Never Been Promoted

Are You Running Your Business Like You’re Ready to Sell It? | Craig Cooke

February 29, 2024 Thomas Helfrich Season 1 Episode 25
Are You Running Your Business Like You’re Ready to Sell It? | Craig Cooke
Never Been Promoted
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Never Been Promoted
Are You Running Your Business Like You’re Ready to Sell It? | Craig Cooke
Feb 29, 2024 Season 1 Episode 25
Thomas Helfrich

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Never Been Promoted Podcast with Thomas Helfrich

Joining us on today’s episode is Craig Cooke, the visionary founder and CEO of Rhythm, and the creative mind behind "Business Kung Fu." In a candid conversation, Craig delves into his entrepreneurial journey, sharing insights from the inception of Rhythm in 1996, to evolving it into a full digital agency and eventually leading it to a successful sale in 2019. His narrative is a compelling testament to the resilience, adaptability, and innovative spirit that defines successful entrepreneurship.


About Craig Cooke:

Craig Cooke, a seasoned entrepreneur and author, embarked on his entrepreneurial journey with Rhythm, pioneering digital transformation before it became a buzzword. From starting with a digital platform for independent music to transforming Rhythm into a leading digital agency, Craig's journey is a masterclass in navigating the digital landscape and leveraging technology for business growth. His recent venture into authorship with "Business Kung Fu" further underscores his commitment to sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience, offering invaluable lessons on entrepreneurship, resilience, and success.


In this episode, Thomas and Craig Cooke discuss:

The Evolution of Entrepreneurship: Craig shares the pivotal moments and strategic decisions that shaped Rhythm's success.
The Synergy of Business and Personal Growth: Insights into how personal development and professional success are intertwined.
"Business Kung Fu": Unpacking the lessons and philosophies that underpin Craig's approach to business and life.


Key Takeaways:

Adaptability and Innovation: How staying ahead of digital trends and embracing change is crucial for business longevity.
The Importance of Resilience: Craig's journey exemplifies the importance of resilience in overcoming challenges and seizing new opportunities.
Life Lessons for Entrepreneurs: "Business Kung Fu" is not just a business book; it's a guide to personal and professional growth, offering strategies to navigate the complexities of entrepreneurship.


“I think the promotions often come because you created the opportunity yourself." — Craig Cooke


CONNECT WITH CHASE FRIEDMAN:

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/craigcooke/

CONNECT WITH THOMAS:

X (Twitter): https://twitter.com/thelfrich | https://twitter.com/nevbeenpromoted
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hovienko | https://www.facebook.com/neverbeenpromoted
Website: https://www.neverbeenpromoted.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neverbeenpromoted/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@neverbeenpromoted
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thomashelfrich/
Email: t@instantlyrelevant.com

InstantlyRelevant.com

Serious about LinkedIn Lead Generation? Stop Guessing what to do on LinkedIn and ignite revenue from relevance with Instantly Relevant Lead System


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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Never Been Promoted Podcast with Thomas Helfrich

Joining us on today’s episode is Craig Cooke, the visionary founder and CEO of Rhythm, and the creative mind behind "Business Kung Fu." In a candid conversation, Craig delves into his entrepreneurial journey, sharing insights from the inception of Rhythm in 1996, to evolving it into a full digital agency and eventually leading it to a successful sale in 2019. His narrative is a compelling testament to the resilience, adaptability, and innovative spirit that defines successful entrepreneurship.


About Craig Cooke:

Craig Cooke, a seasoned entrepreneur and author, embarked on his entrepreneurial journey with Rhythm, pioneering digital transformation before it became a buzzword. From starting with a digital platform for independent music to transforming Rhythm into a leading digital agency, Craig's journey is a masterclass in navigating the digital landscape and leveraging technology for business growth. His recent venture into authorship with "Business Kung Fu" further underscores his commitment to sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience, offering invaluable lessons on entrepreneurship, resilience, and success.


In this episode, Thomas and Craig Cooke discuss:

The Evolution of Entrepreneurship: Craig shares the pivotal moments and strategic decisions that shaped Rhythm's success.
The Synergy of Business and Personal Growth: Insights into how personal development and professional success are intertwined.
"Business Kung Fu": Unpacking the lessons and philosophies that underpin Craig's approach to business and life.


Key Takeaways:

Adaptability and Innovation: How staying ahead of digital trends and embracing change is crucial for business longevity.
The Importance of Resilience: Craig's journey exemplifies the importance of resilience in overcoming challenges and seizing new opportunities.
Life Lessons for Entrepreneurs: "Business Kung Fu" is not just a business book; it's a guide to personal and professional growth, offering strategies to navigate the complexities of entrepreneurship.


“I think the promotions often come because you created the opportunity yourself." — Craig Cooke


CONNECT WITH CHASE FRIEDMAN:

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/craigcooke/

CONNECT WITH THOMAS:

X (Twitter): https://twitter.com/thelfrich | https://twitter.com/nevbeenpromoted
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hovienko | https://www.facebook.com/neverbeenpromoted
Website: https://www.neverbeenpromoted.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neverbeenpromoted/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@neverbeenpromoted
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thomashelfrich/
Email: t@instantlyrelevant.com

InstantlyRelevant.com

Serious about LinkedIn Lead Generation? Stop Guessing what to do on LinkedIn and ignite revenue from relevance with Instantly Relevant Lead System


Support the Show.

Serious about LinkedIn Lead Generation? Stop Guessing what to do on LinkedIn and ignite revenue from relevance with Instantly Relevant Lead System

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Welcome to the Never Been Promoted podcast with Thomas Helfrich. Get ready for a thrilling adventure as we uncover entrepreneurial journeys and life changing business insights every week. And now your host, Thomas.

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Welcome to the Never Been Promoted podcast. If you are joining once again, and you've been here before, you rock. Extra little bit of love for you. And if this is your first time here, I always give away dad points, and dad points are things that first time listeners are like, what? Unless you're a dad and you know what this is. But the idea is, thanks for joining and I hope you enjoy. We're trying to unleash the entrepreneur within you, and you do this by learning from other entrepreneurs. I have a really big passion for entrepreneurship and the risks we all take. But if you can learn a little bit from just even one guest, it will help you be more successful. And today we're joined by a great guest, Craig Cooke. Craig is the founder and CEO of Rhythm, and we're going to dive into his journey a bit. And he's also the author of Business kung Fu. You can throw the book up. I love shameless plugs whenever things are mentioned. It's a cool cover. Business kung fu. So we'll talk about his journey in building his companies. But Craig, thank you, by the way, for joining today.

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Thanks, Thomas. I'm really happy to be here and just excited to be talking with you and your audience. I'm a big fan of entrepreneurship, obviously, and only people that are really going through it get it right.

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And the idea behind this and just want to hear your journey because you've been doing this for a little while is you don't realize until you are in the full entrepreneurial mode. This is where I'm saying you don't have a w two anymore. And you also can't get a job because you've put the word founder on your LinkedIn profile. Once you've hit this part of your world, things change. But you also will realize that actually the w two probably wasn't as stable as you thought it was. And some other things you'll realize as well. But why don't you give us your background just a bit? It's just to kind of set the table and get everyone set up for how you founded Rhythm.

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Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So I started Rhythm way back in 1996 with a couple of friends from college. We actually started a digital first company way back in the 20th century. Before that was even a term doing digital transformation work. Before that was a term. Way back then, we actually started marketing independent music online. So we had built a site called rhythmnet.com where people could discover new music, independent music, listen to song samples, buy cds through a secure server. Way back in 1996, only 30 million people online at the time, everyone was afraid to buy stuff with their credit card. So we struggled with that for a couple of years, but then adapted. Still kept doing that, but started doing a focus on becoming a web design company, doing websites for businesses. And then that evolved, continued to evolve, and we became a full digital agency serving middle market to large enterprises, and then eventually sold the company in 2019. And then I stayed on for three more years as CEO and then left in early 2022 to now embark on a whole new chapter in life with my book out.

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This is where I'd love to draw this from, the story you've written in your book. And as somebody who's writing a book right now, here in January of 2024, I promise it'll be done soon. You've done this I've never expected, by the way, lessons like publishing takes forever. And you write it and then they come back and you're like, oh, my gosh, it's like rewriting the book again. We'll talk about that journey a bit, but what I'd love for you to do is draw some parallels between this new chapter of writing a book and the one you just exited out of. So look back in your journey and maybe think about some things you just would have wished you would have known or a life lesson that you can share.

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Well, it's interesting that I wrote this book. We can talk obviously, more about it, but I'm really using my entrepreneurial journey as the context of this book. And that was that life that I described in Rhythm from 1996 to 2022. And now I'm on this new chapter and I have this book out. I find myself, oh, this is interesting. I'm having to relive my book. Here we are, and I'm grinding it out and I'm like, okay, I've been here before. Okay, I guess I get to do this again. But it's great. I have to say, though, I'm very blessed. I'm in a very good situation financially, and I don't have the same stresses that I did in the past. But there's still, as all of us entrepreneurs, we want to succeed. We're drivers and we want to succeed. So, yeah, it's interesting. I'm reliving that. So the amount of time and focus energy that it takes to succeed, I'm having to apply that all over and.

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It's a different kind of energy. And you did remove the financial strain and never been promoted. My book, I know I'm writing it in real time as I'm doing it. So I took the idea that I want to write this how I feel in this moment, the way it's affecting friends, family, kids, life, because we tend to remember the good and push away the bad into some corners of your brain. As many men have problems, people, but specifically men have problems sharing. And I was like, I got to journal something here. I'm doing it as two main ways for myself was to capture what's going on right now. So my kids read it later. They know how daddy was thinking and what meant and what mattered. Wish he would have known. But also if I could help. It's not just men, right? But anybody who's just kind of like is on the receiving end of just being ignored by the entrepreneur or being affected by the lifestyle and the things you have to do or the one who's doing it. That's my goal. So in your book, what was the driver? Maybe then, for the reflection?

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Yeah, that's fantastic. By the way, I do have to share, and I'll answer your question, that it's fantastic that you're going about your process and journaling and expressing your soul onto paper through journaling. I actually practice chinese energy medicine and we could get into how that relates to business. And journaling is a fantastic way to help manage all the stresses in life. So I commend you for that approach. So as far as my book goes, my first passion in life was books. Before I can even read, I was always wanting my mom to read a book to me. And then as soon as I was able to read, I always had a book in front of my face. That's what everyone oh, Craig's got. Always got a book in his face. So I just love to read. And even as starting the company, I went to school. I majored in business, major in operations management and a minor in marketing. But when it came to all this technology stuff, I really taught myself. And I had to buy a bunch of books and teach myself programming and aspects of design and so forth and just have this strong passion for reading. And back when I was a teenager, I always thought I'd like to write a book one day, but I just didn't have an idea of what it would be about. And then let's fast forward to around 2011. I thought, well, it's time that I start that book. I always wanted to write. And I came up with a concept business kung fu. Took me twelve years to get it done, but it's okay because it's a better book than it would have been if I would have just finished it in a year or two. And at this point in my life where I've really focused my purpose in coming out with this book is to help inspire and empower others to help them fulfill their potential. And it's geared towards entrepreneurs because it's in the context of my entrepreneurial journey.

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And I'm seeing this more and more of entrepreneurs. Not only do they crave the help, they don't know how to ask for it because a lot of it's trust factor and you definitely seek it out on your own, where you are on your own. On your first venture, at least in your second, you have a team, you know who to go grab right away. But in your first one, it's zero to hero, unless you've gone franchising route. And even then you'll probably still feel a bit alone at times. But fast forward. I already feel the need to want to give back, and I haven't even completed a journey, or I'm mildly successful with my own marketing company. But it's growing, right? And it's going the right way. And the idea to give back, you're doing it and you're like, if I can help somebody do this and it helps you, too. So it's not completely like self serving is the wrong word, but you're reflecting back on it because it's your life's work, so you get some legacy with it and some other pieces, too.

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Absolutely. And there's just a great sense of fulfillment knowing that I'm helping people. Then they're hearing my story and it helps them out because we all need help. Even though, like you said, we don't like to ask for help quite often, but we all need it. And it's really fulfilling for me to be living out this purpose that I've defined for them.

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I talk a lot about you need a business mentor and you need mentoring, and I don't have one right now. Hey, listen, just do what I say, don't do what I'm doing. But my biggest piece is sometimes they're free and sometimes you just have that kind of serendipitous person who works with you to do it, but a formalized business coach. I see the value. What I'm struggling with is the trust. Who am I going to pay to do this and what really their value is? And also knowing the entrepreneurial add in me goes, is it really something I need or is it the thing that I'm shiny object I'm working on right now? And so maybe in your journey, the question to you is, have you had business mentors? I hope the answer is yes, because the follow up questions of the meat is, how do you get past the trust issue of where to trust to go?

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Yeah, it's a great question. I actually write about this in my book, how important it is to find a mentor. And there is kind of more. This is where the kung fu comes into play. An eastern saying that when the student is ready, the master will appear. And I have found throughout my career there's been different mentors that I've had and they've come in at different points of time. In my entrepreneurial journey, one of the first ones was actually a client first. And we worked with him probably for about at least a year, maybe two years. And then he talked to us about doing consulting work for us and helping us, and he pretty much sold us. Right. But he was a client and we had developed a rapport and a relationship and he was of great help. He helped us reposition our company to really go after larger clients. And it was a big deal. It was very helpful. And then along the way, I came across other people that came in just at these very interesting moments in time where some were totally free and it was just a friendship, but yet I was a sounding board. I was able to go back and forth. Then there was another gentleman that came in, I think around 2008 or so somehow. I think maybe he had reached out to me and was hounding me for about two years at least. And I kept saying, no, not yet, not yet. And then one day, out of the blue, I called him, said, okay, ready to go. And he worked with us for about nine years and he was instrumental in helping us grow, especially when it came to getting our business ready to sell. So it's a matter of building the relationship and getting to know the person and establishing that trust, which takes a while. It's not like a quick, yeah, and.

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There'S a lot of that that goes on. I think that's why I pull back. There's a lot of down, just follow my course and let's go. It's like, that's helpful, but that creates a lot of work for me. I'm full time podcast now and full time trying to write and run a company. It's like I'm out hours. I'm happy to get a lunch. I don't get lunch breaks even at this point, right?

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Exactly right. Yeah, I find courses are great and getting that information along, yeah, it's cool. But everyone is unique and different. Every situation is unique and different. And that's where when you have a personal relationship with someone and they can take the time to understand your unique situation and help you in the areas where you really need that help, that's where that one on one relationship could come in really handy. And it doesn't have to be a big time crunch. It could be small or it could be a lot. When that one gentleman that we worked with for nine years, it started off very nominal, very minimal because it was a significant investment, as it was for us at the time. And then as we got closer to getting ready to sell the company, it became more time that was involved with him helping us.

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And you're part of a group of entrepreneurs I'd love to talk about. Now is your exit and we'll get to your book. I think towards maybe just take. A lot of the ones people we speak with are on their path, they're on their journey. You've exited. So give the advice of, hey, entrepreneur, no matter where you are, maybe the three things you're going to need to do to exit that you should be focusing on from maybe day one or from some piece. There's nuance. We're not going to get into the nuance of it right now because it's going to be very situational to your business. But what are the kind of maybe a few core things any entrepreneur who wants to exit needs to do?

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Well, as I was going through that process of exiting, I did come across this saying, which I think whether you want to exit or not, I think is really valuable advice. And that is run your business as if you're ready to sell it or that you want to sell it. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially you should be running your business like you want to sell it. The reason being is because it's a whole other thing. When you're really getting ready to sell your business, you get so much more focused on it and all the numbers and the things that you have to do to produce value. It's really important. So even if you don't want to sell, if you're running your business like you're going to sell it, you're going to have better performance. Two, it's really creating a narrative around your company. Like, why is your company of value? If someone is getting ready to consider selling or want to sell, you got to really think about what is your story? Where do you produce value in the marketplace? What is your industry looking like? What are the growth trends? What's your financial performance for the past five years? What is the projections for the next three to five years? Why do you have these projections based on your sales history, the team, what you're producing, your industry? There's all these things that come into the story, the narrative that you create as to why there's value. Like someone would be willing to pay you money in exchange for owning your business. You have to have a very solid story. And then three, I would say you really have to be on top of your numbers. You have to know your numbers and you have to be on top of it constantly and really course correcting wherever needed. And you really got to work towards growth, showing solid growth trajectory, because if you hit a bump in the road, it could kill a deal. And that happened to me where we had pretty much an offer ready to go and we had a bad month, which then turned into, oh, why don't we wait till next quarter and see how next quarter turns out, which never came. So you just have to really be on top of your numbers and know them well.

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Do you think there's also a need for standardizing as many processes as possible and documenting them or anything, or leveraging automations where appropriate?

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Yes, absolutely. The more systems that you have in place processes, the more efficient you're going to work. And with technology, there's so much technology out there today making sure that you leverage technology to create better efficiencies. It's kind of table stakes, really. You have to have that in place and they're going to dig in like, well, what's your process for this? What systems do you have? What kind of software are you using? Those are all questions that are going to come up.

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And I think you're also describing the emyth, right, working on it, not in it. As someone who's still like a lot of the businesses based around my personal brand, it's boggling my head of how you get out of founder led sales. At this point. It's like, oh, man, I've hit my capacity for founder led sales. And first step one for me is like, I'm going to document some processes so I can at least bring somebody in potentially to go execute. But then there's a knowledge set and gap. So what do you do with these companies? What do you recommend? I guess if the knowledge is around the founder, yes.

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So building a team is essential, and yes, when the founder has all the knowledge, because as founders, entrepreneurs, we're doing everything, absolutely everything, right. So the big thing I found through the years is areas where I found it's really not worth my time to do this. I need to bring someone in so that he can handle that because this is taking up too much of my time and my time is better spent on x. So once you find that right person, you bring them in. They do need some training. They got to come in with some skills, but you have to teach them your way of working, how you want to go about things. So you should already have some methods and systems set up and you have to take the time to train, because if you expect someone to just go at it based on their past work history and how they do things, they're going to do it their way. And their way might be contradictory to your way, and then you get upset. And whose fault is that at the end of the day? Is it theirs? No, because you didn't show them your way. And maybe their way might be better. If so, then there needs to be a little openness to be able to, okay, have some considerations there. But even so, there is a reason why you have your way and maybe they can blend some of those things in, but they definitely need to be trained to execute the work and how you're used to working. So there's consistency and that takes some training.

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And I think you mentioned some really good takeaways there. It's the three things you mentioned, of course, but also just the teaming initially for the things you just don't need to do. They're lower value activities, or maybe you just don't do them as well. But can you peel the onion just a little bit more on the one where, let's say, and I'm asking for a friend, free mentoring. Here we go. When you're the best at the self, you are the closer. How do you do that? That to me is the step that I know personally, I'm struggling with. I know a lot of founders that I'm friends with and other people, they're like, yeah, it's hard to get someone else involved because they don't sell the way I do. They're not good at what anyway, so how do you recommend the core thing that you are good at? Because you can't sell the company if the whole thing rests on you, right?

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Yeah, that's a great question. And every company is different in different industries. But your particular challenge, I can relate to that because in the marketing industry, it was very relationship oriented and I did see a pattern out there? Because I was saying, oh, God, is it us? Is it us? But no. I did see a lot of other agency owners that they were the best salespeople. And it was very challenging to get, let's call it a business development person on board to be as effective as the owners. It's out there and they can happen, but it is very challenging. What we did was in the earlier days, doing everything right. Like, I would do production work, I do project management, I would do account management, I would do new business sales, like all that stuff, right? And then I started getting out of doing the production work because hiring people to getting out of the project management work, getting project managers on board, when it came to the sales, there's a decision, okay, managing clients takes a lot of time. Even though you're selling to them. It's a whole other effort compared to new business. So started hiring account directors to work with clients on a strategic basis because it was just an easier step to get people to trained up to manage clients. They're already used to working with us and have satisfaction, and it's really just continuing to nurture and grow that relationship. And that was easier to do than, say, new business. So we ended up getting a team of account directors and all that client sales was handled and taken care of. Then it was just a little bit of oversight. And then that freed up time to really focus on new business, which is challenging. And we had some success with some salespeople on the new business side, but it was intermittent, honestly. But I have seen companies out there that are successful, but I think that's one thing you can do. It's kind of separate your new business from your existing.

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I think that's a great values customer retention over customer acquisition. And so it's almost like I don't want someone to do the business development part so I can focus on the relationship pieces because feel if I can retain customers, then I can also then put a trusted resource and hey, as we're growing, this person is going to start really working with you tightly. You'll still have my time whenever you want. I think that to me is an easier transition, but it's getting the new business in the door still. It's a debate to have. Either way. Was something else you mentioned, too. I think it'd be a good thing to kind of reflect on is getting bigger business. I see a lot of entrepreneurs that they're doing well. They're fine, they're in a good high ticket offer. But how do you get to the $200,000 your contract, as opposed to the $2,000 a month one. And so talk about anything you guys were looking at when you're like, we got to chase bigger deals, the risks, maybe talk about what you did to do that. But also it's different, though, because when you have a bigger customer, the risks are much higher for losing that customer and the support and your brand. So talk to me about that transition a bit.

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Absolutely. So when we switched gears and got out of the music market or less focused there and really focused on businesses, we are working with small companies, small businesses. And they're great. Small businesses are great. I was a small business owner myself, but there's such a big attachment to money and working with the owner that there was a lot of challenges when it came to the amount of time that you would dedicate, because sometimes there would be like, oh, yeah, can't you do this for me? Can't you do this for me? And it's just very interesting, right, how much time free time you end up giving the small business owners because of how attached they are to their wallet. Again, nice people. It just is what it is. When we started going after bigger companies where there's like marketing directors, VPs of marketing, et cetera, although they're very responsible for their budget so far, it's still not their money. So they're not quite as attached and they understand the value of time that they need to pay for. So we found that we are spending the same amount of time that we would with the small businesses, but we are making way more money because we are being compensated properly for our time that we put in there. We landed some bigger clients and we started discovering this. And that's when we said, we really need to focus on these middle market to large enterprise companies. So one of the big things that we did is with one of the mentors that I mentioned helped us reposition, rebrand our company and reposition us so that we could speak to and be considered properly for those types of clients. Our brand just spoke to that market. Once we repositioned ourselves and it worked wonderfully, we started landing more clients that were larger, bigger budgets and so forth. And then another thing, too, was getting some strategic alliances with other companies that were kind of in the industry, but they didn't do what we did. Similar but different. And they would bring us in or refer us work, or they would subcontract us. And they had a big rolodex of big companies, and we made a number of strategic alliance partners that brought us in on these big client engagements and it helped us build up our portfolio of big brands. So when we started doing our own direct selling more and more, we had this great portfolio, like, hey, we work with these big brands. You can trust us because we've been doing work with these brands because that's a big part of it, is trust. Who have you worked with? What have you done?

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That's a really good point. When you start working with bigger brands, you got to position it. And sometimes it's no different than just the words you say. Also, though, I know for one of our things, we had to change some of the services when we talked to bigger brands. So if you're managing social media accounts, bigger brands aren't going to buy that from you because they are not going to be responsible for individual accounts, getting maybe the business accounts, but they hire people for that internally. But what I found was the same things we do in our systems when we offered it as a sales training. We'll train your people how to go do this. Open the door up. They're like, oh, yeah, come on in. We got budget for training, that's no big deal. And these guys will be more effective and efficient for our sdrs. That gets you in the door. Now, the thing I hadn't considered was go to a bigger brand and say, hey, we really do this component really well. You don't do that. How about we do? You just sub. And so now I got a new task list for my entrepreneurial add to go throw on there. So thanks a lot there, Greg. Yeah, you're welcome for happy to be right now. And write that in, partner. Got it.

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Okay.

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I hope the keystrokes got captured there because it spun up. This is fantastic. And I think as you think through your strategy to exit, you're going to need bigger customers, you're going to need something that's different because a person buying you might be buying you for the idea that they're combining other light companies into one. And so you may not just be a revenue stream, they may just be packaging you up as part of something else. And maybe it's not always transparent when you're selling, but the idea is just do what I heard is what you do really well and have the ability to go up or down market accordingly with your service or brand, and you'll be in a good spot. Is that a fair assessment of kind.

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Of, yeah, that's fair. And you really have to make sure where you play that you are profitable. You have to be making money. I know there's the whole startup culture where get a bunch of VC money and grow super fast, quick. That's a whole different world. I didn't do that. Did it a different way, more traditional way. It is a way, though. I mean, people do that, but there's the big risk there of you running out of roadway and not getting that next investment or going public or having that exit. Right. And there's a lot of people kind of geared for. Yeah, we don't need to make money right now. We don't need to make money right now because we're growing fast again. It's a way, but there's a lot of risk to that as well. And when you're building a business to sustain for the long term, you got.

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To make money at some point.

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To make money. Yeah, you have to. And that's why my company is still thriving today. Even though I've exited completely and I'm out, it's still going strong today. It's like year 28.

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Wow.

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And it's a machine.

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And when you started it, where's your eye? Like, I'm out of this. In four years, I'm going to be rich.

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Yeah.

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Wow.

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Yeah. Expectations. I think we had a ten year budget, if I remember right. Like projections and. Yeah, in like ten years I was going to be like retired for life.

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28 years.

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Now you're writing books, work out that way. Yeah.

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Let's transition into that here. Tell me about the, if you had to take away the one thing of the book, what's the reader or listener to the book? What are they going to get from it?

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At its core, it's a mindset book geared towards entrepreneurs to help them overcome the challenges that they'll face on their entrepreneurial journey.

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And I ask this question often. Actually, I'll pause that first. So maybe do a little shameless plug of where they can get it. Who should buy it? If you want to say who should not buy it, that's fine. But give some people the information of what to go do with this.

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Sure. So business kung fu again, that's the COVID and it's available on Amazon in paperback, hardcover, Kindle format. I'll release it on other distribution channels at some point, but it just came out two months ago, so it's on Amazon. You can also go to my website and download the first chapter for free. That's at csquaredpro IO. So the letter C Squaredpro IO and entrepreneurs, obviously I stated it's great for and actually any sort of professional, like executives, they could get something out of it. Who is it? Not know. It's interesting because I've been getting some reviews on Amazon that people have stated not only is it a good book for business and entrepreneurs, but it's even a good roadmap for life. And I didn't intend that, but I was, wow, that's. That's pretty cool. So I guess it could be geared, people that it's not for is people that just want to be down and out and be a loser. All right.

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Losers don't buy it. No losers.

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If you have a mindset that you just want to be a loser of life, however, people that have an ounce of hope and optimism and spark that want to get out of that, hey, it could be a good book for you. Because again, like I said, it's a mindset book. There's a lot to the book, but at its core, to be fully fair.

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By the way, losers never know they're losers. What I tell you, if you know a friend who has a false sense of entitlement and everyone else is the problem, they don't need to buy it and don't buy it for them. They're going to blame you for not giving it to them earlier. Let's not talk about my personal life. I'm not sure why you brought it up. All right. I love it. I ask this question kind of sometimes toward the end here and just maybe transitioning to the future a little bit. But what is the one single characteristic that an entrepreneur must have, like a trait?

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Discipline.

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That's a good one.

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Yeah. I actually have in my book a model called the five elements of entrepreneurship. And discipline is one of those elements. And I put a lot of emphasis on discipline. It's something that I always had in me, but martial arts really brought it out in me, and I applied that to my business, and it's just so critically important because I see a lack of discipline out there, and that's why I'm placing so much importance on it right now. There's just such a lack of discipline. There's the entitlement that you mentioned earlier is out there, the expectations of things coming fast, that instant gratification. There's all these conveniences that we have in a modern life today that we enjoy. It's created this expectation that everything should happen instantly and come fast. And as you know, the road, the entrepreneurial road, isn't like that. It takes time and effort, and it requires discipline to show up every day. I break it down into three key areas of discipline. One is you have to show up. You have to show up every day. Well, of course you got to show up. But there's people that don't show up. It's weird. It doesn't compute to me, but there's people out there that just don't bother to show up every day, and it's essential. You have to show up every day if you want to be out there competing, you have to be on the field, you have to be in the ring. You have to be a participant, not a spectator, in the stands. Right. So you got to show up. Two, you need to be productive. So as you're showing up, you actually need to be producing. Whatever you're supposed to be doing, you got to produce. And then three, you need to be effective. Whatever you're producing has to be of value. It has to work. So those are like, three aspects of discipline that I talk about, and it's critical. If you don't have that, you're going to be in for a long road of hurt.

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Are your hands as fast as lightning?

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Maybe they used to be. They're a little slower these days.

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Everybody's kung fu fighting.

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Yeah, that's right.

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I was doing the second line of that to see if you caught the first of the kung. I'm not going in. I'm not sure you caught that right away.

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I did it, but no. Yes.

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You never get the first music. I was trying to bring this full circle.

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Yeah. Thank you for that.

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See what I did there?

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Classic song.

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Classic song.

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Yeah.

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If you didn't see what I was doing there, google it. Okay. Yeah, it's a good song. I almost started singing it, and I thought better. But as your time is kind of coming together here, a couple of just speed round things here, like a hot potato or I'm not sure what. Quick punch. What's the one? Two maybe quick combinations here.

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Right.

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Keep it going. You said about the trait, besides your own book, what's another must read kind of entrepreneurial book?

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Yeah. So it depends on what you're looking at. I think one book that's really great for just fundamentals in running a company is good to great by Jim Collins. Yeah, it's a fantastic book. Just the process of how he collected data to back up what he posits as the methods to running a great company as opposed to a good company and the different models that he has, that's just a classic, timeless book. And I just think from a philosophical standpoint, as looking at the road of entrepreneurship as to even why it's important, especially if you want freedom is rich dad, poor dad. It's just an easy read and it's a very powerful story. And his big thing. Yeah, real estate is a big driver, but the business quadrant that he talks about being an entrepreneur, having your business, is where it's huge. Right?

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Go ahead, please, if you have another one.

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Yeah, those are two good ones. I mean, there's others out there. Strengths finder is a good one, too. As far as getting to know yourself better and your attributes and where you.

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Excel in certain areas, I think I agree. If you're going to be serious about being an entrepreneur, and you do need to get serious about self reflection, because you were going to cry and your day is going to like this, you're going to get up pumped and you're going to go to the worst meeting of the morning you didn't expect, followed by the best, followed by a lag, wondering why you're doing any of this. You're going to be crying in the corner, wanting to take a nap after you've had your six cup of coffee and it's 11:00 a.m. Now you have the rest of the afternoon to go deal with, plus your family, and that's every day. And so it's going to feel like that, no doubt. And so if you're not doing self reflection of what makes you happy or not, and I'll give you an example. Even in my own company, I look at it sometimes of what could I do with the two, three core people that I have, my team, as opposed to the expanded team. Is there a different offering I can have be way simpler. It fundamentally changed the business, but I'd have way less risk on this. And you'll do this as you look at it. So the self reflecting moments of what you want in life and the rich dad, poor dad of lifestyle, those things are considered. Or if you make money, your company, do you go and invest it into real estate or something else that's going to create that function? So these books you've mentioned are phenomenal. And the thing I'd probably take as the takeaway for your entrepreneurs is don't be so blinded by your vision of what you think it is to miss the opportunity of what you could have become that might have nothing to do with it. And the money you might make from this, which might be painful to make every day, might be great if you go buy a bunch of four flammy flat units and you're just renting properties and ten years from now you're still doing the same damn thing on your company, but you've got all this other revenue and you're like, I'm going to stop doing that because I have this.

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Yeah, well, yeah, I'll attest that it's the power of that rich dad, poor dad book. After I read that, I was like, I have to go down the real estate route. And I started investing and I have rental properties and we actually even bought our own commercial office building at one point and ended up just selling it recently, actually. But that was a great move. So what you just said, taking the money that's being earned and then using it to make more money through investments in real estate is a really great and.

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Absolutely. So the reason I say that is because I'm in the services business, marketing, and with some of the problems we already described, I'm finding that it's going to be hard to sell it, to replicate it, because there's so many marketing, it's going to be tied around my brand forever. And that's fine. So I'll try to make some money doing that. But I really believe that company will fund another company that will go buy investment properties with it. And I'll just have hard work for ten years and between 48 and 60 years old, I'll just bust my ass, have some fun, but have a whole thing where I could be like, I can just turn the lights off or sell it for a year's worth of revenue and be done. That book, by the way, rich dad, poor dad, I couldn't agree with more. It's something I've listened to. Probably. Let me get my notepad out. All right, notepads out. I'm going to go relisten to that. Again, thank you for giving me two tasks. That's a great CEO, founder giving someone else tasks. Go do. He's probably going to be my mentor. All right, final question here, or actually, I'll give you one more before you can answer this one incorrectly. The first one is, is there anybody you'd like to follow on LinkedIn or something else that you just love their content you recommend just maybe just spiritually or whatever else, whatever it is, it doesn't matter. But somebody you'd recommend just to check them out, to follow?

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Yeah. That is a very tough question because there's so many people out there with different messages. From a business perspective, who's pretty interesting is Gary Vee. I keep seeing know Gary Vee owns Viner Media marketing. I actually have a friend. He used to be my HR manager, works for one of his companies. And anytime. I think that's probably why I started noticing him. But he just talked a lot of good stuff about leadership, like a much more heart centered approach, which was the way I led my company. And I think that's needed more out there. And there's just such a conscious mindset shift out there with people. It's a whole new world. There's different motivators that people have. There's so much opportunity for people out there. If things aren't quite going the way they want, it's very easy for people to say, I'm out. So that old school leadership by fear model, it's just antiquated. And people like Gary Vee are very interesting to listen to. What he talks about resonates with me because that's the way I read my.

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Yeah, no, I like him as I. When I get time, I try to read, but there's not enough hours in the day, man. So final question, and this is a big one, you can get this one wrong. Have you ever been promoted in a w two job?

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Well, I was just about to say no, but wait a second. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so I was very fortunate to have that experience. And I actually started working at the age of ten washing dishes in my mom's restaurant. And yeah, I didn't work every night, but a couple of nights a week and ten. And at 13 I got promoted to bus boy, and at 16 I got promoted to waiter. And those were my promotions in my life.

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I'm going to say you've answered it correctly. You've actually never been promoted. In reality, knowing the industry a little bit, you know how it is. If you're ten, it was there because they had no babysitter at 13.

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That's right.

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The bus boy quit because that's what you do and that's your first job. And at 16, someone didn't show up for a shift and you're like, jump in. We got to do it. So I'm going to call them false promotions just to get your ego. I'm sorry. You might want to go lay on a couch, talk to it. But the good thing is you're in the club where all the other people who have been promoted have to look and fog up the windows and look how much fun we're having in here as unpromoted people. Congratulations for being a loser, never getting promoted in your life. Enjoy all your money that you did from selling your company, your book. I live in Atlanta, Georgia. In Alpharetta, there's a place called Avalon. It's a nice outdoor mall area. And I tell you this not because they're sponsoring things or not, but I was walking by and there's just a brand new top of the line, whatever. That Ferrari something. I'm like, if I had the money, I wouldn't buy it. But the license plate said 2.1 GPA. And I was like, good God, that's such a good license.

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That is. Yeah, that is. It's all about academics. There's a lot of other facts.

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I don't know if he was, like, really good drug dealer or just was just a smart guy, but I'm assuming probably he. Because women, I don't typically see buying ferraris. I don't see them maybe other places, but here I'm being a bit sexist. It's probably a guy. Yeah. The time that we've spent together, by the way, thank you so much. This has been very. I've got things to go do now. That's why I got to end it before my attention drops and then I won't be able to remember what to go do. But thank you, Craig, for joining. I hope your book business, kung fu, available on Amazon. Future channels. Any way for people to get signed copies from? You.

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Know, that's a great question. I mean, the ordering is only through Amazon at the moment, but, yeah, if someone reaches out to me and they really want a signed copy, how would.

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They get a hold of you? So if they wanted to actually maybe hire you to speak or what would be a direct method to get a hold of?

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So you could email me at Craig at csquaredpro. IO. I don't list my email on my site because then all the scrapers and get tons of spam. Also on LinkedIn. I'm on LinkedIn. Craig Cooke. You can message me on LinkedIn. I actively check that. That's probably like a very easy way to remember. But either of those two messages, there's also a form on my website people can fill out and then gets to me.

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That's Craig Cooke. Cook with an idiot. C-O-O-K-E. Thank you so much for joining. And if this was your first time being here and you've made it this far, you get like 100 dad points. And those are super valuable. And if you've been here many times, just go ahead and put the rest of these 100 points that you get in the bank. But thank you. Until the next time we meet and you listen to another Never Been Promoted podcast, go out there and unleash your entrepreneur. Thanks so much for listening and have a wonderful day.

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Thanks for listening to Never Been Promoted with Thomas Helfrich. Make sure to check the show notes for our guest contact information and any relevant links. Connect with Thomas personally at neverbendpromoted.com.



Introduction
Guest Introduction: Craig Cooke
The Entrepreneurial Mindset
Rhythm's Origins and Evolution
The Journey of Writing "Business Kung Fu"
Entrepreneurial Challenges and Lessons
The Purpose Behind "Business Kung Fu"
Preparing for Business Exit
Operational Excellence and Systems
Scaling and Pursuing Larger Deals
Building and Managing a Team
Conclusion and Reflections