Robert James is the founder of Entrepreneurs Dinner – an intimate, invite-only event that brings together ambitious entrepreneurs to make genuine connections to grow your business over a delicious four-course meal.
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The Best Self Journal – Roberts’s small business resource
Autobiography of a Yogi – Robert’s Top Business Book
Entrepreneurs Dinner – Robert’s website
Connect with Robert on Facebook
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The Freedom Journal – Set & Accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days!
3 Value Bombs
1) Intimacy simply means “seeing into me” and gaining customer loyalty requires a brand to be intimate with their audience.
2) Think about the worst that could happen and build your plans from there.
3) Look to connect with others without the intention of selling or gaining something from them — it’s what makes the most valuable relationships.
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(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
[01:02] – Entrepreneurs Dinner is a curated, invite-only event
[01:19] – The dinners are hosted in private residences with private chefs, videographers, and photographers
[01:50] – Robert’s areas of expertise are in creating genuine connections between entrepreneurs and teaching an innovative approach to brands to help them gain amazing customer loyalty
[02:43] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: There’s a huge misunderstanding about intimacy. It’s in-to-me-see or seeing in to me
[04:52] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Robert met a real-estate developer who allowed him to use his home for the 2nd Entrepreneurs Dinner. This developer’s dog died a day or two before the dinner, and at the actual dinner the man just went crazy. He announced he was calling the police if everybody didn’t leave at that moment. Robert tried to calm him down, but to no avail. He then asked everyone to leave, and with that, the rental equipment was also left inside
[06:33] – Always think of the worst case scenario
[08:35] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Going to networking events still left Robert feeling like he wasn’t making genuine connections. After going to so many events, he realized he wanted to create something with the opposite effect. Robert initially invited smart people into his parents’ home and found that people who attended the dinner really made genuine connections with each other. After that dinner, somebody asked Robert when the next dinner would be, and from that came the start of Entrepreneurs Dinner
[11:06] – People are craving to genuinely know each other
[12:16] – By looking to connect with others, without the intention of selling or gaining, is what creates the most valuable connections and relationships in business
[12:45] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “I’m just about opportunity”
[13:23] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “I had this good job that allowed me to work anywhere in the world”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Meditation is a game-changer for me”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – The Best Self Journal
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Autobiography of a Yogi – “it opened up different avenues of what’s possible in our lives”
[15:15] – Connect with each other in a deeper, more meaningful way
Robert: You know I am John.
John: Robert James is the founder of Entrepreneurs Dinner, an intimate invite only event that brings together ambitious entrepreneurs to make genuine connections to grow their business over a delicious four course meal. Robert besides making my mouth water take a minute to fill in the gaps on that intro and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Robert: Absolutely John. So, Entrepreneurs Dinner, as you said invites great entrepreneurs. It’s a curated invite only event. It allows entrepreneurs to share what their business is, what their biggest challenge and hurdle in business is, and most importantly how they can help other. So, we put together these dinners, we host them at these beautiful private residences, we have private chefs that serve delicious four course meals, bar tenders that serve your favorite drinks and then videographers and photographers that capture the entire event. So, it’s a really great event. In fact, one of the most recent ones we did was on this yacht. So, it’s turned into these great experiences for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses together.
John: So, with everything that you’ve done thus far in life, what would you say your current area of expertise is?
Robert: It’s really two-fold John. One is craving genuine connections between entrepreneurs to feel truly supported by a community that helps them to grow their business, and that’s what we do with the Entrepreneurs Dinner. And the other is essentially teaching an innovative approach that billion-dollar brands, leaders like Apple and Google, as well as individual brands like Beyoncé, use in order to create just amazing customer loyalty, brand engagement and increased profitability. And that’s the subject of a recent TED Talk that I delivered called “Why are billion-dollar brands chasing intimacy?”
John: Tell me something about intimacy that I don’t know, tell me something about genuine connections that I don’t know. I mean go deep here Robert, let’s really talk about this.
Robert: People have this common understanding that I believe is a misunderstanding about intimacy. They think about the sexual kind of intimacy. And that’s not at all what I’m talking about. The origin for the word intimacy comes from the Latin root intima, meaning: inner, innermost or inner being. So, the way that I define intimacy for people to really understand is phonetically. That’s In-To-Me-See. So that’s seeing into me. That’s a union between the seer and the seen requiring both. And it’s my opinion, you may agree John, that in a state where people are more connected than ever, but report feeling more disconnected, we’re starting to push away from things like automation and just constant social media and we’re craving intimacy to fill that gap.
John: I mean people get genuinely upset these days when they’re at this webinar that’s – they think it might be live but turns out to be recorded – people get really upset about that.
Robert: Absolutely, and it’s because in my opinion we just reached a state where we’re constantly involved with devices. Also, consumers are more educated about the sales process, they’re more sophisticated buyers. So there needs to be new ways in order to connect with customers and consumers in order to engage with them more. So this idea of intimacy, allowing yourself, your business to be seen into, and also to see them accounts for that and enables you to create a genuine connection at a very deep level.
John: Now Robert, you’ve had quite the journey as an entrepreneur and you did pre-warn me that you like to curse, and I’m pretty impressed that you haven’t dropped any s- or f-bombs so far, thank you for that. But maybe this is gonna – maybe you’re saving them all up for what’s coming next, which is – Your worst entrepreneurial moment. So, take us to that moment, tell us that story.
Robert: Yeah man, so with Entrepreneurs Dinner, with our second dinner. We had it – I met this real-estate developer, really seemingly nice guy. He allowed us to do this at his beautiful home. But he had his dog die just a day or two before and the guy just started going fucking crazy man. We’re at the actual dinner and he calls me, and he’s like “Everybody needs to leave. Everybody needs to leave now, or I’m gonna call the cops.” And I’m like, “What the hell is this guy talking about?” And so, I tried to do the right thing, by calming him down and what not. He wouldn’t calm down obviously the dog – rather the death of his dog really upset him. And I can understand how pets being so close to us, that can happen.
So, I asked everybody to leave and in doing so I had to leave all the equipment that we rented inside. So, this is thousands of dollars of equipment, right? I mean it’s tables, bars, bar stools, all sorts of stuff to the point that the following day when the equipment was supposed to be picked up, I’m talking to the company and they are basically saying they could sue. I mean, I’m in the early stages of the company and they’re talking about tens of thousand of dollars of suing. But I was upfront with the company, I told them the situation. Fortunately, we didn’t have to get the police involved and were able to secure the equipment from the person’s house. He did apologize but man he kinda went ape- you know. So that was wild. It almost put my company under before it even started
John: I mean Fire Nation these things might happen and that’s why I think it’s so important that we think of what’s the worst-case scenario. How can we protect ourselves if the worst thing does happen? Don’t expect it, or obviously you’re never gonna hope for, but it might happen. So, how are you going to react when it does, what are your contingency plans? Do you have insurance? Do you have backup? Do you have redundancy? All of these things are so important. You Robert obviously learned a lot, but what do you wanna make sure our listeners get from your worst entrepreneurial moment?
Robert: I think you shared the biggest few takeaways and that’s asking yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?” By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail. And so by asking yourself what’s the worst that could happen, accepting that state, and then building it up from there you’re putting yourself in a better position to be able to adapt to the changing situations.
John: And Fire Nation this is a reality for entrepreneurship in general. You should be thinking about how you could put yourself out of business every single day because guess what your competition is. So, why aren’t you. Because if you come up with the idea before they do then you can come up with ideas on how to circumnavigate that or how to pivot or adjust so that you’re not vulnerable for this possible attack. Why do you think Blockbuster is no longer; why do you think Walmart is getting their lunch eaten by Amazon; why do you think that Ford and all the other motor companies got their lunch eaten by the foreign auto companies back in the day. Because they weren’t innovating, they weren’t trying to put themselves out of business and if they were, they would have had some good ideas that could have saved them from what happened. But think about that.
Now Robert you’ve had a lot of great ideas over the years, obviously Entrepreneurs Dinner is one of them, what’s one of the greatest a-ha moments you think would make a valuable story for our listeners today. Take us to that moment; walk us through exactly what happened and how you came up with that idea, and even more importantly how you turned it into a success?
Robert: I don’t know about you John, but I go to these networking events and often times I walk away feeling like I didn’t make a genuine connection with anybody there, right? It feels sometimes just sleazy, honestly, just really salesy and – I get this business cards in my hand and it feels like a transaction, like the person that I just spoke with would speak with me for the sole purpose of selling me on something. They didn’t care at all what it is that I was doing, and they didn’t listen. So, after going to so many of this type of events I wanted to create something that had the opposite effect, were we could just genuinely just connect with each other.
And so initially what I did is I invited people into my parent’s home. So, I knew that I had a good group of friends, I mean people who were in our city that were working on some great projects, just really smart people, but they just didn’t know each other. And so, what we did is we invited them over, we had some good food and we actually got everybody in a big circle to share what their business is, what their biggest challenge or hurdle in their business is, and how they can help others. And from that, just genuinely connecting with each other to kinda get an idea of what it is that each of us was doing, what we were working towards, our hopes, our ambitions. I found that the people that attended created genuine connections with each other that far exceeded their expectations.
In fact, at the end, we were all sitting around, or rather standing around my parent’s table, and these people – who hadn’t met but for the first time tonight, they didn’t know anybody else – and they’re standing around each other, and I told them, I said, “You know, my mom would be so proud right now because when we have Thanksgiving it looks just like this. Everybody’s around in a big circle, it looked like a family. She’d be so proud of this moment.” And after that somebody asked me, “Well, when is the next one?”
And, I don’t know, maybe like you, you do certain things just because it seems like a good idea, you don’t do it with the intent of necessarily building a business out of it, but that’s what happened. We ended building a business out of this, which is now Entrepreneur’s Dinner. And the lesson that I learned from that helped me not only to build a business, but also to do speaking and training engagement, and that is that idea of intimacy. Because people are just craving the ability to genuinely get to know each other, and not to have surface level conversations, not to have old conversations where one person is selling the other, and not genuinely interested in what it is they’re doing. So, from that, that understanding about intimacy and the crave, the craving there, it allowed me to build now a business that caters to an international audience. It allowed me to do a TED Talk and it’s now allowing me to speak at companies that want to adopt these principles of intimacy for their business.
John: So, you just said a lot Robert, break it down into one takeaway, one lesson that you wanna make sure our listeners get.
Robert: Yeah, the lesson that I want your audience to understand is that by looking at genuinely connecting with others, not with the intention of selling, not with the intention of gaining, rather helping first, and allowing yourself to be seen, that most often creates the most valuable connections and relationships in business.
John: So, Robert, today, right now, what are you most fired up about?
Robert: As cliché, or as silly as this sounds, I’m just fired up about opportunity. I’m fired up about potential. I don’t have a set agenda for what it is I’m trying to accomplish this year. I’m just looking to invest in people, and just make the most of the sort of platform that I’m building for myself so – Yeah, man, I’m just fired up about life, and just the opportunity to go out there and do some things.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I’m fired up about the lightning round, which we’re gonna get to when we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Robert, are you ready to rock the lightning round?
Robert: You know I am, man, let’s do it.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
John: Honestly man, I think good is the enemy of great. And I had this good job that allowed me to work from anywhere in the world, I got paid well; I didn’t too many hours, so… Being stagnant, or being complacent with that at one point kept me from this great opportunity of entrepreneurship but understanding that there’s greater things on the other side.
John: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Robert: be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is who you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
John: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Robert: Dude, by far and away meditation. Meditation is a gamechanger for me. In the morning, in the evening, it sets my entire day. Meditation easily.
John: Recommend one internet resource.
Robert: I’m actually gonna recommend The Best Self Journal. It’s probably been the one resource that I’ve purchased under $50.00 that has had the biggest impact for me.
John: Recommend one book and share why.
Robert: I would recommend The Autobiography of a Yogi, along with that idea of meditation, it opened up different avenues of what’s possible in our life. And just as a reference point, The Autobiography of a Yogi, was the book that Steve Jobs had on his deathbed and it’s the only book that he read every single year. So, it’s a great read.
John: Robert, let’s end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance – the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say good-bye.
Robert: Parting piece of guidance, again what we talked about earlier: being able to connect with each other in a deep and meaningful way, looking to help first, and just becoming intimate with your consumers, your customers, your audience and others, is huge. The best way to connect with me is at robertjcollier.com, I’m also available on Facebook at facebook.com/robertjamescollier. And I’d love to share a gift with your audience, if that’s cool?
Robert: Awesome man. Well on entrepreneursdinner.com/eof if your audience comes there, then what we’re doing is we’re providing a free giveaway, and we’re going to award five members with the opportunity to attend Entrepreneur’s Dinner free, at no charge. So that you for the opportunity John.
John: And one more time, what was that you are on?
John: Fire Nation you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you’ve been hanging out with R.J.C and J.L.D today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Just type a Robert in the search bar and his show on this page is gonna pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best shows in the biz and of course take advantage of this Fire Nation, this could be so cool. And by-the-way, let me know if you end up getting selected and going. Head over to entrepreneursdinner.com/eof. Robert, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Robert: Thanks John.
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