John Ruhlin ranked #1 in sales in the 65-year history of Cutco. His broken records stand among the 1 Million+ distributors. Firm specializes in year round appreciation to open doors with C-level prospects, create employee engagement, drive referrals.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- John was on top of the world, and then he wasn’t. Misery compounded upon misery into quite the story…
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- The value of adding value to others is indescribable. John built his entire business on this model, and today he shares how you can, too!
Small Business Resource
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Best Business Book
- Give and Take by Adam M. Grant
JLD: John is ranked No. 1 in sales in the 65-year history of Cutco. His broken record stands among the 1 million plus distributors. His firm specializes in year-round appreciation to open doors with sea-level prospects, create employee engagements, and drive referrals. John, say what’s up to Fire Nation and share what’s going on in your world right now.
Mr. Ruhlin: Hey, man. Hello, Fire Nation. I feel like I can’t get enough energy to go through the line to communicate how I’m feeling and the vibe I’m getting from you, but life is good, even though it’s a rainy day in St. Louis.
JLD: Yes. Rainy day in St. Louis is always second to a sunny day in San Diego.
Mr. Ruhlin: Yes, it is. It definitely is.
JLD: So give us a little, kind of expounding upon where you’re at in the world and just what’s making you smile.
Mr. Ruhlin: Yeah. Things are good. I got two little girls that are 2 and 4. When this episode comes out, it’ll be public that we have baby No. 3 on the way, so that’s exciting.
JLD: We’re live right now. Hope that’s cool. No, I’m just kidding. No, I’m kidding.
Mr. Ruhlin: I would be cool with it. My wife, not so much.
JLD: Right, right, right.
Mr. Ruhlin: So most people don’t know that yet, but yeah, man. As an entrepreneur, there are always challenges, but I’m being blessed. Business is growing. We’ve hired employees. I have a great business partner, and we’re just doing some really cool things, getting ready to do some traveling out to Napa to be with some of my guys out at MastermindTalks, and so I’m feeling very, very good.
JLD: No, it’s great, and we share a mutual friend in Mr. Miracle Morning himself, Hal Elrod. In Fire Nation, you might remember him as episode 589, also known as one of the top ten interviews of Entrepreneur on Fire, which when, John, we’re approaching 1000, that’s a pretty good percentile to be in, so obviously, Hal can rock the mike in, so we expect you can as well. So, no pressure, no pressure.
Mr. Ruhlin: No pressure. Yeah, he’s a wonderful human being. That’s no question about that.
JLD: Well, John, we’re gonna find out your mind and insights into your brain right now because I’m about to enter the one-minute mindset and take you with me where I’m gonna ask you five questions. No. 1 being, ideally, what do the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
Mr. Ruhlin: Well, getting up early, getting my start to the day around 5:00 a.m. Depending upon the day, before I hit the ground running, I try to think of three things that I’m grateful for. I go right to the kitchen and get going with a raw smoothie, protein smoothie, and then it’s usually 20 minutes in the sauna, 20 to 30 minutes down in my office, which is in my house, and then it’s usually 20 to 30 minutes of journaling, reading the Bible, and prayer and kind of meditation. So if it’s a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I go right from there to play basketball for an hour. If it’s a Tuesday, Thursday or weekend, it’s a mixture of things, taking my girls to school or any number of things there.
JLD: You just said a lot of stuff, but all I heard was sauna, so I’m open for an invite any time. I’m all about the sauna, but –
Mr. Ruhlin: Absolutely. It’s a three-person sauna, although my business partner says, you know what, I need a bigger sauna if I’m gonna be hanging out in any sort of enclosure naked with you, John, so . . .
JLD: Oh, love it. It’s an immediate bonding experience; let’s just put it that way.
Mr. Ruhlin: It is, absolutely.
JLD: So John, let’s talk about your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur. Share that with us.
Mr. Ruhlin: Yeah. I think that, at least for me, focus is a big challenge, and that’s why I have a business partner who tends to see the world differently than I do. I see the opportunity in everything, and so I’m always seeing the good in people, but I tend to get distracted with the shiny object kind of sitting [inaudible 00:04:04] I think a lot of people struggle with, but if you see my computer on a typical day, I could have 30 windows open at the same time and I have to shut it down because as soon as I think of things, I wanna go down that rabbit hole, and I have to – I really struggle with that.
JLD: No, absolutely, the weapons of mass distraction, John.
Mr. Ruhlin: Yes.
JLD: They’re everywhere, my friend, and this acronym for focus may help you, Follow One Course Until Success, so when you know that success is at the end of that, it’s a lot easier to focus.
Mr. Ruhlin: Yeah, I like that.
JLD: What’s your biggest strength, John, as an entrepreneur?
Mr. Ruhlin: I think I’m very good at quickly, when I connect with anybody, I can creatively see the angle of how I can add value and how they might be able to add value and how we can creatively create a win/win for the situation, so developing partnerships and advocates and relationships quickly is really strong for me, and I would say second to that is I’m very good at gift giving, and so I’m able to connect and get doors open that a lot of people, it might take months or years, we’re able to do that very, very quickly.
JLD: Cool. Again, I love saunas, so just saying. So John, what is a habit that you wish you had?
Mr. Ruhlin: It goes back to the weakness of, working on one thing at a time. If I could quiet the noise and be able to be quiet and work on one thing at a time, I think that would be – it’s something that I am working on, so it’s not like, hey, I wish I had that and maybe 20 years off, I’ll have that, but it’s not currently in my repertoire on a consistent basis.
JLD: So John, you’re mixing with the right people, the Hal Elrods of the world, you’re going to this great Mastermind coming up here, so you have a lot of cool things going on, but if you had to break it down for Fire Nation, what’s the one thing that has you most fired up right now?
Mr. Ruhlin: Well, I’m having more opportunities to speak. I had the opportunity to speak at a sales summit for a $250 million hospitality company, and I know the SVP pretty well, and it went – not only did it go well, but some of the other speakers that they had paid quite a bit more to have at the event than they paid me, they came back and said, John, we would like to buy you to be able to present as a package at every sales summit that comes to one of our hotels. We feel like your message just resonated so well with our 150 sales people, so an opportunity to do something like that, and the cool thing is, it’s in St. Louis.
So my wife is happy, I don’t have to jump on an airplane, and all of the companies that they’re selling to are, you know, they’re tech, they’re ag, they’re all companies that I would love to be working with anyway, so to get paid to advertise your message in a way you could help somebody with appreciative selling is kind of a dream come true. So I’m super excited about that opportunity.
JLD: I think it’s a great point that you made is to get paid to advertise what your product or your service might be. In Fire Nation, that’s how you wanna be positioning yourself. I mean, it’s important to be valued, and that’s when you put a price sticker on something, but at the same time, it’s great to say, you know what, I’m not gonna stick to the premium high point that everybody else is demanding because just being there on stage in front of these people is an amazing opportunity.
John, speaking of amazing, I mean, I read your intro here. I mean, No. 1 ranked sales in 65-year history of Cutco. I mean, you broke records. I mean, you’ve had quite the history as a sales guy, as an entrepreneur guy, as a business man in general, but it wasn’t always awesome, and it wasn’t always bad. It’s the rollercoaster of life, but take us to the worst entrepreneurial moment that you ever experienced. Really, in that moment, John, take us there and tell us that story.
Mr. Ruhlin: Yeah, it was 2007. I remember it crystal clear. I was on a high point at first. I had sold half the business to a business partner that I had been talking to for a number of years about buying businesses together, and eventually I just said, won’t you buy half of mine and we’ll go buy other businesses underneath this umbrella, and he’s the guy that’s the COO/CFO of Mindset. He’s the operational guy, the finance guy, and within a month or two, I found out that my assistant of seven years, who I had a super close relationship with, she was filing my taxes, she had an accounting degree, found out she was stealing from me. Found out she was doing the taxes wrong, and so I got notice of an IRS audit.
I started a new relationship, but with the first date that we went on or the first major date we went on, I was in her hometown and got news that my 2-year-old nephew had drowned in a swimming pool, and so it was just – it was one of the lowest points that I had. I mean, I literally – and then some of the real estate I invested in, 2008 happened all in that same time period, so I couldn’t sell this piece of real estate. I had invested in a number of other businesses, and those were going bad. I was literally living on about $1,000.00 a month take home. When everybody else was assuming, oh, you sold half the business, everything’s great, like, I literally had to liquidate as much as I possibly could and was trying to start off this new relationship with this beautiful girl that I started dating.
So my now wife got the worst side of being an entrepreneur for the first probably two years of our relationship, and to this day, I’m still trying to make that up to her because it was a miserable two years of existence, to put it lightly.
JLD: But now you know without any shadow or shred of a doubt that she was the right one. I mean, if she’s gonna be with you during those times, I mean, that’s the type of person that you want with you during all the times.
Mr. Ruhlin: She’s a rock, man. She’s loyal. Yeah, she definitely didn’t marry me for my money because she was making more money than I was going into that relationship, oh, my gosh. It gives me chills even to this day to think about it.
JLD: I mean that’s one thing. Fire Nation is – we talk about this. Every month, John, we actually publish our income reports because we wanna kind of show Fire Nation what’s working for us and what’s not working for us and all these different things, and we bring our CPA, a great, great guy, on the show and have him talk about this type of stuff about the importance of the quarterly taxes and filing correctly and doing X, Y, and Z because Fire Nation – you wanna start these things square one, day one doing it right because once those dominoes start to topple in the wrong direction, they’re really, really hard to stop, and so you need to get out there. You need to find that CPA that you can trust that has those credentials that’s referred by people that you trust and just start doing those things now. Even before you’re generating revenue, that’s where you wanna make those relationships.
John, that was a dark time, but you came through that and you’ve had some great times since and some obstacles since, as we all do and we all will in the future, but tell us another story now. This one’s gonna be an ah-ha moment. This is going to be an epiphany, a light bulb that went on for you that you wanna share with Fire Nation because you know this story’s gonna resonate with our listeners. So take us to that moment in time and tell us that story.
Mr. Ruhlin: Yeah. Well, it actually came ahead of that time. I wouldn’t have been an entrepreneur probably had it not been for this moment, and it was, in some ways really simple, but in some ways it’s what we built our entire business on, and so for me it’s a major ah-ha. I hope everybody else resonates with it, but I had started interning with Cutco, so I’m, you know, the first couple months in the business. I went out and just was working like a maniac, but fortunately, I was dating a girl at the time – I didn’t marry her, but the girl I was dating at the time, her dad was an attorney, and what was interesting is that he was a very successful attorney, but he seemed to be successful in a number of other ways and seemed to be making money off of other things, way more than even being an attorney.
He owned gas wells and banks, and everybody seemed to want to take time for Paul and everybody loved this guy, and what I noticed is, as a poor college kid and as a poor farm boy, like, he was always giving things away. So I remember going to him, and he had bought a set of Cutco for himself and his three unmarried daughters, which, who does that. I mean, he was supporting me at a high level, and I went to him, and I said, Paul, you’re always giving things away, and to give an idea, he would find a deal on noodles and literally buy like a semi load of noodles and give them out at church to everybody the next Sunday just because he just loved doing nice things, no strings attached.
So I pitched him the idea, I said, Paul, I think we could engrave a logo or something on these pocket knives to give out to all your guy clients, all these executives, and he got this little twinkle in his eye, and he said, John, instead of giving out pocket knives, could you do paring knives. I got this confused look on my face, and I’m like, Paul, what are you talking about, and I’ll sell you as many paring knives as you want, but you gotta tell me why. He said, John, every client that I have is, for the most part, they’re successful business owners or executives, but they’re all married, and he said, I find that if I take care of the wife and the entire family, everything else seems to take care of itself.
At that moment, I realized, and I realized over the next probably four or five years, it wasn’t about the knife for Paul. It wasn’t about the noodles or the gifts or whatever else. He understood human nature and understood relationships, and I started to present and pitch, you know, executives and teaching them how to get doors opened, and a lot of the times, it was about going against the grain and doing something completely different and taking care of the assistant or the gatekeeper or the receptionist or – I would find out in a big insurance company that I want to go talk to, I’d find out the executive’s name, but I’d find out his wife’s name and I’d engrave it on a carving set, handcrafted essentially for, you know, Jim and Susie Smith, and I’d put a little handwritten note inside, Jim, carve out five minutes for me, I promise it’ll be worth your time.
I’d come in, he’d be expecting somebody 40 years old and I was 22 years old, and I would present him the idea of how we could leverage these appreciation tools to open up doors for his 100 sales reps or whatever else, and so by the time I was a senior in college, I was selling more knives than anybody else, not because I was the best sales rep, but because I had completely changed the dynamics and was teaching executives how to deepen relationships, and it all came from this ah-ha moment that I had with Paul when I was 20 years old of how to really appreciate and deepen relationships completely different than what most people have ever been experienced or exposed to.
JLD: I mean, Fire Nation, that’s the slight but just critical mindset shift that you can apply to your business and it’s going to be in a different way, in a different shape, in a different form, but what that shift is gonna do is it’s gonna differentiate you. It’s gonna have you stepping outside the box and saying, I’m not selling A to B, I’m selling A to B for C or some way around that. I mean, that’s just a complete different way of operating when you can step out of that normal zone and when 999,000 reps are selling things this way and you’re that one rep that’s selling things that way, you stand out and you start standing out for the right reasons, and that’s really exciting.
John, I’m personally really excited because we have some really cool things that we’re going to be focusing on with you coming up here in the lightning round, but before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors.
John, welcome to the lightning round where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Mr. Ruhlin: Sounds awesome.
JLD: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Mr. Ruhlin: In some ways, even realizing what an entrepreneur was probably. I grew up a farm boy and was selling candy and doing different things that were pretty entrepreneurial, but I would say I got straight A’s, so I thought I had to go be something in the corporate world, and when I started to be exposed to other entrepreneurs, I started to recognize, 1, I was one and, 2, like it was a respectable thing to go do.
JLD: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Mr. Ruhlin: I’m gonna take it back – it was something that Paul, my original mentor, the kind of the ah-ha moment, something that he modeled, and it’s kind of like my mantra, which was, give more than is reasonable. I think in most relationships, personal or professional, we usually hold back 5 or 10 percent because we’re afraid to either be taken advantage of or we’re afraid to look silly, and when you go that extra 10 percent and beyond what you’re comfortable with, it’s amazing the things that happen and the doors that open.
JLD: What’s a personal habit that you do have that you believe contributes to your success?
Mr. Ruhlin: Every meeting I take, I follow up with a handwritten thank you note in some way, shape, or form and/or often times a $100.00 to $200.00 gift to thank them for the time that they gave me. I think that most people will give out gifts and whatever else, not recognizing that when you sit down with somebody for an hour, their hour of time is worth $50.00, $100.00, $10,000.00, whatever. We don’t recognize people for the time that they give us. We only recognize people for, you know, when they give us something like a deal or tangible, and I think that in our day and age, time is our most precious resource, and you have to appreciate people for their time.
JLD: Love it. Do you have an internet resource like Evernote that you can share with Fire Nation?
Mr. Ruhlin: I use Contactually to manage my relationships. I’ve been playing around with it, and that’s becoming my go-to for CRM.
JLD: Well, I had the founder of Contactually on Entrepreneur on Fire. He is a lovely gentleman, and it’s a great, great program and an incredible way of Fire Nation to do just that, to keep in touch with the people that matter in ways that make sense that leverages your time, but at the same time makes that intimate, personal, and real connection happen, and John, if you could recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Mr. Ruhlin: It would be – I just read it last year. It’s called Give and Take by Adam Grant, and I think, in many ways, it’s like a road map for a lot of the things that I do, but I think that Zvi, the founder of Contactually and Derek Colburn and the Hal Elrods of the world, they’re all givers, and I think it gives you a road map of how to be a giver without getting taken advantage of, which I think is humongous in our culture in 2015.
JLD: Yeah, shout out to Derek Colburn too. Great guy. Fire Nation, I know that you love audio, so if you haven’t already, I teamed up with Audible, and you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com like Give and Take. John, this question is the last question of the lightning round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all of the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Mr. Ruhlin: I would identify the five people that I wanted as clients, and I would take those $500.00, and I would invest a hundred dollars in a gift that was personalized specifically for that person to make sure that I was gonna get connected to them so I could re-establish my business and re-launch again.
JLD: And maybe to go one level deeper, like what’s one tactic you would use to actually identify those five people?
Mr. Ruhlin: The beautiful thing right now is that with social media, everything’s available, people’s likes, preferences, you know, the deepest secrets that they have. It’s amazing how open people are, and so yeah, I would leverage LinkedIn and Twitter and Google, Facebook, really anything you wanna know about somebody that you wanna connect with or build a relationship with. Obviously, you have to use that information wisely and not stalkerishly, but –
JLD: Stalkerishly, that’s my new word of the day.
Mr. Ruhlin: – which it is a fine line, but I think if you do things the right way with the right intentions and reasons behind it and really are trying to reach out to people with their best interests in mind, not just your own selfish interests, then it comes across that way most of the time. Every once in a while, you offend somebody, the one out of a hundred. I don’t worry about the one out of a hundred. I worry about the 99 that I wow, so yeah, I’d do my homework and I’d leverage that $500.00 that way.
JLD: So John, let’s end today on fire with you sharing just one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you. Then we’ll say goodbye.
Mr. Ruhlin: Two websites, Ruhlingroup.com or Johnruhlin.com, or you can follow me at @ruhlin or shout out, just reach out to me directly through either one of those channels.
JLD: Love it, and a parting piece of guidance?
Mr. Ruhlin: I would say my parting piece of advice would be to give more than is reasonable. Step up what you’re doing and looking outward, not inward, with those folks, and I would daily start to take note of the people that you’re grateful for and the people that you wouldn’t have, your business or your life, the life as you know it, that you wouldn’t have without, and go out of your way to say thank you to those people daily.
JLD: Fire Nation, thank you, and you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you have been hanging out with John and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, just type John in the search bar. His [inaudible 00:22:40] page will pop right up. John, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, my friend, we salute you and thank you, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Mr. Ruhlin: Thanks, man. It’s been awesome.
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