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From Blow Pops to a Printer Empire with Rob Dube

This week on Taste For Tenacity, Rob Dube walks us through his transition from Blow Pop plug to building one of the best small companies in the US. Rob explains the benefits of meditation and mindfulness while explaining the importance of putting the customer first.

Transcription

00:00

This is Taste for Tenacity show number 34. Support for this podcast and the following message come from Bowtie Advisors, we run the numbers so you can get back to running your business.

00:13

Welcome to the show that answers the question that plague students and professionals alike. What should I do with my life? Determine your greatness. Follow me to the pathway of more success. Each week we interview entrepreneurs. Invest in things that you understand. Professionals. It’s just believing in yourself and your abilities and artists that have followed their pool. You can’t be scared to push the envelope. This is what we need from Ben Trela and Bowtie Media. This is Taste for Tenacity.

00:44

What is going on everybody? My name is Ben Trela. And this is Taste for Tenacity. This week on the show we hear from Rob Dube. Rob started his first business in high school selling blow pops out of his locker. And for the last 28 years, he served as the President and co-founder of Image One, which is one of the top 25 small businesses in America on the 2017 Forbes list of small giants. He’s developed an unwavering passion for delivering the x, which is genuine care that drives extraordinary energy, actions and experiences to everyone every day, and every time. Rob is an avid meditator of 15 years, the author of a bestselling book Do Nothing: The Most Rewarding Leadership Challenge You’ll Ever Take. And the host of the Do Nothing Leadership Retreat and The Do Nothing Podcast. Rob, welcome to the show.

01:38

Thanks for having me, Ben.

01:40

So I was kind of trying to find a way to to open up our conversation in your background really served it up on a silver platter for me. You started out by selling blow pops. Did you have a favorite flavor? Did you sort of avoid getting high off your own supply?

01:55

Yeah, a lot of people are very particular about their flavor. We still have blow pops in our offices. So of course, when people come in, they look at the big, you know, jar of –. Can I take one of those, and then you see them sorting through. But watermelon is pretty solid, okay? It’s always a winner. You know, green apple is definitely one that people are kind of like you’re either a green apple or you’re totally not.

02:25

It’s a very polarizing flavor. Green apple, like, Oh my gosh, what is what is he? What is he hiding? Right? So with that, I kind of want to take a step back typically I try and start around age 18ish, but it seems more like your story starts you know, early in high school. Around ninth grade, you launched your first business, you’re a freshman in high school. What was it and what really made you think of that it would be a good idea?

02:55

Yeah, well, my best friend and I Joel Pearlman who is my current business partner, if you can believe that. We’ve been friends since the sixth grade. And we you know, loved business early on kind of unknowingly I don’t think it was really clicking. We just liked that kind of stuff. Yeah, entrepreneurship back then was not like it is today actually is considered extremely risky and, you know, go get a regular job. But Joel’s uncle owned a drugstore. And somehow we gotten the idea to sell these blow pops out of our locker. And so he agreed to sell us the packages of blow box of boxes of them at cost. And I think they equated to like a nickel each. And we took them to school and we started selling them. We’d walk around, “Who wants some blow pop, who wants to blow pop?” And then we had people at lunchtime starting to line up at our locker to buy them. 

03:50

Because they knew.

03:51

They knew and they got to learn that we were the source and where to go for it. Yeah, so we we just loved it. We had the best time and we skipped lunch we weren’t goofing around like a lot of our friends we were just doing this you know, quote unquote business, whatever you want to call it. Yeah. And you know, a lot of this is upon reflection but we realized at that time that there was an entrepreneurial bug in us and we had to follow it.

04:16

Okay, so now did you sell those those blow pops all throughout high school or did administration kind of have a bone to pick?

04:23

They did. They close this down but the principal I’ll never forget him. He was so encouraging and he gave really good reasons. One being that there’s a school store that was pulling business from the schools. And the other was that blow pops have gone in the middle and gum was turning up in many of the classrooms and hallways and so but he encouraged us to keep doing things and we did. We did businesses, you know, little things just hustling all through high school and college.

04:54

Did you think about pivoting to like Tootsie Pop so that way there was leftover.

05:00

Great idea, actually.

05:01

OK, so now you got shut down and the school sort of cemented their monopoly on the blow pop market. What did you continue to hustling all throughout high school? So as you started to wrap up your high school career, were you expecting to go to college? Because that was sort of the traditional path, as you had mentioned before? Or were you instead looking to do something more entrepreneurial as you had already had experience in that realm?

05:28

Yeah, that’s a great question. Because Joel and I actually, you know, there was no question that we were going to college, it was just ingrained in our heads from an early age that that’s the path you take. So we both did that without, you know, even thinking about it. We knew we were going to college, and I’m glad we did. I think we both grew up in different ways while we were there. That said, you know, we weren’t the best of students and we weren’t engaged in our class, classes and homework and all that kind of stuff the way many others were. We were distracted by business ideas and, you know, all the same stuff that we love doing in high school. And so we did do those sorts of things. But I do think we, I think college was beneficial for the two of us just in terms of our growth. There was a time when I was a junior. And I remember, I was home for some reason, and I was speaking with my father. And I was frustrated. I was just, I kind of had my fix of school, and I was done with it. And I just said, You know, I don’t think I want to go back to school. And, you know, I just, I don’t feel in place there. You know, I’m not a good student. I’m not into the school work. I just want to go out and do my own thing, you know. And I think, you know, my father was very encouraging. He did courage me to finish. I was so close, you know. So I think that was kind of what got it over the hump. But he did say you could do whatever you want. And that was a great. It was freeing, just to know I could do whatever I wanted. And he believed that I could. And I did go back. I was a couple credits shy, I went to Albion College, because small school here in Michigan, just outside of about an hour west of Ann Arbor. And I did go back. And as much as couple credits shy, I was a political science major. And I remember going to the head of the department, and I said, “Can I finish up over at Eastern Michigan?” And he said, “Well, your credits have to be when the credits are for your major. And so you’ve got to finish here at Albion.” And I said, “Dr. Levine. Let me do this. I’m not going to use this political science major. I’m not going to law school. I’m not going to do one thing with it. I’m going to start a business. And I didn’t even know I was. But I just I just know. I won’t. I won’t do you wrong. You’ll be proud of me.” And, you know, I didn’t think he was I didn’t think I had a shot. But he said, okay, you could finish up spring tournament Eastern. I’ll make a I’ll make a concession here for you. And that’s what I did. And thank you, Dr. Levine, for doing that. Because it was, again, very freeing to be able to just finish up and then venture out.

08:36

Yes. So now you mentioned that, you know, you’re dealing sort of with this sunk cost bias to an extent where, you know, you committed so much time to school, you were so close to finishing. How do you figure out whether, you know, it is truly something you should finish because you’ve gotten this far and you’re so close. And how do you decide when enough is enough? What do you think is the differentiator there?

09:01

I don’t think that there’s a black and white answer to that question. I think you have to search inside yourself and listen to your heart. And I think sometimes we listen a lot to society, and try to follow what may be considered the most conventional path. But, you know, you can always go back to school. I mean, there, there’s no wrong answer. There’s so many things, so many paths that we can go down, and they’re all full of wisdom. And I think if we’re following our heart and being really in tune with it, and what I mean by that is being thoughtful about your decisions and not being knee jerk. You know, like, “Oh, I’m just not going to go back to school because it’s just that sue me, I miss Mary, you know, I’ve been just shift and then you’re like, Oh, I should stay in school. I’m going to go back and you know,” and you’re kind of all over the place. I think it’s important to take time to reflect you know, journaling is a great way to do that or just going and finding some quiet time. I think that’s hard for many people these days, you know, we’re inundated with FOMO. And, you know, all the, you know, social media and TV shows and just all the things that are coming at us.

10:20

Information overload.

10:21

It is and so, you know, I think just nowadays more than ever, it’s important to take a step back and listen to your heart and feel. Check in. See how your body feels a little. You know, when you think about going back to school, when you think about what it might mean if you don’t go back to school, what you’d be doing, and just picturing yourself in that day after day after day. Does your body feel excited? Does it start to feel a little drawn down like, “Oh, it was, the grass was greener, but now that I’m in it, it’s not.” Even worse. It’s dirt. Yeah, right. So, yeah, I think that’s the way I feel about that.

11:05

Okay, so sort of examine and figure out what you’re truly feeling and be willing to reflect and put some space between that decision and where you’re at now. So you originally started at Albion here in Michigan, you then transferred to finish your last semester at Eastern Michigan. Yeah. You knew you were never really going to use that Poli Sci degree. So what were your thoughts? Or what, what did you want to do next, as you wrapped up, and why did you want to stay at Eastern versus going back to Albion?

11:36

Well, actually, the short story is it was actually I would have to go back to Albion for spring and summer term. And I just. Albion is a small school and there aren’t many students there in the summer in the spring. So at Eastern, I could live in Ann Arbor with many of my friends who were much more into school than I was and they were at Michigan. And, and so that that’s why I ended up doing in Eastern. But you know, it was confusing because I, you know, was thinking, what kind of job would I have? And, you know, should I get a job? And how would this you know, and Joel and I were just always coming up with business say, well, we could do this and we could do that. And I don’t know if you want me to tell a story, how we got into doing what we did, but Joel, also taking spring term, read a classified ad in the back of Entrepreneur Magazine. And it was essentially an ad that where you could go get trained on how to sell toner supplies for a new technology called laser printers. They were only about two years old, some aging myself. So yeah, they were new. These toners needed to be replaced and somebody had to replace them. And so there’s this company in Texas that was training people on how to kind of start these businesses. And so we went down there and our parents both gave us loans $5,000 each, and we learned how to do it. And we just started we came back here to the Detroit area, and out of the basement, we just started hustling these toner cartridges. We’d walk around all the buildings in the suburbs in the city and you know, literally knock on doors, no email or anything like that back then and, or internet and you would just, you know, we would just call, you know, through door knocking and say is the office manager here, we sell these toner supplies, we can do it at a discount. So we’re a local company, etc, etc. 

13:50

All your selling points. 

13:51

Yep. And they took mercy on us, many of them. One of my favorites is actually it was a company at the time called Rock Financial and they had about maybe close to 50 employees and they had about 10 laser printers and there was somebody there who took mercy on us and said okay we’ll use you to buy these toner cartridges and we did a nice job. We worked very hard to make sure they were happy who could have imagined they turned into Quicken Loans and entire family of company that’s still our customer 28 years later.

14:30

 Wow. 

14:30

It’s insane.

14:31

Yeah, you caught a caught a big fish pretty early on. 

14:33

It’s crazy. 

14:34

So those early days of just door knocking and and it had to be tough. 

14:40

It was.

14:41

So how did you guys push through because you’re cold calling, you’re door knocking. People who really have a million other things going on have to take a chunk of time to spend on you guys. How did you deal with you know, having those rejections and weathering those early days when it can be very tough to get something off the ground?

15:03

Well, there’s a lot of ways I could probably answer that. But I think that knowing that you’re passionate about something, and for us building something that was ours, over road, all those, you know, sort of undesirable activities that we had to do, because we were just trying to build a business and we never really built the business. We were hustling a lot and building a business was. It was a learning experience every single day. I’m glad I did it. Because now as I look back, or even when I’m speaking with people in the company, I did that. I did that. I did every one of their jobs at some point because it was just Joel and myself. And I think that has created a lot of empathy and understanding for me as a leader now because I’ve been in their shoes and understand how it feels.

16:03

Okay, so now we’re we’re in the early days of your company did it have a name at that time? 

16:09

Yes it did. It was called Laser Recharge. Different name

16:13

Different name. Early days of Laser Recharge. It was you and Joel as your your business partner. As you and Joel door knocking, how did you scale and how did you start to grow that company from the two of you into what it’s starting to become as time goes by?

16:31

Okay, so we in. I’m just going to go one step backwards to when we were in college, and I’ve mentioned I’ve lived in Ann Arbor during that semester. We would visit friends in Ann Arbor all the time. Joel went to Eastern and so and he actually lived in Ann Arbor and so we started going to this deli called Zingerman’s Deli. So if you’re from the Detroit area, and you’re familiar with Ann Arbor in any way, shape or form, you probably know or have heard of Zingerman’s Deli probably even been there. But at the time, it was very small space they just opened. They were like a year or two old, you know, in terms of their business. And but one thing that we recognized was, they just had this extraordinary way of servicing you. So you were going in to buy a sandwich, but it was an experience. And the people were just over the top. And Joel and I would go there, we just love going there, actually much less for the food and more so for the experience, because we’d sit there and we just watch, we wouldn’t even be talking. We just be looking around and he’s looking at this over there. And he said, look at that and go Yeah, I know, but look over here, and look at how that person is dealing with that problem and so on so forth. And we would just say to ourselves, every time we thought about starting a business, we’d say, you know, we got to do it like Zingerman’s. You know, we got to do it like Zingerman’s. So when we started the business, that’s everything we thought about was we got to do it like Zingerman’s, which meant taking care of the customer in a really authentic and genuine way from the second they became a customer even before forehand, you know, going over the top for them, and we loved it. And we still do we’re so passionate about taking care, you know, you mentioned at the outset delivering these extraordinary experiences. And we never want a customer walking away in like we I always picture the customer at the dinner table and just, “How was your day? It was so annoying. There’s this. There’s this vendor we have and there’s such a pain it like ruined my whole day.” I want it to be the opposite. I want them to say how was your day and say, “Well, it was a challenging day. But there was this one situation, this company that handles our multifunction printers like they did X, Y or Z and like blew me out of the water. It made my day.” So if we can do that, be thinking that way from you know, the outset. It’s a big difference maker. So that was what we were passionate about from the very early days and that’s how we grew the business. It was really just taking great care of the customer. Joel and I had no idea how to run a business. In fact, I tell a story that for the first 10 years, we really had no way we were running the business. We were just kind of by the seat of our pants. Yeah, I’m amazed that we got where we got. And upon reflection, I realized it is because we took such good care of the customers and cared so much. Otherwise, I really don’t think we would have made it because everything else was kind of scattered. And it took us some time to get kind of organized and start running the business professionally. 

16:31

So you’re now you know, from the get go, whatever you’re going to start, you’re going to start it like Zingerman’s. That’s right. And now you’re getting ready to bring on your first few employees. You’re running things more professionally. What was it like to start actually building a team and how did you find the right people that understood your mission and your commitment to providing those exceptional experiences? the first 10

19:59

The first 10 years we couldn’t, we didn’t because we didn’t know what our mission was. We didn’t know what we were all about, except for taking great care of the customer. So when we were hiring, you know, we were looking for people that were competent and had the ability to do it seem like good people. But it something wasn’t clicking. Some just wasn’t clicking right. And literally about about 10 years, and I think it’s actually will less maybe like eight or so. We’ve met this person named Gino Wickman. And Gino had created this process called the entrepreneurial operating system. And he has a book that he writes about, and it’s called Traction. And he came in he taught us really where we were lacking, which was in many areas. And so, you know, first and foremost, we got really focused on what our core values were, and starting to hire and evaluate our team members based on those values. And that was a big game changer for us. Keeping in mind and I want to keep saying it because we were running by the seat of our pants, the first eight years or whatever it was. So knowing with clarity, our core values, knowing our core focus, our mission, knowing where we were going to be in 10 years in our heads, you know, kind of that big vision. And then kind of breaking it down into shorter sprints. Like, where are we going to be in three years? Where are we going to be at the end of next year? And where are we going to be next quarter? And so we started to get on this rhythm, and we were executing on it really well. That’s all we needed. We just needed the blueprint, the system, you know, for running a really solid business, and that’s just one component of it. But I could go on and, and I will do that if you’d like me to, but that was one really key component for us.

21:46

Yes. So you essentially had to find what metrics you needed to measure yourself against and that being your core values and now chunking those down into performance benchmarks. How do you think that impacted you as a company and where was sort of uncomfortable territory for you to venture into once you had those performance metrics?

22:09

Well, initially, it was really hard because we had good people who maybe, we started to realize we’re in alignment with our values. Again, good people, just different value sets. And it wasn’t, you know, we had to make changes based on that, obviously giving fair chance and it wasn’t like bulldozing through we’re compassionate people. And so we had to work together to figure things out when people weren’t core value matches, or sometimes they were really great core value matches, but they just weren’t really great at their job. And we had to recognize that and be a little bit more high performance minded and realize that when somebody wasn’t great at their job, they were just good at it was actually affecting the entire performance of the company and making things harder for everybody else. So we went through a short period of time where there it was there was a lot of changes that we had to make those. That was a hard time. But we knew and trusted in our heart that these were the right things we needed to do. And when we were able to get really clear about it, and the company was running really well, we had a really unique circumstance happened. And this was about four or five years into working with the EOS process. And a public company approached us and they were very interested in our, the way we were going to market, the way we were doing things with our clients, and they made an offer to acquire a company.

23:38

Now, receiving an offer has to be sort of an unexpected, pleasant surprise. Because you know, it seems like from the outset, you were just looking to build something very powerful. So did you wind up accepting that acquisition offer, or did you instead choose to continue building in the way that you were, because you now had proof that what you were doing was big and what you were doing was very, very valuable. 

24:07

So, for, you know, us and for myself personally, usually takes like a big boulder to hit me in the head to figure things out. And I’m still like that. I’m always looking for the lessons. And so we did accept the offer. And we were then part of a very large public company. And Joel and I were running Image One, we had changed the name along the way to Image One. And we were running Image One as a what’s called a wholly owned subsidiary. And it was a great vision actually, they had 500 sales people and we were going to train them on our products and services and then they should be able to go out and sell them. But as Gino Wickman says, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” And so there was some hallucination taking place on all sides. And so the the execution wasn’t there. So this company had gone through a round of executive changes. New CEO came in about 18 months after the acquisition. And he contacted us and said, “This isn’t part of my vision. Would you guys like to buy it back?” And we we were interested. And we did. We did buy it back. So that was about an 18 month situation.

25:26

So this is maybe a bit of a granular question and I know sometimes you can’t get into the details when you so they wholly acquired you and this at the time, I’m guessing was like a 50-50 business ownership between you and Joel of Image One was acquired. Did you guys have to put all that capital up to buy the company back from this publicly traded company? How did you repurchase, essentially your baby that you help grow?

25:56

So they paid us some cash up front and then what they had us three payments that they owed us and we forgave two of them. So we didn’t have to take any cash out just forgave the two payments. And we just took over the company. Took the company back yeah. 

26:13

That’s kind of cool. So they owed you money. It was sort of like, washed it away and said, call it even. 

26:18

Yeah, that’s right. And then we did have the initial cash and the initial payment that we had received. So that was, quite frankly, just dumb luck. You know, you couldn’t have scripted that. Yeah. And we were just lucky.

26:33

Yeah, there’s no better outcome than that. Right. 

26:35

It was a decent outcome.

26:37

Yeah. So now you have you have your baby back and your you’re growing your company again. Did you have to make a lot of changes after that 18–month period with this large publicly traded company, or was it sort of just kind of clicking things back into the gear that they were in before?

26:55

Well, back to the boulder. So boulder hitting me in the head. So one of the cool things that happened was we realized that this quest to be big wasn’t all cracked up to be. And while we still wanted to grow the company, and, you know, whatever big means, it didn’t have to be like take over the world big. And we, right around the time we were reacquiring the business, somebody had sent me a book called Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. And that was written by some an author by the name of Bo Burlingham. And essentially what he had done, he’s a former editor of Ink Magazine. And what he had done is he had crisscrossed the country and found all these sort of under the radar companies that were just killing it. They were so focused on their culture, the totality of their team members lives, lifting them up, giving them a really unique experience within their company, really focused on the community and making a difference and making a mark in the community around them they were founders that were really clear about why they were in business and what they wanted out of business. And as I’m reading through, I was kind of skimming through the book, actually, I wasn’t intending on reading it. But I saw Zingerman’s name in there. And there was a whole chapter on Zingerman’s. So I read through that. And I was like, wow, this is I didn’t even know all i all that was written about Zingerman’s. And yeah, I went back and I read the book. And, you know, there was companies like this company in Minnesota that makes laptop hinges, you know, and they had 100 employees. And it was like, this amazing place to work. And, you know, like, who makes laptop and just who’s even thinking about that, but here’s this amazing company that nobody heard of, and I thought, you know, we could be like that.

28:43

Boom, there’s your boulder. 

28:45

Yeah, right. Yes, it was. So Joel read it and we talked and we said, lets stay focused on chipping away at becoming a small giant. And following the path that we’ve seen many of these companies follow.

28:59

Wow. So you sort of focused in on what being a big company meant for you versus, you know, these massive publicly traded companies that you were for for an 18 month span a part of. How has that shaped what image one has become over the last, you know, few years? How long has it been since you sort of reacquire?

29:24

It was 13 years ago? 2006.

29:26

Okay, so how has that impacted Image One has grown over the last, you know, 13 years.

29:33

It’s been huge. I just share a little bit more about the story and how we think of things of sort of how the universe comes together. So, right that summer, ’06 after we had acquired the company back, I got a call from zing train. Zingerman’s deli had courage started to create other businesses within their within their umbrella and one of them was training companies on how to provide great customer service. And we used to send people to that workshop. And they decided to create one on on visioning. And the managing partner, Maggie Bayless who’s still there, contacted me and said, “Oh, you’ve send many people to the customer service workshop. We’re doing this one on visioning. I’d like to invite you to come.” And so I just I decided to go. And while I was at the workshop, Ari Weinzweig, who’s one of the founders of Zingerman’s was teaching it. And I got to spend a little bit of time with him and just share my gratitude for what he had inspired me to a way of thanking that he had inspired at an early age, just through my experience at the deli. And then I was sitting or I was standing at lunch in line to order food, and I struck up a conversation with this gentleman, and he was very curious. inquisitive. And to make a long story short, it turned out to be the author of Small Giants, Bo Burlingham. And we kind of developed a mini connection during the workshop. And when we parted ways, exchanged information, etc. He contacted me about six months later. And he said, “Rob, I’ve met about a dozen kind of Robs around the country. Yeah, and I have this idea. I’d like to create a group where I take you guys to visit all these small giant companies that I wrote about in the book. And there’s like 10 times more that I couldn’t fit in the book. And I’d like to you know, while we’re in a city will go visit like the one in the book and then we’ll visit two more.” And so we started doing that twice a year

31:48

Have a Rob festival, the Robs across the country.

31:51

Well, he considered our company sort of an emerging small giant, and that’s what he had recognized these other Rob’s quite an unquote, around the country is that there was a spark and it just needed to, you know, get some air to kind of create a fire. And he somehow had the wisdom to try to put this group together and you know, help lift us up really give back to us. And so we got together in San Francisco for our first meeting and visited some different companies. And I’ve been doing this and I still do it for every, you know, for 13 years, and every time I would go, every time I go, I’m just looking for little nuggets. These are simple things that I can bring back to Image One and incorporate into our business without much fanfare, you know, and we’re almost people are, don’t almost notice, you know, but then over time, it starts to build up and you start to notice, wow, this is a really unique company. Like there’s this, there’s this, there’s this, there’s this, but somehow I realized that it was going to take time and a lot of patience and I do have that those qualities and so you know, that was a real turning point back to your question about, you know, ’06 and you know, maybe what things we would do differently kind of having the baby back and that was intentional is that we wanted to create a really special culture. And it really became all about the people, and what can we do every day to make their day like, that’s my focus, what can I do to make their day? Can I keep going on this or?

33:28

Yeah, we got a little more time for it.

33:30

We’re not pulling in the experts. 

33:30

So because there was one other really important turning point, and you having an accounting degree will probably appreciate this. And in, everything was going along, we were growing, it was it was all wonderful and roses and all that. And then in 2014, we had helped one of our large customers save a great deal of money through an initiative that we created, and it took off in a much faster and better way than we anticipated. Yeah. And we were actually in 2014, actually was 2013. We were actually looking at, potentially the first year, we might lose money ever in the entire history of our company because of this situation. And we, I remember there were three of us sitting in the conference room. We’re trying to figure out what to do. Yeah. And because we just weren’t accustomed to being in this situation, it was about six months through. Well, going back, one of the trips that Bo had taken me on was to Springfield, Missouri, to meet a person by the name of Jack Stack, okay. And Jack, essentially is the one of the creators of Open Book Finance. And he taught us what he created, what he calls the great game of business. He has a whole system around this, there’s a whole workshop around it, and we kind of resisted it over the years. The idea of opening up our books to our employees, we call team members. You know, just oh, what would they think? And Jack’s whole philosophy around it is your team members already think the company’s way making way more money than it is? And what’s the negative to empowering them with really solid information about the company so they can actually make better decisions to help the bottom line improve. When the bottom line improves why wouldn’t you allow them to benefit from that financially? And it just now I look back on it. And it just makes so much sense to me. Like it’s the way it should be. There should be no secret. And one of our core values funny enough from day one, when we created our values was being open and honest, transparent, humble, and authentic. And yet, we weren’t doing that. And it was starting to drive me nuts. And in 2013, when we were sitting around trying to figure it out, I said to the guys, you know, of course, we can’t figure it out because we’re not in tune with all the, you know, all the goings on, on the front lines, so to speak.

36:09

That’s right. And the team members are the experts, and they’re not armed with the information to make better decisions. And so we decided to implement the great game of business in the company. And we add collectively as a company in a very short period of time, we actually turned it around very quickly that year, we made a profit, everybody benefited from it. And every year since, our profits have really gone up quite significantly. And that has everything to do with the team making better decisions. And because they understand the business the way I understand it, now they know how to read an income statement. They know how to read a balance sheet. I can’t just tell you, and you’re going to learn this as you work with startup companies and stuff. Most people don’t know how to read an income statement and balance sheet they think they do, but they actually don’t. And I’m talking founders of companies and nothing against them. You know, they’re just out there like I was, you know, you’re trying to get your product to market and sell it and you know, hopefully make a buck. But to really dive into, you know, like, what’s a balance sheet mean? And why does it tell me I’m healthier? I’m not healthy as a company. And when your employees can start to also understand that and you show them the balance sheet, month after month after month in the income statement, then they start thinking, how can we be healthier? How can we make more money? Yeah, because they’re engaged. Yeah, they’re part of the decision–making process. It’s fully collaborative. Yeah. So you know, you can tell I get kind of excited about it, because I’ve seen the light bulbs all over the place. And we have people all over the country and these are people making amazing decisions, and recognizing when they didn’t make good decisions and being able to shift it quickly. So those are some really important things I’ve learned. Along the way, and resources that your listeners can gravitate to go buy The Great Game of Business. It’s a book. Go buy Small Giant. It’s a book. Go buy Traction. It’s a book. And the formula is right there for you.

38:11

Yeah. Fascinating. So now, before we get into our quick hits, I want to want to touch on something else that we mentioned at the beginning of the show. And I’ve sort of been alluding to, throughout our conversation, you’re the founder of sort of the Do Nothing Movement, which is all about meditation and mindfulness. So can you give us the quick kind of rundown of how you came across meditation and mindfulness and what about it stuck with you? Cause you’ve been meditating for what 15 years consistently avidly now? How did you come across the concept?

38:44

Well, I had a lot of anxiety in my life growing up, and that translated into my leadership style when Joel and I started the business of course being in business with your best friend is much different than being best friends. You know, being best friends is hanging on the couch and cracking up you know. Being in business is making decisions about money and direction and hiring and, you know, it was just completely different. So, you know that in addition to, you know, all the things that happen in life, I just wasn’t dealing with anxiety well. I did go to therapy for many years and I found to be really helpful. I got to learn about like cause and effect and things of that nature, but it didn’t seem to lessen my anxiety. And I think I was just like, you know, searching but not knowingly. And so certain things would kind of come into my consciousness, maybe something I read or something like that. And I had read. In this case, I had read an article about meditation. It was on the cover of Time Magazine, back in the early 2000s. And I was on vacation with my family. And I was going it was we were, that was after we had sold and I worked for this bigger company, and I was just really on edge and there was some going on. We were on vacation and I was like, so frustrated. I was practically. I was getting ready to just like, all out cry. I’m saying I was like, I’m going to just start bawling right now. And I thought about that article. And I just said, well, somehow I said, my, you know, mind, go sit over there in this chair, and just breathe in and breathe out for like five minutes, set a timer and just do it, and just see if that’s helpful or something. And I did it. And I actually felt a little bit better. It definitely didn’t take away my frustrations or my challenges or anything like that. I just felt like calmer. And so I thought maybe there’s something to this. I did a lot of research. I’m a big factfinder. So I had to like figure it all out. Make sure you know this, that the other to make sure it seemed right for me. I totally overanalyze that, by the way, it’s the most simple thing in the world. And, and I started take on a practice of meditating every single day. And I noticed I started to notice a difference. One other thing I started to do, which too many people sounds really almost like what I can’t believe that is I started going on silent meditation retreats. And I had learned about it, read about it in my research that these retreats could be very useful. So I went for a one day retreat. And I was so scared, I was so geared up, I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m not going to talk for an entire day. I can’t work on my phone or anything. Like wow, I was very intimidated by it. But I found it to be really an amazing experience. And so I thought, I think I could do this a little bit longer. And so I went on a seven day silent retreat, and it was amazing. And I could get into it if you want me to, and I won’t. If you don’t, I don’t want to take it down the path you want to go to but the silent retreats have been very beneficial. I’ve started to do those twice a year, seven days, at least seven days at a time and then I created my own silent retreat so people could get a taste of it. And it’s all leaders that come, they’re entrepreneurs, or leader in leadership positions and they come to start to understand the practice of meditation in the type that we teach is a secular practice meaning there is no religious connotation. It’s called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, created the University of Massachusetts by a person by the name of Jon Kabat-Zinn. And, and it’s a widely used practice all over the world to help with anxiety. 

42:24

Wow. So then can you give us the quick basics of Do Nothing? So if there were your three steps, or your three core components of do nothing, could you give us sort of the overview of of what you’ve created? 

42:37

Sure. So somebody encouraged me at one point to they were asking me a lot of questions about my journey, and the retreats. And they said, “Oh, that’s, that could be like a book.” I never had thought about that. And, and so I got thinking about it. And so I wrote a book about it. One person along the way, it kind of just joked and said, what do you do on those retreats? They just sit around do nothing. And then we were joking you call your book that one thing led to another and I called the book do nothing. And I wasn’t really sure where the book would take me I was very open to the possibilities. And I knew that I would love to do a retreat that was focused on leaders, and where they would feel more comfortable coming into the container that I create because I’m numb. I’m in their shoes, I understand what their thought processes are. And so I decided to do it, I decided to create the retreat, and we’re going on our third year, this April, and, and then I decided to do the podcast and the podcast has been very rewarding and speaking with other entrepreneurs who are similar in mindset, and I’m just trying to share with other with the listeners, the idea that you can build a very intentional company and you don’t have to get caught up and all the other stuff that you know gets reported and you know, all the exciting this, that and the others unless you want to, but you don’t have to you could build like a really solid, amazing business that cares deeply for the people. And if you’re wired that way, you’re going to hear tips from all these different entrepreneurs. And in addition to that, people who are really focused on health and wellness, which I have learned again, boulder, that that you know, what makes us our best each day is is actually quite simple but hard to execute on. We actually did a collaborative discussion at our company and we came up what we call with what we call this simple six. These are the six things in our life that we all know we should do, but for some reason they’re so hard to do and it starts with a meditation practice, which is just really centering yourself every day for any short period of time. And focusing in and getting in tune with the present moment what matters most. The next thing is getting enough sleep. I mean, hello, no one’s going to argue that you need more sleep, you need to get enough sleep and 85% of our team members, were getting six hours or less in sleep per day. The next thing is proper nutrition. You know, we all know we need to eat better, but it’s difficult to do. And so how can we be more mindful about that? Movement, you know, just getting out taking a walk, like you’d mentioned to me before you’d walked over here, maybe three, four or five blocks, you know, you ride your bike a lot, that’s movement, you know, just things like that. It doesn’t have to be going to the gym and becoming you know what, 

45:43

Shredded.

45:44

Yeah, if you want to great, you know, yeah, but just get up move. Don’t be sedentary. You get off the couch, take your dog for a walk, whatever the things are. And then the next piece to it is is expressing gratitude. It’s a very simple practice. You can do gratitude journals, there’s, there’s apps for that, that you can do a gratitude app, you can, you know, it literally takes like 20 seconds to just close your eyes and or write in a journal, something that you’re grateful for. And so, you know, these are some of the simple things that we talked about, you know, but are hard to do. So we’re just trying to be lift or uppers and say, How can we focus on these things a little bit more? And, and maybe will show up better each day for the people around us.

46:36

Love it. And with that, we are going to switch into our quick hitters. So first, what is one of the key takeaways from your career or projects so far, something that you’ve learned that you were kind of surprised by?

46:49

Well, I think, you know, paying attention to the signs, is what I think about when I reflect is just that, I feel we did that we paid attention to the signs we knew when we were struggling and we found resources and we weren’t afraid to ask. So, you know, that would be something that, you know, I would encourage people to do. Yeah, don’t be afraid to ask for help and keep looking, keep searching.

47:18

Love it. Number two, what is the one piece of advice you would give to your 20 year old self?

47:26

You are nothing but you’re everything. So, you know, we get very caught up in our minds and our own little bubbles and worlds about what we think we are want to be or should be or whatever and, and, you know, my advice to myself is, you know, really, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s all nothing. It’s all not all that meaningful. What is meaningful, is that we are everything because we’re all interconnected. Yeah. As people and to the world to the earth and so that would be my advice.

48:01

Love it. What is one book or resource that has helped you in your journey?

48:06

Well, I think the all the books I mentioned, I have to say and I’ll add to it, which is Ari Weinzweig books on being a great leader on visioning on. One Drive by bit might come to me but you can go online and see all his manifestos. They are beautifully written and very commonsensical. So I highly recommend all the Ari Weinzweig books.

48:37

Love it. And Rob where can people learn more about you? 

48:41

The best place is donothingbook.com and you can contact me there through the form. You can also go on to social LinkedIn and Twitter and all those kinds of things. And you can connect with me there.

48:58

Love it. Rob Dube Co-founder and President of Image One, author of Do Nothing. Thanks for coming on the show.

49:05

Ben, thank you so much, and all the best to you with all your endeavors. I love it.

49:09

Appreciate it, same to you. 

49:10

Okay.

49:13

And that does it for our show with Rob Dube. Now I really like that meditation and mindfulness overall took such an important role in his story, because it’s something that I’ve seen pay dividends in my life. And so knowing how we’re feeling and what we’re feeling allows us to understand what’s going on around us and figure out what our best pathway forward is. Now, Rob outline this concept of listening to yourself. And he said, look, the worst–case scenario, if you choose to do something is you just go back, you can admit you’re wrong and go back to what you were doing before. So if a new career path doesn’t work out, you always have the skill set of the career path that you’ve left. Or if you leave a job to go somewhere new and try something out. If you don’t burn the bridge, and you keep a relatively good relationship with them, they may be willing to bring you back if your new adventure doesn’t pan out. I’m also a big fan of this concept of you’re nothing but you’re also everything. Because in our world, there’s seven plus billion people, right? And so in the grand scheme, we’re not that significant. But at the same time, in our personal world, in the world that’s running between our ears. We’re everything. We’re the entirety of our world to ourselves. And so we need to understand that we have a place in this bigger picture, and then our own individual stories, we’re the protagonists. He also used a really good example of a deli based here in Michigan, which is called Zingerman’s. And he said from the beginning, look, we have to do it like Zingerman’s, where we take care of the customer, because that’s how we do best and that’s how we run the successful business and it puts the customer and their needs first rather than saying, “Hey, how do we drive profits this quarter? How do we cut costs, whatever? How do we create a better experience for the customer?” Because at the end of the day, that’s going to drive significantly higher returns than any cost cutting measure that we can make individually. That does it for this week’s show. I do want to take a quick second. I don’t know if you know, but yesterday was kind of a big holiday. So wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas to those of you that celebrate Kwanzaa that kicks off today, Happy Kwanzaa. And I think I missed Hanukkah but to anyone who celebrated Happy Hanukkah, hope you had an opportunity to spend some time with your families. Cheers, guys. From Taste for Tenacity show number 35. This is Ben Trela. Thanks for listening.

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