinner. We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t have microphones and we have one screen. It was in a classroom. We ended up doing millions of dollars in business over the years with those 22 people that came. We have a high-end product. The point is that it took a couple of years to cultivate those relationships, but it worked. What do you think were some of the keys to that first hotel event for us?
Relationship building. There’s nothing like talking to someone you know. When you talk to someone, if they’re looking past you or they’re not interested in talking to you or if they keep turning their head because of something else or they see some behind you and they’re waving to them, you know when someone was paying attention to you or not. The people we’ve worked with, we know that we’re going to be working with them for a very long time. It’s very important to us to know who you are because we were vetting you as much as you’re vetting me. I want to know that I want to work with you. I know that might sound terrible, but this is a long relationship here. The most important part was in the beginning, getting to know you and me and then for us. Since we did have a relationship with our salesman, with Mike, who was there. It was great. There was stability. People got this stability feeling knowing that we’ve been doing this for a while. We’ve moved into a different direction.
I’m going to add one nugget. For us, it came out naturally. The first event we did where there were more than 100 people, we gambled. We went big, we had huge screens, huge monitors. We spent some serious money that first year when these events started taking off. I remember doing the opening remarks and I’m so glad this naturally came out. I made fun of ourselves and I said, “Here’s the funny thing, we’re a tech company. We are not an event coordinating company. We don’t do events like this. We don’t put on seminars. When you see a technical glitch or the microphones don’t work or the next speaker doesn’t come up on time, please don’t laugh and make fun of us because we’re probably laughing and making fun of ourselves. We don’t need the extra pressure. We’re going to do the best we can. We’re not professional speakers.”
The bigger the event, the less intimate it is. Click To Tweet
You could see the pressure from our staff, even the audience. It was a very visible release where we’re not going to expect perfection. They came and their ears were open the whole weekend. It turned out to be one of the best events we ever put on. I want to drop one other tiny little nugget that someone taught me early on. If you’re going to do an event, you’re going to put on an event so that you can make some money. You’re not going to do it for free and warm fuzzies. Most people do an event and then at the end of the event, they do a commercial and try to sell people something after they’ve built value for two or three days. That is not how you want to do it.
You want to have an event and then right halfway through the event, you want to then do a commercial for your product and be clear. As Kerri said, clarity is king. Clearly state what you do, how it works, where they can go to find info, and then move on. Don’t sell it and don’t quote pricing. Make it subtle but do a solid commercial. If you do it halfway through, they are with you in the other half. If they have questions, they then can corner you and say, “I went on your website. I am interested in that product line. How much is that? What does that mean?” If you wait to the end, everybody grabs your brochure, jumps on a plane, and goes home. You don’t do the business you need to do. Do your commercial halfway through, not at the end. Don’t sell at the event, you sell after the event. You build value and relationships in the event.
You’re hitting home in some of the things that to me are the most important. The reason why we had the events was, even in the beginning when it was in the classroom at the university, for information and education. It wasn’t for us to sell. It was just the edification of who we are and what we do. If you don’t deliver knowledge and if you are talking about selling, we didn’t sell, so selling doesn’t even come to my mind. You have to deliver something to the people, something that they can take home and something that they can use in their business. If it’s the point of just selling, then don’t do it is my opinion. You can join into somebody else’s stage and sell your thing. If you’re doing this gratification for your company, make sure that the people are learning, taking notes, and they’re taking home nuggets that they can use. That there’s a value because these are business owners. It’s not even the $200 or $2,000. That’s irrelevant for them. You take their time to spend with you. You need to deliver.
We’re going to finish with a piece of advice for a one-person company, a ten-person company, or a 100-person company considering using an event to get their message out. Start with a one-person company. If they’re going to do an event, they’re probably going to have a huge budget. What would you recommend they do, from an event standpoint, to get their message out?
If it’s a one-person company, I would say find other stages to be in. There are a lot of places out there that are looking for people like you, people who will speak. They’re not going to pay you to speak, but they might have an audience and they’re looking for speakers to give value to their audience. You have value and they have the audience. I would definitely look on different websites, there are tons and tons of websites. Find a field that you’re in and find out what the website is or what the venues are and call them up. Make sure that you have a great website because that’s key and its some reasoning why they would want to have you come on to the stage. There needs to be that trust factor there because you want to have the edification. That’s what I would if you’ve got one employee.
How about ten?
At ten, it depends on how big your audience is. If you have ten employees, but you’re going to have an attendance of two, don’t spend your time unless you could have a luncheon. If you have an employee of ten and you’ve got 100 clients and fifteen of them will show, that’s what we did, that’s more for teaching. That’s more of who you are. It’s not a selling because they already know who you are. You have ten people you’re looking to teach and to edify you so that you can one day be the business that has 100 people.
For a 100-person company that’s considering doing an event, what piece of advice do you want to drop out?
My dad would say, “Don’t do it half-assed. Do it right, otherwise, you’ll have to do it all over again.” You don’t get a chance to have that first impression, so do it right. It doesn’t mean you have to have it at the Ritz Carlton. What I am saying is think of your audience. Think of the venue, and think of who they are. If you’re just selling insurance, then it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be at a Four Seasons or Marriott or Hyatt. If your client and your product are a little bit more than that, then spend that time but do the negotiations and also do it right. If the price or time isn’t right for you, don’t rush it. Give yourself two extra months or three extra months to get it done, but get it done right. It’s your first impression and it’s difficult to change it.
This episode is about connecting with your potential customer through events. I hope this helps. Take care.