Who is Ken Dunn and what are the key takeaways in this episode?
A lot of things in life that we do are in some ways preparation for things to come. Although that may not always be obvious, in the end you’ll find that the experience and the skills that we develop will serve us again and again in a variety of ways. Ken Dunn fits exactly that scenario. Ken served in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 14 years as an investigative officer, interrogating, working on undercover assignments, buying and selling drugs. And when he came to a crossroad in life and left the police force, he soon found himself setting up a mortgage business and starting a network marketing company using the same skills he perfected in his policing career.
Be sure to listen to the whole interview as it’s packed with great insights where we discussed:
- What PDCA means
- How he transitioned from being a police officer to being an entrepreneur
- What he thinks you should be focusing on if you want to become a successful entrepreneur
- How he became an author
- Ken’s personal recommendations for startup entrepreneurs
- How he got into the network marketing business and why he says “it works”
[4:21] What is the tip that you would give young entrepreneurs that are trying to attract good people?
Answer: The most important thing that I would say to people is that if you’re going to start a business, and it’s going to be a big business, then you better be thick-skinned because the greatest thing about business is people and the worst thing about business is people. They will lie to you, they will cheat you, they will mislead you and in spite of that, you have to love them and it is absolutely, in my opinion, impossible to decide if somebody is right or wrong for your business in an interview. You can do reference checks. There are really great companies you can hire. If you’re hiring sales people now, I always use a sales test and aptitude test that you can get online. I won’t tell you which because I don’t think I should endorse one or the other as there are many of them. That tells me if somebody has a natural propensity, if they are naturally built to be a good sales person but even those things can’t find and identify the flaws in the people.
[7:55] So how do you make that leap and have people understand it, Ken, and how does it work for you and your organization?
Answer: I am not going to claim to be any type of expert in physicality or feng shui or anything like that, but I do believe that there is a feeling that you get when you walk into a good company and it’s from the smiles on their faces, it’s from the way people walk with a skip in their step, but it’s also from the feel of the office, and you see in a lot of the modern day titans that I alluded to earlier that they have got it figured out. There are more open concepts where people can collaborate. We still need some closed offices for certain departments, but I think it is almost incumbent on somebody who wants to be successful to take the time to think about that.
[16:06] What tip would you give a CEO or an entrepreneur who is trying to build a great brand and a great culture in today’s market?
Answer: One of the things that I have told my own clients in my consulting practice is that “why” is more important than “what.” There are many speeches. One little tag line that is in my mind right now is about how I go through this exercise with CEOs, where I ask them three questions. If not you, then who? If not this, then what? And then if not now, then why?
And I focus on “why” because it’s the one thing that is going to keep you going in the hard times and so when I decided to take my business seriously, I had four people working with me. They were co-owners. We literally took a day and got away from everything and we sat down and we said: “why?”
Go To Quote for Inspiration
What Ken Dunn Wants His Company to BE:
- BE Transparent
- BE Excited
- BE Focused
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:
Where to Find Ken Dunn:
Connect with John on
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
John: Ken, welcome to the show. How are you?
Ken: I am doing great. Thanks for having me.
John: I am so glad you decided to join us and we are quite honored to have you. Hey, before we start, can you share with our listeners a little bit about you, your background and what brought you to the person you are today?
Ken: I don’t know if we have enough time for the real story, but here are the Coles’ notes. I am from Canada. Your viewers and your listeners are going to notice that after a while, so let’s just clear the air right up front. I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When I was 18 years old, I got into the military police and was quickly after abducted into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and spent 14 years in investigative policing, which included time undercover, buying and selling drugs, working in a SWAT team, working in a surveillance team. And my favorite part of the story is the seven years for which I was a police interrogator, and in that time I interrogated almost 20 suspects of serious crimes, including murder.
When I was 29 years old, I was at the height of my policing career and my wife and I gave birth to our son, Matthew, and I decided I didn’t want to be a cop anymore and I was really lost for a short period of time because I only had a Grade 12 education. I had only ever been a police officer and I knew not what to do. But I had a mentor who owned an insurance company and I went to him, asking him for advice and he gave me a book, and said, “Not much I can tell you but I have a feeling if you read this book, you may figure it out on your own.” And he knew the answers but he was a good mentor and he let me find them for myself. He gave me Og Mandino’s book, The Greatest Salesman in the World.
John: I love that book.
Ken: It’s amazing. It really is, and it’s really become my mantra, part of that, and I realized as I flipped through the pages that what Og was describing in his whimsical tale as the skills that sales people ought to use, I discovered that it was the exact same skillset that I had perfected and expertise and it was skills that interrogators use to interrogate people.
And so, I went out on his advice. I started a little mortgage business and three years later, that mortgage company had funded $300,000,000 in mortgages and I had 19 people working with me and we were the subject of a hostile takeover; well, hostile means I got paid to leave which was fantastic, and then I got into direct sales. A friend of mine dragged me kicking and screaming into a network company and I traveled in over 40 countries in nine years and made almost $12,000,000. So if anybody tells you that network marketing doesn’t work, I can prove that it does.
John: Why are you not lying on a beach in the Caribbean right now?
Ken: I can’t stop following what I am told to do. I started a network marketing company in 2011 and three years later, it was bought by a Chinese company and as the story goes, 5 years before, right in the middle of my network marketing career, I wrote my first book. I was forced to write it by a friend. It’s a long story. We can save it for another time.
I studied seven of the world’s greatest leaders including: Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Pierre Tredouw and John F. Kennedy, and from those seven folks I found a set of philosophies that they lived their lives by and I applied them to my life. I started telling stories about it; I wrote a book about it. It took me on to a journey that now has me running my own publishing company. It’s called Next Century Publishing. It has offices in three countries. We have a staff of 19 of the coolest employees on the planet. I can’t even call them my employees; they are definitely my partners.
And I am 44 today with the most incredible family that you could possibly imagine. Matthew and Laura are 13 and 11 and my wife is my best friend and I won’t tell you how old she is.
John: Yeah, you’d better not, unless you really enjoy sleeping on the couch, Ken.
John: Walk away from that area quickly.
John: Having six sisters, as my wife says, “got him house-broken, but there are certain things he’s not quite got passed.”
Ken: [Laughs] Exactly.
John: Hey, let me ask you. You have a very diverse background, and I think it adds to the flavor of who you are. And for our listeners, can you help us with your ‘aha’ moment, the tipping point when you sat up and said, “Ah, I get it.”
Ken: I think I described it to you really well. I was myopic in my 20’s. I was on a career path that was exciting and was adventurous at my age, that very few people had a chance to be a part of. That was my law enforcement interrogation and all that stuff, but my ‘aha’ moment was probably – it’s not that exciting in the grand scheme of things – because its most people’s. It was the birth of my son, Matthew. I did not want to grow up in that environment trying to raise kids and be a good dad.
And I realized that it was very important for me to set the example. I’ve studied leadership and spoke about leadership on stages all over the world. I have been paid a lot of money to speak about leadership and in my studies, I have realized that the definition of leadership can really be narrowed down to one word, it’s the word ‘example’.
And I started realizing that when my son was born that I needed to be the best example and so, that started the cascade and it was only three days later that my friend Paul Manta gave me that book, “The Greatest Salesman in the World” and that was the ‘aha’ moment. It made me realized that really by focusing on relationships and friendships that you could definitely do well as an entrepreneur and I have never looked back from there.
John: Now Ken, let me ask you something. You have traveled over 40 different countries, you have built companies, you have helped teach leadership, so you have seen just about everything a guy can see as it relates to culture.
So for my listeners and myself, can you share with us a story where, you know, “I am going to get Ken come speak and our culture is going to get better. I am going to bring Ken in for 20 minutes and everything is going to be great.” What are your thoughts – how do you reconcile that behavior with what reality really is?
Ken: It’s funny that you asked that you preference the question my having traveled around the world. I am actually doing this radio show with you right now from my hotel room at the JW Marriott in Mexico City. And I am down here right now helping a friend of mine who owns an ink magazine, listed, Fortune 500 company who is expanding his business. On the side, because of all my experiences, I have been forced into starting a little consulting practice and I do get brought in to companies that are experiencing some dysfunction in culture. And it’s a subject that I really love to talk about.
One of the things that I say most often when I talk to groups of people in business is that, in most cases in business, in communities, everybody who is employed or partnered in that company, they all want that same thing: they want momentum. They want that magical feeling when everything is aligned and when the business is exploding and you get fired up about going to work and people are high fiving in the hall way, but momentum is an elusive beast. It’s a very difficult thing to find in a business and unfortunately, most people think that momentum will just naturally happen when you sell the right products and you know what you’re doing and you will get fired up about sales and everyone goes out and runs.
I know how to sell things, but here is what I helped people to understand: it’s that momentum can only occur – and you’re going to love this – it’s the heartbeat of what you’re talking about. Momentum can only occur when community and culture align. So let’s look at that really quickly.
John: Say that again for my listeners.
Ken: Momentum can only occur in business or anything you’re doing when community and culture align. So community; lets deal with that first. Community is the folks. It’s the people. It’s the people who work in the company and it’s them being all on the same page, and they are naturally doing things the same way because they have a leader who guides them, who sets the tone for the business and the camaraderie and the feel of it. All of those people intentionally decide to do the same thing the same way for the same purpose. That’s what communities do.
Now the culture is the decision. It’s doing the same things the same way for the same purpose. It’s like a swimming pool. Let’s say you have a 12 foot swimming pool, above ground pool, it’s 5 feet deep and you get a bunch of people and you tell them to start walking around in the same direction around the pool.
When they first start walking, it’s difficult, it’s arduous, it’s painful. You can almost feel it as I am describing it to you, but as everyone decides to walk in that same direction to the beat of the same drum if you will, then it becomes easier; it becomes more fun. And if you can picture the tone on people’s faces, when they first start walking, it’s arduous, there are strenuous looks on their faces, but as the flow of the pool starts to move them, then everybody becomes happy and it becomes exciting.
Momentum occurs when community and culture align. And if you want to have that, you got to have – as Khavi says and so many other people, the good and the great, have said, you have got to have the right people in the right seats on the bus. That’s a very difficult task that leaders need to deal with. Sometimes this means making tough decisions and when you have the right people in the right seats on the bus, its prescribing a philosophy of love and spirit and friendship in a culture of a company that makes people want to come to work. When you get those two things down, you are automatically going to start generating more revenue.
John: You mean to tell my listeners that the old adage of “do what I say, not do what I do” won’t work?
Ken: Obviously, that is a rhetorical question from you because we both know that to be the case.
John:I find it very uplifting to hear this and I think that is one of the best definitions of culture I have heard through the last 25 recordings of our show and it’s incredible because Ken and I shared a little bit before we came on the show and I was telling Ken that I was in corporate America and it just took me back, saying this, to a time when I was a young salesperson and I was salesperson of the year. I got this award, we are at the show and I literally got another job offer from a company with which I wasn’t going to make as much money, but they treated me better. I felt better about them.
I felt everybody was going in the same direction, so I resigned and the big boss, the big guy in the corner office calls me in and says, “I can’t believe you’re leaving,” and I said “okay.” And he says, “I don’t understand why,” and here I was, 26 years old and firstly, I didn’t know what to say. I looked at this guy and said “honestly, I don’t respect you.”
John: And he goes, “What!” And I said, “I don’t respect you or the tactics you take, you won’t even do what I do” and I carried that with me through my entire life. Do you think that we have enough leaders today that get that so that when the millennials come into the work force, they will have that feeling? Do we have some shifting sand under our feet?
Ken: Absolutely not. Unfortunately, there are so many things working against leaders building cultures. There are not enough young leaders being mentored in building communities in companies. There are too many dictator-like authoritarian leaders that still prescribe to the 30-year old philosophies of “Do as I say and not as I do.”
I do believe that there is a movement coming in and I think most of it is spawned by the internet and by the desire of millennials to really make a difference. You’ve mentioned your wife and you named your show after it but Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most significant influences in my life, and of course, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s almost cliché to say it today but it stands true.
And I am seeing in the groups to which I speak, too. There are millennials who are taking that seriously and are going out. The other thing that is really neat and that I find has been a fascinating example to business is the gaming industry. So, I own a publishing company that is literally one of the fastest-growing small publishing companies in America.
We published three years ago, 13 books but two years ago 76 books and last year we published 211 books and we have a great staff in our office in Las Vegas, but the average age of our staff in Las Vegas – we have some old folks like me and a couple of others on the team – but the average age of our staff is 26. We are a publishing company. We publish leadership books, personal development books, fiction books, you name it, but in our office, we have got video games, we’ve got a ping pong table, we have very crazy work hours.
People sometimes come in wearing slippers to work and it’s our culture, it’s a family culture and that came from the gaming industry. Of course, it was adopted by the social media industry with icons like Facebook and LinkedIn and other big companies, but I think that it’s spawning a new level of camaraderie and community in businesses which is going to save us, but I don’t think we are on anywhere near a sure footing right now.
John: Now Ken, maybe you could share a story with us, when you have seen how culture has worked from a negative standpoint and how it has worked from a positive standpoint because sometimes we’ll see people who are not authentic, and for me, the red flags fly up. So maybe you can share with us a story where in your travels – and you have seen it on both sides of the ledger – where it worked really well and accelerated growth. On the other hand, you can’t put a mask on and think that won’t know who is behind the mask.
Ken: Yeah, unfortunately, and this is a good piece of advice for anybody who has dreams of being in business or is in business, but might be struggling with a business right now. If anybody ever says to you that they had nothing but success in business, then they are lying to you, plain and simple. We have all been through it and without even thinking about it, I have two examples at my ready that are personal experiences of companies that I have been co-owners of.
And it absolutely proves the point that community and culture are more important than that product you are selling in any business. And I hope that somebody who is really struggling with leadership hears this. There is an old saying that I will preface this with. “In the absence of leadership, the people will perish.”
Make no mistake about it. So if you are a principal in a company and you are not studying leadership and you are not reading an hour of books every single day, and you are not attending leadership events, and you’re not actually taking and growing yourself, then don’t even think about your company growing. It’s freaking impossible. If you are the leader and the one everyone looks to and if they don’t see you improving, then your company is not going to improve.
So just really quickly, I am going to lie about the dates right up front, I am going to tell you that, because these are real businesses with real people still today. I was involved in one business several years ago where I was a co-owner with three other owners, but I was a minority owner. My 20% ownership paled in comparison to my partners’, and the principal that had the biggest share in the company was manipulative and was a liar.
He had been through several business failures and he was a real snake oil salesperson. He had lost several businesses, he had gone bankrupt three times, but he was the ultimate in convincing people to follow him.
And I bought into a vision and thought he was a good guy, but very, very shortly after the company started, I saw the challenge. This man was the leader of the company and I acquiesced to him and I even tried to guide him and help him a little bit, but he had this incredible personality habit of talking about other people behind their backs. And if he was struggling with something in his business, he would get angry in front of people and start swearing and cursing. And if he was having a challenge with one of his partners, there could be eight or nine employees around and he would start defaming and talking negatively about even his business partners.
And this went on nonstop for two years. I guess you can imagine what happened to that company. The culture was disgusting. There was dishonesty; there was no trust. Everybody thought their jobs were on the line all the time and nobody was willing to be open and collaborate with others. It all came from the example of that one leader and frankly, I am hoping that leader hears this one day because that could have gone on to be an amazing company, but it was doomed to fail because of the way he led and because of the way he is, and because of his lying and his dishonesty and the way he talked about people behind their backs.
Anybody who leads by such an example will fail and the saddest thing about that for me, John, is that that company had an amazing first year, over ten million in revenue in three countries and profitability, and it could have gone on to be incredible. But it obviously is not around today, a lot of people got hurt, and it was because of that one person’s leadership. And I know that because I have been in a similar business since then where we did not have that energy and the business I have been in since then is doing very well.
On the other hand, I started as a fledgling company six years ago, this publishing company Next Century Publishing and we are a rag tag group of kids. Obviously, the oldest employee is sixty and the youngest employee is twenty-one and I am still calling us all kids. And we have a spirit of honesty and transparency. My leadership style is to be completely transparent with everybody. I had a stock option program for employees to get involved in from the day the company opened.
And every single month, I tell them where we are at: if we are profitable, if we are not, if we don’t all pull together and work harder, the detriment of doing that. We play together, we have an internal Ping-Pong league that everybody has to participate in. And you would not believe how some of these people have not ever played table tennis before have become just strikers; it is unbelievable. And we do incredible work. We get praised by our clients. I am flying to New York City on Monday to have a meeting with a major publishing industry periodical, who is about to give us some award for our excellence and the big difference there is honesty, transparency and a spirit of fun. I continually try to raise myself to the highest level and they all know that, and I believe that it creates a spirit where everybody is trying to do that and it is just an amazing place to work.
John: Now Ken, you have run a number of successful companies. What is the common thread?
Ken: I think I just described it to you.
John: I think you did. It’s the transparency; it’s the honesty. It’s everybody going in the same direction.
Ken: I am going to take it one step further though. Every business is going to be started by an owner or a leader as I like to say or a partnership of leaders. And if it’s one person, then that person needs to understand that it is their job to dictate the culture and you don’t dictate in the traditional sense, but by example and so you have to love people, you have to love life, you have to be a positive person.
Florence Lifthower wrote a book called personality plus. She sold ten million copies of it. Why? Because it actually prescribes four different states that people are in. Anybody who is a business owner, if you have not read that book, then you are an idiot. You need to read that book. It is unbelievable. It will tell you where you fit in in the paradigm.
And if you know that you are a phlegmatic and if you know that you have a strong Type A personality, then you can work with it. So knowing who you are gives you the chance to improve and once you get on that path, then tell people about it. Have a “book of the month club” where everybody reads books together. Actually, call my company and I will get you set up with one.
John: That would be great. Now let me ask you another question. I am going to shift gears a little bit and talk about the physical side of an environment and a culture. We built our company on taking care of emerging companies over the past twelve years and we see them come in, we see the emerging companies, we see the people get there series A funding. People come in and they are very proud that they, and I need to say this delicately, they don’t invest in the correct way they are very short sighted and short term, so they buy very low end products that don’t last and they buy them, again and again, whereas they could have bought a quality product once that would have lasted for twenty years.
And I try to explain to these people all the time: if your facility doesn’t match your culture, it has nothing to do with price. Again, if your facility does not match the culture you are trying to create, you are never going to get there.
And Ken, people look at me like I have rocks in my head and sometimes I think “you know what, I tried, I did all I can.” I know I am speaking English and I know you understand English. So how do you make that leap and have people understand it, Ken, and how does it work for you and your organization?
Ken: I am not going to claim to be any type expert in physicality or feng shui or anything like that, but I do believe that there is a feeling that you get when you walk into a good company and it’s from the smiles on their faces, it’s from the way people walk with a skip in their step, but it’s also from the feel of the office. You see that in a lot of the modern day titans that I alluded to earlier, that they have got it figured out. There are more open concepts where people can collaborate. We still need some closed offices for certain departments, but I think it is almost incumbent on somebody who wants to be successful to take the time to think about that.
And I don’t think you always need high-end furniture. A great example is a company down in Dallas, Texas, called Ambit Energy and they are a billion dollar company. They are in the energy space. They resell electricity and other products. And I visited their office just some time ago. They went from zero to a billion dollars a year in eight short years and I was fascinated. And I walked into their office and the executives, we’re talking the top seven employees, four of them who are founders, they are all in the same office in the same room and they are all using the same six foot tables that they used when they were a startup.
And it is amazing to me and it just spoke so loudly to me that it was a reminder that they needed to stay humble and remember where they started from. Even though they were profitable and growing, it was also an example to other people about fiscal responsibility. And it just spoke volumes to me.
I think that firstly, your physicality will definitely lend to your culture. It will help you to grow faster. It is also very prudent for you when you – listen, I learned this the wrong way when I raised funds one time for one of my businesses and I spent it like a drunken sailor. And it took me three years to become whole with those investors. It was from my next company that I actually managed to pay them back. And it made me realize that when somebody trusts you enough to invest in your company, they are not investing in your product, they are not investing what you are selling to people, they are investing in the guy running the ship. Their proverbial horse in the race is the CEO of the company, it is the leader, and if somebody is going to give you their hard-earned money, which obviously they had to make twice as much money as what they gave you, then it is incumbent on you to be a steward of that money and to do the right things with it.
John: I couldn’t agree more and you bring up a great point about staying humble and staying grounded and for me, it takes on a number of different tasks at our company. I can order water and have it brought in. We are a successful company. I rather go and get the six gallon big pails. I put it in my truck. I drive out to home depot, I put them in the back of my truck and I bring them back in the office and somebody said to me, “Why do you do that?” And I said, “Why wouldn’t I do that?”
Ken: Yep, absolutely. It’s like at my publishing company. We have a company car at the office. It’s my personal vehicle. I have a Volkswagen Tuareg, a little SUV and every day that I am not at the office, my car is there and the employees drive that car.
I pay for it personally, it does not come out of company funds and the reason I do that is because I have investors who have invested in my company and so, it is incumbent on me to make sure that I deliver value. But also, dude, I have been in a place where I did not know if I was going to meet payroll. And I know what a dollar’s worth and I am willing to stretch it as far as anybody.
John: You have to. When you lose the value of a dollar, you are in big trouble. Now, you like most great entrepreneurs ask the question: not what, but why? I have heard throughout your entire time here today the “why” come out of all your conversations, “but why, why this, why that?” I think our listeners need to grasp this and hold on to it as most great entrepreneurs ask not “what”, but they all ask “why?” And what tip would you give a CEO or an entrepreneur who is trying to build a great brand and a great culture in today’s market?
Ken: For about three years, my publishing company was a part time venture that I started just to support the launch of my own books and I have read over a thousand leadership books. I have had a chance to travel all over the world and speak at both sales, prospecting and leadership. And one of the things that I have told my own clients in my consulting practice is that is “why is more important than what.” There are many speeches. One little tag line that isn’t leaving my mind right now is about how I go through this exercise with CEOs, where I ask them three questions. If not you, then who? If not this, then what? And then if not now, then why?
And I focus on why because it’s the one thing that is going to keep you going in the hard times and so when I decided to take my business seriously, I had four people working with me. They were co-owners. We literally took a day and got away from everything and we sat down and we said “why?”
We spent a whole day – Simon Sinek wrote an amazing book called “Start with Why”. That is another one that I’ve read four times and I make all the executives in my company read it. I ask them to read it and they do, but I shouldn’t actually say “make them” because it’s definitely not that way but the point is, we came out of a full day lock-down intensive with the statement for our company and it was changing the way people write, read and experience books. That’s our mantra; that’s what we live for and it’s our “why.”
We have a deep desire to have an impact on books and to make sure that they always stay at the center of people’s lives and the reason it’s important to find what your “why” is that along the journey another reason that businesses fail is distraction. You’ll come up with ideas that you think can propel your business: different product lines, different revenue streams, different verticals that you want to operate and different customers, and the people who have not defined what their “why” is in their own companies typically make wrong decisions there. They get into the different areas of their business and they get their focus from what makes the money and they fail, but the time they realize they’re failing, it’s too late to pull out and of course, they can’t even get investors then because nobody wants to invest in a failing business. But if you have your “why” defined, then it becomes your litmus test and any time you think of doing anything new, hiring anybody new and going in any different direction, you always stop and ask yourself, “Is this aligned with our ‘why?'”, and it is the differentiator between success and failure in business.
John: Ken, talking to you today as well as the number of other successful business owners, the one comment read is about people and it’s about having great people around you. What would be the tip that you would give to the young entrepreneurs who are trying to attract good people?
Ken: The most important thing that I would say to people is that if you’re going to start a business, and it’s going to be a big business, then you better get thick-skinned because the greatest thing about business is people and the worst thing about business is people. They will lie to you, they will cheat you, they will mislead you and in spite of that, you have to love them and it is absolutely in my opinion, impossible to decide if somebody is right or wrong for your business in an interview. You can do reference checks. There are really great companies you can hire if you’re hiring sales people now. I always use a sales test, an aptitude test that you can get online, I won’t tell you because I don’t think I should endorse one or the other as there are many of them. That then tells me if somebody has a natural propensity, if they are naturally built to be a good salesperson but even those things can’t find and identify the flaws in the people.
And here’s what I think is important. Here’s what I’ve always done. There are two things that come to mind right now. Number one, you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with and number two, like attracts like.
In the interviewing process, it’s very important for whoever is doing the interview, the interviewer, to tell the candidate exactly what your culture is, to say what average people do in your company and to be very transparent about what this person is getting into. You’ll scare off the bad ones right away. What I’ll say in the interview to the people is “Look, we’re an early stage of a company here. Average folks that are in office, the clock says 9 to 5 is when you work, but 90% of our work forces in the office before 7:30 in the morning and nobody leaves at 5 o’clock.
I see people in our office till 7 o’clock, till 9, and there’s no overtime. I can’t tell you that’s where you need to be because there are people that get there at nine and leave at five but the fact is, that is the culture that we’ve created here. I just want to let you know that. Not because I’ll tell you what you have to do because I can’t, obviously, by law, but if you’re a person who wants a nine-to-five job, then you might feel a little bit uncomfortable around here. The other thing is there is a whole bunch of open, excited people all the time and if you’re somebody who needs your private time and don’t really like people, that might not work well for you either.
So tell me about yourself.I phrase that way in purpose in the interview process because they know the expectation and then I ask them to tell me about themselves and, typically, we see people eliminating themselves in the interview process because of that. The other thing is once you get them hired, you’re still going to run into situations where the right people aren’t on the right seats on the bus and you’re going to have to let people go. If you’re starting a business where you’re hiring people, know the rules. Know what you’re legally allowed to do and what you can’t do. Treat people with honor and follow the rules.
John: Good advice. Great advice. Now, what’s the most common mistake you see the same young entrepreneurs make time and time again?
Oh, gosh, it’s the same mistake I made in my first business. Again, I read this in several of Jim Rowan’s books, it’s one of his favorite sayings. Zig Ziggler said it. There’s a man named Noam Wasserman. You may not have heard of this book because it’s newer. It’s called the Founder’s Dilemma.
I coached young entrepreneurs, and now they’re starting businesses. I’m actually coaching an amazing, young entrepreneur who started a watch company called Waypoint watches and if you’re looking for a great watch and amazing value, go to waypointwatches.com. This guy came to me just after he started his business. He had literally spent all of his money on making these incredible watches but he ran out of money for marketing and sales. And the watches are amazing. They’re incredible, good quality watches and it was really sad because when I found out what the challenge was with him. It was Zig Ziggler’s old saying, and Jim Rowan’s, that “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”
Noam Wasserman got his masters and his PhD at Princeton and his thesis was on a hundred different owners of modern day companies, how they failed, how they learned and how they grew. One of the greatest examples that he uses through the book is the story of the founder of Twitter. His name is Evan and the early companies he went wrong with and what was learned, and how Twitter became successful. So that’s a book that is very important for anybody to read right now so for whomever is listening to us, read, “Founder’s Dilemma” by Noam Wasserman.
It’s amazing. I wished I published it. But the point is, where Mike felt short with Waypoint watches, and where we corrected him now, is he didn’t have a business plan, a real business plan. So that’s number one. I see that most often young entrepreneurs have never written a proper business plan, have never got proper coaching or advice and have never put their businesses together properly, and because they haven’t done so, they put it together and fail. The second thing that goes along with that is some of them put business plans together but they never get it reviewed by somebody who has expertise. There are many entrepreneurs like me who have done okay and some businesses that are more than happy to help young entrepreneurs and give them some guidance and review business plans.
Now, of course, I run my own companies and I consult. So I have limited time to do it, but every once in a while, I find a project that I get intrigued by and I want to help the kid, and that’s the story of Waypoint watches. I think that’s the answer to the question. They don’t ever plan their businesses out, they don’t go and get advice and they don’t validate that their ideas are good. They get so bloody fired about it that they don’t even realize that they have a bad idea.
John: They think that’s the great idea. No one else does.
Ken: Right. Exactly.
John: To my listeners, guys, pay attention. He just gave you a phenomenal piece of advice that’s priceless. Ken, we’re going to move to the lightning round because you’ve been very generous with your time and I want to respect that. Ken, what book changed your life?
Ken: Oh, that’s easy. It’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, Og Mandino’s book is a classic. I read it 18 years ago when I was lost and trying to transition my career, and it made me realize that I had all the abilities in the world and actually, this very year, I’m releasing a book as a tribute to Og Mandino, called “The Greatest Prospector in the World.” It comes out in October. It’s already been reviewed by 11 New York Times bestselling authors and all indications are that it is going to hit the New York Times bestsellers list. So yeah, “The Greatest Salesman in the World” has been amazing.
John: Great book. What is your “go to” quote for inspiration?
Ken: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Every time that I get to do to a situation, it’s PDCA (Plan, do, check and adjust). Warren Woodward is one of the top 20 leadership experts in the world and is my personal mentor and he coaches me every day. He owns a hundred million dollar leadership development company that I can actually introduce you. You would obviously be interested in meeting him and he developed a business checking system called PDCA: plan, then do it, then check it and make adjustments where necessary and “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is definitely my “go to” quote.
John: What company other than yours do you admire the most as it relates to culture?
Ken: You can’t ask me for just one.
John: Yeah. I don’t want to use a lot of your time because you’re very generous. You’re going to have to limit it.
Ken: Yeah. Right away, there are several that come to mind. I love Facebook, I love what’s going on there. I love Google. I love what all of the new modern companies are doing to help people. If I had to narrow it down to one company and one culture, I think it’s going to be really difficult for me to do that. I actually had the chance to visit with a really neat little company one time and I don’t know if I even want to mention their name, but I can tell you that I’ll use the classic example because it illustrates it.
Google has it going on. They have created such an amazing, vibrant culture in what they’re doing in their company and everything that you need to use to build your own culture, you can see throughout the fiber of what they’re doing.
John: Now if you have to describe the culture of your company using three words, what would it be?
Ken: Oh gosh, I would say, be transparent, be excited and be focused.
John: Great. Now, Ken, how can our listeners contact you and connect. Maybe you have an email, maybe you can share it with your listeners?
Ken: Yeah, I’d love to. Be patient if you email me. That’s going to take a bit of time, likely some time for me to get back to you, but you can get me very easily at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also very active on Facebook and Twitter and social medias, as I do it all personally. You can also just check with the company’s website. If you want ongoing sales training advice or advice on building your business, then check out greatestprospector.com. Get on that list and I definitely would be able to help you there.
John: Anything you want to tell to our listeners about books coming up soon, they would be interested in?
Ken: Yeah. I have an event coming up in Las Vegas, Nevada from June 4th to 7th. I believe in people writing books and we’re doing an event called the “Reader’s Legacy Writers’ Conference” where we have eleven New York Times bestselling authors coming to town. Tickets are very discounted right now. It’s really easy. Readerslegacywritersconference.com. I will tell you secretly that at that event, I’m going to blow the lid off the publishing industry as secretly behind the scenes for three years, we have been building a website that industry experts say is the combination of Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads all in one site. Where every person who loves books gets a page and every book in the world has a page. You can buy books there, you can share books there. If you’re not there, you can advertise your books there and it’s all for free and that’s launching at that event on June 7.
John: One more time, that event?
John: Perfect. Ken, I can’t thank you enough for spending the time with us. I never end the show without sharing with my guest my favorite quote which by Maya Angelou which is “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel,” and we certainly hope we made you feel welcome, we hope you feel valued, and we certainly hope that you feel that you want to come back and visit us again.
Ken: Absolutely John. It’s been a pleasure to be with you and I’m really proud of what you’re actually doing with your podcast.
John: We enjoy it. There’s one favor I’d like to ask before you go. In your travels, if you meet a young entrepreneur, someone who you think will bring value to our listeners, would you please send them my way?
Ken: Oh, absolutely.
John: I wish you the very best and you will come back to see us, right?
John: Super. Thanks so much and be well, my friend.
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