Transcript of Interview with Allan Goldstein
Eric: Dan, how are you doing today?
Dan: I’m doing great Eric, thank you. Allan I’m so excited, thank you, welcome to the show.
Allan: Thank you.
Dan: Now Allan, maybe take us to the beginning and maybe share with us how did you get into the business in the first place.
Allan: I’ve been working for a living since I was about 10 years old believe it or not. I had paper routes and I worked in a lot of different retail stores up until I was about 17 years old. At around 17, I realized that I don’t want to work for anybody and I went out on my own. I was still at school at that time, but I started a business where I made parties for university students. I would go around to different night clubs and bars in the city of Toronto that was struggling and I would make a deal with the owner that I would sell their building in return for me charging fee at the door and I would keep the revenue that came in from the bar. I was underage and they didn’t know it at that time but I was.
I would go around to various different universities and high schools in the city during lunch times and in evenings I would go to some other bars in the city and put fliers on cars and I would fill this restaurant-bars/night clubs anywhere from 200 people to my best one was a little over a thousand and I would charge anywhere between 10 and 20 dollars per head, cash. At the end of the night, you can imagine the feeling you would have with working for four or six weeks with the anticipation of people showing up and then having them show up pay you to be there and you can walk away with buckets of cash.
Right away, I knew this is what I want to do on my own and be an entrepreneur. That went on until I was about 20 and I finished high school at 19, and I stopped doing that when I went to a university. Then my next stage, I was going to go into a family business. My family has been doing the business since 1929 and I’m third generation. So, it was always my intention to go into the business and carry it into the third generation.
Entrepreneurial Kind of Family
Dan: Now Allan, what is it like growing up in an entrepreneurial kind of family?
Allan: It’s exciting. You know, you’re always talking business. You’re always thinking business as everywhere. You’re talking about it at the dinner table. You’re talking about it in the car. If you like that kind of stuff, it’s very exciting. I’ve always liked it from my young age.
Lessons Learned from His Parents
Dan: What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned from your parents?
Allan: From my parents? Most days my mother never worked, so she really couldn’t give me any business lessons. The greatest lesson I learned from my father was specialization. What I mean by that is when he took over the business when my grandfather died in 1966 and at that time we were a general commercial printing company. My father I think was in his mid-20s at that time. He got married young and had me young and he realized that he couldn’t make a living with the kind of living he wanted by just being a general printer. So he decided to specialize in the food service and hospitality industry and he became the largest company that designed and printed menus for restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and airlines. The very idea about specialization is you can charge more for your services. Once you become an expert, you can charge a premium just like archers and charge of a lot more than GTs.
Dan: So Allan, when you joined the business it was still a printing business at the time and I know you did almost like reinvented the business, share with us the story.
Allan: What happened was luckily I joined the business in the early 90s and my first year in the business we got hit by a recession. We lost about 75% of our revenue in that first year that I was in the business. So that was pretty scary, because we have a staff and we were responsible for these people and of course we have our own lives we have to carry. It was the worst thing that happened to me and probably the greatest thing that happened to me all the same time because I have to make a decision do I go out of my own and do something and let this business sold up, or do I stay with my father and try to keep this business going for another generation.
I remember sitting in the board room with the accountants on the phone and discussing our options and I chose to stay. I chose to stay on my terms and my term was not to stay in the food service industry, but to move into another type of industry where I was comfortable with. So what I did was I looked around at various different industries and one of my criteria was that it has to have the opportunities to land many customers.
When my father relied on maybe six or seven big accounts that represented most of our revenue, I couldn’t sleep at night with that. You’re at the mercy of those customers that if they ever pull their account, you’re in trouble. I looked around at many different industries and stumbled across the real estate industry and I did some research and I realized that you need a lot of help from the marketing perspective and my background was marketing.
Dan: So basically you transitioned from being kind of a commodity printing kind of company to okay now let’s do specialize, let’s find an industry, a niche that has a broad customer base and let’s just be more than just printing, let’s see how it can help them grow, let’s be a marketing firm in that industry that’s kind of sparked the idea.
A New Niche
Allan: Yes. We were already doing that because when my father took it over in the 60s, he moved it into the food service industry so that was a specialty in itself. I already knew the idea of specialization then. He was the first printing company to bring in designers and writers. Having the art department with writers and a facility. I took that knowledge and I transferred that to where I was comfortable and that was the real estate industry, but we still have to this day printing presses, art department, and writers. We are still in the printing industry just that you never knew it. We don’t market ourselves, we don’t position ourselves as a printer, and we only print the work that we market.
Dan: Because if we position ourselves as a printer, they would say how much you charge, what’s the quote and they find someone the cheapest, some guy down the road. So you have this always competing price.
Allan: Another thing I used to get frustrated with is in the food service industry 90% of restaurants close after the first couple of years.
Dan: So you always have to get new customers
Allan: You’re always worried if you’re going to get paid so you have to deal with big retainers and everything has to be COD, and you’re at the mercy of their deadlines and not your own deadlines. This isn’t what kind of life I wanted to live. So that was sort of a perfect storm in a way.
Dan: Allan when you made a decision because it’s a big shift, it’s a big change for the entire company, did you get resistance from like your team or employees, or even from your family? What was their response when you say you know what we’re going to do something totally different?
Allan: The truth is everyone at that point was scared, so they were willing to do anything.
Dan: And anything is good. Stuff change.
Allan: They just want to know that they had a job. At that time, my father obviously he didn’t really feel good about what was going on. He was a little depressed and he was prepared to do anything that I was prepared to lead. It was actually a true partnership because I still needed the revenue that was coming in from the food service industry to sustain us until I was able to build this market. It doesn’t happen overnight and a new business takes years to develop and so did mine. It just doesn’t happen.
I had to learn the industry. I had to figure out where the needs were and then I have to come up with a solution for those needs. During that process, I had to meet the right people in the industry that could teach me what I needed to know. During that time, we’re fortunate that we put money aside for rainy days, so there was cash flow there, the cash that carried us until a few good things started to happen.
Dan: How did you start building that customer base in almost whole new industry in real estate industry?
Allan: Sorry say that again.
Dan: How did you start building your customer base in the new niche?
Allan: Basically we just sort of serviced the customers that we had. There were a couple of really good opportunities that came our way in the airline industry. The airline industries were big accounts, and we take on one account and it keeps it pretty busy. We were able to grab two and so we ran with that for a number of years and then it got to a point where the real estate division started to do well. I realized that carrying on with the other business was going to distract me and it wasn’t nearly as profitable as the real estate business. So we eventually just let it fade away.
Dan: During that whole period of time, what do you think are some of the one or two like biggest mistakes looking back that you made and you wish you haven’t made those mistakes?
Allan: The biggest mistake that I think I ever made in my career is becoming complacent. That happened about 12 years ago. Things were going really well. Money is coming in. Business is growing. Everyone is feeling good. I’m living the life and a funny thing happened, my competitors got better than me. I didn’t see it coming. That’s a serious mistake. It was the best thing that happened because everything changed for me that moment. We actually could have gone downhill because they were getting better. They were competitive with us. The product was better than ours. It was only so long that the market would figure that out. That’s when everything changed to where I bought a new building. I bought an all-new technology and I changed our whole focus in terms of what we were selling. Few years later, that’s when I started my software company and that really widened the gap to where now our competitors can’t touch us.
Dan: For our listeners maybe give us, maybe like a two or three-minute overview of services you provide to the agents so we get an idea.
Allan: Basically we offer IXACT Contact; I’ll start there to explain. It’s a business management software for real estate professionals, residential real estate professionals, and we market it across North America. We have thousands of agents who have subscribed to a monthly basis. Really it manages their entire business, so anywhere from their listings, and their buyers, to when they should be calling their customers, it keeps track of conversations that they had with customers. There is a marketing platform built into it. It’s a complete business management software for them. Morris Real Estate Marketing Group, what we do there is we offer turn-key marketing systems for real estate agents. The rhythm of turn-key is agents if they understand who they are don’t have many of the skills to market themselves properly, that all the discipline to make it happen, so we created a done-for-you type of program where we write design and print direct mail marketing to their database of clients.
We offer them email marketing that they set it and forget it to their database. We offer them content for social media and they also get the CRM IXACT Contact as a platform to manage all of these on. The whole idea behind what we do is the most profitable business for a real estate professional is repeating it for our business. They’re not competing with a lot of other agents for that type of business, so commissions aren’t negotiated the same way and you don’t have to spend as much money to generate that because that is what you would have to do online looking for new people.
The agents have to have a balance between growing their repeating referrals business and then another revenue stream where leads come in from their website. They need that too, but what happens is when we started, the concept of referral and repeat marketing was never heard of. We got a client, we sold them the house, and now in your head, these people aren’t moving again for seven to 10 years. Why do I need to speak to them anymore? So they didn’t. It was always about finding new business and they are on this treadmill. They actually could never get a hand along on growing a business. They were basically just sales people turning homes.
It took me a number of years to get people to buy into the concept that there was a value in every single client. Once they started to buy into that, they realize that they needed our system in order to stay on top of that.
Dan: Just like the Asian I remember remind me of when he saw my home, I never hear from that guy ever again. It’s like bam-bam-goodbye-ma’am kind of approach and they were always chasing the next client and the next deal and versus if he would have kind of take care of me. How would he know if I’m not looking for another property? How would he know I’m not looking for an investment property? How would he know that I might not refer some business to him?
Allan: He doesn’t. Most real estate professionals are not trained sales people or marketers. Many of them are in their second or third careers. They were school teachers. They’re engineers. They were in middle management in certain companies. They don’t have the skill sets in doing what they’re doing. Most of them fail because of that. The statistics are out there and even when the agents know what they’re supposed to be doing, they still don’t do it. The statistics say that the average home owner knows three to five people moving every year. While they still don’t know that the average person knows three to five people, why would you think it’s important to keep in touch with your client? They don’t get it. That’s why I have a job.
Dan: You’re solving a problem in the marketplace and remember Allan I think you told me it was like 50% of the new agent who got into the business fail in the first couple of years or something like that.
Allan: At least, it’s higher than that I think.
Dan: So most of them don’t survive. They don’t make it because they don’t have the skills, they don’t have the right mindset getting into it. They think it’s a sales thing but it’s not a sales thing.
Allan: And they don’t have enough cash flow. They don’t have enough money behind them to build a business. I tried to explain to agents or like anybody that if they are starting a business, you can’t expect to be profitable for the first few years. It just very rarely happens. For whatever reasons real estate agents feel that they’re different, they can get into a business and all of a sudden be instantly profitable. It doesn’t happen that way.
Dan: So basically they go in with the expectation “Hey you know what, I’ve never done this before. I’m a newbie brand new. I’m going to take this class. I’m going to get my license in two months. I’m going to be making 10 grand a month and I don’t want to spend anything on marketing.”
Allan: Exactly. Let’s see what happens.
Timing of Marketing
Dan: So with your service, you’re helping them with the done-for-you newsletter with the email marketing. Most agents, they’re busy, they’re distracted, they’re out there, they’re closing deal, they’re meeting with people, they’re showing houses, and you are helping them to nurture that database and follow up the clients and develop their relationships. What’s the best timeframe? Do you direct mail them once a month? Do you email them once a month?
Allan: We practically recommend that you do direct mail at least 10 times a year. Once a month is good too, but at least 10 times a year. You should be emailing them once a month, at a minimum but sometimes twice a month, and then you should be calling them a few times a year and meeting with them in some way to a client event or a seminar at least once a year. All that will add up to probably around 30 to 35 touches per year, but the most important thing about those touches is you’re not soliciting. Once you deal with communication, it’s creating value. It’s always going to be about the customer, not about you.
Dan: Two questions. The first question is why can’t we just email? Why do we have to send all these direct mail thing and envelope, isn’t it a little bit old school, why do we need that?
Allan: Well, statistics will show you that if you rely on email, you won’t be doing very well. The open rates on email are extremely low. Be a surprise as many of our clients are getting more than 25% open rates. That means that 75% of your customers are not seeing your messages. Here you have this false sense of security that you’re keeping in touch because it’s cheap and easy to send an email, but in reality they’re not seeing your message. Direct mail although it’s a little bit more expensive, it’s still proven to be the most effective way to communicate with somebody. In real estate, I can’t speak to other industries the same way, but in real estate when you send someone a direct mail, they’re opening up in their home and context on what you do for a living.
Dan: If something on the hands, they’re holding something.
Allan: And you’re paying on the distant senses, the touch, the feel, the different sensation when you get a little piece of mail and a letter than when you get an email. Where is email opened typically? In your car, at the doctor’s office, walking down the street, and between meetings. You’re busy. People just don’t connect with the message. Many of them will just say it’s not important and will look at it later and never do. The direct mail is directed right to the person’s home. Their mind set is very different at that time and they’re going to give much more attention to the piece.
Part of what we also do is we tell the agents to condition these people to open their mail that is important to them and they give feedback. Now, when I say direct mail, I have to qualify this as the direct mail is only designed to send to past clients in really hot prospects, because it’s too expensive to send to a complete database. So, many realtors will have a database of let’s say a 150 clients, but they could have 400 or 500 prospects. So the direct mail is geared to their A-list of clients, the best clients, and everyone else can still get email.
Dan: So people who have done business with them, they get a direct mail piece. People who have not done business with them, maybe someone they have met at some kind working function; they will put them on the email database.
Allan: Exactly. Until they have the chance to speak with them again on the phone, qualify them, make sure they’re worth investing in.
Dan: When you’re talking about direct mail, you’re not talking about like sending out a little flyer “here’s my open house or here is my listing,” you’re talking about like as I have your newsletter here. You’re talking about giving them a little bit of tips, little bit of value and some envelopes, not just sell, sell, and sell all the time.
Allan: Exactly. There’s no sale in it at all actually. It’s all about value. There’s usually four articles that we write that are helpful to home owners, not to people looking to buy or sell real estate, that people are happy living in their home. Then, what’s unique about our product is it actually allows the agents to customize it, because we have our arts department here. It’s the customization that really differentiates us because that’s where the agents can create value. Like for example, they may have clients that could benefit from referrals. They can invite their customers to advertise market on their marketing.
So, little things like that or every few months they can let their customers know what’s going on in their community, or recommend a particular wine if their wine connoisseurs, or the facilities that recommend restaurants in the city that are worth trying. It’s like a community tease where you can engage your customers and create value, because optimally what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to make yourself top of line, and you’re trying to make yourself worthy of referrals. I actually quote coin that as referral worthy. I always ask it and agents state to me “I don’t get enough referrals” and I ask them “are you worthy of those referrals? What have you done to make your customers go out there and be an advocate for you?” and mostly haven’t done anything.
Dan: Well, they can’t just hope and always tell people. Hope is not a strategy my friend.
Allan: And providing good service during a transaction also doesn’t make you referral worthy.
Dan: Correct. It’s a given.
Allan: Referral worthy, is everything that you do in between transactions that makes you referral worthy.
Dan: That makes sense. It’s also interesting I can see from a business model point of view that from the past where you were working with different restaurants and try to collect money and they go out of business, now the structure in your entire company is mostly reoccurring kind of business revenue model.
Allan: It’s all reoccurring.
Dan: It’s like the extreme opposite, right?
Allan: Yes. I built the perfect business for myself. I went from being job to job and not knowing when the next deal was coming, almost like a real estate agent by the way to having a business now where I can sleep at night no matter what, because if I lost a hundred customers today, it wouldn’t make a difference to me. It wouldn’t be happy but it wouldn’t hurt my lifestyle. I have thousands of customers and it has spread out all across North America, so it’s somewhat recession proof and it’s all residual income.
Allan’s Most Effective Marketing Strategy
Dan: Allan what do you think from your experience now you’ve done the marketing tool in this industry for a number of years now, what has been the most effective marketing strategy for you? Is it online? Is it direct mail to attract the agents? Or do you do the telephone sells? What has been working for you?
Allan: The most effective and sort of modern day is online marketing. In IXACT Contact I am bringing in approximately 500 new customers per month through online marketing. That’s huge because you don’t need a sales force, an expensive sales force to help you on the road and we’re doing it all online. You need a good website and you need good creative people behind that website coming up with ideas to get your name out there. That takes time though.
A few years of patience to really build that momentum, but once it happens, it happens in a big way. With Morris Marketing Group, we do a combination of online marketing and traditional sales, but our traditional sales is different, we don’t go door-to-door. We put on educational training seminars and we go into an office and will present to anywhere between 10 and 50 real estate agents at one time. We teach them referral and repeat marketing best practices. From the seminar, we will then introduce them to the systems that we offer because it’s a more complex product.
Dan: It needs education and it needs explanation.
Allan: Yes. You need to lie sometimes.
Dan: Yes. So basically IXACT Contact is more inbound marketing, lead generation online kind of automated and then for the Morris Group it’s outbound, you go out there, you go to the office, and you meet with them face to face as you can and educate them on the process, give them some value, and then follow up with them afterwards.
Dan: I’m curious to know Allan when you look at your business, because you’re very creative, I know you’re also working on a new project which is adding more value to IXACT Contact, you would want to reveal that you could as well, it’s a huge value added to the existing customers.
Allan: That’s the website product you’re talking about.
Dan: Exactly. Why don’t you talk about that for a second?
Allan: I recognize that we have two companies. We have the IXACT Contact and Morris Marketing I was talking about, but I don’t know how long direct mail will last. I believe the results of direct mail will be here forever. I think it’s the right way to do it, but there are forces working against us. The post office for one, and them being able to deliver the mail competitively, and the younger generation coming up may have other thoughts of how they want to communicate with their people. Right or wrong, those are their thoughts. What I’m doing is I’m preparing myself for that one day that we may not have direct mail anymore and I’m building sort of a technology company that will replace it on IXACT Contact. So, I look at all the different needs that a realtor has, there are many. But on the technology side of it, right now what’s happening is they’re buying little bits and pieces from different companies.
That’s’ really inefficient and actually becomes much more expensive for them to do it. There are these companies that do a very good job in the services that they are providing. We saw a really big opportunity on the website industry and the website area where every agents needs to have an online presence today. That’s the given. The problem is that most agents don’t know how to monetize their online presence. So, they’re spending big dollars every month to have this wide presence that no one is going to. So, what we’re doing is recreating a product through IXACT Contact that will give every real estate agent a free website with their subscription. With the opportunity to upgrade for more advanced services that they will pay for and that will open up the door for us to get into customized types of websites and everything goes along with that. I’m creating a new business niche within the niches that we already have.
Dan: Yes. It’s almost a business within a business, not just another product. I admire the vision because it is a very good question for all entrepreneurs, is to ask yourself the question “what if whatever I’m doing right now no longer works? Whatever I’m selling right now people no longer wants to buy?” Even though Allan’s got a good business going on, the newsletters, the done-for-you, it’s all great, but he’s asking a question “what if people don’t want to recommend me anymore?” And he’s planning for that. It’s almost being a little bit paranoid but it’s a good kind of paranoia. It’s being prepared.
Allan: Being proactive. One of the lessons that I actually learned from the early ‘90s that I actually got into is a new technology came out called the laser printer. Ever heard of that?
Allan: When you’re in the ‘90s that was brand new. That changed a lot of stuff because a lot of the people that we’re doing business for started doing their own stuff in-house. They didn’t need our service anymore. Somebody lost to the recession they went out of business. Some cut their budgets and some just started to do it themselves because they could. We know that technology is changing very quickly and things like record players, A-track tapes and video machines, and all that kind of stuff are all becoming obsolete.
Dan: In a very quick, short period of time.
Allan: Yeah, and companies and whole industries are going out of business because of that, and I don’t want to be one of those. What I’m trying to do is I’m trying completely out of my comfort zone in terms of technology, but I have some really amazing people working here that can take my ideas and turn them into a business.
Dan: Wonderful. Let’s take a quick break and when we come back I definitely want to ask Allan about how he manages his team, leadership skills and everything else. Let’s take a quick break and we’ll come back.
Eric: Thanks Dan. Yes, this is Eric Reynolds and I’m here today of course with Allan Goldstein from Morris Marketing Group Inc. and after a quick break, we’ll talk more about life as an entrepreneur. We’ll be right back.
Eric: Now we’re back with Dan and Allan from Morris Marketing Group Inc. Dan go ahead and take it away.
Dan: Allan we’re talking about management, I know you’ve got a pretty big team there. I think last time you told me 50 to 60 employees.
Allan: It’s just over 40.
Dan: Forty employees and two companies, I want to know like what is your management style?
Allan: I’m pretty laid back actually. I tried to pay early. In some cases I overpay and I like to give people the freedom to do the work.
Dan: So you’re not the micro-management type kind of a manager?
Allan: No. people have a job to do and I don’t watch their clock at all and then they’re here. Usually, when I come to work here I lay first, the stay forever. They have the ability to grow. Many of our managers started as receptionist or working in the plant and they developed skills and they’ve grown to become senior people in the organization. So I give the people the freedom and for that they give smart, hard work and they’re loyal.
Qualities to Look For When Hiring
Dan: When you interview someone, when you hire someone, what do you look for?
Allan: I’m really looking for the values. It’s hard to really determine how smart somebody is on an interview.
Dan: Do you have a system in place that you kind of go and take them through your interview process or you kind of just believe in your own gut instinct?
Allan: I have a series of questions that I’ll ask and those questions really are around character, because when you’re building a team especially when you’re smaller in building a team, you need everyone to get along and work together. We have a pretty amazing system here where everyone is an important part of that system, and as one part of that system breaks down, we all break down. It’s really important that you get the right people in place. I don’t have the time to keep replacing people and I don’t have the time to deal with people not getting along. So, you look at these people, obvious skills set they have to bring to the table. But really when I look at them I’d say “Are you going to be able to work on this team? Are you going to be able to try and then grow here in your surroundings?” Then, I typically don’t interview people for new positions anymore.
I used to do it many years ago, now I don’t really interview at all. But it’s usually more than one person on interview. The first interview then someone else will interview them, and sometimes a third person to ensure that these people are the right fit. Fit is extremely important as it’s expensive to train somebody. It’s expensive to find people. You try to be right as awesome as you can.
Dan: What do you think is the culture of your company?
Allan: Culture? I ran it like we’re a family. It’s an open door policy, anyone can talk to anybody about anything. The values that we bring are family-focused values.
As a Leader…
Dan: What do you think is the number one quality or characteristic of a leader?
Allan: Probably honesty.
Dan: What do you mean by that?
Allan: I’ll explain it. In order for people to follow you, they have to trust you. They have to trust everything about you. You have to just trust your decisions, your ideas, and they have your back. That builds loyalty. If you want to be a leader, you need people loyal to you. If people are following you, they’re loyal to you, and therefore they have to trust you a hundred percent. I don’t think a lot of people talk about that. They talk about gripping a great speaker, dynamics, they have all the charisma, good looking, hard workers; there are always other traits that come out normally from a leader, but really if you want people to follow you, they have to trust you; they have to believe in you.
A Day with Allan
Dan: Allan I’m curious, you’re running two companies with a lot going on, Number one describe your typical day and I also want to know how do you stay productive, and how do you manage all these projects simultaneously the same time and still being very creative?
Allan: Well, my typical day has changed a lot since a number of years ago. I’ve been able to take a lot of my day to day work off my plate and I have to appoint my team that will look after it. So most of my staff now is really just sitting in meetings and coming up with new concepts and new ideas. I wake up usually at 6 AM. I will get my emails and I read newspapers a day. You learn about the world and what’s going on in the world by reading. I start believing that using newspaper, not online, I get the physical newspapers into those.
Dan: Not that high-tech.
Allan: Not that high-tech. I still support the paper industry. I’m usually at work by about 8 AM. When I get in at 8 I just get organized and try to say good morning to most people. I usually have maybe a couple of meetings during the day and then each day is planned out, for like every week I have planned out. So I know what I’m doing exactly on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, what tasks I’m working on. I’m very organized. That’s one of the ways I can handle juggling so many different things, because I’m extremely organized.
Nothing falls to the cracks with me. I remember it’s all there and I never miss anything. When you know what you’re doing each day, it’s amazing how productive you can be. In my daytime, I’ll have all the tasks that I have to do today, tomorrow. Sometimes it’s like three months from now, I know exactly what I’m doing. It changes from time to time, obviously things come up, but I push myself harder and then I push anyone else here. So when I have a deadline, it’s my deadline. I set the date, but I’m doing whatever I can to make sure it happens.
When you’re an entrepreneur and you’re working basically for yourself, you’re only accountable to yourself at the beginning. Eventually, you’re accountable to your team, but at the very beginning, you’re only accountable to yourself. You have to have that thing inside of you that drives you. The things just never get finished, you never move forward. You’re always just working, you’re really busy, but you’re not making progress.
Dan: Correct. I always believe sometimes entrepreneurs; they’re really busy doing stuff, but sometimes busyness is a form of laziness. They don’t want to get to the tough stuff. They don’t want to get to the tough decisions, so they just kind of “My whole day is gone. I’ve done a whole bunch of stuff” but actually they haven’t done anything.
Allan: Right. I was told actually by a colleague of yours, Richard Robins, he said to me once. “Swallow your frogs first thing in the morning.”
Dan: That’s correct. We’re not talking about to actually swallowing a frog here, just want to make sure. Maybe Allan will explain what that means.
Allan: This means do the things that you want to do the least that are the most important first thing in the morning, because you’ll never get to them.
Dan: Correct. I believe when you do that, it builds confidence, it builds momentum. Now you’re like “Well, if I could do that, I’m sure I can handle this. A piece of cake, no problem.” It makes a lot of sense.
Dan: Now I’m curious Allan, do you have any role models or mentors in your life that you learned from?
Allan: I wish I had more. I’m pretty a quiet guy and I keep to myself, that’s one of the mistakes I probably made in my life, but I look up my father. A lot of people say their fathers but he had a lot of challenges that he had to juggle on. My grandfather died at a young age. He was young when he took over the business. He had a son, my brother, who has born with complex disabilities that he had to manage. So somehow he was able to build a successful business, because it was successful up until the early ‘90s, and look after my brother at the same time. It took a lot of energy and a lot patience to handle all that. I never saw him lose his temper. I never saw him lose his cool. He never got frustrated. He just did what he had to do.
Then, I also have my father-in-law, who is a holocaust survivor. He lost his whole family in the war, the World War II, through the Nazis, and came to Canada with nobody at 17 years old. He came here with nothing and built his life. He created one of the largest independent lumber companies in Canada, built a whole real estate portfolio from nothing. He had three beautiful daughters, married, lots of friends, and built a life. You look at the person like that and it’s pretty easy to look back and feel sorry for yourself. He had the attitude that the glass is half-full. He went on and live his life. That’s a pretty big inspiration for me. I have a brother also to look at. He passed away three years ago from leukemia at his early 40s, but he had to live this life knowing that he had a disability. He still smiles on things. You know what I mean?
Dan: And seeing that, it gives all of us a new appreciation, a gratitude.
Allan: Yeah. Makes a lot of people habits to that. It’s not that bad I guess. Some people have it a lot worse and appreciate what they’ve got.
Dan: Are there any books that inspire you?
Allan: In different ways, lots of books. I read a lot more when I was young than I do now. The book that inspired me the most was more of a current book which is a Steve Jobs’ book. I love that book. I changed my whole business after reading that book. I read it in a week.
Dan: It’s a big book.
Allan: It’s a big book. I couldn’t put it down. I love that kind of stuff. He was a genius to optimize his person, but a genius. I changed a lot of the stuff that we do here, our product, our marketing around his philosophies in terms of keeping things very simple, very easy to understand. It has made a huge difference in our business since I made that change. There are a lot books, there are some fun books like the One Minute Manager, any book by Ken Blanchard or Spencer Robinson, and they are a lot of fun. They’re easy read. You can read them in a couple of hours, but they give you a lot of lessons on how to treat people, how to sell, and the type of customer service. I read it many years ago, unfortunately a lot of those companies were investigated.
Dan: Not so great anymore.
Allan: It’s not great anymore, but at that time it was inspiring and books by Michael Gerber, they make the most out of things. So I like those kinds of books. They’re easy reads. I also like to read autobiographies. I like to know what makes people tick. You know, get in their head and wire who they are. A lot of these people have interesting stories.
Dan: Let me ask you this question, where do you see yourself let’s say five years or 10 years from now?
Allan: Ten years is far, hopefully I’m alive. Five years from now, I’m pretty much doing the same thing. I have a pretty good work-life balance. I take a lot more vacations now than I used to, I’m not at work as many hours as I used to, and I love what I do. I just want to keep growing with two companies, look for new, different opportunities to get into, and just keep doing what I’m doing. There will be more business schools in terms of numbers, but you don’t really think of those numbers. That won’t mean anything to you.
Dan: I’m curious to see, what drives you nowadays? What motivates you?
Allan: Believe it or not it’s the fear of failure. You know what, whatever it is, I don’t like to lose, I don’t like to fail. I know I’ll always have money because I have enough money, but I just don’t want to lose. I was so close to seeing everything disappear once and it’s not a good feeling, so I just never want to be there again. When you had something to touch your life and you don’t want to be back there again, because it’s something that happens to you inside and you don’t stop, you just keep on going and going. It doesn’t matter how big you get. You can always crash. I’ve been to companies that are lot bigger than me that have failed, so you don’t take anything for granted. You rather keep moving, because whenever I get to the point where I stop moving, I’m going to start going the other way.
Things to say to Former Allan
Dan: Here is a very interesting question, let’s say if you could travel back to the day of when you start up and have a 10-minute conversation with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and headaches, what would you tell your former self?
Allan: Don’t be so conservative. When I was younger, I was a risk taker. I could have taken bigger risks. I could have been more aggressive. I could have done things a little different to be bigger, faster. I sort of do things at my own pace when I could have maybe done it faster and got it bigger at earlier stage then it wouldn’t have taken me so long.
Do I regret what I’ve done? No. I never regret what I’ve done. It’s what I’ve done and that’s who I am. But I think that I could have gone or move faster to where I wanted to go if I were just conservative. I’m very analytical. I look at things on many different ways before I make a decision. Even with the software business I still financed it. I didn’t go out and get public money. I didn’t go to a bank.
If I had more money, I could have grown it faster, but I didn’t. Now, I’m staying great, I don’t have any partners, terrific. I don’t have anybody, but I may have gone along faster if I wasn’t this conservative. Another I should had is I should had different types of mentors because you only know what you know. People who had been doing business in different types of businesses have all kinds of ideas that they can share with you. Although if I don’t had my father-in-law and father there, they weren’t really business mentors for me, I’m sort of just stubborn and I do things my way. That was probably a mistake too. There are other ways of doing things, not just your own way. Not having the opportunity to work in other organizations, I only knew what I knew, and that was little.
Dan: That makes a lot of sense. It’s a great piece of advice for all entrepreneurs. Alright, let’s have some funny hour. Let’s go to our speed round. So, I’m going to ask you a series of very quick questions, a quick reply, and quick answer. Okay? Question number one, Windows or Mac?
Allan: Both. I use Windows for my day to day at the office, but I have an iPhone, an iPod, and the whole art department is on Mac.
Dan: Respect the Apple. iPhone or Android?
Dan: What’s your favorite success quote?
Allan: That was a hard one for me to come up with. I don’t have one. The reason I don’t have one is we use so many quotes in our product and they’ve all become a blur. I can’t even remember. I’m numb to them already because it’s 20 years. People love quotes. Every time I read a quote, I feel good. As long as I feel good about it, it’s a favorite. I like thousands of successful quotes, favorite quotes, but don’t really want to stick all on my mind.
Dan: Are you a dog or a cat person?
Allan: Definitely a dog.
Dan: Dream car?
Allan: I’m driving it, a Continental GT, the Bentley.
Dan: The number one thing a new entrepreneur should be doing.
Allan: I would say get a good mentor or coach. If you don’t have one, you could drown very quickly.
Dan: Favorite business book, I think you’ve given some already, but like say the number one book.
Allan: The Steve Jobs’ Autobiography.
Dan: What’s one tool that you use every day that you would hate to have lived without?
Allan: My day to day timer.
Dan: Not the iPhone, not the iPad.
Allan: I might marry to my phone at all. In fact, my wife used to get very frustrated because I used to leave it on my car. My day timer is my life. I’m a visual person, so my day timer is opened at my desk all day long. I know exactly where my meetings are, what I have to do. I put the extra five minutes and it takes me a day as I don’t get something done, but has to carry it to the next day. I can live with that.
Dan: It doesn’t run out of battery.
Allan: It doesn’t run out batteries and I’m very careful I don’t take it to many places so I don’t lose it. But it’s my life.
Dan: What do you do for fun?
Allan: I travel a lot. I like to go to different countries and see different cultures. I’ve been playing hockey now for almost over 40 years.
Dan: Are you good at it?
Allan: I used to be.
Dan: I’m sure you’re doing well. What’s the most rewarding thing you’ve been able to do for someone because of your success?
Allan: I actually started a summer camp; it’s called Camp Jordan for adults with complex disabilities. It’s after my brother Jordan. I already mentioned he died a few years ago of leukemia. He was part of this organization called APTUS. APTUS is an amazing place where they have a program and boarding houses for adults with complex disabilities, who can’t function the same way as people can in the society. They need 24 hours supervision.
I started it a few years ago and we send 40 adults at the Collinwood for now, for just a couple of weeks at the time, we stagger them, we have a rental house, and we have activities, and we are in the process of developing a business plan. We’re going to buy a piece of land and build a facility that would be all year round. Fortunately, I’ve been able to fund it. Hopefully, I can continue to afford to fund it because it’s important to me.
Dan: That’s wonderful. Allan any final thoughts and contact information so our listeners if they want to learn more about Morris Marketing Group or IXACT Contact or where should they go about doing that.
Allan: For Morris Marketing they can go to our website www.morrismarketinggroup.com and if they want to speak to someone specific, they can call me if they like or they can fill out one of the online forms and someone will call them. For IXACT Contact, they can go to ixactcontact.com.
Dan: Allan, thank you so much for inspiring us today with your personal story and your generosity in sharing your thoughts and strategies. Thank you so much, I appreciate it.
Allan: It’s my pleasure. It’s a lot of fun.