Have a podcast in 30 days

Without headaches or hassles

In this episode, special guest Bob Holdsworth shares with you how to get out of the time-for-money trap, how he retains clients (some for nearly 30 years!), and the very thing that you actually need help with to grow your business to the next level.

Get ready for some more straight-talking advice – as well as some strategically placed kicks in the ass – from someone who’s been in your shoes to help you get unstuck and back on track to creating your version of success.

Show Highlights Include:

  • When taking a job pay cut can actually be worth it (0:40)
  • How to keep clients coming back to you, year after year, without the kickback or price resistance (4:15)
  • Bob’s love for consulting, and why it’s not a broken business model (10:10)
  • The most common – and sometimes most costly – mistake consultants make (12:10)
  • An impactful business lesson Entrepreneurs often learn the hard way (13:15)
  • Doing Business On Your Terms: What it means and how you can do it (20:45)

Find Out More & Connect with Bob Over On His LinkedIn Page Here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bobholdsworth

Read Full Transcript

No don't go in there, Daddy's working.

Jonathan: Yes, yes, y'all. It is another edition of the Daddy's Working podcast. If you were listening last week, then you heard part one of the interview, and I left you hanging. Gosh, I'm such a tease. But we're here, and we're ready to rock and roll, so let's dive back into part two of the interview.

You went into healthcare. What were you doing? What was the transition? Because you created a big company, but you didn't start there. How did you work your way? How did that track go?

Bob: Well, here's where everybody will wince on the call, but I'll tell you the truth. In 1979, 1980, I was making probably 50 grand a year running a restaurant, a chain restaurant for a company that still exists, and I was offered the position of store manager at this brand new style restaurant they were opening and it was going to be the #1 … everybody in the company was going to be looking at this, and if it worked well, that was going to be the new theme of the company. [0:01:22.4]

It turned out that was the new theme of the company, and they're still doing it today. The pay and bonuses were going to be 75 grand. Now, in 1980, 75 grand - in 2019, 75 grand is nothing to sneeze at, but …

Jonathan: That was decent…

Bob: … that was big money back then, but it was number one - I'd have to work for asshole, more closely than I wanted to and go from there and I'm like, nah, I don’t want to. So I left doing that and went into healthcare and started driving an ambulance for 40 hours a week and working in a level 1 trauma center emergency room 40 hours a week…

Jonathan: Wow.

Bob: …at $4/hour each job. [0:02:01.4]

Jonathan: Yikes.

Bob: So you can figure out the pay cut there. It was almost a 60% pay cut, but I enjoyed what I was doing taking care of patients and working with everything that was going on with that, and very quickly rose up the ranks because I had management experience. So I made the money back and was back to where I was within about 36 months, maybe a little less, and then kind of went on from there and made even more. And then did that for a period of time and in 1988, decided that I was going to hang out a shingle doing some stuff that … I was working for a hospital as administrator in the emergency department and the clients that we were working with all said, hey, can you help us with this, you know, state regulatory paperwork - can you help us with this stuff. So I did a lot of stuff for steak dinners and coffee in the beginning, just helping them out. I went to the hospital and I said, "Would you like to start an EMS consulting division as a revenue stream?" and they said no. [0:03:00.1]

I'm like, okay, well.. other people have done it. Here's what the revenue will look like. No. I'm like, do you mind if I do it? And they went, no, as long as you do your regular job - do whatever you want. So I hung out my shingle. Yep. I hung out my shingle and the clients that I had been helping for coffee and steak now paid money. The hospital that I was working for, I left and they were my first large client because they retained me for a year to help with special projects and stuff like that, which is a very common story as people open their doors, almost invariably one of the first customers you have is the company you just left. So over a period of years, the first year was really tough because they didn't come as quick as they said they would. The second year was easier. Third year was "Hey, can you help us with this," so we added a new line of business. Fourth year was, "Can you help us with this," and we added a new line of business and that fourth thing that they asked us for in year three turned out to be what I ended up selling for $3,000,000. [0:04:01.2]

So we started it in 1991 and from 1991 to 2017 grew it from "Can you help us with this" to 22 employees and you know a sale for $3,000,000, and then we broke off the other piece of the business, which I still have today, which is the consulting piece.

Jonathan: So how did you do that? Like how were you able to break those two pieces off so that you could keep what you wanted and get rid of the other piece? Now why did you get rid of the other piece? If it was working - first question - why did you get rid of that?

Bob: A number of reasons. One is the margins and the competition … the competition ramped up because they said, well, you know, if he can do it, anybody can do it. So a lot of people started jumping on the band wagon and when you see regulatory compliance - we were in the medical billing space and we were handling roughly about $54,000,000 worth of billing a year, gross billings a year. [0:05:01.4]

We had a 33% market share in our home state of Connecticut for the particular niche that we were in. So that grew over a period of time, but we also retained clients for 20 plus years. The longest customer that we had on the date of sale was, there were three of them that had been with us for all 28 years, and then there were a whole bunch in the 20-25 category. So but I explained to them, just as I explained to the employees - I said, Listen, we have increased competition. We don’t have the pricing integrity that we have had for years. We have compliance that is costing us more. We have training requirements that are going to, that you know, suddenly there's a requirement that's going to cost me $20,000 to get everybody trained and keep them compliant. There's, you know, all the different things that were going on, and on the consulting side, I'm advocating that you look at strategic partnerships between the ambulance services and the hospitals and stuff like that. [0:06:01.7]

You have to look at it at the back end of our business as well. And I said to them, listen, if we lose clients over pricing strategies and I cannot come down in price because of the way we do what we do and the returns that we get, even with as much technology as we brought into the business. If we lose clients, then that's going to be jobs for you guys because I have to keep at least some semblance of reasonable margin on this. So a company approached us and the first company that approached us because we were the big gorilla in the state about four years before we actually sold. They wanted to basically change absolutely everything, including the way client relationships were managed. And I'm like, you're going to kill this, and just, no, not a right fit, thank you very much - go back to the guiding principles and have a good day. Fast forward two years and another company approached us and the company was founded very much like mine, was slightly larger than mine, but we were two years older, but we had better retention. [0:07:02.5]

So it made a good fit and I said, okay, well let's talk about this. Take care of the customers. Take care of the staff and we'll find a price point. So they came in and they offered all of my employees jobs at their same rate of pay, in the same building - they're my tenant in the office building now - all of the people kept their seniority, which was important because I had people that had been with me for 18-20 years. So all their seniority transferred over to the new company. Somebody we had groomed for management became the director of the division. All of the clients were retained and their pricing strategies were guaranteed for three years as a way for them to transition into whatever else changes they might make. And the number for us was right, as I knew it would be. So we sold to them. They've made a few changes, but now they've actually come to realize that we are the most profitable division of the companies of the ones that they've bought, the acquisitions they've bought. So they're now applying some of our methodologies to their corporate structure after the first six months of well, we bought you - we're smarter than you - we're going to do it our way. Oh crap - that didn't work. Yeah - no kidding. [0:08:07.9]

You bought us for a reason, which was we are good at dealing with customer service and smaller sized clients, where you've always done really big clients. You can't batch those two. You have to treat them differently. So now they're back to where it was.

Jonathan: I think that's great. It actually speaks volumes for that company that they would recognize that your ways, your systems were better and they would apply it to the rest of the business. That does sound like you made a very good choice with this because they would actually do that.

Bob: Yeah. They have done well. They've lost a couple of customers over pricing integrity, but when I explained it to the staff members, I said, listen, you know, I realize we're a family and I realize we have grown up together and I realize, you know, we have done cruises together, and quite frankly on some of the cruise ships, we learned more about each other than we probably should know. You know, but to protect, I … to go back to your original question - the passion wasn’t there. The margins weren’t there. The sustainability wasn’t there. [0:09:02.6]

The stress on my family, on Jen and I, was growing rapidly to the point where we weren’t sleeping well, health was not where we wanted it to be and it all came back to what's causing this. Fear of what's going to happen with that - we should sell it at kind of at the peak of flavor, if you will, at its maximum value. So we did that. And we got health back, sleep back, even more time with the kids. We took three months off after we sold it before we did anything and just enjoyed the summer because we had to work from January to June, as a work down period with the new company. We had a countdown calendar on the wall of how many more days we had to do it. On June 30, we went into Fourth of July weekend and it became our celebration of independence.

Jonathan: Yes, yes.

Bob: And we took all of July, all of August and most of September off and did some traveling and what have you and just kind of reconnected and you know, decompressed. Then in September, I ramped up the consulting piece some more and said okay, I'm back from hiatus - who needs what? And the clients said it's about time you're here - we have stuff to talk about. We had a great year. So…[ 0:10:14.4]

Jonathan: What was it about the consulting because sometimes people might think that consulting is almost like trading hours for dollars? What is it to you and why do you love it so much?

Bob: It is trading hours for dollars, and there's only so much capacity you can have and I made a conscious effort that I did not want employees again, so I had contractors that I use when I need them. That may change with some of the revamping that we're doing that's going to roll out in September and October of this year. But I do like working with clients and I do like helping them to make their business better. I originally thought I was going to do entrepreneurial consulting, as you and I know, and there was a podcast that we started and it did not get a lot of traction, predominantly because as we were trying to get traction with one and the EMS business, which is what I've been in for so long and the healthcare market, those clients were coming through the doors with I've got projects that were going to take up a whole lot of time. [0:11:11.1]

So I've got projects now that are, you know, going to last six months to a year, but we're making substantial changes to the way the health system in that area is doing it. So there's some value. It's fun. These are good people, but in order to insulate myself from trading hours for dollars, we're going to be rolling out some different ways of doing business that don’t necessarily require me to be involved one-on-one, but one to many, which is … yeah, so, it will allow me to produce something or put something out there through effective marketing and allow that to roll while I'm sleeping, which is a good thing. I like …

Jonathan: Yeah - we all love that. Make money while you sleep.

Bob: I love waking up in the morning and looking at the bank account and going, wooo - look at that!

Jonathan: Yeah. I know that feeling and I love it too.

Bob: Yeah. First of the month is a great day.

Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, I feel you, brother. [0:12:06.7]

Bob: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. One more thing - going back to that - we changed the way we even do retainer agreements now because most consultants make a very bad mistake and they try to do projects and they give you a project and it's going to be $15,000 for the project and the project comes to this inevitable road block, bench mark, hard stop and then you have to start the conversation over with, you know, do you want to do more.

Jonathan: Selling again.

Bob: And they're, well, yeah, not right now. I don’t have… So about six or seven years ago, I changed everything to a retainer model. I don’t do project models anymore. The retainers are … so if you come in today and a block of hours and the smallest block of hours you can buy from me is 36 hours. You can go all the way up to 288 hours. You get a discount based on the size block you buy. But if you come in today, in 2019, the price point that you come in at, if you renew for six more years, you stay at the 2019 pricing regardless of what I do. [0:13:11.8]

I have people in 2012 pricing that are still renewing when they need something. But now, it gives us the freedom to have conversations about things that are going on with their business, not just the one or two things they brought to the table that they think are wrong because that's never what they really need. They come in with "I need better marketing." No, actually what you really need is to get rid of your brother-in-law who can't sell to save his ass, and when he gets on the phone and poisons the well after you spent marketing money, and I realize next Thanksgiving is going to be a hard conversation and maybe you don’t go to dinner there - but you have got to … he's killing your business or she's killing your business or your sales team is killing your business or whatever it is - there's always something more underlying - in medicine, there's always a symptom is what you see but the disease is what you've got to treat. [0:14:00.1]

So it allows us to have those conversations and they naturally come to an end saying, oh, by the way - you have 20 hours left on the retainer - did you want to continue and if you're getting good results, it's sort of like, yeah - just send me the invoice and that has perpetuated into four and five years' worth of retaining for different projects and different success rates, but it's the clients I want to work with and clients I don’t have to go sell more to.

Jonathan: And clients you care about. There's invested interest in the time you've spent with them and seeing them get those results. That's a…

Bob: Yes, and the goal is that when the retainer runs out, there is that natural point of separation, to say, no, I think we're good now. Or for me to say, I think I have taught you what I, as much as I can teach you - perhaps you need a smaller size retainer just so you can pick up the phone if you feel, you know, a pain of separation anxiety or you know, whatever, but I don’t think we need to keep going at this point … yeah, if you miss me. If we don’t - I don’t think we need to go back to, you know, quite the same size that we had before, and they appreciate that piece too - knowing that they can always ramp up if they have something that crosses their path. [0:15:03.5]

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. That's awesome. So what are you excited about now? You said that you're making some changes. You're getting… you're in a transition right now. So what is it that you're working on that's got you excited?

Bob: Well, I've been in the healthcare space for 40 years now, and in the EMS space, specifically, I still ride on the ambulance and work with my kids on the … that's the other thing - they became EMTs, so now we are riding on a volunteer ambulance squad and taking care of patients and stuff like that. So that's a lot of fun for me, and I want to do more of that. But what has kind of sparked some interest in addition to the organizational consulting and marketing that I do in that space is that the nation's first responders have some health-related issues that need to be addressed and it's sort of one those things where you know, doctor, don’t be your own patient. Somebody needs to point it out to them. So we are actually going to be rolling out something called HealthyResponders.com in September, probably end of September, early October and that's going to be a holistic suite of, we have partnered with a virtual app company that creates individualized health plans. [0:16:07.7]

They can talk to nutritionists 24 hours a day. So when they're in the truck and they can't get to the gym on a normal time to talk to a nutritionist, they can talk to somebody at 2 o'clock in the morning and try to help work on their diet - exercises classes, kind of like the Peloton type thing where you can do a live class or you can watch the replay and do it in the comfort of your own home where you're not going to be overly embarrassed. Food tracking tied to your iWatch and things like that. So that's one company we have partnered with. Another company that we have partnered with is going to be able to work with hormone replacement therapy because they've proven that some of the hormone replacement works really, really well for PTSD patients and PTSD responders. They've been working with veterans and having really good results because when you have the body under stress that much, you know, constantly, which first responders do, military personnel do, it works on your pituitary gland and causes problems. So replacing that and doing some supplementation is actually helping people deal with PTSD. [0:17:06.2]

Jonathan: Really? Fascinating.

Bob: Yeah, it's - they've done some phenomenal work to the point where the Veterans Affairs department is looking very seriously at what they're doing. So we're going to roll that out for first responders, and they can do it through telemedicine, so they don’t have to be, they don’t have to go to the clinic. They go to the lab. They have the blood work drawn. The physician will get on the phone with them and talk to them about their blood work and their needs and they can then do the therapy at home or an outpatient center that is local to them and do a lot of the work through telemedicine. So my job is to bring it to the first responder market because they've already been doing it with corporate wellness clinics and gyms and the veterans. Then the third thing is I'm researching it and I'm working with our friend, Dan.

Jonathan: Yes, sir - Doberman Dan.

Bob: Doberman Dan and I are working on something that is going to bring a small line of supplementation into the first responder market. [0:18:01.0]
So I've been going through a program with him that has worked out really well, and he's going to actually have a small part in it, I think. That's the way the conversation is going at this point, to build into that market. So for us, it's a big market. It's one I know and part of this research is because I've, you know, had some issues with back pain and things like that, which every first responder has. So I'm looking for things to help me and that's going to be the marketing - "This helped me. This helped friends of mine. This helps keep you fit for duty." And so I will have the healthcare organization side, which is the consulting and then healthy responders side, which is the people that make up those organizations. That's where we're going to go.

Jonathan: Good grief, man. I have to tell you, bro - from the last time we talked to now, just so much more clarity. I'm really excited and happy for you. You made the right move staying where you had the authority and expanding what you were doing. So, so smart. Too many people go out and try to do new things and conquer new worlds, and I like that you are taking the world you already know and hitting it from different angles. I love that, man. That's so exciting. [0:19:06.8]

Bob: I appreciate it.

Jonathan: I am so thrilled for you.

Bob: You know, like, you did a great job for us, you know, in doing what I wanted to do, you know, and we, the product was stellar and you know, I've still got the podcast library and the intellectual property and stuff like that. But I mean, the work was really good, but it was easier and sometimes you have to realize what your experience is and what I - and you and I had this conversation, so we'll share it with everybody who is listening - I can either go from being a relatively large fish in a relatively fixed small pond or trying to come into the business entrepreneurial consulting niche and be a minnow in the ocean. So we tried the minnow in the ocean and I choose not to deplete my bank account trying to compete with some folks that are in that market. I'd rather have them try to do the same thing, trying to compete with me. [0:20:01.2]

Jonathan: In this market.

Bob: In mine.

Jonathan: Yeah. You made the right choice, man. This was always the right choice.

Bob: Yeah, it just worked itself out. You know, karma has a way and the universe has a way of kind of, you know, telling you what you ought to do if you sit down and listen, which comes back to your, you know, you're spiritual side of what we're doing here and whatever you've got to kind of listen to your inside voice and you've got to listen to the world around you. Sometimes the sign post, you drive by the first six, and you hit the seventh.

Jonathan: Or it hits you.

Bob: Oh! Is that what you were trying to tell me? I get it.

Jonathan: Now I got it - right. Yeah. It reminds me of The Alchemist. Yes, yes, yes. Your personal …

Bob: Yeah, absolutely. Or the Acres of Diamonds speech.

Jonathan: Oh yes - the Acres of Diamonds. That's another good one. So, Bob - we have been talking for a little bit about different things, and I'm wondering when you came here and maybe you had some expectations coming in - is there anything that you wanted to talk about or that we should have talked about that we didn't talk about? [0:20:59.3]

Bob: Well, you know your audience, and you know, you and I, as we have talked - you and I are, you know, kind of the, kind of the audience - we're dads and/or moms, you know, that we're parents that want to take time with our kids, give our kids the absolute best that we can give them, but we want to do it - and I'm going to use my phrase again - we want to do it on our own terms. So I think the biggest thing I can impart to everybody is you can do this if you want to. It has to be a compelling why and it has to be when you rearrange the, you know, you rearrange the blocks or for those of us old enough, when you shake the Etch-A-Sketch and start a new picture, you know - what do you want that picture to look like for you? Most of us don’t take time to carve out what we want the picture to look like. So when I work with a client, I start with where are you trying to get to, and then how much money do you need to make in a year. That drives, as you back into that, that drives into what price point are you going to charge, what products are you going to service, what market are you going to, you know, find a market that can afford what you want to offer, and you back your way back into, okay, if I want to make $365,000 a year gross, then I've got to do $1000 a day. [0:22:17.7]

Well if I'm going to do $1000 a day, you know, what am I going to sell that has value that is going to, and to what market that's going to get there. Most people don’t do that. They go, oh, I'm going to sell widgets. Well, that's great, but to what end? Where are you trying to get to? And are you going to kill yourself along the way? All the time, people say, I can't do that, I can't do that, I can't take time off, I'm expected to be available 24 hours a day to my clients. I'm like, you can't text me - if you're not in the inner circle, you can't text me because I won't respond. I tell them right out - don’t even bother, you know. A text, to me, is a 2-year-old pulling on the apron going, daddy, daddy, can I have a cookie? I don’t want to have a conversation with you right now. Schedule it. So you cannot text me and my phone, for business purposes, goes off at 8 o'clock at night. So there is no 24 hours. There's send me an email and I'll get back to you in the morning. There are a couple of people that have access because of the project that we're doing that have potential emergency issues that would pop up. They have access and permission. [0:23:19.5]

Jonathan: The bat line? The commissioner is calling?

Bob: Yeah, they - you, they have the bat line and the bat signal. But that's because of the nature of the project that we're working on and agreed upon what constitutes going over the 8 o'clock line. So you can set those parameters. Nobody is going, especially if you're working for yourself - if you're working for somebody else, you can carve out, you know, some niches, but if you're doing your own business, read that sentence again. If you're doing your own business, it's your rules. Find the customers that will respect those rules and work with you under those rules, and you will have a longer relationship with them. You will have the respect that you need with them. They will understand the value, which allows you to maintain price integrity. If they don’t, there are several people who would be more than happy to take them. Please pack up their stuff, put it in a box, FedEx it to them, and send them a birthday card. [0:24:13.6]

Jonathan: Off you go. Awesome. So, if people want to find you - I don’t know if you want to be found - where can they find you online?

Bob: I like to be found. My Facebook, under the Holdsworth Group. You can also, probably the easiest is LinkedIn because that's probably where most business connections get made - so LinkedIn, Bob Holdsworth. I'm easy to find. Bob@Holdsworth.com is direct email. I had to keep it simple for me. So I'm pretty straightforward, you know. Or Holdsworth.com online for the healthcare stuff. So and I do work with clients from, you know, I do work with small business. I do work with healthcare clients or if you just want to shoot an email and say, hey man, thanks for the advice or how did this work or whatever - happy to talk to, you know - a friend of yours is a friend of mine.

Jonathan: Alright. Bob Holdsworth, ladies and gentleman. A gentleman and a scholar - a daddy. One of the champs. So good to have you, brother. So good to catch up and I have to tell you that I'm glad that we spoke today because I'm glad to see the new light in you and it makes me happy and excited for what's next, brother. Thank you so much.

Bob: You are welcome, and thanks for your support and thanks a lot for your friendship.

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