WHAT A PHENOMENAL LETTER I JUST GOT FROM ONE OF OUR MEMBERS. From Randy Hansen: I make the left turn off the main road driving past the horses casually grazing in the early morning light. The tree leaves just starting to show their golds, reds, yellows and browns as fall colors gradually make their way down the mountains. It's one of the first mornings that you can really feel the chill of the changing seasons. I just love this time of year! I pull up to our 5000 square foot building sitting on 2.3 acres. And even though we've been in this building for 2 and half years already, I'm thinking to myself, “This is so awesome!” Nestled back here in the “holler” as it's called here in east Tennessee. A small stream runs along the back of the entire property. Trees and hills all around, it's really peaceful here. Sure, we could have bought a place closer to the main road but because we are a service business and most of our work is on location, we really didn't need to be on “Main Street”. This place suits us perfectly. It was originally built for two separate businesses. One side about 3400 square feet and the other side 1600. One side for operations and the other for our new Oriental Rug Cleaning Facility. Three BIG garage doors, plenty of office space. Plenty of space to park all the vans inside every night. Even room to park the third machine and van I just bought. I remember how much work is was just setting up to clean rugs at our old place. It certainly is a long way from where we started. The old place was my garage. Although it wasn't so bad. After eight years working out of a small two car garage, we built a two story addition. Twenty four by forty feet of glorious space. Office above, garage/rug plant/storage/mechanic shop below. I bought another truck and machine. I say bought, but it was on a lease. Yea, monthly payments. Paying interest. Debt. It was amazing how fast that space got real small. We hired our first employee. Then a second. We ran out of places to park. We had to start parking on the grass. Then we had an extremely rainy April. It turned into a huge mud hole. Mud everywhere! The driveway, muddy. The trucks, muddy. The garage, muddy. “Alright, that's it!” I calmly said to Amber, “we're moving this business out of our house!” They say, the best thing about working from home is, when you get up, you're at work. But I'm here to tell you, the worst thing about working from home is, when you get up you're at work! It took us two more years but everything fell into place. We were able to finance our new building, 100%, NOTHING DOWN. And it was all because we saw the value of coaching. Learn from those that have done what you want to do. Howard Partridge and Phenomenal Products has changed our lives. But I'm getting ahead of myself. You could say I married into the carpet cleaning business. My father-in-law was one of the early pioneers of on location carpet “steam cleaning” as a lot folks called it. Back in 1966 he and some buddies went on a ski trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming. He took a look around and said “This is the filthiest town I've ever seen!” Being a natural salesman, entrepreneur and having a background in building maintenance he immediately recognized the huge opportunity right under his feet, (Literally). He called his wife and said, “Pack up the kids, sell the house, we're moving to Jackson Hole.” That was the beginning of a family legacy that continues there today. I came along around 1984, when I married Amber, the only daughter. It wasn't too long after that Amber's oldest brother, Dave, offered me a job with the company. Dave had been a professional carpet cleaner since before he could drive. He helped test some of the newest truck mounted cleaning machines on the market. He would run them all week then send a report back to the manufacturer. I learned a lot from Dave in the three years working with him. Show up on time. Do what you said you would do. Respect the client's property. Not to mention the wisdom and technical know-how from years in the industry. Life has a way of preparing you for what lies ahead. Most times, however, we have no idea it's coming. It was around 1989 when my step-father asked if we would like to move to Gatlinburg, TN and run an old time photo shop. Both Amber and I had helped him with his store there in Jackson. We decided, “why not. Sounds like fun”. So we moved our young family to Tennessee. We did well with that business. It was hard on the family life. Amber would open in the morning while I stayed home with our almost two year old daughter, Amanda. Then we would hand off Amanda and I would work the afternoon to close shift. Sometimes not getting home till after 1 am. Over the next six years we bought a house, added another daughter, Ariana and helped open and setup two more locations. But, since it wasn’t our business, our dream, we really could only do so much. On July 16, 1992 one entire block of Gatlinburg burned down. Our main store was in that block. I was working that night. Someone ran into our store and yelled “the building's on fire get out!” I ran around to the front of the building and saw the flames coming out of the roof. I said, “they'll have that fire out in no time.” I watched the firemen fight that fire until 3am. A lot of thoughts ran through my head that night as I watched the flames grow higher and higher. What now? How are we going to make the house payment? How much is the insurance going to cover? Will life ever be the same? Of course the answer to that last question was “no”. We did rebuild that store in the new building that took the place of that burned out rubble. It took nearly a year, however and finances were really tight. It just wasn't the same. We never saw the same revenue as the old store. We operated the store for only a few more years before I realized that the old time photo business was not what I wanted to do. At all. Since we had moved to Tennessee, we had hired a few different carpet cleaning companies to clean for us. I discovered I could run down to the Piggly Wiggly, (that's pronounced Pig-ga-ly Wig-ga-ly here in the south) rent a cleaning machine, (spend two hours cleaning and fixing it) and using the professional cleaning supplies I ordered from Amber's dad, I could clean carpets just as good as these folks. I had always enjoyed the work of carpet cleaning. So when Amber's dad offered to help me get started by giving me a portable cleaning machine, I said, “sounds like a good idea.”. I knew the technical part, how to get carpet really clean. How hard could it be to start a business I know so much about? You don't know what you don't know. My father-in-law gave me some great advice. “If you want to be busy” he said “you need to let other people know”. So I launched my own business. I say “I” because Amber was still working full time at the photo shop. I was doing both. Taking the night shift and cleaning carpets during the day when I could. It was very part time. After the first full year I added up the gross sales. $3,032.55. I kept at it. I had big aspirations. I knew I could “clean circles around” my competition. I'm not sure why, but I was just really good at it. Even with that portable machine. So I started getting busier and busier. Finally, I was able to get a van and a new truck mounted cleaning machine. I still didn't have any money to buy it. I was able to get it on a lease. I had to put the down payment on a credit card which was just about maxed out already. So I kept working and working and eventually I was able to quit working at the photo store. I was earning about $30,000.00 a year at that time. I was the entire business. “Chief cook and bottle washer” as they say. Doing all the service work, answering the phone, scheduling, bookkeeping, everything. It was decided that Amber needed to help me. The first job I gave her was collecting past due accounts. I had about six very outstanding, overdue invoices, two of them over nine months. I told her, “I need you to collect on these accounts. And everything you collect, you get to keep for yourself and spend on anything you want.” It took her less than two weeks and every account was paid in full! Family relationships are a special thing. Anyone that has ever worked in a family business can tell you it is an entirely different challenge. Fortunately we were well aware that we would encounter some disagreements, arguments and all the regular things that all other businesses face. It didn't make it any easier. But for-knowledge is for-warned. Our business really took off then. We doubled our sales the first year Amber took over the office. She could answer the phones, do the scheduling and most of the office work and I was freed up to concentrate on providing the service. So we just kept working. Doing what everyone says you should do. “Keep your nose to the grindstone” “Put your shoulder to the wheel” “Keep your head down and work hard” “Never give up” “Think positive” That's what we did. And we were going along pretty good, we thought. Because at the end of each year we would stop for a minute, look up, add up what we did that year and if it was more than last year we said, “OK then, let's keep going” then put our heads back down and go back to work! We thought we were doing just great because we fell into the trap of comparing ourselves to other broke carpet cleaners. Compared to them we were doing GREAT! We were the highest monkey in the tree! Then it happened. In 2009-2010 the country experienced what the media called an “economic downturn”. I don't know about where you live but for us it was a good ole recession. It was the first year we did not do more than the previous year. In fact, it was substantially less than the previous year. About $40.000.00 less. For a small business like ours, that's huge. I got to run down to the bank, take out a home equity loan and borrow money just to pay the bills, make the payroll and kept the business from closing. Needless to say it was a very stressful time for us. We were desperate to get more business. And when is the worst time to buy advertising? That's right, when you're desperate. Those ad salesmen were like sharks and they could smell the blood in the water. We were willing to try anything we thought would bring in more business. We put an ad in the coupon mailer. We “sponsored” the local golf course yardage card. We placed a discount coupon in a large company employee benefits booklet. We mailed post cards. Just about anything that was destined to NOT work. We were even so desperate we dumped a bucket load of money into the back of the welcome wagon and watched it slowly roll into the sunset. With all our money in it! I'm just thankful groupon wasn't around just yet. Then I could have PAID someone to help me lose money! Napoleon Hill says in his book Think and Grow Rich, “Every adversity brings with it the seeds of an equivalent or greater benefit” Looking back, I realize there are three benefits that came from this adversity. First, It made us reevaluate everything we were doing. Scrutinizing every expenditure. “Do we really need this? How can we save money on that? Can we get that cheaper? What else can we do to save money? We looked at how we were operating and streamline our operations. We began scheduling buy routes and locations. We bought lower wattage light bulbs. Turned the heat down. Recycled paper clips! Yes. Really! In fact, I am pleased to announce, because of the fact that we have done so much, with so little, for so long....we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing! The second benefit came from reading an article in one of our trade magazines. The article explained the importance of tracking your sales so will know where your business is coming from. Light bulb! So, as part of our new phone process, we started asking a simple question, “How did you hear about us?” We started keeping track of the answers. We then adopted a new philosophy regarding advertising. “If it don't pay...it don't stay!” Now when the ad salesman/woman came by we would look at our ad performance and we got really good at saying no! No thanks, sorry, your ad didn't bring enough return so we'll not be renewing. The third, and without a doubt, the greatest benefit was the realization that we needed help. There had to be a better way. Everything we were doing just wasn't helping that much. I’m sure many of you have experienced that hamster in the wheel feeling. Yup, that’s what it felt like. Proverbs 15:22 “without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established” One day I was reading our industry trade magazine and there was a great article by Howard Partridge. I’ve read other articles he has written over the years and he always provided very valuable information. At the end of this article was an ad. It said, “Receive your FREE report and sign up for our FREE e-mail newsletter!” Hey! Here’s something I can afford! So I went online and started receiving emails for Howard. I looked forward to these emails! They were always positive, always encouraging and never once did I feel I was being “talked down to”. In fact, the feeling I got was “I’ve been there, I know what you’re going through, here’s something I think will help.” It wasn’t too long before I got an email inviting me to the Howard Partridge Round Table Mega, Huge, Colossal, something, something, conference. I clicked on the link…at first I thought, “how did he get all this stuff on one web page?” As I started to read he talked F.T.I. Failure To Implement. Then he explained why most businesses fail or don’t do as good as they should. You know what to do but you just don’t do it. How did he know? It was like he knew me. I’ve read a lot of books about business, personal development, and positive mental attitude. I’ve spent a lot of money on different marketing material sales strategies, all kinds of stuff. Yet, we we’re still struggling. I kept reading. Now I had to learn more. Then I saw the “investment” (as Howard has taught us to say) Only $297.00. AND you can bring your spouse for FREE! I re-read the entire web page, top to bottom, three times, there had to be a catch. Nope, that’s the deal. I had to get to this conference. Now the hard part. Convincing Amber we needed to go. This is going to take some careful planning. I waited until I knew we would both be working in our office. She needed to be in the right frame of mind. I brought up the web page on my computer then I causally mention, “You should really check this out”. “Doesn’t this look like something that could really help us?” “It’s only $297.00 AND YOU get to go FREE!” I said. “Fine, if you think it’s worth it, I’ll go.” Amber said. I think she saw it as a way to out of the house for a few days. WOO-HOO! Victory! We loaded the car and drove to Houston, TX. The first day was everything Howard said it would be. It was beyond phenomenal! Then Howard introduced the Inner Circle. He explained all the amazing benefits and privileges we would receive as members. You know how some married couples can have an entire conversation, without ever talking, just by looking at each other? Amber and I had one of those. By the time Howard finished we knew the Inner Circle was exactly where we needed to be. I had to make a very difficult decision. I desperately needed a new van. The one I had was rusting apart. I was embarrassed to have our company name on the side of it. I had been saving money for a van but hadn’t found what I needed in my price range. I knew I could either join the Inner Circle or buy a van but I couldn’t do both. It really didn’t take that much time for me to make up my mind. The van would just have to wait. We became Inner Circle members that day. The rest of the conference was just as incredible. We were sorry it had to end, but we needed to get back and get to work! The drive from Houston, TX to Sevierville, TN is a good sixteen hours. I had sixteen hours of driving to think about what I had just done. I had just spent all of my van money. I had just spent all of my van money! And all I had to show for it was a few books and case full of CD’s with Howard’s picture on it. As I was driving I was enjoying a little quiet time. No radio, no cd’s, just the sound of the car. Amber had fallen asleep before we got out of the city. I thought about our business and all the possibilities we now had. It was in that moment the feeling of relief came over me. All the stress and worry seemed to lift off my shoulders and it was in that instant I knew we were going to have a great business. We arrived home and did what everyone does when they attend a conference, sign up for stuff, buy books and programs, that’s right, we threw it on the bookshelf and didn’t look at it for two months. We did participate in the regular weekly coaching calls. Being brand new we really needed the help getting started. Howard and his staff made it easy to begin implementing some of the systems and procedures. Of course we did the easy stuff to start. But that is the best wat to start anyway. If I had to say what has made the biggest difference in moving our business from where it was to where we are now is this; 1. Regular participation in coaching calls. These have helped us stay accountable. 2. What I like to call, “The Magic White Board” we posted our company sales goals and started tracking our progress toward them daily. 3. By making a commitment, both financially and personally to purposefully grow our business using written policies, systems and procedures. The very first year, only doing the easy stuff and using a business principle I have developed called “Start Paying Attention!” we grew our gross sales by over 47%! Since then we continue to have record sales and more importantly we are now a profitable company. We continue to set and reach new goals, dream bigger dreams and look forward to the freedom of owning a turn-key, profitable business. With the help of Howard Partridge and Phenomenal Products we know it will happen.