Inventors Mindset with Rob Kessler
Alaina Nadig: Welcome to Pursuit of Relentless podcast you have Alaina here your host and tonight we get to have a great conversation because I can tell this guy is a stud. We haven't actually met before, we met today and he owns a great company and I'm going to tell you guys about it. I'm so excited to hear your story. I have Rob Kessler on the show today welcome.
Rob Kessler: Hey, how are you?
Alaina: Doing awesome, enjoying the sunshine.
Rob: Yes, you are.
Alaina: Yes I am, it's so bright in my office right now. So, tell us about yourself, tell us about your entrepreneurship journey? How did you get into business and what led to this version of you?
Rob: It's funny because people always say did you regret any decision, and my initial thought is I wish I would have done this but I wouldn't be where I am today if things have gone a different way and I am really happy where I am at so... I started out doing chores and stuff as a kid. When I was young I started cutting the grass, then I started picking up my neighbor's lawns and making some money cutting their grasses. I always had that little entrepreneurial spirit. My dad has his own business and I at 8, or 9 or 10 years old, and then my siblings up to 5 years younger than me would get a couple of dollars allowance on Sunday night. Lunch was $2.50 a day at school so we would get the whole week's worth of food on Sunday. He was teaching us money management skills before we were 10 years old. It's funny how much that helped in this day and age. He was like, dude you want to go party on Monday and Tuesday and have nothing for the rest of the week that's up to you. That was a lesson I was learning at 9 years old not buying brownies for all my friends. I always saw the value of money because I was working for it. When I wanted to get my driver's license I had to get a job so I could pay for the car insurance so I just always saw that risk-reward benefit thing throughout my life.
Alaina: I was the opposite as a child, I did not learn very much about money but I worked from a young age and I decided that I was going to be my best employee. Go out and do the job and be the best person that I can be to do that role. I was a real pastry chef by trade at first and then I went into the industry as a salesman but I loved the customer side of things. I always loved being around people and being in the customer work environment. As a heavy equipment operator which I did before I became a financial adviser, it was insane. I don’t fit here, this is not for me, I don't like this. I met the company that I'm with now and I'm not turning back. Nope, never again will I ever do that I like having freedom and flexibility and the ability to make way more money in such a short amount of time. Do you know what I mean?
Rob: Exactly. I ended up working for my dad twice, I had the typical restaurant jobs and things which I think everybody needs to work for at least 6 months in the service industry. I did a lot of bartending and things like that. I'll 25 to 30% at least on a good bill and my wife is right to 18%. First of all the math on 18% is too hard, just do 20 what's 2% and you're looking at a $100 bill what's $5 to my life versus maybe $5 helps that person a little bit more and if they're exuberant and we had a good conversation and they were really attentive especially in this day and age it is really worth it to me. I did all the jobs and I realized when my dad fired me that I definitely could not work for anybody else so I started off making my own money was in real estate.
I was a residential realtor for 15 years and then while I did that I started a clothing business and out of that clothing business came screen printing or embroider. I had that company and sold that company to move to Los Angeles with my wife where she became a Hollywood stuntwoman. She's actually in Austin right now shooting Fear of the Walking Dead. She's out of town for a few days. I just got to go down and visit her in Columbia, she was in Bogota for 3 weeks. I went down to hang out with her for a new show that's coming out. All that kind of crazy stuff and while I had the screen printing business before we moved out to California, got married my shirt looked awful on our wedding day we got married on the beach in Jamaica. I hate wearing ties, the front totally collapsed before I could even say I do. It was under the lapel of my jacket and so that's why I invented Million Dollar Collar which is the world's first placket stay. If you can picture a men's dress shirt, little tabs in the collar called collar stay. consider it and make it 9 inches long and put it down the front of the shirt where the buttons and the wholes are. The front will never collapse, it will never crumble, it will always be a perfect "V". It just frames your face and gives you a great look. We've now sold about 450 thousand units to people in 125 different countries all over the world. It's been pretty exciting.
Alaina: Yeah, that's a great shirt, I like it. I am looking at your background as well and seeing the comparison, yeah I dig it. When it came to entrepreneurship it just seems like it was pretty natural to you which is awesome. What would be some of the mindsets that you think helped you develop into this entrepreneur that's making it happen and inventing something new, solving a big problem?
Rob: Well I think the number one thing is passion. I wanted to have this clothing company. I had an amazing name: it was NEWD, it stood for nothing else will do. My concept was to partner with local artists. Instead of them having to sell a 2 or $3000 painting we could sell $50 custom limited edition t-shirts and I thought oh this is going to be a good way for you to get your name out there and I found out that artists are terrible salespeople. I ended up learning really great shirts, I found really great manufacturers, and because I hate paying people that I feel like I can do it on my own. I ended up randomly crossing paths with a guy. He taught me how to screen print and fought it so bad. I kept telling my dad, " I don't want to be a screen printer, I don't want to be a screen-printer." But where in the clothing I would have to buy $10,000 or $20,000 worth of inventory and then try to sell it.
Screen-printing you come to me and say hey I need 150 shirts, I'd order them on Monday, I'd have them done on Wednesday and I'm paid on Wednesday. It was a whole new concept, a much better cash flow situation. The clothing company just shifted so got into the screen-printing.
The other businesses, we have a yacht charter business, my wife is in fitness, she's done a bunch of things. Because we've been passionate about it so are the very stressful days out there, and there are days that you are questioning your whole life choices. If you're passionate about what you're doing you can get through those times but if you're just in it for the money those are the days you're going to be like screw this I can just go get a job and just make some money doing this. There are definitely some low lows but the highs are incredible.
Alaina: I heard a concept one time from a guy named Jay White he was like you have to work on your midline and it's the emotions that you feel on the way up when you're just accelerating in life and could not be better and then you have that day that is absolutely crippling, I cannot function today. There's none of that.
Rob: Fortunately for me those days when I'm low my wife is killing it and then when she's having her days where she's like what am I doing with my life I happen to be on a good streak. We can really help pull each other up and I'm a glass-half-full optimist and I always try to find the positive in the situation. We've had some really bad stuff happen okay what do we do with this. We were trying to buy a house in Atlanta and my wife fell in love with this 14-acre property. She wants horses and she wants to do the whole thing. I'm like okay we're bidding and our offer came in 10 hours after the other ones. We were a secondary and I said we can do this and do this and we'll put the pressure on. She's at a party and finds out her buddy is the guy who's bought the house and she's like this is the worst thing ever. I was like no we know who it is now we can go talk to him. I don't have to put the pressure on to make him pay more, try to force him out of the deal without knowing who he is, now we know who he is. Is it going to take $50 grand or $75 grand? What's it going to do to get him to walk away? You have to find the positives in the situation for sure, the negativity will just drain you.
Alaina: Totally, hundred percent. If you can just talk to someone you never know what they're going to say. They might say I'm not really that attached to it, I just liked this about it. I think you have to go for what you want.
Rob: He happened to be so attached, our house now is so much better.
Alaina: That's good.
Rob: We were going to pay an exuberant amount more but it wasn't worth it.
Alaina: I think having the right property comes to you. I have a lot of clients who go into real estate just thinking this is the house I'm going to live in. I say, "no you're investing in a property and you have to understand that comes with work, work cannot be avoided especially if you want to be successful in life." It's how much you can compartmentalize at one time and still function, and still thrive, and still challenge yourself to be better and it's in those moments when you're frustrated that you're like okay what do I have to do. What's next? Snapping out of it I think... I did a live show recently and I was talking about that concept, how long do you stay down for? I had a miscarriage a few weeks ago and I was like if I didn't have my podcast and I didn't have the community and support that I have right now I don't know how I would be doing. At the same time, having a business that genuinely helps people and having an opportunity to go out and change people’s lives and have conversations like this, there's so much I can learn from you. If we just stick together and go no Alaina I'm going to challenge you to do a podcast today because we've been planning it for a while. It's so cool, it's awesome.
Rob: Well, I'll tell you what I am not nearly to the devastation level that you have I am sure experienced. When I worked for my dad in the jewelry industry selling engagement rings. Let me tell you about breaking up with a girl and then having to sit there and be like oh you're in love that's freakin' great. It's never going to work, marriage sucks, don't do it. Trying to sell engagement rings to someone after you just broke up with a girl you thought you were going to get married to is not easy. You have to do what you have to do, to pay the bills.
Alaina:Sale is an interesting thing. I think everyone is in some sort of sales if you have children. You're selling it to your kid that they need to brush their teeth and eat their vegetables.
Rob: Yeah, everybody sells every day. Everybody is selling every day, always.
Alaina: So you're an inventor from what I read on your profile. I'd like to know more about that. Where does that mindset come from? If you could say an inventor's mindset is...a little bit of this, a little bit of that. What would come to your mind?
Rob: I am a problem solver, if my wife has something that happens I'm like okay how do we fix it. When I was little I was a maniac. We used to call my little brother bam - bam because he was just crazy. We'd be roughhousing and we'd break stuff around the house and I was like I have to try to fix it before I get caught so I don't get in trouble. I was tinkering little stuff when I was little to figure out how... I would take a baseball and take it apart to see how is it made and I was very curious about that.
When it came to this and I had several other ideas that I toyed with and played with that I didn't do anything with but when it came to this it took 3 years. It went through a ton of different iterations. I ruined probably a 100 dress shirts trying to figure this thing out. I was passionate about it so finding the cure and changing dress shirts forever has become my underlying motivation and I would convince myself... I wanted a much shorter version because I could get more material out of a roll and it would cost less and it would make more. I would show it to my wife and my friends and they would be like, nope. It's too 70's Travolta Cha Chi. It was back to the drawing board, back to the drawing board.
We even got so far as doing a KICKSTARTER in 2014 I think and we were going to make our own shirts, do the whole thing, we were trying to raise 40,000 dollars, we got to about $16,000 when it ended and the unequivocal feedback was why are you trying to compete with every other brand, why not license the technology and why can't I upgrade the shirts I already know and love? Okay, these people literally put their money where their mouth was and they were willing to buy a shirt from a guy they didn't know and I appreciated that feedback. You ask your friends what do you think about this pen if they don't have any money in who gives a shit about what they have to say because they don't have anything invested in it. These people had $60 to $200 invested in this becoming a success and so we took that company and totally pivoted and said okay let's make an aftermarket version that can go into any dress shirt and that's where I am at today.
I thought I had the product all the way done and went back to the drawing board and totally had to redesign the whole thing all over again to fit every single brand of dress shirt on the planet and that's what we have now. You have to listen, you have to pay attention. It's just a problem, I have another invention for boating that I want to do, I have a couple of other things, I just see things. I am a logistics guy I think, the way my screen-printing shop was the shirts would come in and I would put my label in every shirt then they would get all divided out by size, and then we would label them all and then they would get divided up by job and they would work their way around the shop and they would get folded. I just logistically like the way things flow and efficiency and things like that. It's a weird set of skills, I lived four lifetimes already and I'll probably live another 6, or 8 or 10 more if things go right. Do things for a few years and enjoy it and find something else. Accumulating that knowledge, we went out with our friends and someone said to me, "Here is how you do this." I'm like, "how the hell do you know that?" Done it, did it, makes sense to me.
Alaina: And that's the thing sometimes you don't realize what you're doing until it's done, and you're like that is actually pretty cool right there I didn't realize I was doing something so great. I'm writing my book right now and I'm thinking I should just finish it and I'm like no you'll finish it when the time is right. Don't try to force it just work on it, and commit to working on it but writing a book is a big task. I'm only at 70 pages and you're like what else am I going to write about. You're like I am going to make this a better story. How can I develop my character or make it a more fun read for someone or more instructional? I think having people that we can look up to that have already done what we're trying to do is a big deal.
Rob: Absolutely, you have to have mentors whether they are somebody you can call on the phone or book. I got very fortunate so my dad went to see Tony Robbins back in 1991 and he was literally ready to hand his business to another competitor because he was so frustrated with what was going on, what low growth he had. After seeing Tony Robbins he got super inspired, he got super focused on what his goal was and he went from the smallest jeweler in southeastern Wisconsin to the 3rd largest independent in the country. He did it because he knew what his goal was and where he wanted to go and he found this inspiration and motivation from Tony Robbins. I've gotten to go, I've gotten to read a bunch of the books and I always find that.... I recently found a book called The Three Minute Rule by Brant Pinvidic. I ended up getting to meet him. We're buddies now, it's been a really amazing situation. I've had a couple of times where I've called him and said to him here's what's happening, what do you think?
To have that person to whom I can reach out to, run something by, and get that outside perspective, it's so invaluable. But the big thing with having a mentor and a lot of them have told me is don't waste my time. If you're going to ask me for advice, do what I suggest because I've been there and that is why you're asking me for advice. I have a lot of people who are like I've told people all this stuff. Like my wife when she got into stunts she ended up meeting the lady who doubled Trinity in all the Matrix movies. She was like okay, go do this and go do this and go do this and that's one of the first people who she met and she said go do all these things and then a month later we ran into her again and she said I did all those things you said. She was like, What nobody ever does what I say, what are you talking about?'' My wife has been in the industry for five years maybe and she has more credits than people that have been in it for 10 years or more. If you follow that path, you may not like what they have to say and it may challenge you but a mentor if you find the right one will lead you so much faster and so much further than trying to figure it out on your own and there is no reason to do that anymore.
Alaina: Exactly, there is so much out there, I love Tony Robbins as well. I went to one of his conventions in Las Vegas and oh man, it was good but... In our business, we get access to millionaires every day. I never knew that millionaires were so easy to get information from let's put it that way they're always happy to help. They're always encouraging you to pursue your dreams and try something harder and don't be fooled by what they're telling you your job is going to look like. Interview your future: what do you want it to look like? Build your life out because it's not meant to be just autopilot and you just live your life and wonder when it's going to be over. It should be fun, it should be exciting, it should be creative and filled with love and so much goodness.
Rob: There's no path anymore, my parents, my wife's parents, they got a job when they were 22 years old and they did that until they retired. She's already had 4 careers since I met her 11 years ago. She's done multiple things and we do some for 3 to 5 years and then let's go and try something new. She found this house on Feb. 28, we closed on March 11th and I was in the moving truck driving across the country on the 13th. So in less than two weeks we uprooted everything and moved across the country.
Alaina: That's so bold but at the same time it probably alleviated a lot of stress.
Rob: Yeah, it happened so fast you can't even think about it. Are we doing the right thing? I don't know. Once you're there what are you going to do? I unbolted the front seat of the truck so that my 125 lb Rottweiler could sit on the whole floor and take up the whole space.
Alaina: I have a Rottweiler. She's not 125 lbs but she's 97 lbs. She's sleeping.
Rob: Big Diesel.
Alaina: Mines named Ellie
Rob: He's up in bed right now.
Alaina: Ellie's sleeping right outside my door. She always guards the office. She will sit under my desk if I have food.
Rob: They won't do that.
Alaina: Why not?
Rob: Mine will scratch constantly if they want to be in with me so I have dog beds on the floor down here and once they're in here they are pretty quiet once someone rings the doorbell they go nuts.
Alaina: I sit on an exercise ball and she'll sit there and paw me and I'm like, "Ellie you're going to pop my ball and that would break my tailbone."
Rob: Just make sure the camera is on at all times.
Alaina: I know
Rob: For when that happens.
Alaina: That's so funny. She'll do it too. She usually guards the office or sits at the top of the stairs so she can look out the front door. She's smart, she's a really smart dog. We had someone almost break into our house last night.
Rob: All the Amazon guys they're scared to death but I'm like all he wants is to be pet. My wife is like don't tell people that. He's adorable and he just wants to be pet, he will run and... At the dog park, he will go from person to person he doesn't care about the other dogs.
Alaina: I have had undeliverable packages and they just email me a picture of my dog sitting in my yard. She's protecting the house, right?
Rob: Doing her job.
Alaina: You can leave the package over the fence whatever you want to do.
Rob: Don't do that with our little girl. We have a second dog and she shreds everything so definitely don't do that, leave it outside. so many remotes and shoes...But she's so cute how do you get mad at her.
Alaina: I know, right. Stop running in the house with muddy feet, Ellie but she's so adorable. Don't get angry. I think having a dog is like running a business too. They are always there, they are just observing what's going on and that's business-like as well. You're all in but at the same time just trying to oversee everything that's happening so that you can bubble wrap what you need to.
Rob: I don't know who came up with the thing that they don't know the time because my dog Diesel, knows when it's breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He scratches and is annoying as hell, it's food time. Daylight savings screws everything up.
Alaina: She will just sit there and lick her bowl like are you going to feed me, I'm sitting here waiting for my dinner. She's so funny. Having dogs is fun.
Rob: It's the best.
Alaina: When I was working on-site it was 15 hour days and that's torture I don't want to leave my dog for 15 hours.
Rob: No, that's not nice. We have this 5-acre property and we say the dogs get to dog all day so we went from a 9,000 square foot lot to 221, 000 square feet. They have the invisible fence and they roam around and deer come across the back and Lola goes chasing after them and it's the best.
Alaina: That's so cool. I'm looking at buying acreage on Vancouver Island but right now it's so inflated I'm like now is not the time for me to buy. It's timing and markets but at the same time just watching it and knowing what's available and what you actually want. That will be my long-term property when I buy. Hopefully, like 10 acres minimum but we'll see. Nothing’s available right now.
Rob: We were hoping for 10 and we ended up with 5.
Alaina: 5 is still a good chunk of property.
Rob: 2 1/2 hours to cut. I can't wait, can't wait to cut the grass. It's my favorite thing to do.
Alaina: That's so good. I have to finish up here but if you could give advice to people who were getting started in their entrepreneurship journey, say in the first couple of years of their business, what would be some things that they should know or do more research in?
Rob: I found success because I am a very customer-focused business person. I'm a customer in life and I go to a place and I say that was terrible service, I'm spending money on this and it's ridiculous. It's been a big transition for me to go to a total e-commerce company versus I sold house cars and diamonds. The three most expensive things you will buy in your life I sold. That is very relationship-based and so we do little things...
Every packing slip my mom who is amazing who does all the daily orders will say Alaina and she will sign her name on the bottom so there is some personalization to this transaction. We try to find little ways to... If someone has a problem with my email, my phone is on me constantly. I try to ping back somebody as soon as they send an email. I try to get back to them as quickly as possible. There is just certain stuff like that that you can do in an e-commerce world but if you're not in the e-commerce world it's the little stuff, a handwritten thank you note. We've had 30 or 40,000 customers so it's not really practical for us to do that but handwritten thank you notes and little touches that personalize the relationship and are the kinds of things that will help.
Like I said before you want to be doing something you're passionate about otherwise it's not worth it. You'll make some money and it's not going to be enough, and you're going to want more money and it's not going to be enough and it's never going to be rewarding enough on the money side. I just got an order from Magnum P.I. season 4, 2, or 3 orders for stuff. Now that's cool. That is what's exciting, the product is going to be on another TV show, that's awesome. When I see it on TV I am going to be like Ozarks or Dead to Me or any of these other shows we've been on. It's awesome.
Alaina: That's so cool I love it. My mentor Andy Frisella says the value is in the inefficiencies. So when you provide lots of value people gravitate towards you and if you do the things that are hard and do the things that make you stand out then you will be at the tops of people's minds and they will talk about you. I got a referral this morning. Hey, is it too small of a referral to send you to a guy who needs car insurance? No man please send him my way. I'm happy to help and see if I can save him some money, that would be awesome but it also opens up the conversation to talk about his financial plan. So it's cool when you just get that growth happening for you.
Rob: In my screen-printing business I labeled every single shirt with my own personal label. It said NEWD Custom Printing, Made in America, Printed with Pride and it had the size. So every shirt that went out, 100,000 shirts that I sold over the years my label is inside. So if you ever ordered shirts they fold them by the dozen so if you pull one out of the box it's a mess. My mom, an amazing mom, got to come to work with me 5 days a week. It was an amazing time I got to spend with her those couple of years. She folded every single shirt individually and we had a little flip and fold thing. They would all be stacked, smalls, mediums, larges, and XL. She just knew I got a small... It was so easy to distribute, it was so clean. We started to hang tagging them all so there was a little promotional thing that went with them. It's that little bit of extra effort and I never advertised that company. I never wanted to be a screen printer to begin with so it just kept going and word spread and we just did little stuff like that.
Alaina: That's cool, I love it. You have to take what opportunities are in front of you and run with them. That's huge, but make sure you've prepared yourself and understand what you enjoy. You don't want to do a job that you don't like for sure, especially not for the rest of your working life. Have fun with what you do. Where can people get access to you if they want to have a conversation?
Rob:Instagram is @milliondollarcollar, Facebook is @milliondollarcollar. I'm Rob Kessler III on LinkedIn, Rob@milliondollarcollar.com shoot me an email if you have any questions or you need some advice. If I'm going to mentor, don't waste my time.
Alaina: Exactly. Awesome, well thanks again for coming on today. I appreciate your time. I know people are going to get lots of value out of today's show.