“You don’t have to be crazy to work here, we will train you.” Take a ride on Ken’s crazy train to growth.
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Growth Via Crazy
This podcast is about how my wife and I, Kerri Courtright, see business being grown. We have a little bit of perspective. We are now a five-time Inc. 5,000 company, 100 plus employees, two different countries, and we grow about 900-revenue generating websites on a daily basis. We get a slice of the revenue if we grow them, and that’s our current offering. However, we have for 25 years, sold and managed at least a dozen different products. This episode is fun. It’s about being crazy, it’s about doing insane things, and I wanted to not talk about it. As most of these podcasts, I want it to be case study-based. I did some homework and I basically just looked at my bookshelf and tried to find some books where the founder could have been deemed crazy, insane, stupid, dumb, irrational and nuts. This is subtitled, Go Big or Go Home. You don’t have to be crazy to work here. We will train you.
Prince years ago had a song. We’re going to add a couple of lines, “Let’s go crazy. Let’s get nuts.” I’m going to rip through some true stories of people that became very famous, very well-known, very wealthy, and we’re going to do a little crazy exercise. Cornelius Vanderbilt, who later became known connecting the world through the railroad system, he got his competitive advantage, which was absolutely crazy by risking everything and literally putting a drinking glass to a door and listening in on private conversations of his mentors and most importantly his mentors’ competitors. He would hear deals going down, then he would then go to the people that were not in the room but also on the receiving end of those deals and he would strike better deals with those. That is not only crazy, it’s illegal. It’s spying but it is what it is. It’s crazy.
Fred Smith, who launched a company many of you know called FedEx, he played Black Jack in Vegas to meet payroll. I would say that is nuts. Later after he couldn’t by the number of Falcon jets he needed to deliver on his commercial when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight, somebody mentioned that a new billionaire just retired up in Chicago. Fred had never heard of this guy but that very next morning he was on a plane to Chicago. As this billionaire was cleaning out his desk, Fred explained his story in 90 minutes and that billionaire wrote him a check for I believe $600 million and saved FedEx as we know it. That is crazy. That is doing whatever it takes in a crazy fashion.
Elon Musk, just twelve short years ago from right now, slept on a friend’s couch to save money for two months. You’re talking about Elon Musk, the billionaire who has Tesla, the electric car company, who has put nine rockets in space to the space station for supplies. It’s just nuts. J. Paul Getty, outside of Solomon, was the richest person to ever live. In 1940, he bought 4,000 acres of Saudi desert that everybody said, “It’s just nuts.” He paid what in today’s world is billions of dollars without testing. It was insane. Later of course, he struck oil, liquid gold. The rest is history. The crazy part of this story, after he paid all that money, after he was making money from the oil, he did two crazy things. Number one, he would only wash his own underwear by hand and hang them in his hotels and his suites and penthouse because it would save money if you wash them by hand and dry them instead of paying the local launderette to do it. Then the craziest thing of all, he bought a pay phone so that when guests came to his house, if they needed to use the phone, they could use the pay phone and save him money on his phone bill.
Steve Jobs, while working for someone else at 23 years old, showed up to a consulting job in smelly bare feet in a white dirty robe, and then proceeded to sit on the guest chair and put his feet up on the client’s desk and say, “What do you need?” The guy said, “Who are you and what are you?” The odor was just awful. He hadn’t bathed in almost three weeks. He was meditating in the mountains before he got the call for the consulting job. Needless to say, he is like, “If you’re who you say are and you worked for the company you say you do, I need this, this and this, but you’ve got to shower first.” Steve goes, “No. I’m going to fix this right now.” He fixed it in two and a half hours left.
Michael Jordan risked injury and practiced after every practice and before every game of his pro career and college career. He practiced for 90 minutes before every game risking injury. Almost every doctor says that was near suicidal to his tendons, to his muscles and to his cardiovascular system. It was crazy. Wayne Huizenga who years and years ago in the ‘50s saw a garbage man about 52 years old in one little truck running around and emptying 55-gallon steel drums into the back of a truck and taking people’s garbage away. The bells went off in Wayne’s head and he ran up to the guy and he said, “Do you buy those garbage cans one time and then rent them to the homeowner and collect monthly rent from those garbage cans? Then eventually, when they just get terribly bent out of shape, you sell them off to scrap and get half your money back?” The guy goes, “Yeah, that’s exactly my model.” Wayne said, “Can I partner with you?” This young man and that garbage man built what became Waste Management and sold for $7 billion. That’s not necessarily crazy. What’s crazy is years after selling waste management, a guy in Texas was hounding Wayne Huizenga going to come down to Texas to see his ten-store chain of VHS rentals and Wayne’s like, “I don’t want anything to do with the VHS tape.” The guy goes, “You just got to get down here. You’re going to love this.” Wayne goes down there on a Friday and sits in this guy’s store and watch as how there are eight computer terminals at checkout counters. In each terminal for a three-hour period every weekend, it would be, “Give me $5. Give me $5.Give me $5.” It was a constant stream, and he saw the same thing he saw in Waste Management, “I could buy a VHS tape for $70 one time. I could rent it over and over at $2 a day, and then once it’s used it’s for life, I can sell that tape to the public for $10 or $20 and get some of my investment back and make a killing.”
Here’s what’s insane. After two days the deliberation, Wayne went up to the guy that owned ten stores and he said, “Here’s the deal. I will buy your stores. You will partner with me and show me how to run these video stores. You get 5% but we have to open 3,600 stores in 36 months.” Wayne got on his private jet and went to four different cities every day, seven days a week for a year including Easter and Christmas and bought a video store chain three to four times a day to get to 3,600 stores within 36 months. It was the most exhaustive schedule that I’ve ever heard a businessman pull off in my lifetime of everything I’ve read.
Here’s a fair question. What about your day, your schedule, your business plan or even your attitude is even a little bit crazy? Is your day normal? Do you plan and strategically plan? Do you do marketing techniques that other people do? Do you do planning sessions that someone showed you how to do? When is last time you invented something? Did something your gut said to do? When is the last time you did something, your spouse or your friend goes, “You’re doing what? You’re freaking nuts.” Here’s the deal. If your plan, routine, attitude of whatever is normal, you’re going to have a normal company, and most normal companies fail. Most normal companies don’t grow on a crazy, lit up, constant pace. In this fast-paced environment especially, might it be fair that you might need to get a little bit crazy?
Kerri and I run a now five-time Inc. 5,000 company meaning, out of eighteen million US companies, we’re again over a four-year time-span growing faster than all eighteen million except for about a thousand. We just recently bought an office 21 times larger than our current office. We wrote a check. We have everything about our business, making sure it has a little bit of crazy in it. When our people walk into our new building for the first time, it’s three floors, each floor is seven times larger than our current office. It’s stupid. It’s insane. We don’t need that space but the point is we might someday, and it is a little bit crazy and it gives us opportunity. I know and my wife definitely knows quite frankly, two reasons. If you build it, they will come. We will attract phenomenal talent because we bought this gargantuan building. It has taken us eight months. We’re still not done in the remodel. It is being gutted to the frames and started over. It is our building. The point is it also reminds our people that Ken and Carrie are a little bit crazy and we need to be. We need to keep them on edge. What are you doing that literally scares the crap out of you? When is the last time someone said, “You’re nuts.” As the saying goes and as all the stories I started this with, “If you are not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”
Here’s your assignment. Get paper or a tablet and write five different things you could do in the next 30 days that may be impossible, but if you pulled off any one of them, somebody said, “You’re nuts. You’re crazy.” That is your homework assignment, if you choose to accept it. I hope this helps. Take care.