John Ruhlin and his firm THE RUHLIN GROUP are considered to be the foremost experts on developing relationships with key executives and the topic of “Appreciative Leadership.” He speaks nationally on the topic, is the bestselling author of “Cutting Edge Sales” and is the number one distributor in the 60 year history of CUTCO Cutlery. You can follow him on Twitter at @ruhlin.
Who is your hero?
My hero is a gentleman most people will never know or meet named Atty Paul A. Miller. He was one of my first mentors — I met him when I was 20 years old and looking into medical school — and he’s the reason I launched my business. It was his belief in me and the values I saw him living every day. At the time he was my girlfriend’s father; although the relationship with his daughter did not work out, to this day many of the core things I teach executives and ways I run my company are based upon his generous mindset and giving way of life.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Give more than is reasonable. Most people hold back 5 percent in almost all areas of life. We’re scared that we might get taken advantage of or look silly. We don’t realize it, but we ask ourselves what can we give or do that will be “enough” instead of asking, “What is the most I could give in this situation or to this person?” When we look for ways to give that are over the top, we stand out and are memorable. We rise to the top of others’ minds. People notice and are attracted. Generosity is attractive for a number of reasons, so although sometimes you will get taken advantage of, you shouldn’t respond to the 1 out of 10 that will do so; you need to cater to the 9 out of 10 that will be blown away. When we go into situations with a giver’s mindset and look for ways to be outrageous in our giving, amazing things start to happen and seeds are planted that you would have never expected or dreamed. Ninety-five percent won’t cut it. Play fully and give more than is expected.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
I have made my fair share of mistakes, but I think the biggest was waiting eight years to bring on a business partner. I thought it was cool to be the lone entrepreneur and didn’t want anyone else involved in the decision-making process of my business. But since selling 50 percent of the company, I have been able to focus more on the things I am really good at as well as have someone to bounce ideas off of. Our company is more financially stable because my partner thrives in that area. We have the same faith and core values, but very different skill sets. I know people that say they hate partnerships and would never want to sell part of their company or give up control. But I make more money with less stress and spend more time doing what I love now that I have a business partner.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
The first hour of my business day is spent doing a couple of things that are not business related. I read, work out, use a sauna, spend a little time with my family and pray or read the Bible. I invest in myself and focus on those things that are most important because when the day gets going, those things won’t happen later. It also sets me up for success and gets me in the right frame of mind.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Build a business that does not require large amounts of inventory. Build strong relationships with suppliers and treat them like they are the client so you not only get the best service and preferable terms, you also get access to their best ideas. Pick a niche that is a true blue ocean and without too many competitors. This allows you to do things like charge for services and bill clients upfront so that you don’t have to worry about receivables. You can do that when what you offer is truly unique and is not just a commodity.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Find a mastermind or group of growing entrepreneurs to learn and grow with. I joined EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) eight years ago and it’s a game-changer. There are other great groups like Vistage, YPO, etc. and guys like Darren Hardy, Jayson Gaignard, Derek Coburn, Michael Simmons and Tom Hill all have mastermind groups I have been or am a part of as well. Take the time to slow down, learn and surround yourself with others that are like you and leaders that have been there before.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
My definition of success seems to continually evolve. When my core priorities are being achieved and I am the best version of myself in those six areas — faith, family, fitness, finances, friendships and fun — I feel successful and am thriving, which is a big component of success. I think my business is successful right now, but we haven’t reached anywhere near our full potential or a “best version” of ourselves yet. So every day is a push towards growing into that.