Hey guys. Ken Courtright here from Today’s Growth Growing Business Today. This is part 3 of a 4 part series. It’s kinda of an oreo cookie. It’s a sandwich starting off with purpose and dream and the Why. In the middle of it, the frosting, basically is struggles. Are they necessary? Who struggles? How many people struggle? What types of struggles are out there in business? The other side of the cookie is again, purpose, dream and why. We are still in the center of this cookie. Instead of sweet stuff, we are talking about some difficult stuff and I am going to relate simply two stories. This will be a pretty short podcast but we were at the digital footprint, Philadelphia. We had some amazing, amazing talks and Sunday night when it was all over. We had a team about 13 people get together. Everyone had a drink when they went home. At the table was Brian Smith from the founder of UGG boots. Jeff Hoffman, the cofounder of Priceline and if you have ever been to an airport and you see a kiosk where you put your credit card and it kicks out a boarding pass electronically, that was a product of one Jeffrey Hoffman.
Round Table of Heavyweights
So we are at the table. There are a bunch of entrepreneurs, business owners, Ron Fossum is sitting there the owner of Smart Money financial group and this guy, this is like EF Hutton. When Ron speaks, people listen. This is the man that nobody can come into the office on Friday its just Ron and his yellow notebook paper. He thinks all day long. And its why he has, I don’t know, how companies, how many asset classes his fund manages. But Ron is sitting there next to Jeff Hoffman is it’s literally like an expert panel. So I wanted to lighten the mood you know a little bit. Everyone was talking business. I said anybody got any good payroll stories. Like not meeting payroll. I brought this up because on the previous podcast episode I was telling you guys about how Brian Smith has his mantra card. And how that led to a company raising million dollars the day after his talk. I really wanted to pick back up on that. Cuz I had some studs at the table.
So we went around the table. I want to throw out a story from Jeff Hoffman and then I am going to add a story from Fred Smith’s autobiography. Fred Smith is the founder of Fed Ex. And so I am gonna go right to Jeff. I said anybody got any good payroll stories and he said, oh I got one. There is no question I got a good one. He goes, in one of the early days of our company I can’t remember if this is Color Jar, his current company. I can’t remember if this is the kiosk or Priceline I don’t remember. But he has started so many huge companies. But he said in the early days, we were struggling. We didn’t have funding. Any ability to pay people a solid salary. It was just a bunch of great people. Getting together. I remember one day. I had gone by the lunch room. And I saw all of the guys playing poker. Even a couple of ladies playing poker every Friday at lunch break. And it would kind of bother me because they knew I was struggling to make payroll. Yet here they are just throwing 10’s and 20’s around playing poker and yet all they would do is grumble during the week under their breath. Finally after about 6 to 8 weeks of me going to lunch looking through the window, they would catch me locking eyeballs and they would all look down and pretend I didn’t see them playing poker. Finally, my feelings were so hurt, I walked into the lunchroom. Everybody quickly grabbed the money in front of them and pushed it aside. They put a notebook over the pot in the middle. I said, guys come on, you have got to know that I know you guys play poker every Friday. And nobody said anything. Nobody even looked at Jeff. They were so saddened that they were caught playing poker and Jeff goes, all I want to know is if you guys you know you really can’t afford to be going to the movies and taking your wives out to dinner. And this and that. How do you have enough money to play poker? And finally, the leader of the group looked up and he said, Jeff, we are not playing poker. He goes you might want to pull up a seat. Jeff pulls up a seat. What do you mean you are not playing poker? I see the money right there. I see quarters, pennies, and dollars. He goes Jeff, no, every Friday is payroll day and as we all know there is not quite enough money for everybody’s payroll. So what we do on Fridays is we empty our wallets and our purses in the middle of the table and we go around the table. We start over with Mary. We say Mary, what do you have to have this week. And she says I need $18 for my babysitter. If I don’t pay my babysitter she is never going to babysit again. So Mary would take out $18. Then we would go to Bob and Bob would say honestly guys, I need $60 or they are going to turn off my cable. If I don’t have cable I can’t work from home. So Jeff would take $60. Then it would go to this person. They would have to pay their mom back $45. And most of the time we can go all the way around the table. And Jeff goes, all I could do is cry. I felt so sad that we weren’t strong enough and big enough and fast enough of a growing company for me to pay a proper payroll. He goes, but I can tell you, me watching that and then seeing my face forged us as a team. Like nothing else could do and Jeff Hoffman said, we need those struggles to see who is really on board. I’m like oh my god! That is such a moving payroll story.
From Greyhound To FedEx
I said, I’ve got a pretty good one. It’s not my story but it’s impactful and anybody can go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon and go buy the book FedEx the Fred Smith autobiography. It’s very thick it’s a huge book. But it is an amazing story. Fred Smith is the son of the founder of the Greyhound Bus Company. And Fred Smith basically bankrupted the Greyhound bus company…. 32 of remaining 36 million. Jeff kind of finagled out of Greyhound. Leaving I think, 3 1/2 million. Then I think one time he had burned through all of that 32 million. He bought 9 Falcon jets and a few other things. And he actually talked his attorney into drafting paperwork to knock on his sister’s door to get the last 3 1/2 million dollars of the Greyhound Bus money. At the time they knocked on the door in the backyard. His sister was throwing a party. There were a couple Senators there and she comes to the front door and she goes Fred what do you want me to sign? What is this? Fred said just sign it. She goes Fred, just tell me. I am not signing over the last 3 million dollars we have. You have burned through everything else. This is all we have to run Greyhound. He said I am not doing that. He turns to his attorney. He prepped his attorney to lie for him and his attorney like, no no, Jan, I don’t remember, her name but as the story goes and my numbers may be a smidge but not by much. She signs a piece of paper and sure enough. That was the last few million dollars of Greyhounds bus. Now today, I think today she is worth 2 billion from that last piece of 3 million dollars. And when that book was written about 3 years ago, she had never spoke to him again. So even though she was compensated handsomely, and he won out in the end. They have never spoken. But that is not the payroll part.
He burns through the 3 million and at the point that they were running the commercial that some of you might remember. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, Fred Smith at this point, I believe it is a Tuesday and payroll is Friday. He has only got about 20 grand left in the bank and payroll is 70,000. He has got three days. He has got no orders coming in and there is no way he is making payroll. He is at O’Hare airport, he looks to the left on one of those conveyer belts and he sees a sign for Las Vegas. He runs. He goes quickly to a local branch of a bank. He jumps and flips over to the other conveyor belt. He goes up to the counter and buys a one way ticket to Las Vegas. He cashes in whatever remaining balance they had in the bank. He goes and plays blackjack and he wins whatever it is 70 grand, 50 grand, whatever it is he needed to make payroll. He won exactly that amount of money. He takes all of his chips and cashes it in. He puts it in the bank and he meets payroll. Now in 2 weeks, he has got to make payroll again. But now he is to the point where it is really desperate. He starts telling his friends. Just how in bad shape they are. He goes you know what, we are lying to the world. I am running commercials that say when it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight. He goes to his friend and says, you know what, I can’t do this. You need 27 falcon jets to do this. We have 9. This is a lie. But the bottom line. If I don’t run that commercial, I won’t get a years’ worth of preorders from big corporations. And if I get those preorders, I will be able to buy the rest of the jets. That was his rational. It doesn’t happen. The commercial doesn’t get orders fast enough. His buddy goes, you know what you might want to do Fred. You can’t meet payroll in 8 days can you? Fred says no I can’t make payroll. He goes I just read in one of the newspapers or magazines that there is a billionaire that just retired. He is actually this week cleaning out his desk. Why don’t you fly up to Chicago and knock on his door and plead your story and see if he wants to help you out. So as the story goes, Fred does not have an appointment. He flies to Chicago. He knocks on this guy’s door and after I believe 2 1/2 hours of him explaining every move he has made at Fed Ex. And exactly the position he is in. The gentleman gets out his check book and says how much do you need? Fred gives him a number of 300 million or 600 million and the guy right there writes a check to Fed Ex for an incredible amount of millions of dollars. Which is enough money to buy all of the jets and make payroll for quite some time. That check is the pivotal tipping point for Fed Ex as we know it today.
How Did You Break Through In The Past?
So this podcast, the whole point of this podcast is right alongside of the podcast from a couple days ago when I talked about stacking verticals of your struggle on the top, but then how you broke through. And how you need to make your own vertical. You need to go back in your life and go back 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, where did you struggle? But then you broke through and put pictures up of that. so if you are not sure about that go back to the last podcast and listen to how it is on my why.
This story is about how many companies are there out there? How many families how many households can’t meet payroll? How many households can’t meet their mortgage? Guess what guys? I don’t know how many times in my 24 years of business that we have looked at the books and go holy cow. If we don’t get our stuff straight, in 4 to 6 months, we can’t meet payroll or whatever. Back in the early days, it would be next week. The point is struggling is gonna happen. We are either in the storm, coming out of a storm or we are about to go in a storm. So if we know if the struggle has to happen, and that its deep into that previous podcast I cut. If you know the struggle has to happen, how do you wrap that struggle when you are in the middle of the struggle? One of the best ways to wrap around a struggle and get your arms around the struggle is to understand that these have to happen. As a matter of fact, all of the clichés about challenges build character those are not clichés because they are just fancy sayings. No, no no. The true character is physically built during those times. There is no way there is no way our company could be filling out paperwork for the 3rd time for the Ink 5000 list. Which means we are in the top five thousand fasted growing companies out of 14 million again. There is no way we could be doing this if in the late 90’s for those 5 to 7 years that were so challenging. If we didn’t go through those, it was so suffocating, I a couple times, I was in a fetal position in the corner, bawling my eyes out as a grown adult with children. I had no idea how I was going to survive this mess.
I had so many employees that I was responsible for.
There is no way that if I didn’t figure out how to get through those times I would never be able to navigate our company the size it is today. I am not the only one navigating. We got a great team. My wife is incredible our management team is incredible. I am not saying I am the sole navigator but I am saying is the struggles everybody is in right now are meant to be. And I mean that. I am going to take it sideways and people are going to mad at me when I say this. I am speaking like my wife spoke last week on stage. I mean this to be strong. Right now today, your personal checkbook and your company checkbook is exactly where you want it to be. And you would be like no, of course not, I want it to be much bigger. No No No! Listen to me very carefully. Every decision you have made up until this point, every single financial decision. The car you drive, when you went and bought that car, you made that decision based on what you wanted to buy that day. The watch you wear, you bought that watch that day. Based on what watch you wanted to buy that day. The jeans you wear. Where you get your haircut. The shirt you buy. The food you buy. The coffee you buy. The $4.80 coffee you buy. You are buying that $4.80 coffee every time because you want it at that time.
Your Checkbook Is Exactly Where You Want It To Be!
My point is this. Your checkbook is a direct result of everything you have wanted to buy up until this point. You want your checkbook to be exactly where it is today. Trust me on this, I am right. You have to. Start looking at different decisions that delay gratification and if you are a business owner, you have to do this on a grand scale. Because if you want major, major, changes in your personal finances, business finances, listen. If you want major changes you have to majorly change something. If you want big changes, you need to big time change things. One of the fastest ways to get out of a jam and its a long term thinking. Its one of the fastest ways to get out of a jam is to live differently. Live the way they lived in 1958 before credit cards. If they didn’t have any money, they didn’t buy it. If they couldn’t pay cash, they didn’t buy it. They were privately held companies. They were debt free most of them. And just try things a little bit differently.
But back to this, challenges are not optional. And one of the greatest ways to wrap around a challenge is to understand that every single successful company, every single successful person every company and person and looks good and smells good went through so many traumas and so many challenges. That is what caused them to get to the point of looking good and smelling good. That’s it. You are not gonna get where you need to go. You are not gonna rubadub your way up to the top easily. You to understand the Fred Smiths of the world. And the traumatic, traumatic payroll stories they went through to get there. The Brian Smith’s of the world. And the traumatic payroll challenges they had. The Jeff Hoffman’s of the world and the trauma and the pain they went through. As everyone is building these big companies before anybody trusted them with their money. They were getting proof of concept down. Nobody trusted these folks in the beginning. It was so painful just to keep the lights on.
So all I am saying on this podcast is that the struggles are not optional. Embrace them. One of the greatest ways to get through struggles is to understand that hey, this is my lot in life. I’ve got to go through this. I am not going to quit. I am not going whine about it. Winners don’t whine and whiners don’t win. I can promise you that. And then I am going to go 90 degrees everybody. Go get the book Hung by the Tongue and then another book Tongue the Creative Force. I dare you to read those. I went 11 years in my life, from 2000 to 2011. Eleven years without one negative statement. I never raised my voice. I never swore. I never said a negative word. I read Rich DeVos’s biography. At the time he was the 8th wealthiest person in North America. His 40 year executive assistant had the ability and the honor to write 3 pages in Rich DeVos’s biography. And what that gentleman wrote changed my life forever. He said, you know what, Rich DeVos is one of the wealthiest walking right now. He has fought the Senate, he has fought Congress, he fought the overall US government. He has gotten people out of jail in the Philippines risking his life. He has battled many major major companies. He runs a 12 billion dollar company. Privately held in debt free. Many people have tried to knock this guy down. He buys sports franchises by writing a check. He buys them for cash. The point is this is a very large dreamer. A very big man and the guy wrote in his 3 pages, he wrote the most amazing thing about Rich DeVos is in the 40 years I have stood by his side, where he has been attacked from government agencies, from this to that, I have never once heard Rich DeVos raise voice or say a negative word about another person. So you’ve got to understand that Rich DeVos running 12 different mega companies, you know he had hard times. He probably has hard times today. But this is a very strong Christian man that understands where he is at. I am not preaching on this, I am just telling you about the book I read. This guy never said a negative thing. You have to remember guys when you are going through tough times, attitude is not circumstantial.
When I was in my 11 years of never saying a negative word and the only reason I broke is I friggin, fell down the stairs and said a swear word. I said a bad word. My kids said Dad you swore!!! You broke your train. Your 11 years is over. The point is this. I have actually said a couple swear words since. The point is attitude is circumstantial. Meaning whatever you are going through, doesn’t mean you have to be negative. You don’t have to talk about everyone and tell on everybody…no no! You don’t say a negative word again. You go a week, you go 7 days. You speak only positive. If you need to get structure, and understand the power of the spoken word and how much you are polluting your own brain, I dare you to go get Hung by the Tongue. I don’t care what your spiritual beliefs are. Read the book. Hung by the Tongue. Then read Tongue the Creative Force. And there are dozens of other books that are similar that prove out the same thing. That you literally walk in life you walk on your words. You speak them. It’s like little seeds in front of you and then you walk all over them.
Speak Positive and Plant Positive Seeds
You can either speak positive and plant positive seeds. Or you can speak negative and plant negative seeds. It’s totally up to you. But the point is when you are struggling, one of the coolest things you can do is to honor the struggle by not recognizing the struggle in public. Honor it to yourself, yeah, I have a challenge, that’s fine. But you know what challenges happen. I am gonna boogie on down the road, because, guess what, I am gonna get passed this challenge. How do I know because I am staring at my wall. I had challenges in high school. Guess what, I got through them. Check the podcast to see how I did it. I had challenges in colleges, but I looked on my wall and there is the results. I got through them. I had challenges early on in business. I look at my wall, I see the challenges. I see the pictures that represent it. But then I look below and I see the results of how I got through it. And I have got about 11 of those verticals that I can go to when I am feeling down. When I am low and when I need a pick me up. I just stare at the wall. Yep, that is what I was challenged with. That is how we got through it. Let’s rock and roll. I am gonna get through it.
So for now, I am Ken Courtright from Today’s Growth Growing Business Today. I will see you guys on the trail. Kick some butt!! see ya.