10 Lessons on Business: A Conversation with a Multimillionaire

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I recently had a conversation with a multimillionaire who has run a number of successful businesses in his time. I was at a function when the opportunity arose to speak with John, and I was excited to ask him ‘So how did it all begin?’

John then spent half an hour telling me some of the greatest business nuggets and experiences that I couldn’t wait to write down.

There are 10 main lessons in what John told me. As a business owner myself, I really enjoyed relating to some of these lessons, and also taking mental notes of what to prepare for, for the situations that I have not yet experienced.

 

 

You Must Have self-belief

You need to believe that you have the ability to sell anything, that you can go into any business and sell their products. The product may be different, but there’s no difference when it comes to the people that you are dealing with. Objections, wants, needs and desires are universal.

 

Take Risks and Back Yourself

John purchased a suburban fish & chip store for the equivalent of 2x houses at the time, but the risk absolutely paid off. They went on to sell 50,000 chips per week. There was a toy shop upstairs, above the fish & chip store so they bought it and John’s wife went up to work in it. A while later John got sick of the shop, so he sold it and he too went upstairs. This is where John became very successful. Forever the opportunist. If John wasn’t prepared to take these risks, he never would have achieved what he did. (Side note – In podcast episode 001, Josh took a huge risk by quitting his day job to focus on his start-up – (36:35). Click here to listen)

 

Be consistent and persistent, but don’t be annoying

One day John rang a potential large stockist/retailer to offer them their wholesale products. A woman called Julie answered and they were unfortunately not interested as they felt they were already dealing with sufficient suppliers. So John noted to call them back every 3 months, and built up a rapport with Julie with every call. After around a year, the phone conversation went like this:

Julie: ‘Okay John, send over some samples and we’ll take a look.’
John: ‘I can’t do that Julie’ (then purposely paused)
Julie: ‘Why not?’
John: ‘Because if I sent you our samples, then you wouldn’t know what our goals are and how they can help your business’
Julie: ‘Okay come in for a meeting then’

They became a fantastic client for over decade.

 

Play people at their own game

One of John’s business partners, Steve, went to meet with a large customer that at the time made up two-thirds of their business. The ‘National Sales Manager’ who they were meeting with had ‘an ego so big that you couldn’t even jump over it’.

This man, David, asked immediately to see the terms before he even looked at a single product. Steve showed him the terms (which allowed room for negotiation so they could hopefully get the deal they wanted). David said that the terms weren’t good enough and to come back when he had better terms. He didn’t even take a look at the products. When Steve told John that they had a problem, John went down to see David.

John: ‘Now I know you’re a busy man David and I don’t want to waste your time going back and fourth negotiating, so why don’t you write down what you think fair terms are.’
David: (Puffing his chest out) Grabs the sheet of paper, scribbled down some numbers and slides it back.
John: ‘Thanks David, let’s agree on this.’

The numbers were exactly what John wanted.

 

Empower Your Staff: Be proactive and unplug the future bottle-neck

Always have a plan of who will take over your role, as you don’t want the business to have to always rely on you.

James was a university graduate that when in his interview said ‘I have a University degree, however I know it isn’t worth anything , and when I walk through your doors, the education starts.’

John went to work training up James. From Day 1 as a university graduate, James was instructed to sit in on meetings and take notes, and in particular learn to understand each person’s personality and the best way to deal with them.

Within 12 months, the customers were calling and asking to speak with James.

Further to this, John always ensured that he spent 10 minutes each day with each staff member. He did this because he’s a great person. Form a business point-of-view, I know how beneficial this is to connect with your staff.

 

Nurture your Business Relationships. They are everything in business 

When John found out that a particular Chinese supplier of his had miscalculated and was losing money on their deal, John sent him $20,000 USD. His business partner couldn’t understand and felt that it was the supplier’s own fault, the deal was done.

John said that not only was it not fair to the man who’s supplying him with his amazing products, but he was thinking long term about the situation. He wanted to work with this man for decades. Because of John’s kind gesture, true trust was formed, and the supplier would always go out of his way to accommodate John’s business with every deal from that day forth.

 

Running a 30 million dollar business is much easier than running a Mum & Dad small business

John started off in a milk bar and moved up over the years to running a large wholesale company. He says that when running a small business, it’s difficult as staff is very limited. If it’s a Mum & Dad business, then that is all the staff that you have with perhaps some help from the children. It’s long and tough hours, and it’s constantly about making things work and making ends meet.

When you have a large organisation, you have the support. You are surrounded by a higher calibre of people in terms of qualification and experience. You have the systems in place and the ability and opportunity to step back and work on the business.

 

The best Systems produce the best results

John had suppliers in both China and Vietnam, and he has visited many factories in his time. The factory that had the highest quality products and produced them at the highest speed also had the best systems.

Every level of worker wore a different coloured hat, so from the office upstairs, management knew where every single staff member, foreman and manager was at all times. Each section has a board where their output results would be on display every hour, and most importantly, all 5000 staff were cared for very well – fed, clothed and sheltered.

 

Business Can’t Always Be Good

John once went into a meeting with a large customer of theirs with 20 items that they had in this particular department store. He walked out with zero – they were all discontinued. The company rep that he met with was a nice fellow, he just said ‘Send me some products that I can sell’.

 

Everyone Is Equal

Every person deserves equal respect and to be heard. Those who judge and only focus on certain types of people miss the opportunities.

 

I am grateful for this amazing conversation and for John’s time and words of wisdom. I will be making a conscious effort to have more of them and to write them down as soon as I can, then post them to WPN. I will always then have them to refer back to and give you the opportunity to enjoy them as well.

What are the best business lessons that you’ve experienced? Feel free to leave your story/lesson in the comments or email me at wes@whiteponynetwork.com

 

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