$75 Million in sales over the last 5 years in the Hispanic market. And he DOESN’T speak Spanish. Wild man, great white shark diver Craig Handley tells all
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Complainer or Success Mindset
“We all have something we could complain about, but I choose to look at the positives in my life and I feel like I've been very blessed.”
#1 Path to Profits
“Culture - We did it in the middle of our third year but we'd already had this hypergrowth. By the time we knew the kind of company we wanted to be, we had lots of employees who weren't the right fit. It's important when you're a small company to look at your leaders and the people who emulate the company you want to be, and to make sure you know what the values of those people are. Put those values down on paper.”
"We change our commission plan every month based on results we're trying to achieve. We route calls based on the best performing agents. This was one BIG factor that dug us out of our $70,000/wk losses when the economy and seasonal factors hit us hard.”
Second big starting out factor
"The second thing I'd do earlier on is know our numbers and our KPI. We know in our call center we can't have our payroll numbers get up over 38%. Whenever I get over 38%, I'm losing money. We monitor KPI every week. I'd make sure I knew this from day one. But I think sometimes in the beginning you're running so fast trying to keep up with growth, you don't pay attention to some of those things."
"One of our interview questions is, ‘A penguin walks through this door right here, right now wearing a sombrero. Why is he here? What's he saying?' This tells us if the candidate can think quick and if can they improvise."
"Mistakes are something I think if you're not working hard enough or if you’re not trying to grow as a human being, that's the only time in your life you're not going to make mistakes."
Why Listen to Craig:
- What separates complainers from the successful
- How he made the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies list because of a 6,994% growth over their first three years in business.
- The roller coaster of $50,000/wk profits to losing $70,000/wk to then making higher profits. What triggered it and how he fixed it
- Why company culture is YOUR #1 path to profits and HOW to implement it. We had to change ours midstream
- Why even non-accountants need to know your Most Important biz numbers
- The only time you’re not making mistakes and WHY you never want to be in ‘this time’
Craig Handley is an entrepreneur, public speaker, and philanthropist.
He’s the CEO and founder of "Revenue Enhancement Consultants" and the hugely successful “Listen Up Español,” which was named #1 in Business Products and Service (#27 overall) on Inc. Magazine’s 500/5000 list.
Handley’s businesses employ over 1,000 employees and have cumulatively done over 100 million in revenue, 75 million within the last 5 years.
Handley started his professional career in door-to-door sales, where he learned how to be fearless and creatively bridge cultures with his highly effective sales tactics.
He’s a respected advisor for hundreds of brands in almost every category.
He’s been featured in Inc Magazine, Idea Mensch, Portland Press Herald, Fox Business and his company was even honored by the Governor of Maine.
He served 5 years in the U.S. Army infantry during the first Iraqi war.
Back in 2010 he went through a divorce. He wrote a couple of music albums and recorded them. He got offered a record contract with Universal Motown including a cash advance and tour schedule. It was a pretty good deal but he decided to turn it down.
In the process of promoting his music he was offered the opportunity to present at the adult video awards ceremony. He got to host and announce some of the awards while in between the festivities performing his latest music.
He met his wife in Washington DC while she was helping to run the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce there.
He's done consulting for a lot of business owners in the US market who were in the marketing space. He was the expert everybody sought to turn their phone center telephone script into a sales funnel tool. He's the funnel expert in the off-line space.
He can take a phone call and turn it into more money than anybody else in the business.
He found the problem with being very good at something is he could do it very fast. But like the locksmith who comes and gets your door open in only three minutes but hands you a bill for $80, he found people weren't valuing all the years and hours he invested to acquire his expertise.
At that point in his career, he didn't know how to ask for $10,000 per day or $25,000 per day. So the better he got, the less money he was making. Some of the guys he knows today, like Joe polish and Richard Branson, would have told him to ask for what he’s worth.
At the time he looked for a different path out of consulting because he wanted to own something. All of his clients were talking about the growth in the Spanish market. Yet there was no real good call center solution.
Craig had been part of building a dozen call centers across the US, helping with the sales training, scripting and so thought to himself that he should build his own Hispanic call center.
Timing plus talent aligned. He made the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies list because of a 6,994% growth over their first three years in business.
He’s cage dived with great white sharks, driven in the Baja 500 automotive race, snowmobiled across a live volcano in Iceland, been the 85th civilian ever to jump out of a plane from over 30,000 feet, partied with Richard Branson on Necker Island and shook the Dalai Lama’s hand in Calgary.
He’s a vocalist and pianist who opened for Coolio.
He’s dedicated to philanthropy and his family of five children.
DISCLOSURE - Explicit lyric inside
This episode contains 1 curse word…full version of B.S. Craig is an authentic guy who's passionate about sharing his message and helping entrepreneurs.
If you have delicate sensibilities or are easily offended take that into account.
Some Shareables from Craig in this episode…
#1 path to profits
"A couple things we did took a little bit longer to implement. One of them was implementing what our basis for culture was going to be. We did it in the middle of our third year but we'd already had this hypergrowth.
By the time we knew the kind of company we wanted to be, we had lots of employees who weren't the right fit. It's important when you're a small company to look at your leaders and the people who emulate the company you want to be, and to make sure you know what the values of those people are. Put those values down on paper. Really establish what your culture is. The company we are today, when we hire somebody they go through an hour and a half culture test.
This is after we go through to make sure they have the skills to do the job. We sit down and really grill them to see if they fit our culture. Are they able to embrace change? Do they live life like it's an extreme sport? Are they the type of person we'd want to hang out and have a beer with after the workday is done?
Are they an extrovert or introvert? Either way doesn't necessarily disqualify them. But it makes us ask a different set of questions once we understand who you are."
Other interview question
"You’re on American Idol... what song are you going to sing? When they answer we ask them to sing us a little bit of that song now. This tells us if they're an introvert or an extrovert."
"We change our commission plan every month based on results we're trying to achieve. We route calls based on the best performing agents. One of my interview questions is, ‘Let's say you work for a company who changes the commission plan monthly and routes calls to the people who performed the best in order to benefit the company. Is that the type of company you are comfortable working for?' If they say ‘No’ they're not a good fit for our company because that's who we are."
Turning back the clock
"If I could turn back the clock I'd implement our culture sooner so I'd have a better established base as we brought in new people so they fit better."
"Our ultimate goal as a company is to deliver awesomeness in everything we do. We have seven values that support what it takes to deliver awesomeness."
Some of Our 7 company values
"Be true to yourself. Be true to others. Don't BS people. Be direct. Be a true human being. If you make a commitment honor it. Go beyond yourself. We're proud of the fact we donate close to $300,000 per year. We expect to do a lot more than that. Live life like an extreme sport. Two years ago, we gave away six automobiles to employees in a raffle. I wrote an article called, ‘Why my employees asked me to stop giving away automobiles'. The employees felt like this didn't fit within our culture because one of our values is, ‘United as one'. They wanted me to get $15,000 worth of smaller gifts so more people could share in the reward."
Faith and religion
"I think that faith and religion are two different things. There are people who work at Wal-Mart that claim they're religious and go to church. People with faith go after their dreams and pursue their passions without fear because they know that the universe, God, Buddha or whatever they believe in... They don't live in fear because they have faith."
"My faith is fairly strong. I don't think anything happens without a reason for it. Every life lesson that's passed my way... is it a mistake? Yes. But is it a lesson I needed in my life at that time? Yes."
"I was in Africa. We were making $30,000-$50,000 per week in profit. I was at Richard Branson's game reserve with my business partner. We went to the World Cup semifinals and finals. We dove with great white sharks. We repelled down Table Mountain. We did a helicopter tour. It was one of the best trips I've ever been on. It was part of a group I'm with called the Mavericks who believe in having fun, making money, and giving back.
One week into the trip I got some reports. Our call volume through the summer, after a spike and seeing a significant growth trend, one of the products that stimulated the growth went to retail and the media dollars got cut in half. We went from taking a lot of calls to taking 10,000 to 15,000 less calls. As an employer in Mexico, you can't just fire people.
The way the law's set up, if you have someone who's worked for six months then you have to pay them for six months after you fire them. At the time I had 1,400 or 1,500 employees. All of the sudden, I only needed 1,000 employees. Part of it had to do with the World Cup because more people were watching soccer than watching infomercials.
But part of it was seasonal. July and August are months where more people are outdoors instead of watching TV so people cut media dollars.
In a two-week period, I went from making $30,000-$50,000 per week to losing $70,000 per week. When I got back from Africa, my immediate challenge was to figure out how to get my payroll back in alignment with the 38% number. It was almost to 70%.
We were just bleeding. If it took me four weeks, I was going to lose $280,000.
So I went to Mexico and redid the entire compensation plan.
I don't want to get into the details but I was able to do a turnaround within five weeks. We made it so our best performing agents took more call volume. Even though we cut commissions by probably 30%, those agents that were the best ended up making more money.
What it also did was make less money go to our lesser performers. Which incentivized them to quit. Week over week we lost 50 to 70 employees just by making those changes.
Ultimately, every 100 employees we lost was $10,000 less in payroll. What was really interesting is because more calls were going to the best performers, we showed an increase in performance in the call center which stimulated a higher buying rate on the media dollars.
We brought the two ends together. The call volume started to pick up more because our performance went up.
The biggest mistake is we weren't prepared. At the time, we had one client that was bringing in 70% of our call volume.
When one client went away, we didn't have a plan in place to take up that negative impact."
4-legged business stool
"Every business looks like a stool. If you have four legs on your stool, what are the four legs of revenue you have? If you take one of the legs away, can you still sit on a stool with three legs? You can, but it's harder than sitting on a stool with 4 legs. Can you sit on a stool with two legs or one? You can't. Lesson learned -- have a business with more than one revenue stream coming in. You gotta know what you're four legs of your stool are. If you're operating with one leg on your stool, what happens when that leg goes away? How do you sit up? You've got to have a plan in place if you've only got one revenue stream supporting your entire business."
Favorite part of the entrepreneur's journey
"I'm working harder now than I did in the past but I'm loving everything I'm doing. I do love the fact I have a lifestyle business. I've got five kids. I've been able to spend the time I want and really enjoy my children. That's one of the biggest things I appreciate about being an entrepreneur. I love the challenge. I love the growth. I really love that if I need to take a day off, if my son has a football game, or my kid wants to go visit a college, I just go. I don't worry about the business. I know that I'm doing the right things on the entrepreneurial side so I don't have any fear spending as much time as I want with the kids. My kids come first."
"My 17-year-old son just turned 18. My 15-year-old daughter, a sophomore in high school, is in Washington DC at the three day Future Medical Leaders Summit. My 13 year old eighth grade daughter is 5'10" already, plays basketball and is a great student.
My little baby girl had heart surgery in February so life isn't without its challenges. She's doing great though.
I don't have a lot to complain about. We all have something we could complain about, but I choose to look at the positives in my life and I feel like I've been very blessed."
His 18-year-old son Zachary has the entrepreneurial bug and wants to do video games. So Craig has connected his son with some of Craig's entrepreneurial friends. He's got a couple of clients and makes over $1,000 per month as a senior in high school. He's got a 4.0 GPA and is a football player and wrestler.
His oldest son went to Malaysia and spent a month at Vishen Lakhiani's company MindValley. He stayed at Vishen's house. Then he worked with Roger Hamilton in Bali for a month at the Entrepreneur's Academy. His daughters have these entrepreneurial traits as well. All his kids combine that with passion and brains.
Being an entrepreneur has done a lot for Craig and hopefully taught his kids as well.
"I was on Necker Island with Richard Branson and some other entrepreneurs. We went to Mosquito Island to jump off of this 30 foot cliff. A lot of people went first.
I went to the edge of the cliff and looked down. I froze up. I didn't jump. It was this eye-opening event that if you don't jump in life... Jim Carrey said this in a commencement speech.
I was fortunate enough to meet Jim. I met Ringo Starr at the same event. Jim Carrey's dad worked as an accountant for years and years at a stable job where he could support his family. Then he got fired. The life's lesson Jim learned was ‘You can fail at things you don't like, so you might as well fail at things you do'. I realize you've gotta jump.
From that day forward, I did cliff jumping. In Costa Rica there was this one that dropped into this hole in the ground. It was supposedly a 30 foot blind to jump into a pool of water below. The guide said, ‘Somebody's got to go first'.
I said I'd go first. Same thing with repelling down Table Mountain, I went first. Ever since that day where I truly regretted not jumping off that cliff, I was the guy who was willing to go first because I realized that any fear you have in life is just BS. If other people are jumping and they're not dying at the bottom, then what's my reason for not doing it."
"I run my business more on instinct than experience. I wouldn't say I'm an accountant, but I know when my numbers are right and wrong. I'm not really an expert at many things but I have a good sense for business. Almost everything I do is counterintuitive which is why we've always seen growth. Starting a Spanish call center was counterintuitive."
"People said you couldn't start a Spanish call center. When we started, everybody said you had to do COD, cash on delivery. We would run a campaign. The first six months of business we lost $250,000. We weren't sure we were going to be successful because we kept running campaigns with cash on delivery. We might show a 40% close rate but there was a lot of shipping and restocking the shelves because people said they were going to pay with cash but they were never home or said 'No' once the delivery got there.
We made a decision in the Spanish market early on, to no longer offer COD. We didn't accept it as a form of payment. Everybody told us that would be the end of us. They said it wouldn't work.
Ironically, our close rate went up by about 15%. The rest was history, once we got rid of the COD option.
When we give our agents a crutch to collect COD money, it makes numbers look good but they don't work as hard to get a credit card. We don't end up getting the revenue we thought we'd get. Canceling COD is what spurred our growth."
Starting out, conventional myths
"I don't know that people are ignorant more that they have a lack of experience. Many people believe what they built is worth more than it really is. I watch Shark Tank on ABC and The Profit on CNBC. I've had many people approach me with deals where they say the business is worth $1 million and they're going to give me 1% for $100,000. I ask how much revenue they've done and what have they invested? They think they have something special but in reality they don't. There is nothing proprietary. They just don't have the business sense to understand what they're doing and where they're going. They think they know a lot more than they do."
Learn more about Craig:
Listen up Espanol is his main company where they operate the Spanish-speaking call centers
You can find Craig Handley on both Facebook and LinkedIn.
If you're interested in music you can find his musical alter ego at:
News Media Craig Handley has been featured in:
- Inc Magazine
- Idea Mensch
- Portland Press Herald
- Fox Business
- his company was even honored by the Governor of Maine
- The American Entrepreneur Radio
- Response Magazine
- School for Startups Radio