3 Pennies & A Bowl Of Lint…that’s just about all the money I had to start an online business. Knowing that I didn’t have access to capital, strong business networks, or talent, I had to work 18 hours a day, 6-7 days a week for years to get things going.
Challenge after challenge came my way:
Boom, you don’t qualify financially to advertise with us…FUCK YOU, I’m not giving up.
Critics, haters, and crazy stalkers…FUCK YOU, I’m not giving up.
Landing page doesn’t convert…FUCK YOU, I’m not giving up.
Merchant processor caps the growth…FUCK YOU, I’m not giving up.
Litigation, personal life challenges, new regulations, yada yada yada…FUCK YOU, I’m not giving up.
Every time I got knocked down I’d force myself up and keep going…no matter how bad it hurt. Over time things started to come together, my business started to gain traction, and I was able to spawn off new services and product offerings. The barrier-to-entry started to lower, and I gained access to the capital, talent, and networks I’d always shot for. The train had left the station and was picking up speed.
One day I sat down and started to think about the core values that I had adopted that allowed a broke, tarnished, beaten down guy like myself to get back up and succeed in unlikely circumstances and times. Through a lot of thought and consideration, my business partner and I memorialized the following values that took us from rags to riches:
Our Core Values
1. Take Ownership & Pride In Everything You Do
2. Operate Harder & Smarter Than All Competition
3. Laser Focus On Projects & Goals
4. Perfectionists & Executionists Only
5. Go Hard Or Go Home
6. No Excuses, No Problems – Always Deliver Solutions
7. Never Rest On Your Laurels
8. No Paralysis By Analysis
9. Maintain A Constant Sense Of Urgency
10. Live Like A Honey Badger
Through sheer tenacity and unwavering determination, in less than 4 years I had turned several concepts into viable businesses that provided work to over 300 people worldwide. It was an exciting time!!!
Then all of a sudden this past summer I lost ALL motivation. I found myself NOT wanting to go within a 5 mile radius of the company office, the entrepreneurial adventure turned into “painful work,” and I started despising a lot of the people I worked with.
What in the hell happened to the once vivacious spirit I possessed for Direct Response Marketing? Why was I dreading the work that I once so passionately pursued? Had I changed? Where was my MOJO?!?
For months I toiled away, just barely hanging in there. Then one day it got so bad that I froze all of the work on my plate to go into deep introspection. Something just wasn’t right inside the company. Every day I found myself dealing with the personal problems of my staff. There was non-stop bitching and whining going on:
Wahh wahh, I want a weekly draw of $1,000 if I don’t sell any accounts, even though this is a commission only job.
Wahh wahh, I want a raise. I’ve only been here for 6 weeks but I feel like I deserve more money.
Wahh wahh, you won’t pay for my apartment. Even though that’s my responsibility, I think you owe it to me.
Wahh wahh, our sales floor morale is down. Even though it is my job to keep it up, I’m going to cry to you about it because I can’t do my job.
Wahh wahh, 3 of my sales agents just quit on me without notice. It’s not my fault, it’s the company’s fault. I don’t accept responsibility for my job.
Wahh wahh, the leads seem like their down today and lately they seem like they’re not that good. Even though my sales agents are dialing 25-40 times a day when their dials are supposed to be at 150+, this is still not fair.
Wahh wahh, this job is so stressful. I just can’t wait for my vacation, even though I have misfired on just about every person I’ve recruited into the company.
Wahh wahh, I have an excuse for the 10+ people that are walking into work late everyday and leaving early. Even though it’s my job to write them up and hold them accountable, I’m not going to do that. Instead I’ll let the company’s clients suffer because I’m not going to do my job.
Wahh wahh, I’m not going to hold the customer service representatives responsible for missed deadlines, instead I’m going to let the clients suffer.
Holy fucking shit, the culture in my office had gone to hell!!! A large part of my staff was diametrically opposed to the vary core values that had once made us great.
Things had to change RADICALLY fast or else we were gonna go out of business.
I mapped out a plan to transform our culture back to the core values of its founders. The plan looked something like this:
Step 1: Hire a strong, no-nonsense COO that would command excellence.
Step 2: Fire everyone that doesn’t conform to Our Core Values that we honestly believe won’t have the ability to change. Additionally cut unnecessary positions, demote people in the wrong roles, and put questionable staff members under the microscope.
Step 3: Institute stringent hiring processes that vetted people first and foremost to ensure they 100% bought into our Core Values, and then ensured that they had the level of talent to succeed in our organization.
Step 4: Staff our way out of mediocrity by building an “A Player Only” roster of the most talented people in the world at their respective positions.
I executed the plan to the tee….
In less than 120 days, our entire culture changed with major improvements systemically.
What were the quantifiable results?
1. 1,090% increase in revenue comparing last January to this January.
2. Chargebacks were virtually eliminated. In the entire month of January we received 1 chargeback, and it was on the VERY LAST day of the month, lol.
3. The bitching, whining, and complaining was eliminated. People are in our company now that want to be here and truly believe in our value system. Anyone that doesn’t finds themselves quickly overwhelmed with work and either quits or gets fired.
4. Our entire staff is making WAY more money now. We’re paying top dollar for talent who in turn drives multiple times that in revenue for the company.
5. Service level is way up. We’re launching new offers left and right around here. It’s a truly exciting time in the company!!
6. There’s a lot of outside investors coming into the company, infusing us with capital to take us to the next level. TV, R&D, C-Level A Player Executive Talent!!!
I cannot emphasize how important it is for the future of our company to maintain Our Core Value system. It doesn’t matter how well someone is performing their role in the future, or if they have the ability to make a positive impact from day 1, if they don’t fit our culture they’ll have to go…. Culture is #1!!!!
Tony Hsieh, CEO and Founder of Zappos.com, inspired us to make Our Culture the #1 priority. Here’s a great video on the Zappos Culture. BTW – checkout his book Delivering Happiness, great read.