Hello, and welcome to the BizActually podcast, where we dive into what it's really like behind the scenes to build, manage, and grow a successful small business with real-world examples, cases and stories. I'm Mircea Cornelison here with my co-host Terry Cornelison who's spent over 40 years building, managing and advising businesses in the U.S. and around the world.
Today, we're going to talk about letting your competitors help you make your business better and more profitable, as strange as that might sound, you can also find our show notes and transcript for this podcast, plus some bonus resources on our website. Just follow the link in the description or check us out at bizactually.com/podcast/ep1.
So what's all this about letting your competitors help you as a new business owner. That sounds crazy because most people think that when you try and make contact with your competitors they'll laugh, you out of their store, not reply to your emails, you'll get stuck with the secretary.
Yeah, yeah. Actually everything you said is exactly my experience too. You know, a lot of them just hung up on me or kicked me out of their office or whatever, but you know, the bell shape curve you have on either end. You've got the really good guys and really bad guys All the rest of us are pretty much in the middle. What I've found, that's the same with the competitors. There are competitors who are just, they won't give you the time of day. And there are those who would actually help you set up your business across the street from them. So, and most of them are somewhere in between and from my experience.
My own experience. And from just hundreds of clients experience, competitors can just provide so much valuable information and just help you all along the way. And actually a lot of competitors that I have started out just asking for help from ended up being really good friends, long-term friends and helping each other out with friendly competition to get more market share for both of those.
So, I can see in a small town, just walking down main street and going into a store, whether it's a competitor or anyone, and just getting in touch with the actual owner or manager. But what about something in a big city for example, with bigger players or bigger industry or online, does that still work?
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, even online. I mean, can give you examples of those, but for example, to begin with they're the same human beings, you know, and it's just pretty much how you approach them and who they are. If you connect with them, whether you're face-to-face or over the phone, it's a little bit easier, of course, if you can get face to face, but getting face-to-face is another challenge in and of itself. So now with, the ability to look online and get an email and send them either a message or an email request, "Hey, you know I wonder if I get a few minutes of your time. I'm opening up a similar business as you are, and I could really use some help."
I had that work so often I can give you an example right now.
I had a client in a small town in Washington and she loved baking and she had a good business there in Dayton, had a little cafe and she had breakfast only, but she had cinnamon rolls was her specialty, but she also served breakfast.
And what she wanted to do was to really build her love was the cinnamon rolls, but she liked talking to the people, serving the breakfast and that interaction. But she wanted to build a business online, making cinnamon rolls and selling them to customers around the U.S. and anywhere else.
So, she had no clue where to start and I don't either, you know, but you know, I, I know how to start a business, but I've never worked with anyone who was going to sell cinnamon rolls. It's something which has a shelf life that's supposed to be fresh and all kinds of characteristics, but you know, I'm talking to her, my experience is that let's see if there's somebody out there doing that. "Oh, I know there are. That's how I got the idea." Okay, well, let's, let's look them up on the internet. So we did, we Googled, found, you know, some of the people that she was looking at, I said, listen, let's give them a call.
Let's message them, or text them, or send them an email and say, "Hey, I'd like to talk to you--we're thinking about doing the same thing over in Dayton, Washington, I'm really impressed with what you're doing and I've ordered some of your product and I really liked it comes fresh, which was amazing to me."
But just anyway, you know, to contact them and say," Hey, would you be willing to talk to me?"
So just approach them in a natural way.
Here's the thing, my guess is that a lot of people who are especially starting businesses now, when they hear the advice, go talk to your competitors they're probably thinking, okay, I have to maneuver around this person. I have to outplay this person because I don't want to give them information about my business model my, special innovation. So it's as if there's this little chess match occurring, between you and the competitor. So, you're saying forget all that. Just approach them like a regular person with sincerity.
Yeah, that's the general approach. I mean, you have to use your own personality and your own common sense. And if you have some kind of, you know, if you have some intellectual property of what you're doing or some trade secrets or whatever, you have to be sensible about that.
I mean, essentially you don't want to give away to anybody that kind of information, so protect it like you would anything else, but that's not usually where you're going with the competitor. You're going to talk to them about what it's like in this industry. You know, what's it's like to be someone who bakes cinnamon rolls and packages them and sells them all over the United States and maybe the world.
So that's the conversation you're going to have. You can then over time, get deeper into a conversation with them about lots of other things. You may even talk about what you're doing and they may be interested in that. And who knows what information you might share then, but, you know, right now you're just talking about trying to connect and learn something about the business.
So, but in this case, I thought what the heck, we're right here.. And you've been talking about this for a year. You hadn't done anything yet. And, I said, we're both nervous. Let's just pick up the phone and give it a try.
Because you know, by yourself, it's a lot more difficult and challenging and, and frightening . But if you're sitting there with somebody and say, "Hey, let's do this." You know, you get brave for a moment. So we did--picked up the phone called and I'm the one who ended up saying hello on this end.
And the lady who owned the place, just she answered the phone said, "Hi."
"Oh, I didn't expect to get you, but okay," so I introduced myself, Hey, I'm here with a client of mine. We've been looking at your website. She's been baking for lots of years. And she's been following you, has ordered some of your products, and she wants to do the same thing you're doing. And just wondering if we can get a few minutes of your time, sorry for interrupting you right now. If this isn't a good time, then that's fine. But I didn't even finish my sentence. She says, "Well, sure. Actually you caught me just at a good time. How can I help you?" And then, well, let me introduce you to Carolyn and, and then let's talk.
So I put it on speaker phone and Carolyn just started asking her questions
You had some questions prepared or was it just off the cuff?
I always have questions prepared, but in this case we were just sitting there and it was an impromptu thing, you know, so we got her, just got her on the phone and I was jotting down questions as Carolyn is starting the conversation.
So,have some questions prepared, some structure, but then don't be afraid to jump into the moment, impromptu and just engage with this person, like a normal human being as you would any day. What happened after that? Did the relationship continue or was it just a one-off, call.
Actually, they became friends for life. I mean, they're still friends now. Uh, but that was just one of probably... about a dozen different people doing this. Different individuals around the country. And out of those about half a dozen were really, really helpful. The other half dozen were not rude. You know, they just, ah, you know, I, I don't have time to do this and maybe catch me later, you know, but nobody really hurt her feelings or slammed the phone down or anything like that. Although...
You might get someone like that.
Those people were out there. Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, it wasn't a bad experience at all, which really, really emboldened Carolyn to continue to the next one, the next one, the next one there was about, like I said, about a half a dozen who just became kind of friendly competitors with her. They just helped each other and stayed in touch with each other and shared, you know, experiences with each other over the years, which is really enriching.
How did they help her with her business?
I mean, just about any part of your business, you can learn from competitors. What she learned most. I mean, there's lots of things, lots of details that she hadn't thought of in the business, like, okay, bake these and then I freeze them and then I, you know, shift them and what, how do I shift them so they stay either frozen or cold enough so they're still fresh? And, you know, questions like that.
So the, this lady who had the bakery, that was probably the most successful one in the States that she'd found, you know, told her how to do that. Oh yeah. Well, okay. Yeah. This is a good one. Let me tell you, when I started my business, I made every mistake, you know, I thought, okay, they're fresh now I'll wrap them up, send them--they'll be fresh,
And people were not sending them back, but they were saying, whoa, how did I get these? These are like stale. They're only a day old. They shipped next day delivery. They're just not fresh. They're tasty. When I put them in the microwave oven with a little moisture in there, they'd come alive a bit, but it's not what I expected.
So pretty much the nitty gritty, the stuff that doesn't make it on, your initial napkin sketch the real stuff that it's going to, you're going to have to figure out in order to actually run your business...
Behind the scenes.
Behind the scenes kind of stuff, especially on the operational side. Day-to-day.
Right. And then, you know, things like what kind of flour do you use? I've been used as flour. Yeah. Well, you know, here from what I've found is that you use, and I don't know much about flour, but evidently there's a whole lot of choices in flour. And so she learned different options there just in our, what works better for this and just different characteristics of the whole process of the ingredients going in and mixing them. Okay. If you freeze this at this stage, it's just really hard to work with when you take it out.
And, and sometimes the texture is different and the end product, it tastes good, but it doesn't feel right when you eat it.
That's invaluable information. The idea that you can gain that so fast, just by talking with a competitor, I mean, yeah. You might not get every competitor you reach out to, to respond , but it's sounds like a low hanging fruit that probably many entrepreneurs just ignore either mostly due to fear and skepticism, but you probably also surface all sorts of hidden costs that you just can't anticipate.
Oh yeah. Yeah. And things too well, things to anticipate is that those things that are gonna go wrong. In that particular business, because there's so many, packaging requirements, and you know, the kinds of freezers that you use and temperature control on those freezers and flash freezing. And I mean, just lots of little details you don't even think about, okay, I'm in the business, I'm gonna start it up, I'm gonna bake. I've been doing this for a lot of years. I got a refrigerator, just put it in the freezer or refrigerator, and then I'll take it out tomorrow and, you know, package it up and ship it off to my customer.
Not so simple. You can do that, but the odds are, it's just not going to arrive in the condition that they're going to feel like it's fresh out of the oven when they heat it up. So yeah, just a lot...
Not to mention, when something happens with the supply chain or your shipping method, like what's happening right now, supposing that this business has existed for five to 10 years, they've probably experienced problems, of that kind over their lifespan. That's just invaluable information you can get before you even open your doors, so that you're as prepared as you can be.
You know, and a lot of other things that these are just things that are coming to my mind as we're talking now, because we ended up with just, you know, pages and pages of really excellent details the kinds of things that helped her to have a very short learning curve, because you still have to do this stuff yourself.
Someone tells you, oh yeah, do this and this. And don't do that. And, but you still have to implement it yourself and there's a lot of trial and error, but it's like, instead of taking you a year or two to figure this out, it gets it down to maybe a month. You know, we're now you've got, you're getting going and your customers are happy, they write good reviews.
And, you're learning everyday more and more ways to be more efficient or more productive, and you're sharing now back and forth with the person who mentored you to start with.
How does the relationship continue after this initial contact? I mean, what do you have to put in as the person who initially reached out.
You know, I built a lot of businesses that I've always gone to competitors to, to learn from them. I've never, never had anybody ask for anything in return. You know, people just really enjoy helping others.
So I think it's more about you sincerely appreciating and actually giving feedback. Hey, I tried, I tried that and I can't believe it you saved me an hour. Thanks a million.
Or, here's a note from one of my customer that says, this is the freshest that I've ever had. And thank you because I used your secret about using that particular cellophane wrap from this supplier. And it made all the difference. There was no moisture content lost. It was anyway. So those are the kinds of things. Just thank you. And then sharing how that has helped which increases the feeling on the person who's doing, the helping--the mentor--to make them feel like, well, yeah, I've helped somebody else. I've done something good. I feel good about that.
What about the, MD RX pharmaceutical story that you've told me this one of the past, this is one of your business that you started.
Now, this is on the other, kind of the other end of things. The more, highly competitive. And I mean, we're talking about someone who is baking cinnamon rolls and serving customers online, and there's that human element and they love baking. And there, you know, it's just like a family atmosphere. You know, the customers are like family. Whoever's working with you in the kitchen are like family. And it's, it's a, it's a small business kind of mentality. The MDrx was a pharmaceutical. I know you probably know pharmaceutical companies are highly sophisticated and very complex. And they're extraordinarily competitive and secretive because, you know, they've got their intellectual property when they develop new drugs and, you know, to make sure that they've got then all the protection for those over the years, that they can make lots of money off those before they become generic.
So when was this happening and where.
This is in 1981-2-3 in that neighborhood in Louisiana. So there's uh, three other gentlemen and myself, well, they had actually begun the work to create a holding company, which would have seven subsidiaries. And it was an IPO.
So first of all, an IPO is regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission, all kinds of rules and regulations you have to follow. It's very detailed and very sophisticated. So anyway, they had already put this together and then I joined them as the fourth.
This is a startup company. You assessed the market? And these guys are moving forward, you enter the team.
Right. And I entered just as we were going out to start raising money to get officially registered, we needed $5 million within the first I think it was a year or 18 months.
And then we would start the first business. We had seven subsidiaries that we were going to build initially with the IPO we had registered said, these are the first seven businesses that we're going to build within our, our structure here. So, I joined at the time, we were just starting to go out and get the investment
Anyway. So I joined them as we were just starting to go out and raise the money. And the thing is they didn't have business education. I had an MBA, they actually didn't want to hire me because of the MBA.
These are the early days of the MBA.
Yeah. These are early days and they had this vision of an MBA being somebody who worked for a bank or someone who had too much education, didn't know how to roll up their sleeves and actually work. And so I said, well, I'm, I grew up working. I built a couple of businesses before, I went to college and then I built a couple of businesses since I went to college and now I have my MBA and I've done a couple of turnarounds of businesses. So I'm ready to work. I'm not the academic or the Ivy league MBA that you might be thinking about. And they said, well, okay, we'll hire you for nothing, commission only. And see if you really can work. And, you know, we believe in you, but we just want to see. So they hired me to go out and, raise money for the company.
So that's where I started out. And so I did, and we, of course I did that, then that enabled me to join the senior team, and there were the four of us. Because I had the MBA, I was the one who, when we raised our funding, which we ended up getting in three months, not 18 months, so that was a good sign, and then, my job was to set up each company, each of our subsidiaries, get it running and get it all set up and then we'd hire together the president to run that company. And then I'd move on to the next one and the next one and the next one in the same format. So, our first company was a legal reserve life insurance company, extraordinarily successful, because we'd set it up-that's another story that you're talking about.
But then one of the companies that we had, established was an investment company. And the idea was that we were going to be out there building businesses, meeting a lot of people, interacting with a lot of vendors or manufacturers and just that's the nature of our work. We're going to encounter opportunities to either build another business that we don't really know about yet or to joint venture with someone to build another business.
So we created this, investment company as one of the seven subsidiaries. And it was within the first year that a lot of our original investors who were doctors, dentists, people in the medical profession were telling us, Hey, you know, generics are real popular right now, and, you know, in our networks, our doctor's offices and clinics, especially these little walk-in clinics, they were going up everywhere, they want to dispense their own medications or their own pharmaceuticals there. And they were interested in the generic drugs. So they wanted to know if we would build a generic drug manufacturing company, pharmaceutical company. So we said, sure, let's look into it.
So we looked into it and said, well, not sure if we want to do this because it's pretty technical and sophisticated stuff. A lot of, a lot of risk involved. And, but, somehow we were introduced to a guy who had been, with, I don't remember the name of the company. It was one of the top three. It was either, I think it was Merck that I don't recall now, exactly. Anyway, he'd been twenty-five years with them, in senior management had built a few of their pharmaceutical factories, knew the business inside out, and he was ready to retire from them but wasn't really ready to retire, but was really interested in doing something on his own.
So, we talked with him and agreed to bring him in for a percentage of the business. And so we got heavily invested, raised the money for that.
So this guy was an industry expert, basically.
Yeah. He was gonna, like I said, I would go out and find the president to run the business. I'd set everything up, find the president, work with them. And then once everything was up and running with two of us there, because I was weaving everything into the larger holding company. So we wanted things to be consistent and organized in a certain fashion so that we can manage all this conglomerate. So that was my role there. And he and I worked together long distance.
He was in Dallas I was in, Alexandra, Louisiana. And we visited back and forth, but mainly we did over the phone, had architects do the plans for the manufacturing facility, found the property, got everything set up, got the permits for building.
We were just working like that for all the details, all the stuff, the prelaunch.
So then we break ground.
What does that mean? "Break ground".
Okay. That means, uh, you know, you actually got everything ready to get your building permits and all, and now it's time to shovel the first dirt and start building the actual facility.
So we're ready to do that. We got our permits and we're ready to break ground and we actually did get started. And, I get a call at like two o'clock in the morning that our partner has died in his sleep of a heart attack.
This is the only guy on your team that knows anything about the inner workings of this industry. Pharmaceuticals.
I had learned a lot from him, but I still couldn't even spell pharmaceutical. Right. So I knew a lot, which was like the drop in the ocean of what I needed to know, or anyone needed to know.
Fundamentals of business.
I knew the business side of it. No problem.
Fundamentals of the pharmaceutical industry.
Pharmaceutical. This stuff is not easy. There's a lot of rules and regulations. And in Louisiana, if anything happens, the general manager or the person running the, the first line responsibility, that person goes to prison. It's a criminal offense.
For example, if you package and mislabel, or you give an adult dose to a child, or a lot of very tight controls, they have to be throughout the entire process. And it's real serious business. So I did not know enough at all. We had a ton of money and a lot of people and our reputation at stake for, you know, invested in this and we'd already gotten permits and we had, you know, this is almost a part of our system and a part of our whole story.
So it isn't something that we can just say, well, we'll try again later.
This is a do or die situation.
Yeah. Well, we didn't really see it as do or die at the moment, but it was serious enough to get all my attention and my colleagues' attention at that point. But what to do? This was now, okay, this happened on, let's say it was a Sunday night. I get that call and, said, okay, well, you know, I'm not sure what we're going to do next, but didn't take long to find out what would happen next. I think it was a Wednesday that I get a visit. It was a car and three guys step out of the car at the construction site. And they want to see me.
I mean, I was not there. I was called there to the construction site. First of all, they said, stop construction. Who's responsible. That's me call him. Have him over here now. I came over and they said, what's going on here? I said, well, who are you and why are you here? So we had this little discussion and they told me that they are here because they represent the state and federal regulation agencies for pharmaceutical manufacturing companies.
And we understand that you're building one and you don't have our permits, our permission to do that.
You had the local permits?
Had all the local building permits, everything had to be done zoning and all that for Alexandria, Louisiana, but we had no clue we had to get something from the pharmaceutical industry.
So, they just shut us down. And I said, well, okay. So how do I reopen? Well, don't know if you'll ever be able to reopen because you haven't even filled out the applications and we have no idea whether you're going to be approved or not. And you know, that kind of situation. So they at least gave me their phone number and where I can go and get the application.
This is a complete reversal, a complete reversal of the situation. You guys were, preparing to launch this thing. You had an expert with 25 years of experience, with a major pharmaceutical company on your team. You've broken ground ready to start constructing the building. He dies of a heart attack in his sleep. A few days later, you get shut down by higher authorities missing permits. That's the situation you're in. Complete reversal.
I know nothing and nobody in our whole organization knows anything or knows anybody who knows anything right now about what to do. Now a moment ago. I mean, before Sunday night we get this call. We think we're superheroes because we got funded for our holding company in three months, as opposed to 18 months. So we're on a roll. Then we have extraordinary success with our first business, which is a legal reserve life insurance company, which is like a cash cow. We have more cash than we know what to do with, it just grows every day.
And we're thinking we just got it all figured out and we're blessed. Right? So, and then this happens and we're kind of stopped in our tracks. So they give me a phone number. I call them, I go down to their offices and I had to drive like three hours to get to one office. But anyway, it wasn't easy to do.
There was no downloading on the computer, that kind of thing in that era, but got their applications and tried to ask them questions because I read through the application and not whole lot of it made any sense. But, they said, well, you have to fill out the application and then we'll review it.
And then you'll have an opportunity to defend your, whatever, explain your answers. I mean, they had no interest in us succeeding.
Administrators --they're not interested in your business but they will shut you down.
Yeah. And at that point, I got to say that they were just kind of, it felt like they were just a little territorial. They were upset. Who did we think we were just going on and building this thing without even checking in with them, from our position, we didn't know they existed. No one was trying to offend. So later on we became friends, but I mean, in the beginning it was like an uphill battle just to figure out what to do and how to go about it.
So. I got the applications. I started filling those out. I couldn't even fill out the app. None of us could. I mean, we all got together and said, well, what do you think about this? Because they would ask you questions like, well, how are you going to protect this, uh, particular, area in your manufacturing facility... that will protect against what what do you mean protect it?
I mean, are you talking about some kind of viruses or health things, or are you talking about building a cage with, you know, some kind of special locks or hurricane proof or, you know, it turns out there were lots of things. It was like HEPA filters, cause when we did penicillin, that's really dangerous stuff. Just everything. I mean from the protection gear that you have to wear in a manufacturing a facility like that, where so many of those things and just, you know, either kill you or really...
These are the things that just don't make it onto the napkin sketch. When you see this great idea, you've got this brand new idea for a new business. These are the details that you're going to find out later on that you know, aren't there in the beginning, but they will make you or break you.
Yeah. So here we were filling out these applications, couldn't even understand the questions, let alone how to answer them and getting really frustrated.
And we're down in the dumps. And I don't know, I just remember waking up I usually get up at four o'clock in the morning, my whole life. I get about four hours of sleep. I just don't need more sleep than that. But in the early morning is when I have clarity and I woke up like the week after this happened about a week after it happened and were frustrated. And, we're embarrassed because we have all these investors and we made all this big deal about how we're going to, you know, just help everybody you know, you and me, people who are customers who are sick and need help. And they get generic drugs, help the clinics who are going to be able to dispense them and be able to pay a lot of their expenses because they're making income from that.
But they're still giving a better price, I mean, it just sounded like this Pollyanna super excellent business plan where everybody's going to win and now we're sitting here, we can't pull it off and we can't even get started in it. And it's, you know, it's kind of like a reputational thing as well.
Anyway, so four o'clock in the morning I woke up and I just thought. My mind went back to when I was in Vietnam and when I was in Vietnam, I was a helicopter pilot with the seventh and 17th Cav Charlie Troop.
And, our job was to go find the enemy every single day, engage the enemy and do we could to defeat the enemy and then come back in the evening.
So every day we'd go out get up in the morning and go to war and come back in the evening. And that was, that was our life. But there's a lot of stress and a lot of stuff you see. You're always getting people shot down or shot up. We're losing our colleagues other pilots and crew members on a daily basis. So we just, somehow our group or smaller group of pilots would come in at the end of the day, whenever we were finished with our missions, we'd meet up at the officers' club, which was a thatched roof, little place with a selection of few beers and maybe one or two bottles of whiskey, but we'd meet up there and we'd have a beer.
And somehow we started this, tradition. Telling a story to kind of relieve the stress and I don't know how it was planned, how it started, but we just started doing it. So basically what we did was we'd have our first beer and then I would choose someone to tell the story. All right. What's the story for today? And all stories had to begin the same way. "There I was, deep in the heart of enemy, territory, bad guys to the left of me, bad guys, to the right of me, rotator beacon in-op."
And that was the beginning, right? So we set the stage and then whatever happened that day and you can embellish it all you wanted, you could make anything else, anything up that didn't happen that you wanted to, it didn't matter. The whole idea was you told a story about going out there against all odds.
You encountered this insurmountable problem, but you solved it. So that was the story. We, we joked about it. We had another drink and everything, but one person told a story every evening, but what it did was bring out all those emotions and frustration of seeing your fellow pilots and crew members get shot or the helicopter gets shot up. You're not sure if you're going to make it back.
All those frustrations and things you had throughout that day, what happened was this kind of, it brought you back through the day, but in a way, which is a story it's a little bit of a fantasy. It can be made up, but a lot of it is real stuff, but it's exaggerated and you know, you might meander around a bit, but when that story is done and we had a limit on this story, is it going to last more than like 20 minutes?
But anyway, story is done and it seems like the day is off your shoulders. I mean, all that is expunged from your system. And now you can kind of relax, have some conversation have your pizza with Vienna sausages and Ketchup on it then go to bed and get up the next day.
So that came with clarity to my mind. Like I was back there in Vietnam and the parallel struck me. There wasn't an option back then to give up, you know, it's do or die. You're just out there, and this is what your job is and you just have to figure it out. It doesn't matter what happens and stuff happened all the time that none of us thought would happen or knew how to deal with.
We just had to figure it out. Sometimes we did better than other days, but we managed to get through the day and get back home. So, that whole mentality is what I was missing with MDrx. I was there. And we're all looking at this wall like, well, what can we do?
You know, we don't know how to do anything. We don't know, anybody who knows how to do this stuff. You know, it's a monumental task to build a pharmaceutical manufacturing company, how to manage it, how to even create the conditions that we don't end up all going to jail because, it didn't work out right. So it's a risky business and I realized this had all the characteristics of a combat zone, you know, it's a really dangerous place to be if you don't know what you're doing, it's even dangerous if you know what you're doing, and if you don't know what you're doing, maybe you shouldn't be there at all, but we're there.
So somehow that just gave me the resolve to figure it out. It was like, my whole mind shifted from, I was a victim or, you know, okay. We gave it our best to an...
Embarrassment or humiliation.
And just said, okay, let's just go do it. We've got to do it. Let's figure it out. And that gave me the courage, because I didn't have any other options, to pick up the phone and call my competitors.
Now it didn't start there. And what I did was I looked in the yellow pages and found some pharmaceutical reps, representatives, who go out and sell to doctors, found some who represented the companies that I knew were the best companies that I wanted to call and talk to about how to build a pharmaceutical company. And I called a number of reps and asked them for a name, any name in their organization that might talk to me on the phone about their company.
And I don't know, I probably called a dozen or two reps, pharmaceutical reps, and I got a lot of good help from them, some names and some telephone numbers. So then I kind of built up my courage and called the first number. A nd asked to talk with the person by name and that person did talk to me and said, well, I'd like to help, but you know, I just can't, uh, maybe look me up later on, I'm really busy now and we've got this big project going on or something just, he wrote me off. And so I went back, drank a cup of coffee, got my courage up again, picked up the phone and called another guy, another number. And I got, and...
Anyone who's ever been in this position will know exactly what you mean. It really does take quite a lot of courage. You're basically stepping off the cliff when you pick up the phone and call that first competitor. And if it doesn't turn out the way you would hope it can crush you and it takes some time to hopefully regenerate. But that's just, that's what it takes.
Well, the fortunate thing is that when I had gone out, raising funds for the company to get it started, I just cold called people who I thought might be potential investors.
And that was again from the yellow pages. I didn't know anybody. I just went to a town, went to Shreveport, looked in the yellow pages, I said, all right, this guy owns an insurance agency. I think he probably has a business of his own. He understands, probably invest has some money. I'll put him on my list and then I'd go to someone else. This guy has an oil company.
You know, I just looked through the yellow pages, found businesses, called to find out the name of the person. Anyway. So then I made a list and went to my hotel room picked up the phone and dialed the first number. And a lot of them were just rude. A lot of them just hung up. A lot of them said, not interested. Don't know if he's interested, what are you doing bothering me? Things like that and I'd hang up and say, you know, what am I doing here? I've got an MBA. I could be working for anybody right now. I can be flying helicopters offshore with one of the best companies, making a ton of money and having a great time.
What am I doing here? I mean, these are the kinds of things that went through my mind. And then I would listen to a little tape, a short tape, Zig Ziglar who encourages people. He's like a motivational guy, you know, you just got to go out there and do it. And Tony Robbins, whoever. So pick up the phone again, pick up the phone again.
And I remember the first day that I was doing this, proving myself to these guys because I had an MBA and they didn't think I could do it. I wasn't going to give up. And I had my sheet had 13 lines to write people's names and phone numbers on them. And I was