Allied Business Network: The Disadvantage (And Solution) To Being A “Worrier” – with Jack Bergman

How could working for someone else lead to your best business idea? You’ll hear about it in today’s interview.

Also, what time do you leave the office every day? What time are you going to call it a day? You won’t believe when today’s interviewee ends his day or how he makes that happen.

Jack Bergman is the founder of Allied Business Network, which negotiates discounts on office supplies, car rentals, and so many other things.

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About Jack Bergman

Jack Bergman is the founder of Allied Business Network, which negotiates discounts on office supplies, car rentals, and so many other things.

Raw transcript


Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Coming up: How could working for someone else lead to your best business idea. You’ll hear about it in today’s interview. Also, what time do you leave the office every day? I mean, like, today, what time are you going to go home? What time are you going to call it a day? You won’t believe when today’s interviewee ends his day or how he makes that happen. And, what would it take to consider quitting your business, essentially closing up shop and going to get a job? Check out what happens with today’s guest that makes him think that way and why he didn’t end up following through, why he continued to build his business. All that and so much more. You’re going to love it.

Listen up. I hate to have commercials interrupt this interview so I’m going to tell you about three sponsors quickly now, and then we’re going to go right into the program, starting with: Walker Corporate Law. If you need a lawyer who understands the start-up world and the tech community, I want you to go to walkercorporatelaw.com. Next I’m going to tell you about Shopify. When your friend asks you, “How can I sell something online?” I want you to send them to Shopify and explain to them that Shopify stores are easy to set up, they increase sales, and they’ll make your friend’s products look great. Shopify. Finally I want to tell you about Grasshopper. Do you want a phone number that people can call, and then press one for sales, two for tech support, etc., and have all the calls be routed to the right person’s cell phone? Well get your number from grasshopper.com. Alright, let’s get started.

Hey there freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of The Ambitious Upstart, and the site where you guys know I’ve interviewed 800 entrepreneurs about how they’ve built their businesses. What does that mean? It means that you don’t have people here who’ve never been in business that pontificate about what it takes to build a successful business. We’ve real entrepreneurs who spend an hour and break down the process they went through to build their company and show you the highs, and also show you the setbacks, the challenges, that they’ve had along the way and how they got through them. In this interview, I want you to meet Jack Bergman. He is the founder of Allied Business Network which negotiates discounts on office supplies, car rentals, and so many other things, so many other business needs for a collection of 122,983 businesses, small businesses owners, and individuals. And that number comes straight from your website Jack. Thanks for coming here and doing this interview.

Jack: You’re welcome. And if you hit refresh, it might even add another member.

Andrew: I like how up to date that is.

Jack: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: I asked you before we started, what do you feel comfortable saying about your revenue and you said, do you remember what you said?

Jack: I said anything.

Andrew: Anything! So, what is your revenue this year?

Jack: Well this year we’ll probably average around two million dollars a month.

Andrew: Wow, for revenue. And, the way the business works is…actually, maybe you could explain it the way you might explain it to a five year old, so that the audience really gets what Allied Business really is.

Jack: Allied Business Network is a group of national vendors where ABN, or Allied Business Network, will negotiate, use its leverage of its current membership. Many vendors we’ve had years of relationship building, but we leverage our current volume to negotiate a program or a discount program for small to medium size businesses to save on their everyday supplies and services. So simply by joining ABN free, you’re going to have access to about 50 or 60 national vendors, everything from shipping, to travel, to supplies, office supplies, computer supplies. Really every place a business has sort of a common expense.

Andrew: Yeah, I see it here on the website. So UPS, save up to 28 percent shipping. T-Mobil, save, actually that one’s not visible. For Dollar Rent-a- car, it’s five percent. FedEx, it’s 15 percent and so on. And if they’re members, that’s what they get. And you get those deals by making partnerships with companies, like the ones that I just mentioned. I was hoping you could start off by telling us about that one partnership that changed it all. Where were you when you made that deal? I think that’s an exciting place.

Jack: Well, we had some success prior to that. But, in my world, when I had started my business 18 years ago, my prior career had a lot of perks, and meetings, and travel, and resorts, and really great stuff. Meetings and travel and resorts and really great stuff. And ABN really didn’t come along with that. But I got a phone call from one of our bigger venders that was very interested in exclusivity. We have a sister site called Smart Bid Savings and white label programs. And a specific vender approached me and asked me to take an international plane ride to a sporting event, which was crazy in itself. But during that, their goal was to negotiate and propose a deal, a financial deal, for exclusivity of ABN and all of our sister sites. That was just something that just blew me away. It was such an exciting time. It was such an exciting moment. It gave me the feeling that, you know, we could really provide something really special for our vendors, our vendor partners. And obviously we always believed we added value for small businesses. You know, we know we save them money. But, for a vendor that size to take that kind of time and effort away. To propose such a sort of exciting financial proposal to become the sort of sole source in that category. Was just an amazing time for me.

Andrew: You told Jeremy Wise our producer here at Mixergy when he pre- interviewed you, “I got off the flight and we made a deal and at that point I knew, I would not have to work again.” It was, I knew you were doing well before then but, that’s one of those deals that changes the business.

Jack: Yeah, and you sort of get that feeling but obviously you keep working. Because, it ends up not to be all about the dollars. It’s really the journey and it gave us the security to do a lot of other things that have probably that would have made me work a little harder. But there was a certain moment in time that you know obviously there’s certain, there’s huge disappointments. And also some major accomplishments and I guess anybody’s business career.

Andrew: I want to talk about those disappointments including what your in laws said to you. Which when I read those in the pre-interview notes I was shocked. And that is the kind of thing that rattles in the heads of many entrepreneurs. Maybe they didn’t hear exactly the same thing but I bet you they heard something similar. We’ll get to that in a moment. Let me just explain to the audience the way the business works is like this. Allied Business Network goes to a vendor and says we have this big audience of people who are going to buy from you. Give them a discount incentive them to buy from you. You get that discount for your members and in exchange you get a share of the revenue that you generate for the vendor. Am I explaining it right?

Jack: Absolutely.

Andrew: And the idea came to you when you were working at, actually can you talk to people a little bit about the job you had before this. In Washington, DC.

Jack: Yeah I worked for a buying cooperative. And there are a lot of cooperatives there are hospital cooperatives, there are farming cooperatives. But a buying cooperative generally pools together a select group of businesses. In this case they were electrical distributors. And they formed a buying cooperative to obviously buy at a better price. Those electrical distributors had a group of manufactures that were preferred manufactures that they purchased from. The group did close to a couple billion dollars in group purchasing. I served as VP for that buying cooperative for five years. And that really lead me to the model today. One of the big projects I put together there was, even though we had 160, 170 really large businesses average size was about $12 million dollars up to a couple $100 million. We didn’t have a negotiated deal on office supplies and hotels and rental car and shipping. Yet we had these 60 or 70 other national manufactures in the industry that they ran.

So very quickly we were able to put together something that very much looks like ABN. And so that kind of what gave me the idea that hey I could do this and I could provide these discounts for small to medium size businesses. Ones that really don’t have the staff to negotiate these kind of deals. Ones that don’t have the volume to negotiate these kind of deals. So, it all seemed great and going into it, you know, I thought I had the perfect business model, but obviously there’s a lot more to it and a lot more time. But, you know, we finally accomplished I think when the search engines really came in to play that also was a big turning point for ABN.

Andrew: I didn’t even know these co-ops existed for electrical distributors who you’re working with. But imagined if they even existed in the tech world where we all said we are paying for web hosting so why don’t a few of us go in together and make a deal with WP Engine, where they give us all a discount, below the prices that they offer on their website. In return, they get to service all of us websites that are all on WordPress. That kind of thing, as far as I know, doesn’t exist in our world, in the tech world. You did that for them. You negotiated deals there. Then you said, hey, you know what, there’s a business here. Maybe I can bring it to other companies. That’s where the idea came from?

Jack: Yeah. Absolutely. At that time, I would meet with other cooperatives, and we would discuss ways to just cooperatives in general. How you would market to your members, how you stimulate growth. Just because someone joins the group doesn’t mean they’re going to use the vendors in the group. A lot of the interaction with the other buying cooperatives were the techniques that they use.

The original idea came to me because a lot of these cooperatives, which were buying cooperatives, still didn’t have deals in sort of common areas. Originally, it was going to be sort of a deal for cooperatives, but I quickly realized that we could set up a call center, call businesses. Really, the need for deals sits in the SOHO market, or the small business market. I think that’s …

Andrew: Oh, I see what you’re saying. You initially were thinking, I’ll go to all those cooperatives that are out there, just like I established this buying network for the cooperative that I work for. I’ll go to all the other cooperatives and I’ll make them this. Why didn’t that work? Why couldn’t you go to the other cooperatives . . .

Jack: Because that’s what they do for a living.

Andrew: I see. They don’t want you coming in and doing this. Right? [inaudible]

Jack: Yes. Very quickly, I realized that they’re going to make their own deals. It just didn’t enter their mind that, geez, we’re making a deal for a hospital coop, and we’re negotiating deals for hospital beds. Why aren’t we negotiating deals for paper and pencils?

Andrew: If you come in and say, I’ll negotiate deals for paper and pencils, what did they say to you?

Jack: Well, the deal was already set. I would say, we already have three cooperatives. We want to add you and your volume. I could quickly see that cooperatives didn’t want somebody else to do what they could do.

Andrew: OK.

Jack: They were staffed to do that. The existing model, way back when, had that element to it. Originally, I went in thinking that was going to be my, sort of, members, where the member base would come from. Then I realized I am going to have build this one member at a time, one business at a time. Obviously, we had to figure out ways of scaling that. That was the beauty behind the …

Andrew: Why didn’t you give it up at that point? Why didn’t you say, hey, this whole model rests on my ability to get a large number of cooperatives to work with me. They’re going to bring a larger, obviously, pool of companies. That’s where my audience and my revenue is going to come from. If that’s not working, why didn’t you stop?

Jack: You know, I just think a lot of entrepreneurs, or people who start businesses, have to go into it completely sold on the idea. There was no way that I was going to give up on this. I knew that we could succeed. We eventually got over the hurdle of getting some good solid vendors. We eventually got over the hurdle of figuring out how to get businesses to join. Really, the biggest hurdle wasn’t those. It was getting businesses that join to use the vendors, because it’s free to join the group.

Andrew: They’re not obligated to use the vendors. If you can get them a discount of 25% on staples, it doesn’t mean that they’re not going to go to Amazon anyway.

Jack: That’s right. In the buying group I worked for at the time. Those people spend thousands of dollars to join the group. It was within their own industry. We met them a lot throughout the year. There was a much tighter relationship. The challenge for me was, how do I get businesses? I’ve got to get really good deals. The whole element to a buying group is the internal marketing. How you present it. How easy it is to use. Sometimes people might want to save 15% on office supplies, but if it’s a pain to do it, if it’s not really easy, they’re not going to do it.

Andrew: Let’s go through this step by step. You need to have members, and you need to have suppliers, companies like Hertz that are going to give discounts to your members. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Jack: In this case, I went out and sought out after about 50 charter member businesses. So, purposely, I said to those business owners, just give me your name of your business and your volume in these 15 categories. Let me leverage your volume with the other 49. You’re not obligated to anything, but I’m going to come back to you in 6 months with a deal with a good solid vendor, and you’ll have the ability to take advantage of that deal.

Andrew: So first the charter members, how do you get those 50 charter members when you’re a nobody without much experience?

Jack: Just like everything else, you start out with your pitch and your campaign and your vision, and you know I probably had 80 people on the list and ended up with 50.

Andrew: Where’d you get the list?

Jack: Just… anybody I could think of that owned a business, or anybody that I knew that had a friend that owned a business, that could get me in to just make that 15 minute presentation.

Andrew: I talked to an entrepreneur last week and I asked him about the insecurities, the negative chatter in his head and he said, “You know, one of the things that I have is, when I see a friend of mine or someone who I know become a customer, I start to think, ‘Oh no, I’m going to disappoint that person, oh no, it’s one thing to service a stranger, but to give my product to a friend who’s buying, I’ll screw up and be discovered as a guy who’s not as smart as everyone thought he was,’ all that. There are some issues with selling to friends. What about that?

Jack: Believe me, I have my areas that I would hesitate to work with friends on. But in this case, they weren’t committing or buying anything, they were just saying, “Jeez, that sounds like a good idea and if you come out with a really good deal, maybe I’ll do it.” So, I felt comfortable because they weren’t giving me any money, and at that point I wasn’t asking for anything. I will say that in doing that, in thinking what could occur in starting my business, whenever I thought I was going to make some money, it was much further down the road.

Andrew: It always took longer to make money than you expected, is that what you mean?

Jack: Yeah I think anybody that thinks they’re going to make money in 2 years, you have to double that.

Andrew: How long did you think it was going to take you to make money, how long did it really take you?

Jack: I think somewhere in the second year, I think projections. I thought somewhere in year 2, but it was really more like year 5.

Andrew: Year 5, wow. Okay so now you’ve got your 50 charter members, you have to go out to vendors. How easy was it to get vendors.

Jack: Very difficult.

Andrew: Really? I would’ve thought they’d have had discounts readily available for the first person who would ask- not the best discounts, but some discount, take these, if you make a go of it then we’ll give you the deeper discounts, that’s not how it went?

Jack: Well I don’t if it was so hard- the hard part is, first of all you have to have more than one. So you pick a category like office supplies, so you know you’re going to have to talk to at least two. Office Depot, let’s use for example, and let’s say Staples. The hard part is talking to them, getting to the right person, explaining the model of what you’re creating, which, I need a program that’s going to work logistically not only for the existing charter members, but it’s going to be able to flow easily to the new businesses that sign up. There wasn’t really anybody on staff. There was no affiliate program in place. We were kind of a national account with an idea of creating an ongoing, sort of, addition to that national account. If Office Depot, I would always get the person that handles the PPG account, or the US- some national account figure, but there had to be an element where that national account was going to grow much faster than-

Andrew: Oh I see, so they don’t have someone, or they didn’t at the time have someone, who was ready to put together affiliate programs like they do today, but they did have a national account, so how’d you know that the national account person was the right person to talk to?

Jack: Just through my experience at the co-operative. I had explained our model and knew that I could work within the confines of what they had. Obviously we’re not entirely pre-internet, but we’re pre-internet in terms of people searching to find office supplies, so we could get a national account number and generally people were purchasing over the phone or fax using a national account number.

Andrew: Oh I see, so they had a national account number that companies would give to their employees to use so they’d get a discount, you got that, and… Don’t those national accounts work where, the person who negotiates the deal has to make all the payments, or do individuals within the companies back then, did they have to do it?

Jack: They would set up our members as individual locations, so it wasn’t a perfect scenario, so getting back to your original question, the Devil’s sort of in the details. So the first trick was to get their attention, to talk about the program, then to actually get a contractual agreement with a discount. Then, the last piece of the puzzle was to say, if I create this volume, we need to get a commissioner rebate on the volume I’m creating for you and many times we would create tiers. So, we would let them put the tiers in place and say “well, if I can create a million dollars for you in volume, but what if I can create 10 million dollars for you in volume? What does that take the discount and the commission to?” So, getting all that stuff in early was kind of crucial because you had to believe in the concept and believe that you could hit plateaus and ultimately grow your revenue on the same volume you had by achieving new revenue.

Andrew: I see. Okay. I’m sorry, I kept using Staples as an example because I just grabbed a generic name, but you work with Office Max, Office Depot and another company who I forget the name of them, Spiegel [SP], I think?

Jack: Yeah. Spiegel. And they’re generally more supplies for, you know, signage and things of that nature. But, Office Depot and Office Max are our preferred. We like to usually given an either/or situation. We’re not going to have everybody. In this case, there [??] a million national office supply vendors. You know, there are catalog companies and other. . .But, currently we work with those two. We’ve worked with Office Depot really since day one and Office Depot is a good solid partner.

Andrew: So, how do you get these guys to give you both a discount and commission on the sales that you generate when you’re a nobody and you don’t have enough people. I hate to keep saying nobody, but when I start out, I always feel like a nobody. And people talk to me like I’m a nobody. Frankly, they still unfortunately do. Fewer and fewer people do, but they still do and you feel powerless in that situation. So, when you’re powerless, what do you do?

Jack: Well, I don’t think. . .when we were in that. . .I was necessarily powerless because with those 50 charter members, one of the companies was very big. So, the volume, you know, maybe a half a million dollars in potential office supply volume is something. It gives you some leverage and I think that you can’t go in without at least having those charter members. Because there is a certain level that a national account is that makes them a national account, whether that’s a half a million or a million. And you’ve got to kind of figure that out ahead of time, but you want to get to that level where you’re going to get a better deal than most businesses could get that are small. Primarily, that’s what you’re going in with. If you get that, you got it. Now, there’s only so much of the pie to slice up, so the rebates that flow back to ABN are very small. So, you have to do a lot of volume. Because the deal that we actually get, most of that is given to the business that joins. You could give me great rebate on the back end, but we still need a really good deal to drive volume.

Andrew: I see.

Jack: Everything starts with the deal. The deal is the. . .that’s the big draw.

Andrew: Okay. So, now you got 50 charter members. You have some suppliers who are starting to buy into this model and giving you a chance. I guess the next step is to get those charter members to start using the suppliers that you introduced them to. Right?

Jack: Right. And when we came. . .actually, we would just figure out how more cost effectively to add businesses and as we did that, every once in a while we would add a vendor every now and then that would all of the sudden come to the table. So, I was figuring out how to get more and more businesses to join. The last thing I eventually had to figure out was how to get more and more businesses to use our vendors. And so that did become a problem. We had a couple thousand members, yet we weren’t generating very much volume. Remember, the rebates were very, very small. So, I started to realize that we need tens of thousands of members to really make the kind of money that I was hoping for as a business to really be able to invest back in the marketing, to drive more and more volume. So, it gets back to the chicken-and-egg scenario. To have the kind of really good solid marketing you need to grow this buying group, you need to have income come from somewhere. So…

Andrew: The first year you got a hundred businesses to join and then you met a woman who owned a telemarketing company.

Jack: I did.

Andrew: How did that change things?

Jack: I had this idea that I was trying to get members cost effectively. And in this case I was trying to get members free. So, I had a friend of mine the first year that was a struggling actor in New York and he said “I can get members for you when I’m not busy.” So, I put in place something where we could track his members separately and pay him a percentage of what we would get from the vendors. So, that was in place very early on. So, we would tag our members wherever we would get them. So, I went to a telemarketing company and talked to. . .a pretty dynamic company at the time. They had about 150 callers in a massive room, and I asked her, what do you do if an account delays a project for 24-48 hours? She says, well, there’s really not a lot we can do. We just sit on our hands and it could be trouble.

Andrew: You mean the telemarketers really don’t have any work then because they have to wait a couple of day for the account to really get started.

Jack: Some telemarketing companies use part-time. In this case she had full- time workers and they pride themselves on their model of themselves. So, I convinced her that if she became a partner of ABN, as soon as they were sitting on their hands, they would have already been scripted, they have this list of businesses under 15 employees, they’d start picking up the phones and talking people into joining for free. And we would track her members separately and pay her a percentage, an annuity forever on the members they brought in and she just loved the idea.

Andrew: And how many people, you were doing dozens of people at a time, how many new customers would she bring in?

Jack: Thousands.

Andrew: Thousands?

Jack: For the first time we would get, they would go down for a 24-hour period and we might get a thousand members that day.

Andrew: Wow.

Jack: Then, they were sheets because the callers would fill in, name, company, type of business. So, we would have to key that into our database. So, it’s a little different then to set up the automated system. In those days we would key it in and mail out a binder that would walk through, basically, how you could use all the vendors.

Andrew: I see. So, not only did she get you slips of paper with the names and information of all your new members, you would then send each new member a binder explaining the discounts and how to use it.

Jack: It sounds so old-fashioned. But, it created a dilemma, we actually had to hire someone to key in the information into our database. Obviously, so when we got reports in from our vendors, we could pay them their percentage. But, keying them in, that started the process. We would build the binder, we would create a little certificate of their membership, we would heat press the binders. The binders, all the vendors would send us their sections for the binders. So, it would explain logistically of how you would use the deal. And, it would arrive, I would take it up to the post office in those clear white, and I would lug up hundreds of these things.

Andrew: Remember the pride, the feeling of pride of going into the post office with all this new product that you were sending out to your members?

Jack: Yeah, at the time it felt tremendous, I thought that we really hit something special because we figured out how cost effectively bring on members. But, in reality, we still weren’t generating a lot of income yet. So, we still had that elephant in the room, the reality that we are bringing in thousands of members cost effectively, but is the binder situation really working? No.

Andrew: You’re still shaky.

Jack: Yeah, we’re still shaky. And, the bottom line is, what are our rebates? What sales are we actually generating for our vendor partners? And, realizing that if we don’t generate sales for our vendor partners, how long are they going to stick with ABN and the process?

Andrew: So, Jack, in the beginning of the interview you said that your revenues are now $2 million a month. That’s before your rebates, you get a rebate on that revenue, right?

Jack: That is correct.

Andrew: So, is your rebate in the low single digits, like 2-3 percent? Or am I overestimating them?

Jack: Our rebates, they range. Because every category has different profitability levels. Some rebates can be in the lower end of that and some rebates can be in the higher. But, our average is around, we probably average somewhere in the middle there.

Andrew: Somewhere in the middle of what, 2-3 percent?

Jack: Somewhere in the middle of 1-10.

Andrew: 1-10. I see, somewhere in the middle of that. OK. Alright, you are now starting to do well, it seems like things are different than what you thought they would be. You would put down on paper your exact business plan, right, when you started?

Jack: Yeah, I remember going to Comp USA and buying a big box and putting it in throwing the CD in there and building my, and answering all the questions and spending a month or two. Which I think is a tremendous exercise.

Andrew: You’re talking about the CD-ROMs that would ask you questions, you’d fill in the answers, hit print, and you’d end up with a business plan. Why was it a useful exercise?

Jack: It has a financial section; it asks you questions that you would never even think of. And, many of the questions, people just breeze right over because they don’t have to answer them. But, I thought it was a great exercise just to know what those questions are that I couldn’t answer. No matter how I answered them down the road. And, even today, if people will say, Hey, what do you think I should do, I’m starting this business. What do you think of the business? And, I’ll say, you know what, I don’t know, but I would go out and buy a piece of software and go through the process of building a business model. A marketing. Go through that process, that will really force you to answer all the questions you don’t want to right now.

Andrew: I would even say, that if people want a simpler then a business plan. Like, if they are in a tech industry that changes so fast that they feel that a business plan isn’t the right fit for them, Ash, the author of ‘Running lean’. Created something called the lean canvas that forces you to confront the questions that you don’t want to think about. But does it in a shorter then a business plan model. It basically is the same thing but with more of a lean approach to it. I love his book, ‘Running Lean’ and I recommend it to any one listening. And, the site, I don’t know if it makes sense to anyone who doesn’t understand this concept, but it’s still worth a shot. It’s called Lean Canvas, is the site. So, I remember doing this, back in the old days when I started my first company. And, one of the questions that I was forced to confront is, what do your competitors charge for this? And. I remember going and saying, alright I have to call up my competitors and see what they charge, see what their CPM is and figure out where my CPM is going to be. That was a huge thing for me, was there something similarly useful for you when you were building your business model?

Jack: Sort of. When I was doing my business model, I really was taking very similar to what I was doing at the time. I took a lot of that information, but I didn’t have a lot to follow as far as getting in to the so-ho market and the small business. The model seemed sound, but all the elements of how quickly members would come out, how quickly vendors would come, that was the area where the model fell short. Because that where I kept adjusting my business model. Because a few vendors that you don’t have, if you don’t have UPS, if you don’t have your shipping section, if you don’t necessarily have some of your travel vendors in place. The models there just slows it down.

Andrew: Okay. There was something that I was going to say that I forgot, so I’ll come back to it as soon as it occurs to me. You said to Jeremy in the pre-interview process that you knew that things were working out when you got that check from MCI Worldcom. They were paying you to switch members to their phone system. Why was that such a change for you? Why did that feel like a big moment?

Jack: Because, I actually got a check. I hadn’t really got a check yet.

Andrew: I see a first real check.

Jack: Yeah, that just told me that this works. I’m going to put something in place and there’s always this huge delay. So, even today, when we talked about our revenue and things of that nature, what do you count as revenue. So, I’ll clarify, the sales that we drive throughout vendors, so we drive about $11 million a month through our vendors.

Andrew: Wait, you drive $11 million a month through your vendors.

Jack: Through our vendors.

Andrew: What’s the $2 million then?

Jack: I thought, profit.

Andrew: $2 million is what you end up keeping?

Jack: No, I wish that were the case.

Andrew: So, what’s the $11 million versus the $2 million?

Jack: I’m not sure, I’m not sure how we got to that number.

Andrew: Oh, you just came up with $2 million?

Jack: No, I’m just not sure how we, I’m not sure when you were saying revenue, I’m not sure how I got to that, I just know that what we actually drive through ABN, through our vendors, is about $11 million a month.

Andrew: I see, and some portion of that you keep, but it’s not $2 million.

Jack: No, and that’s why I was thinking about the $2 million number that you said, I’m wondering how we came up with that as well.

Andrew: I wonder if I came up with it, I thought it was coming from you. If it didn’t come from you, that means I’m asking questions that have the answer in them.

Jack: I apologize. I was thinking about that as we went on. We look at our sales, we look at sales as the volume that we create for our vendor partners.

Andrew: And some percentage of that you keep.

Jack: Well, we get a rebate on every dollar that we generate. So, some vendors the rebate is 2 percent, some vendors the rebate 6 percent. But, getting back to the point, that our rebates are generally sent to us 60 days after a quarter ends.

Andrew: OK.

Jack: So there’s a long flow. Really you’re looking at almost, if you, if the first month of a quarter you’re not seeing that income for almost 5 months. So when we first started the business, that process, maybe we only generated volume in the third month of one of the quarters. It was a long time until we actually saw income.

Andrew: And you’re, because of that, it seems like, at one point struggling financially right?

Jack: Well, yeah, for sure. You know I think there’s a bit of a shock for people that go into business. That potentially comes from working for somebody and making a pretty good income and you go from making a good income to burning through your income. So it’s a big flip there. Instead of the money that you bringing in you, have this burn rate of your own money. And after a few years you start to challenge your own.

Andrew: I imagine, is that the point where you had to go out and raise capital?

Jack: Absolutely. We had this tremendous, we had great vendors, we had you know, a good flow of businesses joining. And everybody loved the business model. Everybody thought it was such a cool business. But we really weren’t making that much money. In fact, we weren’t making much money at all. So I thought that was the best time in the world to go out and raise capital. And we were able to do that. And it was another experience for me putting together this presentation that had to be really good. Because, it was really, it was a great idea and a great business. And it had, all the elements but obviously it didn’t have the big numbers at the time. But we were able to raise pretty significant amount of money at the time.

Andrew: How much?

Jack: Just under a million dollars.

Andrew: Wow, OK. So how do you raise money when you’re not generating money? When you don’t have the model proven yet?

Jack: I don’t know how I did that. But I know that the day I got the money, I went out and bought a Herman Miller chair. I was so cheap on everything. But for some reason when somebody gives you venture capital money, or in this case they called it Angel. All of a sudden you think that you’re a genius when you don’t realize that you’re just going to, your actual whole presentation is how you’re going to spend the money. You have to burn through it at so much per month. But the great thing about the money was, is that it brought in some great minds. And it also made us stop the membership growth and start focusing on driving marketing. Squeeze the base, the people that have already joined. Start creating more income. So the money came along with some real creative people. More comfortable chair and sort of this new energy. And it took a lot of pressure off me because I just got a million dollars or short of that. And it seemed like, OK, I don’t have to worry for a while.

Andrew: And you said you also got some smart people and new ideas. And other people who have now had ownership of the success of this business. What did they show you that you didn’t know before?

Jack: Soon as we raised the money we had a board. So we had a few people on the board that we could sit around and just strategize on how we were going to spend the money. But I think people that invest in things get right to the subject. Get right to the point, OK, we see that your great at getting some great vendors and deals and your able to bring in members cost effectively. But we need to start talking about how we are going to drive more volume. And so it was just a shift because that’s, I think what happens most of the time when you’re raising capital but you’re able to focus more. So I don’t know how the idea came but it was just, instead of taking 10% of the focus on driving volume out of members we were going to take 95%. [??] We just all switched modes into driving more. So the marketing became much more intense.

Andrew: Much more directed at current members now?

Jack: Absolutely.

Andrew: OK. And what was the most effective thing you did to get current members to start using your service?

Jack: I think instead of calling businesses to join, we started calling into them to use.

Andrew: Interesting.

Jack: Switched all the callers. And we started to talk about if you’re using this to use that or let me walk you through it. Once volume started to be created, and we started to do some significant volume, we then could reach back out to our vendors, and ask them to do some direct marketing.

Maybe they were interested in doing a direct mail campaign along with our logo. So we started to feed off one another. Once we reached a certain level of sales for vendors, vendors started to buy much more into the concept and invest right along with us.

Andrew: Because now they have some skin in the game. Once they invest in the ads, they feel a need to make them work.

Jack: Once they saw some sales, I think, more than anything.

Andrew: I see.

Jack: They had skin in the game, but I think they needed to see some significant volume. Once we could show that, then we started to have additional marketing that we were doing, and additional marketing that they were doing.

Andrew: What year was this, roughly?

Jack: That’s a tough one. I would say, we’ve been in business for 18 years. I would say we were in our 6th or 7th years when that occurred. Maybe . . .

Andrew: You launched ’95.

Jack: Correct.

Andrew: OK.

Jack: Launched in my basement. I think ’96 we actually incorporated it.

Andrew: [inaudible] you started in your basement.

Jack: Today, anyone who goes to your website, abnsave.com, can sign up for free. In the beginning, was it a free membership?

Jack: It’s free. I always made the decision, early on, that we would generate our income from the vendors, that we had to generate volume to make money. The customer is still the member, and I didn’t really want to give them a reason to not join.

Even though they always say, especially when we called them at the beginning, there must be some catch to this. It’s free. How could it be free? We would say we are compensated by our vendors, which we are. The goal there, the decision early, which, obviously, there are other groups out there that charge a membership fee. Obviously, when you join an association, they might have some benefits like ours, you’re going to pay some dues, or some upfront fees. No, ABN’s always been free, and it always will be.

Andrew: OK. Things are going great. At some point, though, you lost a big vendor. The big vendor accounted for what percent of your sales that you suddenly lost?

Jack: I think it was about 45% of our rebate.

Andrew: Wow. 45% all like that.

Jack: Yeah. It was crazy because, generally, my experience with working for a buying cooperative and all the years at ABN, there’s really no reason. As long as you’re growing your sales, which is easy to do, as long as you grow your members. Even if we’re in a recession, we’re still growing. In fact, in recession, people tend to pay more attention to the bottom line.

We actually thrived through this past few years. In this case, the vendor kept growing and it was more of a issue. It was actually Mobile Cellular, and at that time, it was Bell Atlantic. They were merging and Verizon was appearing. We ran into issues with the FCC, and stuff I didn’t even understand. The issue wasn’t that we weren’t doing well. It was just they couldn’t handle it nationally, and so they made that call. That was a pretty crazy day.

Andrew: That’s when you went to your in-laws. Why did you go to your in- laws, and what did they say?

Jack: I was getting married. Things were so great, and so many other things. I just told them that, unfortunately, we would probably end up having to struggle for a bit. Things would be changing a little bit. I mean, it’s more of a joke than anything else.

I think, looking back, we started off this whole thing by telling the story about how great it is to get on a plane and get a great deal. There’s no question that, during this journey that I’ve been on so far, there’s been plenty of highs and plenty of lows. The more lows you have, you realize you can get through them, and it was sort of a blessing in disguise.

Andrew: What did your in-laws say?

Jack: I don’t even think they said anything other than, you know, I’m sure it’ll be okay. You’ll work it out.

Andrew: Oh, they did?

Jack: Yeah.

Andrew: Oh, I thought that they said the opposite. You’re just a natural worrier though?

Jack: I am.

Andrew: I’ve been talking to my audience about the stuff that goes through our heads when we worry. For me, it’s everything from, I’m about to do this interview with Jack. What happens if I don’t know his business as well as someone in the audience? What happens if this little swirl in my hair just keeps doing this crazy thing and people look at me and go, what an idiot. What happens if I don’t know what so-ho means? As he’s talking about it I happen to know it means small office, home office. But, in my head, I’m thinking he’s going to toss out another term I don’t know. All these phrases that go through my head that worry me about sitting down here doing this interview. What goes on in your head, as you worry?

Jack: You know, I think that when you decide to start your own business, you don’t realize that being a worrier is probably a huge disadvantage. I envy people that aren’t worriers because I think that it’s nice to work for somebody and leave on a Friday in your car. And, I can vaguely remember that, you’d get in and until Monday morning you could care less. You care about your job, but, fortunately if the place burns down, there’s nobody in it. You’ll figure it out. But, when you have your own business, until you have it, you don’t realize that you’re really never off. And it sounds, oh yeah! You go into it thinking, I get to make my own hours, I’m my own boss, I’m this, I’m that. But, I think, worrying forces you to be on 24 hours a day.

Andrew: And you worry about what?

Jack: I think you worry about everything. I think you worry about everything.

Andrew: For example?

Jack: You worry because you lose a big vendor. That that could happen again. I think you worry that you did something wrong on your website and you know you’re ranked 450,000 on Google, that tomorrow somebody is wig out and say, we don’t like Allied Business Network. And all of a sudden our rankings are going to drop. I mean, I think you worry about you own mortality and make sure you have things structured and in place for your family because you think they can’t necessarily come in and run the business or however that works. So, I just think there’s a lot.

Andrew: So, when you have that thought in your head, what happens if I’m not here and my family can’t run this thing? What happens if I lose another vendor? How do you stop that voice?

Jack: In my case, I’m on to it, I make sure I have multiple vendors in a category. I reach out to my vendors on at least a quarterly basis. And, I make sure to so I’m no blindsided.

Andrew: So, you are aware of what your worries are. You say, one of the things I’m worried about is that I’m going to lose a vendor. Let’s just confront that and find another vendor so that I don’t have this issue. Let’s call up every vendor and make sure that they’re happy.

Jack: Correct. I think, what you’re worrying about is legit. It’s whatever keeps you awake at night is what you need to address.

Andrew: You know what I did before the interview started is I went and I got more hot water for my tea. And, before that, I checked my stats on the site. And, before that, I checked to see if our members left our mailing list. I didn’t need to do that, I had enough water here, I had enough people on the mailing list and the stats were just fine because I checked them before. The reason I did it is because I was worried about all those things that I talked to you about. Like, what happens if I miss something in my interview, what happens if I don’t know Jack’s business well enough? The reason I say that to you, is to say that I didn’t realize what I was worried about. I was thinking that I needed to go check stats. What I didn’t realize is something in your head is telling you you’re worried about this interview. How do you confront that? How are you aware of what those issues are for you when they are just not obvious?

Jack: Well, in my case, they are obvious. When I start my morning, I start it exactly with what I am most concerned about.

Andrew: You do?

Jack: Yeah, similar to what you described. I go right to Google Analytics. I want to see what our traffic is. Because, if there’s something that happened to our traffic. I’m going to see it within minutes. I’m going to look at last conversation we had with our vendors. I’m going to look at the sales. I’m going to look at how many members joined online that day. Obviously, those worries shrink, and then new ones appear. But, generally, I’m going to worry about my staff. I’m going to worry that, you know, everybody here is really valuable. Is everybody happy. We’re sort of a unique business, so everybody that works here, you can’t just bring in a new cook. They have to work with the old one. So, I have this model here, that somebody is pissed off or they want to go do whatever they want. I’ll pay you for a month, you’ve got to give me 30 days notice. In fact, if I hate you one day, and I don’t want you to work here anymore, I’ll still pay you for 30 days. So whether you don’t like it here or I don’t like you, or something happens, I’m willing to do that. It’s better for them. It’s better for us.

Andrew: I see. You don’t someone to suddenly disappear.

Jack: Exactly.

Andrew: OK, I want to get back to that in a moment. But first, staying with this situation where you lost a vendor, you actually did something that most entrepreneurs dread doing because of a conversation you had with your accountant. What did your accountant say?

Jack: He said, go get a job.

Andrew: Were you insulted when he said that?

Jack: I knew that that was the last thing I would do. I think that that was his job. Because, generally, accountants are conservative. In this case, he definitely was conservative. He said, maybe it’s time you should look at maybe getting a job. I think it just adds to the motivation. I think you just get more and more motivated. There weren’t a lot of people lined up to tell me I couldn’t do it.

It’s not like I was a football player, and I was drafted in the tenth round, and I want to beat out the guy who was drafted in the first round. I’m just somebody that had an idea, and I think I can make a pretty good presentation.

By the way, when that vendor dropped out, I went, made an appointment, and pleaded my case to that vendor to make sure that I did everything I could before that vendor dropped out.

Andrew: And you still couldn’t bring him back?

Jack: I couldn’t bring him back.

Andrew: You ended up calling a headhunter, after your CPA told you to get a job?

Jack: No, I didn’t call headhunters. Is that in our notes?

Andrew: I thought it was. So you didn’t even get that far?

Jack: Must have been another interview. [??]

Andrew: [laughs] It’s all together. Did you do anything about that? Did you start looking for a job?

Jack: You know what. I can’t remember now. You’re kind of jarring my memory. I think I did kind of search the internet, or looked around, just for a comfort zone.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Jack: Just to sort of ease that fear of, well, if my business doesn’t come back, so and so will hire me. Yeah, you’re right.

Andrew: Here’s what I worried about when I was in that situation where I said I should go look for a job. I said, no one’s looking to hire an entrepreneur. If I was a developer entrepreneur, there’d be tons of jobs. There’s no jobs sitting there waiting for an entrepreneur who thinks he knows everything, and is bullheaded enough to continue to pursue this. Right?

Jack: I don’t know. I’m an entrepreneur, but I’m a salesperson at heart.

Andrew: I see. So there’s always room for a salesperson too?

Jack: You don’t want to get out there, necessarily, and start selling bottled water tomorrow. I think if you’re a salesperson, and you have, maybe, what it takes, I think the last person that’s going to starve is a salesperson. Being a true salesperson at heart, I just would say, well, I might have to sell cars. I don’t know. The point is I think I could sell anything, so I’m not going to starve.

Andrew: I feel that way too. I also feel like I’ve got all these connections from my interviews. My Skype is full of great entrepreneurs, and so is my Rolodex. Rolodex, whatever that is.

Jack: Calling on all the people that are calling you about all your success, and everything you’ve done, now all of a sudden you have to turn around. I have a good friend of mine who went public and runs a big software company. I always think, well, he’ll give me a job. It doesn’t matter. The last thing I wanted was call him for a job.

Andrew: Right. [laughs]

Jack: I’m not calling him. I’ll call him when things are really good to tell him about my business. The day I have to call him for a job is going to be the worst phone call in the world. How about that we started this interview out, and I went and we talked about revenue and went from 2 thousand to 11 thousand, or excuse me, 2 million to 11 million. I’m still not sure how we got to that point.

Andrew: You know what. I wonder how we did that too. I’m going to have to go back and re-listen. Unfortunately, the audience has a leg up on me here, because they probably are looking at the transcript going, this is the answer, Andrew.

I don’t have that. I do see, though, from my notes, even though I looked at it independently here. Sales are 2 million a month of member’s purchases to vendors. That’s what Jeremy also had in the notes. Equivalent of 12 people working full-time, and in-house we have 5 people. 300 thousand businesses on the network. I don’t know where we got that. 4 million employees taking advantage of the program.

Jack: All right. Some numbers are higher than they should, and some are a little lower. But . . .

Andrew: Yeah.

Jack: … as long as [TD] at the end of the day.

Andrew: Overall, I think we did a pretty good job getting the numbers out. That’s why I need an hour here. It takes a little time to really investigate information. Let’s see what else I’ve got here. We talked about someone leaving. You ask them now for 30 days. Is that partially because you had someone work for you for 7 years and then suddenly disappeared?

Jack: Yeah, I don’t know seven years is still a long time. But, you kind of get the feeling that when somebody works for you for seven years that they probably think they know more than you do. But you don’t want to tell them that because you don’t want to piss them off. But everybody that was working for me seemed like everybody worked for about seven years. It was as if we had this turnover after about seven or eight years. And everybody slowly became, I would sort of everybody’s age or even maybe younger to the next generation being older than everybody and everybody being much, much younger. Because that whole internet boom took place where we truly became sort of a B2B e-commerce site. And all of our members were coming from the internet and all of our information was driven from there so we just transformed and everybody went to sort of hanging out with headphones at their computer. And it just completely had a different dynamic it was just, you know, making sure we had coffee. We now had to make sure we had gourmet coffee and a ping pong table.

Andrew: Because you suddenly found yourself an internet company?

Jack: Right, you want to like rip your ceiling out and make sure the pipes are exposed and you have that right look. Now of all these internet companies we start to visit. So we became so high tech overnight.

Andrew: The site in 2003 had members and, just basically the home page said members enter here, non-members enter there. You were still in the mode of getting people to become members. If I’m a non-member and I click on that I don’t even get to see any of the discounts. Today as I look at it, in many ways it looks like a business version of those coupon sites that I go to 5 minutes before I go to amazon. 5 minutes before I go to Banana Republic to buy my pants. And I say let me get a quick discount before I check out. That model changed right?

Jack: Yeah, I mean those sites have believe it or not haven’t been around. I was always looking over my head to see who’s going to be our competition. Now coupon sites, I believe to a degree, are our competition because we have millions of employees that use our programs. But traditionally businesses, when they need a laptop they can’t wait for a daily deal site to have a laptop.

Andrew: I don’t mean like a Groupon. I mean more like a retail me not.

Jack: Absolutely, but a retail me not, yeah, they have become definitely from a search standpoint I would say sort of a competing vendor. Because they have everything. So they seem like they compete with everybody on every channel for everything. From a coupon for TJ Maxx to a coupon if your going to go buy a new commode for the house that you’re building. We still really seem to have a good penetration into the business market. That doesn’t mean that somebody that owns a small business doesn’t go to retail me not. So, yeah, you know.

Andrew: It did become unfortunately similar to that. In that [??] becomes an issue you want to get more traffic to your coupons or to your discounts. But by calling it a business network. A buying group it feels like it creates a more incentive for people to join the mailing list as opposed to just grab a coupon and leave.

Jack: Yeah, plus, look, we work very hard at the business that join. So not only you’re getting a deal that you can see. But as a business that joins, where Retail Me Not your visiting there and you’re looking for something. When you join ABN you’re going to get like an over-sized postcard with all your information, you’re going to get an instant email. You’re going to get a variety of emails throughout the month. In addition to your special you’re going to get items. A lot of the businesses that join ABN might join because of our Hertz business deal but they end up using 3 other vendors because of the marking they get later on. So, in that respect I think the whole impact of how we market and grow within our own group is very different then the model you just described. Like a Retail Me Not or a Fat Wallet or something like that.

Andrew: Alright, let me explain this mug that I’m holding up here. Then I got a question to ask you from the list of questions. Jeremy at the end of your pre-interview said “What did I forget to ask you?” And I’m so glad that he did because there’s something here that I hadn’t heard before and I want to bring it up. But first, I want to quickly explain, the reason why I’m holding this mug is because I asked my audience, hey- I’m usually holding mugs with nothing on them. I can hold your mug if you got one with a logo. Just, as I said to them, tell me what your business is.

Jack: You could’ve bought that mug from 4imprint on ABN and saved 10 percent.

Andrew: From what, 4imprint on ABN?

Jack: Yeah, because that’s one of our national vendors, but that’s okay, go ahead.

Andrew: No, I wish that people would have done that actually. It seems like they all bought it from the same maker because all the mugs, the logo, like this guy, what is this, Thought Puzzle, it’s this way. So if I’m holding the mug to drink, you can’t see the logo. If people watch this video, they see that I’m awkwardly sometimes holding the mug this way just to show the logo and ‘Thought Puzzle’. Anyway, so I ask this guy what his business was about so I could talk about it; he sent me, Jack, a list of tweets explaining what I should talk about, a list of…I can’t even figure it out. So what I’m going to do is just give the short version, which is, ‘We help folks discover stuff in their data. We’re launching Thought Puzzle University [??] to help people discover stuff in their data.’ Chris, I hope I did a good job with that. I just copied one of the things that you said. You also said that what you loved about Mixergy is that Mixergy teaches you how to sell period. And as you can see with this interview with Jack, there’s a big benefit to being able to sell. You never feel like you’re…like you can always get a job if you can sell. While I’m talking here about Mixergy and the Mixergy community let me also say that Ash [SP], the founder of Running Lean, taught a course on Mixergy on the lean methodology of building a business. If you’re a premium member go to Mixergy.com and just take that course. I love that guy.

In fact, if you hate Mixergy and you never want to get a membership, go get his book, get it from a library. I’m not looking to make money off of you. I want you to find out Ash’s ideas, and use them. And if you are someone who doesn’t learn from books, we have a course with him where you can learn, and see his ideas in action with me. We recorded it together. You just go to Mixergypremium.com, sign up, and it’s one of dozens of courses taught by proven entrepreneurs who teach you their method. In this case Ash teaches you the method that he uses for starting companies. We also have others who teach you how to write copy, how to increase your sales, how to do A/B testing, all that stuff is in there at Mixergypremium.com, and I guarantee you’ll love it, so go sign up now if you’re not a member.

Jack: You brought up the short amount of hours that I work and said something that you just…

Andrew: I didn’t, you know, I was going to use that as the headline. My initial start was going to be, ‘How does a guy who works from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. build a profitable company.’ And I said that shouldn’t be emphasized. But since you brought it up, we should talk about it. Why do you work from 8:00 to 2:00, and how do you make that work for you?

Jack: First of all, I don’t always work those hours, but part of my first conversation with Jeremy, I got stuck on that. I’m just on of those…I’m not a hundred hour a week person. It’s not me. I mean, I’m done, 2:00. If I get in early, great, which I do now. Maybe I would’ve gotten where I am 10 years earlier if I would’ve been in twice as much time. I just wasn’t willing to do that. It’s just not me, so, what, it’s like 3:15 for me right now? I’m out of here after this is done.

Andrew: Were you a little upset with me that we did this interview at 2:00 your time?

Jack: No, not really.

Andrew: Were you feeling a little tired at the end of the day and, come on, who is this guy who’s about to talk to you for an hour on camera?

Jack: Well, I don’t mind talking about myself and my business. That’ll always wake me up.

Andrew: So how do you make it work? I would like to leave the office at 2:00. How do you make that work?

Jack: You just do. I just do it. I mean, I don’t even think it’s a good thing. I have nobody here to hide from or to so if I’m finished, I’m going to make sure I’m finished at 2:00. I’m not going to schedule anything, and I’m going to run errands, and I’m going to do a few things, and I’m going to be home at 4:00, 4:30 by the time I…whatever. Grab a bite and that’s it.

Andrew: I see. You’re saying that just by taking this stand that you’re going to do it, you find ways to make that work, and people understand that this guy who I work for happens to leave at 2:00, we accept it, we’ll work around it.

Jack: A guy told me once that I, when I worked for that [??] co-op, I worked for a board. So, you know, every couple of years there’d be a new board member or something, but you got to meet most of the guys on the board because you worked for them. And they all had their own business, like a guy used to say to me, ‘I always leave work at 1:00 because I work smarter,’ he would say. Anybody that works eight hours a day, they spend half their day yapping on the phone, or whatever. I’m not saying I still do that and still leave at 2:00, but I think I bought into that whole concept, that’s what I tell people.

Andrew: Would you let your people leave at 2:00, too?

Jack: No.

Andrew: No. That’s a good idea.

Jack: Because they might…they work, but I don’t…I’m all about…I’m not wasting any time on anything usually that doesn’t have anything to do with work.

Andrew: That is a good idea partially because don’t you have a phone number too on your website?

Jack: I think we do. Yeah, we have an 800 number.

Andrew: I thought so. Somebody needs to man that.

Jack: Yeah, the phone. But now we answer member services, which is nice so . . .

Andrew: Here’s another thing, I know I’ve got to let you go. But the final thing I wanted to ask you about too is, you didn’t have a partner at first but you did have a friend who had a building. And somehow that gave you the same kinds of conversations that people might have with a partner.

Jack: Yeah, it was a really short window. And actually, he wasn’t even that close of a friend. I was dating a girl and it was her sister’s husband. And this guy was a brilliant guy and he manufactured hats. He had a hat factory that he bought this business from some other guy. And they had this really big building, where they made the hats was full with the people that were making the hats. But he only had a few staff people that did the billing. He did a lot of things there and he’s really a nice guy. And he said, ‘hey, I’ve got this building and I’ve got a bunch of empty space. If you don’t mind working in the cold.’ Because he didn’t heat most of the building, and he was the type of person that said I could bounce some ideas off of him. And he said, ‘I could give you, like 15 minutes at the end of the day.’ So I would meddle around, work on my model, and at the end of the day spends 15 minutes with him. You know, looking back I think that everything counts so I just remember that it was in the middle of the winter in Pittsburg and I had my own bathroom in this massive building but it was freezing in there. I mean, it’s just something that you remember if you have to sit on an ice cold toilet. So there was no heat on that side of the building. I ran into him once and the town that this place is called Creighton, P.A and I saw him recently.

I came up to him and the first thing I said to him was, ‘I’m going to write my auto biography and I’m going to call it “A Cold Bathroom in Creighton.” And he instantly got it, even though it was 18 years ago, he knows how cold that bathroom was, and he liked the title, even though I’m not writing a book. A bathroom in Creighton because that’s where it all started and we got a kick out of it.

Andrew: Well, thank you so much for doing this interview. I’m just going to say to my audience that I asked my assistant Andrea to email past interviewees to see what sunk, what did we do well, and what was the impression after the interview was done. And I think every single person who she emailed said, ‘I love how the audience responded to me and how the audience actually reached out to me.’ So let me say this, if you’re listening to these interviews and your thinking I’m not just a guy who wants to listen, I want to say thank you to Jack, I want to find a way to connect with him. I urge you to find that way because I would hesitate thinking these guys don’t want to hear from me. They just did this interview; they don’t want to hear from someone in the audience. I’m hearing that they do and that they love it when someone says thank you for doing the interview. So Jack, if someone wants to say thank you for having done this interview because they learned one interesting or useful thing what’s a good way for them to do that?

Jack: Just send me an email, Jack@abnsave.com. I’d love to see what people think. I’d even stay an extra hour too and read them. A-B-N, which people always hear in different letters. It’s Allied Business Network. A-like in Alice, B-like in Boy, and N-like in Nancy, Save. So it’s Jack@abnsave.com. Yeah, I’d love to hear what people think and if they had any questions I would be more than happy to answer anything.

Andrew: Thanks for doing it. And guys if you do email remember the guy needs to leave by 2:00 so please none of these long emails that I sometimes see go out to guests. Keep it short, keep it effective, and let you both move on with their lives. Or continue the relationship later on. There’s more time to send more long emails later on in the relationship. Start off a little shorter. All right Jack, that’s my advice to the audience. I’m going to say to you thank you so much for doing this interview.

Jack: Thank you.

Andrew: And to everyone who is watching. Thank you, and to everyone who’s watching thanks for being a part of it.

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  • Irina

    Andrew, I just wanted to let you know that the idea with mugs and promoting someone from your audience is wonderful.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Thanks. To be honest, the response wasn’t as strong as I expected. I wasn’t sure if anyone even cared.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arwin.sardana Arwin Sardana

    Hey Andrew, I watch a lot of these interviews but don’t post comments. I’ll agree with Irina – I think it’s cool of you to do that.

  • Brandi Young

    I like that you’re willing to do that for viewers (it’s very ShoeMoney-esque) but it is awkward to watch. (In this one in particular I was very conscious that you were trying to position the mug just right throughout the show every time you took a sip. You seemed distracted by it.)

    Each time, I get the sense that the interviewee is confused and/or put off by what just happened and I find myself wondering if they are annoyed or if they knew there was going to be a mug intermission.

    Do you get that sense too?

  • Irina

    I didn’t even notice that Andrew was trying to position the mug or anything :) To me it wasn’t distracting, but I agree with you, Brandi, that sometimes interviewees are surprised by the “mug intermission”. (by the way, I like that term!) Maybe a bit of warning that this is a tradition here on Mixergy would be great. But either way, it shows that Andrew cares and makes me want to be a more active member of community.

  • http://www.decalmarketing.com/adwords-book/ Iain Dooley

    Hey Jack, great interview and a really enjoyable story. What I loved most is that you said that the things we worry about are legit – don’t ignore them!

    What I hear so much from people when I say something like “Oh I’m really worried that X” they’re like “Oh don’t worry you’ll be fine” … but how do they know that!?! And most of the time the things I’m worrying about are legitimate problems or things that could really become problems if left unaddressed.

    The issue is when the worrying becomes irrational. How do you deal with *unconstructive* worrying? When worrying about something genuinely means you don’t get enough sleep, that’s damaging to your productivity – how do you shut it out?

    Also I can relate to having an accountant tell you to go get a job – however in my case my accountant told me I was such a terrible businessman and that he’d seen me so consistently lose money that I’d be better off on the dole!! He was kind of joking … but he really did believe I should just give up and go do something else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.mccrary.12 Kyle McCrary

    The insecurity about disappointing friends, gives me the feeling that the particular entrepreneur you mentioned, Andrew, doesn’t feel like he/she is delivering a quality product/service. Personally, I hold pleasing customers to the same degree (OR MORE) that I do friends. Friends will forgive me. New customers won’t. And If I’m doubting if my own (possibly biased) friends will not enjoy my business, then I need to change what I’m distributing.
    I WANT my friends to try out what I’m serving. I’m proud of what I have to offer and can value their responses to my product or service.

    Thanks for another one, Andrew. Enjoyed the information you shared, Jack.

  • imlou

    FYI, Forward Labs (where I work) hires entrepreneurs ;) They definitely don’t go home at 2pm though – although I really like that idea!

  • Brandi Young

    I’d like to put this in perspective because I think you might be overlooking some natural (albeit bizarre) human tendencies that might be at play in this type of situation.

    Have you ever given a close friend or relative an answer to something, had them discount it as rubbish only to witness them hear the *exact same answer* from someone else and accept it as gospel? It happens to doctors all the time.

    Your friends and family have seen you struggle. They’ve seen you doubt yourself. They knew you when you were “just a [whatever].” I think you can be confident in the quality of your product/service and still worry what your friends and family will have to say about it.

    The insecurity may speak more to the strength of the relationship than to the quality of the product/service. What do you think?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.mccrary.12 Kyle McCrary

    Brandi, I appreciate the alternate perspective, although I’m not sure I follow exactly. Are you saying that, because your friends have a bias perspective, they may give you feedback that you won’t take to heart, as you would a customer? Or, are you saying that you might feel, since your friends know you better – not as some bigshot businessperson, but as the person you’ve always been – they may judge more critically?

  • Brandi Young

    More the latter. Not that they would judge you more critically but they would judge you more inaccurately taking into account personal indecurities or flaws they know about you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.mccrary.12 Kyle McCrary

    Oh! I see.. Thanks for the insight Brandi.
    Interesting to think how this would differ for every entrepreneur, depending on the different relationships and mindset of each.

  • http://www.a-t-w-c.com/ STU

    Just signed up for an ABN account. I enjoyed the casualness of the conversation, but the inconsistent info was curious. Office hours 8 – 2pm…. hmmm… am I (we all) working too much? I want to spend more time on trails, not at my desk. I need to revisit this conversation in a couple weeks after reflecting on it for a bit.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Hearing his schedule was a pleasant surprise.

    I wonder how many other founders have shorter-than-average hours but don’t like to talk about it because others might think they’re not serious enough.

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