JM: So what did you want to talk about today?
TF: How being a self-starter can lead one to have success
JM: Okay, great. First off, what is a self-starter and how can it lead to someone being successful? TF: A self-starter is someone who needs very little or no direction in accomplishing tasks. They take the initiative to get things done themselves
JM: Okay. How have you been a self-starter yourself in your own life?
TF: From an early age, I was a self-starter. At age six, I sold a lot of lemonade on the side of the road. I sold so much lemonade that a younger neighbor when he saw me playing baseball in the neighborhood one day, asked me why I wasn’t selling lemonade because he thought it was my job. During Christmas time, I also used to take candy canes from my father’s office and sell them to neighbors. I also used to pick neighbors’ flowers out of their yard and sell them back to neighbors. One time, I actually picked someone’s own flowers out of their yard and tried to sell them back to them. Needless to say, they weren’t too happy about that.
JM: Wow, so you were rather ambitious from an early age. Did you do anything else from an early age of note?
TF: Yes. In 5th grade, I had my own baseball card business where I would buy baseball cards for cheap on eBay and sell them back for more to kids in my grade. Baseball cards eventually were banned by the principal. I ended up writing a petition to change that rule, but never actually ended up turning it in. My math teacher said she had heard that someone was selling baseball cards. That, someone, was me. While we are on the subject of baseball cards, I also used to write MLB players and send them a card hoping they would sign it. I got many signatures including a few Hall of Famers including Hank Aaron, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine
JM: Sounds like you liked to get after it from an early age.
TF: Yes, in high school, I used to sell bottled water at Chastain Amphitheatre concerts. I would buy the water for 25 cents apiece, and then up selling them for $1 apiece. They were usually $3 inside so it was a good deal for my customers. Much like Bill McDermott used to make friends with the security guards outside the office buildings in New York City when he first started at Xerox in the mid-1980s, I used to befriend the Atlanta Police officers who were outside the concerts. I used to give them free water.
JM: Sounds like you were an entrepreneur early on? How did you get people’s attention when they were walking by?
TF: I would say things like, “the night is hot, but the water is not. Ice cold-bottled water, $1.” We also made the executive decision choice to sell Dasani water, the Coke brand water, vs. Kroger water. It can get pretty hot in Atlanta, so we would also sell water after concerts. After the concerts, I would say things like, “it is a .6 mile walk back to your car. Do not get dehydrated! Do not let that happen to you!” We would also dress up differently depending on which artist was performing that night.
JM: How has this led you to the current success you are having today?
TF: For someone to be successful in sales, they have to make something out of nothing. I have done this not only in my career but also in marketing my books. I have done 85 TV interviews in the last year and all have come off cold calls or cold emails.
JM: Impressive, what does someone have to possess to become a self-starter?
TF: Well, I learned a lot about what it’s like to become a self-starter in Bill McDermott’s book, “Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office.” In that book, McDermott says that “Belief alone is never enough. The audacity of any dream must be paired with reality, preparation, diligence, follow-through, and hard work.” McDermott was much like myself in that from an early age, he was very entrepreneurial and had plenty of street smarts. When he was a paperboy, he took his job very seriously and not only did a good job delivering the paper to his customers but also expanded his business into other product lines. But his biggest feat came when he was 16 years old and purchased a deli he was working for through a promissory note.
JM: He owned his own deli in high school?
TF: Yes, he did, and the money he made from the deli helped pay his way through college at Dowling.
JM: Interesting. How was he successful at that deli?
TF: He put the customer first. He had stiff competition from the 7-11 that was just down the street. He was able to get customers to leave that store by catering to teens who wanted a place to hang out, offering credit to blue-collar workers, and delivering to senior citizens.
JM: But I thought that going into business was just about making money.
TF: No, it’s not. It’s about being obsessed with the customer. If you do that people will buy from you. McDermott did the exact same thing at Xerox, SAP, and currently at ServiceNow, which is why he is arguably the hottest CEO in the nation.
JM: Impressive. Getting back to your story, though. Is there anything else you’d like to add where you took the initiative to get the job done?
TF: Yes. The only detention I ever got in high school, was I got the rule changed by writing a petition, getting over 100 signatures, and submitting it to the new Dean we had in high school.
JM: Wow. If you had one quote that summed up what it takes to be a self-starter, what would it be?
TF: It would be a quote from Napoleon Hill’s “The Law of Success.”
What is initiative?
It is that exceedingly rare quality that prompts – nay, impels – a person to do that which ought to be done without being told to do it. Elbert Hubbard expressed himself on the subject of Initiative in these words:
“The world bestows its big prizes, both in money and honors, for one thing, and that is Initiative.
“What is initiative? I’ll tell you: It is doing the thing without being told.