I frequently get asked, “How did you meet Mike Mann?” It all started when Mike added me on Facebook – yes, Facebook. After looking at all the companies listed on his profile, I said to myself, “How can one guy own so many companies? And furthermore, if he is who he says he is, why would this CEO be adding me on Facebook?” Shortly after connecting online, Mike and I met for lunch in Boca Raton, Florida. We hit it off right away but I still was unsure about him, as I have met many wannabes doing “business” here in South Florida. When I met Mike, I was expecting to meet a polished businessman in dress clothes. I came in my formal business attire and Mike showed up in casual jeans and a t-shirt that had the logo of his charity on it.
I quickly realized that Mike was the “real deal” when he got into explaining the list of current companies he owned and operated, including Phone.com (a VOIP phone service that has 60 employees and 40,000 monthly subscribers), SEO.com (which at the time had over 100 employees and 1,000 clients, including Dell Computers), and his most valuable company, DomainMarket.com (an aftermarket domain site with 350,000 premium domain names, all of which Mike owns personally). All three of Mike’s companies appeared on the 2012 INC 500 List, which highlights america’s fastest growing private companies. He also recently sold Sex.com for $13 million dollars, and he is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for selling the most expensive domain name ever. Mike also shared with me that on top of all of his business ventures, what he really cares about most is his charity called Grassroots.org, which supports more than 10,000 other charities each year!
So as you could imagine, I was starting to get little nervous listening to Mike and wondering what he was going to think of me. But I was confident during our lunch meeting and shortly after, I was able to get Mike as a client through my company at the time, Boca Web Design. Fast forward two years later, and Mike has become an investor in my company, my business partner, our CEO, my mentor and one of my best friends. Besides investing cash and his time, Mike also contributed the ultra premium domain name WebDevelop.com, which we used to re-brand our business.
Below is a list of some of the most valuable lessons I have learned from working with and for Mike Mann over the past two years. It took me one entire year longer than it should have, but Mike’s lessons are finally sinking in and being implemented. Don’t waste time like I did- follow these business best practices to skip the learning curve and propel your company’s success.
20. “What Are You Waiting For?”
Mike constantly stresses the importance of having urgency while moving through your goals. He says, “These are the things you have to do to get to the next step. You can choose to do them now or later, but you have to do them to get the next step.” So why not do them now? Mike also says, “We already spoke about it – just do it”. If you have spent the time to plan something and agreed to do it, it was probably a good idea – stop wasting time and just do it! It sounds simple, but take massive, immediate action towards your goals every day.
19. You Must Have a Business Plan, and Execute the Plan
Over time, I realized why I was resistant to not finishing our full detailed business plan: I wouldn’t fail. It’s easy not to fail if you do not have a plan that forces you to be measured and be held accountable. Operating without a detailed plan is like driving your car without knowing where you’re headed. Having a business plan sounds like a basic concept, but most businesses operate without an actual business plan, including mine for 2 years. Having a business plan does not mean things won’t change, and if you have a new idea or if policies do indeed change, “they must go in the plan.” According to Mike, “If you have a better idea, put it in the plan…Only the best ideas are left in the plan.” Develop a full business plan and execute the plan! You can always change it but at minimum, you will have your entire team working on the same goals and moving in one direction.
18. Focus on What’s Important
While running a business, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations that happen “in” your business while not focusing “on” your business. Mike says “Don’t make excuses to yourself on why you can’t to do something; we already agreed on what the most important items are.” Don’t let the little everyday fires overcome the importance of accomplishing the main objectives to grow the company. In other words, learn how to delegate everyday tasks for your business and focus on top-line growth, whether it be marketing the business, hiring a superstar employee, developing a business plan, meeting with investors or creating strategic partnerships.
17. What Gets Measured Gets Improved
From day one of investing in my company, Mike stressed the importance of setting, monitoring and reporting our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). I’ve had the opportunity not only to develop a very thorough set of KPIs which give me a clear understanding of our business, but also report on them to the presidents and CEOs of Mike’s other companies. Having numerous experienced executives inspect the sensitive details of your business operations is not easy or comfortable. Yet, it certainly holds your feet to the fire and pushes you to perform and constantly improve. I encourage you to do a similar routine with a group of your business colleagues.
16. “Skip the Bullshit and Get To the Numbers”
Mike doesn’t want to hear the fluff – he wants the hard facts, as I’m sure many of your business colleagues and investors probably do as well. Get to the heart of the project quickly, and talk about the money and the core points on how you’re going to make it happen. Don’t avoid the numbers; executives and investors will not be interested in what you are speaking about if they don’t understand the numbers. Present your business agreement with the most important facts first, and save the least important information for last.
15. Don’t Have Causal Meetings and Focus on Closing
In business, every meeting must have a purpose, and that purpose should be to close a deal or move the deal to the next step. Do not show up to a meeting without having a specific goal of the meeting, and in most cases, an agreement ready to be signed. Be prepared with a presentation to show potential clients, partners and investors. Be ready with answers to questions by asking yourself, “What would I want to know?” and “What would I ask?” If you do not know the answer to a question, don’t lie -they will know you’re lying. Simply say that you are unsure and will get back to them. The most important thing to do is understand how to bring value to the other side and move quickly to close the deal, as “time kills all deals”.
14. Say “No” More Than You Say “Yes” and Be Willing to Walk Away
Have a final price before going into a deal and stick to it. If you’re not sure a particular deal will make a profit, walk away. For me, this is hard at times as I’m all about trying to make a deal work and accommodate both sides. Furthermore, when you’re a small business, every dollar in the door counts and it’s easy to say “yes” to a bad deal because you need the money to operate. However, Mike reminds me to understand what our margins are and to figure out if the deal will be profitable. It takes a while for any business to truly understand everything that goes into how you make or lose money. Yet, once you figure it out, it becomes easier to make decisions and you are able to say “no” easier and more often. Mike has the fortunate opportunity to say “no” dozens, if not, hundreds of times a day, to people making him offers to purchase a domain in his collection. In short, become comfortable saying “no”, more than you say “yes” and this will help you pick the right clients that are profitable for you.
13. Have an Unfair Advantage, and “Go For the Kill”
Follow business best practices and take small steps towards your goals every day. Everyday your efforts will compound, and over years, your competition will not be able to keep up. Having consistency through creating routines, rituals or habits is hard to do, but it is also one of the most powerful tools you have to take out your competition. One routine that has helped me is to set three outcomes for each day that I must complete. Follow Mike’s resource guide BestPracticesGuide.com to learn more business best practices that will help you achieve your goals.
12. Be a Leader
A manager is someone that you “have to” follow, and a leader is someone you “choose” to follow. Show up every day and act how you want your staff to perform. It sounds simple, but it’s tough. When you’re the boss, its easy to say “I don’t have to do that” or “that doesn’t apply to me”. Subconsciously or consciously, staff follow the behaviors of the leader, both negative and positive. If you want your staff to show up to work on time, you must show up to work on time. As the owner or leader of your organization, say thank you to the people who help make your success and you must take responsibility when things are wrong. Also, it’s critical for the success of your business that you have a clear vision and make sure everyone in your organization is not only clear on the vision, but is aware of what important role they play in making it happen. Mike makes every new employee read our business plan to understand the larger vision of the company and what we are working towards. Celebrate team victories more than you celebrate individuals.
11. Always Be Interviewing for New Talent Even if You’re Not Able to Hire Just Yet
Finding the right people, hiring, training and then retaining them is by far the hardest and most important part of running a business. If you have great people working for you, they can create great products, and great products and services attract great customers. We believe everything starts and ends with finding and retaining great people. Mike has taught me to always interview and scout new team members at least once a week, if not daily. Mike encourages me to be looking for and interviewing talented people even when we are not ready to hire them just yet. At first, I did not understand this, but the reason is because it takes time to find the right people. As soon as you have the cash in the bank to hire them, you want to be able to move quickly and have people lined up to bring on board.
10. Fire Quickly and Separate Your Personal Feelings
As soon as you know it’s not going to work out with certain staff members, get rid of them. As an owner of a small business, I have a hard time letting people go, due to the fact that everyone becomes your friend and you care about everyone on a personal level. Yet, it is essential for a business owner to separate their emotions of how they feel about someone personally and determine if they are the right fit for the company. I have not mastered the art of letting someone go and there has yet to be a time that I fired someone soon enough. In every case, I have let people stay too long and waste too much time and money, which ultimately affects everyone at the company. The only reason this happens is because I let my personal appreciation for someone get in the way of evaluating their ability to make us money. I believe that as we grow and add more structured guidelines, such an employee handbook, that my personal emotions will be separated from the equation.
9. Don’t Do What You’re Not Good At – Delegate and Outsource
Hire professionals to operate everything you’re not good at. I’m not the best at accounting and I like to tell Mike that “I’m much better at making money than spending money”. This is why our entire accounting department is outsourced and managed by professionals. Don’t waste your valuable time: understand and focus on the 80/20 rule. Figure out what you do 20% of the time that generates 80% of the results. For me, this is meeting with clients and investors. Try to outsource or delegate the 80% of things you are currently doing that is generating little to no value for yourself or your company.
8. Take Care of Your Customers – All of Them
Take care of your current and past customers as if they are brand new customers. It’s easy to focus on the new and exciting deals as well as the deals that bring in the most cash. However, you have given a promise to each customer and you never know where your next big referral will come from. Deliver the same quality product and service to each customer or simply do not take them on. Mike actually invented a role in the company called the Vice President of “UCRR” – Upselling, Cross-selling, Retention and Referrals. The main purpose of this position is to provide better service to all of our existing customers. Many successful companies grow their business quicker by focusing more on their existing customers than fighting to find new ones. Always be asking what else you can do to service your existing customers’ needs.
7. Always Be Honest, Even When It’s Hard
In business and in life, you have to have the willingness to be open, vulnerable and honest. Always tell the truth and reveal as much information as you can. Operating in an open fashion will allow the other side to trust you and you will gain more information from them as well. Being honest is always the best approach to doing business with people as long as possible. If you lie to your clients, partners or investors, they will eventually find out and not continue to do business (and certainly not refer business). “Present deals that are fair enough that you would give to a family member,” said Mike. This doesn’t mean, don’t make money per se, it simply means to be honest and to be upfront. Mike also likes me to present him with any bad news early, so we can handle it as quickly as possible, as I’m sure your clients and investors do as well. Try not to let your ego get in the way of running your business properly. Its not easy to report bad news to your boss that might make you look bad, but mistakes happen and you need to address them as soon as possible (before they get worse and you do not have a choice).
6. Confidence is Key: Value Yourself and What You Offer
Understand the value of your product, your service and yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for more. Mike once told me that when he signs his name to a business, the value of the company goes up by $1 million dollars instantly. That’s certainly a strong statement to make, but it takes someone who believes in themselves with such conviction to be able to create that much value. Understand what your unique gifts are and how that makes you valuable. Focus on doing the things you’re great at and be confident doing them. Having confidence gives others confidence in your ability to accomplish what you say you’re going to do. Smart business people will be able to feel if you’re real or fake so it takes more than just confidence, but having confidence in yourself is where it all starts.
5. It’s All a Mindset: “Get Over Your Mental Blocks”
I believe most businesses are stuck at the same level that their leaders limiting beliefs are at. Find ways to overcome your mental blocks (your limiting beliefs and fears) so you can get to the next step. Its easy to get stuck in why we “can’t” do something. There will always be many reasons why you “can’t” do things (not enough money, not enough time, not enough experience, etc.), and there will always be many examples of people who have accomplished what you’re trying to do with less resources. It’s all about having the right mindset and following the lessons from those who have already done it – success leaves clues. But most importantly, you must find and focus on “why” accomplishing this goal is so important to you and what it will mean for you if you do accomplish it. If you’re clear and focused on the “why”, you will figure out the “how”. Another way to get over your fears is to focus on the reward. Find out what motivates you as well as what motivates the people on your team. Encourage the people around you focus on their dreams and help them in accomplishing their goals, and you will certainly accomplish yours.
4. “Pay the Mann”
We’re in business to make money. “We are not in business to make thousands; we are in this business to make millions”. If your company is surviving by merely paying the bills it is not a business, but rather a job with many risks and extra stress. As Mike says, “we are in business to make a profit” and in this case, “pay the Mann”. Your business needs to generate enough profit to pay back loans, give investors high returns and eventually you can cashout. To learn more money making tips, check out Mike’s book for free at MakeMillions.com.
3. Give Back
Early on, Mike showed me how important it is to always give back. From donating money to charity, to giving gifts to underprivileged children, to spending time increasing his charities’ impact on the world, Mike incorporates giving back into everything he does in business. In fact, his primary slogan is named “Social Capital Enterprises”. Mike believes that giving back and making a lasting positive difference should be one of the core reasons to be in business. There are many ways to give back, even if you think you do not have the means to. One way to give back is to donate your time and talents on a non-profit board that you care about.
You only live once. Take risks! You’ll surprise yourself with what you can accomplish. That goes for both your business and your personal life. Outside of the office, Mike always pushes me to speak to pretty ladies. It’s certainly outside of my comfort zone to do so, and I won’t lie: many of these experiences have not been so rewarding. But on the other hand, I have also created many special moments in my life by risking a little embarrassment.
1. Show up, Follow Up and Finish Strong, aka Close the Deal
50% of success is showing up. You do not get “lucky”, if you’re not there. There are too many events, people, prospects, partners, investors, and clients to effectively keep track of by yourself. I have a full time assistant to help me which gives me an “unfair advantage”, but we still operate from a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system such as Salesforce.com that helps us keep track of all interactions and stay in front of our contacts. This brings me to the more important point: close the deal. Everything is a waste of time, money and opportunity cost if you do not follow up and close the deal. It’s fun to start things and you may learn something valuable, but the goal is to finish what you start. As Mike says, “Close the deal and get the cash”.
The Bottom Line
Mike is not the easiest person to work with, and certainly not to work for. Nonetheless and at the end of the day, Mike is almost always right – at least in business. I’m very appreciative to have Mike both as my business partner and someone who pushes me to be better. It unfortunately takes me a while to truly learn, fully implement and then ultimately appreciate the lessons shared. I by no measure have mastered all of them, but I do try my best to operate my companies with these principles and many more I have learned from other successful entrepreneurs (visit KeysToSuccess.org to see more). I hope you can take a few of these lessons and implement them without having to learn the long and hard way like I did. Although, you probably will, as many of us entrepreneurs are fixed on paving our own path and creating our own unique journey. Lastly, as my dad Gene Roefaro once taught me, “Don’t take advice from someone who doesn’t already have what you want”. Go for your dreams and pick a business partner or mentor who already has what you are seeking – learn from the masters. Thank you Mike Mann for all of your help and guidance in business. I only hope to pay you back “millions” of times over.