Today’s guest is a business consultant that was inspired to write his book “Don’t Be Dumb” after the successful removal of a brain tumor. Here to discuss his leadership playbook that’s intended to help people be smarter, overcome obstacles and rise rapidly in these challenging times, please welcome Robert Towle.
- 03.50.72 Robert Towle’s Background
- 05.03.09 Bought orbitz.com
- 07.16.94 People Management
- 28.45.90 Website
- 28.58.09 Where You Can Order the Book
Learn more about this guest:
Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Today’s guest is a business consultant that was inspired to write his book. Don’t be dumb after the successful removal of a brain tumor here to discuss his leadership playbook, that’s intended to help people be smarter, overcome obstacles and rise rapidly in these challenging times. Please welcome Robert.
You’re ready to grow your business. And I love helping entrepreneurs find success. So let’s do this. I’m Damon Burton, Forbes contributor, author of the search engine optimization book, outrank and president of SEO national. I’ve been featured on Forbes, entrepreneur and hundreds of websites and podcasts for helping big businesses grow bigger and make more money by showing up higher on search engines, including shark tank, featured businesses, NBA teams, and Inc 5,000 company.
I’m bringing my successful network to you firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether success to you means financial freedom, freedom of time or freedom of the soul. We’re in this together. Welcome to the learning from others podcast.
Ready to show up higher on search engines for words that you can monetize, but without paying for ads, download your free copy of my SEO book outrank. If you visit www.freeseobook.com today. Robert toll. Thanks for jumping on learning from others. Good to meet you. Good to meet you too, Damon. All right, so we’ve got a usual, two questions.
Are audiences familiar with question number one is who are you? And what are we gonna learn from you today? Well, um, I am a business consultant have been doing business consulting for about eight or nine years after a life in finance, in a variety of different jobs. And I’ve recently written a book called don’t be dumb out of my business experiences through, uh, throughout my career.
As well as some personal family stories and things like that thrown in for good measure and ideally will help, uh, your audience learn about how to improve things, have some nuggets that they can walk away with in their own life to improve things for them. Good. Cool. Now let’s dig into the book, but not until I ask you a question number two, which is what do you suck at Robert?
You know, it’s interesting. I see your guitars back on the wall. And, uh, I I’ve been a musician almost all my life, and I still feel like I slept. It’s like, I’m never good enough. And I always can listen to somebody else and you go back to the woodshed and go, okay, I got to work at it harder. There’s something else to just, I have to learn and sort of feel like just not there yet, even though I’ve been playing instruments and everyone I picked up, I can play some of the time.
I was six years old, but. Still don’t feel like it’s good enough. Still feel like I slept. So I’ll make you feel better because I don’t play guitar maybe worse, but you might be better than me, Damon. I don’t know. Maybe, you know, I’ve I’ve uh, I’ve, I’ve wanted to learn. So there’s, I’ll give you the short story behind the guitar is, uh, I’ve always, I’ve always been into music.
I worked on errand radio for several years and family always said, you know, you, you have good hand, eye coordination, long fingers, play piano guitar, or something like that. And so when COVID hit, I thought, ah, now’s the time like now maybe I’ll have some downtime and just the total opposite, just businesses skyrocketed since then.
And so that’s pretty much where you see them behind me is pretty much where they’ve sat for. The year and a half since day one, you dust them once in a while and just, you know, keep them clean and there you go. I dust them off and tune them. Like, I’m going to play it in there.
There you go. Understood. Well, let’s kind of ramp up to get into the, to the book, but before we get to the book, let’s kind of give some more credibility to your background. So, um, let’s talk about your finance world a little bit. And then what made you take the jump out? Fair enough. Um, well, I actually, I undergraduate, I was a history major, but found my way into finance sort of naturally without taking much in the way of courses, none in courses and undergraduate and found my way into it with an international franchise that had 300 plus locations around the world.
Uh, that was a printing franchise, then moved into the same type of thing with a printing company, uh, focused in the U S and then made the big leap to work for compact computers and, uh, took on a different role for an accounting there. And eventually through the merger was Hewlett Packard. I became the U S controller.
For the combined Hewlett Packard in the database back in 2002. Wow. And, uh, did that, meanwhile, I’d gone back to school cause that’s all a little more education. Probably. I’m going to run out of runway here without, with a history degree in finance, went back to Auburn university, got a dual concentration MBA in finance and information technology.
And after HP went, moved to New Jersey and worked as a VP of finance or a major conglomerate Cendant that was focused mainly in the travel business travel and real estate, but it was still more of a technology firm because they were things like we bought orbitz.com at the time for, you know, which would probably be the best known brand name that we own.
But we also owned Avis and budget rental cars as another division on them. And, uh, did that then work to work for testing crop elevators as a regional VP of finance CFO, uh, which is a major elevator company, and then became the CFO for a Pinkerton security and investigations, the world’s oldest detective agency.
And did that for a while. And we reached a point. Things were changing at Pinkerton. Uh, they were owned by another, another large firm and it seemed to make sense. And I joined the consulting world through working for a former colleague of mine that we’d worked together a couple of times before. And I went to work for him as the first employee in the U S building the practice.
He built it in Europe. It was from the UK and built the company up over a number of years. About five years rise into the chief operating officer. For that, and sort of naturally found my way and expanded beyond finance by suddenly doing information technology consulting, or HR consulting, different things, led that and learning the skills, how to translate those skills into different places.
And then a few years ago broke out on my own. And formed my own firm to start doing consulting on my own and candidly, as a result of, uh, a brain tumor that I had that was found in 2018 and removed, and it sort of put a new perspective on life for me of, um, getting to that, uh, various successfully, but sort of wanted to take a little more control of where I was going and what I was doing at that point.
W I want to talk about the evolution of your career a little bit. Cause you know, I, I, I don’t know the ins and outs of, uh, such a significant role in finance that, that you’ve had. So does it go from, you know, counting numbers and math to like what’s, what does it evolve to as you get so high up in the chain?
It’s interesting because it probably involves further up the chain, more people management and getting the right people in the right roles than it does technically into finance and accounting and adding things or reporting and stuff like that. Because I had the staff as large, um, on multiple comp continents of 300 people, plus 325 people.
You’re not doing a whole lot of adding things up at that point, you’re doing more training development. What are the right people? How do you get them where they need to be at that point? But it certainly starts off with building Excel spreadsheets and doing reporting and then budgets. And if the accounting that’s T accounts and budget and reconciliations and very, um, manual basic things started.
Did you enjoy the evolution of that career? Because I’ve heard there’s like metaphors and stories that, uh, you know, the, the, a good sales person is a horrible manager because of the, the roles switch. Right. And I don’t think that applies to everybody. I think it largely depends on the individual interest, but did you find your interests changing?
Did you like the numbers game? Uh, and, and then less so on the people’s side, or did you, did you enjoy moving into the people side? I enjoyed moving to the people’s side at none. Numbers came very naturally to me name them, but I’d always, I’ve been in like, I’ve been a student manager at Marriott when I was in college.
I’ve managed an apartment complex. I’ve done all these different types of jobs that didn’t, they had aspects of numbers, but they weren’t being an accountant. For example. So as I evolved in the career, that was more purely numbers focused. I was almost going back to things I’ve learned very early in my career before I’d graduated from college.
So I was able to blend them both together, which I think worked pretty well. Yeah. So that makes sense. Now that you went from, um, the finance side of the people’s side and then leading into the book, being able to talk about different aspects of business. So why don’t you explain what the book is about?
Um, other than the obvious, amazing title and the, and then what led you to writing a book? All right. So. Well, th the concept and the book is it started off as sort of random stories from Robert of things I’ve been through in my career, but naturally sort of organized itself into here’s human resources, tips.
Here’s, you know, basic management tips of how to do things. Here’s how to overcome obstacles and rise more rapidly in your career. And, um, the title, I have to get full credit to my dad because that was the advice he gave me when I was like 13, but I haven’t followed most of the time, but my mom was looking for a, leave it to beaver advice when I was about 13.
And she said, don’t you have something you want to say it. And he looks up over his coffee. He goes, yeah, don’t be dumb. Um, but, uh, it’s, it’s very much stuck with me. I haven’t always followed it, but it’s just like, there it is three words. And uh, if people can learn from my experiences. So I’m, as far as the motivation was.
Coming out of having the brain tumor and recovering it’s like I’ve been through all these interesting things in my life. Can I share them with other people? So, you know, I call it the handle on the hot stove that, you know, I’m burned myself with it. Maybe I can save them. Maybe they get their own burns in different ways, but maybe they won’t make the same mistakes I’ve made or they can take up tip or two at the end of every section there’s ideas and tips for how to apply in your own career.
Uh, the advice that’s been given. That was what motivated me, who, who’s your ideal reader with the book? I, who does the best serve, getting away from the, I think it’s everybody, uh, I would say really two populations, people earlier in their career, probably in their twenties and trying to get their feet underneath them and figure out what they’re doing in business and entrepreneurs at the earlier stages of.
I’m starting up. I’m in year one, year two. Even if I’m thinking about starting up here’s ideas and things I can take and apply that are practical, reasonable approaches to life and in business. Yeah. Um, how long ago did you get the book published? Uh, last week, last week, the 14th is fresh and you enjoy it.
How did you enjoy the writing process? Um, it went from really, really not liking it. Uh, when I didn’t have a theme, I was really stuck. It was just random stories. And I spent about six months barely writing anything. And then I came up with a theme which was actually using different salts and elements of solid layer.
Hmm to tie the chapters together of the different ones in popular music or unpopular music conference hold it’s fairly eclectic. My, my musical taste is eclectic, um, but bullying elements of that, and that became sort of the, the, the glue that made the boat flow. And then the writing got really, really easy and it just flowed it just.
But then they editing was trying to turn it into something that wasn’t me talking aloud into. It actually made sense was months and months of editing to get it to where it needed to be. Yeah. I’m editing. So I published the book and what I found interesting was the editing part. Um, for, for me, it was. Oh shit.
Now I have a book that I got to read. And so then you, then you read it and then you go, okay, I got, you know, X amount of chapters and then you start moving chapters around, you know, chapter nine will be better as chapter four and then. Ah, now I got to read this thing again. So it went from like chapters to pages to paragraphs to sentences, just to words of multiple instances of edits.
Yeah. You’re almost, and it sounds horrible to say by the end of the cycles, because it was lots and lots of cycles myself, beta readers, reading it, professional editor. Uh, and by the end, it’s like, I’m always just tired of this book. I’m just, I’ve read this so many times, you know, and for awhile I got distracted.
I’ve got an outline for a whole nother book written and I’m like, stop, stop with them down, finish this one first, work your way through this. Um, because I got more excited about, I didn’t think there were more ideas beyond what I’ve done and it was like, suddenly I’ve got a full. 20 chapter outline with elements written and I had to just stop myself and go focus, go back, finish the, see this through, get this done first.
Yeah. Well, give our listeners may maybe like a teaser on, um, maybe something specific from the book or some sort of story. Sure. Um, I mean, one, one aspect that’s in the, in the story is. Very much a sort of starting with a clean piece of paper, which I think is valuable for the two audiences that we spoke about, which is, instead of you’re dealing with what you’re dealing with in existing processes or a situation you go, well, what I, instead of saying, how can I tweak it or adjust it?
It’s how can I just, if I was starting with a blank sheet of paper, how would I just do that? And make it better. And there’s an element in even the six Sigma language. So process improvement that you started in can do all this digital strategies and analysis and all this data, but there’s an element of it.
That’s just, just do it. You, these things become readily apparent of just make it better, stop doing something that doesn’t make any sense. So, um, I actually had a program I’ve implemented twice. Once unsuccessfully, I’ll tell you about the second time called eliminates to. And standing for slow, tedious, unproductive, inefficient, and duplicative.
And I incentive my employees with a $5 Starbucks gift card to give me two things in your stupid target report of things that don’t make any sense in your jobs. And by the end of the week, I had over a hundred stupid target reports. And the first one we implemented was literally a company I was working for was writing checks to themselves.
I guess they’d acquired other companies and nobody had ever fixed the processes and they just kept doing it the way they used to, which was involving all sorts of massive amounts of extra time. FedEx charges checks being mailed around the U S FedEx in the back to multiple locations. And my employee who sat two doors down from me was the lowest level employee we had going opening the envelope.
Coding them and going down to the local bank to deposit them a quarter mile away from where they had originally been written as you’ve been doing the job for years. And she’d never said a word, but as soon as we gave a $5 Starbucks gift card there, it was right on the table. Something we could. Now, now what had her role evolve into after it was essentially laminate.
She, she moved up further in the organization. She actually was able to go from being more of a clerical role into a, more of a traditional accounting role and start moving her way up, which was good to see. And her life got better because there were still other checks that she had to do her job in, but she’d free up a lot of capacity to do other things, because this was a big portion of her job.
And also, and not to get in day at accounting details. Technically accounting was going wrong with the company too, because things were recorded. There were always, so it was, they’d been making off. It could have been a big issue for the company, as opposed to just a waste of time and money for the company.
Yeah. Now the company was paying itself. It was, it was it because they had different DPA’s and entity names that they had to have the money transferring between. Well, they didn’t have to any longer it was because they’d been acquired entities over time. So they’d actually been folded back in Canada, where these folks didn’t have bank accounts.
They didn’t have payables. They didn’t have anything. Is that these old locations that were legacy locations. So, but somehow they was still, they never fixed the sending invoices. They never speaks the sending payments. It was a poorly integrated integration, poorly integrated acquisition. I should say that they just miss pieces of things and nobody ever stopped and said, why are we doing this?
Yeah, the people in the field should has done the same thing. All they did was just Fenix checks around the Northeast, us, the United States. And eventually if I’d had some back to Texas to be dealt with by somebody else, Yeah. Now you got a couple other stories and I don’t know if they’re in the book or not, but we got them in the show notes and, um, I’m interested, um, in all three of them, but I don’t know.
I don’t know which ones are most applicable or, or time sensitive. We have the worst conference call in history, Ronnie, the entrepreneur who expanded too quickly and the best half concert ever. So I’ll let you take your pick. Um, I’m, I’m gonna, I love all three of them actually in different ways, but I’m going to take, uh, Ronnie the entrepreneur, because I think it really hits people in business.
The two target audiences very well, and I was working for the sky, uh, while I was in college. And. I left one job because I was working so hard. I was never going to graduate and, uh, moved in and became an assistant manager working for him. And I had a diner right across the street from the university. It was like a fifties diner type of thing.
It was pretty good concept, but this man had ideas like. I do just crazy ideas, but very, um, very motivated. So within I’m not exaggerated within five months, he bought another business across town that was like the blue hand or something like that. That was a dance club for the college students. He bought, he lease space next to the diner to become a game place like an arcade and pool hall.
Okay. Then he took space behind and turned it into washing clothes or like a laundry. And then he turned the back parking lot into a carwash within five months. Well, meanwhile, he couldn’t pay anybody. Pay payroll and make payroll on the original job. And we literally were racing. I was glad I knew my bank was close on highway 29 because I got that 76 bucks Bob running down the road.
Cause we didn’t hand out the checks. The last one that the bank would lose. So I was able to, my bank was on the corner of highway 29 and main street. And it was like race down the road as fast as you could pull in the drive through would get that checked posited. So you’d have your money in your bank.
Did you learn that the heart. I I did. I did. And he also didn’t even manage to do like W2’s at the end of the year to do tax reporting. By that time they were out of business and it was, I worked for him for about five months, but it was just crazy and wild. And, um, did he have, did the first business, did it have any life to it?
Like was it running before he added the other 57 or was it, it was, it was, it had been around since like the 1940. It absolutely did. And you had little tweaks. He was making like a opening extended hours during finals weeks and stuff like that. That was bringing more business into it and simple menu, easy to do, decent money.
You can make on it. It was working, but he would get these different notions and ideas and he just couldn’t stop himself. And I think there’s a lesson there in regular business or an entrepreneurship, which is. And I’ve seen other entrepreneurs do it well, but here’s the next best idea. Here’s another great idea.
Okay. But let this one cook a little bit, get, get this one running, right? Because individually, none of those things were horrible things, but in five months, you certainly weren’t focusing on your core competencies. You weren’t even coming close was this guy was Ronnie individually trying to manage all of them.
Yeah. Yes. Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s um, it’s a, it’s a recurring theme in. The, the world of entrepreneurship, um, you know, I’ve had one, one main business I built and sold some over the 15 years, but primarily my first one is still my current main one. And I have a lot of other successful entrepreneur friends that, that they take the other out and do multiple things and we’re on comparable levels of success, but they have so much more headache and any of them, even if they’re lucky enough to not be Ronnie and sustain it and keep it alive, anytime we talk about.
Uh, you know, in like a one-on-one conversation, they say, that’s cool that you’re doing this other thing now. Um, you know, I’ve, I get attracted to these other ideas too, but I just kind of say no, and it’s not that there’s not, like you said, it’s not that, that thing by itself is a bad idea, but I, I don’t want to juggle that many things.
And anytime I, I, I never make a serious comment that I’m actually gonna pursue a second business, but just the comment to my friend. Uh, yeah, that’s a cool idea. I I’ve thought about. All of them, the ones that are doing it themselves say don’t do it. Don’t do it in that. Interesting. Well, and I know, and I think part of where my mindset comes from is my grandfather on my mom’s side, uh, worked in corporate America, worked for Belk department stores, opening their locations, but then when he didn’t want to move the family anymore, opened up a shoe store and became very focused.
It’s just a shoe store in North Carolina, but he ran it successfully just with himself and my grandmother. And then me helping out on, on holidays and vacation time. And I would, I would do that and he just stayed. Hyper-focused not any technology, but had his own way of doing things, uh, and became very successful.
And well-known, uh, in the local little small town, but it was the same small town as Richard Petty. The NASCAR driver was from, and even to this day, I was talking to people at Richard Petty’s office last year. And they’re like, he’s wearing these boots to an event and they’re like, oh, those are nice boots.
They said, yeah, I got them from house shoes and the business hasn’t been running since 1990. And yet he’s still talking about the service and the, and the quality that he got from him. And it’s like, so there’s some, there’s some lessons there. He could have done a lot more. But he did a real good job at focusing in and doing it, right?
Yeah. Yep. I mean, if you look at just about any major successful business, I think the kind of the cliche example is McDonald’s where it’s, that they’re not the most amazing hamburger or you can definitely get more gourmet options elsewhere, but, but they’re just so consistent. Like you can go to one in one state and go all the way across the country or the globe.
And get the exact same tasting thing. Like, you know what you’re getting the people buy into the consistency. Well, I think you’re right. And I think part of that, my early experience in franchising was that consistent process of how you do everything. It does. At one point I wrote the operations manuals or rewrote them for this international franchise, like 700 pages of step-by-step.
What are you supposed to do? Because that’s what you’re selling as a franchise, or is consistency, no matter where you are. If it’s, if it’s in Denver or if it’s in Boston, or if it’s in Japan, in Tokyo, you’re going to get the same service. You’re going to get the same results. And even if it’s owned by different people, they’re going to follow the playbook and know what they’re doing.
Yeah. Well, as we get closer to wrapping up, I’m going to hit you up for a second out of the third story. And I’m going to go with the conference call one on this one, since I’m hoping there’s some, some sort of tie into, to zoom marathons. I mean, I know it’s probably not a zoom conference call, but it, I wish you hadn’t been assumed conference call, uh, Damon.
I really do, but yeah, this, this is an interesting story because I’d been pursuing a client for about four years. And it, that takes a lot of time, a consulting client, and it could turn into a bright, at the point, it could turn into a major engagement first week or two on the ground, the, in the UK, in London.
And we were doing a worldwide conference call with all of their employees in the finance area to kick off the project. And I made the mistake of going with their conference call system. I didn’t know it was a mistake at the time. It seemed like a good idea. Get on there for the kickoff. And it’s one of the conference call systems that announces people only a 30 minute call, announces everybody as they join.
And they weren’t very timely and it wasn’t our system. So for the first 10, 12 minutes as being. Damon’s joined. Beep Robert is joined, et cetera, et cetera. Interrupting me every time I was trying to speak on this call that I got about 10 minutes clear that I could speak. And then beep Damon is left. Beep Robert is left for the final 10 minutes of the call.
Meanwhile, I’m scrambling when I can, during the beeps to tell my guy that’s focused on it. Get this turned off, get the, you know, he’s like, I can’t, that’s not my system. I don’t know how it works. I can’t use it. I’m telling somebody else, like, we’ll get somebody on the phone and figure this out. You know, I’m just muting and trying to get it solved.
Meanwhile, divisions of this project is doom it’s over. We don’t have a snowball’s chance in Haiti. So surviving this it’s done. We’re able to even pay for us to fly back from the UK. We’re done. It’s over. And I sat there for about, we have one or two minutes afterwards, just sort of hanging your head and just, you know, just not knowing what to do and was very much based off, you know, you know, parental advice from younger age.
If you make a mistake own it, wanting to blame everybody, but myself. Of course, you want to blame everybody for this, but I’m the one that decided we’d use that system. And I had to deal with it right then. So came up with a plan of holding another couple sessions, using our system the next day and go down the hallway and own up to it before anybody else going to make phone calls and say, we just experienced the worst conference call ever.
We have no idea who this Yahoo was and said, look, this is mistakes. I take full responsibility for it. I didn’t foresee this. Here’s how we’re going to fix. It would really like the opportunity to do so and, uh, got to him and by owning it, not playing the victim and not pointing fingers, uh, got agreement to do that.
Got it scheduled and kicked off properly the next day and turned into about a two year engagement of transforming their work. Um, and it turned into very successful, profitable arrangement that could have. One wrong move beyond the wrong move of its ups in their system. One wrong move, blaming anybody else.
And we would have been done. So there’s a lesson. I think there’s multiple lessons just in the simplicity of, of transparency and owning things. And not only owning it, like you said, owning it without being the victim and complaining about it. And I mean, there’s a whole other conversation I could have. Um, and in agreement with that, Robert tall, I appreciate jumping on learning from others.
I’ll give you the last few moments to tell our listeners how they can find out more about you in your book. Sure. Um, so have a website, which is, dontbedumb.expert. Uh, that I registered that talks about the book and has links to Amazon and Barnes and noble, uh, that people can order the book from, or my website is 636advisors.com and they can also go on there and learn more about my background and experience and go forward from there.
So those are a couple of different ways they can get ahold of me and. I look forward to hearing from folks. And if anybody has any questions, please, they can email me through the links on the site. And we look forward to talking with folks. All right. That’s Robert Towle, T O w L E. dontbedumb.expert expert.
Thanks so much for jumping on learning from others today. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Dammit. I’m in Burton here and thank you so much for listening to the learning from others podcast. I sincerely hope that today’s guest helped you learn something. Since 2007, I’ve generated millions of dollars for businesses like yours.
Ready to show up higher on search engines for words that you can monetize, but without paying for ads, download your free copy of my new SEO book outrank. If you visit www.freeseobook.com today.