Learn From My Failures
You can read more about me here, but I want to pull back the curtains of my life even further and give you a few valuable tips I’ve learned along the way if you’ll read every word…
I went to Bible College to become a youth minister.
After five years of college, including a year at Oklahoma State University, a few days at Central Bible College, and two good years at Evangel University, I finally graduated with a Business Administration degree from SAGU, marrying my wife Shelly in Grand Prairie, TX, and helped start Faith Harvest Church with my father-in-law back in the early 90’s.
Yeah, I know. Some guys get rich from working in the ministry.
That wasn’t me!
Trust me, I didn’t get rich from the ministry.
Personally, I almost always worked another job outside of the church to help pay the bills. My first check from the church was a $25/weekly stipend to help cover my expenses.
A Bunch of Crappy Jobs
After college, I sold Fairfax vacuum cleaners door-to-door, long distance service, set appointments for insurance agents, and finally stumbled into telemarketing sales.
By 1995, I was selling animated Bible Videos over the phone and devoting every other waking hour to helping my church.
The Worst Hail Storm Ever
Immediately after the worst hail storm in U.S. history hit Fort Worth, TX in May of ’95, a friend from church recruited me to sell roofs for his roofing company and I gladly said, “Adios!” to telemarketing forever. I didn’t even give a 2-week notice. I was so ready to get out of telemarketing.
God bless that man!
I’m forever thankful my mentor, Dennis Tuttle, gave me a way out of that dreaded telemarketing job… although, even to this day, I’m still extremely nice to telemarketers.
I learned a lot about selling from working the phones. It was an auto-dialer, too… as soon as the person hung up, there was another beep in my ear with a new prospect.
I could try out all my crazy closing ideas twice a day and never run out of somebody to talk to. It was brilliant.
That’s where I learned the famous sales motto, “Some will, some won’t. So what. Who’s next!”
The faster you fail, the faster you’ll learn. While I don’t recommend telemarketing unless you’re just a glutton for punishment, I am in favor of speed knocking. Knock and talk to as many people as you can, everywhere you can, whenever you can. Fail faster. Read this article about profiting from failure after you finish reading this article.
I learned how to talk to people from all different backgrounds, beliefs, and levels of education. Some were rich, some were poor. I didn’t care because I sold them all.
Telemarketing was a great education, but roofing sales is a much better opportunity to make money…
By the way, back in the early 90’s, the average tenure of a telemarketer was less than 6 months. I did the job for over 2 years because it was the only work that paid at least $10 hr + bonuses where I didn’t have to sell out to the corporate lifestyle.
Oh, I had corporate offers, but I couldn’t picture myself schmoozing my boss over drinks at happy hour 2-3 nights a week or living out of a suitcase and missing weekends with my family because I’m stuck in some far-away airport… yet again.
That wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.
Making More Money
Almost immediately after I started selling roofs, I was making 2x as much money and enjoying the freedom of setting my own hours.
Good thing because the church was finally starting to grow. Roofing allowed me to spend more time in the ministry and make a decent living too.
“My goal was never to become a roofing salesman, own a roofing company, or find myself out selling roofs after almost every hail storm.”
Shoot, it was never my intent to publish these articles, write a newsletter, or own a consulting business specializing in growth scaling, leadership development, and sales training.
I could’ve never imagined a day when folks would call me from all over America because they’re desperate for help.
I still can’t believe this is the #1 Roofing Sales Resource in America.
Nothing Goes As Planned
My head spins when I think about how my life’s turned out…
…primarily because this was never my plan.
This isn’t what I wanted to do with my life!
If you haven’t lived long enough to realize it yet, nothing in life ever turns out the way you plan it. The only thing you can count on is change. Two things you need to know about change. #1 Change is always bad for somebody and #2 Change is always good for somebody. You decide.
Pastor Mike and Powerhouse Youth
I really wanted to be a youth pastor… I felt “called” to do it… I was a youth pastor… for more than a decade I answered to, “Pastor Mike!”
However, I was the most under-achieving, below average, run of the mill youth pastor to ever walk God’s green earth.
I did get to work with some great people in the ministry.
I ate a lot of pizza, preached 45 to 50 mediocre sermons a year, took some amazing youth trips (e.g. Steamboat, Gulf Shores, etc.)… But, sadly, I sucked as a youth pastor.
Most of my church kids don’t even attend church regularly anymore… some don’t even go on Easter or Christmas. Jesus, help them!
By the summer of 2004, the church I helped my father-in-law start was really struggling to keep the doors open.
People were leaving in droves. It seemed like every week there were fewer people in the congregation. Eventually, the offerings weren’t enough to pay the bills.
We sold everything we had, including the church property to catch up on the lease payments and make one last push to keep the church alive.
Sadly, the writing was already on the wall. The church would soon close.
End Of A Dream
On Sunday, October 24th of 2004, I walked out of church — the church I helped start with my father-in-law, Richard Healy, for the very last time.
Lost, confused, and without a clue, I instinctively did what I always do when things get incredibly hard: Figure out how to sell more roofs.
When you don’t know what to do to make money, imagine that somebody is holding a gun to your head and you have to come up with some quick money or they are going to pull the trigger. What would you do if you had to do it legally? Do that! Don’t waste time doing anything else.
I packed up my pregnant wife and my 5-year-old daughter, and we moved to Pensacola, FL along with my wife’s family. We were all broke because we had just given everything in our last-ditch, failed attempt to keep the church afloat.
A few days before driving down from Texas, I called a Craigslist ad in Florida and talked a lady into renting us her home a few block off the Pensacola Bay coastline. We had enough money for gas to drive down and pay the first month’s rent. Hurricane Ivan had just ripped through Pensacola and I was going to hit the streets selling new roofs…
…unfortunately, so was everybody else in a 500-mile radius.
Hope For The Best, Expect The Worst
There was a police officer waiting for me at the rent house one day shortly after we arrived.
Apparently, it was a 3rd Degree felony to sell roofs in Florida without a license. Silly me, I had gone to great trouble to secure an emergency roofing license that covered the County of Escambia (where the city of Pensacola is located). As you may have already guessed, I needed a separate license for the city of Pensacola.
If you’re going to chase a storm, hope for the best, but expect the worst. Everything will be harder than it should be. Nothing will be as easy as it could be. Be prepared to work twice as hard just to make the same amount of money.
Fortunately, the officer was kind and understanding. He called the city office, put in a good word for me, and I was able to get the additional license quickly.
I was sweating bullets for a while there.
Storm Chasing is Expensive
Four (4) weeks after leaving the church, we hadn’t made any real progress.
The holidays were approaching fast. Money was still tight. Sales were slow and shingles were hard to find. Honestly, I was having a difficult time figuring out how it would get any better because we were splitting profit between three families.
On the night of Thanksgiving, I was licking peanut butter off a spoon, holed up in the rent house with my in-laws (love them, but really?) and was what felt like a million miles away from my annual Thanksgiving meal at my Grandma’s home in Oklahoma. That was a bad Thanksgiving. The worst I’ve ever had!
Just Go Home
To make matters worse, I was scared to go home.
Back home in Texas, all my utilities were cut-off, there were checks bouncing everywhere, and an eviction notice was waiting for me in my mailbox.
The Repo Man was lurking around every corner, calling and talking to all my neighbors, just waiting to jack my Jeep because I hadn’t been able to make a payment in over 6 months.
I knew if my Jeep was picked up, I wouldn’t be able to get my pregnant wife to the hospital when the baby came. Shelly was getting close to her due date.
Dorothy was right, “There’s no place like home.” It’s better to work a job making half as much money and sleep in your own bed at night than to chase pots of gold at the end of a rainbow somewhere far, far away. I decided to just go home.
I would like to tell you things got better immediately…
We got back home to Texas in January 2005.
Even though there hadn’t been a hail storm in North Texas in more than 3 years, I hit the streets of Dallas / Fort Worth with my best roofing sales pitch.
I figured it would be better to be totally broke but sleep in my own bed at night, than to spend even one more night in Pensacola, FL.
I sold one of my first roofs (25 Square, 3-Tab) to the secretary of my wife’s Doctor… and made enough to buy a few groceries and pay the delivery Doctor before my son was born.
My wife’s sister got our electricity turned back on. Family from everywhere sent enough money to give us a little breathing room. My Grandparents from Arizona mailed us a $1,000 check. It was the family that helped pull us through when we didn’t have any other options.
Tell everybody you know that you’re selling roofs. Write emails, post it on Facebook, Tweet it. Carry business cards with you everywhere. Give them to the drive-thru guy, your waiter or waitress, anybody who will take one. Remember, somebody you know right now holds the key to your future.
The Repo Man Showdown
Of course, the Repo Man caught up to me late one night, after I moved back home.
He banged on my front door and hammered my doorbell repeatedly while yelling into his walkie talkie with his sailor-mouthed partner screaming back midnight-piercing insults. He was trying to create chaos… and it was working.
My son hadn’t been born yet. We still needed the Jeep to get to the hospital. I had tried to work out a payment arrangement with the lender to bring the note current, but they had been unwilling to compromise. Their only offer was an immediate lump-sum payment of $8,000. Clearly, I didn’t have the money.
I open my front door and walk out into the chaos because I have no choice. He has to leave and I’ve got to talk him into giving up.
Meanwhile, my wife is now cowering in the back hallway, corner of our home. She’s shaking like a leaf, hiding in the darkness. The cumulative effect of losing the church, failing in Florida, and struggling through this pregnancy has finally come to a tipping point. The stress was enough to give anybody a panic attack.
You really don’t know what it’s like to live until you’ve lived in constant fear of something bad about to happen… all of the time.
It’s time’s like this, when you’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop while hoping and praying it never does, this is how good people develop panic disorders.
Believe it or not, I talked the Repo Man into leaving without my Jeep that night. He never came back again.
After my son was born in late March, I drove the Jeep down to the local Wells Fargo finance office and handed them the keys.
Wells Fargo refused to work anything out with me… even after I offered to pay all of the back payments. They still wanted the full $8k or nothing.
I can’t say I blame them. I didn’t have a very good track record. I was impossible to reach because my phone was disconnected. They couldn’t find me because I was in Florida. When their Repo Man did catch up with me, I discouraged him to the point of giving up. By the time I gave Wells Fargo back the keys, I hadn’t made a car payment in over 9 months.
Would you have been willing to work something out with me?
Everything looks easier when you look back, but in the middle of a hot mess, nothing is easy.
I probably didn’t exhaust every avenue of working with Wells Fargo, but I was tired of struggling with them and everybody else. Even though the local finance office wouldn’t take my payments any longer, I should have mailed all of my back payments to their corporate office and continued making my regular monthly payments to them directly. I didn’t because I was afraid they would take my money and my Jeep, too. If that happened, I wouldn’t have any money for a down payment on another vehicle.
Fear had wrapped itself around me.
Fear is your mortal enemy. It will try to suffocate you in your dreams at night. It will hunt you down in the middle of the day. There’s no place, and no time, that Fear won’t try to kill you. You must kill fear before it kills you… and I’m not joking about that!
The Mother of Invention
With my back against the wall, and without a fresh hail storm to work, I had to get real creative, real fast…
I decided to specifically target high-end roofs that had recently been through a class-action lawsuit.
In addition to knocking doors, I studied the masters of Copywriting (salesmanship in print) and started writing letters directly to the homeowners who owned these suspect roofs. I made up some B&W flyers and had them printed on bright yellow copy paper.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
I built a website to capture people searching for a solution to their crumbling, expensive roof.
Out of sheer desperation, I would stay up until 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning — my eyes were bloodshot for months on end — while learning to master search engine optimization and pay per click marketing… skills I dabbled in while at the church, now became a necessity of survival.
The internet was just starting to really take off…
I discovered the secrets of SEO and PPC marketing before we all knew just how big this Google thingy was going to get. Back then, you could buy clicks on the keyword “roofing” from Google AdWords for .05 cents each in the #1 position.
Today, I have to use every tip, trick and strategy I’ve ever learned while closely monitoring every dollar, just to keep my pay per click spending on roofing lead generation as affordable as possible… But, we’re never going back to a nickel a click. Never!
You would be hard-pressed to find anybody from the “old days” willing to pull back the curtains and reveal the internet marketing secrets of their successful websites. There’s just too much money at stake. A good internet marketing campaign is a game-changer, but it’s definitely not a game.
Internet Marketing isn’t a game anymore.
If a website drops “below the fold” for their most valuable keywords, it can literally put some companies out of business. The #1 search result on Google gets up to 50% of the traffic for any keyword. #2 is the 1st loser.
If your dream has died, dream a new dream. Any man who lives without a dream, won’t be living long. You may not quit breathing until you’re 90, but without a dream, you won’t ever really be alive.
Another Beat Down
Thankfully, 2005 was a better year because I was able to pay the bills and stay in my home… until I met Ms. Patel… right around the next Thanksgiving.
Ms. Patel had an old wood shingle roof that Allstate agreed to total 3 years after the last hail storm. At the time, I thought it was a miracle. Unfortunately, her General Contractor’s men destroyed our newly installed Decra roof by walking all over it. They dug their heels into the heart of the stone-coated steel shingles to stable themselves while they painted the sidewalls.
Yes, we roofed the home while she was having an addition built on…That was a big mistake. Never do that. Trust me.
Of course, there was a big thunderstorm almost immediately after her shingles were compromised by the painters. Her 2-story, 3,500 square foot, continuous, custom-textured, ceiling spring a terrible leak.
The job was also short on materials by about 30%.
I had leveraged my freshly established credit line at a local supply house to finish the roof. Her insurance company refused to pay the difference. She refused to pay me the balance because of the leak. She also wasn’t very happy about her brand new $50k roof with hundreds of foot faults all over it.
She blamed me. My roofer blamed the painters. I blamed myself for taking her job in the first place.
Money Is Strength
I didn’t have the money, or the drive, to fight her… it was a knockout blow.
Ms. Patel wasn’t a miracle…the whole thing was a nightmare!
My new credit line was destroyed. Their lawyer took me to court where the judge advised the supply house attorney to drop the case, telling him, “You can’t get blood out of a turnip.”
Didn’t keep their lawyer from filing a judgment though.
Do you blame him?
Here’s my advice… don’t ever do business with Ms. Patel.
Once again, I was completely broke and without a credit line.
Worse than that, the insurance companies had finally started to develop a somewhat effective strategy to deny, or at least delay, paying claims for homeowners with this defective high-end shingle.
At the request of a few of the larger insurance companies, mechanical engineers were hired for the inspections. They started writing up professional opinions in a report presented to the homeowner, with fancy diagrams and big-syllable words, all intended to deter them from pushing forward with the claim.
After a few months of working through this additional, intimidating layer, some of the roofs were still getting bought. However, it was getting more difficult to make money replacing these high-end roofs because the sales pipeline had been extended from a few weeks to a few months or longer.
Money was getting tight again and my strength was fading fast.
Back to Internet Marketing
In April 2006, I left the roofing company for my father-in-law to continue working it and took a job as VP of Sales & Marketing for an import company selling motor scooters over the internet. The pay was great and we sold a ton of scooters in 2006.
In the fall of 2007, right before Thanksgiving, the scooter company was falling apart because our Chinese manufacturer figured out he could make more money selling his scooters direct to the American public. They cut us out by drastically lowering prices and selling direct over the internet.
I’ve had a few Bad Thanksgivings in my life.
The original scooter website has been sold a few times. I believe a wholesaler from Georgia owns it now.
The Chinese set up a warehouse in California, built a few websites, and started under-pricing us by at least $100 on every scooter model.
However, they could have sold them for $200, $300 or $400 less than us. They made them cheap in China and could sell them cheaper than anybody else.
We bought our base scooter model from them for more than $300 plus we had to pay freight and customs. We sold them for $699 each but had to sell a ton to break even because we had our own overhead including a shipping manager, marketing manager, telephone sales reps, mechanics, receptionists, lease space, etc.
If we paid the Chinese supplier $300 each, how much do you think it cost them to make a scooter? Much Less!
However, it didn’t matter how good I was at internet marketing, they were always going to win because they could always undercut our prices.
More importantly, we had no good way of differentiating our scooter model branding from theirs… they were the exact same thing… just with different stickers.
Don’t Burn Your Bridges
The guy who owned the scooter company is an old friend from Oklahoma. Don’t burn your bridges because somebody you know right now probably holds the key to your future… I think I’ve said that before.
In January of 2008, I went to work for what was, at the time, a Fortune 500 corporation.
I started out with them selling internet marketing services. I had to fly out to Boston for training and made the occasional flight for a dog-and-pony trade show. For the most part, I sat at a computer in the corner of my bedroom — usually in my underwear — and talked to CEO’s, VP’s of Marketing, and successful Entrepreneurs about their internet marketing strategy.
Our monthly management fees started at $3,500 plus pay per click costs and went all the way up to mid-high five figures for some of our higher-profile clients (think shop-at-home television networks). Some of these guys would spend $1 Million dollars a month on pay per click marketing.
I Couldn’t Pull The Trigger
In the Spring of 2008, we had our first good hail storm in a long time.
In fact, it hit my home, my city… right in the middle of my comfort zone. I wanted to quit my cushy new job soooooo bad but didn’t because, for the first time in a long time, my family finally had health, dental, and life insurance.
Besides, my confidence was still shaken from Ms. Patel. I did take on some consulting work for a few local roofing companies, but I couldn’t leave my corporate job just yet.
Later that year, in the Fall of 2008, I helped my brother-in-law start a new roofing company while continuing to work my corporate job.
In January of 2009, the corporation opened up a job for me in their Coppell, TX office. There was a nice pay raise and an increase in benefits. I couldn’t resist. I took the corporate job and promised to give them at least one more year. The only downside was that I had to commute to the office every day because it was a management job.
At one point, I had several teams of people under me with almost 50 account executives managing over 17,000 clients who had budgets ranging up to $50,000+ monthly. I was ultimately in charge of millions of dollars in online advertising. I loved the job because I knew exactly how to make our clients successful, but it was always a ton of pressure, too.
My least favorite part of the job was letting people go. I hated every second of every moment of telling another human being they would no longer have a paycheck. I despised crowding into a small conference room with other high-level managers for weeks on end debating about who would stay and who would go.
I knew first-hand how difficult life could get without a job and I wanted no part of making life more difficult for my people or anybody else’s people.
Don’t Hide Your Dirty Laundry
What you think is a tragedy may be exactly what you’ll need to help you at some point in the future.
Since nobody else can learn from your failures quite like you, you may as well embrace them as soon as possible. Don’t hide from the embarrassing things in your life. By sharing your story, you’ll definitely help yourself… and you might just help somebody else come back from the edge.
I walked away from the corporate job in the Summer of 2010 to pursue the roofing business full-time with my brother-in-law.
I really missed the people from corporate… and not having to pay for my own health and life insurance, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back. It’s hard to never say never though. At this point in my life, that would have to be one amazing job to get me back into the corporate world.
In roofing sales, you can schedule all of your appointments around rush hour traffic. There’s nothing worse than being locked-down in bumper-to-bumper traffic when all you want to be is home…sitting in your underwear…writing another article for the #1 Roofing Salesman resource in the nation.
You Can Make It
I want you to know that you can make it.
I don’t want you to be afraid.
You can do this.
P.S. If you need me, I’ll listen to you, pray for you, even encourage you. I’m here to help you. Leave your comments on the Facebook page and subscribe to the 101 Sales Tips newsletter.