This is the third in a series of posts in which I’ll be sharing what the entrepreneurial millionaires I interviewed did to create success. The first post can be found here, and you can check out the full stories in my book, 21 Questions for 21 Millionaires: How Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Success.
Note. The bolded text are my questions regarding how they created success and their answers follow in regular text.
Millionaire 10 John “Jack” Odom
Did you always want to be a doctor?
Since I was 13.
Where did that come from?
My father…[he] was a farmer.
When we had hog killing day, he taught me anatomy. The more he taught me anatomy, the more I wanted to learn about it. When I was 13, we had a cow that had a calf hung up and he had three of us hold her down while he did a C-Section on her. After I saw that I thought, “Boy, that’s the real thing.”
My dad said to me not long after that, “You like anatomy, you like hog killing day, and after the C-Section you were so excited that I think you ought to consider being a doctor.”
What did you enjoy best about it?
Becoming a spine surgeon.
I operated on a little girl who had about a 90-degree curve in her spine. I put screws through her on the convexity, put a cable through the screw head, cut out the disc, tightened down the cable, and made her totally straight. It was the first one done in Colorado, and the second one done in the United States.
We had before and after pictures; it was pretty dramatic. Orthopedic surgeons started sending patients to me like crazy.
I was in a group with six other surgeons. I brought in more revenue than anybody else, but we split it evenly; I didn’t like that...so I moved across town. In the first year I tripled my income, the second year I quadrupled my income… The best way to make money is to work for yourself, not somebody else.
Did you ever have a vision of where you wanted to be in life?
Yes, I wanted to be known as somebody who knew how to do something better than anybody else in my community.
Millionaire 11 Mark Sanborn
What prompted your transition from public speaking with a company to your own business?
I just didn’t want to be doing low-fee public seminars anymore.
CareerTrack was billing me out to clients for a great deal more than what they paid me, so I already knew my value in the marketplace was dramatically more than I was earning as a contract trainer.
What did you do to get good?
I’ve always been a great student in my craft. I was always willing to study my clients more deeply, prepare more thoroughly, and spend more time creating. I was just willing to go beyond the easy and obvious.
I boot strapped. I never had even a significant lump sum of money to start my business, which is why I’m a big fan of professional services firms. They are less capital-intensive to start.
How did you gain your first clients?
That was the helpful part of public seminar companies; they provided a steady stream of audiences...I got a lot of experience and chances to speak, which is the hardest part of becoming a professional speaker.
Until you’re a good speaker, no one will hire you. I spent from the time I was 10 until I was 18 speaking in front of audiences for free. That’s the other thing people forget: before you get paid to do anything, you do it a lot for free.
Is that one of the key things that holds people back from experiencing the success that they want?
I’m not sure. There are people who have done the research on what holds people back, but I personally think lack of motion is what holds people back. I always tell people I’d rather be splashing around in the ocean than sitting on the shore doing a strategic plan.
Millionaire 12 John Simcox
Tell me about graduating high school and then what was your plan in life?
My plan in life really started as a boy. I was the oldest of eight kids. My dad worked hard and struggled. Financially it was really a tough battle all the time.
My whole life as a boy I was working. I was always selling something so I’d have some money; otherwise I wouldn’t have anything. I’d raise chickens, fatten them up, and sell them in the neighborhood. I would sell corn by the dozen. In the morning I would get up early, pick the corn, and do the same drill again until the corn was gone. So that was the start of my entrepreneurial spirit.
I would collect the eggs out of the chicken coops, carried them in buckets or baskets down into the cellar and then my dad would pay me 25 cents a case to case them.
After years of farming, my dad went to work as a car salesman. He did very well, everybody liked him and he was the top salesman right away.
How did you know that [you were going to do well in life]?
I had watched other people.
I knew I had been blessed with a lot of things my dad had. I knew how to work hard and influence people, and I’d been taught leadership in the church as a boy priesthood leader.
I knew how to work with people, how to work hard, how to gain others’ respect, and I wasn’t afraid to ask for the order. I wasn’t afraid to be a little aggressive and at the same time I had a good, country, down-home approach. The combination just worked.
Did you ever expect, think of becoming, or desire to be a millionaire?
Never thought of it in that way, no.
I want to be successful. I want to be profitable. I want to have adequate for our family needs. The money was an issue because of my past, but my passion was more about being good at what we were doing, whatever it was.
Millionaire 13 Bill Begal
Would you say that integrity of following through on a promise to yourself is one of the reasons you’ve been successful?
Possibly, but not the absolute reason why.
Based on my experiences, my examples, my mentors, and the generation of people that I saw: they weren’t the smartest people, they weren’t the dumbest, but they had integrity and they worked hard and there was desire, there was drive. They were in new countries time and time again.
What happened to take you from that level to the next level?
We got a very large job and we did it; we made it happen.
How did you make the bridge from being an employee to being self-employed? Did you raise money, did you borrow money?
I moved back from L.A. and came to work for Uncle Bill’s son, David, in the dry cleaning business. About a year-and-a-half later he said, “Let’s talk about that fire and water thing you were doing.”
We started grassroots marketing out of one of the dry cleaning stores. I started chasing business, going after fire trucks, listening to scanners, and aggressively getting work.
At the end of that year he said, “This is all well and good,” he also owns property, “but I don’t want this any more. I’ll give you a couple of months to run it and figure out if you want it or not. If you do, great. If not, I’m going to bring someone in to run it.”
March 1, 1999, I took over Draiman Enterprises and it became Begal Enterprises. I borrowed $25,000 at 10 percent interest from my cousin and uncle. I had three years to pay off the debt.
Millionaire 14 Doug Krug
All of these experiences were just make the decision and run?
Every one of them.
…I also had other businesses and they all just flowed. That is the key to it: being in the flow and trusting and listening.
To what did you listen and what did you trust?
Spiritual guidance. The belief that everything was there for the opportunity in it and that the question to run on is, “What is the opportunity here?”
And not all of the answers are to move forward.
Not all of the decisions, just because an idea comes into your head, are to move forward with it. Sometimes the answer is “this is not a fit.”