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Guest: Jim Bennett, who founded his own company as a franchisee of Worldwide Express. Jim built the company from zero to over $120 million in revenue, and in July he and the team here at CEO Coaching International guided the franchise to a BIG exit.
Episode in a Tweet: The methodical process that led to this company’s first $120 million in revenue…and a BIG exit.
Quick Background: Jim Bennett’s parents never gave him an allowance, and so from a very young age he was always doing something to earn money. Those early experiences mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, and stringing tennis rackets planted the seeds of an entrepreneurial spirit. “I learned quickly that starting your own business always paid more than just a job,” Jim remembers. After college, that’s what Jim did. He became a Worldwide Express franchisee, and through determination and perseverance, went on to compete with the big boys in global shipping—and win.
On today’s show, Jim Bennett discusses how he homed in on the best business for him to grow, the talent he targeted as the best for the job, and the mindset that all CEOs should adopt if they want to get BIG too.
Key Insights from Jim Bennett on $0 to $120 Million in Revenue
1. Zero in on the business you want to build.
As Jim Bennett prepared to move from his first successful venture to something new, he didn’t just pull Worldwide Express out of a hat.
“I decided that I really wanted to spend some time looking for something that was scalable,” Jim says. “Something that was centered around reselling Fortune 500 company services. I wanted the product that I sold to be very, very good. I wanted there to be unlimited income potential.”
Jim zeroed in on Worldwide Express in 1997 because it fit the specialized criteria – the vision – he had set out for himself. The company was reselling a top-flight product, Airborne Express shipping, and there were opportunities for expansion into large markets that would allow Jim to achieve the scale he was aiming for.
While Worldwide Express was the best fit Jim found for what he wanted to achieve, shipping was not a business he knew. But he believed in the model that his franchisor had established and set his mind to making it successful. The biggest lesson he learned during those tough early years?
“Perseverance,” Jim says. “I was jumping into something that I really didn’t know anything about. I knew nothing about logistics. I had never run a significantly sized sales team, and I had never sold large businesses services. So, I had to learn about how to sell another company’s services. I had to learn about being a sales manager. I’m not a person who gives up easily.”
To fill in the gaps in his knowledge, Jim bounced ideas off other Worldwide Express franchisee CEOs, refining his sales strategy. To grow his customer base, Jim and his team cold-called companies, unannounced, sometimes just showing up at their doors. He jumped at the chance to grab another franchise in a new territory. “It was up to me to put in the hard work and the perseverance that it was going to take in order to become successful,” Jim says.
3. Warm up your cold calls.
Most marketing plans involve some degree of cold calling. But Jim harnessed two unique ideas to make his outreach more effective.
First, he created “playbooks” for every single position in his company. Sales reps, account managers, customer service, everyone on Jim’s team knew what they had to do and how they were expected to do it. And while you don’t want to turn your employees into robots, a certain amount of scripting can help you deliver a consistency of message and service across the board.
Second, Jim rejected the “backdoor” sales strategy that was prevalent in transportation services. “Most people were going to the back of the building and meeting with a shipping manager or a transportation manager. Whereas we, through trial and error, found that going through the front door, meeting with the president, owner, CFO, and getting them to understand the significance of what we brought to the table really helped us. When that decision is top down, that decision is likely to stay.”
4. Identify the best employees for your needs.
Of course, a playbook is only as good as the team you have executing the plays. And on the other side of the field, Jim Bennett was staring at two giants: FedEx and UPS. How did he assemble talent to compete with such successful companies in such a cutthroat space?
He hired Division III athletes.
And no, I’m not taking this sports metaphor too far!
“I want kids who are young, hard charging and want to make a lot of money,” Jim explains. “Kids that went to Division III didn’t get scholarships and all the work that they did to get playing time was because of their love of the game. And I found these kids to be the key to success.”
Companies as big as FedEx and UPS often attract short-term or even seasonal employees who need any job while they’re working towards their dream job. Jim didn’t want to invest in people who were just passing time and banking his paychecks on their way to being doctors or lawyers. He wanted a sales team full of people who were committed to sales.
“I showed them a path where they could make a lot of money, get development and have access to promotions,” he says. “That really was the key to being successful in the field. Having these kids who were hard chargers really made us successful.”
One of our mantras at CEO Coaching is: Hire the best. Jim’s brilliant thinking here is an important reminder that there’s more than one definition of “best.” Maybe for your business, “the best” is a CFO who’s turned multimillion-dollar companies into billion-dollar companies. But “the best” could also mean raw, entry-level talent that you can train to hit their targets and grow along with your company.
1. See your ideal business. Whether you’re buying-in or building from the ground up, success starts with your clear vision as CEO.
2. Stick with it. There will always be bumps in your road to BIG. Learn from them, experiment with your business plan, and don’t give up.
3. Identify the best people and show them how working with you and helping your company grow can lead to BIG things for them as well.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.