"I work too hard to fail! It just can't fail because I just put in the time. You just have to keep going and when you're at a low point and you're not sure why you're doing what you're doing you just have to push through."
This is the Entrepreneur Way with Neil Ball, unlocking the secrets of successful entrepreneurs 7 days a week. Subscribe to our podcast, follow us on Twitter @neildball. Napoleon Hill said the power of the mastermind is the driving force. To discover how you can unlock the potential in your business using the power of a mastermind go to mastermindunlimited.com and now, here is your host Neil Ball.
Neil Ball: Hello it's Neil Ball here thank you so much for joining me today on the Entrepreneur Way. The Entrepreneur Way is about the entrepreneur's journey, the vision, the mindset, the commitment, the sacrifice, failures, and successes. I am so excited to bring you our special guest today, Rob Kessler. But before I introduce you to Rob I have a quote for you by Andre Agassi. "I question myself every day, that is what I still find motivating about this. I don't have the answers, I don't pretend that I do just because I won the match. Just keep fighting and maybe something good happens."
The entrepreneur way asks the questions so we all get the inside inspiration and ideas to apply to our businesses. Rob welcome to the show. Are you ready to share your vision of the entrepreneur way with us?
Rob Kessler: Absolutely.
Neil: Thank you very much for coming on the show today Rob.
Rob:Thank you for having me.
Neil:You are welcome. Rob Kessler, is the inventor of Million Dollar Collar. The world's first placket reinforcement. He has previously had careers selling houses, cars, and diamonds before becoming the owner and the founder of NEWD Clothing Company which he sold to focus on the Million Dollar Collar full time. Rob, can you provide us with some more insights into your business and personal life so I can get to know more about who you are and what you do?
Rob: I am an inventor now which is kind of a weird title to have. I never thought that would be me but I invented a product that makes dress shirts look amazing and we can definitely get more into that. But before that, I had a screen printing and embroidery business. I sold houses, cars, and diamonds. I've been married for 5 years and I have a 140 lb dog laying across the room from me who is my little buddy.
Neil: Okay so you talk about dress shirts looking amazing. How do you do that?
Rob: Well as trends have changed in fashion the necktie, at least on this side of the pond has really, really gone away. Studies show that up to 90 percent of dress shirts are "rarely if ever worn with a tie" - Wall Streeet Journal. I am at the 99 percent range where I don't even own a tie. I never, never wear a tie. I can't stand them unless I'm standing up at a wedding. I just didn't like the way the front of the shirt crumbled when it was worn without a tie.
When I got married 5 years ago I wasn't going to wear a tie. I wanted to have kind of a cool beach wedding. I don't wear ties in life so I wasn't going to wear one on my wedding day. When I went and looked at my pictures, I noticed that before I even said "I DO" my shirt was just crumbled and looked terrible. I looked more like a beach bum than the Thomas Crown cool I was going for.
So I came home from my wedding, in Jamaica and I started cutting open dress shirts and shoving all kinds of different materials down the front of the placket, which is the part of the shirt with the buttons and the holes, and realized that was the part that didn't have the reinforcement necessary. When you remove the tie from a well-dressed man, the tie was kind of the focal point but when you take that away the placket becomes the focal point. When it's crumbled and sloppy it makes me look crumbled and sloppy and I just didn't like it. That's how I got started in inventing Million Dollar Collar.
Neil:So when you sell Million Dollar Collar how do people buy it? Do they buy the whole shirt or do they buy the pieces you put in? How does it work?
Rob: It's similar to a collar stay where it's just two pieces of specifically engineered material that we came up with. We like to say we don't make shirts but we make the shirts you wear look better.The Placket Stays get sewn into any shirt, it's an alteration that gets added into your shirt. Once it's in it lasts the life of the shirt. I'll tell you at this point it's really been a pain in the butt to get my product so I'm very thankful for all the people who have gone through the process to get it. We're transitioning to make that much, much easier but it's just kind of the step we had to take to prove the concept the first two years of sales.
Neil: Wow how do you market this? How do people get to find out about it?
Rob: Obviously the first thing is to pull up the website which we put together a really nice website. Our product is so visual and demonstrable that we wanted to figure out how to get people to see before and after and experience it. So we connected initially with YouTube fashion influencers and that has been incredible. They have several minutes to talk about it, their followers are watching and wanting to learn about new products. It was absolutely the right path for us which has been great.
Neil: What do you enjoy most about what you do Rob?
Rob:You know you get the random email from the guy that's like, "dude this is changed everything, I will never wear a shirt the same way again." Or a guy that's like, "I looked at a sewing machine as the most complex thing on the planet and I've decided that I was going to figure out how to do it." I've had a bunch of guys reach out and said I just went out and ordered a sewing machine, I figured it out, it's not that hard, it's really cool. I just love meeting the people and getting them to experience what I've come up with and the fact that they like it and they're paying for it is a pretty good thing too.
Neil: What drives you to do what you do?
Rob: I set out to fix my shirts, I didn't really want to change the world and I'm not going to change the world by any means. But by the end of all of this, Million Dollar Collar Technology will be a standard in any quality dress shirt just like a collar stay is. So by the end of the day, we're going to make a huge impact on the industry which is kind of great.
Neil: How do you relax when you are not working in your business?
Rob: I take my dog for walks. We live in a beautiful part of The Marina so there are boats everywhere which I love boating. I can't afford one yet, I dream about the boats I'll have one day. I love playing beach volleyball with friends and we have a lot of mountains here so we go on a lot of hikes my wife and I and just talk about the future about what we want to do and accomplish.
Neil: And do you have any entrepreneurial role models?
Rob: Oh absolutely. I think one of the biggest ones is Richard Branson. He's got a million different things going on and he's just surrounded by the most amazing people that he can trust. I think it comes from the way he treats people and that's how I am. That would be the known role model. The unknown role model would be my Dad who started with absolutely nothing and grew to be the largest independent seller of diamonds and diamond engagement rings in the Midwest. I've got the greatest guy right next to me that I can ask any question to and get real feedback and it's incredible.
Neil:Rob you talked about your business life a little bit and you've talked about your personal life what we're going to do now is go back in time and talk about the time before you were an entrepreneur. What difficulties did you have to overcome when you started your business?
Rob: If you talk about before I was an entrepreneur that takes me back to high school. I mean I've always kind of tinkered with things and thought about business. One of my very first jobs was at a little soccer and volleyball store which I played soccer. I ended up at 18, 19 years old doing the marketing, I was doing the books, I was doing financial stuff, I had keys to the store. I had this amazing amount of responsibility from day one which gave me the confidence going forward to do any of those other things that I needed to do.
The difficulty I see is just doing it. I think people think too much about what this or what about that or what about this and they get caught up on the details. I think sometimes you just need to go for it and you'll figure out those details as they come along.
Neil:When you say having a great name do you mean a great name for your business?
Rob: Yeah I think it has a lot to do with how the business grows. My previous company, my screen printing business was actually started as a clothing company and it was called NEWD Clothing. It was spelled N E W D and it stood for Nothing Else Will Do. So right in my name of NEWD Clothing Company I had Nothing Else Will Do. My whole focus of the company was built right into my name. I have to put out the best product I can for the best price I can and just give it a great presentation. Having that great name made every business decision make sense. I just came back to the name and said does this fit into what we're doing. I think if you see very successful companies the name is synonymous with kind of what they're doing. I just felt that.
Neil: Did you have any doubts that delayed you starting your business?
Rob: Oh, of course, everybody has doubts. Especially with this company, there were a lot more unknowns than I was used to. The screen printing business referenced back to when I was in high school and we did screen printing for team jerseys and things. I had a little bit of confidence in that and a little base of knowledge but getting a patent and developing a product from scratch and creating a whole new category, there's no roadmap for that. At least not that I knew of so that was really, really challenging. Then it was cutting checks for things that were totally unknown. Doing a patent search for $2000 with the chance that something can come back and say yep thanks for the $2000 you're done here's the end of it, here's the end of the line for you.
Neil: And what mistakes did you make that slowed your journey?
Rob:Mistakes that slowed my journey. I don't think it was a mistake but I... I had the other company running so the 3 years of R&D that took to get out my product out was delayed because I was focused on that business and paying bills and things. In this business what has absolutely slowed us was hiring PR firms, and hiring the wrong outside companies. I will give the advice that I give to anybody now is if you hire an outside contractor it has to be a performance-based metric. Nobody gets paid for just trying, it just doesn't happen anymore. We have gone through so much money and it has set us so far back by just hiring people based on what they say they think they can do. That's absolutely slowed us.
Neil: What are some of the things that you've done before you started your business that will be helpful tips to some for the listeners who haven't taken the first step on the entrepreneur way?
Rob: So my screen printing business I started it in a spare bedroom in my house and it wasn't a screen printing business it was a clothing company. But I figured out how to sub out all the stuff, how to sub out the printing, where to get the product from. All while having a day job. I think if you can find or you have a source of income coming in and you have some passion you just take small steps, small comfortable steps that already you to do something that you love doing. At the end of the day, I work 15 hours a day on this. If I didn't love what I was doing, it would be a really brutal way to live. Especially having to walk a dog and trying to have some kind of social life while you're growing a company, you better love what you do so it's easier to start a company that revolves around loving what you do than to try to start some company just because you think you're going to make money at it.
Neil:Rob what we're going to do now is move the time frame forward and talk about the time when you began your business. Do you think culture is important from the beginning in the business?
Rob: Oh 100 percent. I think it sets the tone for where you're going go and how you're going to grow. If you look at crazy companies, big companies, even like Google, they have their crazy office and all the stuff that they do but that's part of their culture. Then you have corporate companies that are very stringent and here are the rules and that is part of their culture. Those different things make them successful. I am a goofball at heart, I like to joke, I like to prank and do things like that. But at the end of the day, I'm very serious when it comes to getting done what needs to get done. That's really based in what we do.
My partner is a very good friend of mine where we actually did other businesses together. He sold printed T-Shirts, he was my screen printing client and we became really good friends. We've done other things together and we absolutely balance each other out. He comes from the structured corporate world and I come from winging it and trying figure things out. It's kind of an interesting dynamic.
Neil:And how do you make sure that you work with the right people so that they fit with the culture in your business?
Rob: It takes a lot of time I think to make sure you are with the right people. Like I said about my partner, Steve, we work together on different projects very intimately. I just knew we had a good balancing relationship. We have another person who works for us and he actually started out by just being a friend and kind of hanging around and just wondering and being curious. He would come on his time off from work and help out with little projects and it was like okay. As things progressed and the company grew he was the obvious choice to hire because he was already there helping for free just wanting to be around, wanting to learn. It was a really easy decision to make to have him in. That's not how all employees can be hired but we were pretty fortunate with that.
Neil:You mentioned you've got a business partner, and obviously you've done different projects with him previously, what advice would you give to anyone else about choosing a business partner?
Rob:Choosing a business partner is tough, it's really tough. You hear nightmare stories about how it crumbles a business but I think if the expectations are set out from the beginning that helps. When you're in the best place possible I think that's when you need to lay out the ground rules. Look you're responsible for this, this and this. I'm responsible for this and this. Just make sure that those things are in writing, something that you can go back and reference when you guys are at each other throats. Which occasionally happens, Steve and I go at it sometimes. We know at the end of the day we're trying to build something better. It's because we're both passionate that we maybe disagree or get at each other. I think having those ground rules laid out really helps.
Neil: Knowing what you know now is there anything that if you'd known it when you started out that would have helped you to shortcut the learning curve?
Rob: Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Like I said I would not have hired any PR firms. When it comes to that stuff especially social media it's more about effort than it's about what anybody says they can do. While you're trying to decompress and watching TV you could be shooting messages on Instagram or Twitter since those are easy ways to connect with people. That would have saved us tens of thousands of dollars of money blown at a time when we needed it the most.
Neil: And how much does good feeling influence your decisions in your business?
Rob: It affects it good and bad. I go with my gut almost all the time. My wife is very factual and she doesn't decide on emotions she decides once she knows all the facts. My partner is the same way, I decide on emotion. I say I have a good feeling from this person let's do this, let's do that. Sometimes it's worked out and sometimes it hasn't. At the end of the day, you need to be you and you can't change who you are so if you area bad at making gut decisions than I think you have to take and try to find a way to find some statistics to help support what you're doing and not just convince yourself that you're making the right decisions.
Neil:And what makes you uncomfortable as an entrepreneur?
Rob: Everything. I am the behind the scenes guy, I make sure that we have the inventory we need, I make sure we have the printed materials we need, that orders get out, they get out correctly, that Amazon is stocked, the books are done. I'm kind of the logistics background guy and Steve wants me to be out talking to people more. The challenge is just getting out and banging on doors and making those sales calls. I know once I get going I'm fine, making that phone ring is really... It makes me a little uncomfortable. It's one of those things.
Neil:It's one of those things you have to get used though, isn't it?
Rob: Yeah, absolutely. I think if you're passionate about it, it'll come across genuine. I'm a really genuine guy, it's just a matter of getting over that fear. I think sometimes you just need to not think about it, just do. Sometimes I just dial the phone. Right now I'm talking to a huge, potential client because I said I was going to do something at a certain time. I was getting really nervous when that time came up and I almost didn't make the call. But, I made the call with no notes, nothing ready and it's worked out to be unbelievable. So I think your biggest fears are typically something made up in your head and not anything you need to worry about but that's one of the hardest things about coming over and just being a person.
Neil: I think that's often the case. When you fear you're doing something like that if you actually think about what you actually fear is what you've already got. You're not doing business without business and you want to do business without business. You have to step over the line and take the action to do it and the worst thing that could happen is that you end up back where you were. You're still not doing business with them but the possibility is that you will.
Rob: 100 percent, it's all upside.
Neil: You might get rejected along that journey of course.
Rob:Yes, we've heard a thousand NO's, ten thousand NO's. We're trying to talk to brands and manufacturers and they're like, no I don't know if this is really a problem. I can tell you for sure it is. Trying to overcome those no's, you have to. That's just part of being in business, being an entrepreneur. Nobody's got the product for everyone.
Neil: What do you think is some of the secrets to success, Rob?
Rob: The absolute secret is persistence. Like I said I work 15 hours a day at this, I have for the last 2 years. I have worked too hard to fail. It just can't work because I just put in the time. You just have to keep going and when you're at a low point and you're not sure why you're doing what you're doing you just have to push through. You can take a day and relax and get back out of your head. You just have to keep plugging forward.
Neil: And how do you make sure you're not persistently wrong?
Rob:My wife, she'll tell me if I'm persistently wrong, no. You always have to analyze what's going on, you make a decision, you do something and you see if it works or not. Nothing is going to work from day one and nothing is not going to work from day one. A constant analysis of what's working and what's not, tweaking, trying. Our Facebook ads, I'll tell you we were up and cranking and sales were great on our website and they've slowed. It was just a function of changing a couple of little things and now we're tweaking those back and trying to get back at it. It's always changing, the world is changing and your business is going to change. You have to be able to adapt to that.
Neil:Life is made of constant change whether we like it or not. Many people say the only constant in life changes. Rob, how do you try to keep up with change?
Rob: Trying to keep up with change is ... When it comes to technology I've just thrown in the towel. My partner handles all that, he makes sure we're all connected and wired and stuff. You just have to keep up, you don't have a choice. It's one of those things that whether you like it or not it's the constant, it's going to change. If you want to be successful and have a company in the future you just need to try to figure it out. As frustrating as it may be what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.
Neil: And what is your favorite book on entrepreneurialism, personal or business development, leadership or motivation and can you tell us why you've chosen it?
Rob: I am a huge Tony Robbins fan. My dad 20 years ago, he was on the brink, he was at that point. He didn't know what he wanted to do with his life, his company hadn't grown in 10 years, his jewelry store. And he was literally going to hand the company to another competitor before he went to see Tony Robbins. Within 3 days of seeing Tony Robbins, his life turned upside down. And he's grown from the smallest jeweler in the Midwest to the largest. So, I got a chance to go see Tony Robbins, I've read his books, I love the message that he gives. It's just very positive and uplifting. More recently I've listed to Grant Cardone and the 10X rule. I think that's a huge one. I think people set goals that are way too small and don't excite them. I listen to the book from about my birthday 2 months ago. I've listened to the book 5 times already on Audible.com. I just love it, I just love the motivation. I love the push and it's challenging. That's what got me to make that phone call that has me talking to one of my biggest clients.
Neil: Foks, when you have a busy life, listening to all of your books, is a great way to expand your knowledge in the time when you may be doing other things such as driving or when you are at the gym. We have a special for you of a free audiobook of your choosing. So to choose your free audiobook go to www.freeaudiobookoffer.com as long as you're not already signed up then you will qualify. Rob, are you ready to speculate about the future?
Rob: Oh yeah, yeah. Our snowball is three-quarters of the way over the edge and about to roll. So our future looks bright. I'm finally here, I'd love to speculate about it.
Neil:What one thing would you do with your business? If you knew that you could not fail?
Rob: Well I know I can't fail. It's just a matter of plugging along. I'm expanding and trying to find sponsorship avenues in different ways to get my product in front of as many people as possible. As you listen to the 10X rule with Grant Cardone. he said the problem isn't people aren't buying your product, it's that people don't know who the heck you are. My problem is obscurity, I just need to be known. I'm going out and ... I spend hours a day on LinkedIn just connecting with every person I possibly can so you just have to get out there and do it.
Neil: What skill, if you were excellent at it, would help you the most to run your business.
Rob: I'm not a talker, I am actually an introvert so going out and starting conversations with people is really challenging. Once I get an introduction and I know somebody it's easy. But I wish that I was more of an extrovert when it comes to that. That would help move the business along.
Neil: In 5 years from now if a well-known business publication was publishing both articles on your business after talking to your customers and suppliers what would you like it to say?
Rob: You know in this day and age especially with our company where we're 100 percent online, customer service is a really challenging thing. We get a lot of people who are mad that their order doesn't show up in the mail and it's like look 100 people had to touch this envelope to get it from me to you it's not us but I'd be happy to replace it. I'll do whatever I can for a customer if they just give me the chance. So we always pay our bills on time, we have great relationships with everybody we work with because if you screw one vendor over that could block up everything going forward. Customer service and treating people how we want to be treated is one thing and making sure that everything is done to the best of our ability is just the way we do things.
Neil: It's now time for the 3 golden nuggets. Rob, what is your favorite quotes and how will have you applied it.
Rob: My favorite quote has to be, "Do more for others than anyone expects." I believe in that wholeheartedly. I grew my screen printing business from a bedroom in my house to over a million dollar in sales because I just gave more than the customer ever expected. It will pay in spades if you can live by that rule. We just tried to deliver more because if you have happy customers they're going to tell their friends. It just makes it easier. I never ever advertised that screen printing business. It grew the way that it did.
Neil:do you have any favorite online resources that you can share with us that would be useful for other entrepreneurs?
Rob: I love Evernote as an app just to take notes. I talk into it when I'm running or driving or when I'm riding my bike. It's a good way to organize and search any notes that you make. I always have ideas coming at the most inopportune times. That one's great, we use Google, the whole office suite for our company because we're all spread out across the country. Skype is obvious. Audible is just the way to go. To spend your time listening to the same song a 1000 times is just not a really inefficient use of your time. Podcasts and books help you learn. They say the average CEO reads 60 books a year and makes 335X what the average person does so that has to tell you something.
Neil: What is your best advice for other entrepreneurs?
Rob: The best advice is to follow your passion. There's a way to make any passion profitable. Because you know it better than anybody else you're going to find that way. One of my mentors out here was one of the founders of Expedia.com. He was doing what he liked doing and he got in with the right people and things just happened. He's one of the 15 founders and it's just crazy to know he's one of my close friends and advisers. I think following your heart is definitely the best thing you can do.
Neil:Folks if you didn't manage to get a hold of Rob's favorite resource or his favorite book you can find the links on Rob's show notes page just go to the entrepreneurway.com and search for Rob or Rob Kessler in the search box. Rob, is there anything else you would like to add about your business?
Rob:If anyone would like to order and make their dress shirts look amazing too they can go to milliondollarcollar.com and we can do a discount code. How about a 10 percent off discount code. We can do EW10, the entrepreneur way. That will get you 10 percent off your order. You get it one shirt I guarantee you're going to want to do the rest of your shirts. Once you see a sloppy shirt and a Million Dollar Collar shirt it's night and day difference.
Neil: Rob it really has been an honor having you on the show today. Thank you for coming on talking about your journey as an entrepreneur and talking about your business Million Dollar Collar and how you 've invented this new idea to make your shirts look like a million dollars. Hopefully, make you look like a million dollars as well and you've alluded to some of the challenges. But also all of this was born out of your own need and realizing that you could share this with everybody else and everyone else could benefit from it which is just a great story. Thank you very much for coming on the show today we really do appreciate it.