Good advice applied at the wrong time is bad advice. In the early stages of Wayne’s journey in business, he used to look at the big gurus and magazines and see what they were doing and how are they successful and he would tempt to take what they were doing and apply that to his little small startups.
Wayne Mullins (00:00):
The one piece of advice would be this: good advice, applied at the wrong time, is bad advice. Good advice applied at the wrong time is bad advice. You know, just for me, I can tell you on my journey that, in the early stages of growing either of the businesses, my primary businesses that I’ve had, that I would look around and look at the big gurus, or look in the magazines and see what they were doing, and how they were quote unquote successful, and I would attempt to take what they were doing and apply that to my little, small, startups. And great advice, the wrong time for the application.
Devin Miller (00:52):
Hey everyone, this is Devin Miller here with another episode of The Inventive Journey. I’m your host, Devin Miller, the serial entrepreneur whose grown several startups, and seven and eight figure businesses, as well as the founder and CEO of Miller IP Lock. We help startups and small businesses with patents and trademarks. You ever need help with yours, just go to strategymeeting.com, grab some time with us to chat, and we’re always here to help. Now, today, we’ve got another great guest on the podcast, Wayne Mullins, and Wayne started his journey as a kid, so he would pay his friend and baseball cards to cut lawns for him. Then went off to college and got a degree in business and marketing, with a marketing specialization. His parents gave him a Zig Zigler CD. CDs at the time they’re gone, or mostly gone today, but were popular back in the day, and converted him to go into sales. He worked in multiple jobs throughout college, graduated and got into a corporate job in sales, and then decided he wanted to do his own thing. So, I started a lawn care business and grew it for three years. Then he ended up selling that off, and a lot of his commercial clients asked him about how he was growing and selling so fast. So he started a marketing firm about 14 years ago, and has been doing it ever since. So, with that much as an introduction, welcome to the podcast, Wayne.
Wayne Mullins (02:12):
Thank you so much, Devin. I’m looking forward to this chat today.
Devin Miller (02:15):
Absolutely. I just gave kind of the quick 30 second version of a much longer journey, but to take us back a bit in time or to kick things off, take us back in time a bit, to when you started your journey, paying your friends to mow lawns in exchange for baseball cards.
Wayne Mullins (02:38):
Yeah, I don’t know Devin, what it was. I guess there’s that entrepreneurial bug or entrepreneurial nature within me from a very early age. So it was that, it was paying them baseball cards to go pick up 10 cans on the side of the road so I could then go recycle those and make a few bucks on those. And at about the age of 12, I had a friend over and we had been picking up 10 cans on the side of the road and trying to make money doing that. And we took some spray paint and a piece of plywood, and we wrote on the piece of plywood, we put “yard mowing” and put my parents’ phone number down, our house number down, and we went and hung it with some nails onto a telephone pole down at the end of the street, which happened to be a very busy street down at the end of our street. Lo and behold, people started calling. I mean, it wasn’t what I would think it was in the first week, we actually had some phone calls and my friend lived too far away, so his parents would bring him over, but he was unable to come every time a lawn needed to be cut. So, my dad started loading up the push mower in the back of his car, the weed wacker in the back of his car, literally in the trunk of his vehicle. And he would drive me to these lawns. I would cut the lawns and grew that into a nice sizable business throughout high school.
Devin Miller (04:04):
I think that’s always fun, and I think that, you know, one, having that spirit as a kid, and then two, figuring out that running your business or how you can grow the business by bringing other people on and by, you know, figuring out a way to compensate them is always a fun experience. And I definitely hope that my kids have that spirit as well. So now you do that, go through high school, and then you go off to college and start out thinking about getting a business degree with a marketing specialization. Kind of just going down a reasonably normal route, and then your parents gave you a CD that kind of set you in a new direction.
Wayne Mullins (04:45):
Yep. For whatever reason, I need to ask ’em. I don’t know why I haven’t, but they gave me some CDs by this guy, Zig Ziegler, and I had never heard of Zig Ziegler before, but listened to those CDs, and I don’t remember the exact topic other than it was about selling. And in those CDs, Zig said that selling’s the greatest profession in the world, right? And he says it with all this enthusiasm. And so he just talks about how nothing happens until somebody sells something. And ultimately, after listening to those CDs a few times, Zig sold me on the profession of selling, right? I knew that I wanted to go into sales. And so soon as I graduated, actually just before graduating, I started looking for jobs and found a sales job. To be honest with you, Devin, I was absolutely horrific at the beginning. I was terrible. I’m, by nature, I’m a huge introvert. I would much rather go hide in the corner somewhere, somewhere rather than, you know, to be face to face with people, especially meeting a lot of new strangers every day. But, over the course of three years of knocking on lots of doors, getting doors slammed in your face, you develop some calluses around that and really hone my cell skills and became pretty decent at it over the course of that three year period.
Devin Miller (06:03):
Hey, well, I think that most people..I guess there are some that are natural salespeople just like to talk, but I think it is a skill that you can hone, acquire, otherwise get better at. Sometimes, sometimes you just learn that you hate it and it’s not for you. But I think for the people that to do it put in some time and effort, it can certainly be a skill that you can hone. And so you’re saying, Hey, get through college, work your multiple jobs, listen to the Zig Ziegler CD, come out with a degree, and then you get into corporate sales. And then, I think we chatted a bit before you graduated working with corporate sales. And remind me, how long did you do work in corporate sales?
Wayne Mullins (06:38):
Yeah, I was in sales for three years. I was selling advertising.
Devin Miller (06:43):
So now you do that for three years and it put you kind of on the trajectory list, listening to the CD, you found that that was kind of more what, even if you weren’t good at it at the beginning, that was something that you found to be worthwhile or that was kind of scratched the itch of what you wanted to do. Now, what was the tipping point or what made you kind of decide, hey, maybe I want to go do my own thing or go out on my own as opposed to work for someone else?
Wayne Mullins (07:08):
Yeah, Devin, it was a dangerous thing that happened. You know, initially I was so terrible that I didn’t want to keep doing sales but this perseverance, this idea, knowing that if I kept practicing, kept trying, kept showing up every day that I would get better. And so for me, it was really a matter of setting these kinds of incremental goals in terms of selling. And as I started achieving those goals, what was happening was I was becoming better at this thing called selling. And it got to the point, Devin, where I looked at what I was selling for the company in terms of the revenue that I was bringing in for the company. And then I looked at my paycheck, and then I looked at the revenue, looked at my paycheck, and there was this big discrepancy between the two, right? I was bringing in all this money and it was lots of money and my paycheck, although I was making good money, it was a fraction of the amount of money that I was bringing into this company. So this idea pops in the back of my head. What if I went and sold something for myself, you know, could I keep more of the money? I sat down and just said, Okay, what are the skills? What are the things that I could actually sell? What value can I bring to the marketplace? And that list was pretty short <laugh>, that was cutting grass. That was the thing I’d done from a young age through high school. I’d done it through college as well. So that was the thing. I decided that I was going to quit my corporate job with all the benefits, and I was going to go back into lawn and landscape from scratch and build a business.
Devin Miller (08:43):
I think that, what’s interesting, I don’t know what’s always correct. I’ve been on both sides, as you have, and a lot of times when you’re on the side of the employee, you’re always saying, Oh, this is so much easier. I could do this. I can keep everything in my pocket. I don’t have to have someone else. And there’s some truth to that. And that’s why a lot of people get into businesses. On the other hand, you get to the other side and then you realize, okay, there is overhead, there’s marketing, there’s sales, there’s equipment, there’s rent due, and doing all those things, those things add up. And sometimes you get on the other side and you’re saying, you know, this is a lot harder when I’m on the other side than when I was just looking in thinking that I could do it better. And so, kind of with that, as you transitioned over and you said, Okay, I’m going to do this on my own. I know lawn care, I know that thing, I know sales a bit, I’m going to see what I can do. Where did you land or kind of how did you arrive on what you’re going to do and how did it go?
Wayne Mullins (09:37):
Yeah, no, I agree with you. There’s, having been on both sides of the equation, there are certainly pros and cons to each side, right? And so for me, in terms of making the decision to make that jump, you know, at the time it felt like a monstrous, life altering decision, right? But one of the things that I’ve learned since then is that there’s a big difference between being reckless and taking risks. So being reckless says, you know, we’re going to throw caution out the wind. We’re going to just do things without really thinking through and without processing risk. On the other hand, it’s about looking at the pros, looking at the cons, and weighing those options out. One of the best analogies I’ve ever heard about this scenario comes from Amazon. And when they’re looking at making big decisions, So, you know, do we launch Amazon Prime? Do we launch the Kindle? Do we go into the cell phone? Do all these things. The way they approach it is this, is this a revolving door or is this a one way door? So in other words, if I step through this, for example, going back to me, if I step through that, if I walk away from my corporate sales job and go do this lawn care thing, is that a one way door? In other words, there’s no way for me to come back and get to where I was, or is it a revolving door? And for me, the answer is, would that company have hired me back? I don’t know, probably. But even in the worst case scenario, I probably could have gotten a job at another company, a similar company doing sales, right? So for me, I realized, although I didn’t use that terminology at that time, that was a revolving door. I could get back. Maybe not the same company, maybe not the same exact position, but I could get back into that field fairly easily. So I think that really, although I didn’t know the terminology at the time, that was kind of my thought process in terms of making that decision.
Devin Miller (11:31):
I think that it is a bit of a risk assessment, right? In other words, you’re saying, Hey, if my risk is I get out of this field, or I’m not successful and now I’ve shot myself in the foot, it’s gonna be hard to get another job and I’m not going to have an outlook, it’s a pretty high risk. In other words, you’re saying, Hey, this is my one shot, one and only shot, and if it doesn’t work, I’m kind of out of luck. Versus you’re saying, Hey, I have an opportunity, I have the ability, I have the desire, I’d like to try it out. And worst case scenario, I have the sales skills, I’ve done this before, and I can go find another job and go back to working for someone else. And I think it gives you the ability, if you look at it that way as, Hey, can I do this? And if you’re in the position to try and it’s not that do or die. Now there’s obviously other calculations, like, do you have kids? Do you have a wife? Do you have a family? How are you going to support them? Do you have the savings? Are you in debt? But I think if you can balance that and say, Okay, I have the ability to try this out and do this, and I think it’s definitely one thing that you should, and that’s where a lot of people that have talked with over a lot of episodes, have always wished that they got started earlier. And so you say, Okay, all of it lines up. I think I try, worst case scenario, I can go work for someone else so I can find another job after this doesn’t work out. Now, how did you decide marketing and sales? And doing kind of that of your own firm, how did you get into that? How did you kind of establish it, grow it, who your clientele kind of how’d you get things kicked off?
Wayne Mullins (13:00):
Sure. So, for me, the way that that happened, it happened very naturally. And in hindsight I can see that, but in the moment, you know, you’re not really noticing and you’re not aware of what’s taking place or what’s shaping your path going forward. But, as I started the lawn and landscape company, we went from startup to, within three years we were a very large company. Unbeknownst to me, we kind of reach the pinnacle for our area. We live in a town of 48,000 people here. Surrounding communities, probably 150, 200,000, something like that. And so the, the only next option for us to continue growing would be to either go into additional service lines, which I wasn’t really interested in or be to expand into other territories. And geographically where we’re located, the other territories are about 80 miles away, which it’s doable, but, you know, it’s a decent distance. So I just decided that I had taken it to the level that I could take it to without doing one of those two things. And I decided that I was going to put it up for sale. But let me jump back slightly to making that transition. So in the course of growing that company over a three year period, we went from just about all residential customers, lawn care customers, to virtually all commercial. And what was happening was the commercial customers were seeing how fast the company was growing. You know, going from one vehicle to two vehicles, to three vehicles and multiple crews and all these things. So, some of those owners of those businesses started coming to me saying, Hey, we see you’re growing very rapidly. What are you doing? How are you growing? How are you marketing? How are you getting your clients? And so it was out of those conversations, Devin, that this kind of marketing consulting began. Initially it was literally just that they would pull me aside or they would ask me to stop by and they would bring it up. Like, What are you doing for marketing? How are you advertising? What are you promoting? And those conversations eventually led into paid consulting, right? For some of those same people. Can we pay you to help us develop some campaigns? And that just slowly morphed into this potential for a full-time company. But that didn’t happen immediately. In other words, I made the decision to sell the company without really thinking that I was going to go into marketing full-time. I’d grown to that point. I actually reached out to a business broker because I knew nothing about selling a business. I reached out to a business broker, they listed it, and lo and behold, within a few weeks, started getting some offers on the company and ended up selling the company. So that’s the super quick version of that.
Devin Miller (15:39):
So now as you sell the company, what was kind of next for? I mean, so you sold the company, but now what do you do after that?
Wayne Mullins (15:46):
The answer is, I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have any direction. I knew I was generating some income off of the consulting work that I was doing in the marketing space. The other thing was, I was going to make some money off the sale of this company, and I knew based on the amount of money that I was hopefully going to sell the company that I would have time. I didn’t have to make an immediate decision to do something. So over that next, it was about a three year period, I did a lot of consulting work. I actually co-owned a couple of coffee shops, and I also did insurance adjusting, catastrophe adjusting, during that three year period.
Devin Miller (16:30):
So now during that period, you tried a few things to do everything from catastrophe adjusting to everything else. And then, where did the journey take you to there? In other words, I’m trying to bridge a bit, so you do the sales and do a few things, and then you’re getting into where you’re at today, which is your current endeavor. And I’ll share a bit with the audience, but kind of how did you make that bridge or that leap over to your current business you’re doing today?
Wayne Mullins (16:58):
Yeah, Devin. So my degree is actually in marketing, specialization in marketing. And I really enjoyed marketing. Like I loved that part of the lawn care business when I was growing the business, and I really enjoyed the consulting side, you know, helping people with the marketing campaigns. But I wouldn’t say that that was my true passion. So my true passion is like this hybrid combination. It’s a bit odd, but it’s this hybrid combination of marketing and business systems and processes that lead to business growth. So it’s this hybrid thing. And because I wasn’t overly passionate about the marketing consulting that I was doing, I wasn’t really pursuing that. It wasn’t something that I was pursuing. But as I kept doing this consulting work, what I discovered was that marketing or their perceived problems around marketing were really just symptomatic. In other words, there was something else taking place layers deeper that were kind of root causes of the problems that they were experiencing. So as I kind of peel back the onion, if you will, what I realized is that, marketing in and of itself is in some ways just a gateway into other business problems and other business areas that need developing or fixing, and that’s really my true passion. So it was in that process of kind of just exploring, experimenting that, it got to the point where I realized that, a marketing company, a marketing agency, would provide me with the opportunity to help people reach their dreams or achieve their goals that they’re after in their businesses
Devin Miller (18:35):
So you have that as a business, you’re starting out and that’s, I believe what you’re still doing today. You have the background and you get that going. And kind of walk us through, what has that journey been, where does that put you at today? Where are you guys at? Has it been successful? Has it been worthwhile? Would you do it again? Now that you’re pursuing the current business and the current endeavor, how’s it going for you?
Wayne Mullins (18:58):
On the surface Devin, when people look at organizations or companies, it’s easy. Like right now for someone to look in from the outside at us and think, Oh, well, you know, it must be nice. Everything’s running smoothly. You’re growing at a decent rate, and you’ve got clients all over the world. Like, you know, it all came naturally. And the truth is, the first probably six years that I had this company, they were total disasters. Number one, I came into this business with an ego, with a very big ego. I had grown and sold a business, and made a good chunk of change at the age of 26. And this was not some major Silicon Valley startup, tech company or anything like that. But still, I’d done this successfully. I had done consulting successfully. I had a lot of check marks, if you will, on my resume in terms of clients, consulting clients who would vouch for me for my reputation and for the results I got. So I came into the business with a very stubborn, big ego, and I was determined to do it my way or no way. And quickly discovered that, well, I say quickly. It was about a six year process of quickly discovering that you’ve got to be willing to push people to the edge of their comfort zone and know where that is, and not push them outside of that initially. It takes time to build the relationships and the trust so that you can then push them into the other areas and the other avenues that are outside of their comfort zones.
Devin Miller (20:38):
I think that’s definitely a true statement. And sounds like when I think that there’s other truth you hit on, which is, that first several years, it can be months to years to a while, but there’s always that figuring things out during the business, and everybody thinks they’re gonna be the exception and that they’re going to hit the ground running and everything’s gonna go perfectly smooth and the business is going to take off. And yet there’s always a period where you’re trying to figure things out, you’re making the mistakes, you’re growing, and you, a lot of time is that fortitude, as you said, it took you six years of making mistakes before you can kind of now have things more settled and get to where you’re at today. And yet people just want to look at where you’re at today and say, you know, Oh, you’re successful. And it was an easy path, and it’s rarely the case. Well, as we are now kind of caught up to where you’re at in your journey today, there’s always two questions I always like to ask at the present day of your journey, which is, along your journey, What was the worst business decision you ever made and what’d you learn from it?
Wayne Mullins (21:38):
Yeah, it directly ties into the story I was just sharing, Devin. So when I first started this business, I was so determined to do things my way because I had the results, right? I had grown my company using this particular marketing approach, this particular methodology of business growth. And so when I attempted to educate other people about this approach, they weren’t that interested, right? They wanted me to do some marketing things. But they didn’t want to radically shift the way that they’d fundamentally done their business for so long. And so out of my stubbornness, I kept trying to convince them and have these conversations and quote unquote sell them on why my approach was far superior to what they’d been doing forever. And so the business decision in of itself is this, and the lesson learned is this, if you want to make a lasting change in another organization or even in somebody’s personal life, until they trust you in terms of the relationship, they’re not going to be willing to try your ideas. And so I was coming with the resume, I was coming with these stacks of proof of what could be done. And yet I was coming at it from a very callous, very, ego, prideful, non relational approach. Like, I don’t care about the relationship whatsoever. Let me get results for you. Everyone will be happy. I’ll get results for you. You’ll be happy. I’ll be happy. You know, everyone will be happy. And what I discovered is that, again, speaking for me as a very high level introvert, I had to learn to lean into my weaknesses, lean into the areas of discomfort in my own life, in order to be more rounded as a leader, as a business owner, as all these things.
Devin Miller (23:36):
And I think there’s a great deal of learning there that takes place. And a great takeaway from that. Second question I always ask is, if you talked to somebody that’s just getting to a startup or a small business, what’d be the one piece of advice you’d give them?
Wayne Mullins (23:52):
The one piece of advice would be this, good advice applied at the wrong time is bad advice. Good advice, applied at the wrong time is bad advice. Just from, from me, I can tell you on my journey that, in the early stages of growing either of the businesses, my primary businesses that I’ve had, that I would look around and look at the, the big gurus or look in the magazines and see what they were doing, and how they were quote unquote successful. And I would attempt to take what they were doing and apply that to my little small startups and great advice, the wrong time for the application.
Devin Miller (24:34):
Or it can be terrible advice, but if you get it at the right time.. I think that there is a lot to do with that timing. Now, you don’t want terrible advice, don’t go take all the terrible advice. But I think that the point is, it doesn’t matter how good the advice is, if the timing isn’t right, it’s not right for your business, you’re not ready to accept it, you’re not able to implement it, it may not be the right time. So you have to always take that advice with a grain of salt. Is this the right time for us? And sometimes it also isn’t the right advice for you personally. It may be great advice for the industry, but it’s against your personality, against what you’re wanting to accomplish, against how you’re trying to set the business. And so I think that taking that account of, is it the right time for the advice, am I ready for it? Definitely is a great takeaway. Well, as we wrap up the episode, if people want to reach out to you, they want to be a customer, they want to be a client, they want to be an employee, they want to be an investor, they want to be your next best friend. Any or all of the above, what’s the best way to reach out to you, contact you, find out more?
Wayne Mullins (25:33):
Sure. The simplest place for that is our website. That’s just uglymugmarketing.com. There’s email addresses, social, phone numbers, all the above is right there on our website.
Devin Miller (25:46):
All right, well, I definitely encourage people to check out the website. A great resource and definitely something that can help people with their business. So with that, thank you again for coming on the podcast. It’s been fun, it’s been a pleasure. Now, for all of you that are listeners, if you have your own journey to tell and you’d like to be a guest on the podcast, we’d love to have you. So let’s go to inventiveguest.com and we’ll talk to you from there. Also, as a listener, make sure to click subscribe, share, leave us a review. We wanna make sure that everyone finds out about all these awesome episodes. And last but not least, if you ever need help with your parents, your trademarks, or anything else with your startup, your small business, just go to strategymeeting.com, grab some time with us to chat, and we’re always here to help. Well, thank you again, Wayne, for coming on the podcast and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last.
Wayne Mullins (26:33):
Thanks so much, Devin.