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Month: January 2021

Crippled CEO Blog #068: The Only Score That Matters

Crippled CEO Blog #068:

My dad didn’t care about my SAT score.

He didn’t really care about any of my scholastic test scores.

There was only one score that he cared about.

My credit score. 

While they wanted me to succeed and to, in general, get good grades, neither of my parents were really concerned about me getting the highest possible GPA.

But I started being told very, very young that my credit score was absolutely critical. My dad had impeccable credit, and no son of his was going to have anything below an 800.

And as an adult, I get it. I am a high school dropout, so those test scores I worried so much about don’t mean anything today, but being uber diligent about having perfect credit, like he was, has been incredibly important. 

It’s the reason I own my house. It’s the reason I own my vehicle. It’s the reason I have credit cards. But even more importantly, over and over again, it has saved my business. There’s no way we have have inventory for the season without our line of credit. We don’t make it through the 2008 recession without taking out loans. We don’t grow 10x over 9 years without bank lines, credit cards, and excellent terms with vendors. 

My dad was right about almost everything, all the time, that bastard (it was really annoying), but he was especially right about his insistence on a flawless credit score. If you can do one thing for your kids, besides feeding them a few times a week, help them get set up with a credit card they can start paying off early just to start building their credit while they are still living at home and you can guide them through it. My dad had me take out a loan from the bank when I was 18 with the sole purpose of paying it back one month at a time. 

If your own credit isn’t great, make a plan to fix it that’s on auto pilot. Figure out what you need to do to get everything current, make the payments automatic, and put the date that you’ll be all clear on the calendar. Your instinct is to not want to look at it. But in most cases, there really is a path towards redemption.

I’ve already started telling my infant nephew that I don’t care if he gets good grades, but he is definitely going to have perfect credit.

(This one wasn’t too bad, right? Maybe you should share it with somebody. Maybe you should make sure that you never miss the next one by sending a text message to 484848 with the word CRIP as the message. If you want.)

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Crippled CEO Blog #067: The 4 Step Loop to Double Your Service Business

Crippled CEO Blog #067:

If you run some kind of service business, this post is for you. If you don’t, it might not be.

For over 20 years, I’ve been helping people start pool fence installation businesses throughout the United States and around the world. At its core, being a Life Saver Pool Fence dealer / owning a pool fence installation company, is essentially a service / home improvement business. The big difference between a company that installs pool fences and, say, A/C units is that pool fences save lives and A/C’s save marriages. The product might be different, but the structure of the business is similar.

I say all of that to say that over the last two decades, I have figured out the four not-so-simple things you have to do to perpetually grow your business. All four of them are super easy to understand, and in isolation, easy to execute, but the trick is balancing them all simultaneously.

Each of these four steps is a cycle. Each one feeds the next naturally, before finally looping back on itself. I’ll attach a handy graphic that I made to illustrate.

Step 1: Advertise Online

Forget all of the other forms of advertising for the moment. As of January 24, 2021, Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok should be receiving 100% of your advertising attention and dollars. And the dollars part is important. If you’re doing it right, these things will bring in more money than they cost, so the idea is to invest as much as you can while still being able to handle the work and successfully do steps 2 and 3 (which I’ll get to shortly). You can handle this yourself at first if you have more time than money, and you can spend 30 to 40 hours going on Google and YouTube and learning how to run your own Facebook and Google Ads campaigns. Or you can hire a pro like Doug Betensky or Ashley Bissing. In my early days, I did it all myself. Now, time is the scarcer resource, so I have different companies managing different niches. You can decide your approach, but either way, this is a necessity, and I think this is the step most small businesses are missing. If you say you can’t afford it, you’re wrong. For one, because you can set any budget you like, but more importantly, because it brings in more than it costs. All of the steps are important, but none of the rest work if you’re not doing this one.

Step 2: Answer Every Call / Be the Master of Communication

If you’re doing it right, the inevitable result of advertising is people calling you, emailing you, messaging you on Facebook, etc. Over and over again, I have seen that the very best, most successful business owners are obsessed with making sure that every call gets answered, every email replied to, zero texts are left on read, and every DM gets a response. All of your advertising is for nothing if you are missing calls and not responding to messages. And yes, this is hard to do when you’re busy. If you’re doing a lot of the work yourself, it is going to be impossible to answer the phone every time. But it has to be prioritized. If you find yourself at the point where you know you’re missing calls, and the bar for how quickly you get back to folks has lowered, then this is the sign that you need to get help — either someone to answer calls when you are busy, or someone to help you in the field so you can answer them yourself. Either way, it has to get done.

And being the king / queen of communication doesn’t stop after the initial call. Keeping your customer in the loop every step of the way, especially when something doesn’t go exactly as planned or there’s a delay, is a game changer. 99% of the time when I get a call from a customer who is mad at their local Life Saver dealer, the real problem isn’t the error that they made, it’s that the dealer has been hard to communicate with. 1 Peter 4:8 says that “love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Eric 4:8 says that “proper communication covers a multitude of sins.” Answering calls and responding to people won’t just get you more jobs, it will help you have more happy customers as well.

Step 3: Make Customers Happy Even When It Hurts

We all know that we need to do a good job, offer a quality product, provide excellent service, and create happy customers. And that is super important, but you have to take this idea one step further in your mind.

To really get this step right, you have to fix things that weren’t your fault. You have to refund people who don’t deserve it. You have to be willing to lose money on a job even when you did everything right. You have to simultaneously take a hit to your wallet and your ego. This is very hard to do. It’s counterintuitive. We don’t want to let people walk all over us, to take advantage of us. That feels gross and wrong.

But you need to make this your default mode. This is how you avoid negative reviews in a world where lots of people are totally crazy. This is how, when somebody asks on Facebook about the service you provide, all of the comments are glowing recommendations that feature your name. This is how you get referred over and over again. This is how you make people passionate evangelists of your company. And lots of times the person won’t fully appreciate what you’ve done. Maybe all you did was escape the one star review. But how much would you pay to get rid of that review? Probably a lot. It’s going to be there forever. And even though some people won’t appreciate it, lots of other people will. Your reputation will build. And one day, even though you are more expensive than the other guy, they will decide to go with you instead because they’ve heard the stories of your amazing customer service.

This requires long-term thinking, but if you plan to be successful in the long term, it makes perfect sense.

Step 4: Get Great Reviews

You created happy customers in step 3. Now, the next step is to encourage them to go online and leave you a glowing review. You can do this with an automated email or text system. You can make it part of your end of sale process. You can offer them some kind of reward for leaving the review. How you decide to do it is up to you, but what’s important is that it happens. Online reviews help you sell the job before you get there. They make your online advertising more effective and less expensive by decreasing your cost per acquisition rate. They increase your closing percentage. They are a one time investment that pays dividends for years to come. Get yourself reviews on Google and Facebook.

Those are the steps! You advertise online, that makes the phone ring, you answer every call and communicate like a star, that gets you customers who are already fans of you, you make them all super happy even when they don’t deserve it, you convince as many as possible to leave you a good review, then you use the money from the extra customers you got via referrals and the higher prices you get to charge based on your reviews and reputation to invest more in advertising online, starting the entire cycle over again and HOLY GUACAMOLE your business is growing like crazy, Eric changed my life.

NOW, here’s the thing. It’s easy for things to get out of balance. If your advertising is going well, it gets hard to answer every call and communicate super effectively. If your advertising is going well and you are doing a great job of communication, then you are getting lots of work, and your customer service might suffer. It gets more difficult giving a refund that isn’t deserved to a psycho customer when you have more work than you can handle. It gets a lot more tempting to tell them to go float. It is easier to be less vigilant about getting good reviews when you already have a bunch and things are going well. It might seem like a good idea to cut back on the advertising when you’re getting so much work from referrals. It is very challenging to get all four things right at the same time. That’s the juggling act. BUT, if you know that these are the only four things that matter, and you’re constantly looking you see if any of them are slipping, then you’ll be on your way to service business Nirvana.

Good luck, my friends. And may the Force be with you.

(COME ON. That one was good. The least you can do is share this with your friend who has a service company. If it really seasoned your taco, you can subscribe to get a text with a link to the next blog by sending a message to 484848 with the word CRIP as the message. I mean, your mom is texting me. You should, too.) 

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Crippled CEO Blog #066: Turn Away More Customers

Crippled CEO Blog #066:

We are influenced by our role models. If you are a business owner, even if you don’t think of them in this way, you are influenced by the largest corporations in the world, the businesses that you are the most familiar with. You have learned from Walmart, McDonald’s, Toyota, and Coca-Cola that the goal is to appeal to the largest number of customers possible. The logic follows that the more people who CAN buy from you, the more people who WILL buy from you. You don’t want to do anything that’s going to turn away customers.

There’s a problem with this: it’s not true. Amazon, Google, and Target are the exceptions. For the rest of us, trying to serve everybody is the best way to be delightful for absolutely no one. Trying to appeal to the largest possible audience is the guaranteed path towards mediocrity, brand apathy, and being easily replaced by someone better or cheaper without a second thought.

Picking your customer, being as specific as possible to try to find, as my hero Seth Godin puts it, the minimum viable audience, and being diligent in focusing all your attention on serving that specific niche is just as important as offering the best product or service possible, and infinitely more critical than picking your name or your logo. 

Saying “no” to the majority of people allows you to earn the loyalty of those to whom you can say “yes.” Depth is better than width. And this isn’t some austere sacrifice. If 99% of the planet doesn’t like what you’re doing, that means 77 million people out there think your business, art, writing, or podcast sizzles their fajita. The beautiful thing about the Internet is that owning a small slice of the pie still gets you a large number of human beings.

Stop trying to make everybody happy. Stop trying to get every single customer — a lot of them aren’t for you and you’re not for them. Spend time deciding exactly who you want to thrill, and then go about doing the things that will make that person the happiest customer ever — for life. 

(Don’t be selfish. If you liked this, show it to somebody. And if you really liked it, guarantee that you don’t miss the next one by subscribing for a text alert. Send a text message to the phone number 484848 with the word CRIP as the message to obligate me to send you a text each week with a link to the latest blog.)

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Crippled CEO Blog #065: I Solve Everyone’s Problems, Part 2

Crippled CEO Blog #065:          

Once per year, I tell my Facebook friends I’ll help them solve any problem or answer any question, then attempt to seriously reply to each one. Last year, I published the questions and answers as a blog post, and I liked it, so I decided to do it again. A few of this year’s responses contain some detailed, tactical business/marketing/sales advice – stuff you can just literally copy and do yourself – so I think it should be really useful for folks. With no further ado, the questions and answers.

Q: What is the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything?

A: Besides 42, cultivating kindness.

Q: Marketing small business online

A: Here you go. 😊

Q: How to start a business. Registering/licensing. Idk what I’m doing 😩

A: You should hire Jennifer Gomez to help you register an LLC or Sub-S corporation. Also, the registration is the easiest part. You should be asking how to get customers.

Q: What should be the topic of the first book I write? (Jennifer Gomez, who asked this, is an estate attorney.)

A: “How I Defied the Odds by Being Gifted with Gravity-Defying Physical Attributes and Chose a Career Path That They Didn’t Help With One Bit”


“The Intersection of Volunteering and Law/High-Priced Professional Services: Doing Good While Doing Well”


“Hanging out with Musical Legends, and Other Stories of a 5th Grader”


“How to Kick Ass After You’re Dead / Everyone dies; how not to screw it up”

Q: What’s a good way to get an investment partner or partners without giving up complete control/majority ownership of a business?

I understand from their perspective they want to be able to make money, this isn’t out of the kindness of their hearts. But this is something I don’t want to sell in a decade, it’s something I want to last for generations. As such I want to be able to retain ownership.

A: Get loans instead. Lines of credit, SBA loans, etc.

Q: Why are yawns contagious?

A: Yawning is caused by a neurological virus. When you yawn, the virus travels out of your mouth and infects the people around you, who in turn are forced to yawn. Also, none of that is true.

Experts have published research that suggests the human propensity for contagious yawning is triggered automatically by primitive reflexes in the primary motor cortex — an area of the brain responsible for motor function.

One theory is that contagious yawning is related to empathy, and that people with higher levels of empathy yawn more often when someone else yawns, compared to people with lower levels of empathy or those with a mental disorder.

“Researchers have seen that yawning may not be as contagious to people with autism or schizophrenia,” Williamson said in a university news release. “More research is being done to determine the cause of this.”

She also noted that children under the age of 4 and older adults are less likely to yawn in response to somebody else yawning.

Q: Why is the world so ableist? Why do people treat us like tiny children that can’t do anything? It’s a whole new world chair level and one of my goals is to bitch and email and call until things are more accessible.

A: Because most people aren’t disabled. We are a very tiny minority.

Because most people who can’t do the things that we need help with are tiny children. Also, it is impossible for a regular person to gauge our capabilities, and not helping is rude.

I would avoid bitching and calling. Systemic change is slow and difficult. Spend that time making your own world more accessible and improving your own situation. That is a much better use of your energy.

Q: I do not have one million followers on Tiktok. Help me solve this problem in a way that doesn’t involve jeopardizing being an orthodontist or overtly exploiting my wife.

A: Before I finished your comment, I was going to go immediately towards exploiting your wife.

Post more. Keep getting better. Be super consistent. Exploit women who aren’t your wife. Grow your other channels. Use them to feed each other. Collaborate more with creators SMALLER or the same size as you and do it often.

Q: Do you think the KOMBI KEG would be a good franchise to invest in? I have the information packet here and I want to do it more than anything but the price tag scares me.

A: No.

Q: Need someone who wants to do good with their $$

A major company, or investors and backers for our non profit “ReesSpecht the Water” national water safety campaign

A: Make a list of 100 dream sponsors.

Plan out a creative mail and call campaign that will go to each of them.

For instance, first send them a toy Rubik’s cube. Along with it, send a letter explaining how reducing the number of fatal drownings is a puzzle, like the cube, and you need her help to solve it.

Next, send a cheap compass along with a letter saying how you know which way to go to stop children from drowning, you just need her help.

Follow up with a call.

Keep sending cheap $1-5 “gifts”, one per week, along with notes connecting them to what you’re doing, like the Rubik’s cube and compass, and then call after every 2 or 3 you send.

Send this pre-crafted, prepared campaign to your 100 DREAM sponsors. If you get one, you’re set, but I’d wager you get at least a few, if you really do it and you’re consistent. It might take 15 weekly letters with $1 gifts, but it’ll work eventually.

Q: How do I become the number one pool fence dealer/installer in the nation?

A: You do a loop of four things. The first thing you do is advertise. You get with Doug Betensky and you spend as much as you can on advertising as possible until you are too busy to continue answering the phone almost every time it rings/servicing customers properly. Step 2 is to be the king of communication. Answer every call. Get back to people right away. Let people know what’s going on. And so on. This gets hard when you get busy. This will typically start to suffer, and that’s how you know that you need to start finding help.

The next step is to create happy customers. This sounds obvious, but it is a commitment you need to take fully to heart. It means being willing to lose money on a job if you have to. How much would you pay to erase a one star review? That’s the question I always ask myself. Put yourself in a mindset where your instinct is to take short term hits knowing they will result in long-term success. Don’t nickel and dime. Don’t be petty. Give people more than they deserve.

Encourage these happy customers to leave you positive reviews and recommend you to their friends. Maybe offer them free lights for their reviews or something. But you need the reviews and the referrals. It makes your advertising more effective. You have to spend less on Google and Facebook to get jobs if you have great reviews, and you will also close a higher percentage of your estimates.

Then, take the money from the jobs you’ve done, from the additional jobs you got through referrals, and if you can handle it, invest more in advertising. For us, advertising on Google and Facebook is always a positive investment. You always get a profitable return. If you have the capacity to handle the work, you should spend as much as Google and Facebook will let you. You will eventually come to a point where you just can’t spend anymore money on those platforms, where there just aren’t any more clicks to get. But we can figure out what to do after that. If that is your issue, you are probably getting pretty close to being near the top of the list.

That’s it. That’s how to become the top dealer in the country. Guaranteed.

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Crippled CEO Blog #064: Hard Work is the Easier Choice

Crippled CEO Blog #064:

A year ago, I was asked by a friend who owns a travel agency for advice on growing her business. She told me that she had a Facebook group with 100 members, and wanted to know what else she could do. This was what I told her:

“[The group] is an excellent start. You need to be producing content in video, audio, and written form. I would pick the one you enjoy the most or you are the best at, then use that pillar content to convert into the other two. So, if you are making videos, have those videos transcribed into text for a blog, and use the audio as a podcast. I would also start doing mini interviews with customers for your Facebook video series/podcast about where they are going and the cool stuff they are seeing, and then again when they get back to get their thoughts on where they went. You could then compile these into best of lists, testimonials on certain locations from multiple people, and so on. 

I would also host dinner or cocktail mixer parties for your customers where they can exchange vacation ideas based on where they went and get travel tips from you.

Maybe consider getting a stuffed animal mascot, like a little bear or something, wearing a shirt with your company name and logo on it, give it a name, and give it to customers to take with them on vacation and have them take pictures of it in cool locations. They can post the photos and tag the mascot, which should have its own Facebook/Instagram page, and they could send you photos to post as well.

I could keep going, but I think they should get the ball rolling for you.”

I could stop this right there, because that is some excellent advice, I really impress myself sometimes — I should do this marketing thing for a living, but that’s not actually the point of this.

When this came up in my Facebook memories, exactly one year later, I asked her if she had done any of those things. I assumed I knew what the answer would be, but I was hoping to be proven wrong. I wasn’t. She hadn’t done any of them.

This isn’t a rebuke on her. She did exactly what nearly everybody would do. 

As she said, “it definitely isn’t easy,” and she’s right. Those things aren’t easy. They take consistent dedication and growing outside your comfort zone. 

The path to improvement always seems difficult. Growing your business is hard, eating healthy is hard, going to the gym is hard… but are they harder than the alternative?

Is taking the steps to creatively grow your business and make it successful harder than letting it coast in mediocrity, struggling to get by, and having trouble paying your bills? Is eating healthy and exercising harder than the long term health complications that happen if you don’t? 

Each path has challenges and hard work, but it’s better to be dealing with the challenges of success and prosperity than the challenges of mediocrity or failure. 

If you have a New Year’s resolution, and it’s feeling hard, it might help to remember that it’s actually the easier, lazier route, when compared to the alternative. 

(Was this my best blog post so far this year? I think so. You should share it with a pal. And hey, maybe subscribe to my weekly text update by sending a message with the word CRIP to the phone number 484848. Thanks!)

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