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116 – His starter was a barter: Tom interviews Andy Sokol
From:
Tom Antion -- Internet Marketing Expert Tom Antion -- Internet Marketing Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Virginia Beach , VA
Wednesday, April 17, 2019

 

Episode 116 – Andy Sokol
[00:00:07] Welcome to Screw the Commute. The entrepreneurial podcast dedicated to getting you out of the car and into the money, with your host, lifelong entrepreneur and multimillionaire, Tom Antion.

[00:00:23] Hey everybody it's Tom here with episode 116 of screw the commute podcast we got Andy Sokol here today. And hey if you want to keep your customers and keep them for years and years and years. This is the guy you don't want to miss this episode. The last episode is 115. That was training on spam control on Mondays. We do trainings in-depth trainings on stuff and on Wednesdays and Fridays we do interviews with great entrepreneurs like Andy and I know everyone is sick of spam coming into their e-mail and I'm going to give or I gave you several ways to stop that but you may not realize there's website spam coming in all the time and you even know about it. So I told you how to get rid of that too because that's going to hurt you all right. And by the way I just have to throw this in. If you got busy and did this stuff I teach you on Internet marketing and many of those emails had money in them. Well you probably wouldn't be whining so much about them coming in. All right are new on demand TV channel the public speaking channel is on Roku TV Roku is where you can have a Roku television or you could buy a box for like 40 bucks and some people get rid of their cable bill with one 40 dollar box that works through their Wi-Fi. And it's an on demand TV so you can put your own channels on there. So I have the public speaking channel and we have the brutal self-defense channel coming in the protection dogs elite channel and various marketing channels and so check us out there on Roku TV. Right now. For sure the public speaking channels up there now our youth program is in full swing. We're looking for entrepreneurial young people up to young means up to about early 20s. You know if they're older than that they might be a candidate for our regular podcast. But we want to highlight the entrepreneurial youth on the screw the commute podcast. So if you know anybody you can have them get in touch with me at orders@antion.com and it will be in the show notes of course. And I'll tell them how they could possibly be featured on an episode of screw the commute. All right also our podcast app is in the iTunes store or the App Store or you can go to screwthecommute.com/app and we've got instructions on how to use it and download it. It does all kinds of cool stuff.

[00:03:00] All right. Today's sponsor is amazingpublicspeaking.com. This is a membership site with over four hundred and seventy five professional and public speaking training videos plus audios and articles and we also have a corresponding complimentary webinar called 30 tips and thirty seven point six two five minutes. All right. It's a little bit longer than that but gives you great professional speaking tips that you can use in the boardroom or in big arenas. If you had to. So we'll have a link to that in the show notes. And remember this is episode 116 so that's screwthecommute.com/116.

[00:03:40] All right let's get to the main event. Andy Sokol is an entrepreneur speaker author and client retention expert. He started his business in 1995 and he still has customers today from his first year in business. Check that out now. In 2003 he started a second business and he sold it to a multinational company in 2015 because they wanted his customer relationships. Then he wrote a book on client retention and he now speaks all over the country helping entrepreneurs grow their business by retaining their clients and getting more referrals. Andy are you ready to screw. The commute.

[00:04:22] Hey Tom how you doing.

[00:04:24] I'm good. I forgot to tell. Don't mess with Andy and his significant other because they went through my brutal self-defense course. So does that. That's not how you keep customers as threatened to kill.

[00:04:38] But that's not how we do it. In fact I always tease Gina that if I'm gonna ever go down a dark alley she's coming with me.

[00:04:46] Exactly. Oh boy. She was vicious about. So tell everybody really how how you do this. Now I've had customers for 20 25 years but I'm not sure I had a method to my madness other than to treat them right. But tell us you know what that's all about keeping customers.

[00:05:04] Well you know it's it's it's it's some development some some things we developed over the years some just techniques and I didn't really know that I was developing client retention techniques I'm just you know I was a salesman before and got into business and I just have always been focused on how do you take care of that customer. How do you wow that customer so much that they never leave. And you know how they always there's a saying that they always say about you know your customers will buy from you because they what they know you they like you and they trust you. But there's always been something missing that everyone always forgets about. And I added the customer has to also remember you. So they may like you and trust you but if they don't remember you. They're not going to buy from you again. And so this is what we developed in our own business over the years and and now I've been speaking and training other entrepreneurs a lot of these techniques and just how to give your customers the love how them how to make them feel appreciated how to how to build that relationship with them so that way you know sometimes you screw up as a company and one of your employees screws up. But if but that's OK because they give you a second chance and they just continue to order.

[00:06:16] So it gives them ideas on what types of things you're talking about.

[00:06:19] Well first of all you have to build the relationship your customer is is is not just a number. And you need to treat your customers in such a way that they think that they're your only customer. So you're just building relationships you're getting to know them you're you're getting involved and getting fascinated in what they do. If it's like for us for example we've always had our guys our employees have always been instructed to understand that they're not a customer we are an extension of our customers office. So that way where we belong there and the people that work at that customer's office just think of us as part of them. Why would they call anybody else. We're just part of the family.

[00:07:07] Mm hmm. Right. Yeah. That's a good idea. I remember a joke I heard about a bank or something. At so-and-so bank we don't treat you as a number we treat you as the number several letters and an exclamation so that's not what you're talking about.

[00:07:30] We spend a lot of time on that because here's the thing. Most business owners they're only concentrating on chasing the next new customer they take for granted and the ones that they have gotten to where they are. And and so for me I've always been about building that relationship. And then if you build a good book of business you actually get to work less. So working less isn't isn't so bad.

[00:08:01] It takes a lot to get a new customer right. I mean that's how trying to sell something of your same customers work its way easier.

[00:08:10] Once you have your customer locked in pretty well and they just they just wanted to continue doing business with you then it's easier to sell them additional services and other things. And instead of trying to find somebody new and it's it's way cheaper as well so you can spend you know depending on the industry you're in. You can spend anywhere between three and 14 times the money to get a new customer than it takes to just keep them happy.

[00:08:38] Wow wow wow wow. All right so let's take you back to. How did you start out. Did you ever have a job.

[00:08:45] I did. So you know going through college I got a business degree and going through college I mostly had sales positions. I went through university of Florida and then I finished up at Florida International University in Miami which at the time I didn't know was the top business school in the state. And so I was pretty happy about that. But I didn't know because I was just doing my thing try to you know get a business degree. But when I graduated I got a position for a copying and scanning company and yes they wanted me to sell and get new customers but I still remember this day that this was early 1990s that. My primary role was to go get back all the customers they lost. They said we want to hire you but this is your this is your function right here. Here's a list of all the customers that we lost over the last few years.

[00:09:48] Nothing like giving you an uphill battle right.

[00:09:51] You know but it was a challenge and I accepted the challenge and this got me. Probably got me to really understand how important client retention is because the business was was struggling. And so they handed me a list of customer names. This is this was primarily working with law firms. So they were law firm names but they didn't tell me who the customer was at the law firm. They didn't tell me what the problem was why they lost. They didn't give me any invoice information and the invoice numbers or they didn't give me any information they just said here's a list. Go get them.

[00:10:24] Did they know why they lost them.

[00:10:28] You know I don't think so because later on you know talking and getting to know everybody in the business that the business owner was pretty much an absentee business owner. So there was no there was no leadership there. And so he probably didn't know you know. So my job was to go get him. So I did. And I went out there and I and I got most of those customers back and. And what happened was is now all of a sudden the business had too much business and it could they couldn't fulfill the orders. And so that's a good problem but a bad problem because guess what that did. Well we started having problems. Yes. And so then so what I started to do to prevent that from happening here I am I'm busting my hump getting new business getting those customers back and then we don't fulfill. And so what I was doing was I was staying late every night and this was in downtown Miami and staying late every night working in the production center helping out the guys the gang and get these orders fulfilled and then getting up the next morning and coming to work and delivering the projects back to the law firms. What was the problem with though is that I wasn't getting compensated any different. I was getting a sales commission but I wasn't getting compensated for taking the time away from my family every single night until 9:00 10:00 at night. So that that was a problem. So. So I decided to open up my own business in that industry but I honored my non compete and moved to the next county over and started that business. And because now I learned how to do everything it wasn't just about sales it was about the whole business.

[00:12:10] Hold up for a second I want to ask you what did you do to get those clients back. So that's the whole program in itself.

[00:12:21] Probably I could make a program in itself a big deal and definitely at least a bonus section right. Yeah you tell me what I did was I just went in there and I treated people like people that I talked to but I and I. And I asked them what happened. What was the reason why you left and then and whatever they said no matter what it was they said was the reason why they got ticked off and and quit using our services. I asked them. So we're under new management now. If you were the new manager what would you have done with that if that problem happened and whatever their answer was. I said that's what we did.

[00:13:05] Wow that's pretty smart.

[00:13:06] And so then I got them to try it again and B and I personally made sure that I babysat every project made sure everything went through good.

[00:13:16] Because you're the one that you're the face of the whole deal now and if you're not delivering it's all on you.

[00:13:21] So it's a lot of pressure but but it was a good good experience and that's what I pretty much did. I had to come up with something to tell them.

[00:13:30] Well repeat that for everybody. That's a really really critical thing. I can. I could feel whole. Whether you're getting back customers you lost. So. So you do exactly what to do so.

[00:13:42] So what I would say to them is what I would ask of why what happened. You know I just want to. I want them to talk not me. And that's the first start of building a relationship as you let them. The other person do all the talking. And so I would ask them what what happened why did you leave. What was the cause that that made you guys stop using our services and whatever they said no matter what it was it didn't matter whatever they said I said to them well if you were the new manager of this company what would you have done different to change that. And the man and whatever their answer was I would say that's what we did.

[00:14:23] Wow. Really. Should be writing that down. It's really great.

[00:14:29] Well it pretty much probably that's the right answer.

[00:14:34] Yes exactly. Because that's the that's the horse's mouth basically. What do you have to do to win me back. They're telling you. Exactly. That's right. Yeah. So you can't go in there just start spraying them with all the stuff that we did or we're going to do and it was so you know let them tell you what to do. Beautiful. So OK. So you know you're working day and night burning the candle at both ends. Now did you save up money or how did you make the transition to the new business.

[00:15:03] I did save up some money but I also had good credit. So what I did was I basically started the new business with two credit cards MasterCard and Visa card and I used the MasterCard to pay the Visa card and the Visa card to pay the MasterCard.

[00:15:24] We're not we're not promo I did.

[00:15:36] I bought my computer on on one year same as cash financing. And and then we negotiated on our office space we we we moved into this piece of junk little place that we told them. You don't have to do anything to fix it from the previous tenant had trashed it. So we went in there and fixed everything and painted from some paint that our neighbor gave us that was left over from their house. And then we we told the guy since we're going to fix your place up why don't you get us three months free rent. And so he said OK. So that bought us some time until we can get some orders in and stuff. So we did everything we could to try to get in as inexpensive as possible.

[00:16:21] That is called bootstrapping and that's so I'm so glad. I think you're the first one that's really talked about that on this show. Hey you can scratch and crawl and make deals and barter and you can have a business you can get going. Beautiful. Yeah I remember when I was in college they were tearing the the old wooden seats out of mountaineer stadium. This is Virginia WVU. And so I scarfed them all up and I got like a 12 dollar circular saw from Kmart and I ripped them down the middle and made two by fours out of home and built that apartment.

[00:17:01] There you go.

[00:17:04] So yeah. So that's great. All right so how did it progressed from then and how did you get those first couple clients.

[00:17:11] So one of the things that I did was we started giving away cookies.

[00:17:18] And then the big hotel chain copied you.

[00:17:24] Yeah. They don't sell you know those cookies that when you go into the hotels you. Yeah. So we we negotiated a deal with the company and they gave us a free oven because they said if you're going to bake these cookies you have to use our oven. And I said I can't afford an oven. So they said OK we'll give you one for free. So. So I said OK perfect. So they gave us this free oven to use it didn't charge us for it. We bought the cookies and that was part of our marketing was to give fresh baked warm cookies drop them off to different people. We you know we we made phone calls to figure out who our prospects were at the different law firms and dropped them off and that I would call them back and say hey I'd like to make an appointment with you and pretty much they were like OK those were awesome cookies.

[00:18:12] As long as you bring cookies you can have that.

[00:18:15] So so that was part of what I did to get back the other customers as well as we made some cookies. And I went ahead and I just I I bought cookies then.

[00:18:24] So you're using all the old tricks in the book. I mean the way through a person's heart is through their stomach. The way through their wallet. We could call it stomach. Wow that is so cool or so warm so. All right. So you gave away cookies. You started getting appointments and that was the take off.

[00:18:47] That was the take off. We never looked back. And our first month in business was only forty two dollars.

[00:18:55] Well you had free rent.

[00:18:57] Right. We had free rent and we were good and then the second month in business we had maybe close to five hundred dollars in business.

[00:19:06] But all of a sudden we took off and before long we were doing you know quite well.

[00:19:16] What were you doing you were copying stuff for. Shredding stuff.

[00:19:22] Remember the old Kinko's copy set off and now it's FedEx office. So it's kind of like that except only for lawyers for law firms all confidential records.

[00:19:36] Oh have a security clearance.

[00:19:38] Kind of sort of you have to have you know everyone but everybody I kind of stop. Yeah.

[00:19:44] Oh speaking of Kinko's and FedEx. I hope so. Hey they took two really great companies and made one crappy company.

[00:19:51] I know it. I'm not sure why they did that but but that's what we did of course. You know nowadays we're doing scanning with that business. We still have that business since 1995. And we still have customers in that first year which is pretty amazing. And.

[00:20:09] Where to go and so portable. What do you call it shredding.

[00:20:14] Yeah. So in 2003 I fell into the shredding world.

[00:20:19] You have to be careful about that right.

[00:20:21] And so I it's funny because whenever we would do shredding projects sometimes people would say hey my ex-wife could fit in there. My mother in law. You know and people like you said that and I didn't know what to say to respond. But anyways I did that. And in 2015 a multinational company was trying to steal our customers away and they were they were working really hard at it and they really couldn't do it. They were having a tough time stealing our customers away. So. So what they did was they approached us and said we want to buy you out. And so we sold to them we sold in 2015 that the shredding business. And that's when I realized even though I knew how important client retention was and keeping the relationships with your clients going I knew how important it was. But it didn't really sink in until they handed me a check. And so that was kind of awesome. And and then it hit me that really what they wanted was those relationships. That's all they care about. They didn't care about anything else they didn't want me. They didn't want anything. They just wanted that. They did buy the equipment.

[00:21:34] Yeah they got it. But to me none of this would've happened if it wasn't for those relationships. Beautiful idea. So so fast forward to now. You're you're going and speaking to the companies we're helping entrepreneurs. How does somebody work with you.

[00:21:51] So. So that's the way the best way to work with me is. I mean we're gonna give you a link specially for your audience Tom where they can get a free download of my book. So it'll be in your in your notes. It's called Pay me forever. And so after I sold the business I wrote that book and because I wanted to get the word out how important it is because like I said most entrepreneurs forget about the clients they already have. And so I decided how how can I help other entrepreneurs you know spend more time with their family. How can I help them have a better life. You know so they're not working 100 hours a week because they're losing customers and may not even realize it. So I wrote the book for that reason to give them some pointers some tips some ideas on really how to grow their business by keeping the clients they already have and getting more referrals. So that's what the book's all about. And then it's turned into a program where we have some different programs for it you know depending on if somebody will just wants to learn how to do it himself. We have a program for that if they want some help or if they want us to do it for them. We have different programs and stuff. We're doing consulting on that topic and now I'm speaking all over the country speaking at different entrepreneurship conferences and different associations entrepreneurship type associations on how to do it and how to get these tips so. So that's all we're doing now I'm pretty excited about that and I'm super excited because I've known you for so many years to be able to help you now with your audience by offering this this free digital download.

[00:23:34] That's great. I'll be in the show notes folks for this episode 116. Now anything crazy funny bizarre happen in your business travels.

[00:23:45] You know so. So we had a we did a project in the scanning business we did a project that's probably been 10 years now. And normally when we do a project for scanning you know we call it the Jones case or or whatever it is. But this this law firm out of Louisiana called me and said we need to you know we have some scanning for you. Can you do it. We're gonna ship everything to you. And I said OK. And I was thinking it was gonna be you know a couple of boxes or something like that. And what it was it showed up in two 18 wheeler trucks. And they let me know it was 18 wheeler trucks when it was on its way. They said oh by the way I hope you have a loading dock. And of course we didn't. So I had to run out real quick in and get warehouse space and they said by the way we've already fumigated everything before it left our warehouse. I said I think you talked about fumigated what. And they said Well at this part of the world in Louisiana we have this thing called the brown recluse spider. Oh and I really wasn't sure what the brown recluse spider until I Googled it. And if your audience ever wants to see some really gruesome stuff Google brown recluse spider and you're going to see. Well when they bite you the saliva actually rots your skin. Oh it's pretty nasty. So anyway so they told us when it's already on its way. So here I am I have to inspect this stuff and I'm like What do I do. What do I do. So we've got everything in the warehouse and then I fumigated the warehouse again. and I told the employees I gave them training on how to identify a brown recluse spider. They were like come on Andy don't do this. I said I said I'll be dead if you find any they'll be dead. So I gave up training on that and I wanted to make sure there was no liability no issues. We all I had them all wear masks and stuff when they're doing the scanning just as a precaution. And so we called it the spider project even though the project had nothing to do with spiders. We called it the spider project because we were afraid that we were going to be the ones introducing the brown recluse spider to South Florida.

[00:26:12] So I going to make my employees listen to this because the worst they ever get the dog bite here you can see that coming.

[00:26:22] We never had a problem though. But it was good too. It was just funny both for the most to this day about 10 years later we still refer to it as the spider project.

[00:26:33] Only put one or two employees that their arms rotted off that's not too bad. What do you like best about working for yourself. What's the worst part.

[00:26:45] So you know I really enjoy the freedom the time freedom. You know I don't have to ask anybody if I get you know get off early today or or if I can take off next week or take a day off here and there whatever I want to do it. So I really enjoy that. I mean over the years I've. I have acquired a team of people that are at our company that. quite frankly do a way better job than me. And so it allows me to have the time freedom is what I really like and it allows me to work remotely if I want to if I want to.

[00:27:18] You work out here. I know you have an RV or you did have an RV. You work out of that.

[00:27:22] We do. We're in between RVs right now because that one it caught on fire. Just got done deal with the insurance company on the claim and everything and stuff. So but we enjoy taking the RV and is an internet connection I am accessible where I can still work on strategy for the business I can still work on Web site development and so on and I can still work on marketing materials I can answer emails do do bids whatever I need to do for the business. I can still do I don't necessarily have to be there in the office.

[00:27:58] Well you know. You know I know people do RVs and like camping and stuff but you know you just are not supposed to build a fire in the living room of your RV. I don't know if the insurance people told you that.

[00:28:13] You know it was funny because the RV the flames started shooting out underneath the hood.

[00:28:19] Oh yeah that's hysterical. Yeah. It's like you had a low rider RV.

[00:28:26] We weren't about to break out the marshmallows.

[00:28:33] Well we got to take a brief break for our sponsor message. Then when we come back we're gonna ask Andy what's a typical day look like for him and how he stays motivated.

[00:28:42] So folks amazingpublicspeaking.com has over four hundred and seventy five public and professional speaking techniques openings closings attention getting devices humor and the business of speaking in case you want to get paid is the speaker. And it's only 97 bucks for an entire year so you can find that at AmazingPublicSpeaking.com Or of course in the show notes here at screwthecommute.com/116 that's this episode and we also have a complimentary webinar 30 speaking tips in thirty point six seven five minutes. That's the joke folks and all this is going to be in the show's notes at screwthecommute.com/116. If you think about being a speaker if you want to improve and have your co-workers amazed how you're wowed at the board meeting. This is the place to go.

[00:29:34] All right let's get back to Andy Sokol. Andy is a pretty long entrepreneur. Long time no see would you say nineteen eighty five ninety five ninety five. Okay. And he learned a lot in the time that he was a worker bee because he oh yes that opens a whole other program on how to grab past customers. He just brilliantly did that to the point where he lost them again. You think about the company kind of messed him over there a little bit. But he started off a new career for him. So. So what's a typical day look like for a guy like you and how do you stay motivated.

[00:30:15] So you know the best part about being in business for yourself is every day is different. I've never been one for to be able to go to work although I did it for a little bit. I tried it and I knew wasn't for me but I've never been able to really be happy going to work sitting at a desk or a cubicle having to be there by eight thirty. And if I'm one minute late they're upset and that kind of thing I've never really been happy with that I've always liked the flexibility of being in a sales position of some sort and of course being a business owner you're a salesperson first and then everything else falls in line after that. So for me day every day is different. Typically I get up. I try to get to the gym here and where near where we live and just work out a little bit. Have some coffee. If I don't get to go to the gym I want to go for a walk and just get myself going. And then depending on the day you know I mean they're going to go into the office and I have something specific to take care of or I have some appointments lined up or I get on and do a webinar with some clients or you know or I'm just take the day off we're going to have a vacation. So it all depends on on the day. And as long as I keep moving forward then everything is good as long as I can continue to make things happen different things that need to go need to happen. Only I can do in the business strategically and things like that. That's what I do. So every day is different completely different.

[00:31:51] Well yeah a lot of people love that. I mean some people like structure. You know has talked with some of the other day that gets up the same time and has the same breakfast every day. And that's the way they roll. But that's the beauty of this you roll however you want to roll. And this in this kind of thing but. But we all know of course businesses go perfectly all the time. So how do you stay motivated when sometimes that doesn't happen.

[00:32:17] Well here's the thing. So when you when you're doing something that. You would do for free. But oh by the way I get to get paid for it to. Then you know you're in the right business. You know you're doing the right thing at entrepreneurship to me is fun. It's it's and I think most entrepreneurs would agree to that. Being an entrepreneur it's not all about. This is my job. This is This Is Your Life and entrepreneurship encompasses basically every part of your life. And if it's fun and you enjoy what you're doing that it's not work anymore. And so that keeps me motivated because I actually enjoy it. I mean to all to the point of when I watch TV I'm not watching stupid stuff on TV mind numbing stuff I'm watching things like Shark Tank and the profit and other business related shows. You know Undercover Boss and and the restaurant rehab shows and things like that because I'm learning. I find that enjoyable as entertainment. But I'm also learning some business skills are sharpening some business skills at the same time. So that is just about having fun as an entrepreneur is really really that's keep me motivated.

[00:33:44] I watch a lot of that type of TV also. But you know I watch 88 episodes binge watch the equalizer from the 80s. But nobody can say anything about it. I still get all my stuff done. So a great talking to. Catching up with you. We were really thrilled. Some really great tips especially those two really big wins from this call that I want to pull out is the one about. You know bringing back old customers what you did to do that and then the other thing was starting a business with basically nothing. You know you made deals with with the the three months free rent and using some you know excess paint from your neighbor and whatever it took you got the job done and it was the start of where you are today. So great great tips for our folks. So thanks for coming on.

[00:34:42] Thank you for having me. I was a lot of fun and I appreciate being able to serve.

[00:34:46] Yeah. Let me know when you're in the the area I know your son is up here. Just out of college and hope this hope to see you when you visit. Okay folks. So next episode we have that's 117. We have Gina St. George. She noticed that a lot of entrepreneurs have been burning out and she figured out that it's because they don't have systems and processes in place. So you want to don't want to miss that because there's a lot of stuff to run a business. And the more systems and processes you can put in place the more money you can bring in and the more time you have to do other stuff you like so make sure you catch her episode 117 and please review and rate our show over at iTunes if you can. And there's other places you can do it too. But that's a really good place for us. And make sure you download that screw the commute podcast app right to your phone or your tablet and you can take us with you on the road and it does all kinds of cool stuff like you're listening to the podcast in your car and you get on a phone call. Well you know pause the thing automatically and when you're done with the phone call it'll start playing right up again. So just all kinds of stuff like that and you keep your favorite episode So make sure you download the that at screwthecommute.com/app. And we will see you on the next episode.

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