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My Guest: John Ruhlin
John Ruhlin is a former Ohio farm boy who became Cutco’s greatest seller out of 1.5 million representatives and distributors in their 68 year history. He founded The Ruhlin Group in the year 2000 and quickly broadened the gifting options offered. He is the author of Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Client Retention and he counts among his clientele companies like Chevron and Vitamix and sports teams including the Chicago Cubs.
Today, John tells us about the journey that brought him from milking goats to $25,000 speaking engagements and gives us what I think is one of the greatest insights of all time in business and sales: it’s not about you. Just like every successful business owner, John is always looking for ways to grow his business. In this episode, he tells us about the times he almost lost his company then was able to pick it up again, and also shares his current struggle of trying to grow his business in new and different ways.
Growing up dirt poor and wanting a better life with a drive and desire to do something bigger and better.
An overachiever, John was going to be doctor and needed money for med school so he got a job at Cutco to sell knives for sales experience.
Light-bulb moment, courtesy of Attorney Paul: take care of the family – gratitude, inner circle family – the client is yours.
Invested his own money and ordered knife sets with CEO and wife name customized with attached note, “Can you carve out 5 minutes for me.”
Hired an assistant from the very beginning to spend that time generating leads, rather than doing administrative work.
11 years ago sold half the business when it almost failed, and took on a 50/50 partner to handle the financial side of things
If you don’t have an assistant, you are an assistant.
John voices a number of struggles. He starts out by speaking about when a key staff person had to go on temporary leave due to a personal issues and they needed to fill her space with other staff. When she was ready to come back, even though she was a valued, long-term employee, there was just no place for her in the company, and they struggled a lot with what to do there. In the end, they helped her transition to a new job somewhere else. John then voices a current struggle where they’ve already become a big name – they are speaking at conferences, have added other presenters to give their signature talks, and now they want to start doing workshops in-house at their location. It’s one thing to speak at a conference where people are gathering to hear words of wisdom and network with many others, and it’s another thing to have people pay and fly in to learn just from you. John is unsure if he should even do this and if yes, how he can make it worth it.
People will travel for an experience. Rather than focusing on only teaching the Giftology skill set of corporate gift-giving, John can market this as a transformational life and business skill. Learning the art of gift giving and gratitude as a business owner in a an immersive way can be both business and life changing and is more likely to get the crowds.
“Give more than is reasonable.”
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