For small-business owners everywhere, his story is one of hope. Flat broke with two kids to feed and a marriage hanging on by a thread, Dave Ramsey picked himself up and started over. And what began on a card table in his living room just two decades ago has turned into a national brand that has helped millions achieve financial peace. Dave now employs more than 300 team members, and his radio show remains one of the highest rated in the country.
Dave and his team are celebrating another major accomplishment that’s brought a ton of hope and a ton of help to small-business owners and leaders everywhere. The EntreLeadership Podcast, which was created last year, has officially hit the one-million-download mark! Since its debut, it has remained iTunes’ number-one podcast on leadership.
To mark this milestone, Dave joined podcast host Christ LoCurto, producer Chris Mefford, assistant producer Becky Powell and audio engineer Collin Fatke for a special show in which he answered questions sent in from listeners. Here’s a sampling of Dave’s conversation with Chris.
How do I keep our bookkeeper, who has been here for seven years doing the same job over and over, from being restless? —Dima
Dave: There are actually people out there who thrive on details, and your bookkeeper is probably one of them. They get a little bit of a high when the key accounts balance. They’re just wired that way. Now me, personally, I’m not that way. But I have plenty of people on our team who are, so I never really struggle with trying to keep them interested or engaged. If your bookkeeper is continually restless, you may have someone in the wrong seat on the bus.
What do I do with a key team member who’s extremely negative? She’s our top sales rep and she’s bringing in the most money, but she’s frequently the Debbie Downer in the building—a finger-pointing, non-team-player personality. Should I work with her to change her attitude? —Nancy
Dave: The way we handle this kind of situation is sit down with them and have a very clear conversation. I discovered that I was too nice sometimes. I wasn’t being extremely direct or clear as to what’s going on and the consequences of their actions. I was setting them up to fail. So you need to be very clear with Debbie Downer. You need to say something like this:
“I really value you and I think you’re a great sales person, but the attitude and negativity that you’re throwing around this place far outweigh your sales. So here’s the deal: You can stay, but the attitude has to go. Today. You need to come in with a smile on your face. If you’ve got a problem, you need to cover it with me behind closed doors. Running around the office bringing everybody down does not offset the fact you’re a superstar sales person. I will still fire you.”
And then, the first time they say boo, you pull them in the office and give them that last warning: “Do it again, and you’ll be cleaning out your desk.” Now I’m a little bit nicer than that, but I want you folks out there to be very clear.
If I’m on the other side, I want to know I’m hanging off the edge of a cliff. I don’t want to think I’m standing in the meadow and everything is good, and then all of a sudden the train hits me. If you tell me, then I have a chance to change my attitude.
What’s your opinion on outside investors? Is taking investment money equal to taking on debt? —Jeff
Dave: It’s probably worse, because you’re now giving up ownership. You can never pay off your stocks. I found in years past that when I’m tempted to look at angel investors, it’s time to slow down.
A lot of business owners think if they’re not growing at astronomical rates, they’re not successful. When it comes to business, just staying open makes you successful. You don’t have to go from $500,000 in gross revenue to $50 million in 20 minutes. Grow slowly. Remember, the tortoise wins the race every time.
I’m starting a business. What are some steps I can take to determine the best initial fees for my services? —John
Study other people in your market to see what they are charging. If there is no one in your area, try another one similar in size, psychographics and demographics. For example, I might not compare Buffalo, New York, with Nashville, Tennessee, even though they’re similar in size. But I might compare Buffalo with Cleveland, Ohio, or Nashville with Austin, Texas.
Once you have your information, just experiment with your pricing by starting slightly lower. After you have some business on the books, start raising your fees.
How do you balance between hustle and burnout? —Eric
Dave: If you work 80 hours a week for 10 years, no matter what you’re doing, you’re going to hit a wall. Your health is going to catch up with you, and you’re going to lose your relationships. There will be burnout.
But an 80-hour week to get something off the ground is fine. I tell folks around here all of the time that we work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. And we try to keep to that schedule. But there’s going to be a period of time when things are happening and we have to get the ox out of the ditch. We have to take advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of us. We have to get the hay in before the rain comes. You can’t leave it on the ground; it will rot. You just don’t want to make a habit of you or your team working incredibly long hours.
For even more of the conversation with Dave and Chris, check out the latest EntreLeadership Podcast.
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