Marilyn Tam is an author, speaker, consultant, certified coach, business leader and humanitarian. She speaks and consults with companies, organizations and business leaders on how to be successful and happy. Her book, The Happiness Choice, shares how you can be a business success, and be happy and healthy, too.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Marlyn made a MAJOR miscalculation in a HUGE contract with Major League Baseball. Her saving grace? A contingency plan…
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- Be aware, Fire Nation, and LEAN into it. Marilyn’s AH-HA moment came from just that!
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- Making a positive difference in the world is what has Marilyn all kinds of fired up!
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Best Business Book
John Lee Dumas: Entrepreneurs, near and far, John Lee Dumas here and I am fired up to bring you our feature guest today, Marilyn Tam. Marilyn, are you prepared to ignite?
Marilyn Tam: Oh, absolutely. Yes.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. Marilyn Tam is an author, speaker, consultant, certified coach, business leader, and humanitarian. She speaks and consults with companies, organizations, and business leaders on how to be successful and happy. Her book, The Happiness Choice, shows how you can be a business success and be happy and healthy, too. Marilyn, I’ve given the Fire Nation just a little insight, so share more about you, personally. Then, expand upon the biz.
Marilyn Tam: My world is so much entrepreneur, because I’ve done both, the intrapreneurist, as you call it, as well as the entrepreneur, so I think that many people of one’s listening would relate to that, because some of us have to take that step of learning how to do it with somebody else, before we jump off and go into working for ourselves, and really, following our dreams. In my case, I was vice president of Nike, president of Reebok apparel, products, and retail group, and CEO of Aveda, and then, I’ve had formal companies of my own, and so, and I now also consult with other companies, both large and small, about how to be more entrepreneurial, because honestly, whether you’re inside a corporation, or in your own, you’ve got to be entrepreneurial to be successful and to be happy.
John Lee Dumas: I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a huge believer, Marilyn, of kind of being like a Swiss army knife. You know, especially, this day and age when everything’s changing so quickly, and the economy is just pivoting, and everything just seems like to be different when you wake up in the morning. The skill sets that you acquire as an entrepreneur can be absolutely integral to adapting to this change, to getting ahead of the change, and to creating amazing businesses, and Marilyn, you’ve really had quite an amazing journey, and that’s what I want to focus on, today, in this interview, and we talked about this a little bit in the pre-interview chat.
You gave me a little bit of a teaser, so I’m excited, now, too. You have quite the doozey of a story for us, you know that really focuses around, not specifically your worst entrepreneurial moments, but let’s call it your worst business moments, so take it away.
Marilyn Tam: One of my worst business moments, and I joke about this, because if I was a doctor, I could burry my mistakes, but since I’m a business person, it’s there and visible for everybody to see, so we have to learn from them, not – or else, we’re gonna have lots of them walking around, or showing up, and which is gonna be rather awkward in life, so my worst one was when I was vice president of Nike, and as the vice president of Nike Apparel and Products Retail Group, we had the opportunity to have logo merchandise from NFL, and it’s sold out like crazy. The great big sweatshirts.
We sold them from $90.00 a piece and they just were – they couldn’t keep them in, so I kept thinking. How can we do more of this? So, here’s my entrepreneurial mind thinking, and I said, “Well, what we can do is since we can’t get any more from NFL, because they have contracts with another organization, we should address another sports. What is more popular and more American than major league baseball?
John Lee Dumas: Boom.
Marilyn Tam: So, we went to them and got a contract to do all the apparel for them, so this seems like a match made in heaven. We’re gonna work together. We went to Cooper’s Town. We went through all the back hallways, and all the stories, and all the history. It was wonderful, and so, we created this line. We shipped it out to all their different stores that we had waiting for the same experience, that it was gonna be sold out, we’re just gonna be really popular with everybody. Well, we started getting calls from all the stores, but the calls were not what we wanted. The calls were saying the stuff is not selling. What do you want us to do with this?
It just – the nightmare that every retailer, every merchant ever worry about is that what we think is so great is not, so what do we do? How do we learn from that lesson, so the first thing I thought to do was find out the details, assess the situation, and how do we go from here? Nobody knew we had a story to tell. It was completely invisible, so obviously, it wasn’t selling well, because nobody knew about it, and the stores where we had this feature, done the way we envisioned it, was the point of sale, packaging, and everything.
It was [00:04:56] [inaudible] out, so we knew that the product was good, but we had made one big mistake, which is we didn’t consider the stores that we were putting our products in. A major mistake, so we had a choice; to maintain relationship – and this is what we can all learn, as an entrepreneur, how do we make lemonade out of the lemons we just grew, and in our case, we just went back and said to the stores that weren’t selling it, “Bring it – send it back to us.” We re-sorted it and sent to other stores that were selling the products.
We went to our manufacturers who had broke up space for us to make more product, and because when we had thought about this ahead of time, we had told them not to produce anything, just save the space, and then, leave the goods, before we print them, so that the fabric, before we print them, so that we have maximum flexibility, so we did think some of this through, and so, we could still get delivery. We can still get production of the things that we’re selling. [Audio skips] [00:06:01] [inaudible] the customers who did not sell the goods, and also, take care of the customers who are selling the goods, so it was not the worst case scenario, in the end, because we made some plans ahead of time, contingency plans, which is what we always have to do, as an entrepreneur, and also, we made all – the whole chain of people we work with, from the vendors that we deal with, to our stores, our customers, all happy.
It was an embarrassing store, because I had to sign this major contract with major league baseball, and there’s definitely a visible embarrassment, but we came out ahead. We learned, and we also built strong relationships, because up and down the line, people believe that when we stood for something, we agree to something, we follow through, so it was a good story to – it’s a good ending to a bad story.
John Lee Dumas: And one thing that I’m really pulling out of this, Marilyn, is going back to that Swiss army knife analogy that I used. You, Fire Nation, is entrepreneurs. You have to have these contingency plans. You have to have more than one way to skin a cat. You know, more than one way to peel a banana. I mean, it can’t just be like, okay, this is what we’re gonna do, and if this fails, you know we’re left kind of holding our hands in the air saying, well, what happened, and what’s next? No.
This has to be a plan of action with contingency plans in place, and such a valuable lesson on so many levels, Marilyn, and let’s kind of keep going with this great story format that we’re going forward with, and you’re telling some great stories, and take us there to this next moment in time, and this one, Marilyn, is an ah-ha moment, is a light bulb that went on, at some point in your journey, so tell us that story, and share with us the steps you took after having that idea, Marilyn, that helped you turn into success.
Marilyn Tam: Well, this is another fun story, and this was when I was on my own, doing my own business, and I’m what you would call a conscious consumer. I like to read labels of what I’m buying. I like to know it’s not made by slave labor, or it’s under bad environmental conditions. This is 1999, and I was talking to some friends of mine, and we said, “You know, there’s a lot more of us out here than just you and me, and our six other friends.” They would probably need the same information.
What if we gathered all this information and had it available on the web, and as you know, in 1999, this was just the beginning of this consciousness movement, and the use of the web as a tool to get information. I don’t know if you go back that far. I do.
John Lee Dumas: I was a sophomore in college, so absolutely.
Marilyn Tam: So, here we’re talk – so, we’re talking with my friends, and we said, “You know, I bet you there’s something that we can do to offer this to other consumers. What should we call these people?” What we were deciding, between the few of us, was that we were designing what eventually became known as portal site. We didn’t have even those words then, but we didn’t have all the technical knowledge. It was myself, who is a business person who understands about consumers, who understands about production, and understands about a lot of industries in both what we call the social and environmental movements, shall we say.
A friend who was – one of my friends was a very big technical person, and also, very big into entertainment industry, and then, I have another person who was a writer, so the three of us came together and said, “Well, how do we get the rest of the skills to create this portal site?” Networking within our people, we created the template, we got the tech people to help us, and we developed what we eventually called Wasabi, and the reason why we call it the site Wasabi is because it’s hot, like wasabi is, but it’s also a little exotic, because we were a little ahead of the game.
Other people were not into doing that, serving the conscious consumer, yet, so we could develop the site, and we’re just in the templating stage, and the first pages stage, and one of the people I outreached to, to get more information and to make partnership, because it’s one thing we knew we didn’t have, or anything, so we’re making partnerships with a company called Gaiam. I don’t know if you know them. G-A-I-A-M, and they’re quite big in this movement, and would you know, before we launched our website, they bought it.
John Lee Dumas: Wow. Before you launched.
Marilyn Tam: They eventually took our template and made that the basis of what, now, is the Whole Foods website.
John Lee Dumas: Wow. That’s the basis of the Whole Foods website. Now, Marilyn, if you kind of were to step back, now, and to look back at that ah-ha moment that you had, and the steps you took to move forward, what would you really want our listeners, Fire Nation, to be taking away from this? Like, what do you really want these entrepreneurs, [00:11:04] [inaudible], these small business owners that are listening right now, like how can we apply what you did in 1999 to here in 2015?
Marilyn Tam: The first thing I want to say is be aware of what you’re doing and what you’re consuming, because you are a consumer, and that’s what we all are, in some level, so if you are interested in something, lean into that, because already, you have the interest in that, so you’re gonna have more interest and expertise in developing that. If there’s something that you see as an opportunity, keep diving into it, because hopefully, as an entrepreneur, you’re doing something you like. Otherwise, why are you doing what you’re doing, because you have a choice, so if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re doing something you like.
Lean into what interests you, and then, get the feedback and make partners, because as a small entrepreneur, we’re never gonna have enough of all the resources we need, whether it is financial, whether it’s social, whether it is connections, whether it’s technical, so make the network happen, and that’s what we are so good at, as entrepreneurs, because by definition, we have to be more outgoing, because we don’t have everything within the four walls in which we work.
John Lee Dumas: Be aware and lean into it. I love the use of your words there, Marilyn. Fire Nation, absorb that. Powerful stuff, and Marilyn, we’re gonna move into the 60 second question segment, now, and this is, again, in an ideal day. What do your first 60 minutes look like?
Marilyn Tam: When I first wake up, I go right into meditation, because then, I can clear my mind of sleep, of whatever else I have coming on, because most days, like most entrepreneurs, we’ve got more things than we can fit into 24 hour period, so I just take a little time and just meditate to clear my mind of the night, as well as what is gonna come up for me during the day. It doesn’t have to be long. Even if you want to do it for five, 10, or 15 minutes, just take that time to just reset your whole consciousness, and then, the next thing, I come back to there.
I give gratitude, and then, I review my day, and then, reviewing my day, then, I can start prioritizing what’s important, and then, I stretch, and then, I make a smoothie, have some nutrition, and I’m ready to just really go into full force into what is gonna make my day rock.
John Lee Dumas: What are some ingredients you love putting in your smoothie?
Marilyn Tam: I put in both, fruits and vegetables, and also, some sort of protein, so I put it in – usually, I soak nuts overnight so that I get rid of the enzymes and I put that in, too, and so, I have vegetables, avocado, some kind of citrus always, and whatever is fresh at the moment, and then, I add water to make it [00:13:50] [inaudible], some supplements, grind it up, and it just fills me with vitality, energy, and I’m ready to just really move forward in the day feeling refreshed and energized.
John Lee Dumas: Love that. What is one of your biggest strengths, as an entrepreneur?
Marilyn Tam: I would say, without hesitation, curiosity, because if we are not curious, we’re just gonna keep doing whatever we’re doing forever, and that’s the first recipe for disaster. We have to always wonder, can I do this better? Is there something else I should be learning, doing, adding, subtracting? So, the curiosity is a very big strength, I think, of any entrepreneur.
John Lee Dumas: What’s your biggest weakness?
Marilyn Tam: Too much enthusiasm.
John Lee Dumas: Is that possible, because then, I’m screwed.
Marilyn Tam: And just to know that sometimes – just because we’re excited about it, we just have to take a pause and say, is this something that I need to act on, or should I just really say no to it? Thank you very much, and move on.
John Lee Dumas: Deep breath, Fire Nation. Think about it again. Is it really something that is going to be mission critical to what you’re trying to create in your life? I think that’s really valuable. Marilyn, what’s a habit that you wish you had?
Marilyn Tam: I wish I was an extrovert, and as an entrepreneur, we all need to connect with people all the time, and I’m very good at it, and I can go out there and connect with the best of them, but when I get done, I have to go home and close the door, and for extroverts, they can’t – they get energized by that. For me, I need the down time where I just have to just have the quiet time again.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah. Enthusiastic introvert. That’s a tough combination, Marilyn, but you make it work, girl. I love it, so Marilyn, you have a lot of really cool things going on right now, but if you could just, for our audience, Fire Nation, break it down into the one thing that has you most fired up. What would it be?
Marilyn Tam: And it’s the same thing that has got me fired up from when I was quite young and that is wanting to make a positive difference in the world, and that’s really my driving purpose, and I think everyone needs to have that to get them up in the morning and really going, and – because whatever task, whatever project you’re working on, it’s gonna go away, sooner or later, so you have to make sure that each project, each thing you’re working on is aligned with your life purpose, and so, for me, my life purpose is to make a positive difference, so I just use that as the gauge to see what I’m doing. If it’s aligned with that, I am fired up and I’m ready to rock and roll.
John Lee Dumas: Boo-ya, and Marilyn, I’m not letting you go anywhere just yet, because we are about to enter the lightning round, but before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors. Marilyn, welcome to the lightning round where you get to share incredible resources and mind blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Marilyn Tam: Yes.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Marilyn Tam: It’s something that I think hold a lot of entrepreneurs back, is just a practical details of financial support and do I have enough funds to take the time to check out my dream and still pay rent?
John Lee Dumas: And still pay that little thing called rent. What is the best advice, Marilyn, you’ve ever received?
Marilyn Tam: And this came from one of my first bosses, and as a young entrepreneur, a young business person, we all sometimes have a sense that we know better, that we have some kind of idea that’s gonna be better than anybody else, or that we know what we should give our consumers, or our clients, and what my boss said to me is, “Make sure your client – this is what your client wants and not what you think they should have, and then, deliver it to them in a way better than they can ever envision, so you make what they want and need.”
John Lee Dumas: Share one of your personal habits, Marilyn, that you do have that you believe contributes to your success.
Marilyn Tam: Doing everything to the best of my ability. I feel like there’s something I’m engrained to doing, I just can’t do anything half way. I feel like that if I’m doing something, I better do it the best way I know how.
John Lee Dumas: It’s all or nothing, Fire Nation. That’s why I love the phrase go one inch wide and one mile deep. Just dominates whatever that one thing is you’re gonna do, and don’t put too much of those one things on your plate, and Marilyn, do you have an internet resource, like an evernote, that you can share with our listeners?
Marilyn Tam: One that I really like, and because I use Skype a lot, which is what we’re doing right now, is that I have something called eCamm, E-C-A-M-M, Network, and what they – what this allows me to do is record whatever I’m doing, whether it’s video, or audio, or both, and send it to another source easily, and have it available to be edited, or whatever we need to do, so for me, it’s an easy way to record, edit, and do things that a small business needs for an inexpensive and easy way. It works right off my computer.
John Lee Dumas: Love that. If you could recommend one book, Marilyn, to join your book, The Happiness Choice, on our show knows page, what would that book be and why?
Marilyn Tam: I would recommend Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh who is the CEO of Zappos. His whole story and I recommend the book. I really – I just read it again, because it’s such an inspiring book, is his whole premise for his success he found is that it’s not about what product you sell, it’s not about what you do, it’s what customer service you give, because we are, in our world, trying to make connection, and people might say, okay, you have to do email blasts, you have buy a banner, and you have to do this and that.
The most effective marketing and sales tool we have is word of mouth and somebody that feels connected to your business, so this is what he talks about in his book, and it’s a fun story, and he has a lot of insights. The main thing, if I have to boil it down to one sentence, is customer service is the most important thing you can do as an entrepreneur.
John Lee Dumas: This is such a good message, and Fire Nation, if you haven’t read Delivering Happiness, I highly recommend it, as well as The Happiness Choice. Let’s be honest, knock both of those books out, and I know you love audio, Fire Nation, so I have teamed up with audible and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com, and Marilyn, this next question’s the last of the lightning round, but it’s a doozey. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all 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?
Marilyn Tam: I think that would be so fun and scary, but fun. I would, first, it sounds funny, I would sign up for internet service and get a cell phone service, because in today’s world, to get any business, or get anything going, you need to be connected, and that’s the best way to be mobilely connected globally. Then, I would check and review the current cultural norms, reviewing the type financial, social, environmental sites, and then, establish an outline of what I want to do next, because if we don’t know what we want to do, we’re not gonna be able to figure it out, so knowing the playing field, now, then, I can just go establish what I want to do.
Then, with that in mind, I can join the relevant business and social networking groups and associations, review and participate in what I feel like I can contribute and are interested in, post articles about hwat I know and can offer assistance and insights into, attend and network in all levels, and then, ask for support in my mission, so by the end of the week, I think I’m gonna have some pretty good ideas of where I’m gonna go next.
John Lee Dumas: Love that. Fire Nation, that is a recipe for success in any nation, any field. You know, you just go forward and you contribute, you add value, and Marilyn, let’s end today on fire, with you sharing just one parting piece of guidance. The best way that we can connect with you, and then, we’ll say goodbye.
Marilyn Tam: Easy to connect with me is just go to my website, which is my name. MarilynTam.com, so M-A-R-I-L-Y-N-T-A-M.com, and if you want to write me, just go marilyntam.com. I have a lot of free services and products on my gift page on my website, including some of the insights I offered, plus insights from many of my friends, which include Jack Canfield, Joan Borysenko, the whole range of leaders that I’ve connected with in my life, so it’s – I feel that, as an entrepreneur, I need to give back, and this is one way that I can give back, on my website, and I have a newsletter that I send out once a month, so anyway, connect with me there, or on Facebook, on LinkedIn, MarilynTam.com.
John Lee Dumas: Love that and one parting piece of guidance.
Marilyn Tam: The one thing I want all entrepreneurs to hear is that you are good enough and you’re ready to do whatever you want to do now. Don’t wait. Whatever you have, and the passion in you, you can find the support, you can find the information. As long as you have a passion, you can go forward.
John Lee Dumas: Now, Fire Nation, the time is now. I love that message, Marilyn, and Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people that you spend the most time with, and you have been hanging out with Marilyn Tam and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Just type Marilyn, M-A-R-I-L-Y-N in the search bar. Her [00:24:06] [inaudible] page will pop right up with links to her email address, book, you name it, it’s there for you, and Marilyn, thank you for sharing your journey.
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