Transcript from the show:
Stefan Aarnio: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show Respect the Grind with Stefan Aarnio. This is a show where we interview people who’ve achieved mastery and freedom through discipline. We interview entrepreneurs, athletes, authors, artists, real estate investors, anyone who’s achieved mastery and [inaudible 00:01:34] what it took to get there.
Stefan Aarnio: Today on the show, I have a special guest. Ted Rubin, he’s an author, he’s a speaker, authored several books and he’s a real sharp branding man. Now, Ted, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for joining Respect the Grind, how are you doing today?
Ted Rubin: I’m doing great Stefan, thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here and get the conversation started.
Stefan Aarnio: Awesome. For the people at home who maybe don’t know Ted Rubin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Ted, where you got started and what you’re doing now?
Ted Rubin: Being that I’m 60 years old, I don’t know if you want to get into the whole story but if we want to fast forward a little bit in, in 1997, I joined a guy named Seth Godin, who a lot of the audience might know who he is. He’s probably the most well-known marketer in the world and I became a part of his organization
Ted Rubin: I was living in Florida, I had left some of the different things I was doing, I reinvented myself a number of times and I was looking for something new and I discovered Seth by researching. The internet had just started out, it was 1997, there was really not a lot going on and I read an article and I said, “Oh, my god, this guy’s brilliant,” and at the end of the article, they said, “Hey, do you have any openings at your company? It sounds really cool.”
Ted Rubin: He says, “Well, I don’t have any direct openings, but there’s two things. Number one, is I hire smart people and if I can find smart people, I find a place for them and number two is I need people that know how to sell anything, ’cause no one’s ever sold this before.” I sat there and I’m like, “This guy’s talking to me.” I wrote him a letter, and by the way, back then, Stefan, you probably weren’t around, or too old at the time, but we actually wrote things, like we wrote letters.
Stefan Aarnio: With a pen.
Ted Rubin: With a pen, it was amazing, and, yes, I did print out my … I already had one of my first printers. I printed out my resume but I sent it to him and basically what I said was, “I’m smart and I can sell anything and I’m looking for a new opportunity cause I just thought this internet thing was going to be something else.”
Ted Rubin: My wife at the time, who is my ex … has been my ex-wife for many years was like, “Why are you applying for a job when there is no job?” “Well, like the guy says he’s looking for smart people.” She’s like, “You’re not that smart.” I’m like, “Well, he doesn’t know that.”
Ted Rubin: Very fortunately, two weeks later, I get a phone call and I get flown up to New York to meet Seth, to meet this company, and it was my introduction into the internet and for me, that was the opening of a whole new world. This was something that I thought was going to be tremendous. I had done things successfully in my youth that I know probably later we’re going to get bit into the reinvention thing, but I’m just looking now. I jumped in with both feet into the internet. I had an amazing tutor in Seth Godin who is just brilliant and a really good thing happened that was a bad thing at the time.
Ted Rubin: A warning to your audience, if you ever relocate or you’re starting something new, don’t ever move in with your in laws, ever.
Ted Rubin: Okay, especially if they’re like the Castanzas and all they do is yell at each other, you know, from Seinfeld, and I moved up and my ex, my wife at time was still in Florida because my kid … We had to sell the house and my kids were young, but they were [inaudible 00:04:41] and I end up living with my in laws and I had to get the hell out of that house. I mean, it was craziness in the morning.
Ted Rubin: I’m not an early riser but things happened for a reason and this got me out of the house at six AM and I was in the office at 6:30 in the morning and the only other person there was Seth. Seth was coming up with this brilliance that became Seth Godin. He coined the term permission marketing when I was sitting there. He wrote the article in Fast Company, which became his first bestselling marketing book and then led to one book after another, The Idea Virus, The Purple Cow, Meatball Sunday, The Icarus Agenda, all these other books.
Ted Rubin: I was able to sit there and listen to him go through his thought process of how this came about and what he was thinking and I was smart enough, although, you will find out in this hour that I talk and I like to talk but then I was smart enough to shut up and listen.
Ted Rubin: But the other side of it was that Seth let me engage, he would ask my opinion. We would talk about things and it’s where my concept of return on relationship, which was my first book and basically what I based everything I do on, really started germinating in my head. I had always believed … I would always be networker. I was always a guy that met new people and added them to my … like my part of my world but what I didn’t realize then that I’ve come to realize the last five to eight years is that more than being a networker, I was a community builder.
Ted Rubin: I’d like to say that a network gives you reach but a community gives you power. Networks simply connect but communities care and it’s where a lot of my thinking started. I moved from Yoyo Nine, I worked for Yahoo for a while. We got acquired by Yahoo. I worked for them for a little while. I went to get work for 800-Flowers, I ended up to fast forward into the social media world. I ended up becoming the CMO of a company called e.l.f. Cosmetics, eyeslipsface.com.
Ted Rubin: They were desperate. They had started the company, it was a father-son. They had done most of what they did on their own. They grew it to about five million sales strictly using word of mouth. They had no marketing budget and they kind of hit a wall and they were looking for someone that would think outside the box and who was more of a sales person than necessarily a marketer and fortunately I … Through my community building and my networking, I knew some people who made the introduction and I got this amazing opportunity.
Ted Rubin: Because here were two guys, they were father-son, there was no legal team and anything I could do that would generate sales, that would generate awareness for their product, they let me do. In the early days of social media, 2008, I was doing things that everybody else was afraid to do, that the legal teams in places like … competitors like Sephora and Estee Lauder and L’Oreal weren’t doing because they wouldn’t be allowed to. I got to meet people like Jeffrey Hayslet who running Kodak at the time and Barry Judge who was running marketing for Best Buy.
Ted Rubin: We became friends, we’d sit and brainstorm and at the end of the brainstorming session, deciding who was going to try it, they both would be pointing at me, because they weren’t allowed to the I was. I would be able to go out and try all these new ideas and I got a very early view into social media, what works, what doesn’t work, how you can scale things.
Ted Rubin: It’s really what projected me into the place I’m at now and what I do with reference to what we talked about earlier when we jumped on the phone about my website in the books I’ve written and what I talk about around the country now, I keynote nationally and internationally and I emcee probably 40 plus marketing events a year.
Stefan Aarnio: Wow, that’s incredible.
Stefan Aarnio: Ted, let me ask you this, when you went to go work for Seth Godin, did you know that you were at this little eye of a storm? Did you know that all those books and all those things were going to come from it or were you just a dog chasing cats and didn’t what you were going to do when you caught it?
Ted Rubin: That’s a pretty interesting way to look at it but I knew that I read enough about this guy to say he’s really smart but he’s really smart, you know. A lot of people are really smart, I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ll tell you a quick story about how, what first happened. I flew up to New York to meet … Now I’m a New Yorker so it’s not like I’m not used to New York, but this was the era of the internet that was just starting and people were whispering about it.
Ted Rubin: Like, “Oh, you don’t know what’s going on up there,” and this guy pulls me aside and he says, “Listen, I just want to warn you. There’s a lot of … In these internet companies, there are all these guys, they call them coders and they write code and they stay up all night and they drink tons of Mountain Dew and they’re really a little crazy, so just be careful and stay clear of those guys.”
Ted Rubin: I show up at this cavernous office in Irvington, New York, about 45 minutes outside of New York and remember, this is before Seth was really famous so there weren’t a lot of pictures of him, or any of that kind of stuff. I had no idea what he looked like. I walk in the office and the first guy I see is this bald guy with huge glasses, walking around in flip flops … Remember it’s December … and a sweater that went from a turtleneck down to his ankles, it was like a dress.
Ted Rubin: I’m thinking, “Oh, my god, there’s one of those crazy coders. I’d better stay clear.” I don’t say a word to the guy and luckily somebody comes up front, “Can I help you?” and I said, “Yeah, I’m here to see David Simon,” who was their head of sales at the time. I meet with Dave and we have this great meeting and he says, “Look, I really want you to work here, but I don’t know if we have a budget to make this work for you.”
Ted Rubin: I said, “Well, let’s get creative,” I was really anxious to get back to New York and get in this space. He goes, “Well, just stay here for a few minutes and he comes back, he says, “Listen, there are some other people that want to meet you. Just wait in the office,” and let me just … I’m a bald guy, so I kind of look a lot like Seth in that, right. I’ll take it off, so we can relate and I’m sitting in the office with my back to the door and all of a sudden I feel a hand on my head going, “I like your head.”
Ted Rubin: Now, remember, I’m a New Yorker. My initial reaction is to like grab the guy’s hand and I’m just about to overreact and I don’t know what went through my head but something said, “You never know who that is,” and I turn around and it’s the guy, it’s the bald guy with the sweater and the flip flips and he sticks out his hand and he says, “Nice to meet you. I’m Seth Godin.” Of course, I had to recover for a moment, ’cause I’m thinking, “Oh, man, like I really wanted to work at this place,” and I thought I just blew it.
Ted Rubin: I did not know who I was meeting, in other words, I didn’t know the greatness that was there, and I really didn’t discover it. He was a smart guy, he started a company. I respected that. Everybody looked up to him but until I started coming in early mornings and I started hearing the way this guy thought and the way he talked, is my first view into when I realized, “Just shut the fuck up and listen to this guy and you have to get here early every damned morning,” because that time I spent with Seth was invaluable.
Stefan Aarnio: What are some of the things you learned from the guru, the master? You fly down to this place, what are some of the things you learned in the time that you spent with him?
Ted Rubin: What I learned from Seth, was first of all, he had his vision of what the internet could be and where it was going and this was early on. Remember, when I got here, e-commerce was a taking a catalog and putting it online and then basically with an 800 number telling people to call somewhere and online media was just taking magazines and sometimes even Photoshopping them into the thing.
Ted Rubin: It was really early and he kept talking about where this is going and what he’s doing but I’ve got to tell you what really worked for me was here’s a guy that raised millions of dollars, not the kind that are being raised now but big dollars for 1997 and he’s telling us to go … he’s telling things that were music to my ears: I don’t want you to come back from a first meeting with an order; I want you to get to know people; I want you to talk to them; I want to find out what their pain points are; I want to figure out how to solve those pain points.
Ted Rubin: Now he had very specific ideas at the time of what would work and how you could sell things online but what really opened my eyes, was here was a brilliant guy, clearly smarter than the rest, know … Really has an idea of what he’s doing, but he still wants to hear from other people. He still wants to hear what customers’ pain points are. It was something I wasn’t used to. I was used to the Jack Welchs of the world, that told everybody, “This is how you do it.” The Lee Iacocas who had all the answers.
Ted Rubin: Now I’m sitting in front of a guy, who the most important thing for him was the intelligence gathered when we went to a meeting and this is where I learned from my dad. My dad was a sales guy and my dad taught me to make an emotional connection, to connect with people, to listen to them.
Ted Rubin: I can still remember my first week in my first job, it was a sales job, my dad calls me up at the end of the week and he says, “So how’s it going?” I go, “It’s going great.” “Do you have an appointment yet?” I said, “I do.” He said, “When?” I said, “Next week.” He goes, “Great, what time is the appointment?” I said, “10 AM.” He said, “What time are you going to get there?” I said, “I don’t know, five to 10?”
Ted Rubin: He goes, “No, get there at nine o’ clock in the morning. Walk around the neighborhood, see what restaurants are there, what businesses are in the neighborhood, go into the building, look who else is in the building. Get into his or her office early, if there’s any way you can and look on the wall. See what the poem is there, what photographs at there. Find something that allows you to talk about something that’s important to them.”
Ted Rubin: Here I am, I was very successful in the investment business. I did a lot of different things, I was always a great salesman and I’m sitting in front of a guy that I’m expecting to tell me something different and he’s reaffirming everything I learned from my dad.
Stefan Aarnio: Wow, that’s incredible.
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Stefan Aarnio: Let me ask you this, Ted. You’re in this almost epicenter, this special place, special time, 1997, the internet’s just starting, I think … What was Amazon doing back then? It was like nothing and all these thing are new, the internet is … I remember when they started having pictures, like pictures was a big deal. You still had floppy disks in 1997, ’97, how have things changed from then to today? We’re on 2018 now going ton 2019, how have things changed in that time period?
Ted Rubin: Really, do we have the next five hours? I mean I would say the most dramatic thing, there’s two things that have changed. First of all, obviously change is happening a lot more rapidly, so things progress a lot quicker. I mean perfect example I always love to give is that … Let’s see, it’s 2018. I think it was 2014, well, maybe 2015 when I went to CBS and every CEO from every major car company was at CBS making pronouncements about how self driving cars would never happen.
Ted Rubin: They talked about the regulation and the laws and the technology and literally, one year later… and again, someone in the audience might correct my exact timing but it was one year later, I think it was 2016, none of them came, they all sent a representative and they were all taking about how they were working on self driving cars, you know.
Ted Rubin: I mean it was a year later and their entire perspective and their entire direction had changed and by the way, this was not that they were hiding something. This was the CEOs making proclamations that it’s a waste of time to be thinking about this so I think the pace of change is very quickly, but one of the things I think people are finally starting to realize and … or at least I’m hoping, because I have been preaching about it for years, is the important of relationships.
Ted Rubin: A lot of people started believing that relationships were not that important. Everything could scale, mass merchandising, putting out emails, getting … Oh, my god, social media, it was going to make everything … You wouldn’t have to go out and meet anybody, but what’s really happened is our world has become incredibly commoditized.
Ted Rubin: Everybody can copy everybody, this is the Age of Influence, where anybody can build a brand, effect change, make a difference 24/7. A competitor can pop up and become a material competitor in a very short period of time. Because of that, everything’s become a commodity. I don’t care what you create, somebody can copy it, do it, build it better, very, very quickly.
Ted Rubin: I mean one of the reasons Amazon is so incredible is they’re always watching, they’re looking out, but what people don’t realize is that Amazon does an incredible job of building relationships, of making you feel that they look out for you, that they do things for you, they simplify everything because … and here’s a term that is really important … I want to make sure your audience grabs onto this … Simplicity is the new EDLP.
Ted Rubin: Now for those of you that don’t know what EDLP, that’s called Every Day Low Pricing. That’s how Walmart built their empire, but the new EDLP is simplicity, make it easy for her, and she will buy from you again and again and again. Frictionless retail is the retail of the future and that’s another way the companies are building relationships, by making it easy for you, by making it that you buy something, it could be returning tomorrow.
Ted Rubin: Somebody comes to your door to pick it up. I bought a kayak for god’s sake from Amazon. It got delivered by these two great guys who basically said, “What do you want us to do with it? Where do you want us to carry it?” Smiling the whole time, so number one is they’re enhancing the relationship of Amazon. Number two is they’re enhancing the simplicity of the entire transaction and then within six hours of delivery, I’m getting email asking me how was y experience.
Ted Rubin: I think that’s how things have changed. In a way, retail is going full circle. Back in the day, you shop from a guy in your town. Stefan, Stefan knew me. He knew what my likes, he knew my dislikes. He knew my family, so if I walked in, he could say, “Hey, I’ve got this thing, Johnny’s going to love it,” and I would take it home just on Stefan’s word and Stefan knew that he had to be not just pushing out whatever came in the story, because if I didn’t like it, I was going to be back in face tomorrow.
Ted Rubin: And I was going to tell all my friends and they’re only a 100 customers in the neighborhood and I could tell all of them in a matter of minutes just at the PTA meeting. So commerce progressed in a very personal, very relationship based way. Then mass merchandising happened and all these things and women thought they could go to the store in hair curlers and nobody would know. They thought they were anonymous, but they were never anonymous, Stefan.
Ted Rubin: American Express has been collecting your data since 1950. Every store has been collecting your data for way longer than the internet existed, so we were living in a fantasy world thinking that they weren’t tracking us, they weren’t looking at all this data, but now everybody knows they’re being tracked everywhere they go with everything they do and they’re fine with it as long as you deliver value.
Ted Rubin: As long as you enhance my life by using that data, then I’m going to be happy, but the minute, you start using that data to game me, to play me, I’m becoming much more wise to it. It’s one of the things I talk about. Customer experience has become so important, that goes with the whole simplicity model, the relationship model, but what companies are forgetting … and, yes, by the way, I go off on tangents sometimes, it’s just the way I am … but what companies are forgetting to realize is the customer experience with their marketing, not just …
Ted Rubin: Most companies think of customer experiences, what is it like when you come in the store? What is it like, when you’re online? How do we connect the two together? What happens when you have a problem? How’s the customer service? But they’re forgetting that when you bang me over the head with emails, when I go to buy one product at your site, at like Cole’s and then I get 50 emails a week for the rest of my life, I am going to swear to never come to your store again and I’m going to tell my friends about it.
Stefan Aarnio: What I’m hearing, Ted, is you’re not a fan of the buy or die campaign, the bombard people with emails until they’re finished. Let me ask you this, Ted, do you think … You’re talking about how a competitor can just spring up nowadays, they can build their company quickly, they can build their brand quickly, you think it’s more important today to have a great brand, or is it more important to have a great business?
Ted Rubin: Again, it depends on what … Here’s the thing, if you don’t have a great product and let’s equate product with business, because some companies, you know, they’re business is their product. Then you’re going to go nowhere, ’cause it doesn’t matter how great your relationships are if your product sucks, no one’s going to care. People, yes, with a good relationship, people will overlook things and I tell this to companies all the time.
Ted Rubin: I call it social insurance. If you interact and engage with people, if you are always delivering well to them, they are going to give you a chance. Look, it’s like my daughter, when my daughter was young … She’s in her 20s now, but when she was first getting to that age when kids start drinking but not legally, I would let her get away with things.
Ted Rubin: I would say to her, “Honey, call me. Make sure you don’t do this. Don’t get in a car with someone that’s driving,” and as long as those kids do and live up to that, the one time when they look at you and go, “Dad, I really rather not talk about it,” you give them a break, because they’ve been true to their word all along.
Ted Rubin: It’s the same thing with brands, if you treat people with respect, they’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt, but if your product sucks, or if your business delivery sucks, it doesn’t matter how great your brand is but truth be told, your brand is only as good as your … I like to say customer experience is the only true real branding and customer experience is not just about delivery and pick up and customer service, it’s about the product.
Ted Rubin: The ultimate in customer experience is I get the damned product. I mean here it is, where’s … Where did I put it? Here it is. Here’s my cell, here’s my phone. If my phone doesn’t work 90% of the time, I don’t care what good, how good the price is. I don’t care about anything else, I am not going to use it. I’m going to go get another.
Ted Rubin: So to your point, to me the first and most important thing is your product and your business, make that good, then concentrate on your brand.
Ted Rubin: Sorry about that, I turned the TV on when I reached for my phone …
Ted Rubin: I might have just got electric turning the TV. These days, voice commands handle everything, but so, back to your question, product and business is most important as the base and huge of what you’re doing, brand comes after that and also because brand means nothing if you’re not true to your brand.
Ted Rubin: One of the things I hear most often about me when I speak at events or I show up at companies, is they go, “Oh, my god, you really walk the walk.” Like what I tell people to do, I do. If I tell people they should be responsive, that’s because I’m responsive and most of what I either speak about or I work with brands on, or companies that I do consulting for, I’ve done it for me. I’ve done it for companies that I’m a partner in, that I’m an owner in, that I work for. I don’t just … I don’t just prognosticate. I use what I preach.
Ted Rubin: In answer to your question, short form, business first, then build a brand about that, around that and that’s what makes a brand authentic.
Stefan Aarnio: I love that. Now, I’ve read a lot about Warren Buffet and Warren Buffet talk about and he’s world richest investor, he talked about build a moat around your business, something that people can’t compete with and when you look at the companies of Warren Buffet buys, he buys Mcdonalds, he buys Snickers. He buys all these companies that you couldn’t replicate. Do you think that there are companies out there, Ted, that have something so special, it can be replicated, or do you think we’re truly in the age where anybody can come in and just change the game?
Ted Rubin: There’s always a company that has a certain lead time. You know, I mean we have Tesla for instance and nobody can duplicate Elon Musk, so … and that happens, just like with Apple, there was Steve Jobs, but look at how Apple is still thriving without Jobs, now probably wouldn’t be if he wasn’t there and didn’t set the tone and build what he built, and brought in all these great people, but there are people that are irreplaceable.
Ted Rubin: I mean I’m sure at some point, Bezos will move on, just like Bill Gates moved on and these other things but that’s what gives you your early advantage, but in the end, anybody can be …
Ted Rubin: Here’s one of the problems, companies that start out new, don’t have any of legacy issues that the existing companies have. The reason Tesla … There’s a lot of reasons but one of the reasons Tesla is surpassing everybody in the space that he’s in is ’cause he didn’t have the legacy business to support beyond it, he didn’t have a traditional car company with all the time and effort and dollars that go in to maintaining that key few people in their jobs.
Ted Rubin: It’s just like that companies that start anew, Amazon had none of the legacy issues that Walmart had. Now you might say, “They didn’t have the legacy advantages either, but a big part of it is the world was changing and the reason Amazon has beaten Walmart to every single digital punch is because, that’s where they started. Their viewpoint was different and they didn’t have the legacy behind them.
Ted Rubin: One of the biggest things that’s a problem for these companies, it’s just like retail right now. Retail is changing dramatically and the reason new companies … and it’s not just about Amazon, it’s about other … I mean there are some great winners out there that are new start up businesses, because they didn’t start with the other issues. Their viewpoint was straight from digital.
Ted Rubin: Look, I’m certainly not going to try to compete with Warren Buffet as far as intelligence and brains and yes, if you can build a moat around your something, business, but for me, what I think one of those moats are now, is your people and the relationships you built. It’s very hard to duplicate that in a short term. I mean one of the biggest advantages that Amazon has with me right now, is the relationship, is that I trust them. I love everything they’ve done for me.
Ted Rubin: So anytime I want to buy something, anytime, I go to Amazon first and try to buy it there and sometimes, if I can’t buy it, there, I won’t even buy it. I mean there are certain things I really need and if I can’t get it there, I’ll get it somewhere else but if it’s more of commodity type of thing, I’ll wait till I can get it there or I’ll but it someplace locally, but somebody has to tell me I want to do. so I believe that that moat can be created by the culture you build in your company and the relationships those employees build with your customers.
Stefan Aarnio: I think what you said there is really interesting, about it’s almost like there’s an evolution to things. You’ve got the Walmart that was the King of Retail, now you’ve got Amazon, that’s the new King of Retail. I think I might have actually it actually, in one of Seth Godin’s books, he said, the railway companies should have become the airlines and blockbuster should have become Netflix and Walmart should have became Amazon and Kodak should have became Instagram.
Stefan Aarnio: Are you saying that that legacy or that organization or that old thinking is what holds those people back from transforming, because at the end of the day, it’s about delivering … Kodak was about delivering memories to their customers but they missed the boat with Instagram? Do you think that you have to be more on the memories business and be more nimble or do you think, you just stay with one thing?
Ted Rubin: I think it’s an incredibly difficult thing to deal with but you exact the point, except you left something out. Legacy businesses have trouble moving into the future, not just because they have old ways but because they think they don’t have to. They …
Ted Rubin: Excuse me a second … Could you place …
Ted Rubin: Thank you.
Ted Rubin: I’m sorry, somebody was running some water … and there I am I’m like waving at … and I forgot that I’m sitting here on video.
Ted Rubin: The legacy businesses, it’s not just old thinking. It’s that it’s very hard to disrupt your current business to build a new business, there’s where the real problem comes in. For the automobile companies to really move into the future, they’ve got to disrupt the path and the path makes them a fortune of money.
Ted Rubin: I mean Walmart, by the way is an incredibly successful business. I believe in the end, they are going to be the winner at the store level but I don’t think they can ever really truly compete with Amazon when it comes to digital and that could be a whole conversation so let’s not get off on that tangent ’cause I’ve written and spoken about that a lot but the problem is is disrupting your current business, it’s why most retailers will not survive.
Ted Rubin: I wrote a blog post, The 20 Retailers that will be out of business in the next 10 years and to companies like Dix’s, Macy’s, Sears, JC Penney, they don’t have a chance of survival unless they radically change their businesses but to radically change their businesses they have to suffer dramatically in the short term and because of them are public companies, like one that might survive is Nordstrom, ’cause is very determined to become privately held again.
Ted Rubin: Personally, I believe and this is just a prognostication, I think Amazon’s going to buy it. I think Amazon’s going to buy a bunch of traditional retailers. I think Wholefoods is just training wheels, and then they will drag them into the future but it’s very, very hard because their financing is based on their stock price and their stock price is based on their sales, so what happens the minute their sales start getting hurt, they just start discounting. Discounting is just a way to drive yourself into oblivion, because if you keep driving down your margins you’re never going to be able to survive.
Ted Rubin: That’s the advantage to me that new companies have because they don’t have that. Now there have been companies, IBMs been a tremendously successful company at reinventing themselves. I mean think about it, the IBMs been around … I mean I’m not a 100% sure but definitely was around in the ’50s . I’m not sure if they were around in ’40s but they have … People have been saying that they’re going to die over and over again, and they’ve managed to reinvent themselves and become the backbone now to most of what’s going on in technology.
Ted Rubin: Microsoft has done a great job of reinventing themselves and sometimes, waiting a little a bit too long but Microsoft is back on a major upswing. Apple is a company that managed to reinvent itself, you know, when they went through some downturns, so there are companies that can do it and, again, Walmart is a great company. I don’t think Walmart will ever beat Amazon in the digital space but Walmart focuses a lot on their core business. They focus a lot on their core customers. Sometimes I think they should focus a little bit more on their core customer and stop worrying about the wealthier segment which I don’t think they’ll ever own, ever.
Ted Rubin: Like I like to say …
Stefan Aarnio: They don’t even want to go into Walmart. They’re like, “No, I’m not going.”
Ted Rubin: No, and so they’ve tried some things, they’re delivering to homes … Who wants a Walmart box sitting outside their house. You know, one of the things, I like to say is that anybody, anybody, will buy an Amazon branded product but there’s a very large percentage of the population that will never ever buy a Walmart branded product. Amazon has the advantage in branded products and in a lot of that …
Ted Rubin: I mean, do you know Amazon is probably selling 30% private label of clothing on the internet?
Stefan Aarnio: Wow.
Ted Rubin: Yeah, and they’re creating it. Again, don’t quote me on the exact number, I could be off a little bit but a big advantage that Walmart has is that 30% of their customers are unbanked. 30% of their customers are unbanked. That means they shop with cash, they don’t have a bank account, they don’t have a credit card, they get paid, they go en cash their check, they go shopping. Now if Walmart doesn’t keep focusing on those, they own that demographic, right now.
Stefan Aarnio: The cash business, you can’t use cash on Amazon. You have to go to Walmart.
Ted Rubin: But that’s not going to … You watch, Amazon’s going to be jumping into the crypto currency space and that’s going to change and if Walmart doesn’t stay focused on that segment, they’re going to risk losing even more of their business to Amazon and another reason Amazon’s becoming so much more valuable or online digital shopping to begin with is there was a time where … People wouldn’t pay more for things. Everything was about price, but I’m saying simplicity is more important now for a very particular reason, everybody is starting to learn their economic value in terms of time.
Ted Rubin: Now it used to be that guys like you and me or people from a certain economic strata knew that they could work late, work hard and make more money, whereas there a very big portion of the people out there that could only make more money if they worked overtime and if their company was not offering overtime, they didn’t make more money, but now they can drive ubers and Lifts. They can join companies that do deliveries, there are so many other things they can do.
Ted Rubin: What have they learned? They’ve learned their hourly value. It used to be, “What’s the difference? I’ll go to Walmart. I’ll walk the aisles for hours ’cause what am I going to do with that time anyway? All I’m going to do is watch TV and it’s kind of entertainment anyway. I bring my kids, I send them into the food court …” but now, they can very easily say, “If I don’t spend those three hours driving to and from and walking the aisles and waiting on line at Walmart, I can be earning more money so I’m willing to pay a little extra to have something delivered.”
Ted Rubin: Now Walmart can take advantage of that, too, because they’re starting to do a lot, having a lot more services but this is what allows other people to jump in the game. The whole work environment, the whole how we earn a living is changing dramatically as well, and I think that’s playing a big part of it.
Stefan Aarnio: One thing that comes to mind, you’re talking about Walmart and the wealthier strata they don’t want to be in Walmart, one thing that comes to mind is, whenever I go to the States, I always go to In and Out Burger. In and Out Burger on the West Coast, Shake Shacks on the East Coast, and one thing I think is amazing, I was just down in Dallas, Texas last week, wearing my America sweater, I’m Canadian, by the way.
Stefan Aarnio: I’m down and I say to my friend, I say, “We’ve got to go to In and Out Burger, because it’s an experience and it’s crazy, you see a guy, punching the fries and you see frying the beef and their menu has four things on it, like the original Mcdonalds cheeseburger, hamburger, French friends, coke, coffee, milkshake, that’s it,” and so I bring my friend. I say, “We’ve got to go to In and Out Burger, we’ve got to go do this,” and I always think it’s interesting, you’ve got an In and Out and you go to Mcdonalds.
Stefan Aarnio: At Mcdonalds, the drive through, there’s hardly anybody there, the In and Out’s lined up around the block and there’s a line up inside. I remember I was in In and Out in Las Vegas, they did a 100 tickets in the time I was sitting there. “Order number one, order number two. Order number three.” There’s fashion models snapping pictures of their greasy cheeseburger and saying, “Look at me eating this cheeseburger,” and they put on the little filter on the snapshot and they look cute like a deer eating their cheeseburger whereas that same girl won’t go to Mcdonalds and post her Big Mac.
Stefan Aarnio: What do you think is that In and Out effect versus the Mcdonalds effect and how is it that Mcdonalds can survive all these changes in the market?
Ted Rubin: I think we just went back to simplicity is the new EDLP, but also, look, it’s also about customer experience, it’s about the story behind it. It’s about how we … like a lot is experiential right now and In and Out burger has gotten experiential and Mcdonalds is kind of like a service line. There’s no excitement there, plus, look, I’m not a big supporter of Mcdonalds.
Ted Rubin: I have become very health conscious. Truth be told, I’m really anti Mcdonalds and anti Coca-Cola now, but at least In and Out burger, to me their product is a little better. It’s not as artificial. They’re not selling you frankenmeat and all the other things that are going on there, but I think a lot about it is just change. People like something new, they like something different, these guys are executing incredibly well and like you talked about it, there’s a story behind it and … but here we go.
Ted Rubin: Here’s the brand but the product is great, right. The experience is really good, you have fun doing it. You are in and out, look they live true to their name, you’ in and out quickly. One of the reasons … Mcdonalds takes so long is ’cause there’s too many things to choose from. The guy gets himself front of the line, he’s like, “Oh, I don’t know, he’s looking at the damn thing,” and you’re sitting there, going, “Dude, can you pick whatever you want already?” They don’t have that issue at In and Out burger.
Ted Rubin: Not only are they delivering an experience, but they [inaudible 00:39:09] the process of people want to be in and out here quickly and over time, that’s changed at Mcdonalds. I mean even in the story, even as efficient as they as a business and they’re very good at that, they’ve created a lot of choices.
Ted Rubin: Look, I think change happens and people look at processes and think, “What can we do to change and alter those things?” A lot of it is like you said, look, part of that is brand, they’ve built a great brand around it. Like what you were talking about, beautiful girls taking pictures, celebrities coming and taking pictures, and doing things and they’ve created something that’s an experience so, you know, look, all those things have a lot to do with it.
Ted Rubin: I just think that people are looking for something different. People are … but I believe that different needs to be simple, it needs to be easy, and it especially, now that’s … This is a real world experience, there’s no real digital side to that, although, of course, we know, at some point, there’ll be an app and a way you can order in advance, other things like that. I think retail’s a lot more complicated than food service.
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Stefan Aarnio: Ted, switching gears. You built a great brand for yourself. I was online checking out your website. I think you’ve got one of the best branded websites with everything integrated beautifully. You’re obviously a high level performer. I love to ask this about everybody who comes on my show is high level. I say, “What is Ted Rubin’s obsession? What are you obsessed about? What’s something you think about all day that you’re just always thinking about, you’re always playing with in the back of your mind that you just can’t let go of it?”
Ted Rubin: My obsession is responsiveness. I believe … It’s become a part of my brand. People reach out to me, they know I reach back. Matter of fact, if I don’t reach back to someone sometimes in 20 minutes, they’re like, “Are you okay?” Because it’s what I do. Now obviously, they’re being a little facetious and joking around but the truth with, I am obsessive about responsiveness. It’s … and I’m on a lot of different platforms so a lot of my day is looking at things, glancing at things, seeing who’s reaching out to me, trying to orchestrate that process in a way that the simple things, can get them quickly, easy.
Ted Rubin: Somebody tags me, I like it, I make a quick comment and that the conversations that need to be had happen and I respond to people and it annoys me when people don’t respond to me. Like one of my pet peeves is how important people think they are. People think they’re way too important, like, you know …
Ted Rubin: My classic joke is I get an email and it says, “Hey, Ted, how you doing? Listen, I know I haven’t responded to your emails or text much in the last year, but I’ve been really, really busy in my job, but I was wondering, could you open your whole network to me and could you spare about an hour so I can pick your brain, because I’m looking for new opportunity.” Like, you know, now all of a sudden, they’re responsive and they want my attention and they think it’s okay that they ignored me for the last year.
Ted Rubin: I just think there’s no excuse for that and whenever I write things like that, I get all the people jumping and, “Well, I get … so many people spam me and …” I’m not talking about the spam. I’m not talking about the crap. I’m talking about that I did an hour phone call with Stefan and a month or a week from now, he reached out and says, “Hey, Ted, I just need to talk to you for a second,” and I don’t even bother responding to him. I know him. I got to know him over the phone call. We are now have a relationship, there’s absolutely no excuse for me not to respond.
Ted Rubin: Now, it’s perfectly okay for me to respond and say, “Stefan, I’m really busy right now, it’s a bad time for me. Ping me next week or give me a month and get back to me or call me tomorrow,” but for me not to respond at all is in my opinion is inexcusable so I am passionate about that and I tell people, if I don’t respond to you in 24, 48 hours at the max, ping me again, because I’m the one that’s going to be upset if two to three months from now or a year from now, we bump into each other and you go, “Hey, I can’t believe you never responded to my email.” I’m literally going to be upset about that.
Ted Rubin: In your question, what am … that’s what I’m on all the time because I think it just shows how you respect people and again, it’s okay to write to someone and say, “You know what, we don’t really know each other, I don’t have time for this right now,” that’s okay, too, but respond to them.
Ted Rubin: Do you know that Walmart has a policy for their employees at Walmart headquarters that they cannot go home at night without responding to every email.
Stefan Aarnio: Whoa.
Ted Rubin: Now, again, that doesn’t mean the spam, that doesn’t mean the cold, outreach by vendors, that means the emails of people they’re engaged with, they know they’re working with and it can be as simple as … Look, I put it off on people a lot. Somebody that I don’t know, if you reached to me and I didn’t really know you and I was really busy, what I would probably do, I’d look at you real quick, I’d see you were with something that’s worthwhile, and I say, “Stefan, I’m really busy right now, can you reach out to me in two weeks?” and by the way, I do that a lot just to vet people.
Ted Rubin: ‘Cause half the people that reach out to me, that even that I know … They … Look, I had one just the other day, this guy reached out to me, I know him really well, “Hey, man, it’s been a long time, I noticed you weren’t at this event last week, I’d love to catch up with you, when can we do that?” I emailed him back and now it’s three day, I haven’t even heard back. He reached out to me.
Ted Rubin: People do this all the time so a lot of times, I vet it by putting it on them and here’s my policy, if you want to sell me something, it’s your job to follow up with me any way that I tell you it’s important. If you reach out to me on Twitter and I say email me, then you need to email me, but if I’m trying to sell you, then I aim to do it the way you like to do it, so I might want to do it on Twitter but if you say, “Ted, email me,” or “Ted, text me,” or “Ted, call me,” then that’s what I’ve got to do.
Ted Rubin: You know, look, I learned this … Look, I learned this most from being a Divorce Dad. I was a Divorce Dad and at one point after my divorce, I had to fight to keep my daughters in my life and they were alienated by my ex-wife and I had to go to court. It cost me everything I had, I didn’t work for a year. I spent seven figures, in 2010, I was $300,000 in debt. Now eight years later … I mean a year later I wasn’t in debt, when that thing ended, it was three years later, it ended I worked 22 hours a day and paid everybody back.
Ted Rubin: But back to the point of this is that when I had to rebuild my relationship with my daughters, I had to learn very quickly that I had to communicate the way they wanted to communicate and I know a lot of Divorce Dads o Divorce, anybody in the audience, I say most Divorce Dads, ’cause we tend not to be what’s called the custodial parent, we tend not to have as much time with our kids but we no longer have that leverage.
Ted Rubin: Your kid isn’t coming home every night, you can’t tell them, “Look at me, look at me when I talk to you,” or “I’m talking to you, you can’t go into you room until you talk to me.” You’re remote and if you call your kids or don’t communicate the way want, they’re just not going to do it, so how many dads or moms, how many parents in the audience have telephoned their kids, called them, using, actually using that thing called the phone and two seconds you get a text that says, “What,” with an exclamation point.
Ted Rubin: Right, believe me, every parent in the audience, every parent that listens to your podcast has had this happen and that’s your kid’s way of saying, “Don’t call me, text me.” That’s the way, I’ll be available to you and it was a very fast lesson for me. At one point, when my daughter was 15, I had to use Snapchat to communicate with her, because that’s where she was, and that’s where she would respond so it really taught me a really valuable lesson for our customers, for anybody I would be working with. You need to communicate the way they want to communicate and that’s a really valuable lesson for your audience.
Stefan Aarnio: I love that, it’s the obsession. Ted, let me ask you this, we got to wrap it up in a few minutes, but super quick, you’re a very successful speaker, very successful author, there’s a lot of people out there who want to be speakers and want to be authors. What advice do you have for those people to get booked on stages and have that brand, ’cause I think a lot of this speaking and authoring is about the brand. What advice do you have for those people.
Ted Rubin: Let me start out with some general advice, and then, I’ll try to see if I can bring it a little bit in closer. First of all, it takes time. everybody wants everything to happen overnight, even more so now, basically, you could buy anything, have anything delivered, so I like to say, there’s no real difference in the generations. People like to say Millennials are different and Gen Z are different. They’re not genetically different, believe me, okay. They are the same as you, what’s different is their experiences, what they’ve grown up with, what they have lived with.
Ted Rubin: They have lived with immediate satisfaction, so what I find the problem, is now look, it’s always been a problem of the youth. When I was young, even back in the ’70s or ’80s, I still wanted things immediate, because we haven’t learned patience. The first advice I’m going to give you, because I even see this spanning into older generations is it takes time.
Ted Rubin: If you want to build a brand, if you want people to get to know you, don’t expect it to happen overnight. Don’t try something and a day later change it because it didn’t work. It didn’t work because you didn’t try it. I see all these people, they try to own hashtags. They use it for a month. They use it for a week. They use it for six months. I’ve been using RNR, Return on Relationship and no let up for eight to 10 years. I mean I keep … Whenever I start with something, this dad won’t quit. I’ve been doing email for [inaudible 00:49:08] so that they become associated with me.
Ted Rubin: The initial advice is understand you’re in the long game, don’t expect things to happen overnight. If you … Now, I’m going to narrow it down, a little bit. If you want to start speaking, if you want to start getting people to pay you for what you do, the odds are, you’re going to have to start off not getting paid to do it. I tell people all the time, “Start speaking now. If you want to be on a stage, get on the stage when you have a job. Get on the stage, when you can offer your services for free. Get on the stage when the company you’re working for, might be willing to support it and send you to events.”
Ted Rubin: Okay, another thing is you want to get some early experience speaking. Here’s the easiest way to do it, go to events, look at who’s speaking, pre-prepare questions cause nine out of 10 times, at the end of major speaking gigs, people say, “Are there any questions from the audience?” and there are a few places where people line up but more often than not, the first few questions are tough to get out of the audience because people are embarrassed so show up with questions.
Ted Rubin: Immediately shoot your hand up, stand up and say, “My name is Ted Rubin and,” either talk about your … “My blog is TedRubin.com or it’s called Straight Talk or I work for XYZ Company and this is my question.” You just got that entire audience, it could be anywhere from 200 people to 10,000 knowing your name and listening to what comes out of your mouth. That’s great … First of all, it’s a great way to build your brand. It’s just like I say, “Comment on very but widely read blogs.”
Ted Rubin: Be the first guy to comment on them. Everybody’s going to see your comment and by the way, a lot of these blogs and a lot of these publications like Forbes let you fill out a thing so that people know who you are. It has your name, it has your … and some of them even rate you as commenters.You can prepare all the stuff, you don’t want to do it on the come, so that’s some really good advice number one.
Ted Rubin: Number two is start applying the street places and be prepared to speak for nothing, but remember is there going to come a time well you have to draw the line and you have to say I’m not speaking for free anymore and that’s very hard to do and that’s how you start earning a living off it. And then little by little start out one level, raise your level, when people start pushing back, it’s okay to bring it back again.
Stefan Aarnio: You know I love that, work to learn, not to earn. Start out working for free and work your way up. I love it. Last question, today Ted, super quick. Top three books that changed your life, everybody loves three, what are those three for you?
Ted Rubin: Number one, which is the best social media book as far as I’m concerned that was ever written. It’s better advice now than when it was written in 1936 and it’s called How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It is the single most important book for every single person to read and it’s more relevant today than it was when it was written, because to date, back when it was written, maybe you met a hundred people your lifetime in 1936. Now you’re meeting a hundred people a minute and it teaches you really good tactics. It’s kind of cute to read, because it’s written back then and he talks about Mr. So and so in the general store, but what it’s talking about is things like calling people by name, because the most beautiful word in any language to any person to hear is the sound of their own name.
Ted Rubin: If you follow me on social media or anything I do and you email me or you text me. We’ll find that most often use your name when I respond to you, when I reply to you, when I write to you. Obviously, we’re going back and forth and text, I don’t use it in every one. By the way it takes time, it’s hard, but it creates a bond and there’s many more advice, that’s number one.
Ted Rubin: Number two is a book by a woman named Carol Dweck and its called Mindset. It’s about how important mindset is. I like to say attitude and perspective lead to mindset. It goes to the whole point of Dale Carnegie likes to say. That it’s not what you do or where you are or what you have that really sets the tone for your happiness. It’s what you think about and mindset is all about that. By the way, it’s really an important book if you’re a parent or you plan to be one, because it talks a lot about how you position your children. You know the mother or the father says, “Oh, Laurie doesn’t like to talk to people right in front of Laurie” or “Oh, no, don’t say that about her, she’s very beautiful.” What they are doing is they are creating the mindset for their child instead of letting their child create that mindset for themselves, so you know, to me, that’s really, really important.
Ted Rubin: Then the third is you must read a book by Seth Godin, okay, as far as I’m concerned. By the way, he’s got dozens of books and I think they’re all fabulous. I think the Icarus Agenda is probably the most important one and I might have gotten the name wrong, but Icarus is in the title. Just because it’s a little more recent and people can really relate to it and with the advices in there, but I would say read all of Seth Godin books. I think they’re all great and they’re all … What’s beautiful by Seth books is Seth is a marketer first and author second, so he likes books in a way that makes it easy for people to read, because you know that’s going to get more people to read it.
Stefan Aarnio: That’s incredible. Thank you so much Ted. How can people get a hold of you if they want to know more?
Ted Rubin: Getting a hold of me is easy, it’s [email protected] My phone number and yes, I’ll give you my number, it’s 516-270-5511, feel free to call anytime on @tedrubin on every social platform. Just Google Ted Rubin and bout the first 10 pages is me, so feel free to reach out. I’d like to leave your audience with a little piece of advice before you go, relationships are like muscle tissue. The more you engage them, the stronger and more valuable they become.
Stefan Aarnio: Wow, thank you so much for being on the show, today, Ted, Respect the Grind and thank you so much.