Over the many years I've been working, and within the many businesses I've developed and run, there are a few things I tend to repeat over and over again. Those who work around me get to know these catch phrases by heart, because they are how I approach all aspects of business.
"You can have results or excuses, but you can't have both." Fast is as slow as we go." "Details matter."
My favorite? "Awesome never rests."
To me, being awesome at something is not a finite destination, it's excellence in motion - forward motion, the best is yet to come.
Think about just a few business visionaries from our lifetime, like Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates. Imagine all of the milestones they not only reached but pushed right on past.
Did they ever say, "Well, I'm here, I did something awesome, guess it's time to hang it up"?
Of course not. Because no matter what they achieved, they always saw an opportunity to do more. And this idea doesn't just apply to building computers or running major conglomerates.
Truly successful people rarely rest when they meet their goals. This quote from Steve Jobs especially resonates with me:
"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me...Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful...that's what matters to me."
Thin at the Top
In my last letter, I talked about my team, and about how much I expect from them from day one on the job.
When it comes to my company, I can get laser focused on the details. I see the failures, but I also see the touchdowns, and I can be a great cheerleader. I know that without my team, we wouldn't be managing over a billion dollars in assets, so I make it a point to be the first to recognize achievements on my team.
Even so, my team members know that I might call out what you accomplished today, but that doesn't mean I'll ease up on you tomorrow. You can never rest on success.
I don't hire ham-and-eggers who'll do the bare minimum until the clock strikes five. I want to know my team can go the distance. In other words, average people don't work here.
My son Chris recently used the metaphor of the "mountaintop" to motivate our team members—because, as you can imagine, it's tough to maintain the energy to keep pushing after achieving a big win or meeting a long-held goal.
Chris describes how the air gets thinner the higher you climb, as the oxygen decreases with each degree of altitude you rise. Additionally, the top of the mountain is small and it's not meant to be a place to hang out for a while. It's meant to be an achievement and then you go find the next mountain to climb. It's the same in business. When you're at the "top" of your industry, you'll want to give in to the signs telling you to slow down while you're ahead. All the while, your competition is behind you, getting ready to outpace you.
When a team member first gets the hang of how we do things around here, it's often that they ask questions about why we hold sales meetings every morning, or why our executive team goes through KPIs and survey results every afternoon. It's for this exact reason. I want everyone who works for me to be as precise and as unrelenting about the details as I am. I want them to inspect what we expect. I also want them to get the message that we don't slow down, not even for one day.
While we know that we are at the top of the turnkey real estate industry, we can't give into the mountaintop mentality. We have to keep pushing, and never stop asking ourselves how things can be better, so little problems don't spark into wildfires in that thin air.
Smoke the Competition
It's up to you to look beyond the status quo when it comes to your own performance or that of your business. Sometimes that means going against popular advice and following your gut about what will take your business to the next level. Don't be typical.
When I was managing my first supermarket, I got a lot of instruction from the higher ups about store practices. Maybe it was because I had one of the highest volume stores in the area. Maybe because I was the youngest store manager, at 23.
Though it was the early days of private label products, I was a big believer in pushing them because they offered a higher profit margin on total store sales. I displayed them prominently on end caps and aisle stacks, even going so far as to purchase our distributor's entire supply of spray starch.
They called me, making sure I hadn't made an error. "This is enough to supply all the stores in the area for a whole year," they said. "What are you going to do with it?"
I sold it all within weeks.
I saw what private labels could offer, even when my bosses couldn't. National brands were big players, and they were afraid that private labels would infringe on their shelf space and sales. That is, until Del Monte wised up and made a private label to sell virtually the same product. It was cheaper for the consumer, and a bigger margin for the operation. Wins all around.
Now, you have stores like Trader Joe's who are 100% private label and have done quite well for themselves.
Don't be afraid to do what everyone else tells you not to do. That's how you smoke the competition.
Commit to The Grind
It might seem obvious, but going bigger and pushing for better than "the best" is a big part of The Grind. Reaching goals you set for yourself is certainly important, but so is working hard to push past the limits of whatever you previously thought possible. At the end of the day, you can be average or awesome, it's your choice.
I might say things like "big hat, no cattle" to talk about my flashier competitors, but that doesn't mean my catch phrases only apply to Texas grocery stores or real estate markets. They make up a mindset that can change everything around you, wherever you are, whatever you do.
In today's business world, there are hundreds of competitors trying hard to scale that mountain. There are very few that climb the mountain, descend and then decide to go up it again. Now, I'm no literal mountain climber myself, but I treat every business endeavor as my own personal Everest. I don't plan to stop, either.
Until next time,
Chief Grind Officer
About Kent Clothier
Entrepreneur, Real Estate Investor, Husband, Dad, and Granddad. Through decades of personal experience, and a few other titles, Kent built a strong community around him at REI Nation. But it didn’t start there. It took 22 years of entrepreneurship – of losing money and making money, building small businesses and multimillion dollar companies alike – before he founded a family business-turned-empire. His sons Kent Jr, Chris, and Brett have worked alongside him, as well as leading successful ventures of their own. Real estate trends, managing towards efficiency, excellent customer service and leading the industry are what fuel him. Over the years, the skills he’s come to value are financial acumen, honesty, and forging new paths in business, investing, and winning.