Drew Stevens is a world-renowned business turnaround and revenue expert. Drew works with business owners who struggle with revenue and transforms them into wealthy professionals.
Tools: Dragon Fly Software, Dropbox, Google Suite
00:52 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Start with focus on your skills, expertise, and personal attributes to identify business focus areas.
Drew talks about the way started his company by assessing his strengths in sales and marketing and deciding to focus on companies always struggling in some way shape or form like they are either bankrupt, about to go through bankruptcy, just coming out of bankruptcy.
2:51 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Develop a multi-dimensional approach to building your brand
Drew expands on his brand building journey where he started speaking professionally, writing articles, and books. Additionally, Drew also started providing capital in private equity placements for a 3 pronged approach to building his personal brand.
06:54 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Focus on fit, fun, and financial customers and learn to say no.
Drew talks about the importance of saying no because entrepreneurship can be all consuming if you don’t. He also talks about the importance of selecting clients who are fit, fun, financial which means the ‘right fit’ for you, fun to work with, and financially strong to work with.
11:23 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Tough times are a reality in any business. Weather them with mentors, support network, and being astute.
Drew talks about the challenging times and how he overcame them. He did 3 things (1) Relied on a small circle of mentors (2) have smart people around him to guide him (3) be shrewd about the work he selects and the operations of his company.
15:12 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Focus on building customer pipeline with multiple avenues (speaking, writing, networking etc.)
Drew talks about customer pipeline and deal flow. Drew’s typical customer engagement is for 90 days or so and he has learned to manage deal flow so he is never overwhelmed or without customers. With a combination of writing, speaking, podcasting, networking, and referrals, Drew has managed to fill the customer pipeline steadily.
21:58 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Start with your goal, amount of time you can put in, and the amount of money you can put in to get started with your business.
Drew gives advice to would-be entrepreneurs along these lines. Expand on your dreams, vision, and goals. No need for extensive business plans. Ask yourself how many hours you can put in without complaining. Lastly, how much money you can put in without going broke. The answers to these questions will help you get started with a sound foundation.
26:34 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Start with focus on your skills, expertise, and personal attributes to identify business focus areas.
Drew gives advice based on his journey. (1) Surround yourself with small team of smart people (2) Stop listening to every piece of advice (3) Keep chasing your dream even though there will be lot of naysayers (4) Don’t give up
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone. Welcome to The Agile Entrepreneur Podcast, this is your host, Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is about starting on building your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance, and possibilities. Today's guest is Dr. Drew Stevens, Drew Stevens is a world-renowned business turnaround and revenue expert. Drew works with business owners who struggle with revenue and transforms them into wealthy professionals. Hey Drew, welcome to the podcast.
00:37Drew: Thank you for having me, Ramesh. I'm excited to be here
Ramesh: Thank you for your time. So, your company name, I mean, your website is www.DrewStevens.com and how did you become a turnaround expert?
Drew: It's a good question, So I had worked with middle market companies for the better part of approximately 15 years on Wall Street. And the industry I was in was suffering from disintermediation and I wound up taking a bunch of different jobs in senior leadership as a chief operating officer and chief executive officer for some other middle-market firms, but it was outside of that industry and I had suffered dramatically, personally and professionally. My mother-in-law had passed away and subsequently, I had lost three jobs in a six-month period because the one I was with actually terminated me as I came home from her funeral. I took another two jobs right after that and they did not work out. So, I decided that the next person who was going to terminate me was me and that's actually how I started my own company, looking at myself, looking at the assets of my God-given talents and saying, “I am very good in sales and marketing and where do I help companies? And that was helping them scale for growth. So, my role had always been with working with companies who were always struggling in some way shape or form, they were either bankrupt, about to go through bankruptcy, just coming out of bankruptcy, and I thought that was a nice niche for me and so that's where I actually have my starts.
Ramesh: Excellent. So, when did you start your company?
Drew: Back in 2003.
Ramesh: 2003, so it's been really good for you for about 16 years or so.
Drew: Very much so. If you take out the effects of 9/11 as well as 27 or 2007 & 2008, all the way through 2010, yes, excellent.
Ramesh: Excellent. So, it looks like you may not only do this turnaround business, but you also write, you're an author?
Drew: Yes, actually. It’s interesting that you should pick that up because when I first got into the business, I was a consultant. I was an advisor. And I was missing a couple of different elements. I was sitting back and saying I'm working hard but I'm not working smart and I wanted to do things that allowed me to work smart, helped me to manifest my brand, helped me to build a community around me as well as help me to stop being so one-dimensional. And so immediately, I thought that there were two things missing: one, from a marketing perspective, I lacked the capability of really promoting my brand in a decent way other than some of the things that I was doing, which was cold calling and referrals. So, I got into professional speaking and I also wrote many articles, I now have roughly 4200 articles 2200 blog posts, I've done audio, I've done video. And so, I turned all of that into becoming a professional speaker and I've written 14 books and that was just on the marketing side and the other thing that I then wanted to do is take a look at the business aspect and the other thing that I was missing was even though I was doing a lot of consulting and advisory work, I was still missing something in terms of broadening the offerings that I had with the organizations. So, in addition to the turnaround specialty that I offer, I also now provide capital lending in private equities so that an organization that is looking to develop its brand, is looking to or is looking to exit or perhaps conduct a merger and acquisition for reasons of expansion, I can now help with all of that. So now, I have a three-dimensional approach to building a business.
Ramesh: That is pretty significant. So, you started the business in 2003, when did you actually decided to write and then expand your brand through books?
Drew: I want to tell you it was roughly a year and a half, maybe two years later. I wound up joining two organizations when I had first gotten involved in the consulting aspect, much like any other small business owner would but rather than go to the chambers, rather than go to some small business societies, I joined the National Speakers Association and the American Society, what was known then as the American Society of training and development. The reason I join that was because I was doing workshops, I was doing a lot of seminars and so that whole training aspect seemed to fit, and the speaking opportunity really led to the whole notion of professional speaking. And I believe it was when I was with my professional speaking colleagues that they had said to me that the next phase of becoming a speaker was authorship and that's where I believe I received that notion I needed to write. And it's something that I enjoy doing and I do very quickly as a matter of fact. I've gone from books that have taken me, say, six, seven months and now I can write a book literally inside of 30 days.
Ramesh: That’s incredible. So, can you talk a little bit about how your business was pre-authorship and post-authorship?
Drew: It wasn't even authorship per se. Ramesh, I think if I look at the maturation of my business. When I first started, I was like anybody else and a good example is we all have children or those that do have children and our child comes home and they put things together in kindergarten with finger paint and it's this much of nothing and they're telling you it's the most beautiful piece of art and all we see is a quagmire of colors. We see Red screens, Purples, Reds. There's really nothing there but they proud as proud can be. And that's us in small business. It doesn't matter if we could come home with a $200 contract and we're thinking it's the best thing since sliced bread. What has happened over the years is I've become more astute to how I conduct business, who I conduct business with. So outside of the authorship all the way, I understand where your question is, I've learned three things: one, I learned that we as consultants, even if it's a-- Or let's put it this way, any small business, because anybody listening to your podcast, it doesn't matter if they're a restaurant or a dry cleaner or in my case an advisor. We all bring special things to the table because we have God-given talents and so, therefore, we're subject matter experts. As such, we need to get our expertise out to market. So that's where the books, the writing has definitely helped. Two, I've learned that when many people start a business, I think they believe that it's a nine-to-five job. There is no such thing as nine-to-five. It’s a theology that really needs to be thrown in the water because if you're an entrepreneur, it's a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week experience. In fact, to the point where my wife gets annoyed because I don't shut it off. I've got a passion for it my, avocation is now my occupation but more importantly, I am constantly networking and constantly seeking out where I can conduct business and the third Ramesh, and this is very difficult for any business owner and Ramesh, I don't care if you're just starting this podcast or you've had this podcast for 40 years. If somebody is just starting a business or if has had their business for 40 years. Many business owners have an issue saying no and when you look at very good leaders, and I'm just going to choose business leaders, the Gates the Jobs, the Buffets and so on, they have learned to say no very early on in their career and what I mean by that is no to the ridiculousness of certain clients that come on board, no to clients that want you to do more than what that you were paid to do, no to clients that are belligerent, and no to just clients that you know what, it's not a good fit. I believe the clients and building business should be fit, fun and financial. You should have— One, you should be building a business with those that you can have some fun with, you can laugh and enjoy each other's company. Two, that fit the value that you provide to that particular client or the demographics within that client and three, Clients that can pay you. Because there were so many people that want to do business that we want to do business with but there are many times they just can't pay us, and it doesn't matter, like, I said, if a restaurant or we're an appliance person, they should--Anybody listening to this podcast could be shipping Amazon packages and they don't want to pay the shipping cost for Amazon. Sorry, you have to learn to say no.
Ramesh: It's so fascinating Drew that the many people have been talking to, you know, this aspect of selecting the right customers, filing the bad customers are the people that you work with, it's a constant theme. That is when these entrepreneurs have kind of become successful so to say. They started enjoying more once it’s they started this. That is great. So, I mean 16 years of journey has it been smooth all along?
Drew: No. No business is smooth. You could take a look at Tesla, you could take a look at Facebook, you could take a look at Microsoft, Apple, and the list goes on. It's never smooth but I think as a leader whether you're working with subcontractors, employees or even by yourself, you just have to learn how to smooth out the obstacles.
Ramesh: So, what was it not late? The customer or the pipeline was not smooth? Their operations were not smooth? What aspect of your business did you face more challenges?
Drew: From where I started to where I am today if I can boil it down to three things, I recognize: one, I listen to too many people. And you really have to build a small circle of mentors and I don't want to sound trite with this but truly if you're not listening to good advice, then you need to find people that are going to be harsh with you and give you sage advice. Two, to that notion, if you're the smartest person in the room, you need to leave because you need to have a group of masterminds that can challenge you and push you constantly to higher levels and, Three, you know what, I learned Ramesh, and I was thinking about this the other day, it was coincidental because you consequently had then emailed me and said, “would you be interested in the podcast.” I've learned to be shrewder in business. I've learned to be sharper. I've learned to be more acute in my thinking as far as what kind of clients, what I'm willing to accept, what I won't accept, and I've also learned to be more much stricter than I was before. So, if a client didn't pay or a client was late with a payment or they didn't give me the proper paperwork, no that's all right. Wait a day, no, I'm to the point now where I've become much more direct intruder in doing business because my time is valuable and if people don't respect my time then I just move on to the next line.
Ramesh: Interesting. So, if you had not done your research about me, you could have fired me.
Drew: That’s right.
Ramesh: That’s pretty interesting. I like it. So, let's talk a little bit about your customer building. How do you build your pipeline?
Drew: It's a good question. I believe in integrated marketing and I teach others in marketing that's where my advisory is. There are approximately 27 different points and if I separate that out because it's a lot here for the podcast but to simplify it, integrated marketing is just a combination of both traditional and digital marketing so that you can manifest your brand and there are 27 points on those but if I nail it down four or two, let's say, the top four or five different things: One, As I mentioned, I write a lot. So, I do a lot of blogging or I do some short bursts like Twitter, Instagram, those sorts of things. I've done a tremendous amount of voiceover. So, I'm very interested in podcasting myself. I have my own podcast known as business acceleration that's been on for years. I've also done some vidcasting as well and that I find very intriguing to do. I'm active within LinkedIn groups, I'm starting to get active with Facebook groups, but the demographics are a little bit off for what I'm looking for. I still speak when I have the capability to do so but I'm also a big advocate of the latter two, and that is Networking and Referrals. So, I spent a good portion of my day on the phone trying to network within my circle also building out that circle using LinkedIn to help build out that circle and getting referrals where I can from previous clients and business colleagues to see what additional areas I might be able to conduct business.
Ramesh: I mean, if you do extensive networking and speaking and writing under social media, are you concerned about having too many clients simultaneously and not being able to service them properly?
Drew: No, because I do so much that I know what I can handle at any one time. Since I've had the business for so many years now, I know what the ebbs and flows are but the point here that I want to make because of the implication in your question is simply this, the moment you turn off your marketing you turn off anything that goes into the funnel. So, my theology is that I'm going to spend no matter what, an hour to two hours per day marketing because I always want to keep the funnel full. If I have to push a client off by a week or two, I would rather do that, or I'd rather work a few extra hours a week in order to meet the client's demands than not having conducted the marketing and then trying to fill that at a later date.
Ramesh: That’s really good. So, one of the entrepreneurs talked about-- No she's a therapist, her planned engagements are short. So, she has to keep on filling it. So, what is the duration of your client engagements?
Drew: If I'm doing turnaround and revenue operations and that's all I am all I'm doing as advisory work, minimally three months, maximum six to nine. My attitude is, if I can't fix you within three to six months there's a true problem there. If I'm doing capital lending and private equity, oh goodness, I can get somebody alone within 30 days. Easy equity partnerships take a little bit longer but by the time term sheets go out and the exchange of dollars and equity, typically, that's a 90 to 100 day sometimes 180 days. So, six months maximum. But I have deal flow constantly coming to me, so I'm seeing turnover once every 90 days.
Ramesh: That’s great. With so much you're doing, where is your drive coming from, is it motivation? Are you the kind of person who is self-driven? Are there times that you talk to other people to get the motivation, inspiration. Whether other leaders or books. Can you talk a little bit about your drive and motivation?
Drew: Two things. Because I noticed this early on in my life. What I love about what I do is I'm introduced to new businesses every single day. It doesn't matter if it's cannabis or real estate or information technology as an example, I'm learning different sectors every day and to me, that's very intriguing. But at the heart of it, I have an innate quality where I am just driven. It's that simple and so after I had been terminated, it's really just the self-motivation to say, never again. And so, I'm constantly moving and constantly driving so that that will never occur in my life.
Ramesh: Wow, that is it's an interesting way to look at some of the events that drive you. Okay so Drew, another question I want to ask you is some of the tools, because, over a period of 16 years, I'm sure you have evolved in the use of the tools in marketing and sales and building your company. What are the tools that you rely on the most?
Drew: Nobody's ever asked me that question, that's why I'm laughing. I think if I boil it down to a couple of different things, I am enamored with the voice to text technology. So, I am a big advocate of Dragon because that's how I write most of my books. I found Dragon roughly five or six years ago and so rather than keyboard, I actually dictate into the computer and I am able to churn out a book literally within 20 to 30 days easy. And I have a formula as far as how to turn out the book and so once I get the chapters that I want to write, then it's just a matter of putting the text together and so I dictate into the computer and there is my text for the book. SANS you know process visuals and examples and those sorts of things. That's one. Two, I could not live today and I find it intriguing because I turned 57 in February, so I remember the Rolodexes, I remember file cabinets, I remember the index cards and my computer is-- Somebody and I, we were having a conversation the other day, his computer is having some issues, mine is starting to slow down and what I find amazing is I could leave my office and I can take my cell phone with me and my office is with me. Where years ago, it was a daytimer and a computer and a notebook and then this and that. And literally, I can leave, and I can have everything on it. So, I could not live today without a cell phone or accessibility to say, email and definitely Dropbox because that's where my files are. And I'm going to mention Dropbox, I use the cloud because I'm an Apple user. Another tool which I find exceptionally helpful is voice mail. I'm not a big tech store, I do email but I'm big on voice mail. I return calls within 90 minutes and so my theology is that and that is very helpful because I ask to leave a distinct message, I train my folks to leave me important messages so that we're constantly moving it and constantly doing other things. And I guess the last but not least, just because of the modalities that I use both in turnaround, I could not live without either to be fair to everybody, either a Microsoft Office or Google suite simply because I need documents and I write proposals, look at text, do textual information as well as spreadsheets. Income statements, balance sheets, pro formas, those items that are required for me to analyze the business and make some decisions moving forward.
Ramesh: One theme that come through is that you're the voice guy.
Drew: Yes, very much so.
Ramesh: That's interesting. So, I know you've been advising turnaround, like companies already there in existence. Have you advised anybody, people who wanted to start businesses?
Drew: Yes, I get those sorts of people coming to me every single day. Those that are coming to me that want to start a business, I'll invest a little bit of time. There are some people and that's where I've gotten a little bit more scrupulous of who I do business with because I do ask, and I think this is part of the no more of those that have businesses, Ramesh. That is, I'll give you my time, I'm more than happy to spend say 45 minutes to an hour with somebody, give you some business advice to move forward. There are those though that want to start businesses and so they're constantly thinking, well, it's free and you can get free and that's where I've said, “no you got to come with a checkbook ready to spend” because, yes, there is a ton of content out on the internet but if you're going to start a business and you're looking for assistance in doing so, then you want to find a good advisor that's not only going to give you good advice but then become your accountability partner so that you put together goals you put together the strategies and tactically you're moving forward because there's a lot of money out there unfortunately for business advisors, unfortunately, they don't do much and that's why many businesses fail. Many businesses will succeed when they have the accountability people around them that push that entrepreneurial forward to the finish line.
Ramesh: That's good. So, what is the starting point? If somebody comes to you for advice, like people listening to this podcast, they're sitting there, they want to start the business, where do you want them to start?
Drew: I would love it-- I'm not big on business plans. There's a lot of folks that go to school and they'll go to the SBA and they'll spend all of this time, I don't care about business plans. What I want to be able to do is I want to extrapolate the goal, the dream, the vision that you have in your head and I want to put it down on paper and I want to simplify things. And so, what we're going to say is simply this, come to me with your business idea, come to me with your goals and then tell me two things: how many hours are you going to put in without excuse. I don't want to hear I have got children, I've got soccer games because it's very easy to make the excuses and secondly how much money are you going to put into this. How much are you going to say, I'm going to pull from the bank, use credit cards for an accountability coach in order to make this work. When somebody comes to me like that, that's when I'm ready to make a move.
Ramesh: I mean, how long do you think-- I mean again, it differs from idea to idea but typically, people to start and then build a business?
Drew: You know, to be fair, the first three years with any business are rough. There are always going to be fits and starts, number one, because of the time commitment and number two, the vision is going to change. I had a woman come to me recently that wanted to start a non-profit, but she really wasn't very clear as far as what the non-profit was going to do. She knew right at the top of her head what the theme of the nonprofit was but how it was going to work and how she wanted it to function, that's where it had most of its fits and starts. Once we were able to glean and really think the tip of the arrow as far as what she wanted to do, that then became easier to put those goals and objectives together. So, I say typically, with somebody who has an idea but is not certain, it's probably going to be six months to a year. My goal though, and I'm not like most business coaches, my goal is to get you started the fastest way possible and remove all of the obstacles so that we can get you to higher levels of success quickly.
Ramesh: That's why I called my podcast The Agile Entrepreneur. It's like making things quicker. Exactly.
Drew: And that's why I use the metaphor of business acceleration because I want to get you from first gear into fifth gear as quickly as I can.
Ramesh: Exactly. I think that is very very crucial because of people who might give up otherwise it takes too long that's correct. So, looking back at your experience in the past, anything that you think you could have done differently that we could learn from?
Drew: Yes. One, surround yourself with good people but be smart. I mean, if your gut is telling you this person's not it then gets out. My gut usually tells me the right thing and to a certain extent I've stayed in it a little bit too long and I wish that I had surrounded myself with better groups of individuals going forward. Two, stop listening to every piece of advice that's out there because there are so many opinions and now with the internet, every everybody is willing to say anything to you and so it's really easy to get caught up in everyone's advice, especially some of the stupidity that I've seen, if I may, Ramesh on Facebook. “I'm 22 years old and I'm going to retire in two years.” “I made a million dollars in my mommy's garage as a business coaching consulting.” Or “how I went from my dumpster diving to being in a Penthouse apartment in New York.” All of that if I may on your podcast, is balderdash. There's another term for it, it's all bolt. Everybody is just wanting to bring you into their coaching atmosphere. You've got to go on referral, you have got to go with people that you trust and last but not least, and I got caught up with this very early on and then I met a mentor who taught me differently and this was approximately 10 years ago and there’s a good piece of advice to every listener and that is, stop listening to unsolicited feedback. The reason why-- And I'm going to be a little dramatic here but the reason why there's so much suicide amongst the teens out there is that they all listen to each other on social media about what they have and what they plan on having. And all of these dreams and all of these visions-- And I got to tell you, social media is nothing worse than a toilet bowl to a certain extent. Anybody is willing to say whatever they want behind a monitoring keyboard, but they won't be willing to say it in front of you directly and I can't tell you, Ramesh, how many times I've been chopped down for wording that I've used or sentences that have quote-unquote poor punctuation or grammar or didn't like my speech. I got insulted because it's very easy to go down that rabbit hole and so my advice to anybody out there is leave it alone. God puts you on this earth for a reason with an innate set of skills. So, when somebody comes up with unsolicited feedback, there are two things about this: One, they’re not only defaming you, but they're also defaming your Creator. Two, it’s because they can't see it in themselves and so they're envious. Don't get caught up in that garbage, keep moving forward.
Ramesh: Excellent advice. Drew I mean fantastic actually. So, is there any last-minute parts, anything that I did not ask that you want to share?
Drew: I think the only thing I want to say especially for those that are starting a business and those that are having some fits and starts, you have a dream and you're going to have a lot of naysayers. People want to see you fail or they'll give you-- They'll see you failing and just want you to stop. If it's in your gut and you have this little voice speaking to you, say, that you think you can and you just have to do this, you have to do that, you know what, keep moving forward. I don't want to sound silly on this comment but there is a line from the movie, sister act 2 with Whoopi Goldberg and I can't remember her name, but it was the lead girl who was a very wonderful singer, but she was in the room, she started to get involved with Whoopi Goldberg in the church and mom did not want her to sing and she said, all though should would have could have is not going to get you a job.” And you know what, you're now seeing to a certain extent on television the manifestation of whatshould would have could have. There are so many people that are out there that want to sing and have never been given an opportunity but now you're seeing shows like American Idol and the voice and song land, people that have had that dream, but I've never been able to do it now they're being given a second chance. What I mean by all of this is that it's very easy to give up. Do not give up on what your dream is. And I say that not only is an entrepreneur who has survived all these years, but it was a track-and-field store that actually came from a dysfunctional home and it's one of those things where my parents never went to attract me, and my parents never routed me on, I stayed late on one track and I wound up setting seven school records and I got my own scholarship to go to school. You asked me before where the drive comes from, that's where a lot of that comes from. It’s my childhood days and I say that now as an example even during my professional speeches to small business owners just because there are others that don't believe in you, you need to believe in you. You need to believe in what you've been given and keep moving through the best way you can.
Ramesh: Fantastic. Drew I thoroughly, throughly enjoyed this podcast, it's a very inspirational, very motivational and it's based on your experience. It's not like they were just words, okay. Fantastic thank you very much for your time, Drew.
Drew: It's been my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.