In this episode, Stacy sits down with seasoned entrepreneur and consultant, Thor Conklin of Peak Performance Group. The two discuss how to make a business more profitable, and why he qualifies the psychology of success in one word: “Execution”!
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Stacy Jones: 00:00
Welcome to marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of Influencer Marketing and Branded Content Agency Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for topics first to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money, whether you are doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.
Speaker 2: 00:30
Welcome to marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.
Stacy Jones: 00:35
Welcome to marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. I’m Stacy Jones. I’m so happy to be here with you all today. I want to give a very warm welcome to Thor Conklin who is joining us to discuss his over 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur and consultant.
Through his consulting firm Peak Performance Group Thor teaches the tools, tips, tricks, psychology and strategies necessary to be a peak performer. He has started, bought and sold several multimillion dollar businesses making him a sought after resource for entrepreneurs and executives in all stages of business. Today we’re going to talk about how to create a more profitable business and why you qualify as the psychology of success in one word, execution. We’ll learn what’s worked from Thor’s experience, what maybe could be avoided and where others are missing the mark. Thor welcome.
Thank you very much.
Stacy Jones: 01:18
Well I’m so happy to have you here today and I would love for you to start off and tell all of our listeners a little bit more about you and what got you to where you are today.
Yeah, you know I really need to modify that bio because the one piece that is missing is the crash and burn. I actually burned down one company and it’s really interesting because the basis of what we do is profitability consultant because even you want to get to the next level, you need the profits in order to do that and execution is a big piece of that. And I had a business that it was actually my fifth business and I couldn’t figure out how to make a profit. And I literally had to close the company. Without profits it doesn’t exist. And it’s through those lessons, the failures, is really the thing that actually gave me the ability to do profitability consulting. I joke all the time, like profitability consulting, how’d you end up doing that? I was like, hey, I couldn’t figure out how to make a profit.
Just don’t do what I did. So that’s a really, really big piece of it. You know, I find so often as entrepreneurs and as business leaders, we always want to avoid the failures, but it’s those failures that bring us to our successes. When we were born, we really didn’t know how to do really much. We could breathe but besides that everything else we had to learn. And I think as we get to be adults, we stop wanting to learn because we don’t want to fail. So I’m always encouraging our clients to learn to fail and learn to love it.
Stacy Jones: 02:48
Well, that is a great philosophy. I mean, if you’re not failing at something in life then you’re probably not challenging yourself enough in some direction.
Stacy Jones: 02:57
So that is what led you to start your company.
Stacy Jones: 03:01
Okay. So was this business number six after business number five?
Yeah, I mean [inaudible 00:03:08] due to no profits. Why not start a profitability consulting firm?
Stacy Jones: 03:12
Yeah, I didn’t want, I learned so many lessons through that process that I really did not want to see any other entrepreneurs suffer what I suffered. I went through a divorce. It was not a good time. My business was failing. It was, it was a really tough time and I saw a lot of entrepreneurs around the, I’m part of an organization called the Entrepreneurs Organization Worldwide Group, and I saw a lot of other entrepreneurs that on the surface everything looked great, but right below the surface there was a lot of pain and I wanted to take those lessons and teach as many people as possible so they didn’t have to go through what I went through.
Stacy Jones: 03:52
That’s great. I think that is, you know, within any business sector you’re having that with a person who’s at the top who doesn’t always have the ability to talk to others and who’s shielding a lot from their staff of course about what the true essence of their company is if they are having some issues.
Yeah, it’s tough. I mean because there’s so many people relying on you.
Stacy Jones: 04:13
You’ve got an entire team, you’ve got their families, there’s a lot of people depending on you as an entrepreneur when you have a team behind you.
Stacy Jones: 04:20
Yeah. Okay, so you started the company and did they just come, did people say, oh my gosh, I don’t know how to make a profit either. Here I am.
We totally missed the mark on our marketing. We were a disaster. So it’s funny you bring this up because it was about eight months into the business and of course a couple of months we’re actually planning and getting things going and I remember we’re coming towards the end of the year. My team came to me about eight months in and said, so, so how are we doing? Is this working? And we had one client, our total revenues for the first eight months were $1,500.
Stacy Jones: 05:01
Oh, it was working for your employees, just not for you.
Exactly they were getting paid. And they said is this going to work? I’m like, of course. This is exactly the way they all start. You know, this is, we’re on track and I remember in private going, wow, I think I missed something. It’s interesting talking about marketing and positioning is I positioned us with people that were like me that were going through the same scenario and I was marketing into that segment. I just wasn’t getting any traction. And all of a sudden someone who knew me quite well had a very successful company and he said, Thor, I need you to come in. I want you to work with our entire management team and I want you to take us to the next level. Highly successful company, but we’re missing something. We need somebody to ask the questions we’re not asking, to see the things we’re not seeing, hold us accountable and to walk alongside of us and help us pivot as we go through this process.
And boom, and you know, four years later, what I find is, you know, our ideal client is making, 72% of our clients make a million dollars a year in personal income. And our target market is those entrepreneurs that are making at least a half a million dollars in personal income and had the vehicle to get them to a million dollars. And when we started, you know, I was looking for somebody that had a two, three, four million dollar business that was struggling. They just couldn’t figure out how to make a profit. And I thought we would connect on that basis. And that was our market. I was completely off.
Stacy Jones: 06:37
Well, so obviously you figured it out because you’re still here today.
Exactly we figured it out. We found our market, we found our niche and I’m sure it’s going to continue to evolve. You know, I was joking with one member of our team and I said, I don’t know if it’s us or if it’s our clients, but we have like a 70% divorce rate amongst our clients. I’m like, I think we have to like, you know, bring that into the mix as well. Why are our clients going through divorces or have been through? I’m just hoping that the entrepreneur divorce rate is up near the 70s and it’s not us.
07:16 Yeah, that would be a good thing.
I don’t want to be known as the guy that causes the divorce.
Stacy Jones: 07:20
No, no. I have a feeling for entrepreneurs there’s enough stress in life that that is probably what the driver is there.
Yeah. Well you know it’s, and it’s interesting too because clients come because of the business number one. But it’s interesting because the things that are affecting their business in many cases are components of the business. But so often it’s the other three pillars that we work on and that’s the mental health, physical health and relationships. And not just with spouses, but with family, with employees, with vendors, with customers. They tend to struggle in that relationship piece and those wounds or those issues affect them in the boardroom.
Stacy Jones: 08:04
Okay. It’s just the bottom dollar cost of doing business if they don’t deal with them.
Exactly. Exactly. It can get very painful.
Stacy Jones: 08:13
Okay, so what is your approach when you bring in a client? How are you addressing these things? How are you helping them get back on track?
Yeah, so the thing that we’re always looking for is what is that one thing, that root problem, and we’ll talk more about this at the end of the show for each of those scenarios. What is that one, one thing and so often, you know, we hear back at, Oh, I’m having trouble with marketing, I’m having trouble with sales, I’m having trouble with the team. And when we dig into it, that’s really not the problem. That’s a symptom and they’re trying to attack the symptoms. And what ends up happening is they, they resolve that symptom and what ends up happening, the virus, the problem pokes its head up again and it’s this constant battle of putting out fires because they’re attacking the symptom, not the problem.
Stacy Jones: 09:01
o that’s what we’re always looking for. What is that one thing that if we could fix that, everything else would fall in line?
Stacy Jones: 09:08
And is it always something different or is there something that’s usually similar?
It’s different in every case. That’s a great question. It’s very unique to each particular CEO and entrepreneur.
Stacy Jones: 09:22
Okay. Are there certain buckets that it falls into usually?
Yes. A big one is boundaries. Them understanding who they are, what they’re there to do, and putting themselves first. And I know this doesn’t sound very popular or politically correct. Well, what ends up happening so often is that the leader of the organization, one of the things we destroy is open door policies. If you have an open door policy, please stop it today. That basically says that everyone else’s problems, issues and concerns are more important than what you’re doing in that moment. They don’t have boundaries with social media and the telephone and email and people coming into the office. You have a job to do as the leader of the organization and you need to stay focused and you need to have boundaries. I can now, I can’t tell you the number of flags, I have this one client, I got him flags for all the offices that say busy and when the flag goes up that means they’re working on something.
Do not go in if the flags up. I’ve put up like where they have glass doors, put up shades they draw the shade because if either they had a sticker on the door that said, hey, do not disturb. People would still walk in and when you allow that to happen over and over again, you’re basically putting yourself second and everything that you’re working on as a second priority to every [inaudible 00:10:43].
Stacy Jones: 10:45
[inaudible 00:10:45] is a big one. [inaudible 00:10:55] is another big one. You know, nobody including myself likes to have people lead the company that aren’t a good fit, but we tend to hold onto employees much longer than we should. If you think about if you took every single one of the employees that work for you and you just took them out of the jobs and just kind of moved them to the left or to the right for a moment and you had no employees and I said, okay, your new job is to find the perfect employee for each of those seats. Now imagine that for a moment. Now, what’s the difference in your company? What issues exist? How many things do you need to get involved in now? It’s resolved. It’s the people so often that are driving the results or lack of results or lack of execution.
Stacy Jones: 11:38
And I’m assuming when you’re doing that and you’re moving those people out of their seats and now there’s empty seats, part of that equation is looking at those people that you just moved if you would actually move any of them back in again.
Right. Absolutely. Right. I mean, how often do we [inaudible 00:11:51]find somebody, train them? It’s not fun. It’s not fun at all. It takes a lot of time and what we tend to do also is with great people, how much time do we spend with our great people making them greater? It’s the people that aren’t responding that we try to keep, get, build them up, build them up. Take your best people and train the heck out of them. Make them exceptional. Those that aren’t a good fit, train them, but if they can’t move along, they’re just not going to be a good fit for your company or should not be a good fit for your company.
Stacy Jones: 12:27
Right, and they’re probably not that happy there either.
Oh No. And they affect everybody else.
Stacy Jones: 12:33
Yeah. There’s nothing like one really bad, bad apple in the bunch because that whole saying everyone soon starts rotting.
Stacy Jones: 12:43
Any other things that are a fit in that bucket?
The relationship piece is a big piece. You know when things are not good with your relationships at home, with employees, with yourself. You don’t show up being the executive, the entrepreneur of a business owner that you need to be. Because this is a contact sport. It requires 100% of your energy and focus and that little energy drain from things that shouldn’t be there can really demolish a company.
Stacy Jones: 13:18
Okay. And so what is the next step that you do? How do you start working more so with individuals? You have identified a problem.
Yes, it comes down to execution and accountability. Laying out a very specific plan, an annual plan, whether it’s a two year, three year or annual plan, and then reverse engineering that down to the month where there’s milestones to be hit each month with accountability of scoreboard, we know exactly what’s going to be measured. And then weekly, how do we get to the, like for example, right now when we’re recording this, it’s the beginning of June. All of my clients know exactly where they need to be by July 1st and we’re looking at each week, the second week in June, the third week, the fourth week in June. What targets do we need to hit? As long as we’re hitting those, great, but many times we’re not, so we need to pivot from there. So it’s not about trying to get to the year end goal, it’s about trying to get to this weeks goal because we know if we get to this weeks, we have a chance of getting this months, we get this months we have a chance of getting next month.
Stacy Jones: 14:19
And that’s not saying that the individual at the lead, the CEO level is the one that is being measured on getting the company to all of those points. It’s the organization as a whole.
Absolutely. You know, you’ve got to drive accountability down within the organization. If it’s just the CEO and that’s what ends up happening so often, right? They’re the ones lifting, you know, carrying everything, carrying the heavy burden. And you need to have a team underneath you where they’re accountable and they have tangible goals to hit each and every month.
Stacy Jones: 14:51
And is there a structure you put in place that you think measures best to keeping people accountable?
Thor: 14:57 Short ones. We talk a lot about micro commitments, micro commitments, or just taking any sort of goal and then making a commitment today. You know, I would say that let’s say you want to get in shape. I don’t care what you do tomorrow, but today just decide for the next 16 hours before you go to bed. I’m going to exercise this way. I’m going to eat this way and tomorrow I can do anything that I want.
Same thing in business. Just decide what you’re going to do for the next 16 hours until you go to bed tonight. Tomorrow you can do anything. You don’t even have to come to work, you know? But each day make a new commitment to yourself. It’s kind of like waking up on what Groundhog’s Day, right? That movie, you know, it’s just, it’s a brand new day. Just but again, just make it, we try to do these things. We try to bite too much off. Last year I was not a swimmer, not a runner, not a runner, swimmer, biker. And I’m say, all right, what can I do this year as a big goal?
Stacy Jones: 15:53
I’m like, no, I’m going to do an Ironman. Yeah. So I’m like, I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I had to go 140.3 miles in the race.
I actually did two of them within 30 days because my coach told me I couldn’t do two in 30 days. So of course as a guy it was like, he was telling me I can’t do it. I got to do it.
Stacy Jones: 16:14
Game on. So it wasn’t about the race when I was, you know, a year ahead of time or nine months ahead of time doing the training. It was just, you know, it was about that particular lap. It wasn’t about the next phase. And I remember in the race, I got to the point where I was doing the run and it wasn’t about finishing 26 miles. It was about running to that little signpost. And then when I got to that, it was like, all right, I made it. Now let me just set another little goal. Yeah, that little cone over there, another 20 feet and it was just 20 feet after 20 feet after 20 feet.
And before you’d know it, you end up completing the entire thing. But in business, what do we want to do? We want to go from here to there in one step.
Stacy Jones: 16:58 Yes, we’d like to make the million dollars next week.
Of course. So what do we do? We shoot for the moon. In our marketing programs, we invest everything into one thing and just throw it, throw the whole, you know, store at it. Not a good strategy.
Stacy Jones: 17:13
What else can you suggest for our listeners to learn from?
You know, in marketing, one of the things that I found is every one loves the new buzz word, the new idea, the new thing that everyone’s on board with. I always like to take my clients and myself and my organization and go the opposite way. If everyone’s doing this, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, but I want to spend some time, doing things that others are not doing. I remember I had a manufacturing company and I had a mentor of mine tell me, he said, Thor, you know what if you decided that after your customer bought all this equipment, that went into nail salons.
It was pedicure chairs, pedicure tubs. What if your customers bought the equipment? And then in 30 days they didn’t like it and they could return it for a full refund? And I’m like, are you insane? You know, what am I going to do with all this used equipment? And he goes, well, do you, are you sure that anybody would actually return it? I’m like, no. But I mean, you know, we’re talking $30,000 worth of merchandise on a typical salon. This could get expensive.
Stacy Jones: 18:23
Or a big warehouse.
Well, I had big warehouses. Unfortunately that was not the problem. So he goes, well, would you be willing to try? I’m like, I don’t know. I’m kind of scared about this. But I said, you know what, I’m going to take a leap of faith. And I did it. And in four and a half years only had one customer return the equipment and it’s because it didn’t match their salon.
So they had it for 20 days or 10 days or something like that. They returned it. Now I had used equipment, I couldn’t sell it at full price, right? So I gave them new equipment. So now I had a set of used equipment and the new one was gone and I said you know, and the margin on that was basically 50% we bought it for a thousand sold it for two thousand so I said, what if I put this in the showroom and I decide to sell it for $1,600. I’ll put a little sign, it’s been used in a salon for 10 days. It took one day to sell it. So I had a full sale on the one sale. Another customer came in and I sold it at a 600 dollar mark up on each piece of equipment. They were thrilled and I was like, wait a second, this thing that I was so scared of has actually now turned into an opportunity.
And from that I said, what if we decided to buy used equipment from the salons? So I created a marketing strategy that said, hey, don’t know what to do with your used equipment? Trade it in like a car. My team thought I was nuts. What are we going to do with all of this used equipment coming down? I’m like refurbish it and then resell it on the secondary market. They’re like, there is not a secondary market. I’m like, well let’s create one.
Stacy Jones: 20:01
And there’s salon owners who don’t have a lot of money, there have to be.
Absolutely and that’s exactly what ended up happening. And the funny thing is is that the, the retail price of the equipment was like $2,600 but it always got sold for $2,000 I mean that that was just, everyone just got you down to $2,000 because that’s what the market was going for.
So I put out some marketing material that said, come on in, trade in your old equipment just like your car, prices, you know, $2,600 come in for your trade in price. So people would come in and they’re like, how much would you give us for used equipment?
Stacy Jones: 20:38
[inaudible 00:20:39] $600. I gave him 600 bucks. I got right back down to my 2000 without the trade in. They don’t have to worry about their old equipment. I brought that in refurbish it and would fill that for $1,600. That became our most profitable area just by doing things differently. Nobody else in the industry did it.
But when everyone else is marketing the same way, figure out what your client needs and figure out a way to meet those needs. Go the opposite way. You know, I’m a big, big fan now go old school. I had somebody on my show recently that was a concert promoter and he said, you know what they’re doing their biggest, most successful marketing campaign is putting flyers on cars, old school, right. Back in the 70s how did you find out about concert? You went to the shopping mall and then stuck on your windshield under the windshield wiper what was that was a flyer. So some of the things that’s worked in the past that everyone has moved away from, start implementing some of those. Try those out because they don’t have the same crowded, noisy areas that everybody else is shouting.
Stacy Jones: 21:54
Well, it’s like direct mail for businesses. I’m not saying for consumers right now, none of us want more consumer mail, but B2B direct mail campaigns are starting to show that they really work again because businesses get such little amounts of it.
Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, if you’re a contractor and you’re in the neighborhood, you know, put up a little sign next to the truck where you’re doing some work. We’re in the neighborhood, we’re giving a special to the neighbors, knock on some doors, put out some flyers, go shake a hand, talk to someone, have a conversation. People want to do business with people they know.
Stacy Jones: 22:28
Yeah, that makes sense.
So on the marketing, get creative, try it and if it doesn’t work, who cares? Don’t go all in. Be Smart, but try different tactics.
Stacy Jones: 22:42
That’s excellent advice. Was there anything else you wanted to share today with our listeners?
You know, we talked about the execution and you know when, when the rubber meets the road, it’s all about the execution and it’s generally things getting in the way. The fires that are burning, the things that are easy to do, the things that we like to do. Have a plan, draw out that plan the night before, set that plan on your calendar and then just run your calendar, put up those boundaries, stick to that schedule and knock the things out that are most important and just, you know, it doesn’t have to get resolved. Just move it ahead one percent. If you took something and you just moved it ahead one percent every single day, you’re done in about 70 days with compounding. It’s done. A hundred percent done. It’s not about the big move, it’s about the small little incremental things.
[inaudible 00:23:45] actually on Facebook every Monday, I talk about my failures within the last week, getting ready to do, this year I’m not doing an Ironman I’m doing a bodybuilding show. No laughing. I still have a bunch of fat to lose. I still have a bunch of muscle to put on, but I’m like, you know what? I’m just going to do it and I’m trying to get to my goals each week and I’m, I’m failing. I keep missing my mark, but I get on every single Monday and I have fun. I said, you know what? Try it again. I failed I think six weeks in a row.
Stacy Jones: 24:13
That’s because you enjoyed eating.
Well, exactly. I’m still down nine pounds. So you know, at this rate of failure, I’m going to be at my ultimate goal in the next, you know, eight weeks. So I’m making progress. I’m just not hitting what I wanted to hit each week. But, and each week I end up with more distinctions. If you’re not going out, you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. Set the big goals, go after them, fail along the way, learn, adjust, pivot.
Stacy Jones: 24:41
That is awesome advice. Now, how can our listeners get ahold of you or I understand that you have a phenomenal offer that you’re extending.
Thank you. So social media everywhere. Store at Conklin, website is [email protected] If you own a business and you’re struggling with something, if you send me the biggest issue that your business is struggling with a 50 word or less email to [email protected] I will respond back with a four step system that will absolutely eliminate that problem or at the very worst, greatly reduce it so it’s no longer the biggest issue. This is a personalized email back from me. It may take me a couple of weeks to respond to all the inquiries, so please bear with me, but I will do that personally.
Stacy Jones: 25:28
That is very nice of you and we will include that in the show notes. So all of you listeners you can visit the show notes and you will be able to see that information in case you’re walking, driving, biking, or doing whatever you might be doing while you’re listening. Perfect. Well, Thor, thank you again, really greatly appreciate having you on today and to all of our listeners, thank you so much for tuning into marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. And we will chat on our next podcast.
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