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In part two, John McLemore continues to share his wisdom around leadership and decision-making. He specifically covers the importance of balance, how to avoid being being too consumed by your work, what it takes to lead in difficult times, and the importance of telling the truth – even when it hurts the most.

Show Highlights:

  • Defining and articulating your vision, mission, and core values (0:45)
  • The perfect job (1:45)
  • The true definition of success from John’s perspective (3:00)
  • The two biggest challenges John faced building his family business, how he overcame them and used them to move forward (7:20)
  • How to master your priorities (9:30)
  • A lifehack for boosting productivity and clearing your mind for higher-level thinking (11:00)
  • Secrets from a master relationship builder (17:45)
  • How to make difficult business decisions (18:50)
  • How to ‘unplug’ and BE present (21:00)
  • Why it’s so important to tell the truth, even when it hurts the most (25:30)

If you want to recession-proof your business and thrive in any area of life, go to www.uncommonlifepodcast.com and grab your free report today. I share with you the 5 key principles that have transformed and elevated my life – and they can do the same for you too if consistently applied.

Read Full Transcript

You're listening to the Uncommon Life Podcast. Whether you're a startup or you've been in business for 10 years, this show is for you. Each week, you'll get mentored by business leaders who deliver valuable strategies, tactics and tips on how you can pursue your passion without compromise. We’ll show you how to achieve balance while sticking to your core values, so you can have an uncommon life.

Now, here's your host, Jimmy Fullerton.

Jimmy Fullerton: All right, here we go. As promised, here is part two of my interview with John McLemore.
So, what would you say are some of the main values you look for that that get off the religious side of it per se, for people that might not have the same belief system? What are the main core values that Masterbuilt has had or still has?

John McLemore: Our number one core value is faith, family, then the rest. So, people look at that and say, Okay, well, what if faith, family, then the rest? I believe that if an individual is working for you does not put their family before your business, even if their faith might be a little bit different, then their priorities are going to get out of line. As important as our job is, it takes a backseat to our family.

I think you’ve got to have people that want to come to work at your business and take ownership, even if they don't have ownership, and it's something that they want to do and love to do. Because the best people that you’ve got working for you are people that come to work every day because they love coming to work every day.

I tell people or I ask people what the perfect job is and I get different answers just about every time. But my answer to the perfect job is the job that you love to do so much that you would do it for free, but you do it so well that you get paid every week.

Jimmy: That’s the perfect job.

John: Yeah.

Jimmy: Absolutely. So, faith, family, everything else. It’s really about balance.

John: It is, priorities and balance, yeah.

Jimmy: And you have, I have to say, I’ve known you for how many years now? Probably at least…

John: Yeah.

Jimmy: What year is it? 2019.

John: Ten or so.

Jimmy: It’s probably over 10 years.

John: Yeah.

Jimmy: And one thing I’ve always been impressed about with the McLemores is you seem to have mastered that balance.

John: I think we've done pretty well with that. I don't know that I'd say we've perfectly mastered it, but it's been definitely a priority. I'll tell you, it's sad to see people with success in business, but yet they can't keep their families together, and I know people all over the world and many more in the United States than anywhere, but I've seen stories to where they've got all the things that they've wanted [03:00] in business, yet they’re on their second or third or fourth marriage, and they don't know their kids or have a relationship with their kids.

And, to me, true success is being able to be successful at all things and balancing all things, because if I achieve everything that I want to achieve at Masterbuilt, but don't have my wife, Tonya, right there with me doing it or a relationship with my three kids, and now son-in-law and now grandkid, then, yeah, it’s not worth it.

Jimmy: What’s the point? So, yeah, you can be consumed, and this is part of the reason why I’m doing this podcast. It’s because I’ve seen it and I can be susceptible to it as well, but you can become consumed by your work, your business, what you’re passionate about, and lose sight of the other things that make up -

John: Most of what’s important.

Jimmy: - make people happy, yeah.

John: That’s right.

Jimmy: So, what good does it do if you have a great business, but your family is falling apart, or you have both of those, but your health is going to pot?

John: That’s the thing. Yeah, my five priorities are God, family, country, health and Masterbuilt.

Jimmy: You put country ahead of health?

John: Think about it.

Jimmy: I flip flop it, but no, no, I don’t know, I don't know.

John: People are willing to--

Jimmy: I love my country, just for the record.

John: People are willing to die to live in a free country.

Jimmy: Yeah.

John: So, if you had to go to battle to stand in a free country, would you?

Jimmy: Absolutely, absolutely.

John: So, that's why your health is …

Jimmy: Right.

John: You’ve got to be willing to. I put, obviously, I put my wife and kids before my health, because I'd be willing to die for them, too.

Jimmy: Yes.

John: So, think about it. If you get any of those out of line and people are like, You've got this successful business and yet it's number five on your priority list, if you get sick, you cannot run your business. If you don't live in a free country, you cannot be able to have a business. If you don't have a family, it’s not worth it. And, for me, God is, obviously, number one. Without that, yeah, doesn’t matter.

Jimmy: Yeah, I could not agree more. So, what kind of advisors or mentors have you had who have influenced you in your life to kind of help you come to these conclusions?

John: Tonya has been a big one and she doesn’t even know it sometimes or hasn’t over the 31 years. But any time that I would kind of get out of balance with work, and I did through the years at different times, she would say, Look, if it's vital to the company, staying afloat is one thing, but if it's just going to be the reason for us to have a little bit more of whatever it is, then you’ve got to get things in check. So, Tonya has been great for me through the years. Believe it or not, having understanding kids through the years as we grew the company helped.

But then, outside of that, I started going to Cascade Hills about 25 years ago, and Bill Purvis, our pastor. It was the first time that I'd ever gone to church. And I was a new believer [06:00] some 32 or 33 years ago and went to several churches, and probably more like 28 years ago, we started going to Cascade. It was first time that I’d ever gone to church and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen to write down things that applied to me, Monday through Friday. So, he was teaching and preaching with a leadership style that instilled the values that we have today, so my pastor was a big one.

There was a gentleman named A.C. Levi, who his son is Allen Levi here in Columbus. I met him when I was [unclear 06:36], when Tonya and I were just starting to date, so about 33 or four years ago. And he was an older gentleman. I was a young business guy, loved everything that he believed in. So, any time he would give me a chance to go to breakfast or lunch, I'd go and get his input, and he actually was the gentleman, I'll never forget, I was sitting at an Indy's Restaurant eating breakfast and A.C. Levi challenged me to start a Bible study at Masterbuilt in 1998. And I started a Bible study in 1998 at his advice, had two people show up, and we've had one, we have one a month and it's been amazing.

Jimmy: Yeah, I remember that you've been doing that for a long time.

John: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Jimmy: Let's talk about some of the … maybe one or two if we have time of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Masterbuilt, or can be personal, how you overcame it and how that changed you?

John: Whoo.

Jimmy: Deep.

John: Deep. Deep. Basically, one of the biggest challenges that we had ever got at Masterbuilt is we had two major, very devastating fires at the business and we lost the 50 percent of our building on actually my birthday, March 01, 1992. And, six months later, we lost the other half.

So, those were times that, basically, stripped away everything that we had worked so hard for, lost so much. And those two things, moved to a new building at that point, and just I remember going through several years of overcoming what it did to set us back with some of our accounts and how hard it was to just survive some of that. 2008 when the market crashed so much, we were, obviously, like any other business. We kind of got caught up into that as well, but survived through that.

So, for us, I would say, on the financial side, it would be just having the ability to be cash flush within your company.

Jimmy: Cash flush.

John: And more companies go out of business because the lack of cash and they do profit. So, you’ve got to have cash [09:00] flow. It’s king.

Jimmy: Especially, when you go through a period like what you went through in those two times you just described. What were some…? How did you change your…? But did you change your management style or adapt your management style, or how you spent during those really times in 2008 or ’92 when you had the fire? How did that influence you?

John: We were and still are faced with what do you do first was urgent or important?

Jimmy: I hear that in the military all the time. What can you do right now?

John: Yeah, and there is no easy answer to that, but you have to do some of the things that are urgent, not all of them. You’ve got to pick and choose your battles, but if you ignore what's urgent, then you can't get through it. But if you only do what's urgent, you will never do what's important. And because you don't do what's important, you are always doing what's urgent.

Jimmy: Yeah.

John: So, yeah, this is a vicious circle. So, through those difficult times we were faced with, okay, we’ve got to do was urgent. We’ve got to replace the building, replace the equipment, replace the--

Jimmy: Stay alive.

John: We, basically, have to. The urgency was stay alive while not losing sight of where are we going to be in another year or two or three, because in our business, if we don't develop new products on an annual basis, then we'll see a downturn in our sales, because you can't stay flat with products. You've got to always come out with the next innovative product that you can market and put in the customer’s hands.

Jimmy: So, I bet one thing that happens during those times is it helps you learn how to really crystallize in your brain what's really important and what you really need to do in your company. It helps weed out the trivial that that might seem urgent in better times, but you can really weigh that stuff out.

John: Yeah, and I'm a big believer in writing things down. It was funny. We started this podcast and I had written some things down and couldn't find it, and so, I just had to go off memory.

Jimmy: I have to write stuff down, too, because it frees up my brain -

John: It does.

Jimmy: - if I'm not having to remember stuff.

John: I can tell you, if you write a list of 10 things to do on any given day, you'll do 10 things. They're not all going to be on that list and it really is eye-opening to say, We want to accomplish the following. You need to write it down. You need to document it. Earlier you asked me about employees and they have the beginning of a new company, they don't have an HR department. Still have to write things down, document things.

Not just with employees, but set your goals. Set what you're going to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual basis, and always strive to reach those goals [12:00], because running a business without goals is like running a race without a finish line. I mean, just there's no end to it. Now, you raise the bar; you increase the goals, but you've got to have set it to where you reach them, and writing things down, it’s amazing how you can go back and look at things that you’ve written down that you were wowed by that. You didn’t even remember that being an issue at the time or something that you had to get through.

Jimmy: So, you keep a written log of your to-do list or…?

John: I try to keep a… If I don’t have a written log of my to-do list, I have a written log of my goals, what we're trying to accomplish. And I can promise you, when you have meetings with people, you can have a one-hour meeting and come back a week later, you're not going to remember half of what you met about. If you don't document and write down what you met about, it will blow your mind seven days later that you can look at and you're like, Hmm, I forgot we even talked about it, and if it's not important enough, then you don't need to be wasting time in that meeting. You need to prioritize what is most important that you’ve got to accomplish.

Jimmy: Right. Sometimes I know what I have struggled with in the past. I’m a big believer in writing stuff down, too. I write stuff down like goals I have, a weekly, monthly or annual, and I might even divide them in the categories. What my biggest problem is I forget to look at the list sometimes. I’ve got to remind myself to look, but try to keep it as simple as I can, because if it's not simple, I won't be able to execute it.

John: A hundred percent of that is true, Jimmy, because if you put things out there that are just so overwhelming, you're never going to accomplish. You need to have a few things and just knock them off the list. And it's important because, I have forgotten who said this, but the most brilliant mind will long forget the most faint ink.

Jimmy: Repeat that one more time.

John: The most brilliant mind will long forget the most faint ink.

Jimmy: Ink like I-N-C, oh.

John: Like, ink. If you write it down, you will never forget it.

Jimmy: Oh, I gotcha. I was thinking incorporated.

John: But the most brilliant …

Jimmy: Just overthinking that a little bit.

John: Meaning you can be the most brilliant person and you’ll forget things that are not written down.

Jimmy: That’s a power quote, if I ever heard one right there.

John: Yeah.

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Jimmy: So, that's good info. I didn't know you were a big list-taker, but that's, yeah, that’s definitely… I mean, I used to use the old really old day-timers. I'm dating myself here, but, yeah, still have a catalog of some of those old day-timers and I go back and look at what I was doing, and it's kind of definitely entertaining. You can learn a lot doing that as well. What would you say your superpower is, your biggest strength in life, if you had to pick one? You’ve got to pick one, too. You can’t just--

John: Loving on people.

Jimmy: Loving on people.

John: Mhm. I value a relationship with people, employees, and friends and family, probably more than I do most anything, because I believe, if you have a relationship with somebody, you can overcome just about anything.

I've told our employees before. I was like, two people don't have a relationship. You walk into that person's office and buy them lunch, and write it on a piece of paper and put it on the corner of their desk, and ask them to do it, and it may not ever get done. You’ve got to be in a relationship with somebody and write it on the piece of a napkin, ball it up and hit them in the head with it. They’ll unfold the napkin and read it, and accomplish that goal for you, because you've got a relationship with them.

Jimmy: Yeah, life is about relationships.

John: It's a relationship with Jesus Christ. It starts there. A relationship with your family. It's a relationship with your employees. And, to me, when business people, I don't believe in self-made millionaires, okay. Somebody can sit at a computer and work the stock market, maybe make some money on their own, but within a company, the people that have made us successful in Masterbuilt are who have made us successful. It’s not John McLemore. It's not just the McLemore family, but everybody that we've taken along in this journey. And, for me, to see them succeed and to be happy is more important than the success, because if you do that, the success is easier.

Jimmy: I know in my own life, I get, I’ve got a lot going on as well, and sometimes I get…it's easy for me to get myself into a bubble where I'm just doing stuff and not focused on people. And that's really what my gift is. It’s building relationships. What I like to do is what I get the most fulfillment out of, and if I get outside that, if I get stuck in that bubble and I'm not doing that, then I'm not going to be fulfilled. I'll get grumpy.

And I [18:00] need to have to be intentional about it, because life can be so busy that you can just focus on doing stuff and checking it. I like to check stuff off my list. I'm big about doing that. But I have to be intentional about investing time for relationships in whatever way I can, so, yeah.
And then, also, a lot of people that I've had relationships with, there's nothing… Yeah, sometimes they're strategic, but a lot of times it's just a natural, organic thing where I'll meet somebody and you want to have a good relationship with them and, from that, has come a lot of good things.

John: Yeah.

Jimmy: So, you never know where a relationship is going to take you, but you can definitely become elevated a lot quicker if you're a relationship-builder than if you’re just a solopreneur, as they say.

John: Hey, you've heard, it’s not what you know. It’s who you know, who you’ve got the relationship with.

Jimmy: That is so true. What's your biggest weakness? I can think of a bunch.

John: Man, I can, too. So, it’s going to be a hard thing, just one or two.

Jimmy: If that’s a real, tough question right there. There’s just so many to choose from.

John: I would say at times you’ve got to be careful to not be too compassionate within your family business or your small business, and not be willing to make some of the tough decisions. That’s probably a weakness of mine.

Jimmy: Now you're saying, basically, letting your compassion make a decision instead of doing what you know need to be done -

John: Yeah.

Jimmy: - because you don’t do it, erring too far on the compassion side because you're…

John: Yeah.

Jimmy: Yeah, I got it.

John: And, yeah, that’s probably the biggest thing within our business. I do, as much as I say I'm goal-oriented, write things down, getting diverted, I'm ADD/ADHD, graduated from high school with a third-grade reading level.

Jimmy: Ah, that’s a good point, yeah.

John: Never went to college and struggled, struggled learning and could not read, and never been tested, but been told I'm dyslexic. So, that makes it harder when you're trying to study and learn, and grow and do business, but I promise you, if I can do it, anybody out there can do it.

Jimmy: That’s a good point. How do you learn?

John: Me?

Jimmy: Yeah.

John: I have to study something over and over and over and over and over again.

Jimmy: By reading or by listening?

John: Listening is easier for me when I know I've got to listen. I will tell you that that might be a little bit of a weakness there. You asked what are my weaknesses.

Jimmy: I just asked for a weakness. You're giving me all sorts of stuff.

John: Yeah, well…

Jimmy: Free.

John: Yeah. I think we’ve got to be careful that we were so busy that we don't... You need to be present in the present. [21:00]

Jimmy: Yeah.

John: And so often our brains, my brain is somewhere else, and I'm not physically there with my wife or kids, or now grandkid. And you need to be able to disconnect enough to be present with whoever you're with and not be so consumed with everything that's going on in your world, it's all about you. You need to make it all about them as much as you can.

So, I'd say, also, if I'm going to do, like, I do Bible studies, if I'm going to read, I tell you, I have a real hard time reading in public. And I remember being in Bible School Bible study one day, and the teacher called on me in the class and said, “Hey, John, would you read Mark 2: 15–20.”
And I said, “I don’t have a Bible, so I can’t read.”
And somebody said, “Well, you can borrow my Bible.”

And I said no. Those were two statements I made. One, I don’t have a Bible and I can't read, so, no, I'm not going to read in public. So, if I do Bible studies at Masterbuilt, which I do, I'm going to read something. I'd be the guy to read it 20 times to be able to read it out loud or I can't do it. So, I have real compassion for people that read teleprompters and do it for a living. It’s a talent.

Jimmy: You had to… Didn’t you had to read teleprompters as…?

John: Not really. I've read teleprompters before, but not anything that's been put in front of me that I've never seen or read before. So, if I'm reading or ever have read a teleprompter, I’ve pre-read it before going on air.

Jimmy: You can just probably wing it at this point.

John: Well, no, I would be better doing it live and impromptu more than reading the teleprompter, because I’m telling you, it’s a struggle.

Jimmy: And there’s so many more questions I’d like to ask, but I would like to ask one more. You’ve met a lot of famous people, being who you are. Who, without getting into trouble, who has impressed you? Who are some that have impressed you the most or left the biggest impression on you? And why?

John: There's several names that I'd like to say, but I won't because it might maybe offend certain people out there.

Jimmy: I understand.

John: Political side.

Jimmy: I knew that was a tricky question, but…

John: Yeah. Rachael Ray was super fun, met her a QVC and then went on her show several times. Steve Harvey.

Jimmy: Well, wait, wait, wait. What about, so why? What about? I mean, is there anything specific that impressed you?

John: About her?

Jimmy: Yeah, yeah.

John: She was just always super nice to us, and we met her doing a QVC [24:00] show and then was asked to come on her show, and they just treated us really, really well. Her staff was amazing.

Jimmy: Yeah.

John: We just worked with all the people. We were very hands-on when we’d go on some of these shows, so we liked being able to come in and do part of the work instead of just showing up and having other people doing it for.

Jimmy: Oh, yeah.

John: Met Governor Huckabee at Fox and, actually, met him and then later he ran for president, so that was kind of neat. He was such a genuine person, really developed a great…still have a good relationship with him now. I’m doing the Huckabee show again this year with him. I’ve done his show since he left Fox. Didn’t get elected president and he started another show in Nashville.
Steve Harvey was kind of cool, doing his radio. Met several people through his deal.

Jimmy: I’ve got to say that the whole slip up with the, was it the Miss America?

John: Oh, yeah. That’s probably planned.

Jimmy: Well, I mean, I don't know if I would’ve planned that, but I tell you what, the way -

John: He turned it into a million dollar commercial.

Jimmy: - he owned up to it was really, really impressive. It was.

John: He absolutely did the right thing and got a lot of respect, and that’s the thing, I mean, just being able to tell the truth and own up to something, it’s so much easier to survive. It's painful at that very moment, but a lot easier to get through, which brings me to a point that people need to know in business—do not hide the truth from your employees. Do not hide the truth from your customers.

Jimmy: Yeah.

John: Tell them. Hurt their feelings upfront. Deal with it, because if you sweep it under the rug, it will not go away.

Jimmy: You sound like Jack Welch. Candor.

John: Yeah.

Jimmy: Candor. But candor is key. You’ve got to know the truth about any situation to deal with it correctly.

John: That's right.

Jimmy: I mean, in life, whether it's your marriage, whether it's your business, your health, sticking your head in the sand or deceiving yourself or people around you is now never going to produce anything but bad fruit.

John: That’s right.

Jimmy: Bad fruit. Well, we're going to have to end it, I guess, but -

John: Yeah.

Jimmy: - I can see this happening again, hopefully.

John: Well, just let me know. I’d love to come back and do it again. People that ask me how is it running, owning and being in a business, and I tell them that it’s hard. It’s challenging. It’s scary. It has the emotions of a rollercoaster.

Jimmy: Amen.

John: I mean, when you are buying a ticket, you're scared of what it's going to do. Then you sit in and you ride it up, and then up and down. It's scary, and you get off the ride and you want to buy another ticket to get back on. Not everybody, but it is the most rewarding, most fulfilling [27:00], most satisfying thing that I’ve ever done.

Jimmy: That's the thing. People that that have their own business, they'll say the same things. But you know what? The minute the thought of having to get an actual job pops up and you think, Oh, my God, I might have to get a real job. It’s repulsive.

John: Yeah.

Jimmy: As hard as it is to have your own business as much responsibility, as much as it can consume your life, still it is, I think, the most rewarding way to go. But it's not for everybody. That's for sure. It is definitely not.

John: It’s not for everybody, yep, but you’ve got to love it so that you want to do it every day, even in the most challenging moments.

Jimmy: All right. John, I appreciate it, man. It’s always fun.

John: Thank you, Jimmy. Appreciate it.

Jimmy: And we’ll talk again soon.

John: Yes, sir.
Jimmy: Okay, Uncommon Life listeners. That concludes my interviews with John McLemore. I hope you found that your time was well spent listening. You could have been doing probably 10,000 other things, but you chose to hang out with us, and I really do appreciate it. And, if you enjoyed that, then you can get more content like this by subscribing to my YouTube channel at Uncommon Life Podcast. I will see you next time.

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